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Mary-'Gusta   By: (1870-1944)

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MARY 'GUSTA

By Joseph C. Lincoln

MARY 'GUSTA

CHAPTER I

On the twentieth day of April in the year 19 , the people that is, a majority of the grown people of Ostable were talking of Marcellus Hall and Mary 'Gusta.

A part of this statement is not surprising. The average person, no matter how humble or obscure, is pretty certain to be talked about on the day of his funeral, and Marcellus was to be buried that afternoon. Moreover, Marcellus had been neither humble nor obscure; also, he had been talked about a good deal during the fifty nine years of his sojourn on this planet. So it is not at all surprising that he should be talked about now, when that sojourn was ended. But for all Ostable yes, and a large part of South Harniss to be engaged in speculation concerning the future of Mary 'Gusta was surprising, for, prior to Marcellus's death, very few outside of the Hall household had given her or her future a thought.

On this day, however, whenever or wherever the name of Marcellus Hall was mentioned, after the disposition of Marcellus's own bones had been discussed and those of his family skeleton disinterred and articulated, the conversation, in at least eight cases out of ten, resolved itself into a guessing contest, having as its problem this query:

"What's goin' to become of that child?"

For example:

Mr. Bethuel Sparrow, local newsgatherer for the Ostable Enterprise, seated before his desk in the editorial sanctum, was writing an obituary for next week's paper, under the following head:

"A Prominent Citizen Passes Away."

An ordinary man would probably have written "Dies"; but Mr. Sparrow, being a young and very new reporter for a rural weekly, wrote "Passes Away" as more elegant and less shocking to the reader.

It is much more soothing and refined to pass away than to die unless one happens to be the person most concerned, in which case, perhaps, it may make little difference.

"The Angel of Death," wrote Mr. Sparrow, "passed through our midst on Tuesday last and called to his reward Captain Marcellus Hall, one of Ostable's most well known and influential residents."

A slight exaggeration here. Marcellus had lived in Ostable but five years altogether and, during the last three, had taken absolutely no part in town affairs political, religious or social. However, "influential" is a good word and usual in obituaries, so Bethuel let it stand. He continued:

"Captain Hall's sudden death "

Erasure of "death" and substitution of "demise."

Then:

" Was a shock to the community at large. It happened on account of " More erasures and substitutions. " It was the result of his taking cold owing to exposure during the heavy southeast rains of week before last which developed into pneumonia. He grew rapidly worse and passed away at 3.06 P.M. on Tuesday, leaving a vacancy in our midst which will be hard to fill, if at all. Although Captain Hall had resided in Ostable but a comparatively short period, he was well known and respected, both as a man and "

Here, invention failing, Mr. Sparrow called for assistance.

"Hey, Perce," he hailed, addressing his companion, Mr. Percy Clark, who was busy setting type: "What's a good word to use here? I say Marcellus was respected both as a man and somethin' else."

"Hey?" queried Percy, absently, scanning the eight point case. "What d'ye say?"

"I asked you what would be a good thing to go with 'man'?"

"Hey? I don't know. Woman, I guess."

"Aw, cut it out. Never mind, I got it:

" As a man and a citizen. Captain Hall was fifty nine years of age at the time of his demise. He was born in South Harniss and followed the sea until 1871, when he founded the firm of Hall and Company, which was for some years the leading dealer in fresh and salt fish in this section of the state. When the firm

"I say, Perce! 'Twouldn't do to say Marcellus failed in business, would it? Might seem like hintin' at that stuff about his sister and the rest of it. Might get us into trouble, eh?"

"Humph! I don't know who with... Continue reading book >>




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