Part 3 out of 5
"You have a great deal of work on hand at this season. Wouldn't it be
better for Uncle George and me to go?"
He answered impetuously,--
"If all my property goes to ruin, I will hunt for Willie all over the
earth, so long as there is any hope of finding him, I always felt as if
mother couldn't forgive me for leaving him that day, though she always
tried to make me think she did. And now, if we find him at last, she is
not here to"----
His voice became choked.
Mr. Wharton replied, impressively,--
"She will come with him, my son. Wherever he may be, they are not
The next morning Charles started on his expedition, having made
preparations for an absence of some months, if so long a time should
prove necessary. The first letters received from him were tantalizing.
The young man and his interpreter had gone to Michigan, in consequence
of hearing of a family there who had lost a little son many years ago.
But those who had seen him in Indiana described him as having brown eyes
and hair, and as saying that his mother's eyes were the color of the
sky, Charles hastened to Michigan. The wanderer had been there, but had
left, because the family he sought were convinced he was not their son.
They said he had gone to Canada, with the intention of rejoining the
tribe of Indians he had left.
We will not follow the persevering brother through all his travels.
Again and again he came close upon the track, and had the disappointment
of arriving a little too late. On a chilly day of advanced autumn, he
mounted a pony and rode toward a Canadian forest, where he was told some
Indians had encamped. He tied his pony at the entrance of the wood, and
followed a path through the underbrush. He had walked about a quarter of
a mile, when his ears were pierced by a shrill, discordant yell, which
sounded neither animal nor human. He stopped abruptly, and listened.
All was still, save a slight creaking of boughs in the wind. He pressed
forward in the direction whence the sound had come, not altogether free
from anxiety, though habitually courageous. He soon came in sight of a
cluster of wigwams, outside of which, leaning against trees, or seated
on the fallen leaves, were a number of men, women, and children, dressed
in all sorts of mats and blankets, some with tufts of feathers in their
hair, others with bands and tassels of gaudy-colored wampum. One or two
had a regal air, and might have stood for pictures of Arab chiefs or
Carthaginian generals; but most of them looked squalid and dejected.
None of them manifested any surprise at the entrance of the stranger.
All were as grave as owls. They had, in fact, seen him coming through
the woods, and had raised their ugly war-whoop, in sport, to see whether
it would frighten him. It was their solemn way of enjoying fun. Among
them was a youth, tanned by exposure to wind and sun, but obviously
of white complexion. His hair was shaggy, and cut straight across his
forehead, as Moppet's had been. Charles fixed upon him a gaze so intense
that he involuntarily took up a hatchet that lay beside him, as if he
thought it might be necessary to defend himself from the intruder.
"Can any of you speak English?" inquired Charles.
"Me speak," replied an elderly man.
Charles explained that he wanted to find a white young man who had been
in Indiana and Michigan searching for his mother.
"_Him_ pale-face," rejoined the interpreter, pointing to the youth,
whose brown eyes glanced from one to the other with a perplexed
Charles made a strong effort to restrain his impatience, while the
interpreter slowly explained his errand. The pale-faced youth came
"Let me examine your right arm," said Charles.
The beaver-skin mantle was raised; and there, in a dotted outline of
blue spots, was the likeness of the prairie-dog which in boyish play he
had pricked into Willie's arm. With a joyful cry he fell upon his neck,
exclaiming, "My brother!" The interpreter repeated the word in the
Indian tongue. The youthful stranger uttered no sound; but Charles felt
his heart throb, as they stood locked in a close embrace. When their
arms unclasped, they looked earnestly into each other's faces. That sad
memory of the promise made to their gentle mother, and so thoughtlessly
broken, brought tears to the eyes of the elder brother; but the younger
stood apparently unmoved. The interpreter, observing this, said,--
"Him sorry-glad; but red man he no cry."
There was much to damp the pleasure of this strange interview. The
uncouth costume, and the shaggy hair falling over the forehead, gave
Willie such a wild appearance, it was hard for Charles to realize that
they were brothers. Inability to understand each other's language
created a chilling barrier between them. Charles was in haste to
change his brother's dress, and acquire a stock of Indian words. The
interpreter was bound farther north; but he agreed to go with them three
days' journey, and teach them on the way. They were merely guests at the
encampment, and no one claimed a right to control their motions. Charles
distributed beads among the women and pipes among the men; and two hours
after he had entered the wood, he was again mounted on his pony, with
William and the interpreter walking beside him. As he watched his
brother's erect figure striding along, with such a bold, free step, he
admitted to himself that there were some important compensations for the
deficiencies of Indian education.
Languages are learned rapidly, when the heart is a pupil. Before they
parted from the interpreter, the brothers were able, by the aid of
pantomime, to interchange various skeletons of ideas, which imagination
helped to clothe with bodies. At the first post-town, a letter was
despatched to their father, containing these words: "I have found him.
He is well, and we are coming home. Dear Lucy must teach baby Willie to
crow and clap his hands. God bless you all! Charley."
They pressed forward as fast as possible, and at the last stage of
their journey travelled all night; for Charles had a special reason for
wishing to arrive at the homestead on the following day. The brothers
were now dressed alike, and a family-likeness between them was obvious.
Willie's shaggy hair had been cut, and the curtain of dark brown locks
being turned aside revealed a well-shaped forehead whiter than his
cheeks. He had lost something of the freedom of his motions; for the
new garments sat uneasily upon him, and he wore them with an air of
The warm golden light of the sun had changed to silvery brightness,
and the air was cool and bracing, when they rode over the prairie so
familiar to the eye of Charles, but which had lost nearly all the
features that had been impressed on the boyish mind of William. At a
little distance from the village they left their horses and walked
across the fields to the back-door of their father's house; for they
were not expected so soon, and Charles wished to take the family by
surprise. It was Thanksgiving day. Wild turkeys were prepared for
roasting, and the kitchen was redolent of pies and plum-pudding. When
they entered, no one was there but an old woman hired to help on festive
occasions. She uttered a little cry when she saw them; but Charles put
his finger to his lip, and hurried on to the family sitting-room. All
were there,--Father, Emma, Uncle George, Aunt Mary, Bessie and her young
Squire, Charles's wife, baby, and all. There was a universal rush, and
one simultaneous shout of, "Willie! Willie!" Charles's young wife threw
herself into his arms; but all the rest clustered round the young
stranger, as the happy father clasped him to his bosom. When the tumult
of emotion had subsided a little, Charles introduced each one separately
to his brother, explaining their relationship as well as he could in the
Indian dialect. Their words were unintelligible to the wanderer, but he
understood their warmth of welcome, and said,--
"Me tank. Me no much speak."
Mr. Wharton went into the bedroom and returned with a morocco case,
which he opened and placed in the stranger's hand, saying, in a solemn
Charles, with a tremor in his voice, repeated the word in the Indian
tongue. Willie gazed at the blue eyes of the miniature, touched them,
pointed to the sky, and said,--
"Me see she, time ago."
All supposed that he meant the memories of his childhood. But he in fact
referred to the vision he had seen four years before, as he explained to
them afterward, when he had better command of their language.
The whole family wept as the miniature passed from hand to hand, and,
with a sudden outburst of grief, Charles exclaimed,--
"Oh, if _she_ were only here with us this happy day!"
"My son, she is with us," said his father, impressively.
William was the only one who seemed unmoved. He did not remember his
mother, except as he had seen her in that moment of clairvoyance; and it
had been part of his Indian training to suppress emotion. But he put his
hand on his heart, and said,--
"Me no much speak."
When the little red-and-yellow basket was brought forward, it awakened
no recollections in his mind. They pointed to it, and said, "Wik-a-nee,
Moppet"; but he made no response.
His father eyed him attentively, and said,--
"It surely _must_ be our Willie. I see the resemblance to myself. We
cannot be mistaken."
"I _know_ he is our Willie," said Charles; and removing his brother's
coat, he showed what was intended to be the likeness of a prairie-dog.
His father and Uncle George remembered it well; and it was a subject of
regret that William could not be made to understand any jokes about his
boyish state of mind on that subject. Mr. Wharton pointed to the chair
he used to occupy, and said,--
"It seems hardly possible that this tall stranger can be the little
Willie who used to sit there. But it is our Willie. God be praised!"
He paused a moment, and added, "Before we partake of our Thanksgiving
dinner, let us all unite in thanks to our Heavenly Father; 'for this my
son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.'"
They all rose, and he offered a prayer, to which heart-felt emotion
Charles had taken every precaution to have his brother appear as little
as possible like a savage, when he restored him to his family; and now,
without mentioning that he would like raw meat better than all their
dainties, he went to the kitchen to superintend the cooking of some
Indian succotash, and buffalo-steak _very_ slightly broiled.
For some time, the imperfect means of communicating by speech was a
great impediment to confidential intercourse, and a drawback upon their
happiness. Emma, whose imagination had been a good deal excited by the
prospect of a new brother, was a little disappointed. In her own private
mind, she thought she should prefer for a brother a certain Oberlin
student, with whom she had danced the last Thanksgiving evening. Bessie,
always a stickler for propriety, ventured to say to her mother that she
hoped he would learn to use his knife and fork, like other people. But
to older members of the family, who distinctly remembered Willie in his
boyhood, these things seemed unimportant. It was enough for them that
the lost treasure was found.
The obstacle created by difference of language disappeared with a
rapidity that might have seemed miraculous, were it not a well-known
fact that one's native tongue forgotten is always easily restored.
It seems to remain latent in the memory, and can be brought out by
favorable circumstances, as writing with invisible ink reappears under
the influence of warmth. Tidings of the young man's restoration to his
family spread like fire on the prairie. People for twenty miles round
came to see the Willie Wharton of whose story they had heard so much.
Children were disappointed to find that he was not a little rosy-cheeked
boy, such as had been described to them. Some elderly people, who prided
themselves on their sagacity, shook their heads when they observed his
rapid improvement in English, and said to each other,--
"It a'n't worth while to disturb neighbor Wharton's confidence; but
depend upon it, that fellow's an impostor. As for the mark on his arm
that they call a prairie-dog, it looks as much like anything else that
To the family, however, every week brought some additional confirmation
that the stranger was their own Willie. By degrees, he was able to make
them understand the outlines of his story. He did not remember anything
about parting from his brother on that disastrous day, and of course
could not explain what had induced him to turn aside to the Indian
trail. He said the Indians had always told him that a squaw, whose
pappoose had died, took a fancy to him, and decoyed him away; and that
afterward, when he cried to go back, they would not let him go. From
them he also learned that he called himself six years old, at the time
of his capture; but his name had been gradually forgotten, both by
himself and them. He wandered about with that tribe eight summers and
winters. Sometimes, when they had but little food, he suffered with
hunger; and once he was wounded by a tomahawk, when they had a fight
with some hostile tribe; but they treated him as well as they did their
own children. He became an expert hunter, thought it excellent sport,
and forgot that he was not an Indian. His squaw-mother died, and, not
long after, the tribe went a great many miles to collect furs. In the
course of this journey they encountered various tribes of Indians. One
night they encamped near some hunters who spoke another dialect, which
they could partly understand. Among them was a woman, who said she knew
him. She told him his mother was a white woman, with eyes blue as the
sky, and that she was very good to her little pappoose, when she lost
her way on the prairie. She wanted her husband to buy him, that they
might carry him back to his mother. He bought him for ten gallons of
whiskey, and promised to take him to his parents the next time the tribe
travelled in that direction,--because, he said, their little pappoose
had liked them very much.
"We remember her very well," said Mr. Wharton. "Her name was Wik-a-nee."
"That not _name_" replied William. "Wik-a-nee mean little small thing."
"You were a small boy when you found the pappoose on the prairie,"
rejoined his father. "You took a great liking to her, and said she
was _your_ little girl. When she went away, you gave her your box of
"Guinea-peas? What that?" inquired the young man.
"They are red seeds with black spots on them," replied his father.
"Emma, I believe you have some. Show him one."
The moment he saw it, he exclaimed,--
"Haha! A-lee-lah show me Guinea-peas. Her say me give she."
"Then you know Wik-a-nee?" said his father, in an inquiring tone.
The wanderer had acquired the gravity of the Indians. He never laughed,
and rarely smiled. But a broad smile lighted up his frank countenance,
as he answered,--
"Me know A-lee-lah very well. She not Wik-a-nee now."
Then he became grave again, and told how he was twining the red seeds in
A-lee-lah's hair, when his mother came and looked at him with great blue
eyes and smiled. Most of his auditors thought he was telling a dream.
But Mr. Wharton said to his oldest son,--
"I told you, Charles, that mother and son were not separated now."
William seemed perplexed by this remark; but he comprehended in part,
"Me see into Spirit-Land."
When asked why he had not started in search of his mother then, he
"A-lee-lah's father, mother die. A-lee-lah say not go. Miles big many.
Me not know the trail. But Indians go hunt fur. Me go. Me sleep. Me
dream mother come, say go home. Me ask where mother? Charles come. Him
The little basket was again brought forth, and Mr. Wharton said,--
"Wik-a-nee gave you this, when she went away; but when we showed it to
you, you did not remember it."
He took it and looked at it, and said,--
"Me not remember"; but when Emma would have put it away, he held it
fast; and that night he carried it with him to his chamber.
Some degree of restlessness had been observed in him previously to this
conversation. It increased as the weeks passed on. He became moody, and
liked to wander off alone, far from the settlement. The neighbors said
to each other,--"He will never be contented. He will go back to the
Indians." The family feared it also. But Uncle George, who was always
prone to look on the bright side of things, said,--
"We shall win him, if we manage right. We mustn't try to constrain him.
The greatest mistake we make in our human relations is interfering too
much with each other's freedom. We are too apt to think _our_ way is
the _only_ way. It's no such very great matter, after all, that William
sometimes uses his fingers instead of a knife and fork, and likes to
squat on the floor better than to sit in a chair. We mustn't drive him
away by taking too much notice of such things. Let him do just as he
likes. We are all creatures of circumstances. If you and I were obliged
to dance in tight boots, and make calls in white kid gloves, we should
feel like fettered fools."
"And _be_ what we felt like," replied Mr. Wharton; "and the worst part
of it would be, we shouldn't long have sense enough to _feel_ like
fools, but should fall to pitying and despising people who were of any
use in the world. But really, brother George, to have a son educated by
Indians is not exactly what one could wish."
"Undoubtedly not, in many respects; but it has its advantages. William
has already taught me much about the habits of animals and the qualities
of plants. Did you ever see an eye so sure as his to measure distances,
or to send an arrow to the mark? He never studied astronomy, but he
knows how to make use of the stars better than we do. Last week, when
we got benighted in the woods, he at once took his natural place as our
leader; and how quickly his sagacity brought us out of our trouble! He
will learn enough of our ways, by degrees. But I declare I would rather
have him always remain as he is than to make a city-fop of him. I once
saw an old beau at Saratoga, a forlorn-looking mortal, creeping about
in stays and tight boots; and I thought I should rather be the wildest
Ojibbeway that ever hunted buffaloes in a ragged blanket."
The rational policy recommended by Uncle George was carefully pursued.
Everything was done to attract William to their mode of life, but no
remark was made when he gave a preference to Indian customs. Still, he
seemed moody, and at times sad. He carried within him a divided heart.
One day, when he was sitting on a log, looking absent and dejected, his
father put his hand gently upon his shoulder, and said,--
"Are you not happy among us, my son? Don't you like us?"
"Me like very much," was the reply. "Me glad find father, brother. All
He paused a moment, and then added,--
"A-lee-lah's father, mother be dead. A-lee-lah alone. A-lee-lah did say
not go. Me promise come back soon."
Mr. Wharton was silent. He was thinking what it was best to say. After
waiting a little, William said,--
"Father, me not remember what is English for squaw."
"Woman," replied Mr. Wharton.
"Not that," rejoined the young man. "What call Charles's squaw?"
"His wife," was the reply.
"Father, A-lee-lah be my wife. Me like bring A-lee-lah. Me fraid father
not like Indian."
Mr. Wharton placed his hand affectionately on his child's head, and
"Bring A-lee-lah, in welcome, my son. Your mother loved her, when she
was Wik-a-nee; and we will all love her now. Only be sure and come back
The brown eyes looked up and thanked him, with a glance that well repaid
the struggle those words had cost the wise father.
So the uncivilized youth again went forth into the wilderness, saying,
as he parted from them, "Me bring A-lee-lah." They sent her a necklace
and bracelets of many-colored beads, and bade him tell her that they
remembered Wik-a-nee, and had always kept her little basket, and that
they would love her when she came among them. Charles travelled some
distance with his brother, bought a new Indian blanket for him, and
returned with the garments he had worn during his sojourn at home. They
felt that they had acted wisely and kindly, but it was like losing
Willie again; for they all had great doubts whether he would ever
He was incapable of writing a letter, and months passed without any
tidings of him. They all began to think that the attractions of a wild
life had been strong enough to conquer his newly awakened natural
affections. Uncle George said,--
"If it prove so, we shall have the consciousness of having done right.
We could not have kept him against his will, even if we had wished to do
it. If anything will win him to our side, it will be the influence of
love and freedom."
"They are strong agencies, and I have great faith in them," replied Mr.
Summer was far advanced, when a young man and woman in Indian costume
were seen passing through the village, and people said, "There is
William Wharton come back again!" They entered the father's house like
strange apparitions. Baby Willie was afraid of them, and toddled behind
his mother, to hide his face in the folds of her gown. All the other
members of the family had talked over the subject frequently, and had
agreed how they would treat Wik-a-nee, if she came among them again. So
they kissed them both, as they stood there in their Indian blankets, and
said, "Welcome home, brother! Welcome, sister!" A-lee-lah looked at them
timidly, with her large moonlight eyes, and said, "Me no speak." Mr.
Wharton put his hand gently on her head, and said, "We will love you, my
daughter." William translated the phrase to her, heaved a sigh, which
seemed a safety-valve for too much happiness, and replied, "Me thank
father, brother, sister, all." And A-lee-lah said, "Me tank," as her
mother had said, in years long gone by.
All felt desirous to remove from her eyebrows the mass of straight black
hair, which she considered extremely becoming, but which they regarded
as a great disfigurement to her really handsome face. However, no one
expressed such an opinion, by word or look. They had previously agreed
not to manifest any distaste for Indian fashions.
Mr. Wharton, apart, remarked to Charles,--
"When you were a boy, you said Moppet would be pretty, if she wore her
hair like folks. It was true then, and is still more true now."
"Let us have patience, and we shall see her handsome face come out of
that cloud by-and-by," rejoined Uncle George. "If we prove that we
love her, we shall gain influence over her. Wild-flowers, as well as
garden-flowers, grow best in the sunshine."
Emma tried to conform to the wishes of the family in her behavior; but
she did not feel quite sure that she should ever be able to love the
young Indian. It was not agreeable to have a sister who was clothed in
a blanket and wore her hair like a Shetland pony. Cousin Bessie thought
stockings, long skirts, and a gown ought to be procured for her
immediately. Her father said,--
"Let me tell you, Bessie, it would be far more rational for you to
follow _her_ fashion about short skirts. I should like to see _you_ step
off as she does. She couldn't move so like a young deer, if she had long
petticoats to trammel her limbs."
But Bessie confidentially remarked to Cousin Emma that she thought her
father had some queer notions; to which Emma replied, that, for her
part, she thought A-lee-lah ought to dress "like folks," as Charley used
to say, when he was a boy. They could not rest till they had made a
dress like their own, and had coaxed William to persuade her to wear it.
In a tone of patient resignation, she at last said, "Me try." But she
was evidently very uncomfortable in her new habiliments. She often
wriggled her shoulders, and her limbs were always getting entangled in
the folds of her long, full skirts. She finally rebelled openly, and,
with an emphatic "Me no like," cast aside the troublesome garments and
resumed her blanket.
"I suppose she felt very much as I should feel in tight boots and white
kid gloves," said Uncle George. "You will drive them away from us, if
you interfere with them so much."
It was agreed that Aunt Mary would understand how to manage them better
than the young folks did; and the uncivilized couple were accordingly
invited to stay at their uncle's house. Emma cordially approved of this
arrangement. She told Bessie that she did hope Aunt Mary would make them
more "like folks," before the Oberlin student visited the neighborhood
again; for she didn't know what he _would_ think of some of their ways.
"I feel as if I ought to invite William and his wife to dine with us;
but if any of my husband's family should come in, I should feel _so_
mortified to have them see a woman with a blanket over her shoulders
sitting at my table! Besides, they like raw meat, and that is dreadful."
"Certainly it is not pleasant," replied her father; "but I once dined in
Boston, at a house of high civilization, where the odor of venison and
of Stilton cheese produced much more internal disturbance than I have
ever experienced from any of their Indian messes."
This philosophical way of viewing the subject was thought by some of the
neighbors to be assumed, as the best mode of concealing wounded pride.
They said, in compassionate tones, that they really did pity the
Whartons; for, let them say what they would, it must be dreadfully
mortifying to have that squaw about. But if such a feeling was ever
remotely hinted to Uncle George, he quietly replied,--
"So far from feeling ashamed of A-lee-lah, we are truly grateful to her;
and we are deeply thankful that William married her. His love for her
safely bridges over the wide chasm between his savage and his civilized
life. Without her, he could not feel at home among us; and the
probability is that we should not be able to keep him. By help of his
Indian wife, I think we shall make him contented, and finally succeed
in winning them over to our mode of life. Meanwhile, they are happy in
their own way, and we are thankful for it."
The more enlightened portion of the community commended these sentiments
as liberal and wise; but some, who were not distinguished either for
moral or intellectual culture, said, sneeringly,--
"They talk about his Indian wife! I suppose they jumped over a stick
together in some dirty wigwam, and that they call being married!"
Uncle George and Aunt Mary had been so long in the habit of regulating
their actions by their own principles, that they scarcely had a passing
curiosity to know what such neighbors thought of their proceedings. They
never wavered in their faith that persevering kindness and judicious
non-interference would gradually produce such transformations as they
desired. No changes were proposed, till they and their untutored guests
had become familiarly acquainted and mutually attached. At first, the
wild young couple were indisposed to stay much in the house. They
wandered far off into the woods, and spent most of their time in making
mats and baskets. As these were always admired by their civilized
relatives, and gratefully accepted, they were happier than
millionnaires. They talked to each other altogether in the Indian
dialect, which greatly retarded their improvement in English. But it was
thus they had talked when they first made love, and it was, moreover,
the only way in which their tongues could move unfettered. Her language
no longer sounded to William like "lingo," as he had styled it in
the boyish days when he found her wandering alone on the prairie. No
utterance of the human soul, whether in the form of language or belief,
is "lingo," when we stand on the same spiritual plane with the speaker,
and thus can rightly understand it.
The first innovation in the habits of the young Indian was brought about
by the magical power of two side-combs ornamented with colored glass. At
the first sight of them, A-lee-lah manifested admiration almost equal to
that which the scarlet peas had excited in her childish mind. Aunt Mary,
perceiving this, parted the curtain of raven hair, and fastened it on
each side with the gaudy combs. Then she led her to the glass, put her
finger on the uncovered brow, and said,--
"A-lee-lah has a pretty forehead. Aunt Mary likes to see it so."
William translated this to his simple wife, who said,--
"Aunt Mary good. Me tank."
Mr. Wharton happened to come in, and he kissed the brown forehead,
"Father likes to have A-lee-lah wear her hair so."
The conquest was complete. Henceforth, the large, lambent eyes shone in
their moonlight beauty without any overhanging cloud.
Thus adroitly, day by day, they were guided into increasing conformity
with civilized habits. After a while, it was proposed that they should
be married according to the Christian form, as they had previously been
by Indian ceremonies. No attempt was made to offer higher inducements
than the exhibition of wedding-finery, and the assurance that all
William's relatives would be made very happy, if they would conform
to the custom of his people. The bride's dress was a becoming hybrid
between English and Indian costumes. Loose trousers of emerald-green
merino were fastened with scarlet cord and tassels above gaiters of
yellow beaver-skin thickly embroidered with beads of many colors. An
upper garment of scarlet merino was ornamented with gilded buttons, on
each of which was a shining star. The short, full skirt of this garment
fell a little below the knee, and the border was embroidered with
gold-colored braid. At the waist, it was fastened with a green morocco
belt and gilded buckle. The front-hair, now accustomed to be parted,
had grown long enough to be becomingly arranged with the jewelled
side-combs, which she prized so highly. The long, glossy, black tresses
behind were gathered into massive braids, intertwined on one side with
narrow scarlet ribbon, and on the other with festoons of the identical
Guinea-peas which had so delighted her when she was Wik-a-nee. The
braids were fastened by a comb with gilded points, which made her
look like a crowned Indian queen. Emma was decidedly struck by her
picturesque appearance. She said privately to Cousin Bessie,--
"I should like such a dress myself, if other folks wore it; but don't
you tell that I said so."
Charles smiled, as he remarked to his wife,--
"The grub has come out of her blanket a brilliant butterfly. Uncle
George and Aunt Mary are working miracles."
After the wedding-ceremony had been performed, Mr. Wharton kissed the
bride, and said to the bridegroom,--
"She is handsome as a wild tulip."
"Bright as the torch-flower of the prairies," added Uncle George.
When William made these compliments intelligible to A-lee-lah, she
maintained her customary Indian composure of manner, but her brown
cheeks glowed like an amber-colored bottle of claret in the sunshine.
William, though he deemed it unmanly to give any outward signs of
satisfaction, was inwardly proud of his bride's finery, and scarcely
less pleased with his own yellow vest, blue coat, and brass buttons;
though he preferred above them all the yellow gaiters, which A-lee-lah
had skilfully decorated with tassels and bright-colored wampum.
The next politic movement was to build for them a cabin of their own,
taking care to preserve an influence over them by frequent visits and
kind attentions. They would have been very happy in the freedom of their
new home, had it not been for the intrusion of many strangers, who came
to look upon them from motives of curiosity. The universal Yankee nation
is a self-elected Investigating Committee, which never adjourns its
sessions. This is amusing, and perhaps edifying, to their own inquiring
minds; but William and A-lee-lah had Indian ideas of natural politeness,
which made them regard such invasions as a breach of good manners.
By degrees, however, the young couple became an old story, and were left
in comparative peace. The system of attraction continued to work like a
charm. As A-lee-lah was never annoyed by any assumption of superiority
on the part of her white relatives, she took more and more pains to
please them. This was manifested in many childlike ways, which were
extremely winning, though they were sometimes well calculated to excite
a smile. As years passed on, they both learned to read and write English
very well. William worked industriously on his farm, though he never
lost his predilection for hunting. A-lee-lah became almost as skilful at
her needle as she was at weaving baskets and wampum. Her talk, with its
slightly foreign arrangement, was as pretty as the unformed utterance
of a little child. Her taste for music improved. She never attained
to Italian embroidery of sound, still less to German intonations of
intellect; but the rude, monotonous Indian chants gave place to the
melodies of Scotland, Ireland, and Ethiopia. Her taste in dress changed
also. She ceased to delight in garments of scarlet and yellow, though
she retained a liking for bits of bright, warm color. Nature guided her
taste correctly in this, for they harmonized admirably with her brown
complexion and lustrous black hair. She always wore skirts shorter than
others, and garments too loose to impede freedom of motion. Bonnets were
her utter aversion, but she consented to wear a woman's riding-hat with
a drooping feather. Those outside the family learned to call her Mrs.
William Wharton; and strangers who visited the village were generally
attracted by her handsome person and the simple dignity of her manners.
Her father-in-law regarded her with paternal affection, not unmixed with
"Who, that didn't know it," said he, "could be made to believe this
fine-looking woman was once little Moppet, who coiled herself up to
sleep on the floor of our log-cabin?"
Uncle George replied,--
"You know I always told you it was the nature of all sorts of flowers to
grow, if they had plenty of genial air and sunshine."
As for A-lee-lah's little daughter, Jenny, she is universally admitted
to be the prettiest and brightest child in the village. Mr. Wharton says
her busy little mind makes him think of his Willie, at her age; and
Uncle Charles says he has no fault to find with her, for she has her
mother's beautiful eyes, and wears her hair "like folks."
* * * * *
A CALL TO MY COUNTRY-WOMEN.
In the newspapers and magazines you shall see many poems--written by
women who meekly term themselves weak, and modestly profess to represent
only the weak among their sex--tunefully discussing the duties which the
weak owe to their country in days like these. The invariable conclusion
is, that, though they cannot fight, because they are not men,--or go
down to nurse the sick and wounded, because they have children to take
care of,--or write effectively, because they do not know how,--or do any
great and heroic thing, because they have not the ability,--they can
pray; and they generally do close with a melodious and beautiful prayer.
Now praying is a good thing. It is, in fact, the very best thing in the
world to do, and there is no danger of our having too much of it; but if
women, weak or strong, consider that praying is all they can or ought to
do for their country, and so settle down contented with that, they make
as great a mistake as if they did not pray at all. True, women cannot
fight, and there is no call for any great number of female nurses;
notwithstanding this, I believe, that, to-day, the issue of this war
depends quite as much upon American women as upon American men,--and
depends, too, not upon the few who write, but upon the many who do not.
The women of the Revolution were not only Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Reed,
and Mrs. Schuyler, but the wives of the farmers and shoemakers and
blacksmiths everywhere. It is not Mrs. Stowe, or Mrs. Howe, or Miss
Stevenson, or Miss Dix, alone, who is to save the country, but the
thousands upon thousands who are at this moment darning stockings,
tending babies, sweeping floors. It is to them I speak. It is they whom
I wish to get hold of; for in their hands lies slumbering the future of
The women of to-day have not come up to the level of to-day. They do not
stand abreast with its issues. They do not rise to the height of its
great argument. I do not forget what you have done. I have beheld, O
Dorcases, with admiration and gratitude, the coats and garments, the
lint and bandages, which you have made. Tender hearts, if you could have
finished the war with your needles, it would have been finished long
ago; but stitching does not crush rebellion, does not annihilate
treason, or hew traitors in pieces before the Lord. Excellent as far as
it goes, it stops fearfully short of the goal. This ought ye to do, but
there are other things which you ought not to leave undone. The war
cannot be finished by sheets and pillow-cases. Sometimes I am tempted
to believe that it cannot be finished till we have flung them all away.
When I read of the Rebels fighting bare-headed, bare-footed, haggard,
and unshorn, in rags and filth,--fighting bravely, heroically,
successfully,--I am ready to make a burnt-offering of our stacks of
clothing. I feel and fear that we must come down, as they have done,
to a recklessness of all incidentals, down to the rough and rugged
fastnesses of life, down to the very gates of death itself, before we
shall be ready and worthy to win victories. Yet it is not so, for
the hardest fights the earth has ever known have been made by the
delicate-handed and purple-robed. So, in the ultimate analysis, it is
neither gold-lace nor rags that overpower obstacles, but the fiery
soul that consumes both in the intensity of its furnace-heat, bending
impossibilities to the ends of its passionate purpose.
This soul of fire is what I wish to see kindled in our women,--burning
white and strong and steady, through all weakness, timidity,
vacillation, treachery in Church or State or press or parlor, scorching,
blasting, annihilating whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie,--extinguished
by no tempest of defeat, no drizzle of delay, but glowing on its
steadfast path till it shall have cleared through the abomination of our
desolation a highway for the Prince of Peace.
O my country-women, I long to see you stand under the time and bear it
up in your strong hearts, and not need to be borne up through it. I wish
you to stimulate, and not crave stimulants from others. I wish you to
be the consolers, the encouragers, the sustainers, and not tremble in
perpetual need of consolation and encouragement. When men's brains are
knotted and their brows corrugated with fearful looking for and hearing
of financial crises, military disasters, and any and every form of
national calamity consequent upon the war, come you out to meet them,
serene and smiling and unafraid. And let your smile be no formal
distortion of your lips, but a bright ray from the sunshine in your
heart. Take not acquiescently, but joyfully, the spoiling of your goods.
Not only look poverty in the face with high disdain, but embrace it with
gladness and welcome. The loss is but for a moment; the gain is for all
time. Go farther than this. Consecrate to a holy cause not only the
incidentals of life, but life itself. Father, husband, child,---I do
not say, Give them up to toil, exposure, suffering, death, without
a murmur;--that implies reluctance. I rather say, Urge them to the
offering; fill them with sacred fury; fire them with irresistible
desire; strengthen them to heroic will. Look not on details, the
present, the trivial, the fleeting aspects of our conflict, but fix your
ardent gaze on its eternal side. Be not resigned, but rejoicing. Be
spontaneous and exultant. Be large and lofty. Count it all joy that
you are reckoned worthy to suffer in a grand and righteous cause. Give
thanks evermore that you were born in this time; and _because_ it is
dark, be you the light of the world.
And follow the soldier to the battlefield with your spirit. The great
army of letters that marches Southward with every morning sun is
a powerful engine of war. Fill them with tears and sighs, lament
separation and suffering, dwell on your loneliness and fears, mourn over
the dishonesty of contractors and the incompetency of leaders, doubt if
the South will ever be conquered, and foresee financial ruin, and you
will damp the powder and dull the swords that ought to deal death upon
the foe. Write as tenderly as you will. In camp, the roughest man
idealizes his far-off home, and every word of love uplifts him to a
lover. But let your tenderness unfold its sunny side, and keep the
shadows for His pity who knows the end from the beginning, and whom no
foreboding can dishearten. Glory in your tribulation. Show your soldier
that his unflinching courage, his undying fortitude, are your crown of
rejoicing. Incite him to enthusiasm by your inspiration. Make a mock of
your discomforts. Be unwearying in details of the little interests of
home. Fill your letters with kittens and Canaries, with baby's shoes,
and Johnny's sled, and the old cloak which you have turned into a
handsome gown. Keep him posted in all the village-gossip, the lectures,
the courtings, the sleigh-rides, and the singing-schools. Bring out the
good points of the world in strong relief. Tell every sweet and brave
and pleasant and funny story you can think of. Show him that you clearly
apprehend that all this warfare means peace, and that a dastardly peace
would pave the way for speedy, incessant, and more appalling warfare.
Help him to bear his burdens by showing him how elastic you are under
yours. Hearten him, enliven him, tone him up to the true hero-pitch.
Hush your plaintive _Miserere_, accept the nation's pain for penance,
and commission every Northern breeze to bear a _Te Deum laudamus_.
Under God, the only question, as to whether this war shall be conducted
to a shameful or an honorable close, is not of men or money or material
resource. In these our superiority is unquestioned. As Wellington
phrased it, there is hard pounding; but we shall pound the longest, if
only our hearts do not fail us. Women need not beat their pewter spoons
into bullets, for there are plenty of bullets without them. It is not
whether our soldiers shall fight a good fight; they have played the man
on a hundred battle-fields. It is not whether officers are or are not
competent; generals have blundered nations into victory since the world
began. It is whether this people shall have virtue to endure to the
end,--to endure, not starving, not cold, but the pangs of hope deferred,
of disappointment and uncertainty, of commerce deranged and outward
prosperity cheeked. Will our vigilance to detect treachery and our
perseverance to punish it hold out? If we stand firm, we shall be saved,
though so as by fire. If we do not, we shall fall, and shall richly
deserve to fall; and may God sweep us off from the face of the earth,
and plant in our stead a nation with the hearts of men, and not of
O women, stand here in the breach,--for here you may stand powerful,
invincible, I had almost said omnipotent. Rise now to the heights of
a sublime courage,--for the hour has need of you. When the first ball
smote the rocky sides of Sumter, the rebound thrilled from shore to
shore, and waked the slumbering hero in every human soul. Then every eye
flamed, every lip was touched with a live coal from the sacred altar,
every form dilated to the stature of the Golden Age. Then we felt in our
veins the pulse of immortal youth. Then all the chivalry of the ancient
days, all the heroism, all the self-sacrifice that shaped itself into
noble living, came back to us, poured over us, swept away the dross of
selfishness and deception and petty scheming, and Patriotism rose from
the swelling wave stately as a goddess. Patriotism, that had been to us
but a dingy and meaningless antiquity, took on a new form, a new mien, a
countenance divinely fair and forever young, and received once more the
homage of our hearts. Was that a childish outburst of excitement, or
the glow of an aroused principle? Was it a puerile anger, or a manly
indignation? Did we spring up startled pigmies, or girded giants? If
the former, let us veil our faces, and march swiftly (and silently) to
merciful forgetfulness. If the latter, shall we not lay aside every
weight, and this besetting sin of despondency, and run with patience the
race set before us?
A true philosophy and a true religion make the way possible to us. The
Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He
will; and He never yet willed that a nation strong in means and battling
for the right should be given over to a nation weak and battling for the
wrong. Nations have their future--reward and penalty--in this world;
and it is as certain as God lives that Providence _and_ the heaviest
battalions will prevail. We have had reverses, but no misfortune hath
happened unto us but such as is common unto nations. Country has been
sacrificed to partisanship. Early love has fallen away, and lukewarmness
has taken its place. Unlimited enthusiasm has given place to limited
stolidity. Disloyalty, overawed at first into quietude, has lifted its
head among us, and waxes wroth and ravening. There are dissensions
at home worse than the guns of our foes. Some that did run well have
faltered; some signal-lights have gone shamefully out, and some are
lurid with a baleful glare. But unto this end were we born, and for this
cause came we into the world. When shall greatness of soul stand forth,
if not in evil times? When the skies are fair and the seas smooth, all
ships sail festively. But the clouds lower, the winds shriek, the waves
boil, and immediately each craft shows its quality. The deep is strown
with broken masts, parted keels, floating wrecks; but here and there
a ship rides the raging sea, and flings defiance to the wind. She
overlives the sea because she is sea-worthy. Not our eighty years
of peace alone, but our two years of war are the touchstone of our
character. We have rolled our Democracy as a sweet morsel under our
tongue; we have gloried in the prosperity which it brought to the
individual; but if the comforts of men minister to the degradation of
man, if Democracy levels down and does not level up, if our era of peace
and plenty leaves us so feeble and frivolous, so childish, so impatient,
so deaf to all that calls to us from the past and entreats us in the
future, that we faint and fail under the stress of our one short effort,
then indeed is our Democracy our shame and curse. Let us show now what
manner of people we are. Let us be clear-sighted and far-sighted to see
how great is the issue that hangs upon the occasion. It is not a mere
military reputation that is at stake, not the decay of a generation's
commerce, not the determination of this or that party to power. It is
the question of the world that we have been set to answer. In the great
conflict of ages, the long strife between right and wrong, between
progress and sluggardy, through the Providence of God we are placed in
the van-guard. Three hundred years ago a world was unfolded for the
battle-ground. Choice spirits came hither to level and intrench. Swords
clashed and blood flowed, and the great reconnoissance was successfully
made. Since then both sides have been gathering strength, marshalling
forces, planting batteries, and to-day we stand in the thick of the
fray. Shall we fail? Men and women of America, will you fail? Shall the
cause go by default? When a great Idea, that has been uplifted on the
shoulders of generations, comes now to its Thermopylae, its glory-gate,
and needs only stout hearts for its strong hands,--when the eyes of a
great multitude are turned upon you, and the fates of dumb millions in
the silent future rest with you,--when the suffering and sorrowful, the
lowly, whose immortal hunger for justice gnaws at their hearts, who
blindly see, but keenly feel, by their God-given instincts, that somehow
you are working out their salvation, and the high-born, monarchs in the
domain of mind, who, standing far off, see with prophetic eye the two
courses that lie before you, one to the Uplands of vindicated Right, one
to the Valley of the Shadow of Death, alike fasten upon you their hopes,
their prayers, their tears,--will you, for a moment's bodily comfort
and rest and repose, grind all these expectations and hopes between the
upper and nether millstone? Will you fail the world in this fateful hour
by your faint-heartedness? Will you fail yourself, and put the knife to
your own throat? For the peace which you so dearly buy shall bring to
you neither ease nor rest. You will but have spread a bed of thorns.
Failure will write disgrace upon the brow of this generation, and shame
will outlast the age. It is not with us as with the South. She can
surrender without dishonor. She is the weaker power, and her success
will be against the nature of things. Her dishonor lay in her attempt,
not in its relinquishment. But we shall fail, not because of mechanics
and mathematics, but because our manhood and womanhood weighed in the
balance are found wanting. There are few who will not share in the sin.
There are none who will not share in the shame. Wives, would you hold
back your husbands? Mothers, would you keep your sons? From what? for
what? From the doing of the grandest duty that ever ennobled man, to the
grief of the greatest infamy that ever crushed him down. You would hold
him back from prizes before which Olympian laurels fade, for a fate
before which a Helot slave might cower. His country in the agony of her
death-struggle calls to him for succor. All the blood in all the ages,
poured out for liberty, poured out for him, cries unto him from the
ground. All that life has of noble, of heroic, beckons him forward.
Death itself wears for him a golden crown. Ever since the world swung
free from God's hand, men have died,--obeying the blind fiat of Nature;
but only once in a generation comes the sacrificial year, the year
of jubilee, when men march lovingly to meet their fate and die for a
nation's life. Holding back, we transmit to those that shall come after
us a blackened waste. The little one that lies in his cradle will be
accursed for our sakes. Every child will be base-born, springing from
ignoble blood. We inherited a fair fame, and bays from a glorious
battle; but for him is no background, no stand-point. His country will
be a burden on his shoulders, a blush upon his cheek, a chain about his
feet. There is no career for the future, but a weary effort, a long, a
painful, a heavy-hearted struggle to lift the land out of its slough of
degradation and set it once more upon a dry place.
Therefore let us have done at once and forever with paltry
considerations, with talk of despondency and darkness. Let compromise,
submission, and every form of dishonorable peace be not so much as
named among us. Tolerate no coward's voice or pen or eye. Wherever the
serpent's head is raised, strike it down. Measure every man by the
standard of manhood. Measure country's price by country's worth, and
country's worth by country's integrity. Let a cold, clear breeze sweep
down from the mountains of life, and drive out these miasmas that befog
and beguile the unwary. Around every hearthstone let sunshine gleam. In
every home let fatherland have its altar and its fortress. From every
household let words of cheer and resolve and high-heartiness ring
out, till the whole land is shining and resonant in the bloom of its
THE TRUE CHURCH.
I asked a holy man one day,
"Where is the one true church, I pray?"
"Go round the world," said he, "and search:
No man hath found the one true church."
I pointed to a spire, cross-crowned.
"The church is false!" he cried, and frowned.
But, murmuring he had told me wrong,
I pointed to the entering throng.
He answered, "If a church be true,
It hath not many, but a few."
Around the font the people pressed,
And crossed themselves from brow to breast.
"A cross!" he cried, "writ on the brow
In water!--is it Christ's?--look thou!
"Each forehead, frowning, sheds it off:
Christ's cross abides through scowl and scoff."
Then, looking through the open door,
We saw men kneeling on the floor;
Faint candles, by the daylight dimmed,--
Like wicks the foolish virgins trimmed;
Fair statues of the saints, as white
As now their robes are, in God's light;
Sun-ladders, dropped aslant, all gold,--
Like stairs the angels trod of old.
Around, above, from nave to roof,
He gazed, and said, in sad reproof,--
"Alas! who is it understands
God's temple is not made with hands?"
--We walked along a shaded way,
Beneath the apple-blooms of May,
And came upon a church whose dome
Bore still the cross, but not for Rome.
We brushed a cobweb from a pane,
And gazed within the sacred fane
"Do prayers," he asked, "the more avail,
If murmured nigh an altar-rail?
"Does water sprinkled from a bowl
Wash any sin from any soul?
"Do tongues that taste the bread and wine
Speak truer after, by that sign?
"The very priest, in gown and bands,
Hath lying lips and guilty hands!"
"He speaks no error," answered I;
"He says the living all shall die,
"The dead all rise; and both are true;
Both wholesome doctrines,--old, not new."
My friend returned, "He aims a blow
To strike the sins of long ago,--
"Yet shields, the while, with studied phrase,
The evil present in these days.
"Doth God in heaven impute no crime
To prophets who belie their time?"
--We turned away among the tombs:
The bees were in the clover-blooms;
The crickets leaped to let us pass;
And God's sweet breath was on the grass.
We spelled the legends on the stones:
The graves were full of martyrs' bones,--
Of bodies which the rack once brake
In witness for the dear Lord's sake,--
Of ashes gathered from the pyres
Of saints whose souls fled up through fires.
I heard him murmur, as we passed,
"Thus won they all the crown at last;
"Which now men lose, through looking back
To find it at the stake and rack:
"The rack and stake have gathered grime:
God's touchstone is the passing time."
--Just then, amid some olive-sprays,
Two orioles perched, and piped their lays,
Until the gold beneath their throats
Shook molten in their mellow notes.
Then, pealing from the church, a psalm
Rolled forth upon the outer calm.
"Both choirs," said I, "are in accord;
For both give worship to the Lord."
Said he, "The tree-top song, I fear,
Fled first and straightest to God's ear.
"If men bind other men in chains,
Then chant, doth God accept the strains?
"Do loud-lipped hymns His ear allure?--
God hates the church that harms the poor!"
--Then rose a meeting-house in view,
Of bleached and weather-beaten hue,
Where, plain of garb and pure of heart,
Men kept the church and world apart,
And sat in waiting for the light
That dawns upon the inner sight;
Nor did they vex the silent air
With any sound of hymn or prayer;
But on their lips God's hand was pressed,
And each man kissed it and was blessed.
I asked, "Is this the true church, then?"
"Nay," answered he, "a sect of men:
"And sects that lock their doors in pride
Shut God and half His saints outside.
"The gates of heaven, the Scriptures say,
Stand open wide by night and day:
"Whoso shall enter hath no need
To walk by either church or creed:
"The false church leadeth men astray;
The true church showeth men the way."
--Whereat I still more eager grew
To shun the false and find the true;
And, naming all the creeds, I sought
What truth, or lie, or both, they taught:
Thus,--"Augustine--had _he_ a fault?"
My friend looked up to yon blue vault,
And cried, "Behold! can one man's eyes
Bound all the vision of the skies?"
I said, "The circle is too wide."
"God's truth is wider," he replied;
"And Augustine, on bended knee,
Saw just the little he could see;
"So Luther sought with eyes and heart,
Yet caught the glory but in part;
"So Calvin opened wide his soul,
Yet could not comprehend the whole:
"Not Luther, Calvin, Augustine,
Saw half the vision I have seen!"
--Then grew within me a desire
That kindled like a flame of fire.
I looked upon his reverent brow,
Entreating, "Tell me, who art thou?"
When, by the light that filled the place,
I knew it was the Lord's own face!
Through all my blood a rapture stole
That filled my body and my soul.
I was a sinner and afraid:
I bowed me in the dust and prayed:--
"O Christ the Lord I end Thou my search,
And lead me to the one true church!"
Then spake He, not as man may speak:
"The one true church thou shalt not seek;
"Behold, it is enough," He said,
"To find the one true Christ, its Head!"
Then straight He vanished from my sight,
And left me standing in the light.
UNDER THE PEAR-TREE.
Two years passed; and Swan Day was to all appearance no nearer his
return to the land of his birth than when he first trod the deck that
bore him away from it. He was still on the first round of the high
ladder to fortune. Thus far he had wrought diligently and successfully.
He had been sent hither and thither: from Canton to Hong-Kong; from
Macao to Ningpo and Shanghai. He was clerk, supercargo, anything that
the interest of the Company demanded. He worked with a will. His
thoughts were full of tea, silks, and lacquered ware,--of exquisite
carved ivory and wonderful porcelains,--of bamboos, umbrellas, and
garden-chairs,--of Hong-Hi, Ching-Ho, and Fi-Fo-Fum.
There were moments, between the despatch of one vessel and the lading of
another, when his mind would follow the sun, as it blazed along down out
of sight of China, and fast on its way towards the Fox farm,--when an
intense longing seized him to look once again on the shady nest of all
his hopes and labors. He hated the life he led. He hated the noisy
Tartar women that surrounded him,--aquatic and disgusting as
crawfish,--brown, stupid, and leering. He hated the feline yawling of
their music. He hated the yellow water, swarming with boats, and settled
with junks. He hated their pagodas, and their hideous effigies of their
ancestors, looking like dumb idols. Their bejewelled Buddhas, their
incense-lamps, their night and day, were alike odious to him.
Stretched on a bamboo chair, in an interval of labor, and when the
intense heat brought comparative stillness, before his closed eyes came
often up his home among the New-Hampshire hills. He thought of his dead
mother in the burying-ground, and the slate stones standing in the
desolate grass. Then his thoughts ran eagerly back to the Fox farm,
and the sweet, lonely figure that stood watching his return under the
pear-tree,--the warm kiss of happy meeting, life opening fair, and a
long vista through which the sunlight peeped all the more brightly for
the shadowing trees.
Then over the farm, broad and bountiful, scanning every detail of the
large red house, the great barns and sheds, the flocks of turkeys,
and the geese, kept for feathers, and not dreamed of for eating. (Our
Puritan fathers held neither to Christmas nor Christmas goose.) Through
the path up by the well-sweep, where the moss-covered bucket hangs
dripping with the purest of water. Beyond the corn-barn to the
butternut-trees,--by this time, they have dropped their rich, oily
fruit; and the chestnut-burrs, split open, and lying on the sunny
ground. Then round to the house again, where the slant October sun
shines in at the hospitable open door, where the little wheel burrs
contentedly, and the loom goes _flap-flap_, as the strong arm of Cely
Temple presses the cloth together, and throws the shuttle past, like
lightning: stout cloth for choppers and ploughmen comes out of that
In all his peepings at the interior of the house, one figure has
accompanied him, beautified and glorified the place; so that, whether he
looks into the buttery, where fair, round cheeses fill the shelves, or
wanders up the broad stairs with wide landings to the "peacock chamber,"
he seems to himself always to be going over a temple of sweet and sacred
recollections. Into the peacock chamber, therefore, his soul may wander,
where the walls are sparsely decked with black-and-white sketches, ill
displaying the glorious plumage of the bird, and, like all old pictures,
very brown,--even to the four-posted bed, whitely dressed, and heaped to
a height that would defy "the true princess" to feel a pea through it,
and the white toilet-table, neatly ornamented with a holder and a pair
of scissors, both sacred from common usage. Asparagus in the chimney,
with scarlet berries. General Washington, very dingy and respectable,
over the fireplace; and two small circular frames, inclosing the Colonel
and his wife in profile. The likenesses are nearly exact, and the two
noses face each other as if in an argument. Dutch tiles are set round
the fireplace, of odd Scripture scenes, common in design and coarse in
execution. Into the "square room" below, where the originals of the
black profiles sit and smoke their pipes, Swan does not care to venture.
But some day, he will show the Colonel!
Many days, these thoughts came to Swan. Months, alas, years, they
came,--but few and far between. The five thousand dollars that was to
have been the summit was soon only the footstool of his ambition. He
became partner, and then head of a house having commercial relations
with half the world. His habits assimilated themselves to the country
about him, and the cool, green pictures of his mountain-home ceased to
float before his sleeping eyes or soothe his waking fancies.
His busy life left him little opportunity for reading. But he took in
much knowledge at first-hand by observation, which was perhaps better;
and as he hit against all sorts of minds, he became in time somewhat
reflective and philosophical. Through daily view of the yellow water,
and perhaps the glare of the bright sun on it, or the sight of so much
nankeen cloth, or the yellow faces about him, perhaps,--or whatever the
cause or causes,--Swan certainly altered in his personal appearance, as
the years went by. The handsome, erect youth, lithe and active, with
keen features and brilliant eyes, ruddy lips and clear oval face, was
gradually fading and transforming into something quite different. The
brilliant eyes became sleepy, and, from a habit of narrowing the lids
over them, possibly to shut out the bright sun, receded more and more
beyond the full and flaccid cheeks, and even contracted a Mongolian
curve at the outer corners.
One May morning Swan sat alone in his Chinese-furnished room,
luxuriously appointed, as became him, on his silk, shaded ottoman, and
dreamily fanned himself. His dreams were of nothing more than what
occupied him waking. If he glanced upward, he would see the delicate
silk curtains at the windows, and the mirrors of polished steel between
the carved ivory lattices. Great porcelain vases, such as are never seen
here, were disposed about the room, and jars of flowers of strange
hues stood on mats of yellow wool. Furniture inlaid with ivory,
mother-of-pearl, and coral, decked the apartment, and a small, rich
table held an exquisite tea-set. Swan had just been drinking from it,
and the room was full of the fragrance. He toyed with the tea-cup, and
half dozed. Then, rousing himself, he put fresh tea from the canister
into the cup, and poured boiling water over it from the mouth of the
fantastic dragon. Covering the cup, he dallied languidly with the
delicious beverage, and with the half-thoughts, half-musings, that
came with the dreamy indolence of the weather. Was it, indeed, ten
years,--ten,--nay, fifteen years, that he had lived this China-life?
The door swung softly open, and a servant brought a note, and stood
waiting for him to read it.
Swan glanced disdainfully at the object, which he could never quite
consider human,--at his white and blue petticoats, and his effeminate
face, so sleepy and so mindless, as if he expected him to turn into a
plate or sugar-bowl, or begin flying in the air across some porcelain
river, and alighting on the pinnacle of a pagoda.
"Hong man, he outside," said the servant.
"Show him in, you stupid fool!" said the master, "and get out of the
room with yourself!"
The Hong merchant's intelligence proved at once to Swan Day the absolute
necessity of his return to America to protect the interests of the
Company in Boston. With the promptitude which had thus far been one of
the chief elements of his success, he lost not a moment in (so to speak)
changing his skin, for the new purpose of his existence.
It seemed as if with the resumption of the dress of his native
country, (albeit of torrid texture still, since a chocolate silk coat,
embroidered waistcoat, and trousers of dark satin speak to a modern ear
of fashions as remote as China,) Swan resumed many of the habits and
feelings therewith connected. With the flowing flowered robe he cast off
forever the world to which it belonged, and his pulse beat rapidly and
joyfully as the sails filled with the breeze that bore him away. He
gazed with a disdainful pleasure at the receding shore, and closed his
eyes,--to turn his back fairly and forever on the Chew-Sins and the
Wu-Wangs,--to let the Hang dynasty go hang,--to shut out from all
but future fireside-tales the thought of varnish-trees, soap-trees,
tallow-trees, wax-trees, and litchi,--never more to look on the land of
the rhinoceros, the camel, the elephant, and the ape,--on the girls with
thick, protuberant lips, copper skins, and lanky, black hair,--on the
corpulent gentry with their long talons, and madams tottering on their
hoofs, reminding him constantly of the animal kingdom, as figured to
imagination in childhood, of the rat that wanted his long tail again, or
of the horse that will never win a race,--on the land of lanterns and
lying, of silver pheasants and--of scamps.
The faster the good ship sailed, the stronger the east-wind blew,
the swifter ran the life-current in the veins of the returning
exile,--friend, countryman, lover.
As the vessel neared the coast of Massachusetts, and the land-breeze
brought to his eager nostrils the odors of his native orchards, or the
aromatic fragrance of the pine, and the indescribable impression, on all
his senses, of home, the fresh love of country rushed purely through his
veins, bubbled warmly about the place where his heart used to beat, and
rose to his brain in soft, sweet imaginations. Vivid pictures of past
and future; identical in all their essential features, swam before his
closed eyes, languid now from excess of pleasure. Again and again he
drew in the breath of home, and felt it sweeter than the gales from the
Spice Islands or odors from Araby the Blest. Hovering before his fancy,
came sweet eyes, full of bewildering light, half-reproachful, half-sad,
and all-bewitching; a form of such exquisite grace that he wondered not
it swam and undulated before him; over all, the rose-hue of youth, and
the smooth, sweet charm of lip and hand that memory brought him, in that
last timid caress under the pear-tree after sunset.
As soon as he could possibly so arrange his affairs in Boston as to
admit of his taking a journey to Walton, Swan determined to do so. But
affairs will not always consent to an arrangement; and although he
exerted himself to gain a week's leisure, it was not till the Indian
summer was past that he took his place in the stage-coach which plied
between Boston and Walton.
How very short seemed the time since he was last on this road! Yet how
much had things changed! Fifteen years! Was it possible he had been gone
so long? How rapidly they had gone over himself! He felt scarcely a day
older. The stage-coach was aptly termed "Accommodation," and Swan had
great amusement, as he sat with the driver on the box, in noting the
differences in the aspect of houses and people, since his own last ride
over the same road. New villages had sprung up here and there, while
already more than one manufacturing establishment showed the Northern
tendencies; and the elements of progress peeped from every settlement,
in the shape of meeting- and school-houses.
When the driver whipped up his modest team to an animated trot before
the Eagle Hotel in Walton, Swan felt as if he must have been in a dream
only, and had just now awakened. Walton was one of those New-Hampshire
towns, of which there came afterwards to be many, which were said "to be
good to go _from_"; accordingly, everybody had gone everywhere, except
the old inhabitants and the children. All the youths had gone towards
"the pleasant Ohio, to settle on its banks"; and such maidens as had
courage to face a pioneer settlement followed their chosen lords,
while the less enterprising were fain to stay at home and bewail
their singlehood. All business was necessarily stagnant, and all the
improvements, architectural or otherwise, which had marked the route on
which Swan had come, now seemed suddenly to have ceased. He might have
thought Walton the Enchanted Palace, and himself the Fairy-Prince that
was to waken to life and love the Sleeping Beauty.
How unchanged was everything! The store where he used to sell crockery
and pins,--the great elm-tree in front of it,--the old red tavern on the
hill, where they had the Thanksgiving ball,--the houses, from one end of
the street to the other, all just as when he left: he might have found
his way in the dark to every one of them.
At the Eagle Tavern, the same men sat on the stoop, with chairs tilted
back, smoking. A man in the bar-room was mixing flip or gin-sling for
two others, who were playing checkers. Taft himself stood at the door,
somewhat changed indeed, though he was always fat, but with the same
ready smile as ever; and Swan could see through the windows, by
the bright candle-light, the women flitting to and fro, in brisk
preparations for supper.
Swan's first touch of surprise was that Taft did not recognize him,--him
whom he used to see every day of his life! That was strange. It looked
as if time told on Taft's faculties a little. He had himself recognized
Taft in a moment. So he had recognized everything, as they drove along,
and now how familiar everything looked in the evening light!
Wrapping his travelling-cloak about him, Swan asked to be shown directly
to his room, and, in his anxiety to avoid being recognized, ordered
a light supper to be sent up to him. First of all, he wanted to see
Dorcas, to settle affairs with Colonel Fox, and to feel established.
Until then, he cared not to see or talk with his old acquaintances. It
would be time enough afterwards to take them by the hand,--to employ
them, perhaps. And as it takes almost no time to think, before he was
half-way up the stairs, Swan Day had got as far as the erection of a
superb country-seat on the hill where the old Cobb house stood, and of
employing a dozen smart young carpenters and masons of his acquaintance
in the village. The garden should have a pagoda in it; and one room in
the house should be called the "China room," and should be furnished
exclusively with Chinese tables and chairs; and he would have a
brilliant lantern-_fete_, and----Here he reached the top-stair, and the
little maid pointed to his room, curtsied, and ran away.
Swan dropped his cloak, snuffed the candle, and, sitting down before the
pleasant wood-fire that had been hastily lighted, proceeded to make his
own tea, by a new Invention for Travellers.
As people are not changed so quickly as they expect and intend to be
by circumstances, it came to pass that Swan Day's plans for elegant
expenditure in his native town soon relapsed, perhaps under the
influence of the Chinese herb, into old channels and plans for
acquisition. The habit of years was a little too strong for him to turn
short round and pour out what he had been for so many years garnering
in. Rather, perhaps, keep in the tread-mill of business awhile longer,
and then be the nabob in earnest. At present, who knew what these
mutterings in the political atmosphere portended? A war with England
seemed inevitable, and that at no distant period. It might be better
to retire on a limited certainty; but then there was also the manful
struggle for a splendid possibility.
A neat-handed maid brought in a tray, with the light Supper he had
The sight of four kinds of pies, with cold turkey and apple-sauce,
brought the Fox farm and its inhabitants more vividly to his mind than
anything else he had seen. Pumpkin of the yellowest, custard of
the richest, apple of the spiciest, and mince that was one mass of
appetizing dainty, filled the room with the flavor of by-gone memories.
Every sense responded to them. The fifteen years that had hung like a
curtain of mist before him suddenly lifted, and he saw the view beyond,
broad, bountiful, and cheery, under the sunshine of love, hope, and
plenty. He closed his eyes, and the flavor filled his soul, as sweet
music makes the lover faint with happiness.
He took out his writing-materials, and wrote,--
"My DEAREST, SWEETEST DORCAS,--Never for one instant has the thought of
you left my heart, since"----
"That's a lie, to begin with!" said he, coolly, and throwing the paper
into the fire,--"try again!"
"DEAREST DORCAS,--I feel and I know what you may possibly think of me
by this time,--that you may possibly imagine me false to the vows which
It will be perceived that Swan had improved in rhetoric, since the day
he parted from his lady-love. Still he could not satisfy himself in a
letter. In short, he felt that expression outran the reality, however
modestly and moderately chosen. Some vividness, some fervency, he must
have, of course. But how in the world to get up the requisite definition
even to the words he could conscientiously use? The second attempt
followed the first.
Swan Day is not the first man who has found himself mistaken in matters
of importance. In his return to his native country, and the scenes of
his early life, he had taken for granted the evergreen condition of his
sentiments. Like the reviving patient in epilepsy, who declares he has
never for an instant lost his consciousness, while the bystanders have
witnessed the dead fall, and taken note of the long interval,--so this
sojourner of fifteen years in strange lands felt the returning pulse of
youth, without thought of the lapsing time that bridges over all gulfs
of emotion, however deep.
In fact, that part of his nature which had been in most violent action
fifteen years before had been lying as torpid under Indian suns as if it
had been dead indeed; and his sense of returning vitality was mixed with
curious speculations about his own sensations.
He dropped the pen, and placed his feet on the top of the high stuffed
easy-chair which adorned the room. This inverted personal condition
relieved his mystification somewhat, or perhaps brought his whole nature
more into harmony.
"Dorcas!--hm! hm!--fifteen years! so it is!--ah! she must be sadly
changed indeed! At thirty, a woman is no longer a wood-nymph. Even more
than thirty she must be."
He removed his feet from their elevation, and carefully arranged a
different scaffolding out of the materials before him, by placing
a cricket on the table, and his feet on the cricket. To do this
effectually and properly required the removal of the four pies, and the
displacement of the cold turkey.
But Swan was mentally removing far greater and more serious
difficulties. By the time he had asked himself one or two questions, and
had answered them, such as, "Whether, all the conditions being changed,
I am to be held to my promise?" and the like, he had placed one foot
carefully up. Then, before conscience had time to trip him up, the other
foot followed, and he found himself firmly posted.
"I will write a note to-morrow,--put it into the post-office----No,
that won't do; in these places, nobody goes to the post-office once a
week;--I'll send a note to the house."
Here he warmed up.
"A note, asking her to meet me under the great pear-tree, as we
met----It is, by Jove! just fifteen years to-morrow night since I left
Walton! That's good! it will help on some"----
The little maid here interrupted his meditations by coming for the
relics of the supper; and Swan, weary with unwonted thought, dropped
the paper curtains, and plunged, body and soul, into fifty pounds of
The great clock in the dining-room whirred out twelve strokes before
Swan opened his eyes. As soon as the eyes took in the principal features
of the apartment, which process his mental preoccupation had hindered
the night before, he was as much at home as if he had never left Walton.
The great beam across the low room,--the little window-panes,--the
rag-carpet, made of odds and ends patriotically arranged to represent
the American eagle holding stars and stripes in his firm and bounteous
claws, with an open beak that seemed saying,--"Here they be!--'cordin'
as you behave yourselves!--stars _or_ stripes!"--all within was more
familiar to his eye than household words, for it was the old room he had
occupied the year before he left America. He stepped quickly across the
chamber to a certain beam, where he had, fifteen years before, written
four initial letters, and intertwined them so curiously that the Gordian
knot was easy weaving in comparison. The Gordian one was cut;--and this
had been painted and effaced forever.
Swan returned to his trunk with a half-sigh. He selected a suit
of clothes which he had purchased in Boston, put aside his
travelling-dress, and looked out of the window occasionally as he
dressed. It was a warm, sunny day. The Indian summer had relented and
come back to take one more peep, before winter should shut the door on
all the glowing beauty of the year. A dozen persons were crossing the
street. He knew every one of them at sight. Of course there was no
forgetting old Dan Sears, with whom he had forty times gone a-fishing;
nor Phil Sanborn, who had stood behind the counter with him two years
at the old store. Though Phil had grown stout, there was the same look.
There was the old store, too, looking exactly as it did when he went
away, the sign a little more worn in the gilding. He seemed to smell the
mingled odors of rum, salt-fish, and liquorice, with which every beam
and rafter was permeated. And there was old Walsh going home drunk this
minute! with a salt mackerel, as usual, for his family-dinner.
He wrote a short note as he dressed and shaved leisurely. The note was
to Dorcas, and only said,--"Meet me under the old pear-tree before
sunset tonight,"--and was signed with his initials. This note he at
first placed on the little mantel-shelf in plain sight, so that he
should not forget to take it down-stairs when he went to breakfast.
Afterwards he put it into his pocket-book.
His dress----But the dress of 1811 has not arrived at the picturesque,
and could never be classical under any circumstances. He finished his
toilet, and went into the dining-room just as everybody else had dined,
and asked the landlord what he could have for breakfast. Even then, the
landlord hardly looked curious. Taft was certainly failing. In five
minutes he found himself at a well-known little table, with the
tavern-staple for odd meals, ham and eggs, flanked with sweetmeats and
cake, just as he remembered of old. He nibbled at the sharp barberries
lying black in the boiled molasses, and listened eagerly to the talk
about British aggressions which was going on in the bar-room. Suddenly a
face looked in at the low window.
Swan sprang forward, kicked over his chair, and knocked the earthen
pepper-box off the table. Before he reached the window, however, the
shadow had passed round the corner of the house, out of sight.
It was only a youthful figure, surmounted by a broad-brimmed straw hat,
that half hid two sweet, sparkling eyes. Ah! but they were Dorcas's
He picked up the pepper-box, and mechanically sifted its contents into
Dorcas's eyes,--lips,--cheeks,--and waving grace! A rocking movement, a
sort of beating, bounding, choking emotion, made the room suddenly dark,
and he fell heavily into a chair.
The landlord opened the door, and said,--
"The hoss and shay ready, any time."
Swan roused himself, and drove away, without speaking to any of the
smoking loungers on the stoop, to whom he was as if he had never been
born. But this, from his preoccupied state, did not strike him as
singular. One little voice, a bird's voice, as he drove along through
the pine woods, sang over and over the same tune,--"Dorcas! Dorcas!"
The silence of the road, when all animated Nature slept in the warm noon
of the late autumn day, when even the wheels scarcely sounded on the
dead pine-spears, made this solitary voice, like Swan's newly awakened
memory, all but angelic.
The sadness, which, through all the beauty of a New-England November,
whispers in the fallen leaves, and through the rustle of the firs,
overspread Swan's soul, not yet strengthened as well as freshened by his
native air. He was melancholy and half stunned. He had been frightened,
as he sat in the chair, by the capacity for enjoyment and suffering that
was left in him. And he peered curiously into his own soul, as if the
sensibilities locked up there belonged to somebody else. Impulsively
he turned his horse towards the graveyard,--forgetting that he had all
along intended to go there,--and fastening him at the broken gate, went
on till he reached his mother's grave. Before his departure he had set
up a slate stone to her memory and that of Robert Day, a soldier in the
"She shall have a marble monument now, poor mother!" thought the son,
picking his way through the long, tangled grass of the dreary place. Not
a tree, not a shrub in sight. Not even the sward kept carefully. The
slate had fallen flat, or, more likely, had been thrown down, and no
hand had cared to raise again a stone to the memory of a despised enemy,
who had never been even seen in Walton.
When Swan tried to move the stone, a thousand ugly things swarmed from
beneath it. He dropped it, shuddering, and passed on. A white marble
tablet of some pretension stood near, and recorded the names of
AZUBAH, HIS WIFE.
_They died the, same day and their bones rest
here, till the final resurrection_.
He glanced at the date,--
JUNE 14th, 1805.
And he had never heard of it!--never guessed it! But then, he had not
heard at all from Dorcas. Poor Dorcas! how had she borne this sudden and
terrible bereavement? All that he might have been to her in her sorrow,
for one moment all that he had _not_ been, floated by him. The yellow
melted away that had so long incrusted his soul, and he felt on his
bared breast, as it were, the fresh air of truth and constancy,--of all
that makes life worth the having.
He drove away,--away over the broad fields and the well-remembered
meadows, out upon the Dummerston road, and over the Ridge Hill. Well,
life was not all behind him!
He took out his watch. It was time to keep his appointment. He left
the horse at the tavern-door, and walked up the road towards the
trysting-place, the old pear-tree. He looked wistfully at it, and sprang
over the wall, with considerable effort, as he could not but admit
to himself. That old pear-tree! They had called it old fifteen years
ago,--and here it stood, as proud and strong as then! The two great
branches that stretched towards the south, and which he had often
thought had something benignant in their aspect, as if they would bless
the wayfarer or the sojourner under their shade, still reached forth
and spread abroad their strong arms. But to-night, whether from his own
excited imagination, or because the early frosts had stripped it of
its leaves and so bereaved it of all that gave grace to its aspect, or
perhaps from the deepening twilight,--however it was, the old tree had a
different expression, and stretched forth two skeleton arms with a sort
of half-warning, half-mocking gesture, that sent a shudder over his
frame, already disturbed by the successive presence, in the last two or
three hours, of more emotions than he could comfortably sustain.
Swan was not an imaginative person. Yet the tree looked to him like
a living, sentient thing, dooming him and warning him. As in the
compression of the brain in drowning, it is said forgotten memories are
hustled uppermost, and the events of early life vividly written on
the consciousness,--so in this unwonted stir of past and present
associations, Swan found himself remembering, with a thrill of pleasure
that was chased by a spasm of pain, the last evening on which he had
parted from Dorcas. He remembered, as if it were but now, how he had
turned towards the pear-tree, when Dorcas had gone out of sight and he
dared not follow her, and that the pear-tree had seemed to hear, to see,
to sympathize with him,--that it had spread out great blessing arms on
the southern air, and had seemed to encourage and strengthen his hopes
of a happy return.
Was the fearful expression it now wore a shadow, a forerunner of what he
might expect? He shook off, with an effort that was less painful than
the sufferance of the thought, both fears and prognostics. He turned his
back and walked rapidly and uneasily up and down the path between the
tree and the old well.
He had left Dorcas blooming, lovely, and twenty-two. As blooming, as
lovely, as lithe, and as sparkling, she was now. His own eyes had seen
But would she remember and love him still? For the first time it
occurred to him that he must himself be somewhat changed,--changed
certainly, since old Taft did not recognize him, after all the hogsheads
of rum he had sold him! For the first time he felt a little thrill of
fear, lest Dorcas should have been inconstant,--or lest, seeing him now,
she might not love him as she once did. A faint blush passed over his
He raised his eyes, and Dorcas stood before him at the distance of a few
feet: the bloom on her delicate cheek the same,--the dimpled chin, the
serene forehead, the arch and laughing eyes!
Somehow, she seemed like a ghost, too; for, when he stepped towards her,
she retreated, keeping the same distance between them.
"Dorcas!" said Swan, imploringly.
"What do you want of me?" answered a sweet voice, trembling and low.
"Are you really Dorcas? really, really _my_ Dorcas?" said Swan, in an
agony of uncertain emotion.
"To be sure I am Dorcas!" answered the girl, in a half-terrified,
In a moment she darted up the path out of sight, just as Dorcas had done
on the last night he had seen her!
Had he kept the kiss on his lips with which he had parted from
her,--that kiss which, to him at least, had been one of betrothal?
The short day was nearly dead. In the gloom of the darkening twilight,
Swan stood leaning against the old tree and looking up the path where
the figure had disappeared, doubting whether a vision had deluded his
senses or not.
Was Dorcas indeed separated from him? Was there no bringing back the
sweet, olden time of love to her? She had seemed to shrink from him and
fade out of sight. Could she never indeed love him again?
It was getting dark. But for the great, broad moon, that just then shone
out from behind the Ridge Hill, he would not have seen another figure
coming down the path from the house. Swan felt as if he had lived a long
time in the last half-hour.
A woman walked cautiously towards him, apparently proceeding to the
well. She stooped a little, and a wooden hoop round her person supported
a pail on each side, which she had evidently come to fill. It was no
angel that came to trouble the fountain to-night. She pulled down the
chained bucket with a strong, heavy sweep, and the beam rose high in the
air, with the stone securely fastened to the end. While she drew up and
poured the water into the pails, she looked several times covertly at
the stranger. The stranger, on his part, scanned her as closely. She
belonged to the house, he thought. Probably she had come to live on
the Fox farm at the death of the old people,--to take care of Dorcas,
possibly. Again he scanned her curiously.
The face was an ordinary one. A farmer's wife, even of the well-to-do,
fore-handed sort, had many cares, and often heavy labors. Fifty years
ago, inventive science had given no assistance to domestic labor, and
all household work was done in the hardest manner. This woman might
have had her day of being good-looking, possibly. But the face, even by
moonlight, was now swarthy with exposure; the once round arm was dark
and sinewy; and the plainly parted hair was confined and concealed by
a blue-and-white handkerchief knotted under her chin. The forehead
was freely lined; and the lips opened, when they did open, on dark,
unfrequent teeth. These observations Swan made as he moved forward to
speak to her; for there was no special expressiveness or animation to
relieve the literal stamp of her features.
"Can you tell me, Madam,--hem!--who lives now on this place? It used to
belong to Colonel Fox, I think."
He called her "Madam" at a venture, though she might, for all he could
see, be a "help" on the farm. But it wasn't Cely, nor yet Dinah.
At the sound of his voice the woman's whole expression changed. Her
quick eyes fell back into a look of dreamy inquiry and softness. She
dropped her pails to the ground, and stood, fenced in by the hoop, like
a statue of bewilderment,--if such a statue could be carved.
Was his face transfigured in the moonlight, as she slowly gathered up
old memories, and compared the form before her with the painted shadows
of the past? She answered not a word, but clasped her hands tightly
together, and bent her head to listen again to the voice.
"I say! good _woman_!"--this time with a raised tone, for he thought she
might be deaf,--"is not this the old Fox farm? Please tell me who lives
here now. The family are dead, I think."
The woman opened her clenched hands and spread the palms outward and
upward. Then, in a low tone of astonishment, she said,--
"Good Lord o' mercy! if it a'n't him!"
He moved nearer, and put his hand on her shoulder to reassure her.
"To be sure it is, my good soul. Don't be frightened. I give you my
word, I am myself, and nobody else. And pray, now, who may you be? Do
you live here?" he added, with a short laugh.
He addressed her jocosely; for he saw the poor frightened thing would
never give him the information he wanted, unless he could contrive to
compose her. It was odd, too, that he should frighten everybody so.
Dorcas had hurried off like a lapwing.
"Swan Day!" said the woman, softly.
"That is my name, Goody! But I am ashamed to say, I don't remember you.
Pray, did you live here when I went away?"
"Yes," said she, softly again, and this time looking into his eyes.
"Tell me, then, if you can tell me, whose hands this farm fell into? Who
owns the place? Has it gone out of the family? Where is Dorcas Fox?"
He spoke hastily, and held her by the arm, as if he feared she would
slide away in the moonlight.
"Dorcas Fox is here, Swan. I am Dorcas."
"You? you Dorcas Fox?" said he, roughly. "Was it a ghost I saw?" he
murmured,--"or is this a ghost?"
He had seen a bud, fresh, dewy, and blooming; and now he brushed away
from his thought the wilted and brown substitute. Not a line of the
face, not a tone of the voice, did he remember.
"Don't you see anything about me, Swan,--anything that reminds you of
Dorcas Fox?" said the woman, eagerly, and clasping her hands again.
His eyes glared at her in the moonlight, as he exclaimed,--
"No, my God! not a feature!"
"Well, I expect I be changed, Swan," said Dorcas, sadly.
She said nothing about his change; and, besides, she had recognized him.
"They say my Dorcas favors me, and looks as I used to. Come, come up to
the house; Mr. Mowers'll be glad to see you. You don't know how many
times we've talked you over, and wondered if ever you'd come back! But,
dear sakes! you can't think what a kind of a shock you give me, Swan!
Why, I expected nothin' but what you was dead, years ago!"
Here was a pretty expression of sentiment! Swan only answered,
"Did you?" and rubbed his eyes to wake himself up.
They walked slowly towards the house. The great red walls stood staring
and peaceful, as of old, and the milkers were coming in from the
farmyard with their pails foaming and smoking, as they used to do
fifteen years before. In the door-way, with his pipe in his mouth, stood
Henry Mowers, the monarch of all he surveyed. He had come, by marriage,
to own the Fox farm of twelve hundred acres. He had woodland and
pasture-land, cattle and horses, like Job,--and in his house, health,
peace, and children: dark-eyed Dorcas and Jemima, white-headed Obed and
Zephaniah, and the twins that now clambered over his shoulder and stood
on his broad, strong palms,--two others, Philip and Henry, had died in
Dorcas the younger stood in the doorway, and leaned gracefully towards
her father. She whispered to him, as the stranger approached,--
"There's the man coming now with mother! I thought't was a crazy man!"
The mother came eagerly forward, anxious to prevent the unrecognizing
glance, which she knew must be painful.
"What do you think, Henry? Swan Day has come back, just in time to spend
Thanksgiving with us!"
"Swan Day? I want to know!" answered Henry, mechanically holding out
his hand, and then shaking it longer and longer in the vain attempt to
recall the youthful features.
"Well! if ever!" he continued, turning to his wife, with increased
astonishment at the perspicacity she had shown, while Swan's eyes were
fixed on the slender figure of the young Dorcas, seeming to see the
river of life flowing by and far beyond him.
Keeping up a despairing shaking, Henry walked the stranger into the old
square room, where the once sanded floor was now covered with a carpet,
and a piano strutted in the corner where the bed used to stand. But
still in the other corner stood the old "buffet," and the desk where
Colonel Fox kept his yellow papers. How stern, strong, and mighty Henry
looked, with his six feet height, his sinewy limbs and broad chest, and
his clear, steady eyes, full of manliness! How cheery the old parlor
looked, too, as the evening advanced, and Dorcas lighted the pine-knots
that sparkled up the chimney and set all the eyes and cheeks in the
room ablaze! That was a pleasant evening, when the three elders chatted
freely of all that had come and gone in Swan's absence,--of those who
had died, and those who were living, and of settlers even far beyond
Western New York!
"It will be like old times to have you here to-morrow at Thanksgiving,
won't it?" said Henry.
"Won't it?" echoed Dorcas.
Swan said it would, and good-night.
When he was gone, little Dorcas exclaimed,--
"What a queer little old man, mother! isn't he?"
"How, queer, Dorcas?" said her mother, curious to compare the effects
on the minds of the different members of the family of their visitor's
"Oh, so odd-looking! such queer little eyes! and no hair on the top
of his head! and such funny whiskers!" said Dorcas, smoothing her own
abundant locks, and looking at her father and brothers, whose curls were
brushed back and straight up into the air, a distance of three inches,
after the fashion then called "Boston." The smallest child gave an
instinctive push over his forehead at the remark, and Zephaniah added,--
"He's as round and yellow as a punkin!"
"He looked stiddy to Dorcas all the time," said 'Mima, roguishly.
"Now you shet up, you silly child!" said Dorcas, with the dignity of a
"Wal, he dropped this 'ere in my hand, anyhow, as he went out," said
Obed, opening his hand cautiously, and showing a Spanish doubloon.
"Oh! then you must give it right back to him to-morrow, Obe!" said the
honest sisters; "it's gold! and he couldn't 'a' meant you should hev
"I do' know 'bout that! I'll keep it t'll he asks me for 't, I guess!"
said Obed, sturdily.
"What did you think about him, Henry?" said the wife; "you wouldn't 'a'
"Never! there a'n't an inch o' Swan Day in him! They say people change
once in seven years. I should be loath to feel I'd lost all my looks as
"We grow old, though," answered she, with a touch of pathos in her
voice, as she remembered the words of Swan.
"Old? of course, wife!" was the hearty answer; "but then we've got
somethin' to show for 't!"
He glanced at her and the children proudly, and then bidding the young
ones, "Scatter, quick time!" he stretched his comfortable six-feet-two
before the fire, and smiled out of an easy, happy heart.
"What's looks?" said he, philosophically. "You look jest the same to me,
wife, as ever you did!"
"Do I?" said the pleased wife. "Well, I'm glad I do. I couldn't bear to
seem different to you, Henry!"
Henry took his pipe from his mouth, and then looked at his wife with a
steady and somewhat critical gaze.
"I don't think anything about it, wife; but if I want to think on
't,--why, I can, by jes' shettin' my eyes,--and there you are! as
handsome as a picter! Little Dorcas is the very image of you, at her
age; and you look exactly like her,--only older, of course.--Everything
ready for Thanksgiving? We'll give Day a good dinner, anyhow!"
"Yes, all's ready," answered Dorcas, with her eyes fixed on the fire.
"I knew it! There's no fail to you, wife!--never has been!--never will
Dorcas rose and went behind her husband, took his head in her two
faithful hands, kissed his forehead, and went upstairs.
"Little Dorcas" was fastening her hair in countless _papillotes_. She
smiled bashfully, as her mother entered the room, and showed her white,
even teeth, between her rosy lips.
"I wonder if I ever did look so pretty as that child does!" said the
mother to herself.
But she said to Dorcas only this:--
"Here's your great-aunt's pin and ring. They used to be mine, when I was
young and foolish. Take care of 'em, and don't you be foolish, child!"
"I wonder what mother meant!" soliloquized the daughter, when her mother
had kissed her and said good-night; "she certainly had tears in her
In the gray dawn of the next morning, Swan Day rode out of Walton in the
same stage-coach and with the same "spike-team" of gray horses which
had brought him thither thirty-six hours before. When the coach reached
Troy, and the bright sun broke over the picturesque scenery of the
erratic Ashuelot, he drew his breath deeply, as if relieved of a burden.
Presently the coach stopped, the door opened, and the coachman held out
his hand in silence.
"Fare, is it?"
Opening his pocket-book, he saw the note which he had written to Dorcas,
appointing an interview, and which he had forgotten to send to her.
As he rode on, he tore the letter into a thousand minute fragments,
scattering them for a mile in the coach's path, and watching the wheels
grind them down in the dust.
"'T isn't the only thing I haven't done that I meant to!" said he, with
a sad smile over his sallow face.
He buttoned his coat closely to his chin, raised the collar to his ears,
and shut his eyes.
The coachman peeped back at his only passenger, touched the nigh leader