To prove that Jethro's soul had not slid back into the murky regions, and
that it was still indulging in flights, it is necessary to follow him (for a
very short space) to Boston. Jethro himself went in Lyman Hull's six-horse team
with a load of his own merchandise—hides that he had tanned, and other country
produce. And they did not go by the way of Truro Pass to the Capital, but took
the state turnpike over the ranges, where you can see for miles and miles and
miles on a clear summer day across the trembling floors of the forest tops to
lonely sentinel mountains fourscore miles away.
No one takes the state turnpike nowadays except crazy tourists who are
willing to risk their necks and their horses' legs for the sake of scenery. The
tough little Morgans of that time, which kept their feet like cats, have all but
disappeared, but there were places on that road where Lyman Hull put the shoes
under his wheels for four miles at a stretch. He was not a companion many people
would have chosen with whom to enjoy the beauties of such a trip, and nearly
everybody in Coniston was afraid of him. Jethro Bass would sit silent on the
seat for hours and—it is a fact to be noted that when he told Lyman to do a
thing, Lyman did it; not, perhaps, without cursing and grumbling. Lyman was a
profane and wicked man—drover, farmer, trader, anything. He had a cider mill on
his farm on the south slopes of Coniston which Mr. Ware had mentioned in his
sermons, and which was the resort of the ungodly. The cider was not so good as
Squire Northcutt's, but cheaper. Jethro was not afraid of Lyman, and he had a
mortgage on the six-horse team, and on the farm and the cider mill.
After six days, Jethro and Lyman drove over Charlestown bridge and into the
crooked streets of Boston, and at length arrived at a drover's hotel, or
lodging-house that did not, we may be sure, front on Mount Vernon Street or face
the Mall. Lyman proceeded to get drunk, and Jethro to sell the hides and other
merchandise which Lyman had hauled for him.
There was a young man in Boston, when Jethro arrived in Lyman Hull's team,
named William Wetherell. By extraordinary circumstances he and another connected
with him are to take no small part in this story, which is a sufficient excuse
for his introduction. His father had been a prosperous Portsmouth merchant in
the West India trade, a man of many attainments, who had failed and died of a
broken heart; and William, at two and twenty, was a clerk in the little
jewellery shop of Mr. Judson in Cornhill.
William Wetherell had literary aspirations, and sat from morning till night
behind the counter, reading and dreaming: dreaming that he was to be an Irving
or a Walter Scott, and yet the sum total of his works in after years consisted
of some letters to the Newcastle Guardian, and a beginning of the Town History
William had a contempt for the awkward young countryman who suddenly loomed
up before him that summer's morning across the counter. But a moment before the
clerk had been in a place where he would fain have lingered—a city where blue
waters flow swiftly between white palaces toward the sunrise.
"And I have fitted up some chambers there
Looking toward the golden Eastern air,
And level with the living winds, which flow
Like waves above the living waves below."
Little did William Wetherell guess, when he glanced up at the intruder, that
he was looking upon one of the forces of his own life! The countryman wore a
blue swallow tail coat (fashioned by the hand of Speedy Bates), a neck-cloth, a
coonskin cap, and his trousers were tucked into rawhide boots. He did not seem a
promising customer for expensive jewellery, and the literary clerk did not rise,
but merely closed his book with his thumb in it.
"S-sell things here," asked the countryman, "s-sell things here?"
"Occasionally, when folks have money to buy them."
"My name's Jethro Bass," said the countryman, "Jethro Bass from Coniston.
Ever hear of Coniston?"
Young Mr. Wetherell never had, but many years afterward he remembered his
name, heaven knows why. Jethro Bass! Perhaps it had a strange ring to it.
"F-folks told me to be careful," was Jethro's next remark. He did not look at
the clerk, but kept his eyes fixed on the things within the counter.
"Somebody ought to have come with you," said the clerk, with a smile of
"D-don't know much about city ways."
"Well," said the clerk, beginning to be amused, "a man has to keep his wits
Even then Jethro spared him a look, but continued to study the contents of
"What can I do for you, Mr. Bass? We have some really good things here. For
example, this Swiss watch, which I will sell you cheap, for one hundred and
"One hundred and fifty dollars—er—one hundred and fifty?"
Wetherell nodded. Still the countryman did not look up.
"F-folks told me to be careful," he repeated without a smile. He was looking
at the lockets, and finally pointed a large finger at one of them—the most
expensive, by the way. "W-what d'ye get for that?" he asked.
"Twenty dollars," the clerk promptly replied. Thirty was nearer the price,
but what did it matter.
"H-how much for that?" he said, pointing to another. The clerk told him. He
inquired about them all, deliberately repeating the sums, considering with so
well-feigned an air of a purchaser that Mr. Wetherell began to take a real joy
in the situation. For trade was slack in August, and diversion scarce. Finally
he commanded that the case be put on the top of the counter, and Wetherell
humored him. Whereupon he picked up the locket he had first chosen. It looked
very delicate in his huge, rough hand, and Wetherell was surprised that the eyes
of Mr. Bass had been caught by the most expensive, for it was far from being the
"T-twenty dollars?" he asked.
"We may as well call it that," laughed Wetherell.
"It's not too good for Cynthy," he said.
"Nothing's too good for Cynthy," answered Mr. Wetherell, mockingly, little
knowing how he might come to mean it.
Jethro Bass paid no attention to this speech. Pulling a great cowhide wallet
from his pocket, still holding the locket in his hand, to the amazement of the
clerk he counted out twenty dollars and laid them down.
"G-guess I'll take that one, g-guess I'll take that one," he said.
Then he looked at Mr. Wetherell for the first time.
"Hold!" cried the clerk, more alarmed than he cared to show, "that's not the
price. Did you think I could sell it for that price?"
"W-wahn't that the price you fixed?"
"You simpleton!" retorted Wetherell, with a conviction now that he was
calling him the wrong name. "Give me back the locket, and you shall have your
"W-wahn't that the price you fixed?"
"G-guess I'll keep the locket—g-guess I'll keep the locket."
Wetherell looked at him aghast, and there was no doubt about his
determination. With a sinking heart the clerk realized that he should have to
make good to Mr. Judson the seven odd dollars of difference, and then he lost
his head. Slipping round the counter to the door of the shop, he turned the key,
thrust it in his pocket, and faced Mr. Bass again—from behind the counter.
"You don't leave this shop," cried the clerk, "until you give me back that
Jethro Bass turned. A bench ran along the farther wall, and there he planted
himself without a word, while the clerk stared at him,—with what feelings of
uneasiness I shall not attempt to describe,—for the customer was plainly
determined to wait until hunger should drive one of them forth. The minutes
passed, and Wetherell began to hate him. Then some one tried the door, peered in
through the glass, perceived Jethro, shook the knob, knocked violently, all to
no purpose. Jethro seemed lost in a reverie.
"This has gone far enough," said the clerk, trying to keep his voice from
shaking "it is beyond a joke. Give me back the locket." And he tendered Jethro
the money again.
"W-wahn't that the price you fixed?" asked Jethro, innocently.
Wetherell choked. The man outside shook the door again, and people on the
sidewalk stopped, and presently against the window panes a sea of curious faces
gazed in upon them. Mr. Bass's thoughts apparently were fixed on Eternity—he
looked neither at the people nor at Wetherell. And then, the crowd parting as
for one in authority, as in a bad dream the clerk saw his employer, Mr. Judson,
courteously pushing away the customer at the door who would not be denied.
Another moment, and Mr. Judson had gained admittance with his private key, and
stood on the threshold staring at clerk and customer. Jethro gave no sign that
the situation had changed.
"William," said Mr. Judson, in a dangerously quiet voice, "perhaps you can
explain this extraordinary state of affairs."
"I can, sir," William cried. "This gentleman" (the word stuck in his throat),
"this gentleman came in here to examine lockets which I had no reason to believe
he would buy. I admit my fault, sir. He asked the price of the most expensive,
and I told him twenty dollars, merely for a jest, sir." William hesitated.
"Well?" said Mr. Judson.
"After pricing every locket in the case, he seized the first one, handed me
twenty dollars, and now refuses to give it up, although he knows the price is
"Then I locked the door, sir. He sat down there, and hasn't moved since."
Mr. Judson looked again at Mr. Bass; this time with unmistakable interest.
The other customer began to laugh, and the crowd was pressing in, and Mr. Judson
turned and shut the door in their faces. All this time Mr. Bass had not moved,
not so much as to lift his head or shift one of his great cowhide boots.
"Well, sir," demanded Mr. Judson, "what have you to say?"
"N-nothin'. G-guess I'll keep the locket. I've, paid for it—I've paid for
"And you are aware, my friend," said Mr. Judson, "that my clerk has given you
the wrong price?"
"Guess that's his lookout." He still sat there, doggedly unconcerned.
A bull would have seemed more at home in a china shop than Jethro Bass in a
jewellery store. But Mr. Judson himself was a man out of the ordinary, and
instead of getting angry he began to be more interested.
"Took you for a greenhorn, did he?" he remarked.
"F-folks told me to be careful—to be careful," said Mr. Bass.
Then Mr. Judson laughed. It was all the more disconcerting to William
Wetherell, because his employer laughed rarely. He laid his hand on Jethro's
"He might have spared himself the trouble, my young friend," he said. "You
didn't expect to find a greenhorn behind a jewellery counter, did you?"
"S-surprised me some," said Jethro.
Mr. Judson laughed again, all the while looking at him.
"I am going to let you keep the locket," he said, "because it will teach my
greenhorn a lesson. William, do you hear that?"
"Yes, sir," William said, and his face was very red.
Mr. Bass rose solemnly, apparently unmoved by his triumph in a somewhat
remarkable transaction, and William long remembered how he towered over all of
them. He held the locket out to Mr. Judson, who stared at it, astonished.
"What's this?" said that gentleman; "you don't want it?"
"Guess I'll have it marked," said Jethro, "ef it don't cost extry."
"Marked!" gasped Mr. Judson, "marked!"
"Ef it don't cost extry," Jethro repeated.
"Well, I'll—" exclaimed Mr. Judson, and suddenly recalled the fact that he
was a church member. "What inscription do you wish put into it?" he asked,
recovering himself with an effort.
Jethro thrust his hand into his pocket, and again the cowhide wallet came
out. He tendered Mr. Judson a somewhat soiled piece of paper, and Mr. Judson
"Cynthy, from Jethro"
"Cynthy," Mr. Judson repeated, in a tremulous voice, "Cynthy, not Cynthia."
"H-how is it written," said Jethro, leaning over it, "h-how is it written?"
"Cynthy," answered Mr. Judson, involuntarily.
"Then make it Cynthy—make it Cynthy."
"Cynthy it shall be," said Mr. Judson, with conviction.
"When'll you have it done?"
"To-night," replied Mr. Judson, with a twinkle in his eye, "to-night, as a
"What time—w-what time?"
"Seven o'clock, sir. May I send it to your hotel? The Tremont House, I
"I-I'll call," said Jethro, so solemnly that Mr. Judson kept his laughter
until he was gone.
From the door they watched him silently as he strode across the street and
turned the corner. Then Mr. Judson turned. "That man will make his mark,
William," he said; and added thoughtfully, "but whether for good or evil, I know