The ambitious guest
And when I should be grown quite an old man, and you an old woman, so as not to be long apart, I might die happy enough in my bed, and leave you all crying around me. People traveling through the mountains in wagons always stopped at the family's door for a drink of water and a friendly word.
But this evening an old superstition had strangely recurred to her. The story has been told far and wide, and will forever be a legend of these mountains. Now what should an old woman wish for, when she can go but a step or two before she comes to her grave?
And his words have made me think about our own lives here. There were circumstances which led some to suppose that a stranger had been received into the cottage on this awful night, and had shared the catastrophe of all its inmates.
His name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt!
The ambitious guest moral lesson
But the family were glad again when they perceived that the latch was lifted by some traveller, whose footsteps had been unheard amid the dreary blast which heralded his approach, and wailed as he was entering, and went moaning away from the door. But while they spoke softly, and he was watching the happy sadness, the lightsome shadows, the shy yearnings of a maiden's nature, the wind through the Notch took a deeper and drearier sound. And here the teamster, on his way to Portland market, would put up for the night; and, if a bachelor, might sit an hour beyond the usual bedtime, and steal a kiss from the mountain maid at parting. The family fell silent for a moment. The young man stared into the fire. But just before it reached the little house, the wave of earth divided in two and went around the family's home. Shall I put these feelings into words? Up the chimney roared the fire, and brightened the room with its broad blaze. One glance and smile placed the stranger on a footing of innocent familiarity with the eldest daughter. His face at first wore the melancholy expression, almost despondency, of one who travels a wild and bleak road, at nightfall and alone, but soon brightened up when he saw the kindly warmth of his reception. They had found the "herb, heart's-ease," in the bleakest spot of all New England. This family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills, where the wind was sharp throughout the year, and pitilessly cold in the winter—giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it descended on the valley of the Saco. His name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt! But this evening an old superstition had strangely recurred to her.
The way-farer, with no companion but his staff, paused here to exchange a word, that the sense of loneliness might not utterly overcome him ere he could pass through the cleft of the mountain, or reach the first house in the valley.
Then let death come!
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