My grandmother’s arrival at the Captain Merritt Kimball farm house on the early spring morning in 1962… involved her driving her Rambler American automobile ‘down the river’ on the dirt road known as ‘the river road’ to the… curves up to the farm’s front door… LONG dirt road ‘driveway’. This driveway was across ‘the river road’ from two old barns that had a… private… dirt road between them that ‘runs down to the river’. This driveway arched up to the front door of the ‘main house’ so placed that the old barns on ‘the river road’ did not block the view of ‘the river’ AND the view of the ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s’ ‘DOCK’… from the front door… AND from… the house top… ‘widow’s walk’. This ‘DOCK’ was actually a ‘two docks’ with a ‘slip’ in between them and a ‘building’ on the shore ‘at the head’. These, like the barns, were ‘old’ ‘too’.
My grandmother stopped her automobile at the crest top of the driveway before the front door. She turned the auto off, exited the auto and… walked directly to a man removing pruned brush at the right corner of the … late American Federal style …light buff ochre with white trim and green shutters… painted ‘home’. This man stopped working as my grandmother approached.
“Charles.” My grandmother said to… Charlie… whom everyone called him THAT except my grandmother who ONLY ever called him Charles. “I am going to need you to help me MOVE a chest of drawers shortly so be on your lookout for me please.”
“Yes Pearl.” Charles said. “I will be right around here.”
“Good. Thank you Charles.” My grandmother said as she veered off toward the front door of the… Captain Merritt Kimball… home.
Stepping up the front steps to the …large late Federal era… painted white doorway… she, using the old brass doorknocker at the upper center of the front door, rapped loudly on this ‘front door’.
Mere seconds later this door opened inward to show a younger… but not that young… attractive… but not that attractive… woman who said immediately “DO come in PEARL SO NICE to see YOU this spring morning.” in one verbal gush.
“I’ve come to see your father OR his brother if EITHER are at HOME.” my grandmother pronounced directly.
This exchange begins …our return to ‘summer people’ for …it is not… the way… summer people talk at the front door… on an early spring morning at their ‘summer place’. In fact, most ‘summer people’ are not even AT their summer place ‘yet’. We must, as we progress, take note of the differences between ‘locals’ and ‘summer people’ if we are to understand… ‘the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance’.
The woman disappears into the home leaving my grandmother at the front door. My grandmother turns around and looks over the view to ‘the river’, the ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s DOCK’ and …the hay and pasture fields between. A man’s boot steps approach the doorway from inside. She turns to greet these boot steps. “PEARL DO STEP IN” came a gruff voice from a …small thin man… in ‘old attire’.
My grandmother steps inside saying “GOOD MORNING Rufus”.
Rufus is the younger of the two Kimball brothers. Merritt, an eighth generation family namesake, is his older brother. Both are direct descendants of the …patriot… sea captain… Captain Merritt Kimball”.
“WHAT, Pearl, BRINGS YOU here so EARLY this SPRING morning?” Rufus gruffly croaked.
Recognizing this to be ONLY Rufus’ NORMAL small talk inflection and NOT a hostile verbal broadside, my grandmother responded.
“I have come to BUY Sophia’s CHEST of DRAWERS, Rufus”.
“I HARDLY” says Rufus with pace “EXPECTED THAT TODAY PEARL”.
“Well it IS TODAY and WE need to get this DONE BEFORE YOU SELL OUT and I LOOSE IT to those FOOLS from NEW YORK”.
“They BE FOOLS I SAY TOO, Pearl BUT I BE SOUND STILL GOD WILLING.”
“YES Rufus but TIME and WEALTH are SHORT so I COME THIS MORNING to get THIS behind us while can WE STAND TOGETHER on it”.
“Be SURE I have THOUGHT OF YOU in the RECENT MONTHS, Pearl. It is not unexpected or to be MY FEAR to see you AT MY DOOR. MERRITT himself has said that same TOO. BEFORE IT IS SOLD, he said, WE MUST SPEAK IT ALL THROUGH WITH PEARL.”
“Of course you must for AFTER you’ve SOLD there will BE NO GOING BACK.”
“That is my fate with GOD and GOLD, Pearl, and I STAND BEFORE YOU a rich man and a SINNER and your eyes see further to that SIN than GOD himself I am sure.
“Be it the MONEY or be it your SIN, Rufus?”
“It be not ONLY MYSELF who leaves the DOCK empty, who leaves the hay at SEED and who LEAVES ME CASTAWAY AT SEA from this LAND I must SELL.
“I have heard that story told TWICE without quandary. It is the MONEY, Rufus and that alone. It is NEW YORK bankers GOLD that has bought your SOUL”.
“Hardly that now Pearl. It be that same that the old CAPTAIN himself would do for such a FAIR bargain GAINED for such a FORLORN holding as these. I will castaway drift but not SO FAR as to DIE a wandering soul. NO I WILL be TOO buried in the graveyard BEHIND THIS HILL. Although I will not see the RIVER I WILL BE OF its SOIL.”
“You will only then be what you are NOT today; a DEAD PIRATE JUST like the old CAPTAIN himself.
“Now Pearl. WE must stand with the living today all of us and YOU are a LIVING PIRATE yourself and STAND BEFORE ME with cutlass drawn and planning to BOARD.”
“And PLUNDER YOU, Rufus so STRIKE your flag and let me take Sophie’s CHEST. YOU MAY KEEP all the GOLD you hide in it Rufus though I am SURE it is but an empty BOX that’s sitting UP THERE.” my grandmother said gesturing to the front stairs behind Rufus.
Rufus turned to his right and reviewed the stair.
“I HAVE NO NEED to CLIMB those ENTERNAL STAIRS. I leave that to YOU SINNERS. I shall only ascend a DEVINE STAIR when MY OWN EYES have CLOSED on the DECK below me of ye smuggling PIRATES whose BLOOD I SHARE by BIRTH ALONE GOD SAVE ME. Be now QUICK WOMAN with your purse. Don’t not creep BELOW in the DARK. CASH IN YOUR OLD GOLD PEARL. BEFORE MY DOORWAY speak me hard CASH”.
“Twenty.” My grandmother says.
“BY YOUR WICKED DARK SOUL.”
“BE YOUR PRICE THEN?”
“BY THE BLACK… one hundred FAIR.”
“NOT FROM a THEIF”.
“I steal NOTHING from you, PIRATE”
“YOUR SMUGGLER’S CAVE BE FULL OF GOLD.”
“You know BETTER Pearl”.
“Why scoundrel I KNOW your SCOW is SUNK”.
“And all be MUD and BONES. Not a single COIN of gold.”
“Forty then and chop my fingers off in HELL.”
“NO Pearl; you will be but a STEP behind me. I KNOW THAT RUNG you stand on. SIN be SIN but you have NEVER HIDDEN YOURS. You BITE each COIN but let them see you at it. Biting is not hiding. Sin is hidden. I TOO STAND OPEN BEFORE HIM. Eighty and be done this FINE MORNING is it NOT, Pearl.”
“I mustn’t SEE it (the chest) for those are FOOL’S dollars”.
“You may if you wish but I will wait here; below.”
“To hide your eyes?”
“MY EYES STILL SEE CLEARLY, Pearl, but cloud them with Sophia’s chest now TWO CENTERIES OLD be it AM I RIGHT? To let you take off her chest at ANY PRICE?
“Empty BOX and you will leave it BEHIND when YOU GO. The new GOLD makes you to never BOTHER with an old BOX. It is I who RESCUE IT from the TRUCK that will HAUL all of Captain Merritt TO THE DUMP. Be giving me my chest right now for forty. Be you, sinner, standing proof of the Devil’s gold? Repent, Rufus; my offer is fair.
This spin of the bartering checkerboard left Rufus flustered. He found the board reversed from his demonic ascent? Or was Pearl as thick booted a pirate as himself? Or is it HE who must bite his coins in sight?
“Ye scoundrel Pearl. OH… . Mother WOULD care that YOU care. She would. And you know that.
“How IS Sophia?”
“Be the same. She will never be BACK. Merritt keeps THAT paid he says. I see nothing and hear even less. NINE YEARS its been and not a whit returned they say. HER NERVES BE GONE. A rattling in her head they say. Be nothing I EVER see. Seems fine TO ME. When we speak. But never you mind. The chest be as empty as you say. Take it. Take it away.
At this juncture, still standing in the doorway, my grandmother retrieves her rubber banded roll of money from the near pocket of her dress and… slowly so as to allow Rufus’ eyes to search that money roll to his satisfaction, releases two twenty dollar bills from that roll, hands those to Rufus and, re-banding the money roll, returns it to her dress pocket hiding hole.
As Rufus watched from the front doorway, my grandmother instructed Charles to “fetch off” and deliver the chest of drawers to her barn “at my expense”. This last was stated loudly for Rufus to hear. Even with that declaration Rufus mumbled and croaked a reaffirmation of her pay obligation to Charles including a scratched mark to “not give him dear to spoil him like that last time”. Rufus completed the morning meeting by saying to my grandmother’s back as she walked to her automobile for her “to come back next week when Merritt is back”… to… “speak it all through” “before the sale”.
My grandmother certainly did go back the next week. And ‘speak it all through’. That was in the spring of …1962.