When I finished work, I walked downtown. I wasn’t consciously seeking out Galvin, but I have to admit that is exactly what I was doing. Normally I’d try to avoid him, but on a rare occasion he is a wealth of information.
I walked into Strickland’s. Bob Strickland was something of an institution. His store had been there for over sixty years and had become the main gathering spot for male gossip around the village. If I had been after anything that had happened since he’d moved into town, he’d have been the first person I’d ask. But I was looking for older answers.
“Hey Gill,” Bob said. ‘Watcha up to?”
“Oh, nothing much,” I said. “I was going to go over to Maude’s to grab a cup of coffee and was looking to see if anyone was around who might want to chat.”
“Well,” Bob said, with a wink, “you can always take Galvin.”
“Ah, I bet Gill is sick of me today,” Galvin said. “I chewed his ear off already.”
“No, why don’t you go with Gill, give me time to clean up before I close for the day,” Bob said.
“Sure, why don’t you come, Galvin,” I said. “I’ll just ignore you if you get on my nerves.”
“What’d be new about that, then?” Galvin said. “OK, Gill, let’s go. Gee, ya guys are harsh around here.”
Next door to Strickland’s, over at Maude’s, Galvin looked at me over his fresh cup of coffee. “So, I bet you want to hear about the deaths, then.”
“What deaths?” I asked.
“I mentioned it at lunch. Maybe you really do ignore me.” He grinned so I wasn’t sure if he were joking or not. “You know, I mentioned Jeb, and Meg, and Daniel, and…”
“Yes, I remember,” I said. “I wasn’t sure what you were getting on about, though. Jeb was getting up there and hadn’t been healthy since I’ve known him. Meg’s breast cancer came back. And Daniel was, you know, and it’s no surprise he had a heart attack.”
“Well, those guys are just the tip of the iceberg,” Galvin said. “In the last six months, there have been more deaths in town than in the last six years. That’s total for the six years too. You can look it up. It seems we’re coming to another time of dying, like back in 1821, when two thirds of the town mysteriously died in less than a year.”
“Oh, it’s not coming down to that,” I said. “Nobody I’ve heard of died mysteriously. It’s all been illness and accidents.”
“What about the Jackson baby, then?” He tilted his head forward. “I can tell you haven’t heard. Young Mrs. Jackson, little more than a baby herself, lives up in the low rent apartment building across the way. She had some friends over yesterday, like every day. She put her three-year-old son down for a nap, like she always does. When she went to get him up, he was dead. They’re doing toxicology test and such to see if he got into poison or was bitten by something nasty, but the doctor stopped by Strickland’s this morning and said, off the record of course, that it looked like he’d suffocated. How? With three mothers sitting, drinking tea, outside of his bedroom, how?”
“Don’t know,” I said. “It is odd.”
“Yep. So, that’s another one. How many more before it looks like somethings happening? The air has been bad since at least last October.”
“I agree, something has been in the air,” I said. I sipped my coffee, watching him over the cup.
“Just strange.” He stared into his coffee, seeming to be lost in his own thoughts.
“Hey, anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about,” I said. He looked up. “Do you know that run down, large house up on Bucks Road?”
“You mean the Goode Mansion?” he asked.
“So, the Goode family does have something to do with that house?”
“Well, duh! Why else would they call it the Goode Mansion?”
I laughed. “Good question, but I’ve never heard it called that. Never heard anybody talk about it, for that matter.”
“When’d you move to town?”
“I don’t know, right after college. What, twenty some odd years ago?”
He nodded his head as if it answered his question about why I had never heard the term “The Goode Mansion”.
“Yeah, so I’m still an out of towner I guess.”
“No offense, but you weren’t born here, you’re from ‘Away’, so you’ll always be an out of towner. Shoot, even Strickland is an out of towner and he’s been here over sixty years. Out of towners know nothing about the true history of the town.”
“Exactly, Galvin, which is why I wanted to talk to you and not Bob. So, what do you know about the Goode Mansion?”
“Hell, I could write a book. A War and Peace size book. What do I know about the Goode Mansion, nothing. Shoot, even you should know that it lived and died with ole Martha Goode.”
“Martha Goode? I thought she was in the old brick house on School Street,” I said.
“Not that Martha Goode. I’m talking the original. You ever hear of Johnathan Goode?”
“Well, then you know that he was the richest man in town back in the day. As a relatively young man, like in his 40s, he brought a mill into town, building the Old Mill, which, of course back then was called either Amesbury Mill or the Goode Mill, depending on who you ask. Made him even richer, and to show off that wealth, he had a house built for his son, Thomas, the first Thomas Goode, and his new wife, Abby Twiss. Not totally trusting them, he built it right next to his old farmhouse. Course, when ole John died, which was before the new house was totally built, Thomas tore down the old farmhouse. Thing was old fashioned compared to his ‘modern’ house. There’s a carriage house there now. Or was, I think it’s falling apart and may have collapsed over the winter. Don’t know, don’t go up there.”
“OK, so John built Tom a house and then died,” I said.
“Yeah, and Thomas moved in the day his oldest child, Martha was born. They say Abby should never have been moved in her state, and that going into the new house caused her to give birth. And maybe that’s the reason Martha was as she was. That was 1805. The same year ole John died. Martha continued to live in the house until the day she died. She was born there and died there. Do you know when she died?”
I shook my head, no.
“She died on April 27, 1900. She always liked the date, April 27,” Galvin said. “She gave the house to the town with a huge pot of money and said they needed to make it a museum and keep the inside so it looked like April 27, 1821 forever. Funny. They say she had it perfectly restored to that day and only used one or two rooms for most of her long life, keeping the others exactly how they were. Know why she liked that day?”
“Uhm, well, no.”
“They say there was a big party at the mansion. She was 16. They say it was the one and only time she’d ever been kissed by a guy. She always wanted to remember the party and that kiss.”
“And the house on School Street?”
“At 16 she became an orphan and also inherited her family’s fortune. She was odd and raised her only remaining brother, George. That’s the first George. Of course she had a nanny for him, since he was only five when his parents died, but still, she had weird ideas. Later there was a legal battle. He moved out and built the house on what was then called Goode Street back in, I think, 1842. He was in his mid-20s. Anyway, you already know about the brick house, you were asking about the Goode Mansion.”
“So the town took it and had no idea what to do with it. There were no conservation or historic societies back then. In 1920, George Goode, and that’s the second George Goode, bought the place from the town. George is Martha’s father. That’s the second Martha, the one I worked for. He had a son, who was the third Thomas, and he…”
“Whoa, wait,” I said. “First this and second that. Now we’re to the third Thomas? What happened to the second Thomas?”
“You shoulda been taken notes,” Galvin said. He winked. “Anyway, Thomas was a lot younger than Martha. She seemed to take everything except the mansion. The third Thomas got the mansion. Thomas left in ’42 to go to war. I hear he lived, but he never returned to Amesbury. Don’t know nothing about his family, if he had one. As for the mansion and what’s happened to it now, who owns it and all, I don’t know. I tried to check on it once, but the records are all locked.”
“Wow, a lot of history,” I said.
“Hmm, I told you just a teaser. Like I said, I could write a book longer than War and Peace about the Goode family.”
“I’m sure you could.”
“Anyway, thanks for the coffee and letting me jaw at ya. You know how I am with stories. Yep, just ask and I’ll tell you a bunch of ghost stories about the mansion. I’m sure you could meet ole Martha any day you want and ask her about it. She’d know more than me! That is, if you believe ghosts.”
“You mean, ‘believe in ghosts’, don’t you?” I asked.
“What? Of course there are ghosts. The question is, do you believe them when they tell you tales?”
“Of course. OK, thanks Galvin. I owe you one.”
“No problem. Talk to you later.”
I called the waitress, who was Maude’s oldest granddaughter, over to order dinner. I was hungry after that story and didn’t feel like going home and cooking for myself.
Perhaps some day I’d go up there and see if I really could meet Martha. That is, the first Martha.