Part 5 out of 5
in; a sad, strange, dark-eyed little boy who said: 'Can I sleep
up here? Mother's screaming and I'm afraid.' He climbed to the
couch. I covered him with a blanket, and I soon heard his deep
breathing. But later in the night, when I must have fallen asleep
myself, I suddenly awoke and felt him lying beside me. He had
dragged the blanket along and crept up on the bed to get close to
my side for the warmth I could give, or the comfort of my
nearness. The touch of him almost broke my heart; I could not
push the little creature away when he was lying there so near and
warm and confiding--he, all unconscious of the agony his mere
existence was to me. I must have slept again and when the day
broke I was alone. I thought the presence of the child in the
night was a dream and I could not remember where I was, nor why I
"Mother, dear mother, don't tell me any more to-night. I fear for
your strength," urged Ivory, his eyes full of tears at the
remembrance of her sufferings.
"There is only a little more and the weight will be off my heart
and on yours, my poor son. Would that I need not tell you! The
house was still and I thought at first that no one was awake, but
when I opened the sitting-room door the child ran towards me and
took my hand as the woman came in from the sick-room. 'Go into
the kitchen, Rodman,' she said, 'and lace up your boots; you're
going right out with this lady. Hetty died in the night,' she
continued impassively. 'The doctor was here about ten o'clock and
I've never seen her so bad. He gave her a big dose of sleeping
powder and put another in the table drawer for me to mix for her
towards morning. She was helpless to move, we thought, but all
the same she must have got out of bed when my back was turned and
taken the powder dry on her tongue, for it was gone when I looked
for it. It didn't hasten things much and I don't blame her. If
ever there was a wild, reckless creature it was Hetty Rodman, but
I, who am just the opposite, would have done the same if I'd been
"She hurriedly gave me a cup of coffee, and, putting a coat and a
cap on the boy, literally pushed me out of the house. 'I've got
to report things to the doctor,' she said, 'and you're better out
of the way. Go down that side street to the station and mind you
say the boy belonged to your sister who died and left him to you.
You're a Cochranite, ain't you? So was Hetty, and they're all
sisters, so you'll be telling no lies. Good-bye, Rodman, be a
good boy and don't be any trouble to the lady.'
"How I found the station I do not know, nor how I made the
journey, nor where I took the stage-coach. The snow began to fall
and by noon there was a drifting storm. I could not remember
where I was going, nor who the boy was, for just as the snow was
whirling outside, so it was whirling in my brain."
"Mother, I can hardly bear to hear any more; it is too terrible!"
cried Ivory, rising from his chair and pacing the floor.
"I can recall nothing of any account till I awoke in my own bed
weeks afterwards. The strange little boy was there, but Mrs. Day
and Dr. Perry told me what I must have told them--that he was the
child of my dead sister. Those were the last words uttered by the
woman in Brentville; I carried them straight through my illness
and brought them out on the other side more firmly intrenched
"If only the truth had come back to you sooner!" sighed Ivory,
coming back to her bedside. "I could have helped you to bear it
all these years. Sorrow is so much lighter when you can share it
with some one else. And the girl who died was called Hetty
Rodman, then, and she simply gave the child her last name?"
"Yes, poor suffering creature. I feel no anger against her now;
it has burned itself all away. Nor do I feel any bitterness
against your father. I forgot all this miserable story for so
long, loving and watching for him all the time, that it is as if
it did not belong to my own life, but had to do with some unhappy
stranger. Can you forgive, too, Ivory?"
"I can try," he answered. "God knows I ought to be able to if you
"And will it turn you away from Rod?"
"No, it draws me nearer to him than ever. He shall never know the
truth--why should he? Just as he crept close to you that night,
all unconscious of the reason you had for shrinking from him, so
he has crept close to me in these years of trial, when your mind
has been wandering."
"Life is so strange. To think that this child, of all others,
should have been a comfort to you. The Lord's hand is in it!"
whispered Mrs. Boynton feebly.
"His boyish belief in me, his companionship, have kept the breath
of hope alive in me--that's all I can say."
"The Bible story is happening over again in our lives, then.
Don't you remember that Aaron's rod budded and blossomed and bore
fruit, and that the miracle kept the rebels from murmuring?"
"This rebel never will murmur again, mother, and Ivory rose to
leave the room. "Now that you have shed your burden you will grow
stronger and life will be all joy, for Waitstill will come to us
soon and we can shake off these miseries and be a happy family
"It is she who has helped me most to find the thread; pouring
sympathy and strength into me, nursing me, loving me, because she
loved my wonderful son. Oh! how blest among women I am to have
lived long enough to see you happy!"
And as Ivory kissed his mother and blew out the candle, she
whispered to herself: "Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"
THE DEACON'S WATERLOO
MRS. MASON'S welcome to Waitstill was unexpectedly hearty--much
heartier than it would have been Six months before, when she
regarded Mrs. Boynton as little less than a harmless lunatic, of
no use as a neighbor; and when she knew nothing more of Ivory
than she could gather by his occasional drive or walk past her
door with a civil greeting. Rodman had been until lately the only
member of the family for whom she had a friendly feeling; but all
that had changed in the last few weeks, when she had been allowed
to take a hand in the Boyntons' affairs. As to this newest
development in the life of their household, she had once been
young herself, and the veriest block of stone would have become
human when the two lovers drove up to the door and told their
Ivory made himself quickly at home, and helped the old lady to
get a room ready for Waitstill before he drove back for a look at
his mother and then on to carry out his impetuous and romantic
scheme of routing out the town clerk and announcing his intended
Waitstill slept like the shepherd boy in "The Pilgrim's
Progress," with the "herb called Heart's Ease" in her bosom. She
opened her eyes next morning from the depths of Mrs. Mason's best
feather bed, and looked wonderingly about the room, with all its
unaccustomed surroundings. She heard the rattle of fire-irons and
the flatter of dishes below; the first time in all her woman's
life that preparations for breakfast had ever greeted her ears
when she had not been an active participator in them.
She lay quite still for a quarter of an hour, tired in body and
mind, but incredibly happy in spirit, marvelling at the changes
wrought in her during the day preceding, the most eventful one in
her history. Only yesterday her love had been a bud, so closely
folded that she scarcely recognized its beauty or color or
fragrance; only yesterday, and now she held in her hand a perfect
flower. When and how had it grown, and by what magic process?
The image of Ivory had been all through the night in the
foreground of her dreams and in her moments of wakefulness, both
made blissful by the heaven of anticipation that dawned upon her.
Was ever man so wise, so tender and gentle, so strong, so
comprehending? What mattered the absence of worldly goods, the
presence of care and anxiety, when n woman had a steady hand to
hold, a steadfast heart to trust, a man who would love her and
stand by her, whate'er befell?
Then the face of Ivory's mother would swim into the mental
picture; the pale face, as white as the pillow it lay upon; the
face with its aureole of ashen hair, and the wistful blue eyes
that begged of God and her children some peace before they closed
The vision of her sister was a joyful one, and her heart was at
peace about her, the plucky little princess who had blazed the
way out of the ogre's castle.
She saw Patty clearly as a future fine lady, in velvets and
satins and furs, bewitching every-body by her gay spirits, her
piquant vivacity, and the loving heart that lay underneath all
the nonsense and gave it warmth and color.
The remembrance of her father alone on the hilltop did indeed
trouble Waitstill. Self-reproach, in the true sense of the word,
she did not, could not, feel. Never since the day she was born
had she been fathered, and daughterly love was absent; but she
suffered when she thought of the fierce, self-willed old man,
cutting himself off from all possible friendships, while his
vigor was being sapped daily and hourly by his terrible greed of
True housewife that Waitstill was, her mind reverted to every
separate crock and canister in her cupboards, every article of
her baking or cooking that reposed on the swing-sheh in the
cellar, thinking how long her father could be comfortable without
her ministrations, and so, how long he would delay before
engaging the u inevitable housekeeper. She revolved the number of
possible persons to whom the position would be offered, and
wished that Mrs. Mason, who so needed help, might be the chosen
one: but the fact of her having been friendly to the Boyntons
would strike her at once from the list.
When she was thankfully eating her breakfast with Mrs. Mason a
little later, and waiting for Ivory to call for them both and
take them to the Boynton farm, she little knew what was going on
at her old home in these very hours, when to tell the truth she
would have liked to slip in, had it been possible, wash the
morning dishes, skim the cream, do the week's churning, make her
father's bed, and slip out again into the dear shelter of love
that awaited her.
The Deacon had passed a good part of the night in scheming and
contriving, and when he drank his self-made cup of muddy coffee
at seven o'clock next morning he had formed several plans that
were to be immediately frustrated, had he known it, by the
exasperating and suspicious nature of the ladies involved in
At eight he had left the house, started Bill Morrill at the
store, and was on the road in search of vengeance and a
housekeeper. Old Mrs. Atkins of Deerwander sniffed at the wages
offered. Miss Peters, of Union Falls, an aged spinster with weak
lungs, had the impertinence to tell him that she feared she
couldn't stand the cold in his house; she had heard he was very
particular about the amount of wood that was burned. A four-mile
drive brought him to the village poetically named the Brick Kiln,
where he offered to Mrs. Peter Upham an advance of twenty-five
cents a week over and above the salary with which he had sought
to tempt Mrs. Atkins. Far from being impressed, Mrs. Uphill,
being of a high temper and candid turn of mind, told him she'd
prefer to starve at home. There was not another free woman within
eight miles, and the Deacon was chafing under t e mortification
of being continually obliged to state the reason for his needing
a housekeeper. The only hope, it seemed, lay in going to Saco
and hiring a stranger, a plan not at all to his liking, as it was
sure to involve him in extra expense.
Muttering threats against the universe in general, he drove home
by way of Milliken's Mills, thinking of the unfed hens, the
unmilked cow, the unwashed dishes, the unchurned cream and above
all of his unchastened daughters; his rage increasing with every
step until it was nearly at the white heat of the night before.
A long stretch of hill brought the tired old mare to a slow walk,
and enabled the Deacon to see the Widow Tillman clipping the
geraniums that stood in tin cans on the shelf of her kitchen
Now, Foxwell Baxter had never been a village Lothario at any age,
nor frequented the society of such. Of late years, indeed, he had
frequented no society of any kind, so that he had missed, for
instance, Abel Day's description of the Widow Tillman as a
"reg'lar syreen," though he vaguely remembered that some of the
Baptist sisters had questioned the authenticity of her conversion
by their young and attractive minister. She made a pleasant
picture at the window; she was a free woman (a little too free,
the neighbors would have said; but the Deacon didn't know that);
she was a comparative newcomer to the village, and her mind had
not been poisoned with feminine gossip--in a word, she was a
distinctly hopeful subject, and, acting on a blind and sudden
impulse, he turned into the yard, 'dung the reins over the mare's
neck, and knocked at the back door.
"Her character 's no worse than mine by now if Aunt Abby Cole's
on the road," he thought grimly, "an' if the Wilsons see my
sleigh inside of widder's fence, so much the better; it'll give
'em a jog.--Good morning Mis' Tillman," he said to the smiling
lady. "I'll come to the p'int at once. My youngest daughter has
married Mark Wilson against my will, an' gone away from town, an'
the older one's chosen a husband still less to my likin'. Do you
want to come and housekeep for me?"
"I surmised something was going on," re-turned Mrs. Tillman. "I
saw Patty and Mark drive away early this morning, with Mr. and
Mrs. Wilson wrapping the girl up and putting a hot soapstone in
the sleigh, and consid'able kissing and hugging thrown in."
This knowledge added fuel to the flame that was burning fiercely
in the Deacon's breast.
"Well, how about the housekeeping he asked, trying not to show
his eagerness, and not recognizing himself at all in the
enterprise in which he found himself indulging.
"I 'm very comfortable here," the lady responded artfully, "and I
don't know 's I care to make any change, thank you. I didn't like
the village much at first, after living in larger places, but now
I'm acquainted, it kind of gains on me.
Her reply was carefully framed, for her mind worked with great
rapidity, and she was mistress of the situation almost as soon as
she saw the Deacon alighting from his sleigh. He was not the sort
of man to be a casual caller, and his manner bespoke an urgent
errand. She had a pension of six dollars a month, but over and
above that sum her living was precarious. She made coats, and she
had never known want, for she was a master hand at dealing with
the opposite sex. Deacon Baxter, according to common report, had
ten or fifteen thousand dollars stowed away in the banks, so the
situation would be as simple as possible under ordinary
circumstances; it was as easy to turn out one man's pockets as
all-other's when he was a normal human being; but Deacon Baxter
was a different proposition.
"I wonder how long he's likely to live," she thought, glancing at
him covertly, out of the tail of her eye. "His evil temper must
have driven more than one nail in his coffin. I wonder, if l
refuse to housekeep, whether I '11 get--a better offer. I wonder
if I could manage him if I got him! I'd rather like to sit in the
Baxter pew at the Orthodox meeting-house after the way some of
the Baptist sisters have snubbed me since I come here."
Not a vestige of these incendiary thoughts showed in her comely
countenance, and her soul might have been as white as the
high-bibbed apron that covered it, to judge by her genial smile.
"I'd make the wages fair," urged the Deacon, looking round the
clean kitchen, with the break-fast-table sitting near the sunny
window and the odor of corned beef and cabbage issuing temptingly
from a boiling pot on the fire. "I hope she ain't a great
meat-eater," he thought, "but it's too soon to cross that bridge
yet a while."
"I've no doubt of it," said the widow, wondering if her voice
rang true; "but I've got a pension, and why should I leave this
cosy little home? Would I better myself any, that's the question?
I'm kind of lonesome here, that's the only reason I'd consider a
"No need o' bein' lonesome down to the Falls," said the Deacon.
"And I'm in an' out all day, between the barn an' the store."
This, indeed, was not a pleasant prospect, but Jane Tillman had
faced worse ones in her time.
"I'm no hand at any work outside the house," she observed, as if
reflecting. "I can truthfully say I'm a good cook, and have a
great faculty for making a little go a long ways." (She
considered this a master-stroke, and in fact it was; for the
Deacon's mouth absolutely watered at this apparently unconscious
comprehension of his disposition.) "But I'm no hand at any chores
in the barn or shed," she continued. "My first husband would
never allow me to do that kind of work."
"Perhaps I could git a boy to help out; I've been kind o'
thinkin' o' that lately. What wages would you expect if I paid a
boy for the rough work?" asked the Deacon tremulously. "Well, to
tell the truth, I don't quite fancy the idea of taking wages.
Judge Dickinson wants me to go to Alfred and housekeep for him,
and I'd named twelve dollars a month. It's good pay, and I
haven't said 'No'; but my rent is small here, I'm my own
mistress, and I don't feel like giving up my privileges."
"Twelve dollars a month!" He had never thought of approaching
that sum; and he saw the heap of unwashed dishes growing day by
day, and the cream souring on the milk-pans. Suddenly an idea
sprang full-born into the Deacon's mind (Jed Morrill's "Old
Driver" must have been close at hand!). Would Jane Tillman marry
him? No woman in the three villages would be more obnoxious to
his daughters; that in itself was a distinct gain. She was a
fine, robust figure of a woman in her early forties, and he
thought, after all, that the hollow-chested, spindle-shanked kind
were more ex-pensive to feed, on the whole, than their
better-padded sisters. He had never had any difficulty in
managing wives, and thought himself quite equal to one more bout,
even at sixty-five, though he had just the faintest suspicion
that the high color on Mrs. Tillman's prominent cheek-bones, the
vigor shown in the coarse black hair and handsome eyebrows, might
make this task a little more difficult than his previous ones.
But this fear vanished almost as quickly as it appeared, for he
kept saying to himself: "A judge of the County Court wants her at
twelve dollars a month; hadn't I better bid high an' git settled?
"If you'd like to have a home o' your own 'thout payin' rent,
you've only got to say the word an' I'll make you Mis' Baxter,"
said the Deacon. "There'll be nobody to interfere with you, an' a
handsome legacy if I die first; for none o' my few savin's is
goin' to my daughters, I can promise you that!"
The Deacon threw out this tempting bait advisedly, for at this
moment he would have poured his hoard into the lap of any woman
who would help him to avenge his fancied wrongs.
This was information, indeed! The "few savings" alluded to
amounted to some thousands, Jane Tillman knew. Had she not better
burn her ships behind her, take the risks, and have faith in her
own powers? She was getting along in ears, and her charms of
person were lessening with every day that passed over her head.
If the Deacon's queer ways grew too queer, she thought an appeal
to the doctor and the minister might provide a way of escape and
a neat little income to boot; so, on the whole, the marriage,
though much against her natural inclinations, seemed to be
The interview that succeeded, had it been reported verbatim,
deserved to be recorded in local history. Deacon Baxter had met
in Jane Tillman a foeman more than worthy of his steel. She was
just as crafty as he, and in generalship as much superior to him
as Napoleon Bonaparte to Cephas Cole. Her knowledge of and her
experiences with men, all very humble, it is true, but decidedly
varied, enabled her to play on every weakness of this particular
one she had in hand, and at the same time skilfully to avoided
Heretofore, the women with whom the Deacon had come in contact
had timidly steered away from the rocks and reefs in his nature,
and had been too ignorant or too proud to look among them for
certain softer places that were likely to be there--since man is
man, after all, even when he is made on a very small pattern.
If Jane Tillman became Mrs. Baxter, she intended to get the whip
hand and keep it; but nothing was further from her intention than
to make the Deacon miserable if she could help it. That was not
her disposition; and so, when the deluded man left her house, he
had made more concessions in a single hour than in all the former
years of his life.
His future spouse was to write out a little paper for his
signature; just a friendly little paper to be kept quite private
and confidential between themselves, stating that she was to do
no work outside of the house; that her pension was to be her own;
that she was to have five dollars in cash on the first of every
month in lieu of wages; and that in ease of his death occurring
first she was to have a third of his estate, and the whole of it
if at the time of his decease he was still pleased with his
bargain. The only points in this contract that the Deacon really
understood were that he was paying only five dollars a month for
a housekeeper to whom a judge had offered twelve; that, as he had
expected to pay at least eight, he could get a boy for the
remaining three, and so be none the worse in pocket; also, that
if he could keep his daughters from getting his money, he didn't
care a hang who had it, as he hated the whole human race with
entire impartiality. If Jane Tillman didn't behave herself, he
had pleasing visions of converting most of his fortune into cash
and having it dropped off the bridge some dark night, when the
doctor had given him up and proved to his satisfaction that death
would occur in the near future.
All this being harmoniously settled, the Deacon drove away, and
caused the announcement of his immediate marriage to be posted
directly below that of Waitstill and Ivory Boynton.
"Might as well have all the fat in the fire to once," he
chuckled. "There won't be any house-work done in this part of the
county for a week to come. If we should have more snow, nobody'll
have to do any shovellin', for the women-folks'll keep all the
paths in the village trod down from door to door, travellin'
round with the news."
A "spite match," the community in general called the Deacon's
marriage; and many a man, and many a woman, too, regarding the
amazing publishing notice in the frame up at the meeting-house,
felt that in Jane Tillman Deacon Baxter had met his Waterloo.
"She's plenty good enough for him," said Aunt Abby Cole, "though
I know that's a terrible poor compliment. If she thinks she'll
ever break into s'ciety here at the Falls, she'll find herself
mistaken! It's a mystery to me why the poor deluded man ever done
it; but ain't it wonderful the ingenuity the Lord shows in
punishin' sinners? I couldn't 'a' thought out such a good
comeuppance myself for Deacon Baxter, as marryin' Jane Tillman!
The thing that troubles me most, is thinkin' how tickled the
Baptists'11 be to git her out o' their meetin' an' into ourn!"
AT the very moment that Deacon Baxter was I starting out on his
quest for a housekeeper, Patty and Mark drove into the Mason
dooryard and the sisters flew into each other's arms. The dress
that Mark had bought for Patty was the usual charting and
unsuitable offering of a man's spontaneous affection, being of
dark violet cloth with a wadded cape lined with satin. A little
brimmed hat of violet velvet tied under her chin with silk
ribbons completed the costume, and before the youthful bride and
groom had left the ancestral door Mrs. Wilson had hung her own
ermine victorine (the envy of all Edgewood) around Patty's neck
and put her ermine willow muff into her new daughter's hands;
thus she was as dazzling a personage, and as improperly dressed
for the journey, as she could well be.
Waitstill, in her plain linsey-woolsey, was entranced with
Patty's beauty and elegance, and the two girls had a few minutes
of sisterly talk, of interchange of radiant hopes and confidences
before Mark tore them apart, their cheeks wet with happy tears.
As the Mason house faded from view, Patty having waved her muff
until the last moment, turned in her seat and said:--
"Mark, dear, do you think your father would care if I spent the
twenty-dollar gold-piece he gave me, for Waitstill? She will be
married in a fortnight, and if my father does not give her the
few things she owns she will go to her husband more ill-provided
even than I was. I have so much, dear Mark, and she so little."
"It's your own wedding-present to use as you wish," Mark
answered, "and it's exactly like you to give it away. Go ahead
and spend it if you want to; I can always earn enough to keep
you, without anybody's help!" and Mark, after cracking the whip
vaingloriously, kissed his wife just over the violet ribbons, and
with sleigh-bells jingling they sped over the snow towards what
seemed Paradise to them, the New Hampshire village where they had
been married and where
So a few days later, Waitstill received a great parcel which
relieved her of many feminine anxieties and she began to shape
and cut and stitch during all the hours she had to herself. They
were not many, for every day she trudged to the
Boynton farm and began with youthful enthusiasm the household
tasks that were so soon to be hers by right.
"Don't waste too much time and strength here, my dearest," said
Ivory. "Do you suppose for a moment I shall keep you long on this
lonely farm? I am ready for admission to the Bar or I am fitted
to teach in the best school in New England. Nothing has held me
here but my mother, and in her present condition of mind we can
safely take her anywhere. We will never live where there are so
many memories and associations to sadden and hamper us, but go
where the best opportunity offers, and as soon as may be. My wife
will be a pearl of great price," he added fondly, and I intend to
provide a right setting for her!"
This was all said in a glow of love and joy, pride and ambition,
as Ivory paced up and down before the living-room fireplace while
Waitstill was hanging the freshly laundered curtains.
Ivory was right; Waitstill Baxter was, indeed, a jewel of a
woman. She had little knowledge, but much wisdom, and after all,
knowledge stands for the leaves on a tree and wisdom for the
fruit. There was infinite richness in the girl, a richness that
had been growing and ripening through the years that she thought
so gray and wasted. The few books she owned and loved had
generally lain unopened, it is true, upon her bedroom table, and
she held herself as having far too little learning to be a worthy
companion for Ivory Boynton; but all the beauty and cheer a
comfort that could ever be pressed into the arid life of the
Baxter household had come from Waitstill's heart, and that heart
had grown in warmth and plenty year by year.
Those lonely tasks, too hard for a girl's hands, those unrewarded
drudgeries, those days of faithful labor in and out of doors,
those evenings of self-sacrifice over the mending-basket; the
quiet avoidance of all that might vex her father's crusty temper,
her patience with his miserly exactions; the hourly holding back
of the hasty word,--all these had played their part; all these
had been somehow welded into a strong, sunny, steady,
life-wisdom, there is no better name for it; and so she had
unconsciously the best of all harvests to bring as dower to a
husband who was worthy of her. Ivory's strength called to hers
and answered it, just as his great need awoke such a power of
helpfulness in her as she did not know she possessed. She loved
the man, but she loved the task that beckoned her, too. The
vision of it was like the breath of wind from a hill-top, putting
salt and savor into the new life that opened before her.
These were quietly happy days at the farm, for Mrs. Boynton took
a new, if transient, hold upon life that deceived even the
doctor. Rodman was nearly as ardent a lover as Ivory, hovering
about Waits ill and exclaiming, "You never stay to supper and
it's so lonesome evenings without you! Will it never be time for
you to come and Eve with us, Waity dear? The days crawl so
slowly!" At which Ivory would laugh, push him away and draw
Waitstill nearer to his own side, saying: "If you are in a hurry,
you young cormorant, what do you think of me?" And Waitstill
would look from one to the other and blush at the heaven of love
that surrounded her on every side.
"I believe you are longing to begin on my cooking, you two big
greedy boys!" she said teasingly. "What shall we have for New
Year's dinner, Rod? Do you like a turkey, roasted brown and
crispy, with giblet gravy and cranberry jelly? Do you fancy an
apple dumpling afterwards,--an apple dumpling with potato
crust,--or will you have a suet pudding with
"Stop, Waitstill!" cried Ivory. "Don't put hope into us until you
are ready to satisfy it; we can't bear it!"
"And I have a box of goodies from my own garden safely stowed
away in Uncle Bart's shop," Waitstill went on mischievously.
"They were to be sold in Portland, but I think they'll have to be
my wedding-present to my husband, though a very strange one,
indeed! There are peaches floating in sweet syrup; there are
tumblers of quince jelly; there are jars of tomato and citron
preserves, and for supper you shall eat them with biscuits as
light as feathers and white as snowdrifts."
"We can never wait two more days, Rod; let us kidnap her! Let us
take the old bob-sled and run over to New Hampshire where one can
be married the minute one feels like it. We could do it between
sunrise and moonrise and be at home for a late supper. Would she
be too tired to bake the biscuits for us, do you think? What do
you say, Rod, will you be best man?" And there would be youthful,
unaccustomed laughter floating out from the kitchen or
living-room, bringing a smile of content to Lois Boynton's face
as she lay propped up in bed with her open Bible beside her. "He
binds up the broken-hearted," she whispered to herself. "He gives
unto them a garland for ashes; the oil of joy for mourning; the
garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
The quiet wedding was over. There had been neither feasting, nor
finery, nor presents, nor bridal journey; only a home-coming that
meant deep and sacred a joy, as fervent gratitude as any four
hearts ever contained in all the world. But the laughter ceased,
though the happiness flowed silently underneath, almost forgotten
in the sudden sorrow that overcame them, for it fell out that
Lois Boynton had only waited, as it were, for the marriage, and
could stay no longer.
". . . There are two heavens . . .
Both made of love,--one, inconceivable
Ev'n by the other, so divine it is;
The other, far on this side of the stars,
By men called home."
And these two heavens met, over at Boyntons', during these cold,
white, glistening December days.
Lois Boynton found hers first. After a windy moonlit night a
morning dawned in which a hush seemed to be on the earth. The
cattle huddled together in the farmyards and the fowls shrank
into their feathers. The sky was gray, and suddenly the first
white heralds came floating down like scouts seeking for paths
Waitstill turned Mrs. Boynton's bed so that she could look out of
the window. Slope after slope, dazzling in white crust, rose one
upon another and vanished as they slipped away into the dark
green of the pine forests.
". . . there fell from out the skies
A feathery whiteness over all the land;
A strange, soft, spotless something, pure as light."
It could not be called a storm, for there had been no wind since
sunrise, no whirling fury, no drifting; only a still, steady,
solemn fall of crystal flakes, hour after hour, hour after hour.
Mrs. Boynton's Book of books was open on the bed and her finger
marked a passage in her favorite Bible-poet.
"Here it is, daughter," she whispered. "I have found it, in the
same chapter where the morning stars sing together and the sons
of God shout for joy. The Lord speaks to Job out of the whirlwind
and says: 'HAST THOU ENTERED INTO THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW? OR
HAST THOU SEEN THE TREASURES OF THE HAIL?' Sit near me,
Waitstill, and look out on the hills. 'HAST THOU ENTERED INTO THE
TREASURES OF THE SNOW?' No, not yet, but please God, I shall, and
into many other treasures, soon"; and she closed her eyes.
All day long the air-ways were filled with the glittering army of
the snowflakes; all day long the snow grew deeper and deeper on
the ground; and on the breath of some white-winged wonder that
passed Lois Boynton's window her white soul forsook its
"earth-lot" and took flight at last.
They watched beside her, but never knew the moment of her going;
it was just a silent flitting, a ceasing to be, without a tremor,
or a flutter that could be seen by mortal eye. Her face was so
like an angel's in its shining serenity that the few who loved
her best could not look upon her with anything but reverent joy.
On earth she had known nothing but the "broken arcs," but in
heaven she would find the "perfect round"; there at last, on the
other side of the stars, she could remember right, poor Lois
For weeks afterwards the village was shrouded in snow as it had
never been before within memory, but in every happy household the
home-life deepened day by day. The books came out in the long
evenings; the grandsires told old tales under the inspiration of
the hearth-fire: the children gathered on their wooden stools to
roast apples and pop corn; and hearts came closer together than
when summer called the housemates to wander here and there in
fields and woods and beside the river.
Over at Boyntons', when the snow was whirling and the wind
howling round the chimneys of the high-gabled old farmhouse; when
every window had its frame of ermine and fringe of icicles, and
the sleet rattled furiously against the glass, then Ivory would
throw a great back log on the bank of coals between the
fire-dogs, the kettle would begin to sing, and the eat come from
some snug corner to curl and purr on the braided hearth-rug.
School was in session, and Ivory and Rod had their textbooks of
an evening, but oh! what a new and strange joy to study when
there was a sweet woman sitting near with her workbasket; a woman
wearing a shining braid of hair as if it were a coronet; a woman
of clear eyes and tender lips, one who could feel as well as
think, one who could be a man's comrade as well as his dear love.
Truly the second heaven, the one on "this side of the stars, by
men called home," was very present over at Boyntons'.
Sometimes the broad-seated old haircloth sofa would be drawn in
front of the fire, and Ivory, laying his pipe and his Greek
grammar on the
table, would take some lighter book and open it on his knee.
Waitstill would lift her eyes from her sewing to meet her
husband's glance that
spoke longing for her closer companionship, and gladly leaving
her work, and slipping into the place by his side, she would put
her elbow on his shoulder and read with him.
Once, Rod, from his place at a table on the other side of the
room, looked and looked at them with a kind of instinct beyond
his years, and finally crept up to Waitstill, and putting an arm
through hers, nestled his curly head on her shoulder with the
quaint charm and grace that belonged to him.
It was a young and beautiful shoulder, Waitstill's, and there had
always been, and would always be, a gracious curve in it where a
child's head might lie in comfort. Presently with a shy pressure,
Rod whispered: "Shall I sit in the other room, Waitstill and
Ivory?--Am I in the way?"
Ivory looked up from his book quietly shaking his head, while
Waitstill put her arm around the boy and drew him closer.
"Our little brother is never in the way," she said, as she bent
and kissed him.
Men may come and men may go; Saco Water still tumbles
tumultuously over the dam and rushes under the Edgewood bridge on
its way to the sea; and still it listens to the story of to-day
that will sometime be the history of yesterday.
On midsummer evenings the windows of the old farmhouse over at
Boyntons' gleam with unaccustomed lights and voices break the
stillness, lessening the gloom of the long grass-grown lane of
Lois Boynton's watching in days gone by. On sunny mornings there
is a merry babel of children's chatter, mingled with gentle
maternal warnings, for this is a new brood of young things and
the river is calling them as it has called all the others who
ever came within the circle of its magic. The fragile harebells
hanging their blue heads from the crevices of the rocks; the
brilliant columbines swaying to and fro on their tall stalks; the
patches of gleaming sand in shallow places beckoning little bare
feet to come and tread them; the glint of silver minnows darting
hither and thither in some still pool; the tempestuous journey of
some weather-beaten log, fighting its way downstream;--here is
life in abundance, luring the child to share its risks and its
When Waitstill's boys and Patty's girls come back to the farm,
they play by Saco Water as their mothers and their fathers did
before them. The paths through the pine woods along the river's
brink are trodden smooth by their restless, wandering feet; their
eager, curious eyes search the waysides for adventure, but their
babble and laughter are oftenest heard from the ruins of an old
house hidden by great trees. The stones of the cellar, all
overgrown with blackberry vines, are still there; and a fragment
of the brick chimney, where swallows build their nests from year
to year. A wilderness of weeds, tall and luxuriant, springs up to
hide the stone over which Jacob Cochrane stepped daily when he
issued from his door; and the polished stick with which
three-year-old Patty beats a tattoo may be a round from the very
chair in which he sat, expounding the Bible according to his own
vision. The thickets of sweet clover and red-tipped grasses, of
waving ferns and young alder bushes hide all of ugliness that
belongs to the deserted spot and serve as a miniature forest in
whose shade the younglings foreshadow the future at their play of
home-building and housekeeping. In a far corner, altogether
concealed from the passer-by, there is a secret treasure, a
wonderful rosebush, its green leaves shining with health and
vigor. When the July sun is turning the hay-fields yellow, the
children part the bushes in the leafy corner and little Waitstill
Boynton steps cautiously in, to gather one splendid rose, "for
father and mother."
Jacob Cochrane's heart, with all its faults and frailties has
long been at peace. On a chill, dreary night in November, all
that was mortal of him was raised from its unhonored
resting-place not far from the ruins of his old abode, and borne
by three of his disciples far away to another state. The
gravestones were replaced, face downward, deep, deep in the
earth, and the sod laid back upon them, so that no man thence
forward could mark the place of the prophet's transient burial
amid the scenes of his first and only triumphant ministry.
"It is a sad story, Jacob Cochrane's," Waitstill said to her
husband when she first discovered that her children had chosen
the deserted spot for their play; "and yet, Ivory, the red rose
blooms and blooms in the ruins of the man's house, and perhaps,
somewhere in the world, he has left a message that matches the rose."