Seventoe's Ghost by Mary E. Wilkins
"You needn't waste any more time talkin'
about it, Benjamin; you can jest take that
puppy-dog and carry him off. I don't care
what you do with him; you can carry him back
where you got him, or give him away, or swap
him off; but jest as sure as you leave him here
half an hour longer, I'll call Jimmy up from the
hay-field and have him shoot him. I won't have
a dog round the place, nohow. Couldn't keep
Seventoes a minute; he's dreadful scart of dogs."
"Take that puppy-dog and go along, I tell
ye. I won't have any more talk about it."
Benjamin Wellman, small and slight, sandy-haired
and blue-eyed, stood before his grandfather,
who sat in his big arm-chair in the east
door. Benjamin held in his right hand an old
rope, which was attached to a leather strap
around a puppy's neck. The puppy pulled at
the rope, keeping it taut all the time. He also
yelped shrilly. He did not like to be tied. The
puppy was not a pretty one, being yellow and very
clumsy; but Benjamin thought him a beauty.
He had urged to his grandfather that there
would not be a dog to equal him in the neighborhood
when he was grown up, but the old man
had not been moved.
There were tears in Benjamin's pretty blue
eyes, but his square chin looked squarer. He
tried to speak again. "Grandsir—" he began.
"Not another word," said his grandfather.
Benjamin looked past his grandfather into the
kitchen. His mother sat in there stemming currants.
He went around to the other door and
entered, dragging the puppy after him.
"Mother," he said, in a low voice, "can't I
His grandfather in the east door looked around
suspiciously, but he could hear nothing; he was
"No; not if your grandfather don't want you
to," said his mother; "you know I can't let you,
The puppy was whining piteously, and Benjamin
seemed to echo it when he spoke. "I
don't see why he don't want me to. It ain't as
if Cæsar was a common puppy. You ask him,
"No," returned his mother; "it won't do any
good. You know how much he thinks of Seventoes,
and the dog might kill him when he was
"Wouldn't care if he did," muttered Benjamin;
"nothing but a cross old stealing cat;
don't begin to be worth what this puppy is."
"Now, Benjamin, you mustn't talk any more
about it," said his mother, severely. "Grandsir
does too much for you and me for you to make
any fuss about a thing like this. Take that
puppy and run right along with it, as he tells
Grandsir's suspicions suddenly took shape
then. "Benjamin, you run right along," he
called out; "don't stand there teasing your
mother about it."
So Benjamin gathered the puppy up into his
arms with a jerk—it was impossible to lead him
any distance—and plunged out of the house.
He gave two or three little choking sobs as he
hurried along. It was a hot day, and he was
tired and disappointed and discouraged. He
had walked three miles over to the village and
back to get that puppy, and now he had to walk
a mile more to give it away. He had no doubt
whatever as to the disposal of it; he knew Sammy
Tucker would give it a hearty welcome, for
there was an understanding to that effect. Benjamin
had been a little doubtful as to the reception
the puppy might have from his grandfather;
but when Mr. Dyer, who kept the
village grocery store, had offered it to him three
weeks before, he had not had the courage to refuse.
Sammy Tucker, too, had been in the store,
buying three bars of soap for his mother, and he
had looked on admiringly and enviously. When
Benjamin had mentioned hesitatingly his doubts
about his grandfather, Sammy had pricked up
"Say, Ben, you give him to me if your grandfather
won't let you keep him," he had whispered,
with a nudge. "Father said I might have
a dog soon as there was a good chance, and Mr.
Dyer won't want it back. He's giv away all
but this, and he wants to get rid of 'em. They're
common kind of dogs, anyhow. I heard him
Benjamin had looked at him stiffly. "Oh, I
guess grandsir'll let me keep this puppy, he's such
a smart one," he had answered, with dignity.
"Well, you ask him, and if he won't, I'll take
him," said Sammy.
But Benjamin had not asked his grandfather.
He had not had courage to run the risk. He
had waited the three weeks which the store-keeper
had said must elapse before the little dog
could leave its mother, and then had gone over
to the village and brought it home, without a
word to any one, trusting to the puppy's own
attractions to plead for it. It had seemed to
Benjamin that nobody could resist that puppy.
But Grandfather Wellman had all his life preferred
cats to dogs, and now he was childishly
fond of Seventoes. Benjamin's mother often
said that she didn't know what grandsir would
do if anything happened to Seventoes.
Benjamin, going out of the yard with the
puppy under his arm, could see Seventoes sitting
on the shed roof. That and the ledge of the old
well behind the barn were his favorite perches.
Grandfather Wellman thought he chose them
because he was so afraid of dogs. Benjamin
looked at him, and wished Cæsar was big
enough to shake him. He had named the puppy
Cæsar on his way home from the village.
There was a great mastiff over there by the
same name. Benjamin had always admired this
big Cæsar, and now thought he would name his
dog after him. It was the same principle reduced
on which Benjamin himself had been
named after Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin trudged down the road, kicking up
the dust with his toes. That was something he
had been told not to do, so now in this state of
mind he liked to do it. The sun beat down
fiercely upon his small red cropped head in the
burned straw-hat, and his slender shoulders in
the calico blouse. The puppy was large and fat
for his age, and made his arms ache. The stone-walls
on both sides of the road were hidden with
wild-rose and meadowsweet bushes; the fields
were dotted with hay-makers; now and then a
loaded hay-cart loomed up in the road. Many
boys no older than Benjamin had to work hard
in the hay-fields, but Grandfather Wellman was
too careful of him; he would not let him work
much in vacation; he had never been considered
very strong. But Benjamin did not think of
that. One grievance will outweigh a hundred
benefits. He hugged the struggling puppy tight
in his arms and trudged on painfully, brooding
over his wrongs.
He muttered to himself as he went, "Wanted
a dog ever since I was born. All the other boys
have got 'em. 'Ain't never had nothing but an
old cat. Sha'n't never have a chance to get such
a dog as this again. Wish something would
happen to that old cat; shouldn't care a mite."
He stubbed more fiercely into the dust, and it
flew higher; a squirrel ran across the road, and
he looked at it with an indifferent scowl.
When he reached Sammy Tucker's house he
saw Sammy out in the great north yard raking
hay with his father. Sammy looked up and
saw Benjamin coming.
"Holloa!" he sang out, eagerly. Then he
dropped his rake and raced into the road. His
black eyes winked fast with excitement. "Say,
won't he let you keep him, Ben?" he cried.
"No; he won't let me keep nothing."
"Going to let me have him, then?"
Sammy reached forth his eager hands, and
took the kicking puppy from Benjamin's reluctant
arms. "Nice fellar—nice little fellar," said
"I've named him Cæsar," said Benjamin.
"That's a good name," assented Sammy. "Hi,
Cæsar! Hi, sir!"
Sammy's father came smilingly forward to the
fence; he was fond of dogs. He also took the
puppy, and talked to it. Benjamin thought to
himself that he wished his grandfather was more
like Sammy's father. He looked on gloomily.
"Hate to give it up, don't you, Ben?" said
Mr. Tucker, kindly.
"Sha'n't never have such a chance again."
"Oh yes, you will; your grandfather'll let
you have a dog some time."
"No; he won't never let me have nothing."
"Oh, don't you give up yet, Ben."
Benjamin shook his head like a discouraged
old man, and turned to go home.
"Sammy'll feed him, and take real good care
of him, and you can come over here and see
him," Mr. Tucker called after him, as he went
down the road.
Benjamin thought to himself that he should
not want to, as he marched wearily homeward.
His arms were lightened of the puppy, but his
heart seemed heavy within him. Two boys
whom he knew sang out to him from a load of
hay, but he gave only a grim nod in response.
"They've got a dog," he muttered; and indeed
the pretty shepherd dog was following after the
Benjamin, when he came in sight of home,
thought he would take a short-cut through the
orchard. He meditated stealing up the back
stairs to his chamber, staying up there, and saying
that he did not want any supper; he was
not hungry. They had not cut the grass in the
orchard, and he plunged through clover, feathery
grass, and daisies to his waist. He felt
pleased to think how he was making a furrow
through his grandfather's hay. He emerged
from the orchard, and went on towards the
barn; directly back of it was the old well.
When he reached that he stopped short. There
was Seventoes—beautiful great yellow cat—stretched
in the sun, all his wonderful seven-toed
paws spread out. The ledge of the old
well was a strange place for a cat, but Seventoes
was fond of it, and stayed there much of the time
when he was not on the shed roof.
Benjamin walked close to the well and looked
at Seventoes. His small face was burning red
with the heat; his blue eyes gleamed angrily.
"You lazy old cat," said he. He stood a second
longer; then he thrust out his right hand and
gave Seventoes a push. There was a piteous
yawl and a great clawing, and Seventoes was
out of sight. Benjamin ran. He gasped; a
white streak was settling around his mouth.
He was well versed in Bible stories, and he
thought of Cain. What had he done? What
would happen to him? Could he ever get away
from his guilt, run fast as he would? Benjamin
ran as he had never run before, his heart pounding,
although he did not know clearly what he
was running for. He tore around the barn,
through the pasture bars, towards the house.
When he came in sight of the shed a great
qualm of guilt and remorse forced him to glance
up at the place where poor Seventoes had so
loved to sit, and where he would sit no more.
Benjamin glanced, then he stood stock-still, fairly
aghast with awe and terror—there sat Seventoes!
All the red faded out of Benjamin's cheeks.
He had never been encouraged in superstitious
beliefs, but he was an imaginative child, and just
now bewildered and unstrung. He stared at the
shed roof. Yes! he saw Seventoes there, and
Seventoes was at the bottom of the old well.
Had he not seen him fall, clawing, down?
Benjamin rushed staggering into the kitchen.
"Oh, grandsir! oh, mother!" he wailed—"oh,
I've pushed Seventoes into the old well and
drowned him, and his ghost's sitting on the shed
roof! Oh, mother!"
Grandfather Wellman was confined to his
chair with rheumatism, but he arose. "Pushed
Seventoes into the well," he repeated, while Benjamin's
mother turned as pale as her son.
"I have—I have," sobbed Benjamin. "I
didn't know I was going to, but I have. And
he's in the well, and he's sitting on the shed roof
"What do you mean?" his mother gasped.
"Stop acting so, and tell me what you've done."
"I pushed Seventoes into the old well. I
didn't know I was going to, but I did; and he's
dead in there, and he's on the shed roof. Oh,
"You 'ain't pushed that cat into the well?"
groaned Grandfather Wellman. "If you have—"
He was trying to limp across the kitchen with
his cane. He, too, was pale, and trembling from
head to foot. "Hannah," he said to Benjamin's
mother, "you come right along quick, and see if
we can't get him out. I wouldn't take a hundred
dollars for that cat."
Benjamin's mother started. Benjamin, sobbing
and trembling, was clinging to her. Just
then Seventoes walked in through the east door,
his splendid ringed tail waving a little uneasily,
but not a hair of him was hurt. A frightened
cat can run faster than a guilty little boy, and
Seventoes had found his unusual number of
claws of good service in climbing a well and retarding
his progress towards the bottom.
They all looked.
"Is it—Seventoes?" gasped Benjamin, with
"Of course it's Seventoes," growled his grandfather.
"I'd like to know what you've been
cutting up so for. Pussy, pussy, pussy."
Benjamin's mother took him over to the sink,
and put some water on his head, and made him
drink some. "There's no such thing as a ghost,
and you're acting very silly," said she; "but I
don't wonder you are scared, when you've done
such a dreadful thing. It scares me to think of
it. It was 'most as bad as killing somebody. I
never thought a boy of mine would do such a
thing. Grandsir good as he is to you, too."
"I—won't ever do so—again," sobbed Benjamin,
all trembling. "I'm sorry; I am sorry."
Benjamin was not whipped, the scourging of
his own conscience had been severe enough, but
he sat pale and sober in the kitchen, while grandsir,
with Seventoes on his knees, and his mother
talked to him.
"If you ever do anything like this again, Benjamin,"
said his grandfather, "I shall be ha'sh
with you, ha'sher than I've ever been, and you
must remember it."
"I guess he must," said his mother. "It was
a dreadful wicked thing, and he should be punished
now if I didn't think he'd suffered enough
from his own guilty conscience for this time, and
would never as long as he lived do such a terrible
"I won't—I—won't!" choked Benjamin.
At supper-time, when the new milk was
brought in from the barn, Benjamin filled a saucer
with it and carried it to the door for Seventoes.
He filled it so full that he spilled it all the
way over the clean kitchen floor, but his mother
said nothing. Seventoes lapped his milk happily;
Benjamin, with his little contrite, tear-stained
face, stood watching him, and grandsir
sat in his arm-chair. Over in the fields the hay-makers
were pitching the last loads into the
carts; the east sky was red with the reflected
color of the west. Everything was sweet and
cool and peaceful, and the sun was not going
down on Benjamin's childish wrath. His grandfather
put out his hand and patted his little red
cropped head, "You're always going to be a
good boy after this, ain't you, sonny?"
"Yes, sir," said Benjamin, and he got down
on his knees and hugged Seventoes.