The Owl Tree





One day in October, 1827, Rev. Charles Sharply rode into Alfred, Maine,

and held service in the meeting-house. After the sermon he announced that

he was going to Waterborough to preach, and that on his circuit he had

collected two hundred and seventy dollars to help build a church in that

village. Would not his hearers add to that sum? They would and did, and

that evening the parson rode away with over three hundred dollars in his

saddlebags. He never appeared in Waterborough. Some of the country people

gave tongue to their fear that the possession of the money had made him

forget his sacred calling and that he had fled the State.



On the morning after his disappearance, however, Deacon Dickerman

appeared in Alfred riding on a horse that was declared to be the

minister's, until the tavern hostler affirmed that the minister's horse

had a white star on forehead and breast, whereas this horse was all

black. The deacon said that he found the horse grazing in his yard at

daybreak, and that he would give it to whoever could prove it to be his

property. Nobody appeared to demand it, and people soon forgot that it

was not his. He extended his business at about that time and prospered;

he became a rich man for a little place; though, as his wealth increased,

he became morose and averse to company.



One day a rumor went around that a belated traveller had seen a misty

thing under the owl tree at a turn of a road where owls were hooting,

and that it took on a strange likeness to the missing clergyman.

Dickerman paled when he heard this story, but he shook his head and

muttered of the folly of listening to boy nonsense. Ten years had gone

by-during that time the boys had avoided the owl tree after dark--when a

clergyman of the neighborhood was hastily summoned to see Mr. Dickerman,

who was said to be suffering from overwork. He found the deacon in his

house alone, pacing the floor, his dress disordered, his cheek hectic.



I have not long to live, said he, nor would I live longer if I could.

I am haunted day and night, and there is no peace, no rest for me on

earth. They say that Sharply's spirit has appeared at the owl tree. Well,

his body lies there. They accused me of taking his horse. It is true. A

little black dye on his head and breast was all that was needed to

deceive them. Pray for me, for I fear my soul is lost. I killed Sharply.

The clergyman recoiled. I killed him, the wretched man went on, for

the money that he had. The devil prospered me with it. In my will I leave

two thousand dollars to his widow and five thousand dollars to the church

he was collecting for. Will there be mercy for me there? I dare not think

it. Go and pray for me. The clergyman hastened away, but was hardly

outside the door when the report of a pistol brought him back. Dickerman

lay dead on the floor. Sharply's body was exhumed from the shade of the

owl tree, and the spot was never haunted after.





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