"Our school-house is small, and our barns are full; and I am sorry it happens so, for I want to hear your message."
"Then I will preach in the open air. Fix me a stand under your shade-tree, and I'll want no better place. I'll be in God's free temple then—a fit place for God's free gospel."
"It shall be done for you; and I will send around notice far and near. And shall we hear something against the sects, and their cant and dogmas?"
"No, not at present, from me. Truth will wage its own warfare when given fair play; and while I leave truth to conquer, I denounce less, and invite the more. Set the Infinite Good before the people, and invite them to rise and accept it; and they are very sure, sooner or later, to come. This was Christ's way. He opened heaven on earth, and invited men to prepare and receive its light and joy to their mourning souls. 'Repent,' said he, 'for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
"If the people heard more of this preaching," said Fabens, "they would rouse from their indifference, and live a heavenly life."
"The world has been denounced for indifference," said the Minister; "but the world is not all to blame. The gospel it hears is too seldom of the inviting kind, adapted to its wants, addressed to its affections and reason. Men have been fed on the letter, while needing the spirit and truth which the letter conceals. Preachers have spun too much gossamer and tinsel; and woven too little solid bang-up and beaver for wear and comfort. The people have been served with too many custards and candies of entertainment, while hungering hotly for the bread of life."
"Very true," said Fabens. "I have felt this hunger myself, though our preacher here has given us very good fare."
"In consequence of this error," said the Minister, "many good people have taken the impression that there is nothing in religion worthy of their first concern. That it has not a spirit which will act on a week day; and neither food nor clothing for the soul can be found among its provisions.—Why, sir, religion is a legacy of infinite love to a world groaning in sin. It has power to change this earth to a paradise, and transfigure its inhabitants to angels. It is the one thing needful for every-day life; the principal requisite for a true integrity and honor; the actual virtue; the legitimate hope; the perfect charity; the paramount peace; the kingdom of heaven at hand. As men permit its warm influence to stream down into their hearts, they will kindle and rise to a new and noble life, and walk and live in heaven."
"I am confident of that," said Fabens, "and I am glad you are out on a mission of this gospel. I am sure we need it enough in this neighborhood."
"Christians should be all on fire with the spirit of this religion now," said the Minister. "They should give it forth to the world as a vital heat warming up the temple of the heart like a furnace; a light, flooding every niche and cranny of that temple with full illumination; a fountain, watering all its sanctities and graces; and music, filling it to overflow with the voice of heavenly song."
"Give me that religion," said Fabens, "and I shall be rich and high indeed. But I cannot hope to enjoy it in such full and actual life."
"The world is like you," said the Minister. "It wants hopefulness. It wants hope in God, and faith in his providence. Here is the grand want; hope in God and faith in his providence. God is doing his work in this world at this hour; his spirit moves on the waters now, bringing peace out of discord, and light out of darkness; and the people should know and feel it as a vital truth. When they do, they will rely on his love, and enjoy his religion."
"I wish you would give us a sermon on this subject," said Fabens.
"I will," said the Minister, and they concluded the conversation, attended prayers and retired to rest.
Arrangements were made, and notice, circulated for the meeting. The hour of the meeting came, and it was a placid and splendid hour as ever gilded a country Sabbath.
A country Sabbath! who can go out of the city and enjoy that even in imagination, without bringing the day, and all its placid light, and all its green and tranquil blessings home with him in his soul? It steals upon you like the floating raptures of a trance, and O! there are such smiles and splendors of God in the sky; there is such a spirit of worship in the hushed and reverent air; there are such songs of praise from all the temples of Nature rising on wings of holy melody to heaven; and you behold such comely forms and faces descending the green hills, and emerging from the woods and lanes: you forget this prison-durance, and seem to walk in a higher sphere.
The Minister was a little man, of perfect form, lithe as a spirit; ardent, open, affable; with a high and swelling forehead; a deep, warm, lustrous eye that darted forth the living fire of intelligence and love; a long thin nose, winding in a slight and not ungraceful curve toward the right shoulder; an eloquent gesture, a clarion voice, and a face benignant and bland as the mild morning star.
A large concourse of people assembled to hear him, and after the usual service of introduction, he rose, and casting those kindling eyes around on the audience a moment, in a voice round and clear as a forest warbler's, he said, "The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters." This was his text, and,—"I suppose it is commonly conceded," said he, "that the book of Genesis is the most ancient, if not most sublime of all the writings that enrich the world. The learned have cited the first verses of this book as specimens of sublimity unequalled by any language. And though the prophets, and the gospel authors outsoar Moses, I think, in the morally sublime; yet there are two or three touches in Genesis that roll and roar like Niagara before me, and stir me so strongly, fill me so full, and lift me so high, I find it an effort to rise to any grander conception than they give.
"The verse on creation; the void and formless earth rolling off in darkness; the Spirit of God on the waters; the mandate for light; the dividing of the floods; the fixing of the firmaments; the lifting of the sun and moon to the heavens; the arrangement of day and night; the bringing of the seasons; the making of man: all sweep before our mind in visions of awe, and might, and gloom; magnificence, glory, peace and love; and we may study the chapter till we shall seem to be there in the midst of the awful scene, and find ourselves throbbing and swaying with a rapt spirit, and a bounding heart.
"'The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.' This, my friends, is an assurance of God's Providence, only surpassed by the highest announcements of Christ. And the text has moved me profoundly, and come in a thousand times to exalt my faith amid trials, and sooth my griefs, and calm my solicitudes, when anguish has pierced me, and storms have raged. The text finds a thousand illustrations. The world was called from chaos, and warring elements, and confused and conflicting principles have not yet been restrained from their fury, or soothed to perfect peace. There are wars among the waters of nature; there are wars among the waters of the moral world; there are wars of passion in our souls, and we lose our confidence often, and often our peace and rest. But 'the Spirit of God moves on the face of the waters;' and they who believe this, will never feel forsaken, or lose their balance or their hope.
"The Spirit of God moves on the waters as they flow in the course of Nature; and at this very hour He is present in all her stirring scenes, commanding her mighty forces, preserving her general harmony, and leading all her rushing rivers of motion, power and life, into one wide ocean of purity and peace. And this is that gracious Providence asserted in the text, and announced so often by the Savior. It requires a lofty faith to discover that Providence, at all times; to detect its personal presence, and rest in its parental love. What a time it was in the beginning, while the earth was formless and void, and darkness brooded over the seas that embosomed her—if we could have witnessed the scene—what a time to shake and shatter this faith! And during long ages afterward, while the land was forming in little islands above the waters, how impossible it would have been for one of us to see the Divine Presence on the waters, look for harmony, beauty, life and peace to be brought out of all!
"And then in times of confusion, we have seen, when storms have fallen, when winds have howled, and the waters roared with trouble; what an effort was required to believe the Lord was in the storm speaking peace; and the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters!
"Then, there are storms we know of, but cannot see at all times. Electric and magnetic storms, when all the vital forces of nature are in commotion, and wars are waged from pole to pole: when the thunders growl, and lightnings flash, and the ruddy aurora dances and flames. What apparent confusion reigns! You think the thunder, lightning and aurora, are announcements of war and commotion scarcely yet begun, and you fear and tremble.
"But how will knowledge and faith disperse these terrors, and reduce their confusion to harmony and rest! The very war of waters at the creation was their effort after peace. When the world stood in islands above the lonely seas, the Spirit of God was on the waters, bringing forth continents in order and beauty, and preparing for these times of wide-spread lands, and gay-green verdures; and nations on all, with intelligence, commerce and joy. And the terrible storms we have witnessed, were the movement of God's Spirit, restoring equilibrium in nature; while, instead of announcing conflict and trouble to come, the lightning and aurora were the reports of peace; saying, the electric and magnetic storms were over, and their forces were at rest.
"Again; 'the Spirit of God moves on the waters as they flow in the course of History.'
"We study history with trifling purpose, if its high philosophy does not raise us behind the scenes of strife and peace, advance and retreat, rest and revolution, to discover that God moves on the waters controlling their general course."
The Minister cited a few great epochs and movements of history, as illustrations. Some were secular, and some were sacred. He pointed to the wars of Alexander, in which the oriental nations must have seen nothing but chaos, desolation, and woe. Yet, over all those warring waters the Spirit of God moved, and the races of men rose ennobled from them. Horrible sins were committed by that warrior, and God brought him and them to a terrible judgment. Yet God turned the curses to blessings. The young, warm, vigorous blood of Greece, and her splendid literature, and magnificent arts were carried into the heart of Asia, and raised those old dotard nations to a second youth; inspired them with power and light; flooded their lands with new and noble ideas, and brought sluggish and unsocial peoples into commerce, unity, progress, and hope.
"And pass to another scene," said the Minister, rising with his subject and kindling to a glow. "Pass to another scene. Enter Jerusalem. Go about Judea after the martyrdom of Stephen, and see what chaos, terror, and despair succeed. Even the Jews are divided into cliques and juntos, at war with each other, and enraged at their rulers. And where are the poor trembling Christians, that on the day of Pentecost flocked in such thousands and such joy to the lifted banner of the Cross? And how stands their faith in this terrible hour? It is sorely tried and belabored. Persecution kindles her fiery torches, and a wild tumult of warring evils reigns. They are scattered abroad. They flee for their lives to distant cities, and many lie down in despair and death.
"And yet what seeds of blessing were blown about by those wicked winds; and what love was brought from persecution! The Christians were scattered all over the Roman empire, and every one became a missionary to the Gentiles, to give the word, and diffuse the power of eternal life. And thus was Divine Providence manifested in defeating the designs of evil; in commanding the waters of rage and fury, and bringing harmony, truth, and blessing out of all. And signs of a like Providence have been repeated throughout the whole course of history, and man has risen from every conflict wiser, stronger, and more mature in the graces of many-sided life.
"The period succeeding the fall of the Roman empire was another chaos of upheaval, confusion, war, and night. The Christian element had been poured into the Roman, which had long effervesced with the leaven of Greece and the oriental world. Then wave after wave of barbarian power, fury, and life, came pouring into all, and threatening to drown the world, like another flood, and sweep away the monuments, institutions, and ideas of all past time. The rolling in of those savage waves was like pouring rivers of acid into seas of alkali, and the waters of society rose and roared in foaming strife. Yet, black as was the sky, through all the dark ages, the light of the Lord shone above the darkness; and wild and terrible as was the war of waters, the Spirit of the Lord moved upon them, and brought to our times the social life, liberty, and harmony we see.
"And some of the grandest characters of history have been called out in times of conflict and revolution; and this shows the revelation of the Lord in all. Milton, Washington, Patrick Henry, were not the weakly blossoms of a hot-house, nor the stately flowers that decked a velvet lawn, or blushed in a sunny garden. No! they were live, indomitable oaks, that grew amid rocks, and from warring winds, and dashing waters, received strength to deepen their hardy roots, and lift to heaven their green and magnificent branches.
"And as in Nature and History," said the Minister, "so in Individual Life we may say the same. The Providence of God regards the sparrow's flight and the insect's joy; it clothes the grass, and arrays the lilies in glory, and therefore is mindful of you and me, and works for our good. 'The Spirit of God moves on the waters,' as they flow in the course of Individual Life.
"We often see darkness above us. We often hear the powers of apparent chaos roaring like hungry dragons around. We are often the sport of whirling eddies, and the rage of furious rapids and falls. We wind our cold, dark way at times, as if passing under the falls of Niagara, roofed over with roaring waters, and startled with bursts of spray, and shrieks and whistlings of sound from chasms and gulfs beneath; where one false step would send us to destruction.
"And yet, as we have trusted our faith and hope, we have heard the voice of the Lord above the noise of waters; and felt that his Spirit moved near us, breathing love and speaking peace. We have said with George Fox, 'There is an ocean of darkness and death; but withal an infinite ocean of light and love flows over the darkness.'
"And what if we cannot always behold the light above the clouds? What if the time frequently comes in trials, bereavements and disasters, when all around and above, is dark, dark; and we see not how our prayers for light can be answered, or in what way God can educe a good from evil? Experience and faith assure us that the light will come, and the good be made manifest.
"I may safely assert," said the Minister, "that the highest and sweetest of all the blessings God his poured upon me, have rained down in storms of affliction. That the brightest days have dawned on the darkest nights. That the roundest and ruddiest rainbows have beamed from the gloomiest clouds. I have had the profoundest sense of the love of God, and the nearness of His Spirit, not in days of sunshine and pleasure, when the waters have flowed in placid, tranquillity, and there were slumber and rest on the world. But in hours of trial and trouble, I have felt most of His love, and seemed most lovingly folded in His Spirit; in hours of sickness, in hours of need, afar from all my kindred, cut off from the staff and stay of worldly pleasure and joy. Then, O, then, the Spirit of God has moved on the waters, and spoken peace! And from afflictions, I have risen to higher faith, and more strength of character, and broader aims and views of life.
"And this has been the experience of others I have visited and heard. It has not been amid affluence, it has not been on the smoothly-rolling current of worldly prosperity, that I have found people most keenly alive to a sense of God's goodness, or the presence of His Spirit. I have found great faith and gratitude; I have found warm and devoted Christians amid affluence; but I think on the whole, I have found the profoundest sense of the Divine Goodness and Presence among the humble, among the poor and afflicted; and I am often reminded of an apostle's words; 'God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith.' * * *
"And this reminds me of Job, and the faith that led him to hear the voice of the Divine Spirit in the whirlwind, and on the stormy flood; and from whirlwinds and floods, to get messages of love and peace.
"But with the aid of all these illustrations," said the Minister, closing his sermon, "what can we conceive of God's providential love? It is a thought beyond conception, it is a light transcending vision. There is no object on earth or in heaven, that can well represent the truth of its wisdom, the touch of its tenderness, or the attraction of its power. The sun is but a taper, reflecting its glory; the sea is but a globule, describing its breadth and depth. It runs the circle of the universe, without interruption, and without end. It is particular as it is impartial; it is melting and sweet, as it is mighty and sublime; and it holds you and me, and it holds the littlest babe, and the littlest bird and flower, in an infinite Father's heart!"
He pronounced the benediction, and the audience went their way to rejoice in the light that seemed sent down from heaven.
He gave another message in Summerfield, and departed on another call of his mission. His visit to the Lake Country was an era in the life of Matthew Fabens. His views and illustrations suggested new trains of thought and reflection; but they only confirmed his faith in Christ's doctrine of Providence, and opened his ear to loftier and more melodious notes of that infinite harmony, in which he believed the universe of God was bound. Mrs. Fabens had joys that flowing tears expressed, and Fanny was not an unsympathizing hearer.
THE SECOND MEETING AND ITS FRUITS.
In his second sermon, the Minister set forth one or two practical views of Christianity, and dwelt upon them with an earnest soul, and a happy selection of illustrations from the Scriptures. He cited incidents from history also; and appealed to his audience with such persuasive eloquence, he left a deep impression on their minds and hearts.
Fabens had before thought of those things, and endeavored to rule his conduct by such a spirit. He had studied the example of Joseph with his brethren; of Elisha with the Assyrians, of David with Saul, of Christ with his enemies, of Schuyler with Burgoyne, and Washington with the Tory. In numberless instances of his life, the power of such examples had been exhibited in his private conduct, and in his decisions as a magistrate.
Still his faith in the power of kindness as applied to the vicious and criminal, was not so strong or perfect as he would desire. Some cases of offence there were, in the treatment of which, for a good effect upon others, he held doubted the success of that principle. The teachings of God, he confessed, had a lesson to strengthen that faith. All his own little errors had been treated with kindness from Heaven. True, he had always been miserable as often as he had sinned; but then the gracious rains were not withheld, nor the kind sunlight extinguished; nor the harvests blighted, nor the bloom of woods, nor the fragrance of flowers denied, because he had been sinful and unthankful. God had chastened him in kindness; and he loved virtue all the more, and increased in the ardors of devotion. He prayed for more faith in the power of benevolent principles and deeds; and hoped at length for a perfection, in which he could actually turn the left cheek, when the right had been smitten. The words of the Minister increased his confidence in moral power, and rendered more lovely than ever he regarded them before, many of the Saviour's precepts.
The subject engrossed his thoughts and feelings, when, one evening, going to his barn with a lantern to close the door, he found a neighbor in his granary measuring wheat! A second glance assured him it was Tilly Troffater, his enemy; the mysterious, meddlesome, lying little bandy Troffater, and he was stealing wheat!
Some of the neighbors had long surmised that Tilly owed the Squire a groundless and secret grudge, as he did many others in the town. He always seemed to be cooking spleen and getting up grudges. He enjoyed apparent slights, and fancied insults, as a hungry dog his dinner; they helped him so much in hatching quarrels and perpetrating spites and revenges. But he always seemed to fear the Squire, and drop his cockerel crest, whenever he met his glances; and no one suspected he would dare to step so far upon his premises, even to execute revenge, much less, to rob or steal. He had often said he would never stand before Squire Fabens, and be obliged to look him in the face. But alas, here he was overtaken in a crime! And what on earth could the creature do? He would have given the apple of his eye to be anywhere else at that moment.
He had an enormous bag, but as yet, there was only a little in it. Fabens approached him, called him neighbor Troffater, got hold of his hiding hand, and shook it with a frank and earnest grasp, that would have hurt a tenderer palm, and inquired after his health and that of his family. Troffater straightened, and swelled, and blowed; and cocked and crossed his black and blue eyes; but answered not a word. Now was the time to test the power of kindness, and he gave it a trial.
He was glad, he said, that he happened to come with a light, for it was very difficult to measure wheat in the dark; and began himself to fill up the bag. Troffater looked more sullen and evil for a while, but he soon began to wilt, and open his mouth with apologies. He declared, as true as he lived, he would not have taken over half a bushel, and would have returned again every kernel he borrowed. Fabens replied that it would grieve him to know that any neighbor of his was in need of what he could so easily spare; and for fear Troffater might suffer, and be tempted again to do what must be so painful to his heart, he filled the large bag and tied it, saying, "There neighbor Troffater, you are very welcome to that bag-full."
He insisted, however, that Troffater should go into the house, and see his folks, and take supper with them. The bolt of a galvanic battery could not have convulsed the little culprit with a more terrible shock than such a word; he looked as though he would slink through the floor, and actually craved a blow to brace up his nerves, and knit his joints, and rally his skulking spirit. He begged permission to be gone immediately. But no, he could not get off with so light a punishment. He must go in and see Mrs. Fabens and Fanny, and take supper with them. He dared not disobey, and he trudged sneakingly in like a whipped spaniel.
"O, it is Mr. Troffater come to see us!" said Mrs. Fabens, smiling a kind welcome as he entered the door. "We were wondering who it could be with Mr. Fabens in the barn-yard. How do you do, Mr. Troffater? How is Mrs. Troffater? and how are the family? It is such a pleasant evening, why did not Mrs. Troffater come over with you and spend the evening? She has not made me a visit in a long, long while."
"How are Ruth and Josephine? Did I not see them crossing our pasture towards Mr. Teezle's to-day? I hope they have not forgotten that they owe me a visit," said Fanny, with a voice more musical than the meadowlark's, and a smile more gentle and subduing than the moonlight melting on the wall.
But Troffater was silent. His throat was so dry, and his tongue so thick, he could utter nothing in return. His silence surprised them, and they feared he had been injured, or was in a fit, until a glance from Fabens checked their surprise and inquiries; and then they treated him as if he had joined in conversation, and nothing unusual had happened. A good supper was set before him, and a good family took seats around him, and Mrs. Fabens and Fanny more than once expressed the wish that Mrs. Troffater and the girls had come along. But Troffater enjoyed neither conversation, nor comfort, nor supper. He tried to eat, but he made a pig's mess of the fine and bountiful dishes they set before him. He crossed and recrossed his earthen eyes. He sweat, and hitched, and wheezed: he dropped his knife on the floor, and stuck his elbow in Fanny's butter; he attempted to sever a cold chicken's wing, and upset a plate full of biscuit and butter, apple, honey, and pie, in his lap; he blew his tea long after it was cool, and blew hot and cold drops into Mrs. Fabens' face; and mixed everything together as he ate. And then he ate but little; his throat was so dry he found it difficult to swallow.
After supper they returned to the barn, and there Fabens told him in private what he thought of his crime. He talked very frankly. He used neither oil nor honey with his words. He warned him against the wickedness of crime, and against its awful punishments. He cited a few warnings of the Scriptures against the wicked and the sinner. Yet he spoke kindly, and admonished him as a friend and brother.
Troffater went into convulsions of agony. Streams of fire seemed surging through all his arteries, burning up his heart, and covering his head and face with blisters. He hung his head, and knocked his knees together. He gasped, and hemmed, and groaned. Tears at last came to his relief, and he wept like a child. Fabens assured him, if he would promise upon honor, that he would, from that time, abandon criminal desires and acts, he would always treat him kindly, and never expose him. A pledge was given with more soul in its declarations than had ever before been extorted from the mischief.
Troffater, however, still begged for one mitigation of his punishment—a single one. He begged to empty the bag of wheat into the granary, and go home without a quart. But Fabens was inexorable. Troffater said it would choke him to eat the flour, after what had happened. But Fabens expressed no fear or pity. Troffater said he would give up trapping and hunting, and go right to work and earn some wheat. Fabens advised him to do it; but said he must take home that bag full, to keep them in bread till he could earn more. Troffater replied that they had enough for two or three bakings, and asked if he might not let the bag stand, and come to-morrow, and work till he had earned it, and then take it home. But Fabens was still inexorable. If Troffater would come to-morrow and help him three or four days, he would pay him in wheat; but that bag-full he was welcome to, and he must take it home that night.
"I ken not carry it," cried Tilly; "there's three bushels and a haff; and it'll break my back, if I try to tuck it hum."
"I did not think of that. It will be too heavy for one load; but I will tell you how you can manage it," said Fabens. "We will turn half of it into your other bag, that lies out there by the fence, and you can carry it half at a time, and then get it home before eleven o'clock."
Then came another scourge like molten lead upon him. He had hoped that Fabens would not discover the other bag; but now the worst was known; and taking the fiery chastisement, he submitted, insisting on coming to work, and declaring he would take no more pay for his work; while the Squire declared if he worked he should have his pay. He carried away the wheat, and never again was detected in crime committed after that night. It could hardly be expected by any man that his character would be completely changed, or his punishment entirely remitted at once. But he was a better neighbor, and more inclined to employment; and he abandoned his love of lying, law, and litigation.
THE HARVEST LUNCH.
Bearing witness of prospering hopes and growing joys, nearly a twelvemonth passed away, and Fabens commenced his wheat harvest. The last fall seeding was more extensive than that of any former year; the snows came on early, and in kindly coverings, protected the tender blades through the winter. Spring rains fell in timely showers to wash it from mould, and revive it from the withering of frost and wind. The summer appeared early, as one of Nature's most genial and gentle, and he looked around on harvests large and white.
He went forth to his fields, with many men, and great preparations. The songs of the reapers were never more cheerful. The melting hours of July were never more manfully met. The home of our farmer had seldom less shadow with its light. Laborers found rarely a more liberal employer than he. He was generous in the wages he gave; he allowed more resting hours than any of his neighbors; he was less exacting in his demands; he always reserved the finest lambs and chickens to supply his table in that season; he had the best of spruce beer in Summerfield, and the clearest crystal water. And while with these mitigations, the toils of the harvesters were still hot and heavy to be borne, there was that in their fare, in their songs, and animation, which told of as much happiness, as may crown the tasks of labor.
To all his sympathies for the laborers, to all his efforts to cheer them, and temper their fatigues, and give them relief and refreshment, Mrs. Fabens and Fanny responded with expressions, more meaning than words. From the midst of the forenoon labors, they invited their help to refreshments under some green shade tree in the field; and in the long afternoon, three hours before supper, a refreshing lunch was again set before them, which would have answered well for supper; and it brought vigor once more to weary arms, and vigor to weary hearts; and called forth thanks from minds that abounded in gratitude, as in labor. Long and affectionately were they remembered by their men, as the bringers of joy and ministers of comfort, where joy and comfort were often craved in vain.
On one sweet afternoon, toward the last of the month, and the last of the harvest, a cool bland breeze swept over from the north, and rendered the time delightful. The sun still shone, and it was large and yellow as in October, but the breath of the north stole the sting of fire from its beams, and rallied a thrill of life and joy through the drooping hearts of beasts and men.
It was a pleasant hour to be enjoyed out of door, and it was welcomed as a blessing, by those who had kept in the shade; and Mrs. Fabens and her daughter hurried their preparations to be early in the field, with the evening meal.
"The men want to finish if they can, this week," said Mrs. Fabens, "and they have worked hard, very hard, since morning, and we must give them a good luncheon this time."
"We will take extra pains," responded Fanny, "and see how cheerful we can make them. It is so cool and pleasant out now, they will enjoy it, and we shall enjoy it better than usual, as Cousin William will be with us; and let it be something more than bread and butter. I feel so sorry for them, while they work so hard in the scorching sun to make us happy! Too much care cannot be done to refresh them, and warm up their hearts."
"Then, William has returned from Auburn, has he? Well, he shall see that country people can be happy and free-hearted, if they have not the city refinements. And we shall again find that the greatest good and joy on earth, we take in the good we do to others. They shall have something that will do them good."
"George Ludlow looked up to me so thankful, when I turned his bowl of coffee," said Fanny, "and it seemed to taste so good, and revive him so, I felt more than paid; I was myself refreshed by my trouble."
"It does them all good, not only to be refreshed with what nature requires, but to know that we care for them. These little acts of kindness can never be felt, except in pleasure by us, while they will direct a stray feeling of happiness to more than one deserving heart. It is a refreshment of the soul, to poor and rich, to know that others care for them. What should we live for, if not to lighten each other's labors, and make each other happy?"
"If what father believes is true, and it looks quite rational, we praise God most, when we are most like him, and are faithful and free-hearted to his children. And who of us desires more praise from those we wait on, than a look of gratitude, and the assurance that we have given a blessing? But, George did look so thankful! Poor George, how hard he has worked to be somebody in the world!"
"They all looked thankful, and what was better, they rose and went to work again with a lighter step, as though they felt younger and stronger. But, George has given you several such looks of late, and sometimes when your eyes were another way. I begin to think he means something."
"How you talk, mother!—What, looked at me several times? And when my eyes were another way?" returned Fanny, blushing like a quince blossom.
"Well, he cannot mean anything more than thanks for our small attentions."
"George is a fine young man," said Mrs. Fabens, "if the Cressey girls, and Desdemona Faddle do feel above him. They will set their caps in vain for Merchant Fairbanks, for he detests their foolish pride and finery as much as any one, and laughs in his sleeves, I'll warrant, at their dangling curls, and their silly lisping talk, when they try to speak polite to him; although he likes to flirt with them, and make them think he is ready to die for them."
"And why should they feel themselves better than George?" asked Fanny. "They don't astonish the world with good looks, or refinement of manners or mind. Their fathers are rich I know, and they have nothing to do but dress, and study etiquette. They can hardly stoop to what they call common people. But I don't envy them at all. They were always disliked at school, and were always at the foot of their class. If I were going to feel large and boast, I would want something besides wealth to feel large about. I am sure I would sooner envy George Ludlow, if he is not handsome, and is poor, and works out to support his father and mother. He knows something, and has riches of the heart I believe. But I cannot think why he should look at me, as you say, mother."
"I like your ideas of greatness, Fanny," replied Mrs. Fabens, "I like your ideas of greatness, and am glad you do not join those foolish girls in a pride that would despise such a young man. True greatness is of the mind, and riches are of the heart. But let us hurry with our refreshments, for it is beautiful out now, and they must be hungry, and we will enjoy it with them."
They plied themselves briskly, and about four o'clock the white cloths were laid under a cool maple shade-tree, and on them was spread a sumptuous lunch of fricasseed chickens, to be taken leisurely with flowing cups of coffee, and followed with saucers of raspberries and cream, and large and luscious pieces of blackberry pie. The look of thankfulness and cheer which the men all returned for such a refreshment, more than rewarded them, and sweet was the gratification with which they themselves and the good-hearted Fabens partook of the rural meal.
The presence of William Fabens also, enhanced the interest of the hour, and furnished conversation which all were glad to hear. William Fabens was a cousin of the Squire's, whom he had not seen before that month, since they were boys in Cloverdale. William had gone to New York city about the time Matthew went to Summerfield; and was now an intelligent merchant still in trade, and was out on his first visit to the Lake Country. He appeared much like the Squire, only a little more stately and active, and he possessed great practical wisdom and fine common sense. He carried a rich country nature to the city, and he had cultured it finely, and it was bearing fair and mellow fruit. He had a double life in consequence, and country life citified, perfected his capabilities and joys.
He had found that life in the country and town, was life in very different spheres, with different manifestations, and each a different set of lights and shadows. Life in the country was more natural, spontaneous and quiet; life in the town was more artistic, ambitious, and flushed with fever heats. Life in the country was picturesque, like the green, lovely landscapes in which it bloomed; life in the town was statuesque, like the flocking forms that pressed upon its sight and jostled it on its crowded way. Life in the country breathed in music; life in the town abounded in incidents and actions.
He remembered with grateful pleasure the noble occupations and amusements of country life. But he had profited well, and not lost, by the change. If it was a noble theme to study material nature in the landscape and sky, he found it still more noble to study moral nature in man; and man as he moved in the town, and acted in the drama of life that was daily brought before him. If it was delightful to read Milton or Beattie in a cornfield, in a clover meadow, under a tree, or on the haymow; it was more delightful to his mind to read the same author in a city, where, seeing more of men, he could understand him better. And whatever was beautiful in country life he carried with him to the town, with its green and radiant pictures still glowing on his heart, and its morning melodies still murmuring through his soul. And he could act out in deeds, what once he meditated in ideas. He was constantly called, by irresistible voices, to go out of himself, and out of his fixed and finite conceits and opinions, and mix with other souls; and transform his conceits to comprehensive conceptions, and enlarge his opinions to universal views.
From this rich and varied experience, and from these elevated ideas, William Fabens spoke, as he conversed with his cousin and the harvesters, while taking the harvest lunch.
"I suppose by this time, William, you are pretty well weaned of the country," said the Squire, after a changing conversation on several themes.
"O no, not at all," said William, "not at all. My love of the country is fresh and warm as ever. It is a singular fact, that almost all my dreams are laid in the country, on the old farm. I am often in the country in my mind, and receive much of my mental, as my physical sustenance, from country stores."
"I thought you would turn your back on the country and never think of its homely scenes again," said the Squire.
"I like the city in many respects better," said William; "so much better, that I prefer living there nine months in the year. But give me the country in the summer. In night dreams and day dreams, I return to the old homestead, to renew my youth, and refresh my sympathies and tastes. I think of the pride of the summer landscapes; and the pomp of summer sunsets. I sit in the shade of my old favorite trees and woods; I bathe my heart once more in the moonlight; my ears seem to tell me again of all the melodies of morning; the babbling brook; the lowing herd; the cowbell's simple chime; the murmur of bees and insects; the choral concerts that ring through the woods; and I am there, young and blooming as ever, and what Beattie's 'Minstrel' saw and heard, I seem to see and hear once more."
"I know not how it may be in cities," said the Squire; "but I have often noticed in our villages, that the countryman gets laughed at for his greenness. This never disturbed me. I have felt that we were inferior to none of their village bloods. Better be green on the surface than rotten at the core. And I have remembered how many great men of the world were bred in the country."
"The cities are often guilty of the same," said William, "forgetting how many angels they entertain unawares. Did ever a mortal man look more of the rustic clown than the country boy, Sam Johnson, when he first went to London? And could he not make dictionaries, and write Rasselas?"
"And who can imagine a more ludicrous object," asked the Squire, "than shabby, and chubby, and warty little Oliver Goldsmith, when he first waddled, staring and gaping, through Green-Arbor Court, and up Fishstreet Hill? And has he not given us prose and poetry that will live as long as the English tongue is known?"
"We might have laughed at Shakspeare," added William, "when, a green country runaway, he first entered the metropolis; we might have laughed at Dryden, coming up from the provinces in his coarse Norwich drugget and wooden shoes—over thirty years old, and not yet aware that he could write a line of verse. But for all that, did not Shakspeare write Hamlet? and Dryden give laws and models for English heroic verse?"
"And some might have thanked the Dumfries gentry for putting the rustic Burns in the kitchen with the servants to eat," added the Squire; "but did not Burns make a song there, to shame his proud insulters; and did he not sing—
'A man's a man for a' that.'
The temptations of the city are the most that I should fear."
"They are many and great," said William; "and I do not wonder that so many perish in the ordeal. Yet I know that people need not fall, if they will open their eyes, and act out their country nature. Evil affords a high and noble discipline when we meet it like men, and overcome its onsets. When men and women from the country have finished a course of city life, with warm hearts remaining in them, unsullied by corruptions they have seen, they are found to possess all the more strength of will, elevation of mind, and grace and grandeur of life, from the school from which they graduate. Each exercise of strength we take in resisting temptation, is the moral gymnastics that redoubles that power against the next encounter, and adds muscle and fire to all the capabilities of life. Each exercise of sense we take to discriminate between true and false life, true and false pleasure, true and false charmers, is a training of the intellect and judgment to more delicate discernments, and more virtuous and vital joys. A man enters the city as Hercules entered the world; the characters that go forth to meet him are like the true and false goddesses that met that hero and determined his choice; and that fine old fable shows that even the exercise of mind which is impelled by the two voices, will add new strength to one's being, cut out the blurs from his eyes, and make the judgment more active and perception more keen."
"That is all very true," said the Squire; "and your own life is an illustration. But if I should enter a city to live, I fear it would cool off my sympathies, and harden my heart."
"I should not fear that of you, Matthew," said William; "although it is the case with thousands. We need not be cooled or hardened. We see more of the evil side of life, to be sure; but it does not harden all. John Howard and Elizabeth Fry saw more of the evils of life than most city people. They visited the very dens of suffering want and imprisoned crime; but to them such sights were nobly instructive, and they grew great-hearted and noble while reading the lessons. Their sympathies were softened and warmed; their interest in humanity was redoubled, and their love for our race quickened and expanded, until they found no rest so sweet, as after long rounds of philanthropic labor; no delight so pure as kindness; no beauty so divine as charity; and no riches so ample and enjoyable as those laid up for benevolence, and those received back to the generous soul in return for gifts and deeds of good."
"You delight me, William," said the Squire; "and if you will go around lecturing the country people, you will see them all flocking to the town."
"The more, the better for us," said William. "They are the best materials of which the town can replenish its numbers and forces. Their great good sense; their healthy and generous instincts; their large and throbbing hearts; their picturesque minds and memories need only the discipline and finish of city life, to round them up into robust men and women of sweet and symmetrical characters, and fair and full-blooming souls."
On this occasion George Ludlow seemed to regard Fanny Fabens with increased attention; and as their glances more than once met, an artless, innocent blush would express on each face the timidity of their natures, if not the emotions of their hearts.
The truth to tell, George had contracted for Fanny an affection which he dared to disclose no more significantly, than by those expressions of the eye and face, which would not be concealed; and since the conversation in the house, he had scarcely been absent from her thoughts. She considered his pure life and enlightened mind, and inquired, "Where is the young man that has more nobleness than he?" She thought of his kindness to his parents, and admired the example. She called to mind his love of nature, and books, his efforts of improvement, even amid tasks of diligent toil; and she honored him in her soul; honored him the more for his own honor of his calling; and began to return a kindling flame of that affection, which she conceived he might indulge for her. But a few words were exchanged between them, however, and it remains for some future chapter to relate the result of those growing loves.
The men rose from their luncheon, when a cool and reviving hour had been taken, and while the women were departing with William to the house, and while Fabens remained under the maple, Merchant Fairbanks came up, and after the usual salutations, he talked a moment with the ladies, and then made Fabens an offer for his wheat crop, and commenced a pleasant talk.
Merchant Fairbanks sold goods in Summerfield, and undertook large dealings with the farmers there; buying their crops and bartering in smaller transactions, for butter and cheese, wool and feathers, wood and ashes, eggs and paper rags. He had tarried in town only two or three years, and few were intimately acquainted with him, although many supposed that they knew him well; and few men enjoyed more confidence or love.
He possessed a tall and imposing person; a face that all declared "fine," and "noble;" a large and glowing chestnut eye; a serene and inspiring presence; and hair so dark, that it reflected at times stray tints of purple, and was lustrous and smooth as a blackbird's wing, He was scrupulous in the arrangement of his attire, and still there was a studied contrivance of modest dignity about it all, that attracted attention, and set off his honors.
He was an instant and accurate judge of character; he discerned by a glance of his quick perceptions the lights and shadows of the human mind, and was accomplished in manners that won the esteem of the people, and enlisted them warmly in his favor. He remembered little things, to accomplish great ones; he would call to your recollection some trifling fact of which you supposed all beside yourself unconscious, that would flatter your self-esteem in spite of you, and win for himself your approbation. He remembered the names of his customers and acquaintances, and called them emphatically, if he had seen them never but once before; he was particular to salute each man with his title, and whether that title was military, religious or judicial, if he was in any doubt of its particular elevation, he would be sure and get it so high that, when mistaken, a captain could answer to the appellation of major; a justice to that of judge; a meek disciple to that of deacon, and a preacher to that of doctor.
He knew many children in town, he spoke all their names, and told of some good-looking relative or friend of his on the Hudson, whom they strikingly resembled. He distinctly professed private religious and political opinions of his own, while he knew there were the best of people in all parties and persuasions, and put every one at perfect ease with whom he conversed, convincing them that controversy was unprofitable, and the slight difference between them, after all, would be more in talk than in truth. He was a popular merchant, and the central attraction of several gay circles in the town.
With her searching discernment, Mrs. Fabens had discovered in him more than one design which she pronounced artful; she studied his character, and told her husband and daughter in confidence, she believed him a cunning flatterer, and a cheat; and that he would not always sail in smooth water in Summerfield.
But Fabens would hardly listen for a moment to her surmises. He had dealt with Merchant Fairbanks considerably; he had always believed him honest and manly, and he joined the multitude in much of the praise which they bestowed upon him.
As for Fanny, though she had not given the gentleman a great many thoughts, she regarded him favorably, and found him a most mannerly salesman, an affable and gallant man. She thought him far better than many who ran after him, and she was in no wise averse to consider him her friend.
"But you may depend upon it," said Mrs. Fabens to her husband, seriously—"depend upon it, he is not so particular and loud, in calling you 'Squire' for nothing; and it cannot be always a mistake, when he says 'Judge Fabens;' nor does he consult your opinion on so many things, because the opinion has the value of a straw in his estimation. He may never injure you, and I will not fear that he can; but it will be well to reserve a little confidence till he is better known, and not be too quickly carried away with him."
But Fabens was still confident that Fairbanks was honorable and worthy of respect and trust; he was often at his store; he often relied on his integrity for important considerations; and he was well assured that he was a man of merit and justice, and entitled to his enviable name. And so marked was his confidence, it had induced Fairbanks to come without hesitation again to buy all the wheat he could sell, and ask to have credit till January. He offered a fairer price than Fabens had hoped to obtain that season, and he engaged it on the desired time.
Fairbanks was unusually social and winning that afternoon, when he found them rising from the lunch in the field; and he conversed freely and pleasantly with Mrs. Fabens and her daughter, as they departed for the house; and then turned to Fabens and conversed a long while, saying at last—"That is your only daughter, I believe, Judge?"
"Yes, and only child, now, I suppose, that we have on earth," answered Fabens.
"You may think I am too free, comparative stranger as I am, in my conversation with her," said Fairbanks.
"O, no; I like to see folks familiar and friendly. Familiarity is the life of company, while stiffness and formality give it a chill which is quite disagreeable to me," said Fabens.
"Perhaps I should not be so familiar to her; but she reminds me so much of a dear sister of mine on the Hudson, that I feel attracted towards her; and it seemed every moment as if my sister was going to speak to me. She is a good sister, too, and quite intelligent, if I am her brother; and I think I have a right to say it. And there is that same trembling modesty, that same blushing innocence and blooming beauty, to remind me of my sister; and had her hair been a shade or two darker, and her teeth not so ivory white; I believe I should have forgotten I was talking to a stranger. You will pardon my frankness, Squire, I know you will. I am apt to talk right out just as I happen to feel."
"Certainly, certainly, Mr. Fairbanks. I always admired frankness. Perhaps you say too much of our daughter; but she is a very good sort of a girl; and we tried, as far as we were able, to give her a common-sense view of things, and have her respectable. I am thankful that she is not as brazen as some girls; and good health has flushed her face with fresh and blooming looks."
"You needn't fear for that girl—pardon my freedom, Squire. No young lady of such a turned forehead, and such eyes and address, ever came short of what good parents desired."
"Then you are a phrenologist, Mr. Fairbanks?"
"I have studied such things considerably, and am not often mistaken. High and full in all the frontal and coronal regions—such heads are never given to flirts or fools."
"She is just as the Lord has permitted her to be; and we are thankful that she has filled our home with so much light and joy."
"I know she must be dutiful; and at the same time wishing to know the whys and wherefores of things, she asks a few questions, I suspect, that she may know something, and have an opinion of her own."
"She never did a thing, as I recollect, that caused us an hour's regret; but, as you say, she wishes to know things for herself; and sometimes, when we have been tired and dull, she has wearied us with questions. She has a great mind to acquire knowledge, and have an intelligent opinion; and we ought never to be impatient with her, or refuse an answer."
"She may thank father and mother for that disposition, I suspect. How much she looks like her mother! And still she has your forehead, and eyes, almost—if I remember right; and I should know she was your daughter, if I met her in France."
"Her eyes are much lighter and bluer than mine; but they may resemble them in shape and size. As for her hair—"
"I was just a-going to ask where she got that fairy flaxen hair?"
"We cannot tell where the color came from, except from our white blood. My hair was light when a boy."
"That then accounts for hers."
"But never so milk-white as hers."
"Hers will grow dark, you may depend; it will be dark as yours when as old. But what if it is not? I should like it all the better as it is; it is handsome enough, and it is not so common as brown or black."
"But here it is nearly dark, and I have not had the manners to invite you to the house. Come, go in with me, and take a dish of tea."
"O Squire, I beg you to excuse me. I have some business at home that I must attend to to-night, and I must go. But that is the way with me, always! When I am in good company, I never know how time flits by, nor where to break off my talk. Come over and see me, Squire! Do come and see me. Good night." And as Fairbanks went for his horse to go home, Fabens ordered his men to quit work, and they all returned to the house in excellent spirits for supper and sleep.
Fabens had made it the effort of his life to resist flattery, and preserve a decent self-respect without a vain emotion; but it never grieved him to call him Squire; and there was much in what Fairbanks said and suggested, which he thought evinced uncommon discernment, and a clear and discriminating mind; and he was happy in the belief that it came right up from his heart, warm and sincere. He determined that he would not allow his own heart to take any flattery from what he had heard; yet what was said of Fanny—and her father and mother also!—could not be displeasing, coming as it did from one of an elevated station and mind: and he concluded that it was right for him to be encouraged by the compliments, and congratulated himself on the happiness of such a family and such a friend.
He enjoyed a fine conversation with his cousin William that evening; and showed him his farm, and visited with him all he could, the next day; and the day following, William departed for the city, leaving many warm regards behind, and carrying home a large supply of sweet country summer in his soul.
In modern times the Husking Party has gone out of fashion in Summerfield; but in ancient times, while the manners of the people remained primitive and pure, this festival (for festival it was) continued of great account. It was sometimes held in barns, and sometimes in the open fields; and the attendance of good wives and maidens, and the occurrence of music and dancing at the close, was no unusual joy. We may call it a 'movable feast,' for every autumn it moved the rounds of the Settlement; and now in rare October, and near the wane of the month, it came Fabens' turn to hold it again.
It was one of those golden weeks when the pleasantest house seems a prison, and you feel as if you must live day and night out of doors. The breeze from the cool Cayuga never fanned the brow nor tingled the blood with a more hilarious spirit; and the orchards were never more fragrant, nor the silver moon more round or fair.
Fabens marshalled his corn 'stouts,' like a legion of soldiers in a hollow square, on the green mown meadow in front of his house, a quarter of a mile away; and sent invitations far and near for a very large gathering. He was particular even to invite Tilly Troffater and his family; and a great number came. They came at half-past six; and as the last sat down to the husking, the mild and majestic moon rose smiling over the Owasco woods, and flooded the skies, and kindled the dews with her mellow beams. Uncle Walter and Mr. Waldron were the first on the ground; and Wilson and Troffater did not linger long behind. A number of women were present; and a whole bevy of jocund boys enjoyed it. The greetings were warm and brief, and the songs and stories commenced quite early. Colwell had been on a bee hunt, he said, that day, in the Richmond Openings, and discovered three swarms, and almost traced another. Uncle Walter had been husking the corn he had topped and left on the hill. Mr. Nimblet had harrowed in a late-sown fallow. Troffater had looked to his traps, and spent the rest of the day fishing on the lake. Most of the women had been drying apples and coloring flannel.
Fanny Fabens and Nancy Nimblet sang the 'Silver Moon;' and all confessed it was never sung better. Uncle Walter told a panther story, with thrilling additions they never had heard before; sent cutting little tremors of terror trembling through their hearts, and made them thank their stars that those perilous days were over. Troffater told his "Jemmy Harvey" story, saying "Jemmy was green as a mess o' cowslops and the priest tuck forty dollars for pardoning his sins, and left him without a shiner to tuck himself hum agin;" then he crossed and cocked his black and blue eyes and laughed in convulsions at the story, while they laughed at the manner in which the story was told. Teezle told a story about the Indians and Tories "that cut up such didoes in the revolution down there in the Diliway." Colwell repeated the story of Milo Dale, the money-digger.
Then Squire Fabens told a story of a man who was caught in his neighbor's granary borrowing wheat, and who was given a bag full and his supper in the bargain, and sent home, promising he'd never do the like again.
"A sap-headed fool, I guess it was, that found him, and let him slip off in that way," said Colwell.
"That may be; but he did one wise act of his life, in his treatment to the borrower, and I dare say that man will never violate his vow," answered Fabens.
"I don't know about that," said Teezle. "I should be afraid on't, and lock up my grainery olers after."
"The person did not lock his granary, and no borrower I dare say has set foot in it since."
"Thief, why didn't ye say?" inquired Colwell.
"O, he did not mean to steal," answered Fabens. "His family were hungry, and he was too bashful to ask for it, and was taking the wheat only till after the next year's harvest. The exposure of his error might have ruined him; and he might have been driven to a desperate life of crime. Now I think he must be a better man than before overtaken by temptation."
"Yes,—but—the scamp orto've been punished," rejoined Colwell. "I don't b'lieve in lettin' such scamps off without their punishment."
By this time the company were enlisted in the discussion, and more than one remarked that he ought to have been punished; yet no one surmised that the culprit sat in their midst, and was tortured by their words. Troffater knew not where to turn his little earthen eyes, for fear of encountering accusers; and he fixed them on the moon, and whistled a snatch or two of his addicted music; then bit his lips, and blowed, and hitched around on his seat, and blushed like a jack-o'-lantern.
"Yes, the scamp orto've been punished, I say," repeated Colwell.
"Think he was not punished then?" asked Fabens. "I think he was a little! If I had stood in his shoes, I am sure I should rather have been basted, or anything else, than served as he was."
"But he got away from the law," said Colwell.
"Not the living law, let me tell you," answered Fabens. "Not away from God's law written on his heart, and threading the bone and marrow of his being. To get away from that law, he had first to escape the reach of God's hand, and run away from his own body and spirit. That was not so easy a feat, Mr. Colwell.
"For the sake of our good social law, it may have been the person's duty to drag the poor man to light, and give him open justice; but he probably judged in that case, that the social law was better served and guarded in its spirit, if not in its letter, than if the offender had been exposed and imprisoned, to be let loose again with vengeance against the law, and against mankind.
"I venture to assert that the treatment cured the error, and the borrower will not violate the law again; while he might have run riot in open crime, had he been openly dealt with. The majesty of the law then was vindicated, and the injury done the system was repaired.
"And all that while he was amenable to God's living law traced all over and around his heart; and supposing he runs abroad and treads the green earth, and tastes the free air, and sees the bright sky; he is a prisoner still if he lives, and has not risen in goodness beyond sight of his sin; his body is his prison, his veins bind him down and his nerves bar him in. He senses his punishment keenly; it cuts to the quick, and he grieves, and trembles and gasps, whenever his fault comes to mind. Let him run at large; that law of God will follow him, watching with eyes from which no night can hide him; scourging with whips from which no shield defends."
"Squire Fabens is a very forgiving man," said Mrs. Teezle. "He's very forgiving, and I think he's right."
"I claim no merit for that," said Fabens. "It is easy and right to forgive others. God himself forgives very freely. But the man has one enemy who may never forgive him in this world, and may not forgive him at Judgment till long after God has forgiven him. Though this will depend somewhat on his indolence or diligence in cultivating goodness and truth. That enemy is himself, and self-forgiveness is the most difficult, as it is the last to obtain."
"That may be all so, but I'd a given him some, I swanny, if I had a ketched him in my grainery," said Colwell.
"I never see it in Fabens's light afore," interrupted Teezle.
"Nor I," "nor I," added others; and the discussion ended.
Then a song was called for, and Colwell sang the 'Tea Song;' and Fanny Fabens sang the 'Whippoorwill,' and the very air attended, to hear the happy girl, and the insects were hushed to silence, and the moon leaned and listened, and the woods and the lake bandied back and to the chorus, and repeated, and prolonged her full and silvery sounds.
Then they talked old times over, and rehearsed a few personal histories, while the yellow corn glistened in rising hills before them. Mr. Waldron related scenes he witnessed at Bennington and Saratoga, and told of the Captain's commission and forty dollars in silver, he received for taking six Hessians at the battle of Trenton. Troffater wanted to tell what his father did in the Revolution, but he had not courage to speak; and perhaps if he had, some one would have hinted the current tradition, that his father was a cowboy, and stole cattle from the Americans, and drove and sold them to the British, and then stole them from the British and drove them back again. The conversation soon turned on the settlement, and the history of the oldest inhabitants.
"I tell ye what, they were rather tough times after all," said Uncle Walter. "I remember when I cut the first tree on my farm, and stuck the first stake for my shanty. I had come a good ways from home, and it was going on night, and the wolves howled in hearing, and I begun to feel dubious. Uncle Waldron heard me chopping, and come, and took me home to his little hemlock hut. Remember it, Uncle Mose? I slep on the softest corner of your black muck-floor, and you said I snored like an alligator."
"The Stringers kept bachelors-hall, they say, over on the Owasco Flats, and baked nine crusts to one jonny cake," added Colwell.
"O, my stars!" cried Nancy Nimblet, "that must have been long before we came here; and, pray tell, Mr. Colwell, how they managed their dough."
"Why, they wet their pounded corn in water (there was no mill in these parts then), tossed up a hunker of a loaf, laid it down on a flat stone by the fire, and baked a crust, then peeled it off and eat it, while another was bakin', and so on to the ninth crust of the same smokin' cake."
"And it was thought a scrumtious kind of a thing to visit the gals in our buff-leather breeches in them days," said Colwell.
"O, the buff breeches came long after that," said Fabens. "We had grown quite civilized and fashionable when we wore the yellow buffs. Besides, in those times there were not many girls in the country to visit. But if the times were tough, they gave us a great deal of comfort. I came here with my axe on my shoulder; I cut the first tree on my farm, too, and paid for my farm, chopping for others. I made my first bedstead. There was an auger in the settlement—it was yours, Uncle Walter, and I borrowed that and framed me a bedstead of maple saplings, and laced in elm-bark in lieu of a cord, and it gave me many pleasant sleeps.
"After a while, I wanted a carriage of some kind to bring in my grain, and draw away my ashes. So I blocked off the wheels with my axe, from the butt of a black oak tree, and backed home boards for a box, three miles, from the nearest saw-mill. It did me good service, and I sold it for a price when I bought my first wagon. But we all took a world of comfort; and what was pleasanter work than putting up log heaps and brush heaps in the cool of the night, and seeing them blaze again on our clean sweet fallows?"
"A feast on bear's meat and metheglin, at Aunt Polly's," cried Colwell.
"Picking bushels of wild strawberries, big as your thumb," added Mrs. Colwell.
"And going four miles to raisins," added Thomas Teezle.
"And five miles to weddins, once in a while," added Mrs. Teezle.
"To those very times we are indebted," said Fabens; "to its tugging labors and hard privations, its trials, and griefs, we are indebted for much of the fulness of heart, and breadth of character we now possess, and the comforts we are taking on our handsome farms. We took muscle and might from nature; we rounded out our life; we learned to shift for ourselves, and feel for our neighbors; and the earth crowned our labors with such harvests, we grew hopeful and brave. We all of us learned things that cannot be found in books. Books have their value, and it is very great. They teach us to take the hip-lock of nature, and lead us cross-lots to success; they increase and elevate the pleasures of our vocation; a taste for them, is itself a blessing that sweetens our leisure hours, attracts us from temptations, and will gladden our old age. But of the two, a large and wise experience is better, and comes well before them."
As he concluded these words, the hour of the clock was told, and the company were served to warm pumpkin-pie, that was a luxury to taste, and refreshment to remember. Then the young people had a play and a dance on the green, and the old people exchanged good wishes, and all went their ways, leaving the Fabenses happier for that reunion of neighborly hearts, than for the multiplied piles of corn they left glowing in the moonlight.
GEORGE LUDLOW AND ALMON FRISBIE.
George Ludlow was introduced in a former chapter; Mrs. Fabens and her daughter discussed his character and life. They spoke of him as poor, and dependent on his own hands for a living for the family; as despised by certain young people in Summerfield who happened to stand above need; and yet as manly and capable; a lover of nature and books. I need say nothing of his person, except that he was homely to a stranger and handsome to a friend. I need say little more of his past history than this; he had labored for Fabens for a few weeks, and now a mutual regard quite ripened to affection, was rising between him and Fanny.
George well knew her worth and happy fortune; he remembered that he was poor in what the world called riches; yet, possessing a manly self-respect, he considered himself as made in no way inferior on account of his poverty; and observing that she reciprocated freely any regard he gave her, he had the boldness at last to declare his affection, and intimate the happiness it would pour into his heart and life, some day to possess her as his wife; and it was not in her will, nor in that of her parents, to return one word of discouragement; although it was an opinion of theirs, to which he freely responded, that the final decision should be deliberately weighed, and the union set over to a time at which they would be better prepared for a happy bridal and a happy life.
But the impressions left by Fairbanks on the mind of Fabens, after the conversation in the harvest field, tended only to strengthen the Squire in the opinion that his wife had misjudged the gentlemanly merchant; and to elevate Fairbanks the more in his confidence and esteem. And returning to the house that evening, Fanny remarked to her mother, that she must have judged, too hastily: "for much as I have tasked my powers of discernment," said she, "I cannot detect the first design or word, which would lead me to suspect that Mr. Fairbanks is deceptive. True, he rather addresses himself to one's self-esteem, and is open, and ardent for a comparative stranger; but it must be a manly way of his, which he forgets to hold in reserve; and I believe he is a gentleman. I am sure, too, mother, that I have not allowed myself to feel flattered by his words; nor could I ever regard him as nearer than a friend. A true friend to us I believe he is. A face expressing so much open goodness; a bearing so instinctively affable, could not belong to a bad man."
Fairbanks was too clear-sighted not to read and know the hearts with which he was making acquaintance; and his well-considered plans suffered nothing for want of diligence on his part, in being brought to a fulfilment. Nor did he stand or act alone.
Almon Frisbie was his clerk and confidant, and talked of a friendship that began long before they left the Hudson; and he was prompt at any moment to receive his counsels in sacred trust, and go on all his errands. He was ardent and unreserved in expressing his love for Fairbanks; and Fairbanks was free and fond in the good things he said of Frisbie; and the people of Summerfield were very happy with such valued acquisitions to their society; and enjoyed the pleasantest hours whenever they numbered the merchant and clerk among their guests.
Promptly at the time agreed on, Frisbie came with the money to pay for the delivered wheat-crop; paid the entire sum in Spanish milled dollars; and spent an agreeable evening, discussing character, hearing Fabens's history from before the time of his settlement there; and giving incidents of his own life, and his adventures and experiences, with Fairbanks.
It was a pleasant hour. This was the second winter they were enjoying their new house, and the change and contrast could not be forgotten. The new house stood on a gentle eminence, a quarter of a mile from the road, and within a distant view of the lake, which was beautiful in summer. There was a fine selection of all the forest trees that once flourished on the farm, in front of the house, which had been transplanted there twelve years before, in preparation of shade and beauty for the dooryard; and though their verdant honors had been shed in autumn, they reminded the hearts within of their guardian presence, by the whisperings of love they blent with the winter blast.
The house was a high story and a half, and stood thirty-five by thirty on the ground. It had a north room and south room, with bedrooms attached; it had four chambers, two large and two small, above; and a kitchen, a tea-room, and wood-house in the rear. It was painted white without, with a coal-black border on the tops of the chimneys, and had blinds of Paris green. It had white walls and oak-grained doors and casings in the south room, and white walls, doors and casings in the north room. The north room was Fanny's, and the spare bed was spread with a blue and white carpet-coverlet, spun with her own hand, and woven in Auburn prison; and it was hung with snow-white curtains, which she spun and wove. She had a stove in the north room, and a fire-board behind, covered with trees, watered with a silver lake, and stocked with a herd of deer, three of which were drinking from the lake.
In the south room was another bed; and that was hung with checkered curtains; and there was an ample fireplace; and that was the family room. There sat the company when Frisbie made his call.
Fabens was advanced in life, and yet he looked young, as if time had taken a ten years' rest. Mrs. Fabens had grown round and robust; but had not shed her blooms; while Fanny had become perfectly straight, and her hair was two shades darker; her eyes had still more lustre; her countenance still more life, and her voice still more music; while her step was more elastic, and her form was more nature.
A prodigal walnut fire glowed gloriously before them; butternuts and chestnuts were tasted, and a large dish of rosy Spitzenbergs passed around; and while Fabens and Frisbie kept up a running talk, Mrs. Fabens and Fanny enjoyed the hour, as one sat knitting fringe-mittens in the corner, and the other plied her dexterous needle piecing a bed-quilt in snow-balls by the stand; and seeming to contend with the walnut fire, which should give forth the liveliest, warming smile, and fill up all the room with the most comfort, joy, and peace.
"Yes, I have known Fairbanks, known him like a brother, since we were little boys at school," said Frisbie. "We began our A B C's together, when Mary Sanford taught school; and I remember we said, 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' 'D,' and so on, in a loud voice, both at a time. And that Mary Sanford—you did not know her, did you, Squire? She taught in the same district five years; and it was said, she impressed much of her own noble heart on her pupils (though of this, perhaps, it does not become me to speak;) but she married a false villain at last, and now she lives poor and deserted, they say, away out on the White Woman's Tract, beyond the Genesee river, with a family of children to support.
"And my heart has ached for many lovely girls who have thrown themselves away to such scoundrels. Her husband was brought up in the neighborhood too, and everybody thought George Lowry was a very pink of virtue. That made it seem so strange. Well, as I was going to say, Fairbanks always seemed a brother to me; and if there could be any fault in his treatment, he has trusted me too largely, and given me to share too many of his gifts and gains. But there, you never saw such a fellow in your life!"
"In what particular?" asked Fabens; while Mrs. Fabens took a quicker rock in her chair and scratched her forehead with her knitting needle; and Fanny paused from her piecing to hear.
"I mean in his confidence in men, and his free-heartedness, giving away what he has. He would share his last crust with an enemy, and he is so up and down honest himself, he believes the whole world honest and pure also."
"But he seems to be a good judge of character," said Fabens, "and I should think he would not be often deceived. I see he notices heads and dispositions pretty narrowly."
"He is often deceived," said Frisbie, "and he has met losses and crosses enough to make a few of his black hairs turn white. But I tell him it's owing to his putting too much confidence in men. He thinks everybody is honest because he is. His mother used to tell him, when he was a little boy, that he would always be poor, he was so confiding and free-hearted."
"There is a good deal in that," said Fabens, "and it is very true, as I have found it. Men that can be trusted most, are commonly most trusting, while the false and guilty are always on the lookout for rogues. How is Fairbanks' business now? He has met no losses in Summerfield, I hope."
"O, no, no! I did not refer to anything that had taken place since he came to this town," said Frisbie. "Of all the world, this is just the place for Fairbanks, and I tell him so. Where all are honest as one's self, there can be no trouble. He never was doing so well, by half, as now, I dare say. His business is large already, and his collections are remarkably prompt. They seem here to like him, about as well as he likes them."
"He seems to attend to his business pretty closely; I like that in him," said Fabens.
"Attend to business? Ay! if you could see all the time, how he attends to business, Squire; how he searches and foots his legers every day," said Frisbie; "how he keeps things moving and straight, and pays his notes before they come due, you would say he could not help prospering, and you would back him for any amount he would ask. But, here, it is nine o'clock, already, and I must face this cold storm, that has come up since I came."
"Don't hurry away yet," said Fabens. "There is nothing to call you home. Stay all night, we will be glad to have you, and you shall have an early start in the morning."
"O, I must go to-night," said Frisbie, and he took his cloak, and concluded the conversation—"I must go to-night. I told Fairbanks, I would be home before ten, and he knows what to depend on. We keep our word with each other. Come over and see us, Squire. We have a fine room fitted up now, in the store, where we can entertain our friends. Fairbanks is always glad to see you. He thinks Squire Fabens about east, and his family too! He would feel more freedom to visit you, if you would call on him oftener. I never saw a man who thought more of seeing his friends. And so far from home as we are, you must remember that our friends here stand in the place of the absent and dear."
Frisbie departed, and Fabens expressed the liking he had taken to the fellow, and the increased esteem he must confess for Fairbanks.
"I am sure," said Fanny, laying aside her work, but not her smiles, that outshone the walnut fire, nor that presence of blissful life, that filled up all the warm room; "I am sure, there cannot be much deception in them. We would detect it in some way, if there was."
"Do you esteem either of them as you do George Ludlow?" asked Mrs. Fabens.
"No, I do not in all respects," answered Fanny. "My esteem for him, as for them, increases. And the way the Faddle girls treat George, makes me think all the more of him, and desire to make him happy. Then I admire his sentiments and tastes, and his love of labor. Still I would be glad to number Mr. Fairbanks and Mr. Frisbie among my friends. Was the man named Lowry or Ludry that he said married his teacher? It sounded so much like Ludlow, it startled me."
"It was Lownsly, Lowry, or something like it," answered Mrs. Fabens.—"There are some things which seem fair, and even generous in them, it is true. And Fairbanks has a way of looking very meek and innocent; and one of two things is certain: he must be unacquainted with the world, and incapable of a thought of deception, or else he is an arch and dissembling rogue. But there are some expressions about his eyes that I cannot like; and I think there is a little blarney about them both. I may be wrong; I hope I am, and if I am, that I may be forgiven. It is unpleasant to be haunted by these suspicions. But there, I could help breathing as well."
Upon this, Fabens went to his barn to look after his cattle and see if any would be likely to suffer in the storm; and finding all in comfortable quarters, he returned, saying, "I wish I could know that everybody in the world had as happy a home as we have to-night. I could then rest more warmly and sweetly. It is bitter cold night, and I fear many will suffer. I am glad I made the wood-bee for poor Troffater. His family can have the comfort of warm fires this winter. The neighbors turned out well, and a good big pile of beech and maple lies at his door. I shall sleep better for that."
They enjoyed their devotions, Fabens praying that God would bless His beloved poor, and all who were suffering and needy; while He kept their own hearts from unjust judgments, from deception and evil; and they were soon wrapped warmly and well in the slumbers of the night.
FAIRBANKS, FRISBIE, AND FABENS.
Not another month expired before Fairbanks paid a visit to Squire Fabens, and conversed a whole evening on topics that could not but interest the family; and Mrs. Fabens confessed he had never appeared so well to her mind before; and that if there were art and insinuation in his manner that time, it was so skilfully managed and deeply concealed she could not discover it.
Still something impressed her with the conviction that it would be quite as well not to rely too much on his integrity, until he was better known; and by no large trusts committed to his honor, to tempt him to an act of vice. But Fabens and Fanny could harbor no suspicions; while for the latter, Fairbanks showed more regard on this occasion than would have been compatible with a knowledge of her engagement to Ludlow, and respect for the sanctity of plighted love. Still, it appeared his unthinking way of indulging hearty friendship; and indeed it rather augmented than diminished Fanny's regard for him.
When about to return, Fairbanks remarked that he had been engaged beyond present preparations in the purchase of produce of late, and had expended more of his money than he calculated in the beginning; and if the Squire would lend him fifty dollars he should have it back again in a fortnight. The money was handed him without hesitation; and just a week from that time, Frisbie came and paid it, saying that Fairbanks always felt distressed when he could not take up his notes, and pay borrowed money before he agreed to. He spent another evening; and among other questions, he inquired, in an innocent way, if they knew George Ludlow.
"We know him very well. Why, what of him?" returned Fabens.
"O, nothing," answered Frisbie; "nothing. I happened to think of him just now; that is all. I believe Fairbanks saw him for the first time in your harvest-field last summer. He would not have remembered it, if Ludlow had not had occasion to mention the circumstance in connection with another affair the other day."
"Then you have seen something of him, have you?" inquired Fabens.
"O, but little, sir, very little indeed," said Frisbie. "He came the other day to trade out a due-bill, and—I believe Fairbanks is well enough satisfied about him now. We were not certain that you knew him very well."
"There was no difficulty with him, I presume?" said Fabens, not indifferently.
"O, no, nothing of any consequence whatever; nothing that we would breathe abroad, or wish to remember," said Frisbie, with a meekened look.
"May I ask if anything dishonorable on his part?" inquired Fabens. "We have supposed him one of our best young men—one of the very best in town; and we have known him from a child."
"I am sorry I mentioned his name: I see it disturbs you," said Frisbie. "I would not weaken one's confidence in another for anything in the world—unless I had the weightiest reason. And this was nothing of importance, for one of his friends to know."
"But may we not know it, and be relieved of our anxiety?" asked Fabens, with rising emotion.
"Why,—yes, I would as lief you would know it as not," said Frisbie. "You will say it was a trifling affair, and little worth minding after all. Hundreds of young men do the same, and never repeat it, and are just as well thought of, too, by a good many people. Temptations lie in wait to ensnare us all; and the greatest wonder is, not that now and then one becomes criminal, but that so many people, good as you and I, Squire Fabens, do not oftener step aside from virtue's way."
"But we thought George Ludlow the last to be tempted. He is certainly a most respectable young man. His very looks bespeak an innocent heart. I seldom meet him without desiring to exclaim as Jesus did at the approach of young Nathanael—'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!' And then he is so industrious and regular," said Fabens warmly.
"I am very glad you think and feel as you do. It is truly refreshing to witness such confidence in men. And I told Fairbanks that George looked as though he worked hard, and wanted to be respected."
"But tell me, what of his error, Mr. Frisbie? I insist upon knowing."
"You shall know, Squire Fabens. I would as lief you would know as not; you will not breathe it where it can hurt Ludlow. You know we are bound to lift up the fallen—not to crush them."
"But he has not fallen, I hope! What was his error?"
"Do not let it trouble you, Squire, do not let it trouble you at all. I think just as much of him, far's I know, as ever I did. The crime—if crime you would call it, is this: he came to our store to trade out a due-bill, as I said, and after he had gone, we missed a pocket-handkerchief."
"He or some one else may have taken it by mistake," interrupted Mrs. Fabens, rocking her chair in agitation.
"That is very likely, as I told Fairbanks," said Frisbie. "And it is best for us to think so. We had better judge ten guilty persons innocent, than condemn one innocent man. It was a silk pocket-handkerchief; and as it lay on the counter just before he left, Fairbanks thought Ludlow must have taken it; and following him over to the tailor's shop, where he left his bundle, I opened it, and found a handkerchief, just like ours, wadded up and tucked into one end of the wrapping paper. Little things sometimes indicate more than we wish to believe. But then he looked a little honest, when he came in, and said he knew not how on earth it got there."
"I don't believe he did know," said Fabens. "How easy it would have been for you; or whoever put up the goods, to have put that in by mistake."
"Just so I told Fairbanks," said Frisbie; "and it must have got there in some such way. It was crumpled up so, my first thought was that it was tucked in by stealth. I inquired of our new customer, Captain Troffater—I believe they call him Captain, I very confidentially named the circumstance to him, and he said it might be a mistake of ours; but he did not know about it, and it was best for merchants to keep a sharp lookout, when they did not know who was in their store. But there, as—"
"I will not believe George stole it," interrupted Fabens earnestly. "He is incapable of such an act; and it is much more reasonable to believe it was done up by mistake."
"I have brought home things several times in that way, and nobody suspected I meant to steal," said Mrs. Fabens. "The clerks confessed their hurry, and their liability to make mistakes, when I returned them."
"We do make such mistakes too often, as I told Fairbanks; and it must be he took it in that way," concluded Frisbie. "At any rate, I had rather believe so, and have you all believe so, than believe him guilty. I am sure I would not harm the fellow; and I would not weaken your confidence in him. I am always so grieved myself to know that a person is not as good as I believed him to be, I would not attempt to convince any one of confidence misplaced for the world—unless I had the weightiest reason. Yet, I confess it grieves me still more to see confiding people deceived, they feel so bad after it."
Upon this, Frisbie rose and repeated his invitation to Fabens, to go over and see them, saying, as he left the door, that "he hoped Fairbanks would not be an old bachelor always, but get him a good wife, and have a home, and live like somebody, that ladies and gentlemen might visit him. But what do you think he says, when I jog him on the subject? That there is only one girl in Summerfield he could like well enough to marry, and I point in a certain direction, and tell him I can guess who he means!
"Fairbanks is getting notional like all old bachelors. His mother taught him some of it. She thought so much of him when she kept house for him on the Hudson, she dared not let him stay away from home over night, for fear he would have the croup.
"He grows more and more particular in his choice of friends, and sets a higher and higher mark for the young lady of his choice. I tell him he is too particular. But he must have his notions; and I will say this for Fairbanks, whoever gets him, will get a prize worth setting her cap for. His mother always said, if he hadn't a happy and loving home, it wouldn't be his fault."
Frisbie left, and while Fanny's quince-blossom blushes all rallied to her cheeks and mounted to her forehead at the allusion in his last words, they all wondered why any one could suspect George Ludlow of crime, on evidence so trivial; and they thought none the less of him, or the merchant, or the clerk.
In the course of a few weeks, Fairbanks and Frisbie came again, and Fairbanks borrowed a hundred dollars, spent a pleasant evening, and evinced a still warmer regard for Fanny Fabens. A week before the money was to be paid, he returned and said, he had it all with him, and if the Squire wished to make immediate use of it he would insist on paying it over; at the same time intimating the great obligation it would confer on him to permit him the use of it a few weeks longer; getting an extension of time till he could return from New York, and obtaining the loan of Fabens' note, payable to his order at the bank, for a hundred and fifty dollars.
Before the time of extension expired, the borrowed money was paid, with interest urged, and a few handsome presents to Fanny and Mrs. Fabens, for the accommodation. And on being well assured that the note at the bank had been taken up, and the signature cancelled, Fabens loaned him another note for two hundred and fifty dollars.
In two months more, other elegant presents were made to Fanny and Mrs. Fabens, and Fairbanks and Frisbie, together, as a token of their particular and high esteem, presented Fabens a superb cane, of a limb from the Liberty Tree, as they said, then waving on Boston Common; richly mounted with silver, bearing his name, and the names of the generous donors, on a silver eagle, set in the ivory head; with appropriate inscriptions, and all polished like the smoothest glass.
"This gift," said Squire Fabens, so touched with emotion, he faltered and hemmed in his speech, "this gift kindles a warm spot under my vest here," laying his hand on his heart. "A gift always affects me, if it is ever so small. And this, gentlemen, is really a handsome gift indeed. I have no words to express my thanks."
"Thanks would only burden us the more, as we have been the most obliged," said Fairbanks, with his blandest bow, and meekest smile; and other kind words were spoken, and confident assurances repeated; and another note obtained for three hundred dollars. During that delightful visit, in words employed with the most winning selection, Fairbanks and Frisbie said so much to the Squire about his credit abroad, about the favorable development of his head for a mercantile life, about the advantages which he knew merchants always had over farmers, about the pleasures of store-keeping, the opportunity of visiting New York frequently, and making honorable acquaintances there and elsewhere, and several other desirable objects, that when alone in the field, they proposed to him to come with them into a grand copartnership of the name of "Fairbanks, Frisbie and Fabens," and assume all the business of Summerfield; he was actually taken with agreeable surprise, his head growing giddy, as by some irresistible charm; and he looked upon the farmer's life and labor, as the life and labor of a drudge; glanced forth upon visions of opulence, honor and ease; and hoped to put away, without too much sacrifice, his stony acres, and enter upon that high and tempting course.
His mind wandered and returned, as between sleeping and waking. He remembered, at last, what Julia would be likely to say, if informed immediately, and in full, of the scheme. He remembered how diligently she had wrought, how prudently managed, to help him to his handsome property. He knew with what affection she regarded that home and farm, and every fruit-tree, and shade-tree and sugar-maple; every flower-bed, and herb-bank, and rose-tree and vine; every comfort and convenience around them; and how it might wring her heart, and how Fanny might weep to see the old homestead go to another; and he concluded, it was best on the whole, to take time for reflection, and if at last he determined to sell, and become a merchant, he would let his family know but little of his plan at a time, and prepare them gradually, as Fairbanks considerately advised, to incline to his will, and consent to try the change.
Before the end of another week, and before Fabens had decided on their proposition, Frisbie came again for the loan of another note, of three hundred dollars, and left, saying, "they were perfectly willing he should take his own time, to make up his mind about coming into the new firm; that this note should be looked after and paid as promptly as all the others had been, and he would find that John Fairbanks as clever a fellow as ever dealt with him."
A WEEK OF CASTLE BUILDING.
The last assurance of Frisbie was indeed very kind, but unnecessary; for Squire Fabens was well convinced before the last visit, that Fairbanks was all he had been represented to be; and that conviction rose from a simple and cool opinion to a warm and loving faith, when he considered all the gifts they gave; the generous solicitations, which merchants but seldom extended to farmers; and the liberty they allowed him, to take his own time and look the matter carefully over.
It was a mean suspicion, he thought, which could longer fear deception. Had it been their design to deceive, why all that frankness; that fair and candid proposing; that trusting to his own mind to weigh, and his own time to return an answer? Villains would have been more exacting in their terms, and briefer in their plans and proposals. Villains would have talked in a lower tone, attempted to hurry him to agreements, and hastened the signing and sealing. With those gentlemen, all was generous, candid, moderate, indulgent; and even if he concluded not to accept their magnanimous offer, he should always remember the kindness in which it was made.
A whole week was before him; yes, two or three weeks if he wanted it, to weigh the proposal and return an answer. He gave his whole mind to it, and a week was found sufficient for the deliberation. During that week he seemed to live many years of a life, wide and wonderful; stirring and instinct with actions, incidents and scenes; a life and possessions, progressive as the rise of day, and rapid as the bloom of springtime. It was a week of Castle Building. The days of the week introduced a succession of views that swept in action and speech before him like the scenes of a thrilling drama.
Scene first was opened. It pleased his eyes, and sent blissful sensations running around his heart. It showed him the store of the company, enlarged and renovated, with a capacious counting-room, and a pleasant door in the rear, beneath a piazza opening to the cool air and placid smile of the sweet Cayuga, as it slept or stirred, embosomed among the lovely hills.
In that store, he saw himself, now moving in the press of business; now examining their posted legers; and now seated in the comfortable counting-room, counselling on their growing concerns, or conversing with an old friend, or neighbor, as the smooth pine whittlings rolled like ribbons from his hand; and now on the back piazza, enjoying the air and prospect.
It was a happy change. It was all shaded sweetly from the intolerable sun; it was more stirring than farm work; it was more gentle, and suited to his years. It was cleanly; and his cool linen wristbands would keep all the week as snowy white as Julia had done them; while she would have lighter washings, and more leisure time.
It was a profitable change. Money was made faster there, Not that his soul was on fire with a passion for money; he loved money less than most of his neighbors; he was free and manly with his money as you would not find ten in a thousand. Still, honest gains were pleasant to him; the amount he had accumulated somehow prompted a desire for more; and in a store he could gain faster, and in larger amounts, and perhaps retire in a few years, from all business, more independent than now, enjoy the satisfaction of giving more gracious charities, and dispensing sweeter reliefs; and settling a handsomer sum on Fanny when she married, and again when he died.
It was an honorable change. Say what they would, farmers looked up to merchants, and considered their own avocation inferior. Many farmers honored merchants more than those of their own sphere, and would be glad to be merchants themselves. As he moved about that store, or whittled in that counting-room, or sat on that back piazza, and took of the cool summer breeze, fresh kisses of beauty borne up from the laughing lake, he would still be called Squire Fabens, but it would come with more emphasis and meaning than now, while delving in the vulgar soil.