Part 3 out of 5
frequent mistakes in weighing the sugar, that he drew upon
himself many a sharp rebuke from the Deacon.
"Of course I'd club him over the head with a salt fish twice a
day under ord'nary circumstances," Cephas confided to his father
with a valiant air that he never wore in Deacon Baxter's
presence; "but I've got a reason, known to nobody but myself, for
wantin' to stan' well with the old man for a spell longer. If
ever I quit wantin' to stan' well with him, he'll get his
comeuppance, short an sudden!"
"Speakin' o' standin' well with folks, Phil Perry's kind o'
makin' up to Patience Baxter, ain't he, Cephas?" asked Uncle Bart
guardedly. "Mebbe you wouldn't notice it, hevin' no partic'lar
int'rest, but your mother's kind o got the idee into her head
lately, an' she's turrible far-sighted."
"I guess it's so!" Cephas responded gloomily. "It's nip an' tuck
'tween him an' Mark Wilson.
That girl draws 'em as molasses does flies! She does it 'thout
liftin' a finger, too, no more 'n the molasses does. She just
sets still an' IS! An' all the time she's nothin' but a flighty
little red-headed spitfire that don't know a good husband when
she sees one. The feller that gits her will live to regret it,
that's my opinion! "And Cephas thought to himself: "Good Lord,
don't I wish I was regrettin' it this very minute!"
"I s'pose a girl like Phoebe Day'd be consid'able less trouble to
live with?" ventured Uncle Bart.
"I never could take any fancy to that tow hair o' hern! I like
the color well enough when I'm peeling it off a corn cob, but I
don't like it on a girl's head," objected Cephas hypercritically.
"An' her eyes hain't got enough blue in 'em to be blue: they're
jest like skim-milk. An' she keeps her mouth open a little mite
all the time, jest as if there wa'n't no good draught through,
an' she was a-tryin' to git air. An' 't was me that begun callin'
her 'Feeble Phoebe in school, an' the scholars'll never forgit
it; they'd throw it up to me the whole 'durin' time if I should
go to work an' keep company with her!"
"Mebbe they've forgot by this time," Uncle Bart responded
hopefully; "though 't is an awful resk when you think o'
Companion Pike! Samuel he was baptized and Samuel he continued to
be, "till he married the Widder Bixby from Waterboro. Bein' as
how there wa'n't nothin' partic'ly attractive 'bout him,--though
he was as nice a feller as ever lived,--somebody asked her why
she married him, an' she said her cat hed jest died an' she
wanted a companion. The boys never let go o' that story! Samuel
Pike he ceased to be thirty year ago, an' Companion Pike he's
remained up to this instant minute!"
"He ain't lived up to his name much," remarked Cephas. "He's to
home for his meals, but I guess his wife never sees him between
"If the cat hed lived mebbe she'd 'a' been better comp'ny on the
whole," chuckled Uncle Bart. "Companion was allers kind o' dreamy
an' absent-minded from a boy. I remember askin' him what his
wife's Christian name was (she bein' a stranger to Riverboro) an'
he said he didn't know! Said he called her Mis' Bixby afore he
married her an' Mis' Pike afterwards!"
"Well, there 's something turrible queer 'bout this marryin'
business," and Cephas drew a sigh from the heels of his boots.
"It seems's if a man hedn't no natcheral drawin' towards a girl
with a good farm 'n' stock that was willin' to have him! Seems
jest as if it set him ag'in' her somehow! And yet, if you've got
to sing out o' the same book with a girl your whole lifetime, it
does seem's if you'd ought to have a kind of a fancy for her at
the start, anyhow!"
"You may feel dif'rent as time goes on, Cephas, an' come to see
Feeble--I would say Phoebe--as your mother does. 'The best fire
don't flare up the soonest,' you know." But old Uncle Bart saw
that his son's heart was heavy and forbore to press the subject.
Annabel Franklin had returned to Boston after a month's visit and
to her surprise had returned as disengaged as she came. Mark
Wilson, thoroughly bored by her vacuities of mind, longed now for
more intercourse with Patty Baxter, Patty, so gay and unexpected;
so lively to talk with, so piquing to the fancy, so skittish and
difficult to manage, so temptingly pretty, with a beauty all her
own, and never two days alike.
There were many lions in the way and these only added to the zest
of pursuit. With all the other girls of the village opportunities
multiplied, but he could scarcely get ten minutes alone with
Patty. The Deacon's orders were absolute in regard to young men.
His daughters were never to drive or walk alone with them, never
go to dances or "routs" of any sort, and never receive them at
the house; this last mandate being quite unnecessary, as no youth
in his right mind would have gone a-courtin' under the Deacon's
forbidding gaze. And still there were sudden, delicious chances
to be seized now and then if one had his eyes open and his wits
about him. There was the walk to or from the singing-school, when
a sentimental couple could drop a few feet, at least, behind the
rest and exchange a word or two in comparative privacy; there
were the church "circles" and prayer-meetings, and the intervals
between Sunday services when Mark could detach Patty a moment
from the group on the meeting-house steps. More valuable than all
these, a complete schedule of Patty's various movements here and
there, together with a profound study of Deacon Baxter's habits,
which were ordinarily as punctual as they were disagreeable,
permitted Mark many stolen interviews, as sweet as they were
brief. There was never a second kiss, however, in these casual
meetings and partings. The first, in springtime, had found Patty
a child, surprised, unprepared. She was a woman now; for it does
not take years to achieve that miracle; months will do it, or
days, or even hours. Her summer's experience with Cephas Cole had
wonderfully broadened her powers, giving her an assurance sadly
lacking before, as well as a knowledge of detail, a certain
finished skill in the management of a lover, which she could ably
use on any one who happened to come along. And, at the moment,
any one who happened to come along served the purpose admirably,
Philip Perry as well as Marquis Wilson.
Young Perry's interest in Patty, as we have seen, began with his
alienation from Ellen Wilson, the first object of his affections,
and it was not at the outset at all of a sentimental nature.
Philip was a pillar of the church, and Ellen had proved so
entirely lacking in the religious sense, so self-satisfied as to
her standing with the heavenly powers, that Philip dared not
expose himself longer to her society, lest he find himself
"unequally yoked together with an unbeliever," thus defying the
scriptural admonition as to marriage.
Patty, though somewhat lacking in the qualities that go to the
making of trustworthy saints, was not, like Ellen, wholly given
over to the fleshpots and would prove a valuable convert, Philip
thought; one who would reflect great credit upon him if he
succeeded in inducing her to subscribe to the stern creed of the
Philip was a very strenuous and slightly gloomy believer,
dwelling considerably on the wrath of God and the doctrine of
eternal punishment. There was an old "pennyroyal" hymn much in
use which describes the general tenor of his meditation:--
"My thoughts on awful subjects roll,
Damnation and the dead.
What horrors seize the guilty soul
Upon a dying bed."
(No wonder that Jacob Cochrane's lively songs, cheerful, hopeful,
militant, and bracing, fell with a pleasing sound upon the ear of
the believer of that epoch.) The love of God had, indeed, entered
Philip's soul, but in some mysterious way had been ossified after
it got there. He had intensely black hair, dark skin, and a liver
that disposed him constitutionally to an ardent belief in the
necessity of hell for most of his neighbors, and the hope of
spending his own glorious immortality in a small, properly
restricted, and prudently managed heaven. He was eloquent at
prayer-meeting and Patty's only objection to him there was in his
disposition to allude to himself as a "rebel worm," with frequent
references to his "vile body." Otherwise, and when not engaged in
theological discussion, Patty liked Philip very much. His own
father, although an orthodox member of the fold in good and
regular standing, had "doctored" Phil conscientiously for his
liver from his youth up, hoping in time to incite in him a
sunnier view of life, for the doctor was somewhat skilled in
adapting his remedies to spiritual maladies. Jed Morrill had
always said that when old Mrs. Buxton, the champion convert of
Jacob Cochrane, was at her worst,--keeping her whole family awake
nights by her hysterical fears for their future,--Dr. Perry had
given her a twelfth of a grain of tartar emetic, five times a day
until she had entire mental relief and her anxiety concerning the
salvation of her husband and children was set completely at rest.
The good doctor noted with secret pleasure his son's growing
fondness for the society of his prime favorite, Miss Patience
Baxter. "He'll begin by trying to save her soul," he thought;
"Phil always begins that way, but when Patty gets him in hand
he'll remember the existence of his heart, an organ he has never
taken into consideration. A love affair with a pretty girl, good
but not too pious, will help Phil considerable, however it turns
There is no doubt but that Phil was taking his chances and that
under Patty's tutelage he was growing mellower. As for Patty, she
was only amusing herself, and frisking, like a young lamb, in
pastures where she had never strayed before. Her fancy flew from
Mark to Phil and from Phil back to Mark again, for at the moment
she was just a vessel of emotion, ready to empty herself on she
knew not what. Temperamentally, she would take advantage of
currents rather than steer at any time, and it would be the
strongest current that would finally bear her away. Her idea had
always been that she could play with fire without burning her own
fingers, and that the flames she kindled were so innocent and
mild that no one could be harmed by them. She had fancied, up to
now, that she could control, urge on, or cool down a man's
feeling forever and a day, if she chose, and remain mistress of
the situation. Now, after some weeks of weighing and balancing
her two swains, she found herself confronting a choice, once and
for all. Each of them seemed to be approaching the state of mind
where he was likely to say, somewhat violently: "Take me or leave
me, one or the other!" But she did not wish to take them, and
still less did she wish to leave them, with no other lover in
sight but Cephas Cole, who was almost, though not quite, worse
If matters, by lack of masculine patience and self-control, did
come to a crisis, what should she say definitely to either of her
suitors? Her father despised Mark Wilson a trifle more than any
young man on the river, and while he could have no objection to
Phil Perry's character or position in the world, his hatred of
old Dr. Perry amounted to a disease. When the doctor had closed
the eyes of the third Mrs. Baxter, he had made some plain and
unwelcome statements that would rankle in the Deacon's breast as
long as he lived. Patty knew, therefore, that the chance of her
father's blessing falling upon her union with either of her
present lovers was more than uncertain, and of what use was an
engagement, if there could not be a marriage?
If Patty's mind inclined to a somewhat speedy departure from her
father's household, she can hardly be blamed, but she felt that
she could not carry any of her indecisions and fears to her
sister for settlement. Who could look in Waitstill's clear,
steadfast eyes and say: "I can't make up my mind which to marry"?
Not Patty. She felt, instinctively, that Waitstill's heart, if it
moved at all, would rush out like a great river to lose itself in
the ocean, and losing itself forget the narrow banks through
which it had flowed before. Patty knew that her own love was at
the moment nothing more than the note of a child's penny flute,
and that Waitstill was perhaps vibrating secretly with a deeper,
richer music than could ever come to her. Still, music of some
sort she meant to feel. "Even if they make me decide one way or
another before I am ready," she said to herself, "I'll never say
'yes' till I'm more in love than I am now!"
There were other reasons why she did not want to ask Waitstill's
advice. Not only did she shrink from the loving scrutiny of her
sister's eyes, and the gentle probing of her questions, which
would fix her own motives on a pin-point and hold them up
unbecomingly to the light; but she had a foolish, generous
loyalty that urged her to keep Waitstill quite aloof from her own
little private perplexities.
"She will only worry herself sick," thought Patty. "She won't let
me marry without asking father's permission, and she'd think she
ought not to aid me in deceiving him, and the tempest would be
twice as dreadful if it fell upon us both! Now, if anything
happens, I can tell father that I did it all myself and that
Waitstill knew nothing about it whatever. Then, oh, joy! if
father is too terrible, I shall be a married woman and I can
always say: 'I will not permit such cruelty! Waitstill is
dependent upon you no longer, she shall come at once to my
husband and me!
This latter phrase almost intoxicated Patty, so that there were
moments when she could have run up to Milliken's Mills and
purchased herself a husband at any cost, had her slender savinges
permitted the best in the market; and the more impersonal the
husband the more delightedly Patty rolled the phrase under her
"I can never be 'published' in church," she thought, "and perhaps
nobody will ever care enough about me to brave father's
displeasure and insist on running away with me. I do wish
somebody would care 'frightfully' about me, enough for that;
enough to help me make up my mind; so that I could just drive up
to father's store some day and say: 'Good afternoon, father! I
knew you'd never let me marry--'" (there was always a dash here,
in Patty's imaginary discourses, a dash that could be filled in
with any Christian name according to her mood of the moment)"'so
I just married him anyway; and you needn't be angry with my
sister, for she knew nothing about it. My husband and I are sorry
if you are displeased, but there's no help for it; and my
husband's home will always be open to Waitstill, whatever
Patty, with all her latent love of finery and ease, did not weigh
the worldly circumstances of the two men, though the reflection
that she would have more amusement with Mark than with Philip may
have crossed her mind. She trusted Philip, and respected his
steady-going, serious view of life; it pleased her vanity, too,
to feel how her nonsense and fun lightened his temperamental
gravity, playing in and out and over it like a butterfly in a
smoke bush. She would be safe with Philip always, but safety had
no special charm for one of her age, who had never been in peril.
Mark's superior knowledge of the world, moreover, his careless,
buoyant manner of carrying himself, his gay, boyish audacity, all
had a very distinct charm for her;--and yet--
But there would be no "and yet" a little later. Patty's heart
would blaze quickly enough when sufficient heat was applied to
it, and Mark was falling more and more deeply in love every day.
As Patty vacillated, his purpose strengthened; the more she
weighed, the more he ceased to weigh, the difficulties of the
situation; the more she unfolded herself to him, the more he
loved and the more he respected her. She began by delighting his
senses; she ended by winning all that there was in him, and
creating continually the qualities he lacked, after the manner of
true women even when they are very young and foolish.
A STATE O' MAINE PROPHET
SUMMER was dying hard, for although it had passed, by the
calendar, Mother Nature was still keeping up her customary
There had been a soft rain in the night and every spear of grass
was brilliantly green and tipped with crystal. The smoke bushes
in the garden plot, and the asparagus bed beyond them, looked
misty as the sun rose higher, drying the soaked earth and
dripping branches. Spiders' webs, marvels of lace, dotted the
short grass under the apple trees. Every flower that had a
fragrance was pouring it gratefully into the air; every bird with
a joyous note in its voice gave it more joyously from a bursting
throat; and the river laughed and rippled in the distance at the
foot of Town House Hill. Then dawn grew into full morning and
streams of blue smoke rose here and there from the Edgewood
chimneys. The world was alive, and so beautiful that Waitstill
felt like going down on her knees in gratitude for having been
born into it and given a chance of serving it in any humble way
Wherever there was a barn, in Riverboro or Edgewood, one could
have heard the three-legged stools being lifted from the pegs,
and then would begin the music of the milk-pails; first the
resonant sound of the stream on the bottom of the tin pail, then
the soft delicious purring of the cascade into the full bucket,
while the cows serenely chewed their cuds and whisked away the
flies with swinging tails.
Deacon Baxter was taking his cows to a pasture far over the hill,
the feed having grown too short in his own fields. Patty was
washing dishes in the kitchen and Waitstill was in the
dairy-house at the butter-making, one of her chief delights. She
worked with speed and with beautiful sureness, patting,
squeezing, rolling the golden mass, like the true artist she was,
then turning the sweet-scented waxen balls out of the mould on to
the big stone-china platter that stood waiting. She had been up
early and for the last hour she had toiled with devouring
eagerness that she might have a little time to herself. It was
hers now, for Patty would be busy with the beds after she
finished the dishes, so she drew a folded paper from her pocket,
the first communication she had ever received in Ivory's
handwriting, and sat down to read it.
MY DEAR WAITSTILL:--
Rodman will take this packet and leave it with you when he finds
opportunity. It is not in any real sense a letter, so I am in no
danger of incurring your father's displeasure. You will probably
have heard new rumors concerning my father during the past few
days, for Peter Morrill has been to Enfield, New Hampshire, where
he says letters have been received stating that my father died in
Cortland, Ohio, more than five years ago. I shall do what I can
to substantiate this fresh report as I have always done with all
the previous ones, but I have little hope of securing reliable
information at this distance, and after this length of time. I do
not know when I can ever start on a personal quest myself, for
even had I the money I could not leave home until Rodman is much
older, and fitted for greater responsibility. Oh! Waitstill, how
you have helped my poor, dear mother! Would that I were free to
tell you how I value your friendship! It is something more than
mere friendship! What you are doing is like throwing a life-line
to a sinking human being. Two or three times, of late, mother has
forgotten to set out the supper things for my father. Her ten
years' incessant waiting for him seems to have subsided a little,
and in its place she watches for you. [Ivory had written "watches
for her daughter" but carefully erased the last two words.] You
come but seldom, but her heart feeds on the sight of you. What
she needed, it seems, was the magical touch of youth and health
and strength and sympathy, the qualities you possess in such
If I had proof of my father's death I think now, perhaps, that I
might try to break it gently to my mother, as if it were fresh
news, and see if possibly I might thus remove her principal
hallucination. You see now, do you not, how sane she is in many,
indeed in most ways,--how sweet and lovable, even how sensible?
To help you better to understand the influence that has robbed me
of both father and mother and made me and mine the subject of
town and tavern gossip for years past, I have written for you
just a sketch of the "Cochrane craze"; the romantic story of a
man who swayed the wills of his fellow-creatures in a truly
marvellous manner. Some local historian of his time will
doubtless give him more space; my wish is to have you know
something more of the circumstances that have made me a prisoner
in life instead of a free man; but prisoner as I am at the
moment, I am sustained just now by a new courage. I read in my
copy of Ovid last night: "The best of weapons is the undaunted
heart." This will help you, too, in your hard life, for yours is
the most undaunted heart in all the world.
The chronicle of Jacob Cochrane's career in the little villages
near the Saco River has no such interest for the general reader
as it had for Waitstill Baxter. She hung upon every word that
Ivory had written and realized more clearly than ever before the
shadow that had followed him since early boyhood; the same shadow
that had fallen across his mother's mind and left, continual
No one really knew, it seemed, why or from whence Jacob Cochrane
had come to Edgewood. He simply appeared at the old tavern, a
stranger, with satchel in hand, to seek entertainment. Uncle Bart
had often described this scene to Waitstill, for he was one of
those sitting about the great open fire at the time. The man
easily slipped into the group and soon took the lead in
conversation, delighting all with his agreeable personality, his
nimble tongue and graceful speech. At supper-time the hostess and
the rest of the family took their places at the long table, as
was the custom, and he astonished them by his knowledge not only
of town history, but of village matters they had supposed unknown
to any one.
When the stranger had finished his supper and returned to the
bar-room, he had to pass through a long entry, and the landlady,
whispering to her daughter, said:--
"Betsy, you go up to the chamber closet and get the silver and
bring it down. This man is going to sleep there and I am afraid
of him. He must be a fortune-teller, and the Lord only knows what
In going to the chamber the daughter had to pass through the
bar-room. As she was moving quietly through, hoping to escape the
notice of the newcomer, he turned in his chair, and looking her
full in the face, suddenly said:--
"Madam, you needn't touch your silver. I don't want it. I am a
Whereupon the bewildered Betsy scuttled back to her mother and
told her the strange guest was indeed a fortune-teller.
Of Cochrane's initial appearance as a preacher Ivory had told
Waitstill in their talk in the churchyard early in the summer. It
was at a child's funeral that the new prophet created his first
sensation and there, too, that Aaron and Lois Boynton first came
under his spell. The whole countryside had been just then wrought
up to a state of religious excitement by revival meetings and
Cochrane gained the benefit of this definite preparation for his
work. He claimed that all his sayings were from divine
inspiration and that those who embraced his doctrine received
direct communication from the Almighty. He disdained formal
creeds and all manner of church organizations, declaring
sectarian names to be marks of the beast and all church members
to be in Babylon. He introduced re-baptism as a symbolic
cleansing from sectarian stains, and after some months advanced a
proposition that his flock hold all things in common. He put a
sudden end to the solemn "deaconing-out" and droning of psalm
tunes and grafted on to his form of worship lively singing and
marching accompanied by clapping of hands and whirling in
circles; during the progress of which the most hysterical
converts, or the most fully Cochranized," would swoon upon the
floor; or, in obeying their leader's instructions to "become as
little children," would sometimes go through the most
extraordinary and unmeaning antics.
It was not until he had converted hundreds to the new faith that
he added more startling revelations to his gospel. He was in turn
bold, mystical, eloquent, audacious, persuasive, autocratic; and
even when his self-styled communications from the Almighty"
controverted all that his hearers had formerly held to be right,
he still magnetized or hypnotized them into an unwilling assent
to his beliefs. There was finally a proclamation to the effect
that marriage vows were to be annulled when advisable and that
complete spiritual liberty was to follow; a liberty in which a
new affinity might be sought, and a spiritual union begun upon
earth, a union as nearly approximate to God's standards as faulty
human beings could manage to attain.
Some of the faithful fell away at this time, being unable to
accept the full doctrine, but retained their faith in Cochrane's
original power to convert sinners and save them from the wrath of
God. Storm-clouds began to gather in the sky however, as the
delusion spread, month by month and local ministers everywhere
sought to minimize the influence of the dangerous orator, who
rose superior to every attack and carried himself like some
magnificent martyr-at-will among the crowds that now criticized
him here or there in private and in public.
"What a picture of splendid audacity he must have been," wrote
Ivory, "when he entered the orthodox meeting-house at a huge
gathering where he knew that the speakers were to denounce his
teachings. Old Parson Buzzell gave out his text from the high
pulpit: Mark XIII, 37, 'AND WHAT I SAY UNTO YOU I SAY UNTO ALL,
WATCH!' Just here Cochrane stepped in at the open door of the
church and heard the warning, meant, he knew, for himself, and
seizing the moment of silence following the reading of the text,
he cried in his splendid sonorous voice, without so much as
stirring from his place within the door-frame: "'Behold I stand
at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice I will come in to
him and will sup with him,--I come to preach the everlasting
gospel to every one that heareth, and all that I want here is my
bigness on the floor.'"
"I cannot find," continued Ivory on another page, "that my father
or mother ever engaged in any of the foolish and childish
practices which disgraced the meetings of some of Cochrane's most
fanatical followers and converts. By my mother's conversations
(some of which I have repeated to you, but which may be full of
errors, because of her confusion of mind), I believe she must
have had a difference of opinion with my father on some of these
views, but I have no means of knowing this to a certainty; nor do
I know that the question of choosing spiritual consorts' ever
came between or divided them. This part of the delusion always
fills me with such unspeakable disgust that I have never liked to
seek additional light from any of the older men and women who
might revel in giving it. That my mother did not sympathize with
my father's going out to preach Cochrane's gospel through the
country, this I know, and she was so truly religious, so burning
with zeal, that had she fully believed in my father's mission she
would have spurred him on, instead of endeavoring to detain him."
"You know the retribution that overtook Cochrane at last," wrote
Ivory again, when he had shown the man's early victories and his
enormous influence. "There began to be indignant protests against
his doctrines by lawyers and doctors, as well as by ministers;
not from all sides however; for remember, in extenuation of my
father's and my mother's espousal of this strange belief, that
many of the strongest and wisest men, as well as the purest and
finest women in York county came under this man's spell for a
time and believed in him implicitly, some of them even unto the
"Finally there was Cochrane's arrest and examination, the order
for him to appear at the Supreme Court, his failure to do so, his
recapture and trial, and his sentence of four years imprisonment
on several counts, in all of which he was proved guilty. Cochrane
had all along said that the Anointed of the Lord would never be
allowed to remain in jail, but he was mistaken, for he stayed in
the State's Prison at Charlestown, Massachusetts, for the full
duration of his sentence. Here (I am again trying to plead the
cause of my father and mother), here he received much sympathy
and some few visitors, one of whom walked all the way from
Edgewood to Boston, a hundred and fifteen miles, with a petition
for pardon, a petition which was delivered, and refused, at the
Boston State House. Cochrane issued from prison a broken and
humiliated man, but if report says true, is still living, far out
of sight and knowledge, somewhere in New Hampshire. He once sent
my father an epitaph of his own selection, asking him to have it
carved upon his gravestone should he die suddenly when away from
his friends. My mother often repeats it, not realizing how far
from the point it sounds to us who never knew him in his glory,
but only in his downfall.
"'He spread his arms full wide abroad
His works are ever before his God,
His name on earth shall long remain,
Through envious sinners fret in vain.'"
"We are certain," concluded Ivory, "that my father preached with
Cochrane in Limington, Limerick, and Parsonsfield; he also wrote
from Enfield and Effingham in New Hampshire; after that, all is
silence. Various reports place him in Boston, in New York, even
as far west as Ohio, whether as Cochranite evangelist or what
not, alas! we can never know. I despair of ever tracing his
steps. I only hope that he died before he wandered too widely,
either from his belief in God or his fidelity to my mother's
Waitstill read the letter twice through and replaced it in her
dress to read again at night. It seemed the only tangible
evidence of Ivory's love that she had ever received and she
warmed her heart with what she felt that he had put between the
"Would that I were free to tell you how I value your friendship!"
"My mother's heart feeds on the sight of you!" "I want you to
know something of the circumstances that have made me a prisoner
in life, instead of a free man." "Yours is the most undaunted
heart in all the world!" These sentences Waitstill rehearsed
again and again and they rang in her ears like music, converting
all the tasks of her long day into a deep and silent joy.
AT THE BRICK STORE
THERE were two grand places for gossip in the community; the old
tavern on the Edgewood side of the bridge and the brick store in
Riverboro. The company at the Edgewood Tavern would be a trifle
different in character, more picturesque, imposing, and eclectic
because of the transient guests that gave it change and variety.
Here might be found a judge or lawyer on his way to court; a
sheriff with a handcuffed prisoner; a farmer or two, stopping on
the road to market with a cartful of produce; and an occasional
teamster, peddler, and stage-driver. On winter nights champion
story-tellers like Jed Morrill and Rish Bixby would drop in there
and hang their woollen neck-comforters on the pegs along the
wall-side, where there were already hats, topcoats, and fur
mufflers, as well as stacks of whips, canes, and ox-goads
standing in the corners. They would then enter the room, rubbing
their hands genially, and, nodding to Companion Pike, Cephas
Cole, Phil Perry and others, ensconce themselves snugly in the
group by the great open fireplace. The landlord was always glad
to see them enter, for their stories, though old to him, were new
to many of the assembled company and had a remarkable greet on
the consumption of liquid refreshment.
On summer evenings gossip was languid in the village, and if any
occurred at all it would be on the loafer's bench at one or the
other side of the bridge. When cooler weather came the group of
local wits gathered in Riverboro, either at Uncle Bart's joiner's
shop or at the brick store, according to fancy. The latter place
was perhaps the favorite for Riverboro talkers. It was a large,
two-story, square, brick building with a big-mouthed chimney and
an open fire. When every house in the two villages had six feet
of snow around it, roads would always be broken to the brick
store, and a crowd of ten or fifteen men would be gathered there
talking, listening, betting, smoking, chewing, bragging, playing
checkers, singing, and "swapping stories."
Some of the men had been through the War of 1812 and could
display wounds received on the field of valor; others were still
prouder of scars won in encounters with the Indians, and there
was one old codger, a Revolutionary veteran, Bill Dunham by name,
who would add bloody tales of his encounters with the "Husshons."
His courage had been so extraordinary and his slaughter so
colossal that his hearers marvelled that there was a Hessian left
to tell his side of the story, and Bill himself doubted if such
were the case.
"'T is an awful sin to have on your soul," Bill would say from
his place in a dark corner, where he would sit with his hat
pulled down over his eyes till the psychological moment came for
the "Husshons" to be trotted out. "'T is an awful sin to have on
your soul,--the extummination of a race o' men; even if they
wa'n't nothin' more 'n so many ignorant cockroaches. Them was the
great days for fightin'! The Husshons was the biggest men I ever
seen on the field, most of 'em standin' six feet eight in their
stockin's,--but Lord! how we walloped 'em! Once we had a cannon
mounted an' loaded for 'em that was so large we had to draw the
ball into it with a yoke of oxen!"
Bill paused from force of habit, just as he had paused for the
last twenty years. There had been times when roars of incredulous
laughter had greeted this boast, but most of this particular
group had heard the yarn more than once and let it pass with a
smile and a wink, remembering the night that Abel Day had asked
old Bill how they got the oxen out of the cannon on that most
"Oh!" said Bill, "that was easy enough; we jest unyoked 'em an'
turned 'em out o' the primin'-hole!"
It was only early October, but there had been a killing frost,
and Ezra Simms, who kept the brick store, flung some shavings and
small wood on the hearth and lighted a blaze, just to induce a
little trade and start conversation on what threatened to be a
dull evening. Peter Morrill, Jed's eldest brother, had lately
returned from a long trip through the state and into New
Hampshire, and his adventures by field and flood were always
worth listening to. He went about the country mending clocks, and
many an old time-piece still bears his name, with the date of
repairing, written in pencil on the inside of its door.
There was never any lack of subjects at the brick store, the
idiosyncrasies of the neighbors being the most prolific source of
anecdote and comment. Of scandal about women there was little,
though there would be occasional harmless pleasantries concerning
village love affairs; prophecies of what couple would be next
"published" in the black-walnut frame up at the meeting-house; a
genial comment on the number and chances of Patience Baxter's
various beaux; and whenever all else failed, the latest story of
Deacon Baxter's parsimony, in which the village traced the
influence of heredity.
"He can't hardly help it, inheritin' it on both sides," was Abel
Day's opinion. "The Baxters was allers snug, from time 'memorial,
and Foxy's the snuggest of 'em. When I look at his ugly mug an'
hear his snarlin' voice, I thinks to myself, he's goin' the same
way his father did. When old Levi Baxter was left a widder-man in
that house o' his'n up river, he grew wuss an' wuss, if you
remember, till he wa'n't hardly human at the last; and I don't
believe Foxy even went up to his own father's funeral."
"'T would 'a' served old Levi right if nobody else had gone,"
said Rish Bixby. "When his wife died he refused to come into the
house till the last minute. He stayed to work in the barn until
all the folks had assembled, and even the men were all settin'
down on benches in the kitchen. The parson sent me out for him,
and I'm blest if the old skunk didn't come in through the crowd
with his sleeves rolled up,--went to the sink and washed, and
then set down in the room where the coffin was, as cool as a
"I remember that funeral well," corroborated Abel Day. "An' Mis'
Day heerd Levi say to his daughter, as soon as they'd put poor
old Mrs. Baxter int' the grave: 'Come on, Marthy; there 's no use
cryin' over spilt milk; we'd better go home an' husk out the rest
o' that corn.' Old Foxy could have inherited plenty o' meanness
from his father, that's certain, an' he's added to his
inheritance right along, like the thrifty man he is. I hate to
think o' them two fine girls wearin' their fingers to the bone
for his benefit."
"Oh, well! 't won't last forever," said Rish Bixby. "They're the
handsomest couple o' girls on the river an' they'll get husbands
afore many years. Patience'll have one pretty soon, by the looks.
She never budges an inch but Mark Wilson or Phil Perry are
follerin' behind, with Cephas Cole watchin' his chance right
along, too. Waitstill don't seem to have no beaux; what with
flyin' around to keep up with the Deacon, an' bein' a mother to
Patience, her hands is full, I guess."
"If things was a little mite dif'rent all round, I could
prognosticate who Waitstill could keep house for," was Peter
"You mean Ivory Boynton? Well, if the Deacon was asked he'd never
give his consent, that's certain; an' Ivory ain't in no position
to keep a wife anyways. What was it you heerd 'bout Aaron Boynton
up to New Hampshire, Peter?" asked Abel Day.
"Consid'able, one way an' another; an' none of it would 'a' been
any comfort to Ivory. I guess Aaron 'n' Jake Cochrane was both of
'em more interested in savin' the sisters' souls than the
brothers'! Aaron was a fine-appearin' man, and so was Jake for
that matter, 'n' they both had the gift o' gab. There's nothin'
like a limber tongue if you want to please the women-folks! If
report says true, Aaron died of a fever out in Ohio somewheres;
Cortland's the place, I b'lieve. Seems's if he hid his trail all
the way from New Hampshire somehow, for as a usual thing, a man
o' book-larnin' like him would be remembered wherever he went.
Wouldn't you call Aaron Boynton a turrible larned man, Timothy?"
Timothy Grant, the parish clerk, had just entered the store on an
errand, but being directly addressed, and judging that the
subject under discussion was a discreet one, and that it was too
early in the evening for drinking to begin, he joined the group
by the fireside. He had preached in Vermont for several years as
an itinerant Methodist minister before settling down to farming
in Edgewood, only giving up his profession because his quiver was
so full of little Grants that a wandering life was difficult and
undesirable. When Uncle Bart Cole had remarked that Mis' Grant
had a little of everything in the way of baby-stock now,--black,
red, an' yaller-haired, dark and light complected, fat an' lean,
tall an' short, twins an' singles,--Jed Morrill had observed
dryly: "Yes, Mis' Grant kind o' reminds me of charity."
"How's that?" inquired Uncle Bart.
"She beareth all things," chuckled Jed.
"Aaron Boynton was, indeed, a man of most adhesive larnin',"
agreed Timothy, who had the reputation of the largest and most
unusual vocabulary in Edgewood. "Next to Jacob Cochrane I should
say Aaron had more grandeloquence as an orator than any man
we've ever had in these parts. It don't seem's if Ivory was goin'
to take after his father that way. The little feller, now, is
smart's a whip, an' could talk the tail off a brass monkey."
"Yes, but Rodman ain't no kin to the Boyntons," Abel reminded
him. "He inhails from the other side o' the house."
"That's so; well, Ivory does, for certain, an' takes after his
mother, right enough, for she hain't spoken a dozen words in as
many years, I guess. Ivory's got a sight o' book-knowledge,
though, an' they do say he could talk Greek an' Latin both, if we
had any of 'em in the community to converse with. I've never paid
no intention to the dead languages, bein' so ocker-pied with
"Why do they call 'em the dead languages, Tim?" asked Rish Bixby.
"Because all them that ever spoke 'em has perished off the face
o' the land," Timothy answered oracularly. "Dead an' gone they
be, lock, stock, an' barrel; yet there was a time when Latins an'
Crustaceans an' Hebrews an' Prooshians an' Australians an'
Simesians was chatterin' away in their own tongues, an' so
pow'ful that they was wallopin' the whole earth, you might say."
"I bet yer they never tried to wallop these here United States,"
interpolated Bill Dunham from the dark corner by the molasses
"Is Ivory in here?" The door opened and Rodman Boynton appeared
on the threshold.
"No, sonny, Ivory ain't been in this evening replied Ezra Simms.
"I hope there ain't nothin' the matter over to your house?"
"No, nothing particular," the boy answered hesitatingly; "only
Aunt Boynton don't seem so well as common and I can't find Ivory
"Come along with me; I'll help you look for him an' then I'll go
as fur as the lane with yer if we don't find him." And kindly
Rish Bixby took the boy's hand and left the store.
"Mis' Boynton had a spell, I guess!" suggested the storekeeper,
peering through the door into the darkness. "'T ain't like Ivory
to be out nights and leave her to Rod."
"She don't have no spells," said Abel Day. "Uncle Bart sees
consid'able of Ivory an' he says his mother is as quiet as a
lamb.--Couldn't you git no kind of a certif'cate of Aaron's death
out o' that Enfield feller, Peter? Seems's if that poor woman'd
oughter be stopped watchin' for a dead man; tuckerin' herself all
out, an' keepin' Ivory an' the boy all nerved up."
"I've told Ivory everything I could gether up in the way of
information, and give him the names of the folks in Ohio that had
writ back to New Hampshire. I didn't dialate on Aaron's goin's-on
in Effingham an' Portsmouth, cause I dassay 't was nothin' but
scandal. Them as hates the Cochranites'll never allow there's any
good in 'em, whereas I've met some as is servin' the Lord good
an' constant, an' indulgin' in no kind of foolishness an'
"Speakin' o' Husshons," said Bill Dunham from his corner, "I
"We wa'n't alludin' to no Husshons," retorted Timothy Grant. "We
was dealin' with the misfortunes of Aaron Boynton, who never fit
valoriously on the field o' battle, but perished out in Ohio of
scarlit fever, if what they say in Enfield is true."
"Tis an easy death," remarked Bill argumentatively. "Scarlit
fever don't seem like nothin' to me! Many's the time I've been
close enough to fire at the eyeball of a Husshon, an' run the
resk o' bein' blown to smithereens!--calm and cool I alters was,
too! Scarlit fever is an easy death from a warrior's p'int o'
"Speakin' of easy death," continued Timothy, "you know I'm a
great one for words, bein' something of a scholard in my small
way. Mebbe you noticed that Elder Boone used a strange word in
his sermon last Sunday? Now an' then, when there's too many
yawnin' to once in the congregation, Parson'll out with a reg'lar
jaw-breaker to wake 'em up. The word as near as I could ketch it
was 'youthinasia.' I kep' holt of it till noontime an' then I run
home an' looked through all the y's in the dictionary without
findin' it. Mebbe it's Hebrew, I thinks, for Hebrew's like his
mother's tongue to Parson, so I went right up to him at afternoon
meetin' an' says to him: 'What's the exact meanin' of
"youthinasia"? There ain't no sech word in the Y's in my
Webster,' says I. 'Look in the E's, Timothy; "euthanasia"' says
he, 'means easy death'; an' now, don't it beat all that Bill
Dunham should have brought that expression of 'easy death' into
this evenin's talk?"
"I know youth an' I know Ashy," said Abel Day, "but blessed if I
know why they should mean easy death when they yoke 'em
"That's because you ain't never paid no 'tention to entomology,"
said Timothy. "Aaron Boynton was master o' more 'ologies than you
could shake a stick at, but he used to say I beat him on
entomology. Words air cur'ous things sometimes, as I know, hevin'
had consid'able leisure time to read when I was joggin' 'bout the
country an' bein' brought into contack with men o' learnin'. The
way I worked it out, not wishin' to ask Parson any more
questions, bein' something of a scholard myself, is this: The
youth in Ashy is a peculiar kind o' youth, 'n' their religion
disposes 'em to lay no kind o' stress on huming life. When
anything goes wrong with 'em an' they get a set-back in war, or
business, or affairs with women-folks, they want to die right
off; so they take a sword an' stan' it straight up wherever they
happen to be, in the shed or the barn, or the henhouse, an' they
p'int the sharp end right to their waist-line, where the bowels
an' other vital organisms is lowcated; an' then they fall on to
it. It runs 'em right through to the back an' kills 'em like a
shot, and that's the way I cal'late the youth in Ashy dies, if my
entomology is correct, as it gen'ally is."
"Don't seem an easy death to me," argued Okra, "but I ain't no
scholard. What college did thou attend to, Tim?"
"I don't hold no diaploma," responded Timothy, "though I attended
to Wareham Academy quite a spell, the same time as your sister
was goin' to Wareham Seminary where eddication is still bein'
disseminated though of an awful poor kind, compared to the old
"It's live an' larn," said the storekeeper respectfully. "I never
thought of a Seminary bein' a place of dissemination before, but
you can see the two words is near kin."
"You can't alters tell by the sound," said Timothy instructively.
"Sometimes two words'll start from the same root, an' branch out
diff'rent, like 'critter' an' 'hypocritter.' A 'hypocritter' must
natcherally start by bein' a 'critter,' but a critter ain't
obliged to be a 'hypocritter' 'thout he wants to."
"I should hope not," interpolated Abel Day, piously. "Entomology
must be an awful interest-in' study, though I never thought of
observin' words myself, kept to avoid vulgar language an'
"Husshon's a cur'ous word for a man," inter-jected Bill Dunham
with a last despairing effort. "I remember seein' a Husshon once
"Perhaps you ain't one to observe closely, Abel," said Timothy,
not taking note of any interruption, simply using the time to
direct a stream of tobacco juice to an incredible distance, but
landing it neatly in the exact spot he had intended. "It's a
trade by itself, you might say, observin' is, an' there's another
sing'lar corraption! The Whigs in foreign parts, so they say,
build stone towers to observe the evil machinations of the
Tories, an' so the word 'observatory' come into general use! All
entomology; nothin' but entomology."
"I don't see where in thunder you picked up so much larnin',
Timothy!" It was Abel Day's exclamation, but every one agreed
THE ROD THAT BLOSSOMED
IVORY BOYNTON had taken the horse and gone to the village on an
errand, a rare thing for him to do after dark, so Rod was
thinking, as he sat in the living-room learning his Sunday-School
lesson on the same evening that the men were gossiping at the
brick store. His aunt had required him, from the time when he was
proficient enough to do so, to read at least a part of a chapter
in the Bible every night. Beginning with Genesis he had reached
Leviticus and had made up his mind that the Bible was a much more
difficult book than "Scottish Chiefs," not withstanding the fact
that Ivory helped him over most of the hard places. At the
present juncture he was vastly interested in the subject of
"rods" as unfolded in the book of Exodus, which was being studied
by his Sunday-School class. What added to the excitement was the
fact that his uncle's Christian name, Aaron, kept appearing in
the chronicle, as frequently as that of the great lawgiver Moses
himself; and there were many verses about the wonder-working rods
of Moses and Aaron that had a strange effect upon the boy's ear,
when he read them aloud, as he loved to do whenever he was left
alone for a time. When his aunt was in the room his instinct kept
him from doing this, for the mere mention of the name of Aaron,
he feared, might sadden his aunt and provoke in her that
dangerous vein of reminiscence that made Ivory so anxious.
"It kind o' makes me nervous to be named 'Rod,' Aunt Boynton,"
said the boy, looking up from the Bible. "All the rods in these
Exodus chapters do such dreadful things! They become serpents,
and one of them swallows up all the others: and Moses smites the
waters with a rod and they become blood, and the people can't
drink the water and the fish die! Then they stretch a rod across
the streams and ponds and bring a plague of frogs over the land,
with swarms of flies and horrible insects."
"That was to show God's power to Pharaoh, and melt his hard heart
to obedience and reverence," explained Mrs. Boynton, who had
known the Bible from cover to cover in her youth and could still
give chapter and verse for hundreds of her favorite passages.
"It took an awful lot of melting, Pharaoh's heart!" exclaimed the
boy. "Pharaoh must have been worse than Deacon Baxter! I wonder
if they ever tried to make him good by being kind to him! I've
read and read, but I can't find they used anything on him but
plagues and famines and boils and pestilences and thunder and
hail and fire!--Have I got a middle name, Aunt Boynton, for I
don't like Rod very much?"
"I never heard that you had a middle name; you must ask Ivory,"
said his aunt abstractedly.
"Did my father name me Rod, or my mother?'
"I don't really know; perhaps it was your mother, but don't ask
"I forgot, Aunt Boynton! Yes, I think perhaps my mother named me.
Mothers 'most always name their babies, don't they? My mother
wasn't like you; she looked just like the picture of Pocahontas
in my History. She never knew about these Bible rods, I guess."
"When you go a little further you will find pleasanter things
about rods," said his aunt, knitting, knitting, intensely, as was
her habit, and talking as if her mind were a thousand miles away.
"You know they were just little branches of trees, and it was
only God's power that made them wonderful in any way."
"Oh! I thought they were like the singing-teacher's stick he
keeps time with."
"No; if you look at your Concordance you'll finds it gives you a
chapter in Numbers where there's something beautiful about rods.
I have forgotten the place; it has been many years since I looked
at it. Find it and read it aloud to me." The boy searched his
Concordance and readily found the reference in the seventeenth
chapter of Numbers.
"Stand near me and read," said Mrs. Boynton. "I like to hear the
Bible read aloud!"
Rodman took his Bible and read, slowly and haltingly, but with
clearness and understanding:
1. AND THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES, SAYING,
2. SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND TAKE OF EVERY ONE OF
THEM A ROD ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, OF ALL THEIR
PRINCES ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS TWELVE RODS:
WRITE THOU EVERY MAN'S NAME UPON HIS ROD.
Through the boy's mind there darted the flash of a thought, a sad
thought. He himself was a Rod on whom no man's name seemed to be
written, orphan that he was, with no knowledge of his parents!
Suddenly he hesitated, for he had caught sight of the name of
Aaron in the verse that he was about to read, and did not wish to
pronounce it in his aunt's hearing.
"This chapter is most too hard for me to read out loud, Aunt
Boynton," he stammered. " Can I study it by myself and read it to
"Go on, go on, you read very sweetly; I can not remember what
comes and I wish to hear it."
The boy continued, but without raising his eyes from the Bible.
3. AND THOU SHALT WRITE AARON'S NAME UPON THE ROD OF LEVI: FOR
ONE ROD SHALL BE FOR THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS.
4. AND THOU SHALT LAY THEM UP IN THE TABERNACLE OF THE
CONGREGATION BEFORE THE TESTIMONY, WHERE I WILL MEET WITH YOU.
5. AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT THE MAN'S ROD, WHOM I SHALL
CHOOSE, SHALL BLOSSOM: AND I WILL MAKE TO CEASE FROM ME THE
MURMURINGS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, WHEREBY THEY MURMUR AGAINST
Rodman had read on, absorbed in the story and the picture it
presented to his imagination. He liked the idea of all the
princes having a rod according to the house of their fathers; he
liked to think of the little branches being laid on the altar in
the tabernacle, and above all he thought of the longing of each
of the princes to have his own rod chosen for the blossoming.
6. AND MOSES SPOKE UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND EVERY ONE OF
THEIR PRINCES GAVE HIM A ROD A PIECE, FOR EACH PRINCE ONE,
ACCORDING TO THEIR FATHER'S HOUSES, EVEN TWELVE RODS; AND THE ROD
OF AARON WAS AMONG THEIR RODS.
Oh! how the boy hoped that Aaron's branch would be the one chosen
to blossom! He felt that his aunt would be pleased, too; but he
read on steadily, with eyes that glowed and breath that came and
went in a very palpitation of interest.
7. AND MOSES LAID UP THE RODS BEFORE THE LORD IN THE TABERNACLE
8. AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT ON THE MORROW MOSES WENT INTO THE
TABERNACLE OF WITNESS; AND, BEHOLD, THE ROD OF AARON WAS BUDDED
AND BROUGHT FORTH BUDS, AND BLOOMED BLOSSOMS, AND YIELDED
It was Aaron's rod, then, and was an almond branch! How
beautiful, for the blossoms would have been pink; and how the
people must have marvelled to see the lovely blooming thing on
the dark altar; first budding, then blossoming, then bearing
nuts! And what was the rod chosen for? He hurried on to the next
9. AND MOSES BROUGHT OUT ALL THE RODS FROM BEFORE THE LORD UNTO
ALL THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: AND THEY LOOKED, AND TOOK EVERY MAN
10. AND THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE
THE TESTIMONY TO BE KEPT FOR A TOKEN AGAINST THE REBELS; AND THOU
SHALT QUITE TAKE AWAY THEIR MURMURINGS FROM ME, THAT THEY DIE
"Oh! Aunt Boynton!" cried the boy, "I love my name after I've
heard about the almond rod!
Aren't you proud that it's Uncle's name that was written on the
one that blossomed?"
He turned swiftly to find that his aunt's knitting had slipped on
the floor; her nerveless hands drooped by her side as if there
were no life in them, and her head had fallen against the back of
her chair. The boy was paralyzed with fear at the sight of her
closed eyes and the deathly pallor of her face. He had never seen
her like this before, and Ivory was away. He flew for a bottle of
spirit, always kept in the kitchen cupboard for emergencies, and
throwing wood on the fire in passing, he swung the crane so that
the tea-kettle was over the flame. He knew only the humble
remedies that he had seen used here or there in illness, and
tried them timidly, praying every moment that he might hear
Ivory's step. He warmed a soapstone in the embers, and taking off
Mrs. Boynton's shoes, put it under her cold feet. He chafed her
hands and gently poured a spoonful of brandy between her pale
lips. Then sprinkling camphor on a handkerchief he held it to her
nostrils and to his joy she stirred in her chair; before many
minutes her lids fluttered, her lips moved, and she put her hand
to her heart.
"Are you better, Aunt dear?" Rod asked in a very wavering and
She did not answer; she only opened her eyes and looked at him.
At length she whispered faintly, "I want Ivory; I want my son."
"He's out, Aunt dear. Shall I help you to bed the way Ivory does?
If you'll let me, then I'll run to the bridge 'cross lots, like
lightning, and bring him back."
She assented, and leaning heavily on his slender shoulder, walked
feebly into her bedroom off the living-room. Rod was as gentle as
a mother and he was familiar with all the little offices that
could be of any comfort; the soapstone warmed again for her feet,
the bringing of her nightgown from the closet, and when she was
in bed, another spoonful of brandy in hot milk; then the camphor
by her side, an extra homespun blanket over her, and the door
left open so that she could see the open fire that he made into a
cheerful huddles contrived so that it would not snap and throw
out dangerous sparks in his absence.
All the while he was doing this Mrs. Boynton lay quietly in the
bed talking to herself fitfully, in the faint murmuring tone that
was habitual to her. He could distinguish scarcely anything, only
enough to guess that her mind was still on the Bible story that
he was reading to her when she fainted. "THE ROD OF AARON WAS
AMONG THE OTHER RODS," he heard her say; and, a moment later,
"BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE THE TESTIMONY."
Was it his uncle's name that had so affected her, wondered the
boy, almost sick with remorse, although he had tried his best to
evade her command to read the chapter aloud? What would Ivory,
his hero, his pattern and example, say? It had always seen Rod's
pride to carry his little share of every burden that fell to
Ivory, to be faithful and helpful in every task given to him. He
could walk through fire without flinching, he thought, if Ivory
told him to, and he only prayed that he might not be held
responsible for this new calamity.
"I want Ivory!" came in a feeble voice from the bedroom.
"Does your side ache worse?" Rod asked, tip-toeing to the door.
"No, I am quite free from pain."
"Would you be afraid to stay alone just for a while if I lock
both doors and run to find Ivory and bring him back?"
"No, I will sleep," she whispered, closing her eyes. "Bring him
quickly before I forget what I want to say to him."
Rod sped down the lane and over the fields to the brick store
where Ivory usually bought his groceries. His cousin was not
there, but one of the men came out and offered to take his horse
and drive over the bridge to see if he were at one of the
neighbors' on that side of the river. Not a word did Rod breathe
of his aunt's illness; he simply said that she was lonesome for
Ivory, and so he came to find him. In five minutes they saw the
Boynton horse hitched to a tree by the road-side, and in a trice
Rod called him and, thanking Mr. Bixby, got into Ivory's wagon to
wait for him. He tried his best to explain the situation as they
drove along, but finally concluded by saying: "Aunt really made
me read the chapter to her, Ivory. I tried not to when I saw
Uncle's name in most every verse, but I couldn't help it."
"Of course you couldn't! Now you jump out and hitch the horse
while I run in and see that nothing has happened while she's been
left alone. Perhaps you'11 have to go for Dr. Perry."
Ivory went in with fear and trembling, for there was no sound
save the ticking of the tall clock. The fire burned low upon the
hearth, and the door was open into his mother's room. He lifted a
candle that Rod had left ready on the table and stole softly to
her bedside. She was sleeping like a child, but exhaustion showed
itself in every line of her face. He felt her hands and feet and
found the soapstone in the bed; saw the brandy bottle and the
remains of a cup of milk on the light-stand; noted the
handkerchief, still strong of camphor on the counterpane, and the
blanket spread carefully over her knees, and then turned
approvingly to meet Rod stealing into the room on tiptoe, his
eyes big with fear.
"We won't wake her, Rod. I'll watch a while, then sleep on the
"Let me watch, Ivory! I'd feel better if you'd let me, honest I
The boy's face was drawn with anxiety. Ivory's attention was
attracted by the wistful eyes and the beauty of the forehead
under the dark hair. He seemed something more than the child of
yesterday--a care and responsibility and expense, for all his
loving obedience; he seemed all at once different to-night;
older, more dependable, more trustworthy; in fact, a positive
comfort and help in time of trouble.
"I did the best I knew how; was anything wrong?" asked the boy,
as Ivory stood regarding him with a friendly smile.
"Nothing wrong, Rod! Dr. Perry couldn't have done any better with
what you had on hand. I don't know how I should get along without
you, boy!" Here Ivory patted Rod's shoulder. "You're not a child
any longer, Rod; you're a man and a brother, that's what you are;
and to prove it I'll take the first watch and call you up at one
o'clock to take the second, so that I can be ready for my school
work to-morrow! How does that suit you?"
"Tip-top!" said the boy, flushing with pride. "I'll lie down with
my clothes on; it's only nine o'clock and I'll get four hours'
sleep; that's a lot more than Napoleon used to have!"
He carried the Bible upstairs and just before he blew out his
candle he looked again at the chapter in Numbers, thinking he
would show it to Ivory privately next day. Again the story
enchanted him, and again, like a child, he put his own name and
his living self among the rods in the tabernacle.
"Ivory would be the prince of our house," he thought. "Oh! how
I'd like to be Ivory's rod and have it be the one that was chosen
to blossom and keep the rebels from murmuring!"
LOIS BURIES HER DEAD
THE replies that Ivory had received from his letters of inquiry
concerning his father's movements since leaving Maine, and his
possible death in the West, left no reasonable room for doubt.
Traces of Aaron Boynton in New Hampshire, in Massachusetts, in
New York, and finally in Ohio, all pointed in one direction, and
although there were gaps and discrepancies in the account of his
doings, the fact of his death seemed to be established by two
apparently reliable witnesses.
That he was not unaccompanied in his earliest migrations seemed
clear, but the woman mentioned as his wife disappeared suddenly
from the reports, and the story of his last days was the story of
a broken-down, melancholy, unfriended man, dependent for the last
offices on strangers. He left no messages and no papers, said
Ivory's correspondent, and never made mention of any family
connections whatsoever. He had no property and no means of
defraying the expenses of his illness after he was stricken with
the fever. No letters were found among his poor effects and no
article that could prove his identity, unless it were a small
gold locket, which bore no initials or marks of any kind, but
which contained two locks of fair and brown hair, intertwined.
The tiny trinket was enclosed in the letter, as of no value,
unless some one recognized it as a keepsake.
Ivory read the correspondence with a heavy heart, inasmuch as it
corroborated all his worst fears. He had sometimes secretly hoped
that his father might return and explain the reason of his
silence; or in lieu of that, that there might come to light the
story of a pilgrimage, fanatical, perhaps, but innocent of evil
intention, one that could be related to his wife and his former
friends, and then buried forever with the death that had ended
Neither of these hopes could now ever be realized, nor his
father's memory made other than a cause for endless regret,
sorrow, and shame. His father, who had begun life so handsomely,
with rare gifts of mind and personality, a wife of unusual beauty
and intelligence, and while still young in years, a considerable
success in his chosen profession. His poor father! What could
have been the reasons for so complete a downfall?
Ivory asked Dr. Perry's advice about showing one or two of the
briefer letters and the locket to his mother. After her fainting
fit and the exhaustion that followed it, Ivory begged her to see
the old doctor, but without avail. Finally, after days of
pleading he took her hands in his and said: "I do everything a
mortal man can do to be a good son to you, mother; won't you do
this to please me, and trust that I know what is best?" Whereupon
she gave a trembling assent, as if she were agreeing to something
indescribably painful, and indeed this sight of a former friend
seemed to frighten her strangely.
After Dr. Perry had talked with her for a half-hour and examined
her sufficiently to make at least a reasonable guess as to her
mental and physical condition, he advised Ivory to break the news
of her husband's death to her.
"If you can get her to comprehend it," he said, "it is bound to
be a relief from this terrible suspense."
"Will there be any danger of making her worse? Mightn't the shock
Cause too violent emotion?" asked Ivory anxiously.
"I don't think she is any longer capable of violent emotion," the
doctor answered. Her mind is certainly clearer than it was three
years ago, but her body is nearly burned away by the mental
conflict. There is scarcely any part of her but is weary; weary
unto death, poor soul. One cannot look at her patient, lovely
face without longing to lift some part of her burden. Make a
trial, Ivory; it's a justifiable experiment and I think it will
succeed. I must not come any oftener myself than is absolutely
necessary; she seemed afraid of me."
The experiment did succeed. Lois Boynton listened breathlessly,
with parted lips, and with apparent comprehension, to the story
Ivory told her. Over and over again he told her gently the story
of her husband's death, trying to make it sink into her mind
clearly, so that there should be no consequent bewilderment She
was calm and silent, though her face showed that she was deeply
moved. She broke down only when Ivory showed her the locket.
"I gave it to my husband when you were born, my son!" she sobbed.
"After all, it seems no surprise to me that your father is dead.
He said he would come back when the Mayflowers bloomed, and when
I saw the autumn leaves I knew that six months must have gone and
he would never stay away from us for six months without writing.
That is the reason I have seldom watched for hint these last
weeks. I must have known that it was no use!"
She rose from her rocking-chair and moved feebly towards her
bedroom. "Can you spare me the rest of the day, Ivory?" she
faltered, as she leaned on her son and made her slow progress
from the kitchen. "I must bury the body of my grief and I want to
be alone at first. . . If only I could see Waitstill! We have
both thought this was coming: she has a woman's instinct. . . she
is younger and stronger than I am, and she said it was braver not
to watch and pine and fret as I have done. . . but to have faith
in God that He would send me a sign when He was ready. . . . She
said if I could manage to be braver you would be happier too. . .
." Here she sank on to her bed exhausted, but still kept up her
murmuring faintly and feebly, between long intervals of silence.
"Do you think Waitstill could come to-morrow?" she asked. "I am
so much braver when she is here with me. . . . After supper I
will put away your father's cup and plate once and for all,
Ivory, and your eyes need never fill with tears again, as they
have, sometimes, when you have seen me watching. . . . You
needn't worry about me; I am remembering better these days, and
the bells that ring in my ears are not so loud. If only the pain
in my side were less and I were not so pressed for breath, I
should be quite strong and could see everything clearly at last.
. . . There is something else that remains to be remembered. I
have almost caught it once and it must come to me again before
long. . . . Put the locket under my pillow, Ivory; close the
door, please, and leave me to myself. . . . I can't make it quite
clear, my feeling about it, but it seems just as if I were going
to bury your father and I want to be alone."
NEW ENGLAND'S annual pageant of autumn was being unfolded day by
day in all its accustomed splendor, and the feast and riot of
color, the almost unimaginable glory, was the common property of
the whole countryside, rich and poor, to be shared alike if
perchance all eyes were equally alive to the wonder and the
Scarlet days and days of gold followed fast one upon the other;
Saco Water flowing between quiet woodlands that were turning red
and russet and brown, and now plunging through rocky banks all
blazing with crimson.
Waitstill Baxter went as often as she could to the Boynton farm,
though never when Ivory was at home, and the affection between
the younger and the older woman grew closer and closer, so that
it almost broke Waitstill's heart to leave the fragile creature,
when her presence seemed to bring such complete peace and joy.
"No one ever clung to me so before," she often thought as she was
hurrying across the fields after one of her half-hour visits.
"But the end must come before long. Ivory does not realize it
yet, nor Rodman, but it seems as if she could never survive the
long winter. Thanksgiving Day is drawing nearer and nearer, and
how little I am able to do for a single creature, to prove to God
that I am grateful for my existence! I could, if only I were
free, make such a merry day for Patty and Mark and their young
friends. Oh! what joy if father were a man who would let me set a
bountiful table in our great kitchen; would sit at the head and
say grace, and we could bow our heads over the cloth, a united
family! Or, if I had done my duty in my home and could go to that
other where I am so needed--go with my father's blessing! If only
I could live in that sad little house and brighten it! I would
trim the rooms with evergreen and creeping-Jenny; I would put
scarlet alder berries and white ever-lastings and blue fringed
gentians in the vases! I would put the last bright autumn leaves
near Mrs. Boynton's bed and set out a tray with a damask napkin
and the best of my cooking; then I would go out to the back door
where the woodbine hangs like a red waterfall and blow the
dinner-horn for my men down in the harvest-field! All the woman
in me is wasting, wasting! Oh! my dear, dear man, how I long for
him! Oh! my own dear man, my helpmate, shall I ever live by his
side? I love him, I want him, I need him!
And my dear little unmothered, unfathered boy, how happy I could
make him! How I should love to cook and sew for them all and wrap
them in comfort! How I should love to smooth my dear mother's
last days,--for she is my mother, in spirit, in affection, in
desire, and in being Ivory's!"
Waitstill's longing, her discouragement, her helplessness,
overcame her wholly, and she flung herself down under a tree in
the pasture in a very passion of sobbing, a luxury in which she
could seldom afford to indulge herself. The luxury was
short-lived, for in five minutes she heard Rodman's voice, and
heard him running to meet her as he often did when she came to
their house or went away from it, dogging her footsteps or
Patty's whenever or wherever he could waylay them.
"Why, my dear, dear Waity, did you tumble and hurt yourself?" the
"Yes, dreadfully, but I'm better now, so walk along with me and
tell me the news, Rod."
"There isn't much news. Ivory told you I'd left school and am
studying at home? He helps me evenings and I'm 'way ahead of the
"No, Ivory didn't tell me. I haven't seen him lately."
"I said if the big brother kept school, the little brother ought
to keep house," laughed the boy.
"He says I can hire out as a cook pretty soon! Aunt Boynton's
'most always up to get dinner and supper, but I can make lots of
things now,-- things that Aunt Boynton can eat, too."
"Oh, I cannot bear to have you and Ivory cooking for yourselves!"
exclaimed Waitstill, the tears starting again from her eyes. "I
must come over the next time when you are at home, Rod, and I can
help you make something nice for supper.
"We get along pretty well," said Rodman contentedly. "I love
book-learning like Ivory and I'm going to be a schoolmaster or a
preacher when Ivory's a lawyer. Do you think Patty'd like a
schoolmaster or a preacher best, and do you think I'd be too
young to marry her by and by, if she would wait for me?"
"I didn't think you had any idea of marrying Patty," laughed
Waitstill through her tears. "Is this something new?"
"It's not exactly new," said Rod, jumping along like a squirrel
in the path. " Nobody could look at Patty and not think about
marrying her. I'd love to marry you, too, but you re too big and
grand for a boy. Of course, I'm not going to ask Patty yet. Ivory
said once you should never ask a girl until you can keep her like
a queen; then after a minute he said: 'Well, maybe not quite like
a queen, Rod, for that would mean longer than a man could wait.
Shall we say until he could keep her like the dearest lady in the
land?' That 's the way he said it.--You do cry dreadfully easy
to-day, Waity; I'm sure you barked your leg or skinned your knee
when you fell down.--Don't you think the 'dearest lady in the
land ' is a nice-sounding sentence?"
"I do, indeed!" cried Waitstill to herself as she turned the
words over and over trying to feed her hungry heart with them.
"I love to hear Ivory talk; it's like the stories in the books.
We have our best times in the barn, for I'm helping with the
milking, now. Our yellow cow's name is Molly and the red cow used
to be Dolly, but we changed her to Golly, 'cause she's so
troublesome. Molly's an easy cow to milk and I can get almost all
there is, though Ivory comes after me and takes the strippings.
Golly swishes her tail and kicks the minute she hears us coming;
then she stands stiff-legged and grits her teeth and holds on to
her milk HARD, and Ivory has to pat and smooth and coax her every
single time. Ivory says she's got a kind of an attachment inside
of her that she shuts down when he begins to milk."
"We had a cross old cow like that, once," said Waitstill
absently, loving to hear the boy's chatter and the eternal
quotations from his beloved hero.
"We have great fun cooking, too," continued Rod. "When Aunt
Boynton was first sick she stayed in bed more, and Ivory and I
hadn't got used to things. One morning we bound up each other's
burns. Ivory had three fingers and I two, done up in buttery rags
to take the fire out. Ivory called us 'Soldiers dressing their
Wounds after the Battle.' Sausages spatter dreadfully, don't
they? And when you turn a pancake it flops on top of the stove.
Can you flop one straight, Waity?"
"Yes, I can, straight as a die; that's what girls are made for.
Now run along home to your big brother, and do put on some warmer
clothes under your coat; the weather's getting colder."
"Aunt Boynton hasn't patched our thick ones yet, but she will
soon, and if she doesn't, Ivory'll take this Saturday evening and
do them himself; he said so."
"He shall not!" cried Waitstill passionately. "It is not seemly
for Ivory to sew and mend, and I will not allow it. You shall
bring me those things that need patching without telling any one,
do you hear, and I will meet you on the edge of the pasture
Saturday afternoon and give them back to you. You are not to
speak of it to any one, you understand, or perhaps I shall pound
you to a jelly. You'd make a sweet rosy jelly to eat with turkey
for Thanksgiving dinner, you dear, comforting little boy!"
Rodman ran towards home and Waitstill hurried along, scarcely
noticing the beauties of the woods and fields and waysides, all
glowing masses of goldenrod and purple frost flowers. The stone
walls were covered with wild-grape and feathery clematis vines.
Everywhere in sight the cornfields lay yellow in the afternoon
sun and ox carts heavily loaded with full golden ears were going
home to the barns to be ready for husking.
A sudden breeze among the orchard boughs as she neared the house
was followed by a shower of russets, and everywhere the red
Baldwins gleamed on the apple-tree boughs, while the wind-falls
were being gathered and taken to the cider mills. There was a
grove of maples on the top of Town-House Hill and the Baxters'
dooryard was a blaze of brilliant color. To see Patty standing
under a little rock maple, her brown linsey-woolsey in I one with
the landscape, and the hood of her brown cape pulled over her
bright head, was a welcome for anybody. She looked flushed and
excited as she ran up to her sister and said, "Waity, darling,
you've been crying! Has father been scolding you?"
"No, dear, but my heart is aching to-day so that I can scarcely
bear it. A wave of discouragement came over me as I was walking
through the woods, and I gave up to it a bit. I remembered how
soon it will be Thanksgiving Day, and I'll so like to make it
happier for you and a few others that I love."
Patty could have given a shrewd guess as to the chief cause of
the heartache, but she forebore to ask any questions. "Cheer up,
Waity," she cried. "You never can tell; we may have a thankful
Thanksgiving, after all! Who knows what may happen? I'm 'strung
up' this afternoon and in a fighting mood. I've felt like a new
piece of snappy white elastic all day; it's the air, just like
wine, so cool and stinging and full of courage! Oh, yes, we won't
give up hope yet awhile, Waity, not until we're snowed in!"
"Put your arms round me and give me a good hug, Patty! Love me
hard, HARD, for, oh! I need it badly just now!"
And the two girls clung together for a moment and then went into
the house with hands close-locked and a kind of sad, desperate
courage in their young hearts. What would either of them have
done, each of them thought, had she been forced to endure alone
the life that went on day after day in Deacon Baxter's dreary
AUNT ABBY'S WINDOW
MRS. ABEL DAY had come to spend the afternoon with Aunt Abby Cole
and they were seated at the two sitting-room windows, sweeping
scape with eagle eyes in the intervals of making patchwork.
"The foliage has been a little mite too rich this season,"
remarked Aunt Abby. "I b'lieve I'm glad to see it thinin' out
some, so 't we can have some kind of an idee of what's goin' on
in the village."
"There's plenty goin' on," Mrs. Day answered unctuously; "some of
it aboveboard an' some underneath it."
"An' that's jest where it's aggravatin' to have the leaves so
thick and the trees so high between you and other folks' houses.
Trees are good for shade, it's true, but there's a limit to all
things. There was a time when I could see 'bout every-thing that
went on up to Baxters', and down to Bart's shop, and, by goin' up
attic, consid'able many things that happened on the bridge. Bart
vows he never planted that plum tree at the back door of his
shop; says the children must have hove out plum stones when they
was settin' on the steps and the tree come up of its own accord.
He says he didn't take any notice of it till it got quite a start
and then 't was such a healthy young bush he couldn't bear to
root it out. I tell him it's kind O' queer it should happen to
come up jest where it spoils my view of his premises. Men folks
are so exasperatin' that sometimes I wish there was somebody
different for us to marry, but there ain't,--so there we be!"
"They are an awful trial," admitted Mrs. Day. " Abel never
sympathizes with my head-aches. I told him a-Sunday I didn't
believe he'd mind if I died the next day, an' all he said was:
'Why don't you try it an' see, Lyddy?' He thinks that's
"I know; that's the way Bartholomew talks; I guess they all do.
You can see the bridge better 'n I can, Lyddy; has Mark Wilson
drove over sence you've been settin' there? He's like one o' them
ostriches that hides their heads in the sand when the
bird-catchers are comin' along, thinkin' 'cause they can't see
anything they'll never BE seen! He knows folks would never tell
tales to Deacon Baxter, whatever the girls done; they hate him
too bad. Lawyer Wilson lives so far away, he can't keep any watch
o' Mark, an' Mis' Wilson's so cityfied an' purse-proud nobody
ever goes to her with any news, bad or good; so them that's the
most concerned is as blind as bats. Mark's consid'able stiddier'n
he used to be, but you needn't tell me he has any notion of
bringin' one o' that Baxter tribe into his family. He's only
Patty'll be Mrs. Wilson or nothin'," was Mrs. Day's response.
"Both o' them girls is silk purses an' you can't make sows' ears
of 'em. We ain't neither of us hardly fair to Patty, an' I s'pose
it 's because she didn't set any proper value on Cephas."
"Oh, she's good enough for Mark, I guess, though I ain't so sure
of his intentions as you be. She's nobody's fool, Patty ain't, I
allow that, though she did treat Cephas like the dirt in the
road. I'm thankful he's come to his senses an' found out the
diff'rence between dross an' gold."
"It's very good of you to put it that way, Abby," Mrs. Day
responded gratefully, for it was Phoebe, her own offspring, who
was alluded to as the most precious of metals. "I suppose we'd
better have the publishing notice put up in the frame before
Sunday? There'll be a great crowd out that day and at
Thanksgiving service the next Thursday too!"
"Cephas says he don't care how soon folks hears the news, now
all's settled," said his mother. "I guess he's kind of anxious
that the village should know jest how little truth there is in
the gossip 'bout him bein' all upset over Patience Baxter. He
said they took consid'able notice of him an' Phoebe settin'
together at the Harvest Festival last evenin'. He thought the
Baxter girls would be there for certain, but I s'pose Old Foxy
wouldn't let 'em go up to the Mills in the evenin', nor spend a
quarter on their tickets."
"Mark could have invited Patty an' paid for her ticket, I should
think; or passed her in free, for that matter, when the Wilsons
got up the entertainment; but, of course, the Deacon never allows
his girls to go anywheres with men-folks."
"Not in public; so they meet 'em side o' the river or round the
corner of Bart's shop, or anywhere they can, when the Deacon's
back's turned. If you tied a handkerchief over Waitstill's eyes
she could find her way blindfold to Ivory Boynton's house, but
she's good as gold, Waitstill is; she'll stay where her duty
calls her, every time! If any misfortune or scandal should come
near them two girls, the Deacon will have no-body but himself to
thank for it, that's one sure thing!"
"Young folks can't be young but once," sighed Mrs. Day. "I
thought we had as handsome a turn-out at the entertainment last
evenin' as any village on the Saco River could 'a' furnished: an'
my Phoebe an' your Cephas, if I do say so as shouldn't, was about
the best-dressed an' best-appearin' couple there was present.
Also, I guess likely, they're startin' out with as good prospects
as any bride an' groom that's walked up the middle aisle o' the
meetin'-house for many a year. . . . How'd you like that Boston
singer that the Wilsons brought here, Abby?--Wait a minute, is
Cephas, or the Deacon, tendin' store this after-noon?"
"The Deacon; Cephas is paintin' up to the Mills."
"Well, Mark Wilson's horse an' buggy is meanderin' slowly down
Aunt Betty-Jack's hill, an' Mark is studyin' the road as if he
was lookin' for a four-leafed clover."
"He'll hitch at the tavern, or the Edgewood store, an' wait his
chance to get a word with Patience," said Aunt Abby. "He knows
when she takes milk to the Morrills', or butter to the parsonage;
also when she eats an' drinks an' winks her eye an' ketches her
breath an' lifts her foot. Now he's disappeared an' we'll wait. .
. . Why, as to that Boston singer,--an' by the way, they say
Ellen Wilson's goin' to take lessons of her this winter,--she
kind o' bewildered me, Lyddy! Of course, I ain't never been to
any cities, so I don't feel altogether free to criticise; but
what did you think of her, when she run up so high there, one
time? I don't know how high she went, but I guess there wa'n't no
higher to go!"
"It made me kind o' nervous," allowed Mrs. Day.
"Nervous! Bart' an' I broke out in a cold sweat! He said she
couldn't hold a candle to Waitstill Baxter. But it's that little
fly-away Wilson girl that'll get the lessons, an' Waitstill will
have to use her voice callin' the Deacon home to dinner. Things
ain't divided any too well in this world, Lyddy."
"Waitstill's got the voice, but she lacks the trainin'. The
Boston singer knows her business, I'll say that for her," said
"She's got good stayin' power," agreed Aunt Abby. "Did you notice
how she held on to that high note when she'd clumb where she
wanted to git? She's got breath enough to run a gristmill, that
girl has! And how'd she come down, when she got good and ready to
start? Why, she zig-zagged an' saw-toothed the whole way! It kind
o' made my flesh creep!"
"I guess part o' the trouble's with us country folks," Mrs. Day
responded, "for folks said she sung runs and trills better'n any
woman up to Boston."
"Runs an' trills," ejaculated Abby scornfully. "I was talkin'
'bout singin' not runnin'. My niece Ella up to Parsonfield has
taken three terms on the pianner an' I've heerd her practise.
Scales has got to be done, no doubt, but they'd ought to be done
to home, where they belong; a concert ain't no place for 'em. . .
. There, what did I tell yer? Patience Baxter's crossin' the
bridge with a pail in her hand. She's got that everlastin'
yeller-brown, linsey-woolsey on, an' a white 'cloud' wrapped
around her head with con'sid'able red hair showin' as usual. You
can always see her fur's you can a sunrise! And there goes Rod
Boynton, chasin' behind as usual. Those Baxter girls make a
perfect fool o' that boy, but I don't s'pose Lois Boynton's got
wit enough to make much fuss over the poor little creeter!"
Mark Wilson could certainly see Patty Baxter as far as he could a
sunrise, although he was not intimately acquainted with that
natural phenomenon. He took a circuitous route from his
watch-tower, and, knowing well the point from which there could
be no espionage from Deacon Baxter's store windows, joined Patty
in the road, took the pail from her hand, and walked up the hill
beside her. Of course, the village could see them, but, as Aunt
Abby had intimated, there wasn't a man, woman, or child on either
side of the river who wouldn't have taken the part of the Baxter
girls against their father.
MEANTIME Feeble Phoebe Day was driving her father's horse up to
the Mills to bring Cephas Cole home. It was a thrilling moment, a
sort of outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual tie,
for their banns were to be published the next day, so what did it
matter if the community, nay, if the whole universe, speculated
as to why she was drawing her beloved back from his daily toil?
It had been an eventful autumn for Cephas. After a third request
for the hand of Miss Patience Baxter, and a refusal of even more
than common decision and energy, Cephas turned about face and
employed the entire month of September in a determined assault
upon the affections of Miss Lucy Morrill, but with no better
avail. His heart was not ardently involved in this second wooing,
but winter was approaching, he had moved his mother out of her
summer quarters back to the main house, and he doggedly began
papering the ell and furnishing the kitchen without disclosing to
his respected parents the identity of the lady for whose comfort
he was so hospitably preparing.
Cephas's belief in the holy state of matrimony as being the only
one proper for a man, really ought to have commended him to the
opposite (and ungrateful) sex more than it did, and Lucy Morrill
held as respectful an opinion of the institution and its manifold
advantages as Cephas himself, but she was in a very unsettled
frame of mind and not at all susceptible to wooing. She had a
strong preference for Philip Perry, and held an opinion, not
altogether unfounded in human experience, that in course of time,
when quite deserted by Patty Baxter, his heart might possibly be
caught on the rebound. It was only a chance, but Lucy would
almost have preferred remaining unmarried, even to the withering
age of twenty-five, rather than not be at liberty to accept
Philip Perry in case she should be asked.
Cephas therefore, by the middle of October, could be
picturesquely and alliteratively described as being raw from
repeated rejections. His bruised heart and his despised ell
literally cried out for the appreciation so long and blindly
withheld. Now all at once Phoebe disclosed a second virtue; her
first and only one, hitherto, in the eyes of Cephas, having been
an ability to get on with his mother, a feat in which many had
made an effort and few indeed had succeeded. Phoebe, it seems,
had always secretly admired, respected, and loved Cephas Cole!
Never since her pale and somewhat glassy blue eye had opened on
life had she beheld a being she could so adore if encouraged in
The moment this unusual and unexpected poultice was really
applied to Cephas's wounds, they began to heal. In the course of
a month the most ordinary observer could have perceived a
physical change in him. He cringed no more, but held his head
higher; his back straightened; his voice developed a gruff,
assertive note, like that of a stern Roman father; he let his
moustache grow, and sometimes, in his most reckless moments,
twiddled the end of it. Finally he swaggered; but that was only
after Phoebe had accepted him and told him that if a girl
traversed the entire length of the Saco River (which she presumed
to be the longest in the world, the Amazon not being familiar to
her), she could not hope to find his equal as a husband.
And then congratulations began to pour in! Was ever marriage so
fortuitous! The Coles' farm joined that of the Days and the union
between the two only children would cement the friendship between
the families. The fact that Uncle Bart was a joiner, Cephas a
painter, and Abel Day a mason and bricklayer made the alliance
almost providential in its business opportunities. Phoebe's
Massachusetts aunt sent a complete outfit of gilt-edged china, a
clock, and a mahogany chamber set. Aunt Abby relinquished to the
young couple a bedroom and a spare chamber in the "main part,"
while the Days supplied live-geese feathers and table and
bed-linen with positive prodigality. Aunt Abby trod the air like
one inspired. "Balmy" is the only adjective that could describe
"If only I could 'a' looked ahead," smiled Uncle Bart quizzically
to himself, "I'd 'a' had thirteen sons and daughters an' married
off one of 'em every year. That would 'a' made Abby's good temper
kind o' permanent."
Cephas was content, too. There was a good deal in being settled
and having "the whole doggoned business" off your hands. Phoebe
looked a very different creature to him in these latter days. Her
eyes were just as pale, of course, but they were brighter, and
they radiated love for him, an expression in the female eye that
he had thus far been singularly unfortunate in securing. She
still held her mouth slightly open, but Cephas thought that it
might be permissible, perhaps after three months of wedded bliss,
to request her to be more careful in closing it. He believed,
too, that she would make an effort to do so just to please him;
whereas a man's life or property would not be safe for a single
instant if he asked Miss Patience Baxter to close her mouth, not
if he had been married to her for thirty times three months!
Cephas did not think of Patty any longer with bitterness, in
these days, being of the opinion that she was punished enough in
observing his own growing popularity and prosperity.
"If she should see that mahogany chamber set going into the ell I
guess she'd be glad enough to change her tune!" thought Cephas,
exultingly; and then there suddenly shot through his mind the
passing fancy--"I wonder if she would!" He promptly banished the
infamous suggestion however, reinforcing his virtue with the
reflection that the chamber set was Phoebe's, anyway, and the
marriage day appointed, and the invitations given out, and the
wedding-cake being baked, a loaf at a time, by his mother and
As a matter of fact Patty would have had no eyes for Phoebe's
magnificent mahogany, even had the cart that carried it passed
her on the hill where she and Mark Wilson were walking. Her
promise to marry him was a few weeks old now, and his arm
encircled her slender waist under the brown homespun cape. That
in itself was a new sensation and gave her the delicious sense of
belonging to somebody who valued her highly, and assured her of
his sentiments clearly and frequently, both by word and deed.
Life, dull gray life, was going to change its hue for her
presently, and not long after, she hoped, for Waitstill, too! It
needed only a brighter, a more dauntless courage; a little faith
that nettles, when firmly grasped, hurt the hand less, and a
fairer future would dawn for both of them. The Deacon was a
sharper nettle than she had ever meddled with before, but in
these days, when the actual contact had not yet occurred, she
felt sure of herself and longed for the moment when her pluck
should be tested and proved.
The "publishing" of Cephas and his third choice, their dull walk
up the aisle of the meeting-house before an admiring throng, on
the Sunday when Phoebe would "appear bride," all this seemed very
tame as compared with the dreams of this ardent and adventurous
pair of lovers who had gone about for days harboring secrets
greater and more daring, they thought, than had ever been
breathed before within the hearing of Saco Water.
LOVE'S YOUNG DREAMS
IT was not an afternoon for day-dreams, for there was a chill in
the air and a gray sky. Only a week before the hills along the
river might have been the walls of the New Jerusalem, shining
like red gold; now the glory had departed and it was a naked
world, with empty nests hanging to boughs that not long ago had
been green with summer. The old elm by the tavern, that had been
wrapped in a bright trail of scarlet woodbine, was stripped
almost bare of its autumn beauty. Here and there a maple showed a
remnant of crimson, and a stalwart oak had some rags of russet
still clinging to its gaunt boughs. The hickory trees flung out a
few yellow flags from the ends of their twigs, but the forests
wore a tattered and dishevelled look, and the withered leaves
that lay in dried heaps upon the frozen ground, driven hither and
thither by every gust of the north wind, gave the unthinking
heart a throb of foreboding. Yet the glad summer labor of those
same leaves was finished according to the law that governed them,
and the fruit was theirs and the seed for the coming year. No
breeze had been strong enough to shake them from the tree till
they were ready to forsake it. Now they had severed the bond that
had held them so tightly and fluttered down to give the earth all
their season's earnings. On every hillside, in every valley and
glen, the leaves that had made the summer landscape beautiful,
"Where the rain might rain upon them,
Where the sun might shine upon them,
Where the wind might sigh upon them,
And the snow might die upon them."
Brown, withered, dead, buried in snow they might be, yet they
were ministering to all the leaves of the next spring-time,
bequeathing to them in turn the beauty that had been theirs; the
leafy canopies for countless song birds, the grateful shade for
man and beast.
Young love thought little of Nature's miracles, and hearts that
beat high and fast were warm enough to forget the bleak wind and
gathering clouds. If there were naked trees, were there not full
barrels of apples in every cellar? If there was nothing but
stubble in the frozen fields, why, there was plenty of wheat and
corn at the mill all ready for grinding. The cold air made one
long for a cheery home and fireside, the crackle of a hearth-log,
the bubbling of a steaming kettle; and Patty and Mark clung
together as they walked along, making bright images of a life
together, snug, warm, and happy.
Patty was a capricious creature, but all her changes were sudden
and endearing ones, captivating those who loved her more than a
monotonous and unchanging virtue. Any little shower, with Patty,
always ended with a rainbow that made the landscape more
enchanting than before. Of late her little coquetries and
petulances had disappeared as if by magic. She had been melted
somehow from irresponsible girlhood into womanhood, and that,
too, by the ardent affection of a very ordinary young man who had
no great gift save that of loving Patty greatly. The love had
served its purpose, in another way, too, for under its influence
Mark's own manhood had broadened and deepened. He longed to bind
Patty to him for good and all, to capture the bright bird whose
fluttering wings and burnished plumage so captured his senses and
stirred his heart, but his longings had changed with the quality
of his love and he glowed at the thought of delivering the girl
from her dreary surroundings and giving her the tenderness, the
ease and comfort, the innocent gayety, that her nature craved.
"You won't fail me, Patty darling?" he was saying at this moment.
"Now that our plans are finally made, with never a weak point any
where as far as I can see, my heart is so set upon carrying them
out that every hour of waiting seems an age!"
"No, I won't fail, Mark; but I never know the day that father
will go to town until the night before. I can always hear him
making his preparations in the barn and the shed, and ordering
Waitstill here and there. He is as excited as if he was going to
Boston instead of Milltown."
"The night before will do. I will watch the house every evening
till you hang a white signal from your window."
"It won't be white," said Patty, who would be mischievous on her
deathbed; "my Sunday-go-to-meetin' petticoat is too grand, and
everything else that we have is yellow."
"I shall see it, whatever color it is, you can be sure of that!"
said Mark gallantly. "Then it's decided that next morning I'11
wait at the tavern from sunrise, and whenever your father and
Waitstill have driven up Saco Hill, I'll come and pick you up and
we '11 be off like a streak of lightning across the hills to New
Hampshire. How lucky that Riverboro is only thirty miles from the
state line!--It looks like snow, and how I wish it would be
something more than a flurry; a regular whizzing, whirring storm
that would pack the roads and let us slip over them with our
"I should like that, for they would be our only wedding-bells.
Oh! Mark! What if Waitstill shouldn't go, after all: though I
heard father tell her that he needed her to buy things for the
store, and that they wouldn't be back till after nightfall. Just
to think of being married without Waitstill!"
"You can do without Waitstill on this one occasion, better than
you can without me," laughed Mark, pinching Patty's cheek. "I've
given the town clerk due notice and I have a friend to meet me at
his office. He is going to lend me his horse for the drive home,
and we shall change back the next week. That will give us a fresh
horse each way, and we'll fly like the wind, snow or no snow,
When we come down Guide Board Hill that night, Patty, we shall be
man and wife; isn't that wonderful?"
"We shall be man and wife in New Hampshire, but not in Maine, you
say," Patty reminded him dolefully. "It does seem dreadful that
we can't be married in our own state, and have to go dangling
about with this secret on our minds, day and night; but it can't
be helped! You'll try not to even think of me as your wife till
we go to Portsmouth to live, won't you?"
You're asking too much when you say I'm not to think of you as my
wife, for I shall think of nothing else, but I've given you my
solemn promise," said Mark stoutly, "and I'll keep it as sure as
I live. We'll be legally married by the laws of New Hampshire,
but we won't think of it as a marriage till I tell your father
and mine, and we drive away once more together. That time it will
be in the sight of everybody, with our heads in the air. I've got
the little house in Portsmouth all ready, Patty: it's small, but
it's in a nice part of the town. Portsmouth is a pretty place,
but it'll be a great deal prettier when it has Mrs. Mark Wilson
living in it. We can be married over again in Maine, afterwards,
if your heart is set upon it. I'm willing to marry you in every
state of the Union, so far as I am concerned."
"I think you've been so kind and good and thoughtful, Mark dear,"
said Patty, more fondly and meltingly than she had ever spoken to
him before, "and so clever too! I do respect you for getting that
good position in Portsmouth and being able to set up for yourself
at your age. I shouldn't wonder a bit if you were a judge some
day, and then what a proud girl I shall be!"
Patty's praise was bestowed none too frequently, and it sounded
very sweet in the young man's ears.