Down the road about a fourth of a mile from our house on the Goding Road was an old cemetery, which was surrounded by a rusting, black wrought iron fence. My siblings and I, once we'd gathered our courage, used to climb over the rickety fence to examine the names and dates on the old tombstones from time to time. The cemetery contained the graves of some of the earliest settlers in our area of Aroostook County.
There was a plaque on the front gate with the name "Ailiff" scratched into the rusty metal and the earliest date on the worn marble slabs was 1800 and the last one dated 1900.
This small family graveyard was often a popular topic for scary late night tales and it figured quite prominently in our lives. My siblings and I liked to sit by the tiny headstones of the babies and try to imagine what had caused them to die so young.
One day, as my sister and I were walking by the cemetery on our way home from picking strawberries down over the long hill near the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad tracks, we noticed some beautiful purple and yellow pansies growing in profusion all around the gravestones. They were especially large and velvety and their charming faces beckoned to us as they swayed back and forth in the soft, afternoon breeze.
We leaned against the fence and wiped the sweat from our brows all the while never taking our eyes off the patch of pansies. My sister, Helen, looked at me with her huge brown eyes and said, "Please Toots, can't we just pick a few?" I was the eldest and I knew it was wrong to steal, especially from the dead and I knew what would happen to us if I gave in to her request. Mother was a stickler for honesty and we were going to have to lie, a lot.
The next thing I knew, we were climbing over the rickety iron fence where we happily proceeded to pick each and every one of the pansies. Without another thought, we hurried home to show mother the beautiful flowers we had picked for her.
Mother took one look at the bunch of flowers grasped in our hot little hands and asked in a cool voice, "And where did you find these?" She knew that we didn't have any flowers like these growing around our house and they certainly didn't grow in fields of wild strawberries either!
Helen and I looked at each other and knew that we were in trouble. We looked down at our feet and mumbled something about finding them growing along the road. Mother didn't say anything for the longest moment, then she said, "I don't know but someone once told me that if you steal something from a cemetery, then the people's ghosts will come late at night to take back whatever it is you've stolen from them."
My sister looked at me with her big brown eyes and they suddenly grew much bigger as she looked at the bunch of wilted pansies clutched in her grubby little hands. Tears welled up in her eyes and her lower lip began to tremble. "Toots, I don't want em!" "OK, OK, I don't want them either!" I told her.
Mother later told dad that the last thing she saw was the dust rising from the dirt road as two little girls beat a path to the cemetery to put back the stolen flowers.
Many years later, when I was fully gown with children of my own; I paid a visit to that same cemetery. To my surprise, there was not a single pansy among the profusion of wild flowers still growing there.
Martha Stevens-David Column Magic City
The Most Recently Republished Articles include:
The Manure Spreader
Aroostook River Fishin
Vengeance is Mine Pt. 1
Aroostook County Memories
Childrens Stories include:
See also Vengeance is Mine a short mystery novel published at Magic City over 4 days.
All works by Martha Stevens-David published at Magic City Morning Star News are her copyright property and may not be reproduced without her permission.