“I afterwards learned,” said the deacon, smiling broadly at the amusing recollection, “that the three men were those colored players who constitute the band you young people always have at your barn dances, Daddy Whitehead, the leader, and his able assistants, Mose Coffin and Abe Skinner. They really believed they had met something supernatural in the woods, when taking a shortcut home, after attending a dance somewhere out in the country. And, really, I never had the heart to undeceive the poor ignorant chaps. But I warrant you they kept to the highway after that terrible experience with ghosts.”
Hugh laughed at the mental picture of those three aged musicians, one with his fiddle, another carrying a ’cello, and the third an oboe, “streaking” it through the dark woods madly, possessed of a deadly fear lest their time had come, and that they were pursued by something from the spirit world.
He was just about to make some remark when the words froze on his lips. Mrs. Winslow had given vent to a cry. It thrilled Hugh strangely, as though he feared some agonizing pain had suddenly gripped the old lady.
Both he and the deacon were instantly on their feet. As they glued their eyes on the figure across on the other side of the broad hearth they saw that she was sitting there with a marvelous look on her wrinkled face—a look that seemed to tell of sheer amazement, exceeding great joy, incredulity, and many other like emotions that Hugh could not stop to analyze.
A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY
“Joel, come to me quickly!” they heard her gasp, as though she were almost suffocating; and both of them hastened to her side.
“What has happened, wife?” cried the alarmed deacon.
“Oh! tell me, am I awake, or dreaming, husband?” she went on to say thickly. “See what the child is wearing about his dear chubby neck! Surely we ought to know that tiny gold locket. It carries me far back through the long, weary, waiting years to the day I clasped it about his neck—my baby Joel!”
The deacon snatched the object from her quivering hand. He stared hard at it, as though he, too, might suspect he were asleep, and that it was all but a vision of a disordered mind.
Hugh was trembling, he hardly knew why. Something seemed to rush over him, something that thrilled him to the core. He had felt a touch of the same sensation when the good old lady let him look at the pictures in her family album, and pointed to one of her baby boy; although at the time he could not fully grasp the idea that appealed so dimly to his investigating mind.
Then Deacon Winslow found his voice, though it was thick and husky when he went on to say hastily:
“Yes, it does look mighty like the one you had for the boy; and we never found it again, you remember, after he—left home; so we thought he had taken it along with everything else he owned. But wait, wife, don’t jump at conclusions. It is next to impossible that this should be the tiny chain with the plain gold pendant that you bought for our little Joel. Surely there must have been many others like it made.”