The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight

Aunt Bess

Aunt Bess was a typical Yankee, a lean and energetic Marbleheader blessed with a pleasing voice and the personality of an old-time school teacher. (As a youngster, I once spent a week at her home. Never again did I ever "drop" a G!)

She was a woman of many talents, an accomplished gardener, an indefatigable birdwatcher, dedicated nature-lover and gifted herbalist.

Shortly after she and Robert Fellows Wood married, they purchased a house in Narberth, Pennsylvania -- an attractive suburb on the outskirts of Philadelphia. There, she promptly fell in love with the region's rolling green -- clad hills and valleys, its picturesque stone houses, neatly laid-out farms, and beautifully landscaped estates.

They were well-matched because Uncle Robert, a native of Shelburne, Massachusetts, and Director of Advertising for the Autocar company, not only shared her hobbies but wholeheartedly supported them. Together, they would drive to the outskirts of the borough whenever time and circumstances permitted them to do so. There, they would enjoy a light snack while they blissfully watched a herd of cows contentedly chew their cuds in a fenced-in barnyard. And whenever the weather bureau forecasted a delightful evening, they would hie themselves to a nearby knoll where they communed with nature at its best.

Although Aunt Bess was my father's sole surviving sister, their contact was limited to an occasional exchange of letters, or to one or two widely-spaced phone calls. She invited Arch to Narberth every so often, but he always turned down her invitations, using one lame excuse after another to explain his reluctance to pay her a visit. However, in time her pleas carried the day, and he agreed-rather grudgingly-to leave his home on Knight's Hill and "betake" himself to Narberth.

Following his arrival, the next two days were devoted to sightseeing as Aunt Bess was not unmindful of the fact that Arch had never traveled far beyond Marblehead's rugged precincts. One day, among other planned diversions, he was driven around the town and introduced to some of his sister's closest friends who proudly showed him their herb gardens and described to him the medicinal properties of the various herbs they were cultivating. Another day, he visited nearby Ardmore and walked through the Autocar's rambling plant where he learned how its huge trucks were made, assembled and distributed. And each evening, Uncle Robert, Aunt Bess and my father would top off the day by dining at the Merion Cricket Club.

The third day of my father's stay at Narberth was-happily-a Sunday. And as was his habit, he arose early, grabbed the Sunday paper, seated himself in a comfortable chair overlooking the garden, and lit a foul-smelling cigar. For him, the Sabbath was essentially a day of rest and relaxation, a time to catch up on the latest political scandal and chew out the rascals, blackguards and dumbbells who were selling the country down the river.

Aunt Bess, however, had other ideas-more in keeping with the mores of the day. A devout Episcopalian, she brushed aside his requests to let him take it easy that one day, and led him off to church instead. After a hearty midday lunch, he spent the afternoon listening to Aunt Bess and a neighbor discuss how to best organize a living room-sized herbarium.

Later that afternoon, the neighbor having departed, Bess and Robert chauffeured my father to a hill several miles from Narberth. There, they patiently awaited the glorious sunset that Aunt Bess had earlier predicted. The azure sky was cloudless, the evening air warm, sultry and as fragrant as a field of freshly-mown hay. And Aunt Bess was right. As Old Sol sank behind the distant horizon, the world was enveloped in a riot of color, creating a scene of dazzling beauty.
Thrilled to the core by one of nature's most spectacular displays, Aunt Bess turned to my father to see how he was reacting to it. To her utter amazement, he was standing stock-still, his head bent and his eyes riveted on the large gold stemwinder watch he was holding cupped in one hand.

"Arch! Is something wrong? Or is something bothering you?" she asked.

"Shsh! Shsh! Hush up!" said my father. "In exactly one minute, the sun'll go down behind Abbot Hall!"

Poor Aunt Bess. For a moment, she was staggered and speechless. Then she exploded:
"Oh, hell! Let's go home."

My Aunt Bess, born in Marblehead, died in Narbeth, Pennsylvania, and lies buried beside her husband in the cemetery of All Saint's Episcopal Church in neighboring Wynwood. In Marblehead's Waterside Cemetery, a large granite stone marks the grave of her parents, Archibald Selman and Miriam Pedrick Knight.

But Bess left instructions (which every native-born 'Header will thoroughly understand).

Thus, the following words grace the back of the Knight stone in Marblehead:

Robert Fellows
His Wife
Elizabeth Knight

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