Story of Waitstill Baxter

Author: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin

XXX a Clash of Wills

DEACON FOXWELL BAXTER was completely non-plussed for the first time in his life. He had never allowed "argyfyin’" in his household, and there had never been a clash of wills before this when he had not come off swiftly and brutally triumphant. This situation was complicated by the fact that he did not dare to apply the brakes as usual, since there were more issues involved than ever before. He felt too stunned to deal properly with this daughter, having emptied all the vials of his wrath upon the other one, and being, in consequence, somewhat enfeebled. It was always easy enough to cope with Patty, for her impertinence evoked such rage that the argument took care of itself; but this grave young woman was a different matter. There she sat composedly on the edge of her wooden chair, her head lifted high, her color coming and going, her eyes shining steadily, like fixed stars; there she sat, calmly announcing her intention of leaving her father to shift for himself; yet the skies seemed to have no thought of falling! He felt that he must make another effort to assert his authority.

"Now, you take off your coat," he said, the pipe in his hand trembling as he stirred nervously in his chair. "You take your coat right off an’ set down to the supper-table, same as usual, do you hear? Eat your victuals an’ then go to your bed an’ git over this crazy fit that Patience has started workin’ in you. No more nonsense, now; do as I tell you!"

"I have made up my mind, father, and it’s no use arguing. All who try to live with you fail, sooner or later. You have had four children, father. One boy ran away; the other did not mind being drowned, I fear, since life was so hard at home. You have just turned the third child out for a sin of deceit and disobedience she would never have committed—for her nature is as clear as crystal—if you had ever loved her or considered her happiness. So I have done with you, unless in your old age God should bring you to such a pass that no one else will come to your assistance; then I’d see somehow that you were cared for and nursed and made comfortable. You are not an old man; you are strong and healthy, and you have plenty of money to get a good house-keeper. I should decide differently, perhaps, if all this were not true."

"You lie! I haven’t got plenty of money!" And the Deacon struck the table a sudden blow that made the china in the cupboard rattle. "You’ve no notion what this house costs me, an’ the feed for the stock, an’ you two girls, an’ labor at the store, an’ the hay-field, an’ the taxes an’ insurance! I’ve slaved from sunrise to sunset but I ain’t hardly been able to lay up a cent. I s’pose the neighbors have been fillin’ you full o’ tales about my mis’able little savin’s an’ makin’ ’em into a fortune. Well, you won’t git any of ’em, I promise you that!"

"You have plenty laid away; everybody knows, so what’s the use of denying it? Anyway, I don’t want a penny of your money, father, so good-bye. There’s enough cooked to keep you for a couple of days"; and Waitstill rose from her chair and drew on her mittens.

Father and daughter confronted each other, the secret fury of the man met by the steady determination of the girl. The Deacon was baffled, almost awed, by Waitstill’s quiet self-control; but at the very moment that he was half-uncomprehendingly glaring at her, it dawned upon him that he was beaten, and that she was mistress of the situation.

Where would she go? What were her plans?—for definite plans she had, or she could not meet his eye with so resolute a gaze. If she did leave him, how could he contrive to get her back again, and so escape the scorn of the village, the averted look, the lessened trade?

"Where are you goin’ now?" he asked, and though he tried his best he could not for the life of him keep back one final taunt. "I s’pose, like your sister, you’ve got a man in your eye?" He chose this, to him, impossible suggestion as being the most insulting one that he could invent at the moment.

"I have," replied Waitstill, "a man in my eye and in my heart. We should have been husband and wife before this had we not been kept apart by obstacles too stubborn for us to overcome. My way has chanced to open first, though it was none of my contriving."

Had the roof fallen in upon him, the Deacon could not have been more dumbfounded. His tongue literally clove to the roof of his mouth; his face fell, and his mean, piercing eyes blinked under his shaggy brows as if seeking light.

Waitstill stirred the fire, closed the brick oven and put the teapot on the back of the stove, hung up the long-handled dipper on its accustomed nail over the sink, and went to the door.

Her father collected his scattered wits and pulled himself to his feet by the arms of the high-backed rocker. "You shan’t step outside this 306 room till you tell me where you’re goin’," he said when he found his voice.

"I have no wish to keep it secret: I am going to see if Mrs. Mason will keep me to-night. To-morrow I shall walk down river and get work at the mills, but on my way I shall stop at the Boyntons’ to tell Ivory I am ready to marry him as soon as he’s ready to take me."

This was enough to stir the blood of the Deacon into one last fury.

"I might have guessed it if I hadn’t been blind as a bat an’ deaf as an adder!" And he gave the table another ringing blow before he leaned on it to gather strength. "Of course, it would be one o’ that crazy Boynton crew you’d take up with," he roared. "Nothin’ would suit either o’ you girls but choosin’ the biggest enemies I’ve got in the whole village!"

"You’ve never taken pains to make anything but enemies, so what could we do?"

"You might as well go to live on the poor-farm! Aaron Boynton was a disrep’table hound; Lois Boynton is as crazy as a loon; the boy is a no-body’s child, an’ Ivory’s no better than a common pauper."

"Ivory’s a brave, strong, honorable man, and a scholar, too. I can work for him and help him earn and save, as I have you."

"How long’s this been goin’ on?" The Deacon was choking, but he meant to get to the bottom of things while he had the chance.

"It has not gone on at all. He has never said a word to me, and I have always obeyed your will in these matters; but you can’t hide love, any more than you can hide hate. I know Ivory loves me, so I’m going to tell him that my duty is done here and I am ready to help him."

"Goin’ to throw yourself at his head, be you?" sneered the Deacon. "By the Lord, I don’ know where you two girls got these loose ways o’ think-in’ an’ acting mebbe he won’t take you, an’ then where’ll you be? You won’t git under my roof again when you’ve once left it, you can make up your mind to that!"

"If you have any doubts about Ivory’s being willing to take me, you’d better drive along behind me and listen while I ask him."

Waitstill’s tone had an exultant thrill of certainty in it. She threw up her head, glorying in what she was about to do. If she laid aside her usual reserve and voiced her thoughts openly, it was not in the hope of convincing her father, but for the bliss of putting them into words and intoxicating herself by the sound of them.

"Come after me if you will, father, and watch the welcome I shall get. Oh! I have no fear of being turned out by Ivory Boynton. I can hardly wait to give him the joy I shall be bringing! It ’s selfish to rob him of the chance to speak first, but I’11 do it!" And before Deacon Baxter could cross the room, Waitstill was out of the kitchen door into the shed, and flying down Town-House Hill like an arrow shot free from the bow.

The Deacon followed close behind, hardly knowing why, but he was no match for the girl, and at last he stood helpless on the steps of the shed, shaking his fist and hurling terrible words after her, words that it was fortunate for her peace of mind she could not hear.

"A curse upon you both!" he cried savagely. "Not satisfied with disobeyin’ an’ defyin’ me, you’ve put me to shame, an’ now you’ll be settin’ the neighbors ag’in’ me an’ ruinin’ my trade. If you was freezin’ in the snow I wouldn’t heave a blanket to you! If you was starvin’ I wouldn’t fling either of you a crust! Never shall you darken my doors again, an’ never shall you git a penny o’ my money, not if I have to throw it into the river to spite you!"

Here his breath failed, and he stumbled out into the barn whimpering between his broken sentences like a whipped child.

"Here I am with nobody to milk, nor feed the hens; nobody to churn to-morrow, nor do the chores; a poor, mis’able creeter, deserted by my children, with nobody to do a hand’s turn ’thout bein’ paid for every step they take! I’11 give ’em what they deserve; I don’ know what, but I’ll be even with ’em yet." And the Deacon set his Baxter jaw in a way that meant his determination to stop at nothing.


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Chicago: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, "XXX a Clash of Wills," Story of Waitstill Baxter, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Story of Waitstill Baxter (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith. "XXX a Clash of Wills." Story of Waitstill Baxter, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Story of Waitstill Baxter, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Wiggin, KD, 'XXX a Clash of Wills' in Story of Waitstill Baxter, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Story of Waitstill Baxter, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from