The Village Convict

Herman White Chaplin
The Village Convict, by Heman
White Chaplin

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Title: The Village Convict First published in the "Century Magazine"
Author: Heman White Chaplin
Release Date: October 12, 2007 [EBook #23007]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Widger

By Heman White Chaplin

First published in the "Century Magazine."
"Wonder 'f Eph's got back; they say his sentence run out yisterday."
The speaker, John Doane, was a sunburnt fisherman, one of a circle of
well-salted individuals who sat, some on chairs, some on boxes and
barrels, around the stove in a country store.
"Yes," said Captain Seth, a middle-aged little man with ear-rings; "he
come on the stage to-noon. Would n't hardly speak a word, Jim says.
Looked kind o' sot and sober."
"Wall," said the first speaker, "I only hope he won't go to burnin' us out
of house and home, same as he burnt up Eliphalet's barn. I was ruther in
hopes he 'd 'a' made off West. Seems to me I should, in his place, hevin'
ben in State's-prison."
"Now, I allers hed quite a parcel o' sympathy for Eph," said a short,
thickset coasting captain, who sat tilted back in a three-legged chair,
smoking lazily. "You see, he wa'n't but about twenty-one or two then,
and he was allers a mighty high-strung boy; and then Eliphalet did act
putty ha'sh, foreclosin' on Eph's mother, and turnin' her out o' the farm
in winter, when everybody knew she could ha' pulled through by
waitin.' Eph sot great store by the old lady, and I expect he was putty
mad with Eliphalet that night."
"I allers," said Doane, "approved o' his plan o' leadin' out all the critters,
'fore he touched off the barn. 'T ain't everybody 't would hev taken
pains to do that. But all the same, I tell Sarai 't I feel kind o' skittish,
nights, to hev to turn in, feelin' 't there's a convict in the place."
"I hain't got no barn to burn," said Captain Seth; "but if he allots my
hen-house to the flames, I hope he'll lead out the hens and hitch 'em to
the apple-trees, same's he did Eliphalet's critters. Think he ought to deal
ekally by all."
A mild general chuckle greeted this sally, cheered by which the speaker

"Thought some o' takin' out a policy o' insurance on my cockerel."
"Trade's lookin' up, William," said Captain Seth to the storekeeper, as
some one was heard to kick the snow off his boots on the door-step.
"Somebody 's found he's got to hev a shoestring 'fore mornin'."
The door opened, and closed behind a strongly-made man of twenty-six
or seven, of homely features, with black hair, in clothes which he had
outgrown. It was a bitter night, but he had no coat over his flannel
jacket. He walked straight down the store, between the dry-goods
counters, to the snug corner at the rear, where the knot of talkers sat;
nodded, without a smile, to each of them, and then asked the
storekeeper for some simple articles of food, which he wished to buy. It
was Eph.
While the purchases were being put up, an awkward silence prevailed,
which the oil-suits hanging on the walls, broadly displaying their arms
and legs, seemed to mock, in dumb show.
Nothing was changed, to Eph's eyes, as he looked about. Even the
handbill of familiar pattern--
seemed to have always been there.
The village parliament remained spellbound. Mr. Adams tied up the
purchases, and mildly inquired,--
"Shall I charge this?"
Not that he was anxious to open an account, but that he would probably
have gone to the length of selling Eph a barrel of molasses "on tick"
rather than run any risk of offending so formidable a character.
"No," said Eph; "I will pay for the things."
And having put the packages into a canvas bag, and selected some
fish-hooks and lines from the show-case, where they lay environed by

jack-knives, jews-harps, and gum-drops,--dear to the eyes of
childhood,--he paid what was due, said "Good-night, William," to the
storekeeper, and walked steadily out into the night.
"Wall," said the skipper, "I am surprised! I strove to think o' suthin' to
say, all the time he was here, but I swow I couldn't think o' nothin'. I
could n't ask him if
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