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"Father," said Margaret Standish, a merry little girl of my acquaintance; "father, what has become of Crazy Ann? I have not seen her for a long time. I wish she would come here again. She used to make a good deal of fun for us. What a woman she is to talk! Don't you remember that last time she was here, how she made us all laugh? She had a white dress on, and said she was going to be married to a spirit. How funny!"
"Yes," I remember all about Ann's last visit here," said Mr. Standish. "I have thought of it a great many times since."
"And, father," little Margaret went on, "brother Edward said he was flying his kite, with some other boys, last summer, and Ann came along, with another woman, as crazy as she was. They called themselves angels, and said they were going to have some wings pretty soon, and then they meant to fly back again to heaven, where they came from. I wonder if they ever got their wings."
And the merry girl laughed until she was red in the face.
Mr. Standish did not speak for some moments. He seemed to be thinking of something that made him sad.
"My dear," said he, after a while, "I did not feel at all like laughing, when I saw Ann that day, with the white dress on; and when I heard her talk so strangely, I felt more like weeping than I did like laughing. Poor woman! I pitied her with all my heart."
"I don't see why, I am sure," said Margaret.
"I will tell you why, my dear child," replied her father. "When Ann was in her right mind, she was a sensible as anybody. She was very good and kind, too. All the people in the neighborhood loved her. Don't your remember having heard your mother tell about the girl who was so kind to your uncle Joseph, when he was very sick with the rheumatism, and for weeks we thought he would never get well?"
"Oh, yes, sir," replied Margaret. "But she was a little girl. That was not Crazy Ann."
"It is true," said her father, "that it was a little girl, and it is equally true that it was Ann Bristol, the same person that you now call Crazy Ann. That was a good while ago, my dear. It was before you were born. Ann was quite small, when your uncle was so sick; but she used to come every day, and sit by his bed, and give him his medicine, and read to him."
"Why did not cousin Sarah read to him, father?"
"That was before cousin Sarah was born, too. Your uncle Joseph can never forget Ann's kindness to him at that time. He has often said that she seemed like an angel of mercy to him."
Margaret thought it was strange enough that Crazy Ann could ever have been an angel of mercy, or at all like one. "Father," said she, after a pause, "what makes people crazy? If they were good at one time, what makes them bad?"
"I can't answer all these questions in one breath," replied Mr. Standish. "They make quite a catechism. Some people lose their reason from one cause, and some from another. Sickness brings on insanity sometimes. Grief, disappointment, sudden fright, also produce it. You speak as if good people become bad, when they are crazy. It is not so; that is, it is not certain that a person is any more wicked than anybody else, because she has lost her reason. People who are crazy, may be very wicked or they may not. They can't help being crazy."
"Can't help it! Could not Crazy Ann help acting so like a witch?"
"Did she act like a witch? How do witches act? Did you ever see a witch?"
"Isn't that something of a 'catechism', father? No, sir; I never saw a witch, and I don't know exactly how they act. But they act as bad as they can I suppose; and I am sure Ann acted as bad as she could."
"Ann Bristol could not help being crazy, any more than you could help having the scarlet-fever last summer."
"Why, what made her crazy, father?"
"When she was quite a young lady, she loved a man who went to sea. This man loved her, and they were engaged to be married. John Layton, the young sailor that Ann loved, was a very excellent man.
"I knew him well, and I always thought he would be a good husband for Ann. He made two or three voyages, and the captain of the ship in which he sailed, said he was one of the best sailors on board, always ready to do his duty, and always foremost in danger. He was a right merry fellow, too. Captain Holton told me he had known John go aloft to take in the rigging, when a furious storm was raging, and after he had done the work, while he was hanging to the mast or the shrouds with one hand, he would take off his cap with the other, and swing it round his head, and give three cheers for his country.
"John left home for a long voyage to the East Indies, in the same year, I believe, that your brother George was born. Ann wept a great deal, that your brother George was born. Ann wept a great deal, when he went away. So did his father and mother. He had never been away from home before for so long a time as it took to make a voyage to the East Indies.
"The ship sailed. She made a good voyage. They had taken their cargo on board, and had left for home. They arrived near the coast of their own beloved land. All on board were hoping soon to see their dear friends again.