“In Dark New England Days”

Like last week’s piece of weird fiction I discussed, Thomas Hardy’s “The Withered Arm”, this is another story of rural women, misfortune, and a curse.

Review: “In Dark New England Days”, Sarah Orne Jewett, 1890. 

We begin with the hours after a funeral. We’re in the home of the Knowles sisters, Betsey and her younger sister Hannah. After a decline of two years, their once vigorous and skinflint father, the Captain, is dead.

The only person left in the house after the funeral besides the sisters is one “officious Mrs. Peter Downs” who is nosy and hopes the sisters will reveal something now they’re finally out from under the thumb of their father. But she is thanked and sent on her way. They aren’t, they say, going to make a late night of it.

Mrs. Down isn’t happy about this as she walks the short distance to her home. She’s sure that Hannah would have told her something if Betsey weren’t around. While she thinks this ungrateful, Mrs. Downs admits to herself that the main reason for her helping the sisters in the last two days is to be “taken into the sisters’ confidence”. 

On the road home, she meets her husband. He figured it was so late she was going to stay over and decided he was going to visit the sisters himself. Mrs. Downs expresses her disappointment but admits the sisters no doubt want to be alone to see what they had. He calls the sisters “hoggish” and wants to know if they said anything about their “situation”. They didn’t, his wife replies.

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