Robert Frost

The Pauper Witch of Grafton

NOW that they’ve got it settled whose I be, I’m going to tell them something they won’t like: They’ve got it settled wrong, and I can prove it. Flattered I must be to have two towns fighting To make a present of me to each other. They don’t dispose me, either one of them, To spare them any trouble. Double trouble’s Always the witch’s motto anyway. I’ll double theirs for both of them- you watch me. They’ll find they’ve got the whole thing to do over, That is, if facts is what they want to go by. They set a lot (now don’t they?) by a record Of Arthur Amy’s having once been up For Hog Reeve in March Meeting here in Warren. I could have told them any time this twelvemonth The Arthur Amy I was married to Couldn’t have been the one they say was up In Warren at March Meeting for the reason He wa’n’t but fifteen at the time they say. The Arthur Amy I was married to voted the only times he ever voted, Which wasn’t many, in the town of Wentworth. One of the times was when ’twas in the warrant To see if the town wanted to take over The tote road to our clearing where we lived. I’ll tell you who’d remember- Heman Lapish. Their Arthur Amy was the father of mine. So now they’ve dragged it through the law courts once I guess they’d better drag it through again. Wentworth and Warren’s both good towns to live in, Only I happen to prefer to live In Wentworth from now on; and when all’s said, Right’s right, and the temptation to do right When I can hurt someone by doing it Has always been too much for me, it has. I know of some folks that’d be set up At having in their town a noted witch: But most would have to think of the expense That even I would be. They ought to know That as a witch I’d often milk a bat And that’d be enough to last for days. It’d make my position stronger, I think, If I was to consent to give some sign To make it surer that I was a witch? It wa’n’t no sign, I s’pose, when Mallice Huse Said that I took him out in his old age And rode all over everything on him Until I’d had him worn to skin and bones, And if I’d left him hitched unblanketed In front of one Town Hall, I’d left him hitched In front of every one in Grafton County. Some cried shame on me not to blanket him, The poor old man. It would have been all right If some one hadn’t said to gnaw the posts He stood beside and leave his trade mark on them, So they could recognize them. Not a post That they could hear tell of was scarified. They made him keep on gnawing till he whined. Then that same smarty someone said to look- He’d bet Huse was a cribber and had gnawed The crib he slept in- and as sure’s you’re born They found he’d gnawed the four posts of his bed, All four of them to splinters. What did that prove? Not that he hadn’t gnawed the hitching posts He said he had besides. Because a horse Gnaws in the stable ain’t no proof to me He don’t gnaw trees and posts and fences too. But everybody took it for proof. I was a strapping girl of twenty then. The smarty someone who spoiled everything Was Arthur Amy. You know who he was. That was the way he started courting me. He never said much after we were married, But I mistrusted he was none too proud Of having interfered in the Huse business. I guess he found he got more out of me By having me a witch. Or something happened To turn him round. He got to saying things To undo what he’d done and make it right, Like, ‘No, she ain’t come back from kiting yet. Last night was one of her nights out. She’s kiting. She thinks when the wind makes a night of it She might as well herself.’ But he liked best To let on he was plagued to death with me: If anyone had seen me coming home Over the ridgepole, ‘stride of a broomstick, As often as he had in the tail of the night, He guessed they’d know what he had to put up with. Well, I showed Arthur Amy signs enough Off from the house as far as we could keep And from barn smells you can’t wash out of ploughed ground With all the rain and snow of seven years; And I don’t mean just skulls of Roger’s Rangers On Moosilauke, but woman signs to man, Only bewitched so I would last him longer. Up where the trees grow short, the mosses tall, I made him gather me wet snow berries On slippery rocks beside a waterfall. I made him do it for me in the dark. And he liked everything I made him do. I hope if he is where he sees me now He’s so far off he can’t see what I’ve come to. You _can_ come down from everything to nothing. All is, if I’d a-known when I was young And full of it, that this would be the end, It doesn’t seem as if I’d had the courage To make so free and kick up in folks’ faces. I might have, but it doesn’t seem as if.