Sarah Orne Jewett on visiting home

Sarah Orne Jewett, who was often lumped with the late 19th-century ``local colorists,'' drew the attention of such later literary scholars as F.O. Matthiessen. Here, in her most noted work, ``The Country of the Pointed Firs'' (1896), she writes of Maine in her manner of stretching familiar boundaries to embrace a common humanity. A long time before we landed at Green Island we could see the small white house, standing high like a beacon, where Mrs. Todd was born and where her mother lived, on a green slope above the water, with dark spruce woods still higher. There were crops in the fields, which we presently distinguished from one another. Mrs. Todd examined them while we were still far at sea. ``Mother's late potatoes looks backward; ain't had rain enough so far,'' she pronounced her opinion. ``They look weedier than what they call Front Street down to Cowper Centre. . . .

``There, look! there she is: mother sees us; she's wavin' somethin' out o' the fore door! She'll be to the landin'-place quick's we are.''

I looked, and could see a tiny flutter in the doorway, but a quicker signal had made its way from the heart on shore to the heart on the sea.

``How do you suppose she knows it's me?'' said Mrs. Todd, with a tender smile on her broad face. ``There, you never get over bein' a child long's you have a mother to go to. Look at the chimney, now; she's gone right in an' brightened up the fire. Well, there, I'm glad mother's well; you'll enjoy seein' her very much.''

Mrs. Todd leaned back into her proper position, and the boat trimmed again. She took a firmer grasp of the sheet, and gave an impatient look up at the gaff and the leech of the little sail, and twitched the sheet as if she urged the wind like a horse. There came at once a fresh gust, and we seemed to have doubled our speed. Soon we were near enough to see a tiny figure with handkerchiefed head come down across the field and stand waiting for us at the cove above a curve of pebble beach.

Presently the dory grated on the pebbles, and Johnny Bowden, who had been kept in abeyance during the voyage, sprang out and used manful exertions to haul us up with the next wave, so that Mrs. Todd could make a dry landing.

``You done that very well,'' she said, mounting to her feet, and coming ashore somewhat stiffly, but with great dignity, refusing our outstretched hands, and returning to possess herself of a bag which had lain at her feet.

``Well, mother, here I be!'' she announced with indifference; but they stood and beamed in each other's faces.

``Lookin' pretty well for an old lady, ain't she?'' said Mrs. Todd''s mother, turning away from her daughter to speak to me. She was a delightul little person herself, with bright eyes and an affectionate air of expectation like a child on a holiday. You felt as if Mrs. Blackett were an old and dear friend before you let go her cordial hand. We all started together up the hill.

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