There is something in an old house that there never can be in a new one.
The new one may be handsomer, it may have higher ceilings and broader panes of glass, a medieval mantle piece, and French paper on walls, and Persian rugs. You may be proud of it, but you loved the old house–the dear old place, almost as old as the old trees at the door. A tall man could touch the ceilings with his palm, and the great mantle pieces were stiff and ugly; but there, in the fire light used to sit, once upon a time, the old grand-mother with her knitting; while the children climbed her knee and she told them stories of her youth.
Out of that window–the little window with the diamond panes–she had looked to see her young husband coming home after a long day’s hunt, flushed with exercise, bright and handsome. There lay the great red deer he shot; yonder the dogs were kenneled–the great, brown eyed dogs.
One of their race then unborn sometimes stands beside her as she tells these tales, old and blind and toothless, and there are no deer now. Yes, up that road she had ridden a gay young bride, coming for the first time to the husband’s home full of hope and joy. There her babes had been born, grown to men and women, and gone forth.
Out of that door went, at last, her husband’s funeral train, and nothing was left her of life but its memories. There she sat, thinking and knitting, telling her old stories. How could she be content? the young people often thought.
The tall clock stood in the hall, ticked as it had done seventy years. In the glass cupboard there stood a sacred tea service with gilt edged, and silver tea pot that had been a wedding present.
Fox’s Martyrs and Pilgrim’s Progress were in the book case, and the big Bible on the stand; and there were bright profiles of choked looking gentlemen and ladies with wondrous puffs on their heads, on the walls up in the bed-rooms were rag carpets and high post beds, and chests of drawers, and long presses. How many heads had rested on those pillows! What happy dreams have been dreamt, what bitter tears shed!
And down in the parlor, with its hard upright sofa, guests with strange dullness of which no one ever dreamt, had been entertained; and lovers had wooed and won, and doubtless there had been little tragedies, such as go on between lovers through all the generations. Story after story had told itself in the old house.
They are not all happy ones, but they make the old house different from a new one. Memories lurk in the very walls; and who shall say that spirits of those who lie at rest in the old church yard yonder, under tomb stones on which moss has grown do not sometimes flit through it–unseen but felt–bringing softened emotions and tender recollections as they pass?
The very trees in the garden are not as other trees. They have their stories. Under that a first kiss was taken, under that hands met in an eternal parting.
Down in the orchard is a baby’s grave, the baby would have been fifty years old if he lived to-day–but only a little while ago his mother sat there and shed a tear over it.
The new house is fine, and costly, and modern, but there is no poetry in it and there will not be until at least two generations have made it an old house, and haunted it with sweet ghosts, as they did the old one.
From The Farmer’s Cabinet, published in Amherst New Hampshire on 18 August 1877. [Although no author was given, the editor of this newspaper was Edward D. Boylston who also published poetry. He probably is the author of this article].