Part 2 out of 5
Legends of the Prince's hunts, reisaks, and brutal revels are
still current along the Volga; but they are now linked to fairer
and more gracious stories; and the free Russian farmers (no longer
serfs) are never tired of relating incidents of the beauty, the
courage, the benevolence, and the saintly piety of the Good Lady of
TALES OF HOME.
THE STRANGE FRIEND.
It would have required an intimate familiarity with the habitual
demeanor of the people of Londongrove to detect in them an access
of interest (we dare not say excitement), of whatever kind.
Expression with them was pitched to so low a key that its changes
might be compared to the slight variations in the drabs and grays
in which they were clothed. Yet that there was a moderate,
decorously subdued curiosity present in the minds of many of them
on one of the First-days of the Ninth-month, in the year 1815, was
as clearly apparent to a resident of the neighborhood as are the
indications of a fire or a riot to the member of a city mob.
The agitations of the war which had so recently come to an end had
hardly touched this quiet and peaceful community. They had stoutly
"borne their testimony," and faced the question where it could not
be evaded; and although the dashing Philadelphia militia had been
stationed at Camp Bloomfield, within four miles of them, the
previous year, these good people simply ignored the fact. If their
sons ever listened to the trumpets at a distance, or stole nearer
to have a peep at the uniforms, no report of what they had seen or
heard was likely to be made at home. Peace brought to them a
relief, like the awakening from an uncomfortable dream: their lives
at once reverted to the calm which they had breathed for thirty
years preceding the national disturbance. In their ways they had
not materially changed for a hundred years. The surplus produce of
their farms more than sufficed for the very few needs which those
farms did not supply, and they seldom touched the world outside of
their sect except in matters of business. They were satisfied with
themselves and with their lot; they lived to a ripe and beautiful
age, rarely "borrowed trouble," and were patient to endure that
which came in the fixed course of things. If the spirit of
curiosity, the yearning for an active, joyous grasp of life,
sometimes pierced through this placid temper, and stirred the blood
of the adolescent members, they were persuaded by grave voices, of
almost prophetic authority, to turn their hearts towards "the
Stillness and the Quietness."
It was the pleasant custom of the community to arrive at the
meeting-house some fifteen or twenty minutes before the usual time
of meeting, and exchange quiet and kindly greetings before taking
their places on the plain benches inside. As most of the families
had lived during the week on the solitude of their farms, they
liked to see their neighbors' faces, and resolve, as it were,
their sense of isolation into the common atmosphere, before
yielding to the assumed abstraction of their worship. In this
preliminary meeting, also, the sexes were divided, but rather from
habit than any prescribed rule. They were already in the vestibule
of the sanctuary; their voices were subdued and their manner
touched with a kind of reverence.
If the Londongrove Friends gathered together a few minutes earlier
on that September First-day; if the younger members looked more
frequently towards one of the gates leading into the meeting-house
yard than towards the other; and if Abraham Bradbury was the centre
of a larger circle of neighbors than Simon Pennock (although both
sat side by side on the highest seat of the gallery),--the cause of
these slight deviations from the ordinary behavior of the gathering
was generally known. Abraham's son had died the previous Sixth-
month, leaving a widow incapable of taking charge of his farm on
the Street Road, which was therefore offered for rent. It was not
always easy to obtain a satisfactory tenant in those days, and
Abraham was not more relieved than surprised on receiving an
application from an unexpected quarter. A strange Friend, of
stately appearance, called upon him, bearing a letter from William
Warner, in Adams County, together with a certificate from a Monthly
Meeting on Long Island. After inspecting the farm and making close
inquiries in regard to the people of the neighborhood, he accepted
the terms of rent, and had now, with his family, been three or four
days in possession.
In this circumstance, it is true, there was nothing strange, and
the interest of the people sprang from some other particulars which
had transpired. The new-comer, Henry Donnelly by name, had
offered, in place of the usual security, to pay the rent annually
in advance; his speech and manner were not, in all respects, those
of Friends, and he acknowledged that he was of Irish birth; and
moreover, some who had passed the wagons bearing his household
goods had been struck by the peculiar patterns of the furniture
piled upon them. Abraham Bradbury had of course been present at
the arrival, and the Friends upon the adjoining farms had kindly
given their assistance, although it was a busy time of the year.
While, therefore, no one suspected that the farmer could possibly
accept a tenant of doubtful character, a general sentiment of
curious expectancy went forth to meet the Donnelly family.
Even the venerable Simon Pennock, who lived in the opposite part of
the township, was not wholly free from the prevalent feeling.
"Abraham," he said, approaching his colleague, "I suppose thee has
satisfied thyself that the strange Friend is of good repute."
Abraham was assuredly satisfied of one thing--that the three
hundred silver dollars in his antiquated secretary at home were
good and lawful coin. We will not say that this fact disposed him
to charity, but will only testify that he answered thus:
"I don't think we have any right to question the certificate from
Islip, Simon; and William Warner's word (whom thee knows by
hearsay) is that of a good and honest man. Henry himself will
stand ready to satisfy thee, if it is needful."
Here he turned to greet a tall, fresh-faced youth, who had quietly
joined the group at the men's end of the meeting-house. He was
nineteen, blue-eyed, and rosy, and a little embarrassed by the
grave, scrutinizing, yet not unfriendly eyes fixed upon him.
"Simon, this is Henry's oldest son, De Courcy," said Abraham.
Simon took the youth's hand, saying, "Where did thee get thy
The young man colored, hesitated, and then said, in a low, firm
voice, "It was my grandfather's name."
One of the heavy carriages of the place and period, new and shiny,
in spite of its sober colors, rolled into the yard. Abraham
Bradbury and De Courcy Donnelly set forth side by side, to meet it.
Out of it descended a tall, broad-shouldered figure--a man in the
prime of life, whose ripe, aggressive vitality gave his rigid
Quaker garb the air of a military undress. His blue eyes seemed to
laugh above the measured accents of his plain speech, and the close
crop of his hair could not hide its tendency to curl. A bearing
expressive of energy and the habit of command was not unusual in
the sect, strengthening, but not changing, its habitual mask; yet
in Henry Donnelly this bearing suggested--one could scarcely
explain why--a different experience. Dress and speech, in him,
expressed condescension rather than fraternal equality.
He carefully assisted his wife to alight, and De Courcy led the
horse to the hitching-shed. Susan Donnelly was a still blooming
woman of forty; her dress, of the plainest color, was yet of the
richest texture; and her round, gentle, almost timid face looked
forth like a girl's from the shadow of her scoop bonnet. While she
was greeting Abraham Bradbury, the two daughters, Sylvia and Alice,
who had been standing shyly by themselves on the edge of the group
of women, came forward. The latter was a model of the demure
Quaker maiden; but Abraham experienced as much surprise as was
possible to his nature on observing Sylvia's costume. A light-blue
dress, a dark-blue cloak, a hat with ribbons, and hair in curls--
what Friend of good standing ever allowed his daughter thus to
array herself in the fashion of the world?
Henry read the question in Abraham's face, and preferred not to
answer it at that moment. Saying, "Thee must make me acquainted
with the rest of our brethren," he led the way back to the men's
end. When he had been presented to the older members, it was time
for them to assemble in meeting.
The people were again quietly startled when Henry Donnelly
deliberately mounted to the third and highest bench facing them,
and sat down beside Abraham and Simon. These two retained,
possibly with some little inward exertion, the composure of their
faces, and the strange Friend became like unto them. His hands
were clasped firmly in his lap; his full, decided lips were set
together, and his eyes gazed into vacancy from under the broad
brim. De Courcy had removed his hat on entering the house, but,
meeting his father's eyes, replaced it suddenly, with a slight
When Simon Pennock and Ruth Treadwell had spoken the thoughts which
had come to them in the stillness, the strange Friend arose.
Slowly, with frequent pauses, as if waiting for the guidance of the
Spirit, and with that inward voice which falls so naturally into
the measure of a chant, he urged upon his hearers the necessity of
seeking the Light and walking therein. He did not always employ
the customary phrases, but neither did he seem to speak the lower
language of logic and reason; while his tones were so full and
mellow that they gave, with every slowly modulated sentence, a
fresh satisfaction to the ear. Even his broad a's and the strong
roll of his r's verified the rumor of his foreign birth, did not
detract from the authority of his words. The doubts which had
preceded him somehow melted away in his presence, and he came
forth, after the meeting had been dissolved by the shaking of
hands, an accepted tenant of the high seat.
That evening, the family were alone in their new home. The plain
rush-bottomed chairs and sober carpet, in contrast with the dark,
solid mahogany table, and the silver branched candle-stick which
stood upon it, hinted of former wealth and present loss; and
something of the same contrast was reflected in the habits of the
inmates. While the father, seated in a stately arm-chair, read
aloud to his wife and children, Sylvia's eyes rested on a guitar-
case in the corner, and her fingers absently adjusted
themselves to the imaginary frets. De Courcy twisted his neck as
if the straight collar of his coat were a bad fit, and Henry, the
youngest boy, nodded drowsily from time to time.
"There, my lads and lasses!" said Henry Donnelly, as he closed the
book, "now we're plain farmers at last,--and the plainer the
better, since it must be. There's only one thing wanting--"
He paused; and Sylvia, looking up with a bright, arch
determination, answered: "It's too late now, father,--they have
seen me as one of the world's people, as I meant they should. When
it is once settled as something not to be helped, it will give us
"Faith, Sylvia!" exclaimed De Courcy, "I almost wish I had kept you
"Don't be impatient, my boy," said the mother, gently. "Think of
the vexations we have had, and what a rest this life will be!"
"Think, also," the father added, "that I have the heaviest work to
do, and that thou'lt reap the most of what may come of it. Don't
carry the old life to a land where it's out of place. We must be
what we seem to be, every one of us!"
"So we will!" said Sylvia, rising from her seat,--" I, as well as
the rest. It was what I said in the beginning, you--no, THEE
knows, father. Somebody must be interpreter when the time comes;
somebody must remember while the rest of you are forgetting. Oh,
I shall be talked about, and set upon, and called hard names;
it won't be so easy. Stay where you are, De Courcy; that coat will
fit sooner than you think."
Her brother lifted his shoulders and made a grimace. "I've an
unlucky name, it seems," said he. "The old fellow--I mean Friend
Simon--pronounced it outlandish. Couldn't I change it to Ezra or
"Don't be alarmed, father. It will soon be as Sylvia says; thee's
right, and mother is right. I'll let Sylvia keep my memory, and
start fresh from here. We must into the field to-morrow, Hal and
I. There's no need of a collar at the plough-tail."
They went to rest, and on the morrow not only the boys, but their
father were in the field. Shrewd, quick, and strong, they made
available what they knew of farming operations, and disguised much
of their ignorance, while they learned. Henry Donnelly's first
public appearance had made a strong public impression in his favor,
which the voice of the older Friends soon stamped as a settled
opinion. His sons did their share, by the amiable, yielding temper
they exhibited, in accommodating themselves to the manners and ways
of the people. The graces which came from a better education,
possibly, more refined associations, gave them an attraction, which
was none the less felt because it was not understood, to the
simple-minded young men who worked with the hired hands in their
fathers' fields. If the Donnelly family had not been accustomed,
in former days, to sit at the same table with laborers in
shirt-sleeves, and be addressed by the latter in fraternal phrase,
no little awkwardnesses or hesitations betrayed the fact. They
were anxious to make their naturalization complete, and it soon
The "strange Friend" was now known in Londongrove by the familiar
name of "Henry." He was a constant attendant at meeting, not only
on First-days, but also on Fourth-days, and whenever he spoke his
words were listened to with the reverence due to one who was truly
led towards the Light. This respect kept at bay the curiosity that
might still have lingered in some minds concerning his antecedent
life. It was known that he answered Simon Pennock, who had
ventured to approach him with a direct question, in these words:
"Thee knows, Friend Simon, that sometimes a seal is put upon our
mouths for a wise purpose. I have learned not to value the outer
life except in so far as it is made the manifestation of the inner
life, and I only date my own from the time when I was brought to a
knowledge of the truth. It is not pleasant to me to look upon what
went before; but a season may come when it shall be lawful for me
to declare all things--nay, when it shall be put upon me as a duty.
Thee must suffer me to wait the call."
After this there was nothing more to be said. The family was on
terms of quiet intimacy with the neighbors; and even Sylvia, in
spite of her defiant eyes and worldly ways, became popular among
the young men and maidens. She touched her beloved guitar with
a skill which seemed marvellous to the latter; and when it was
known that her refusal to enter the sect arose from her fondness
for the prohibited instrument, she found many apologists among
them. She was not set upon, and called hard names, as she had
anticipated. It is true that her father, when appealed to by the
elders, shook his head and said, "It is a cross to us!"--but he had
been known to remain in the room while she sang "Full high in
Kilbride," and the keen light which arose in his eyes was neither
that of sorrow nor anger.
At the end of their first year of residence the farm presented
evidences of much more orderly and intelligent management than at
first, although the adjoining neighbors were of the opinion that
the Donnellys had hardly made their living out of it. Friend
Henry, nevertheless, was ready with the advance rent, and his bills
were promptly paid. He was close at a bargain, which was
considered rather a merit than otherwise,--and almost painfully
exact in observing the strict letter of it, when made.
As time passed by, and the family became a permanent part and
parcel of the remote community, wearing its peaceful color and
breathing its untroubled atmosphere, nothing occurred to disturb
the esteem and respect which its members enjoyed. From time to
time the postmaster at the corner delivered to Henry Donnelly a
letter from New York, always addressed in the same hand. The first
which arrived had an "Esq." added to the name, but this
"compliment" (as the Friends termed it) soon ceased. Perhaps
the official may have vaguely wondered whether there was any
connection between the occasional absence of Friend Henry--not at
Yearly-Meeting time--and these letters. If he had been a visitor
at the farm-house he might have noticed variations in the moods of
its inmates, which must have arisen from some other cause than the
price of stock or the condition of the crops. Outside of the
family circle, however, they were serenely reticent.
In five or six years, when De Courcy had grown to be a hale,
handsome man of twenty-four, and as capable of conducting a farm as
any to the township born, certain aberrations from the strict line
of discipline began to be rumored. He rode a gallant horse,
dressed a little more elegantly than his membership prescribed, and
his unusually high, straight collar took a knack of falling over.
Moreover, he was frequently seen to ride up the Street Road, in the
direction of Fagg's Manor, towards those valleys where the brick
Presbyterian church displaces the whitewashed Quaker meeting-house.
Had Henry Donnelly not occupied so high a seat, and exercised such
an acknowledged authority in the sect, he might sooner have
received counsel, or proffers of sympathy, as the case might be;
but he heard nothing until the rumors of De Courcy's excursions
took a more definite form.
But one day, Abraham Bradbury, after discussing some Monthly-
Meeting matters, suddenly asked: "Is this true that I hear,
Henry,--that thy son De Courcy keeps company with one of the Alison
"Who says that?" Henry asked, in a sharp voice.
"Why, it's the common talk! Surely, thee's heard of it before?"
Henry set his lips together in a manner which Abraham understood.
Considering that he had fully performed his duty, he said no more.
That evening, Sylvia, who had been gently thrumming to herself at
the window, began singing "Bonnie Peggie Alison." Her father
looked at De Courcy, who caught his glance, then lowered his eyes,
and turned to leave the room.
"Stop, De Courcy," said the former; "I've heard a piece of news
about thee to-day, which I want thee to make clear."
"Shall I go, father?" asked Sylvia.
"No; thee may stay to give De Courcy his memory. I think he is
beginning to need it. I've learned which way he rides on Seventh-
"Father, I am old enough to choose my way," said De Courcy.
"But no such ways NOW, boy! Has thee clean forgotten? This was
among the things upon which we agreed, and you all promised to keep
watch and guard over yourselves. I had my misgivings then, but for
five years I've trusted you, and now, when the time of probation is
so nearly over--"
He hesitated, and De Courcy, plucking up courage, spoke again.
With a strong effort the young man threw off the yoke of a
self-taught restraint, and asserted his true nature. "Has O'Neil
written?" he asked.
"Then, father," he continued, "I prefer the certainty of my present
life to the uncertainty of the old. I will not dissolve my
connection with the Friends by a shock which might give thee
trouble; but I will slowly work away from them. Notice will be
taken of my ways; there will be family visitations, warnings, and
the usual routine of discipline, so that when I marry Margaret
Alison, nobody will be surprised at my being read out of meeting.
I shall soon be twenty-five, father, and this thing has gone on
about as long as I can bear it. I must decide to be either a man
or a milksop."
The color rose to Henry Donnelly's cheeks, and his eyes flashed,
but he showed no signs of anger. He moved to De Courcy's side and
laid his hand upon his shoulder.
"Patience, my boy!" he said. "It's the old blood, and I might have
known it would proclaim itself. Suppose I were to shut my eyes to
thy ridings, and thy merry-makings, and thy worldly company. So
far I might go; but the girl is no mate for thee. If O'Neil is
alive, we are sure to hear from him soon; and in three years, at
the utmost, if the Lord favors us, the end will come. How far has
it gone with thy courting? Surely, surely, not too far to
withdraw, at least under the plea of my prohibition?"
De Courcy blushed, but firmly met his father's eyes. "I have
spoken to her," he replied, "and it is not the custom of our family
to break plighted faith."
"Thou art our cross, not Sylvia. Go thy ways now. I will endeavor
to seek for guidance."
"Sylvia," said the father, when De Courcy had left the room, "what
is to be the end of this?"
"Unless we hear from O'Neil, father, I am afraid it cannot be
prevented. De Courcy has been changing for a year past; I am only
surprised that you did not sooner notice it. What I said in jest
has become serious truth; he has already half forgotten. We might
have expected, in the beginning, that one of two things would
happen: either he would become a plodding Quaker farmer or take to
his present courses. Which would be worse, when this life is
over,--if that time ever comes?"
Sylvia sighed, and there was a weariness in her voice which did not
escape her father's ear. He walked up and down the room with a
troubled air. She sat down, took the guitar upon her lap, and
began to sing the verse, commencing, "Erin, my country, though sad
and forsaken," when--perhaps opportunely--Susan Donnelly entered
"Eh, lass!" said Henry, slipping his arm around his wife's waist,
"art thou tired yet? Have I been trying thy patience, as I have
that of the children? Have there been longings kept from me,
little rebellions crushed, battles fought that I supposed were
"Not by me, Henry," was her cheerful answer. "I have never have
been happier than in these quiet ways with thee. I've been
thinking, what if something has happened, and the letters cease to
come? And it has seemed to me--now that the boys are as good
farmers as any, and Alice is such a tidy housekeeper--that we could
manage very well without help. Only for thy sake, Henry: I fear
it would be a terrible disappointment to thee. Or is thee as
accustomed to the high seat as I to my place on the women's side?"
"No!" he answered emphatically. "The talk with De Courcy has set
my quiet Quaker blood in motion. The boy is more than half right;
I am sure Sylvia thinks so too. What could I expect? He has no
birthright, and didn't begin his task, as I did, after the bravery
of youth was over. It took six generations to establish the
serenity and content of our brethren here, and the dress we wear
don't give us the nature. De Courcy is tired of the masquerade,
and Sylvia is tired of seeing it. Thou, my little Susan, who wert
so timid at first, puttest us all to shame now!"
"I think I was meant for it,--Alice, and Henry, and I," said she.
No outward change in Henry Donnelly's demeanor betrayed this or any
other disturbance at home. There were repeated consultations
between the father and son, but they led to no satisfactory
conclusion. De Courcy was sincerely attached to the pretty
Presbyterian maiden, and found livelier society in her brothers and
cousins than among the grave, awkward Quaker youths of Londongrove.
With the occasional freedom from restraint there awoke in him
a desire for independence--a thirst for the suppressed license of
youth. His new acquaintances were accustomed to a rigid domestic
regime, but of a different character, and they met on a common
ground of rebellion. Their aberrations, it is true, were not of a
very formidable character, and need not have been guarded but for
the severe conventionalities of both sects. An occasional fox-
chase, horse-race, or a "stag party" at some outlying tavern,
formed the sum of their dissipation; they sang, danced reels, and
sometimes ran into little excesses through the stimulating sense of
the trespass they were committing.
By and by reports of certain of these performances were brought to
the notice of the Londongrove Friends, and, with the consent of
Henry Donnelly himself, De Courcy received a visit of warning and
remonstrance. He had foreseen the probability of such a visit and
was prepared. He denied none of the charges brought against him,
and accepted the grave counsel offered, simply stating that his
nature was not yet purified and chastened; he was aware he was not
walking in the Light; he believed it to be a troubled season
through which he must needs pass. His frankness, as he was
shrewd enough to guess, was a scource of perplexity to the
elders; it prevented them from excommunicating him without further
probation, while it left him free to indulge in further
Some months passed away, and the absence from which Henry Donnelly
always returned with a good supply of ready money did not take
place. The knowledge of farming which his sons had acquired
now came into play. It was necessary to exercise both skill and
thrift in order to keep up the liberal footing upon which the
family had lived; for each member of it was too proud to allow the
community to suspect the change in their circumstances. De Courcy,
retained more than ever at home, and bound to steady labor, was man
enough to subdue his impatient spirit for the time; but he secretly
determined that with the first change for the better he would
follow the fate he had chosen for himself.
Late in the fall came the opportunity for which he had longed. One
evening he brought home a letter, in the well-known handwriting.
His father opened and read it in silence.
"Well, father?" he said.
"A former letter was lost, it seems. This should have come in the
spring; it is only the missing sum."
"Does O'Neil fix any time?"
"No; but he hopes to make a better report next year."
"Then, father," said De Courcy, "it is useless for me to wait
longer; I am satisfied as it is. I should not have given up
Margaret in any case; but now, since thee can live with Henry's
help, I shall claim her."
"MUST it be, De Courcy?"
But it was not to be. A day or two afterwards the young man, on
his mettled horse, set off up the Street Road, feeling at last that
the fortune and the freedom of his life were approaching. He had
become, in habits and in feelings, one of the people, and the
relinquishment of the hope in which his father still indulged
brought him a firmer courage, a more settled content. His
sweetheart's family was in good circumstances; but, had she been
poor, he felt confident of his power to make and secure for her a
farmer's home. To the past--whatever it might have been--he said
farewell, and went carolling some cheerful ditty, to look upon the
face of his future.
That night a country wagon slowly drove up to Henry Donnelly's
door. The three men who accompanied it hesitated before they
knocked, and, when the door was opened, looked at each other with
pale, sad faces, before either spoke. No cries followed the few
words that were said, but silently, swiftly, a room was made ready,
while the men lifted from the straw and carried up stairs an
unconscious figure, the arms of which hung down with a horrible
significance as they moved. He was not dead, for the heart beat
feebly and slowly; but all efforts to restore his consciousness
were in vain. There was concussion of the brain the physician
said. He had been thrown from his horse, probably alighting upon
his head, as there were neither fractures nor external wounds. All
that night and next day the tenderest, the most unwearied care was
exerted to call back the flickering gleam of life. The shock had
been too great; his deadly torpor deepened into death.
In their time of trial and sorrow the family received the fullest
sympathy, the kindliest help, from the whole neighborhood. They
had never before so fully appreciated the fraternal character
of the society whereof they were members. The plain, plodding
people living on the adjoining farms became virtually their
relatives and fellow-mourners. All the external offices demanded
by the sad occasion were performed for them, and other eyes than
their own shed tears of honest grief over De Courcy's coffin. All
came to the funeral, and even Simon Pennock, in the plain yet
touching words which he spoke beside the grave, forgot the young
man's wandering from the Light, in the recollection of his frank,
generous, truthful nature.
If the Donnellys had sometimes found the practical equality of life
in Londongrove a little repellent they were now gratefully moved by
the delicate and refined ways in which the sympathy of the people
sought to express itself. The better qualities of human nature
always develop a temporary good-breeding. Wherever any of the
family went, they saw the reflection of their own sorrow; and a new
spirit informed to their eyes the quiet pastoral landscapes.
In their life at home there was little change. Abraham Bradbury
had insisted on sending his favorite grandson, Joel, a youth of
twenty-two, to take De Courcy's place for a few months. He was a
shy quiet creature, with large brown eyes like a fawn's, and young
Henry Donnelly and he became friends at once. It was believed that
he would inherit the farm at his grandfather's death; but he was as
subservient to Friend Donnelly's wishes in regard to the farming
operations as if the latter held the fee of the property. His
coming did not fill the terrible gap which De Courcy's death
had made, but seemed to make it less constantly and painfully
Susan Donnelly soon remarked a change, which she could neither
clearly define nor explain to herself, both in her husband and in
their daughter Sylvia. The former, although in public he preserved
the same grave, stately face,--its lines, perhaps, a little more
deeply marked,--seemed to be devoured by an internal unrest. His
dreams were of the old times: words and names long unused came from
his lips as he slept by her side. Although he bore his grief with
more strength than she had hoped, he grew nervous and excitable,--
sometimes unreasonably petulant, sometimes gay to a pitch which
impressed her with pain. When the spring came around, and the
mysterious correspondence again failed, as in the previous year,
his uneasiness increased. He took his place on the high seat on
First-days, as usual, but spoke no more.
Sylvia, on the other hand, seemed to have wholly lost her proud,
impatient character. She went to meeting much more frequently than
formerly, busied herself more actively about household matters, and
ceased to speak of the uncertain contingency which had been so
constantly present in her thoughts. In fact, she and her father
had changed places. She was now the one who preached patience, who
held before them all the bright side of their lot, who brought
Margaret Alison to the house and justified her dead brother's heart
to his father's, and who repeated to the latter, in his restless
moods, "De Courcy foresaw the truth, and we must all in the end
decide as he did."
"Can THEE do it, Sylvia?" her father would ask.
"I believe I have done it already," she said. "If it seems
difficult, pray consider how much later I begin my work. I have
had all your memories in charge, and now I must not only forget for
myself, but for you as well."
Indeed, as the spring and summer months came and went, Sylvia
evidently grew stronger in her determination. The fret of her idle
force was allayed, and her content increased as she saw and
performed the possible duties of her life. Perhaps her father
might have caught something of her spirit, but for his anxiety in
regard to the suspended correspondence. He wearied himself in
guesses, which all ended in the simple fact that, to escape
embarrassment, the rent must again be saved from the earnings of
The harvests that year were bountiful; wheat, barley, and oats
stood thick and heavy in the fields. No one showed more careful
thrift or more cheerful industry than young Joel Bradbury, and the
family felt that much of the fortune of their harvest was owing to
On the first day after the crops had been securely housed, all went
to meeting, except Sylvia. In the walled graveyard the sod was
already green over De Courcy's unmarked mound, but Alice had
planted a little rose-tree at the head, and she and her mother
always visited the spot before taking their seats on the women's
side. The meeting-house was very full that day, as the busy season
of the summer was over, and the horses of those who lived at a
distance had no longer such need of rest.
It was a sultry forenoon, and the windows and doors of the building
were open. The humming of insects was heard in the silence, and
broken lights and shadows of the poplar-leaves were sprinkled upon
the steps and sills. Outside there were glimpses of quiet groves
and orchards, and blue fragments of sky,--no more semblance of life
in the external landscape than there was in the silent meeting
within. Some quarter of an hour before the shaking of hands took
place, the hoofs of a horse were heard in the meeting-house yard--
the noise of a smart trot on the turf, suddenly arrested.
The boys pricked up their ears at this unusual sound, and stole
glances at each other when they imagined themselves unseen by the
awful faces in the gallery. Presently those nearest the door saw
a broader shadow fall over those flickering upon the stone. A red
face appeared for a moment, and was then drawn back out of sight.
The shadow advanced and receded, in a state of peculiar
restlessness. Sometimes the end of a riding-whip was visible,
sometimes the corner of a coarse gray coat. The boys who noticed
these apparitions were burning with impatience, but they dared not
leave their seats until Abraham Bradbury had reached his hand to
Then they rushed out. The mysterious personage was still beside
the door, leaning against the wall. He was a short, thick-set man
of fifty, with red hair, round gray eyes, a broad pug nose, and
projecting mouth. He wore a heavy gray coat, despite the heat, and
a waistcoat with many brass buttons; also corduroy breeches and
riding boots. When they appeared, he started forward with open
mouth and eyes, and stared wildly in their faces. They gathered
around the poplar-trunks, and waited with some uneasiness to see
what would follow.
Slowly and gravely, with the half-broken ban of silence still
hanging over them, the people issued from the house. The strange
man stood, leaning forward, and seemed to devour each, in turn,
with his eager eyes. After the young men came the fathers of
families, and lastly the old men from the gallery seats. Last of
these came Henry Donnelly. In the meantime, all had seen and
wondered at the waiting figure; its attitude was too intense and
self-forgetting to be misinterpreted. The greetings and remarks
were suspended until the people had seen for whom the man waited,
Henry Donnelly had no sooner set his foot upon the door-step than,
with something between a shout and a howl, the stranger darted
forward, seized his hand, and fell upon one knee, crying: "O my
lord! my lord! Glory be to God that I've found ye at last!"
If these words burst like a bomb on the ears of the people, what
was their consternation when Henry Donnelly exclaimed, "The Divel!
Jack O'Neil, can that be you?"
"It's me, meself, my lord! When we heard the letters went wrong
last year, I said `I'll trust no such good news to their blasted
mail-posts: I'll go meself and carry it to his lordship,--if it is
t'other side o' the say. Him and my lady and all the children
went, and sure I can go too. And as I was the one that
went with you from Dunleigh Castle, I'll go back with you to that
same, for it stands awaitin', and blessed be the day that sees you
back in your ould place!"
"All clear, Jack? All mine again?"
"You may believe it, my lord! And money in the chest beside. But
where's my lady, bless her sweet face! Among yon women, belike,
and you'll help me to find her, for it's herself must have the news
next, and then the young master--"
With that word Henry Donnelly awoke to a sense of time and place.
He found himself within a ring of staring, wondering, scandalized
eyes. He met them boldly, with a proud, though rather grim smile,
took hold of O'Neil's arm and led him towards the women's end of
the house, where the sight of Susan in her scoop bonnet so moved
the servant's heart that he melted into tears. Both husband and
wife were eager to get home and hear O'Neil's news in private; so
they set out at once in their plain carriage, followed by the
latter on horseback. As for the Friends, they went home in a state
Alice Donnelly, with her brother Henry and Joel Bradbury, returned
on foot. The two former remembered O'Neil, and, although they had
not witnessed his first interview with their father, they knew
enough of the family history to surmise his errand. Joel was
silent and troubled.
"Alice, I hope it doesn't mean that we are going back, don't you?"
"Yes," she answered, and said no more.
They took a foot-path across the fields, and reached the farm-house
at the same time with the first party. As they opened the door
Sylvia descended the staircase dressed in a rich shimmering
brocade, with a necklace of amethysts around her throat. To their
eyes, so long accustomed to the absence of positive color, she was
completely dazzling. There was a new color on her cheeks, and her
eyes seemed larger and brighter. She made a stately courtesy, and
held open the parlor door.
"Welcome, Lord Henry Dunleigh, of Dunleigh Castle!" she cried;
"welcome, Lady Dunleigh!"
Her father kissed her on the forehead. "Now give us back our
memories, Sylvia!" he said, exultingly.
Susan Donnelly sank into a chair, overcome by the mixed emotions of
"Come in, my faithful Jack! Unpack thy portmanteau of news, for I
see thou art bursting to show it; let us have every thing from the
beginning. Wife, it's a little too much for thee, coming so
unexpectedly. Set out the wine, Alice!"
The decanter was placed upon the table. O'Neil filled a tumbler to
the brim, lifted it high, made two or three hoarse efforts to
speak, and then walked away to the window, where he drank in
silence. This little incident touched the family more than the
announcement of their good fortune. Henry Donnelly's feverish
exultation subsided: he sat down with a grave, thoughtful face,
while his wife wept quietly beside him. Sylvia stood waiting with
an abstracted air; Alice removed her mother's bonnet and
shawl; and Henry and Joel, seated together at the farther end of
the room, looked on in silent anticipation.
O'Neil's story was long, and frequently interrupted. He had been
Lord Dunleigh's steward in better days, as his father had been to
the old lord, and was bound to the family by the closest ties of
interest and affection. When the estates became so encumbered that
either an immediate change or a catastrophe was inevitable, he had
been taken into his master's confidence concerning the plan which
had first been proposed in jest, and afterwards adopted in earnest.
The family must leave Dunleigh Castle for a period of probably
eight or ten years, and seek some part of the world where their
expenses could be reduced to the lowest possible figure. In
Germany or Italy there would be the annoyance of a foreign race and
language, of meeting of tourists belonging to the circle in which
they had moved, a dangerous idleness for their sons, and
embarrassing restrictions for their daughters. On the other hand,
the suggestion to emigrate to America and become Quakers during
their exile offered more advantages the more they considered it.
It was original in character; it offered them economy, seclusion,
entire liberty of action inside the limits of the sect, the best
moral atmosphere for their children, and an occupation which would
not deteriorate what was best in their blood and breeding.
How Lord Dunleigh obtained admission into the sect as plain Henry
Donnelly is a matter of conjecture with the Londongrove
Friends. The deception which had been practised upon them--
although it was perhaps less complete than they imagined--left a
soreness of feeling behind it. The matter was hushed up after the
departure of the family, and one might now live for years in the
neighborhood without hearing the story. How the shrewd plan was
carried out by Lord Dunleigh and his family, we have already
learned. O'Neil, left on the estate, in the north of Ireland, did
his part with equal fidelity. He not only filled up the gaps made
by his master's early profuseness, but found means to move the
sympathies of a cousin of the latter--a rich, eccentric old
bachelor, who had long been estranged by a family quarrel. To this
cousin he finally confided the character of the exile, and at a
lucky time; for the cousin's will was altered in Lord Dunleigh's
favor, and he died before his mood of reconciliation passed away.
Now, the estate was not only unencumbered, but there was a handsome
surplus in the hands of the Dublin bankers. The family might
return whenever they chose, and there would be a festival to
welcome them, O'Neil said, such as Dunleigh Castle had never known
since its foundations were laid.
"Let us go at once!" said Sylvia, when he had concluded his tale.
"No more masquerading,--I never knew until to-day how much I have
hated it! I will not say that your plan was not a sensible one,
father; but I wish it might have been carried out with more honor
to ourselves. Since De Courcy's death I have begun to appreciate
our neighbors: I was resigned to become one of these people
had our luck gone the other way. Will they give us any credit for
goodness and truth, I wonder? Yes, in mother's case, and Alice's;
and I believe both of them would give up Dunleigh Castle for this
"Then," her father exclaimed, "it IS time that we should return,
and without delay. But thee wrongs us somewhat, Sylvia: it has not
all been masquerading. We have become the servants, rather than
the masters, of our own parts, and shall live a painful and divided
life until we get back in our old place. I fear me it will always
be divided for thee, wife, and Alice and Henry. If I am subdued by
the element which I only meant to asssume, how much more
deeply must it have wrought in your natures! Yes, Sylvia is right,
we must get away at once. To-morrow we must leave Londongrove
He had scarcely spoken, when a new surprise fell upon the family.
Joel Bradbury arose and walked forward, as if thrust by an emotion
so powerful that it transformed his whole being. He seemed to
forget every thing but Alice Donnelly's presence. His soft brown
eyes were fixed on her face with an expression of unutterable
tenderness and longing. He caught her by the hands. "Alice, O,
Alice!" burst from his lips; "you are not going to leave me?"
The flush in the girl's sweet face faded into a deadly paleness.
A moan came from her lips; her head dropped, and she would have
fallen, swooning, from the chair had not Joel knelt at her feet and
caught her upon his breast.
For a moment there was silence in the room.
Presently, Sylvia, all her haughtiness gone, knelt beside the young
man, and took her sister from his arms. "Joel, my poor, dear
friend," she said, "I am sorry that the last, worst mischief we
have done must fall upon you."
Joel covered his face with his hands, and convulsively uttered the
words, "MUST she go?"
Then Henry Donnelly--or, rather, Lord Dunleigh, as we must now call
him--took the young man's hand. He was profoundly moved; his
strong voice trembled, and his words came slowly. "I will not
appeal to thy heart, Joel," he said, "for it would not hear me now.
But thou hast heard all our story, and knowest that we must leave
these parts, never to return. We belong to another station and
another mode of life than yours, and it must come to us as a good
fortune that our time of probation is at an end. Bethink thee,
could we leave our darling Alice behind us, parted as if by the
grave? Nay, could we rob her of the life to which she is born--of
her share in our lives? On the other hand, could we take thee with
us into relations where thee would always be a stranger, and in
which a nature like thine has no place? This is a case where duty
speaks clearly, though so hard, so very hard, to follow."
He spoke tenderly, but inflexibly, and Joel felt that his fate was
pronounced. When Alice had somewhat revived, and was taken to
another room, he stumbled blindly out of the house, made his way to
the barn, and there flung himself upon the harvest-sheaves which,
three days before, he had bound with such a timid, delicious
hope working in his arm.
The day which brought such great fortune had thus a sad and
troubled termination. It was proposed that the family should start
for Philadelphia on the morrow, leaving O'Neil to pack up and
remove such furniture as they wished to retain; but Susan, Lady
Dunleigh, could not forsake the neighborhood without a parting
visit to the good friends who had mourned with her over her
firstborn; and Sylvia was with her in this wish. So two more days
elapsed, and then the Dunleighs passed down the Street Road, and
the plain farm-house was gone from their eyes forever. Two grieved
over the loss of their happy home; one was almost broken-hearted;
and the remaining two felt that the trouble of the present clouded
all their happiness in the return to rank and fortune.
They went, and they never came again. An account of the great
festival at Dunleigh Castle reached Londongrove two years later,
through an Irish laborer, who brought to Joel Bradbury a letter of
recommendation signed "Dunleigh." Joel kept the man upon his farm,
and the two preserved the memory of the family long after the
neighborhood had ceased to speak of it. Joel never married; he
still lives in the house where the great sorrow of his life befell.
His head is gray, and his face deeply wrinkled; but when he lifts
the shy lids of his soft brown eyes, I fancy I can see in their
tremulous depths the lingering memory of his love for Alice
JACOB FLINT'S JOURNEY.
If there ever was a man crushed out of all courage, all self-
reliance, all comfort in life, it was Jacob Flint. Why this should
have been, neither he nor any one else could have explained; but so
it was. On the day that he first went to school, his shy,
frightened face marked him as fair game for the rougher and
stronger boys, and they subjected him to all those exquisite
refinements of torture which boys seem to get by the direct
inspiration of the Devil. There was no form of their bullying
meanness or the cowardice of their brutal strength which he did not
experience. He was born under a fading or falling star,--the
inheritor of some anxious or unhappy mood of his parents, which
gave its fast color to the threads out of which his innocent being
Even the good people of the neighborhood, never accustomed to look
below the externals of appearance and manner, saw in his shrinking
face and awkward motions only the signs of a cringing, abject soul.
"You'll be no more of a man than Jake Flint!" was the reproach
which many a farmer addressed to his dilatory boy; and thus the
parents, one and all, came to repeat the sins of the children.
If, therefore, at school and "before folks," Jacob's position was
always uncomfortable and depressing, it was little more cheering at
home. His parents, as all the neighbors believed, had been
unhappily married, and, though the mother died in his early
childhood, his father remained a moody, unsocial man, who rarely
left his farm except on the 1st of April every year, when he went
to the county town for the purpose of paying the interest upon a
mortgage. The farm lay in a hollow between two hills, separated
from the road by a thick wood, and the chimneys of the lonely old
house looked in vain for a neighbor-smoke when they began to grow
warm of a morning.
Beyond the barn and under the northern hill there was a log tenant-
house, in which dwelt a negro couple, who, in the course of years
had become fixtures on the place and almost partners in it. Harry,
the man, was the medium by which Samuel Flint kept up his necessary
intercourse with the world beyond the valley; he took the horses to
the blacksmith, the grain to the mill, the turkeys to market, and
through his hands passed all the incomings and outgoings of the
farm, except the annual interest on the mortgage. Sally, his wife,
took care of the household, which, indeed, was a light and
comfortable task, since the table was well supplied for her own
sake, and there was no sharp eye to criticise her sweeping,
dusting, and bed-making. The place had a forlorn, tumble-down
aspect, quite in keeping with its lonely situation; but perhaps
this very circumstance flattered the mood of its silent, melancholy
owner and his unhappy son.
In all the neighborhood there was but one person with whom Jacob
felt completely at ease--but one who never joined in the general
habit of making his name the butt of ridicule or contempt. This
was Mrs. Ann Pardon, the hearty, active wife of Farmer Robert
Pardon, who lived nearly a mile farther down the brook. Jacob had
won her good-will by some neighborly services, something so
trifling, indeed, that the thought of a favor conferred never
entered his mind. Ann Pardon saw that it did not; she detected a
streak of most unconscious goodness under his uncouth, embarrassed
ways, and she determined to cultivate it. No little tact was
required, however, to coax the wild, forlorn creature into so much
confidence as she desired to establish; but tact is a native
quality of the heart no less than a social acquirement, and so she
did the very thing necessary without thinking much about it.
Robert Pardon discovered by and by that Jacob was a steady,
faithful hand in the harvest-field at husking-time, or whenever any
extra labor was required, and Jacob's father made no objection to
his earning a penny in this way; and so he fell into the habit of
spending his Saturday evenings at the Pardon farm-house, at first
to talk over matters of work, and finally because it had become a
welcome relief from his dreary life at home.
Now it happened that on a Saturday in the beginning of haying-time,
the village tailor sent home by Harry a new suit of light summer
clothes, for which Jacob had been measured a month before. After
supper he tried them on, the day's work being over, and Sally's
admiration was so loud and emphatic that he felt himself growing
red even to the small of his back.
"Now, don't go for to take 'em off, Mr. Jake," said she. "I spec'
you're gwine down to Pardon's, and so you jist keep 'em on to show
'em all how nice you KIN look."
The same thought had already entered Jacob's mind. Poor fellow!
It was the highest form of pleasure of which he had ever allowed
himself to conceive. If he had been called upon to pass through
the village on first assuming the new clothes, every stitch would
have pricked him as if the needle remained in it; but a quiet walk
down the brookside, by the pleasant path through the thickets and
over the fragrant meadows, with a consciousness of his own neatness
and freshness at every step, and with kind Ann Pardon's
commendation at the close, and the flattering curiosity of the
children,--the only ones who never made fun of him,--all that was
a delightful prospect. He could never, NEVER forget himself, as
he had seen other young fellows do; but to remember himself
agreeably was certainly the next best thing.
Jacob was already a well-grown man of twenty-three, and would have
made a good enough appearance but for the stoop in his shoulders,
and the drooping, uneasy way in which he carried his head. Many a
time when he was alone in the fields or woods he had
straightened himself, and looked courageously at the buts of the
oak-trees or in the very eyes of the indifferent oxen; but, when a
human face drew near, some spring in his neck seemed to snap, some
buckle around his shoulders to be drawn three holes tighter, and he
found himself in the old posture. The ever-present thought of this
weakness was the only drop of bitterness in his cup, as he followed
the lonely path through the thickets.
Some spirit in the sweet, delicious freshness of the air, some
voice in the mellow babble of the stream, leaping in and out of
sight between the alders, some smile of light, lingering on the
rising corn-fields beyond the meadow and the melting purple of a
distant hill, reached to the seclusion of his heart. He was
soothed and cheered; his head lifted itself in the presentiment of
a future less lonely than the past, and the everlasting trouble
vanished from his eyes.
Suddenly, at a turn of the path, two mowers from the meadow, with
their scythes upon their shoulders, came upon him. He had not
heard their feet on the deep turf. His chest relaxed, and his head
began to sink; then, with the most desperate effort in his life, he
lifted it again, and, darting a rapid side glance at the men,
hastened by. They could not understand the mixed defiance and
supplication of his face; to them he only looked "queer."
"Been committin' a murder, have you?" asked one of them, grinning.
"Startin' off on his journey, I guess," said the other.
The next instant they were gone, and Jacob, with set teeth and
clinched hands, smothered something that would have been a howl if
he had given it voice. Sharp lines of pain were marked on his
face, and, for the first time, the idea of resistance took fierce
and bitter possession of his heart. But the mood was too unusual
to last; presently he shook his head, and walked on towards
Ann wore a smart gingham dress, and her first exclamation was:
"Why, Jake! how nice you look. And so you know all about it, too?"
"I see you don't," said she. "I was too fast; but it makes no
difference. I know you are willing to lend me a helping hand."
"Oh, to be sure," Jacob answered.
"And not mind a little company?"
Jacob's face suddenly clouded; but he said, though with an effort:
"No--not much--if I can be of any help."
"It's rather a joke, after all," Ann Pardon continued, speaking
rapidly; "they meant a surprise, a few of the young people; but
sister Becky found a way to send me word, or I might have been
caught like Meribah Johnson last week, in the middle of my work;
eight or ten, she said, but more may drop in: and it's moonlight
and warm, so they'll be mostly under the trees; and Robert won't be
home till late, and I DO want help in carrying chairs, and
getting up some ice, and handing around; and, though I know
you don't care for merry makings, you CAN help me out, you see--
Here she paused. Jacob looked perplexed, but said nothing.
"Becky will help what she can, and while I'm in the kitchen she'll
have an eye to things outside," she said.
Jacob's head was down again, and, moreover, turned on one side, but
his ear betrayed the mounting blood. Finally he answered, in a
quick, husky voice: "Well, I'll do what I can. What's first?"
Thereupon he began to carry some benches from the veranda to a
grassy bank beside the sycamore-tree. Ann Pardon wisely said no
more of the coming surprise-party, but kept him so employed that,
as the visitors arrived by twos and threes, the merriment was in
full play almost before he was aware of it. Moreover, the night
was a protecting presence: the moonlight poured splendidly upon the
open turf beyond the sycamore, but every lilac-bush or trellis of
woodbine made a nook of shade, wherein he could pause a moment and
take courage for his duties. Becky Morton, Ann Pardon's youngest
sister, frightened him a little every time she came to consult
about the arrangement of seats or the distribution of refreshments;
but it was a delightful, fascinating fear, such as he had never
felt before in his life. He knew Becky, but he had never seen her
in white and pink, with floating tresses, until now. In fact, he
had hardly looked at her fairly, but now, as she glided into the
moonlight and he paused in the shadow, his eyes took note of her
exceeding beauty. Some sweet, confusing influence, he knew
not what, passed into his blood.
The young men had brought a fiddler from the village, and it was
not long before most of the company were treading the measures of
reels or cotillons on the grass. How merry and happy they all
were! How freely and unembarrassedly they moved and talked! By
and by all became involved in the dance, and Jacob, left alone and
unnoticed, drew nearer and nearer to the gay and beautiful life
from which he was expelled.
With a long-drawn scream of the fiddle the dance came to an end,
and the dancers, laughing, chattering, panting, and fanning
themselves, broke into groups and scattered over the enclosure
before the house. Jacob was surrounded before he could escape.
Becky, with two lively girls in her wake, came up to him and said:
"Oh Mr. Flint, why don't you dance?"
If he had stopped to consider, he would no doubt have replied very
differently. But a hundred questions, stirred by what he had seen,
were clamoring for light, and they threw the desperate impulse to
"If I COULD dance, would you dance with me?"
The two lively girls heard the words, and looked at Becky with
"Oh yes, take him for your next partner!" cried one.
"I will," said Becky, "after he comes back from his journey."
Then all three laughed. Jacob leaned against the tree, his eyes
fixed on the ground.
"Is it a bargain?" asked one of the girls.
"No," said he, and walked rapidly away.
He went to the house, and, finding that Robert had arrived, took
his hat, and left by the rear door. There was a grassy alley
between the orchard and garden, from which it was divided by a high
hawthorn hedge. He had scarcely taken three paces on his way to
the meadow, when the sound of the voice he had last heard, on the
other side of the hedge, arrested his feet.
"Becky, I think you rather hurt Jake Flint," said the girl.
"Hardly," answered Becky; "he's used to that."
"Not if he likes you; and you might go further and fare worse."
"Well, I MUST say!" Becky exclaimed, with a laugh; "you'd like
to see me stuck in that hollow, out of your way!"
"It's a good farm, I've heard," said the other.
"Yes, and covered with as much as it'll bear!"
Here the girls were called away to the dance. Jacob slowly walked
up the dewy meadow, the sounds of fiddling, singing, and laughter
growing fainter behind him.
"My journey!" he repeated to himself,--" my journey! why shouldn't
I start on it now? Start off, and never come back?"
It was a very little thing, after all, which annoyed him, but the
mention of it always touched a sore nerve of his nature. A dozen
years before, when a boy at school, he had made a temporary
friendship with another boy of his age, and had one day said
to the latter, in the warmth of his first generous confidence:
"When I am a little older, I shall make a great journey, and come
back rich, and buy Whitney's place!"
Now, Whitney's place, with its stately old brick mansion, its
avenue of silver firs, and its two hundred acres of clean, warm-
lying land, was the finest, the most aristocratic property in all
the neighborhood, and the boy-friend could not resist the
temptation of repeating Jacob's grand design, for the endless
amusement of the school. The betrayal hurt Jacob more keenly than
the ridicule. It left a wound that never ceased to rankle; yet,
with the inconceivable perversity of unthinking natures, precisely
this joke (as the people supposed it to be) had been perpetuated,
until "Jake Flint's Journey" was a synonyme for any absurd or
extravagant expectation. Perhaps no one imagined how much pain he
was keeping alive; for almost any other man than Jacob would have
joined in the laugh against himself and thus good-naturedly buried
the joke in time. "He's used to that," the people said, like Becky
Morton, and they really supposed there was nothing unkind in the
After Jacob had passed the thickets and entered the lonely hollow
in which his father's house lay, his pace became slower and slower.
He looked at the shabby old building, just touched by the moonlight
behind the swaying shadows of the weeping-willow, stopped, looked
again, and finally seated himself on a stump beside the path.
"If I knew what to do!" he said to himself, rocking backwards
and forwards, with his hands clasped over his knees,--"if I knew
what to do!"
The spiritual tension of the evening reached its climax: he could
bear no more. With a strong bodily shudder his tears burst forth,
and the passion of his weeping filled him from head to foot. How
long he wept he knew not; it seemed as if the hot fountains would
never run dry. Suddenly and startlingly a hand fell upon his
"Boy, what does this mean?"
It was his father who stood before him.
Jacob looked up like some shy animal brought to bay, his eyes full
of a feeling mixed of fierceness and terror; but he said nothing.
His father seated himself on one of the roots of the old stump,
laid one hand upon Jacob's knee, and said with an unusual
gentleness of manner, "I'd like to know what it is that troubles
you so much."
After a pause, Jacob suddenly burst forth with: "Is there any
reason why I should tell you? Do you care any more for me than the
rest of 'em?"
"I didn't know as you wanted me to care for you particularly," said
the father, almost deprecatingly. "I always thought you had
friends of your own age."
"Friends? Devils!" exclaimed Jacob. "Oh, what have I done--what
is there so dreadful about me that I should always be laughed at,
and despised, and trampled upon? You are a great deal older than
I am, father: what do you see in me? Tell me what it is, and how
to get over it!"
The eyes of the two men met. Jacob saw his father's face grow pale
in the moonlight, while he pressed his hand involuntarily upon his
heart, as if struggling with some physical pain. At last he spoke,
but his words were strange and incoherent.
"I couldn't sleep," he said; "I got up again and came out o' doors.
The white ox had broken down the fence at the corner, and would
soon have been in the cornfield. I thought it was that, maybe, but
still your--your mother would come into my head. I was coming down
the edge of the wood when I saw you, and I don't know why it was
that you seemed so different, all at once--"
Here he paused, and was silent for a minute. Then he said, in a
grave, commanding tone: "Just let me know the whole story. I have
that much right yet."
Jacob related the history of the evening, somewhat awkwardly and
confusedly, it is true; but his father's brief, pointed questions
kept him to the narrative, and forced him to explain the full
significance of the expressions he repeated. At the mention of
"Whitney's place," a singular expression of malice touched the old
"Do you love Becky Morton?" he asked bluntly, when all had been
"I don't know," Jacob stammered; "I think not; because when I seem
to like her most, I feel afraid of her."
"It's lucky that you're not sure of it!" exclaimed the old man with
energy; "because you should never have her."
"No," said Jacob, with a mournful acquiescence, "I can never have
her, or any other one."
"But you shall--and will I when I help you. It's true I've not
seemed to care much about you, and I suppose you're free to think
as you like; but this I say: I'll not stand by and see you spit
upon! `Covered with as much as it'll bear!' THAT'S a piece o'
luck anyhow. If we're poor, your wife must take your poverty with
you, or she don't come into MY doors. But first of all you must
make your journey!"
"My journey!" repeated Jacob.
"Weren't you thinking of it this night, before you took your seat
on that stump? A little more, and you'd have gone clean off, I
Jacob was silent, and hung his head.
"Never mind! I've no right to think hard of it. In a week we'll
have finished our haying, and then it's a fortnight to wheat; but,
for that matter, Harry and I can manage the wheat by ourselves.
You may take a month, two months, if any thing comes of it. Under
a month I don't mean that you shall come back. I'll give you
twenty dollars for a start; if you want more you must earn it on
the road, any way you please. And, mark you, Jacob! since you
ARE poor, don't let anybody suppose you are rich. For my part,
I shall not expect you to buy Whitney's place; all I ask is that
you'll tell me, fair and square, just what things and what people
you've got acquainted with. Get to bed now--the matter's settled;
I will have it so."
They rose and walked across the meadow to the house. Jacob had
quite forgotten the events of the evening in the new prospect
suddenly opened to him, which filled him with a wonderful confusion
of fear and desire. His father said nothing more. They entered
the lonely house together at midnight, and went to their beds; but
Jacob slept very little.
Six days afterwards he left home, on a sparkling June morning, with
a small bundle tied in a yellow silk handkerchief under his arm.
His father had furnished him with the promised money, but had
positively refused to tell him what road he should take, or what
plan of action he should adopt. The only stipulation was that his
absence from home should not be less than a month.
After he had passed the wood and reached the highway which followed
the course of the brook, he paused to consider which course to
take. Southward the road led past Pardon's, and he longed to see
his only friends once more before encountering untried hazards; but
the village was beyond, and he had no courage to walk through its
one long street with a bundle, denoting a journey, under his arm.
Northward he would have to pass the mill and blacksmith's shop at
the cross-roads. Then he remembered that he might easily wade the
stream at a point where it was shallow, and keep in the shelter of
the woods on the opposite hill until he struck the road farther on,
and in that direction two or three miles would take him into a
neighborhood where he was not known.
Once in the woods, an exquisite sense of freedom came upon him.
There was nothing mocking in the soft, graceful stir of the
expanded foliage, in the twittering of the unfrightened birds,
or the scampering of the squirrels, over the rustling carpet of
dead leaves. He lay down upon the moss under a spreading beech-
tree and tried to think; but the thoughts would not come. He could
not even clearly recall the keen troubles and mortifications he had
endured: all things were so peaceful and beautiful that a portion
of their peace and beauty fell upon men and invested them with a
more kindly character.
Towards noon Jacob found himself beyond the limited geography of
his life. The first man he encountered was a stranger, who greeted
him with a hearty and respectful "How do you do, sir?"
"Perhaps," thought Jacob, "I am not so very different from other
people, if I only thought so myself."
At noon, he stopped at a farm-house by the roadside to get a drink
of water. A pleasant woman, who came from the door at that moment
with a pitcher, allowed him to lower the bucket and haul it up
dripping with precious coolness. She looked upon him with good-
will, for he had allowed her to see his eyes, and something in
their honest, appealing expression went to her heart.
"We're going to have dinner in five minutes," said she; "won't you
stay and have something?"
Jacob stayed and brake bread with the plain, hospitable family.
Their kindly attention to him during the meal gave him the lacking
nerve; for a moment he resolved to offer his services to the
farmer, but he presently saw that they were not really needed, and,
besides, the place was still too near home.
Towards night he reached an old country tavern, lording it over an
incipient village of six houses. The landlord and hostler were
inspecting a drooping-looking horse in front of the stables. Now,
if there was any thing which Jacob understood, to the extent of his
limited experience, it was horse nature. He drew near, listened to
the views of the two men, examined the animal with his eyes, and
was ready to answer, "Yes, I guess so," when the landlord said,
"Perhaps, sir, you can tell what is the matter with him."
His prompt detection of the ailment, and prescription of a remedy
which in an hour showed its good effects, installed him in the
landlord's best graces. The latter said, "Well, it shall cost you
nothing to-night," as he led the way to the supper-room. When
Jacob went to bed he was surprised on reflecting that he had not
only been talking for a full hour in the bar-room, but had been
looking people in the face.
Resisting an offer of good wages if he would stay and help look
after the stables, he set forward the next morning with a new and
most delightful confidence in himself. The knowledge that now
nobody knew him as "Jake Flint" quite removed his tortured self-
consciousness. When he met a person who was glum and ungracious of
speech, he saw, nevertheless, that he was not its special object.
He was sometimes asked questions, to be sure, which a little
embarrassed him, but he soon hit upon answers which were
sufficiently true without betraying his purpose.
Wandering sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left, he
slowly made his way into the land, until, on the afternoon of the
fourth day after leaving home, he found himself in a rougher
region--a rocky, hilly tract, with small and not very flourishing
farms in the valleys. Here the season appeared to be more backward
than in the open country; the hay harvest was not yet over.
Jacob's taste for scenery was not particularly cultivated, but
something in the loneliness and quiet of the farms reminded him of
his own home; and he looked at one house after another,
deliberating with himself whether it would not be a good place to
spend the remainder of his month of probation. He seemed to be
very far from home--about forty miles, in fact,--and was beginning
to feel a little tired of wandering.
Finally the road climbed a low pass of the hills, and dropped into
a valley on the opposite side. There was but one house in view--a
two-story building of logs and plaster, with a garden and orchard
on the hillside in the rear. A large meadow stretched in front,
and when the whole of it lay clear before him, as the road issued
from a wood, his eye was caught by an unusual harvest picture.
Directly before him, a woman, whose face was concealed by a huge,
flapping sun-bonnet, was seated upon a mowing machine, guiding a
span of horses around the great tract of thick grass which was
still uncut. A little distance off, a boy and girl were raking the
drier swaths together, and a hay-cart, drawn by oxen and driven by
a man, was just entering the meadow from the side next the barn.
Jacob hung his bundle upon a stake, threw his coat and waistcoat
over the rail, and, resting his chin on his shirted arms, leaned on
the fence, and watched the hay-makers. As the woman came down the
nearer side she appeared to notice him, for her head was turned
from time to time in his direction. When she had made the round,
she stopped the horses at the corner, sprang lightly from her seat
and called to the man, who, leaving his team, met her half-way.
They were nearly a furlong distant, but Jacob was quite sure that
she pointed to him, and that the man looked in the same direction.
Presently she set off across the meadow, directly towards him.
When within a few paces of the fence, she stopped, threw back the
flaps of her sun-bonnet, and said, "Good day to you!" Jacob was
so amazed to see a bright, fresh, girlish face, that he stared at
her with all his eyes, forgetting to drop his head. Indeed, he
could not have done so, for his chin was propped upon the top rail
of the fence.
"You are a stranger, I see," she added.
"Yes, in these parts," he replied.
"Looking for work?"
He hardly knew what answer to make, so he said, at a venture,
"That's as it happens." Then he colored a little, for the words
seemed foolish to his ears.
"Time's precious," said the girl, "so I'll tell you at once we want
help. Our hay MUST be got in while the fine weather lasts."
"I'll help you!" Jacob exclaimed, taking his arms from the rail,
and looking as willing as he felt.
"I'm so glad! But I must tell you, at first, that we're not rich,
and the hands are asking a great deal now. How much do you
"Whatever you please?" said he, climbing the fence.
"No, that's not our way of doing business. What do you say to a
dollar a day, and found?"
"All right!" and with the words he was already at her side, taking
long strides over the elastic turf.
"I will go on with my mowing," said she, when they reached the
horses, "and you can rake and load with my father. What name shall
I call you by?"
"Everybody calls me Jake."
"`Jake!' Jacob is better. Well, Jacob, I hope you'll give us all
the help you can."
With a nod and a light laugh she sprang upon the machine. There
was a sweet throb in Jacob's heart, which, if he could have
expressed it, would have been a triumphant shout of "I'm not afraid
of her! I'm not afraid of her!"
The farmer was a kindly, depressed man, with whose quiet ways Jacob
instantly felt himself at home. They worked steadily until sunset,
when the girl, detaching her horses from the machine, mounted one
of them and led the other to the barn. At the supper-table, the
farmer's wife said: "Susan, you must be very tired."
"Not now, mother!" she cheerily answered. "I was, I think, but
after I picked up Jacob I felt sure we should get our hay in."
"It was a good thing," said the farmer; "Jacob don't need to be
told how to work."
Poor Jacob! He was so happy he could have cried. He sat and
listened, and blushed a little, with a smile on his face which it
was a pleasure to see. The honest people did not seem to regard
him in the least as a stranger; they discussed their family
interests and troubles and hopes before him, and in a little while
it seemed as if he had known them always.
How faithfully he worked! How glad and tired he felt when night
came, and the hay-mow was filled, and the great stacks grew beside
the barn! But ah! the haying came to an end, and on the last
evening, at supper, everybody was constrained and silent. Even
Susan looked grave and thoughtful.
"Jacob," said the farmer, finally, "I wish we could keep you until
wheat harvest; but you know we are poor, and can't afford it.
Perhaps you could--"
He hesitated; but Jacob, catching at the chance and obeying his own
unselfish impulse, cried: "Oh, yes, I can; I'll be satisfied with
my board, till the wheat's ripe."
Susan looked at him quickly, with a bright, speaking face.
"It's hardly fair to you," said the farmer.
"But I like to be here so much!" Jacob cried. "I like--all of
"We DO seem to suit," said the farmer, "like as one family. And
that reminds me, we've not heard your family name yet."
"Jacob FLINT!" exclaimed the farmer's wife, with sudden
Jacob was scared and troubled. They had heard of him, he thought,
and who knew what ridiculous stories? Susan noticed an anxiety on
his face which she could not understand, but she unknowingly came
to his relief.
"Why, mother," she asked, "do you know Jacob's family?"
"No, I think not," said her mother, "only somebody of the name,
His offer, however, was gratefully accepted. The bright, hot
summer days came and went, but no flower of July ever opened as
rapidly and richly and warmly as his chilled, retarded nature. New
thoughts and instincts came with every morning's sun, and new
conclusions were reached with every evening's twilight. Yet as the
wheat harvest drew towards the end, he felt that he must leave the
place. The month of absence had gone by, he scarce knew how. He
was free to return home, and, though he might offer to bridge over
the gap between wheat and oats, as he had already done between hay
and wheat, he imagined the family might hesitate to accept such an
offer. Moreover, this life at Susan's side was fast growing to be
a pain, unless he could assure himself that it would be so forever.
They were in the wheat-field, busy with the last sheaves; she
raking and he binding. The farmer and younger children had gone to
the barn with a load. Jacob was working silently and steadily, but
when they had reached the end of a row, he stopped, wiped his
wet brow, and suddenly said, "Susan, I suppose to-day finishes my
"Yes," she answered very slowly.
"And yet I'm very sorry to go."
"I--WE don't want you to go, if we could help it."
Jacob appeared to struggle with himself. He attempted to speak.
"If I could--" he brought out, and then paused. "Susan, would you
be glad if I came back?"
His eyes implored her to read his meaning. No doubt she read it
correctly, for her face flushed, her eyelids fell, and she barely
murmured, "Yes, Jacob."
"Then I'll come!" he cried; "I'll come and help you with the oats.
Don't talk of pay! Only tell me I'll be welcome! Susan, don't you
believe I'll keep my word?"
"I do indeed," said she, looking him firmly in the face.
That was all that was said at the time; but the two understood each
other tolerably well.
On the afternoon of the second day, Jacob saw again the lonely
house of his father. His journey was made, yet, if any of the
neighbors had seen him, they would never have believed that he had
come back rich.
Samuel Flint turned away to hide a peculiar smile when he saw his
son; but little was said until late that evening, after Harry and
Sally had left. Then he required and received an exact account of
Jacob's experience during his absence. After hearing the
story to the end, he said, "And so you love this Susan Meadows?"
"I'd--I'd do any thing to be with her."
"Are you afraid of her?"
"No!" Jacob uttered the word so emphatically that it rang through
"Ah, well!" said the old man, lifting his eyes, and speaking in the
air, "all the harm may be mended yet. But there must be another
test." Then he was silent for some time.
"I have it!" he finally exclaimed. "Jacob, you must go back for
the oats harvest. You must ask Susan to be your wife, and ask her
parents to let you have her. But,--pay attention to my words!--you
must tell her that you are a poor, hired man on this place, and
that she can be engaged as housekeeper. Don't speak of me as your
father, but as the owner of the farm. Bring her here in that
belief, and let me see how honest and willing she is. I can easily
arrange matters with Harry and Sally while you are away; and I'll
only ask you to keep up the appearance of the thing for a month or
"But, father,"--Jacob began.
"Not a word! Are you not willing to do that much for the sake of
having her all your life, and this farm after me? Suppose it is
covered with a mortgage, if she is all you say, you two can work it
off. Not a word more! It is no lie, after all, that you will tell
"I am afraid," said Jacob, "that she could not leave her home now.
She is too useful there, and the family is so poor."
"Tell them that both your wages, for the first year, shall go to
them. It'll be my business to rake and scrape the money together
somehow. Say, too, that the housekeeper's place can't be kept for
her--must be filled at once. Push matters like a man, if you mean
to be a complete one, and bring her here, if she carries no more
with her than the clothes on her back!"
During the following days Jacob had time to familiarize his mind
with this startling proposal. He knew his father's stubborn will
too well to suppose that it could be changed; but the inevitable
soon converted itself into the possible and desirable. The sweet
face of Susan as she had stood before him in the wheat-field was
continually present to his eyes, and ere long, he began to place
her, in his thoughts, in the old rooms at home, in the garden,
among the thickets by the brook, and in Ann Pardon's pleasant
parlor. Enough; his father's plan became his own long before the
time was out.
On his second journey everybody seemed to be an old acquaintance
and an intimate friend. It was evening as he approached the
Meadows farm, but the younger children recognized him in the dusk,
and their cry of, "Oh, here's Jacob!" brought out the farmer and
his wife and Susan, with the heartiest of welcomes. They had all
missed him, they said--even the horses and oxen had looked for him,
and they were wondering how they should get the oats harvested
Jacob looked at Susan as the farmer said this, and her eyes seemed
to answer, "I said nothing, but I knew you would come." Then,
first, he felt sufficient courage for the task before him.
He rose the next morning, before any one was stirring, and waited
until she should come down stairs. The sun had not risen when she
appeared, with a milk-pail in each hand, walking unsuspectingly to
the cow-yard. He waylaid her, took the pails in his hand and said
in nervous haste, "Susan, will you be my wife?"
She stopped as if she had received a sudden blow; then a shy, sweet
consent seemed to run through her heart. "O Jacob!" was all she
"But you will, Susan?" he urged; and then (neither of them exactly
knew how it happened) all at once his arms were around her, and
they had kissed each other.
"Susan," he said, presently, "I am a poor man--only a farm hand,
and must work for my living. You could look for a better husband."
"I could never find a better than you, Jacob."
"Would you work with me, too, at the same place?"
"You know I am not afraid of work," she answered, "and I could
never want any other lot than yours."
Then he told her the story which his father had prompted. Her face
grew bright and happy as she listened, and he saw how from her very
heart she accepted the humble fortune. Only the thought of her
parents threw a cloud over the new and astonishing vision. Jacob,
however, grew bolder as he saw fulfilment of his hope so near.
They took the pails and seated themselves beside neighbor cows, one
raising objections or misgivings which the other manfully
combated. Jacob's earnestness unconsciously ran into his hands, as
he discovered when the impatient cow began to snort and kick.
The harvesting of the oats was not commenced that morning. The
children were sent away, and there was a council of four persons
held in the parlor. The result of mutual protestations and much
weeping was, that the farmer and his wife agreed to receive Jacob
as a son-in-law; the offer of the wages was four times refused by
them, and then accepted; and the chance of their being able to live
and labor together was finally decided to be too fortunate to let
slip. When the shock and surprise was over all gradually became
cheerful, and, as the matter was more calmly discussed, the first
conjectured difficulties somehow resolved themselves into trifles.
It was the simplest and quietest wedding,--at home, on an August
morning. Farmer Meadows then drove the bridal pair half-way on
their journey, to the old country tavern, where a fresh conveyance
had been engaged for them. The same evening they reached the farm-
house in the valley, and Jacob's happy mood gave place to an
anxious uncertainty as he remembered the period of deception upon
which Susan was entering. He keenly watched his father's face when
they arrived, and was a little relieved when he saw that his wife
had made a good first impression.
"So, this is my new housekeeper," said the old man. "I hope you
will suit me as well as your husband does."
"I'll do my best, sir," said she; "but you must have patience
with me for a few days, until I know your ways and wishes."
"Mr. Flint," said Sally, "shall I get supper ready?"
Susan looked up in astonishment at hearing the name.
"Yes," the old man remarked, "we both have the same name. The fact
is, Jacob and I are a sort of relations."
Jacob, in spite of his new happiness, continued ill at ease,
although he could not help seeing how his father brightened under
Susan's genial influence, how satisfied he was with her quick,
neat, exact ways and the cheerfulness with which she fulfilled her
duties. At the end of a week, the old man counted out the wages
agreed upon for both, and his delight culminated at the frank
simplicity with which Susan took what she supposed she had fairly
"Jacob," he whispered when she had left the room, "keep quiet one
more week, and then I'll let her know."
He had scarcely spoken, when Susan burst into the room again,
crying, "Jacob, they are coming, they have come!"
"Father and mother; and we didn't expect them, you know, for a week
All three went to the door as the visitors made their appearance on
the veranda. Two of the party stood as if thunderstruck, and two
exclamations came together:
There was a moment's silence; then the farmer's wife, with a
visible effort to compose herself, said, "Lucy Meadows, now."
The tears came into Samuel Flint's eyes. "Let us shake hands,
Lucy," he said: "my son has married your daughter."
All but Jacob were freshly startled at these words. The two shook
hands, and then Samuel, turning to Susan's father, said: "And this
is your husband, Lucy. I am glad to make his acquaintance."
"Your father, Jacob!" Susan cried; "what does it all mean?"
Jacob's face grew red, and the old habit of hanging his head nearly
came back upon him. He knew not what to say, and looked wistfully
at his father.
"Come into the house and sit down," said the latter. "I think we
shall all feel better when we have quietly and comfortably talked
the matter over."
They went into the quaint, old-fashioned parlor, which had already
been transformed by Susan's care, so that much of its shabbiness
was hidden. When all were seated, and Samuel Flint perceived that
none of the others knew what to say, he took a resolution which,
for a man of his mood and habit of life, required some courage.
"Three of us here are old people," he began, "and the two young
ones love each other. It was so long ago, Lucy, that it cannot be
laid to my blame if I speak of it now. Your husband, I see, has an
honest heart, and will not misunderstand either of us. The same
thing often turns up in life; it is one of those secrets that
everybody knows, and that everybody talks about except the persons
concerned. When I was a young man, Lucy, I loved you truly, and I
faithfully meant to make you my wife."
"I thought so too, for a while," said she, very calmly.
Farmer Meadows looked at his wife, and no face was ever more
beautiful than his, with that expression of generous pity shining
"You know how I acted," Samuel Flint continued, "but our children
must also know that I broke off from you without giving any reason.
A woman came between us and made all the mischief. I was
considered rich then, and she wanted to secure my money for her
daughter. I was an innocent and unsuspecting young man, who
believed that everybody else was as good as myself; and the woman
never rested until she had turned me from my first love, and
fastened me for life to another. Little by little I discovered the
truth; I kept the knowledge of the injury to myself; I quickly got
rid of the money which had so cursed me, and brought my wife to
this, the loneliest and dreariest place in the neighborhood, where
I forced upon her a life of poverty. I thought it was a just
revenge, but I was unjust. She really loved me: she was, if not
quite without blame in the matter, ignorant of the worst that had
been done (I learned all that too late), and she never complained,
though the change in me slowly wore out her life. I know now that
I was cruel; but at the same time I punished myself, and was
innocently punishing my son. But to HIM there was one way to
make amends. `I will help him to a wife,' I said, `who will
gladly take poverty with him and for his sake.' I forced him,
against his will, to say that he was a hired hand on this place,
and that Susan must be content to be a hired housekeeper. Now that
I know Susan, I see that this proof might have been left out; but
I guess it has done no harm. The place is not so heavily mortgaged
as people think, and it will be Jacob's after I am gone. And now
forgive me, all of you,--Lucy first, for she has most cause; Jacob
next; and Susan,--that will be easier; and you, Friend Meadows, if
what I have said has been hard for you to hear."
The farmer stood up like a man, took Samuel's hand and his wife's,
and said, in a broken voice: "Lucy, I ask you, too, to forgive
him, and I ask you both to be good friends to each other."
Susan, dissolved in tears, kissed all of them in turn; but the
happiest heart there was Jacob's.
It was now easy for him to confide to his wife the complete story
of his troubles, and to find his growing self-reliance strengthened
by her quick, intelligent sympathy. The Pardons were better
friends than ever, and the fact, which at first created great
astonishment in the neighborhood, that Jacob Flint had really gone
upon a journey and brought home a handsome wife, began to change
the attitude of the people towards him. The old place was no
longer so lonely; the nearest neighbors began to drop in and insist
on return visits. Now that Jacob kept his head up, and they got a
fair view of his face, they discovered that he was not
lacking, after all, in sense or social qualities.
In October, the Whitney place, which had been leased for several
years, was advertised to be sold at public sale. The owner had
gone to the city and become a successful merchant, had outlived his
local attachments, and now took advantage of a rise in real estate
to disburden himself of a property which he could not profitably
Everybody from far and wide attended the sale, and, when Jacob
Flint and his father arrived, everybody said to the former: "Of
course you've come to buy, Jacob." But each man laughed at his own
smartness, and considered the remark original with himself.
Jacob was no longer annoyed. He laughed, too, and answered: "I'm
afraid I can't do that; but I've kept half my word, which is more
than most men do."
"Jake's no fool, after all," was whispered behind him.
The bidding commenced, at first very spirited, and then gradually
slacking off, as the price mounted above the means of the
neighboring farmers. The chief aspirant was a stranger, a well-
dressed man with a lawyer's air, whom nobody knew. After the usual
long pauses and passionate exhortations, the hammer fell, and the
auctioneer, turning to the stranger, asked, "What name?"
There was a general cry of surprise. All looked at Jacob, whose
eyes and mouth showed that he was as dumbfoundered as the rest.
The stranger walked coolly through the midst of the crowd to
Samuel Flint, and said, "When shall I have the papers drawn up?"
"As soon as you can," the old man replied; then seizing Jacob by
the arm, with the words, "Let's go home now!" he hurried him on.
The explanation soon leaked out. Samuel Flint had not thrown away
his wealth, but had put it out of his own hands. It was given
privately to trustees, to be held for his son, and returned when
the latter should have married with his father's consent. There
was more than enough to buy the Whitney place.
Jacob and Susan are happy in their stately home, and good as they
are happy. If any person in the neighborhood ever makes use of the
phrase "Jacob Flint's Journey," he intends thereby to symbolize the
good fortune which sometimes follows honesty, reticence, and
CAN A LIFE HIDE ITSELF?
I had been reading, as is my wont from time to time, one of the
many volumes of "The New Pitaval," that singular record of human
crime and human cunning, and also of the inevitable fatality which,
in every case, leaves a gate open for detection. Were it not for
the latter fact, indeed, one would turn with loathing from such
endless chronicles of wickedness. Yet these may be safely
contemplated, when one has discovered the incredible fatuity of
crime, the certain weak mesh in a network of devilish texture; or
is it rather the agency of a power outside of man, a subtile
protecting principle, which allows the operation of the evil
element only that the latter may finally betray itself? Whatever
explanation we may choose, the fact is there, like a tonic medicine
distilled from poisonous plants, to brace our faith in the
ascendancy of Good in the government of the world.
Laying aside the book, I fell into a speculation concerning the
mixture of the two elements in man's nature. The life of an
individual is usually, it seemed to me, a series of
RESULTS, the processes leading to which are not often visible,
or observed when they are so. Each act is the precipitation of a
number of mixed influences, more or less unconsciously felt; the
qualities of good and evil are so blended therein that they defy
the keenest moral analysis; and how shall we, then, pretend to
judge of any one? Perhaps the surest indication of evil (I further
reflected) is that it always tries to conceal itself, and the
strongest incitement to good is that evil cannot be concealed. The
crime, or the vice, or even the self-acknowledged weakness, becomes
a part of the individual consciousness; it cannot be forgotten or
outgrown. It follows a life through all experiences and to the
uttermost ends of the earth, pressing towards the light with a
terrible, demoniac power. There are noteless lives, of course--
lives that accept obscurity, mechanically run their narrow round of
circumstance, and are lost; but when a life endeavors to lose
itself,--to hide some conscious guilt or failure,--can it succeed?
Is it not thereby lifted above the level of common experience,
compelling attention to itself by the very endeavor to escape it?
I turned these questions over in my mind, without approaching, or
indeed expecting, any solution,--since I knew, from habit, the
labyrinths into which they would certainly lead me,--when a visitor
was announced. It was one of the directors of our county
almshouse, who came on an errand to which he attached no great
importance. I owed the visit, apparently, to the circumstance that
my home lay in his way, and he could at once relieve his
conscience of a very trifling pressure and his pocket of a small
package, by calling upon me. His story was told in a few words;
the package was placed upon my table, and I was again left to my
Two or three days before, a man who had the appearance of a "tramp"
had been observed by the people of a small village in the
neighborhood. He stopped and looked at the houses in a vacant way,
walked back and forth once or twice as if uncertain which of the
cross-roads to take, and presently went on without begging or even
speaking to any one. Towards sunset a farmer, on his way to the
village store, found him sitting at the roadside, his head resting
against a fence-post. The man's face was so worn and exhausted
that the farmer kindly stopped and addressed him; but he gave no
other reply than a shake of the head.
The farmer thereupon lifted him into his light country-wagon, the
man offering no resistance, and drove to the tavern, where, his
exhaustion being so evident, a glass of whiskey was administered to
him. He afterwards spoke a few words in German, which no one
understood. At the almshouse, to which he was transported the same
evening, he refused to answer the customary questions, although he
appeared to understand them. The physician was obliged to use a
slight degree of force in administering nourishment and medicine,
but neither was of any avail. The man died within twenty-four
hours after being received. His pockets were empty, but two small
leathern wallets were found under his pillow; and these formed
the package which the director left in my charge. They were full
of papers in a foreign language, he said, and he supposed I might
be able to ascertain the stranger's name and home from them.
I took up the wallets, which were worn and greasy from long
service, opened them, and saw that they were filled with scraps,
fragments, and folded pieces of paper, nearly every one of which
had been carried for a long time loose in the pocket. Some were
written in pen and ink, and some in pencil, but all were equally
brown, worn, and unsavory in appearance. In turning them over,
however, my eye was caught by some slips in the Russian character,
and three or four notes in French; the rest were German. I laid
aside "Pitaval" at once, emptied all the leathern pockets
carefully, and set about examining the pile of material.
I first ran rapidly through the papers to ascertain the dead man's
name, but it was nowhere to be found. There were half a dozen
letters, written on sheets folded and addressed in the fashion
which prevailed before envelopes were invented; but the name was
cut out of the address in every case. There was an official permit
to embark on board a Bremen steamer, mutilated in the same way;
there was a card photograph, from which the face had been scratched
by a penknife. There were Latin sentences; accounts of expenses;
a list of New York addresses, covering eight pages; and a number of
notes, written either in Warsaw or Breslau. A more incongruous
collection I never saw, and I am sure that had it not been for
the train of thought I was pursuing when the director called
upon me, I should have returned the papers to him without troubling
my head with any attempt to unravel the man's story.
The evidence, however, that he had endeavored to hide his life, had
been revealed by my first superficial examination; and here, I
reflected, was a singular opportunity to test both his degree of
success and my own power of constructing a coherent history out of
the detached fragments. Unpromising as is the matter, said I, let
me see whether he can conceal his secret from even such unpractised
eyes as mine.
I went through the papers again, read each one rapidly, and