One, however, had the sense and simplicity to know how, and that was George Adams, a fine healthy young fellow from Hartland Hollow, who came in at least once a week with a load of produce from the farm on which he was head man. The first time he went after his rations of gingerbread, and found Dely in her mourning, he held out his hand and shook hers heartily. Dely looked up into his honest blue eyes and saw them full of pity.
"I'm real sorry for you!" said George, "My father died two years ago."
Dely burst into tears, and George couldn't help stroking her bright hair softly and saying, "Oh, don't!" So she wiped her eyes, and sold him the cookies he wanted; but from that day there was one of Dely's customers that she liked best, one team of white horses she always looked out for, and one voice that hurried the color into her face, if it was ever so pale and the upshot of pity and produce and gingerbread was that George Adams and Dely German were heartily in love with each other, and Dely began to be comforted for her father's loss six months after he died. Not that she knew why, or that George had ever said anything to her more than was kind and friendly, but she felt a sense of rest, and yet a sweet restlessness, when he was in her thoughts or presence, that beguiled her grief and made her unintentionally happy: it was the old, old story; the one eternal novelty that never loses its vitality, its interest, its bewitching power, nor ever will till Time shall be no more.
But the year had not elapsed, devoted to double crape and triple quillings, before Dely's mother, too, began to be consoled. She was a pleasant, placid, feeble-natured woman, who liked her husband very well, and fretted at him in a mild, persistent way a good deal. He swore and chewed tobacco, which annoyed her; he also kept a tight grip of his money, which was not pleasant; but she missed him very much when he died, and cried and rocked, and said how afflicted she was, as much as was necessary, even in the neighbors' opinion. But as time went on, she found the business very hard to manage; even with Dely and the foreman to help her, the ledger got all astray, and the day-book followed its example; so when old Tom Kenyon, who kept the tavern half a mile farther out, took to coming Sunday nights to see the "Widder German," and finally proposed to share her troubles and carry on the bakery in a matrimonial partnership, Mrs. German said she "guessed she would," and announced to Dely on Monday morning that she was going to have a step-father. Dely was astonished and indignant, but to no purpose. Mrs. German cried and rocked, and rocked and cried again, rather more saliently than when her husband died, but for all that she did not retract; and in due time she got into the stage with her elderly lover and went to Meriden, where they got married, and came home next day to carry on the bakery.
Joe German had been foolish enough to leave all his property to his wife, and Dely had no resource but to stay at home and endure her disagreeable position as well as she could, for Tom Kenyon swore and chewed, and smoked beside; moreover, he drank,—not to real drunkenness, but enough to make him cross and intractable; worse than all, he had a son, the only child of his first marriage, and it soon became unpleasantly evident to Dely that Steve Kenyon had a mind to marry her, and his father had a mind he should. Now it is all very well to marry a person one likes, but to go through that ceremony with one you dislike is more than anybody has a right to require, in my opinion, as well as Dely's; so when her mother urged upon her the various advantages of the match, Steve Kenyon being the present master and prospective owner of his father's tavern, a great resort for horse-jockeys, cattle-dealers, and frequenters of State and County fairs, Dely still objected to marry him. But the more she objected, the more her mother talked, her step-father swore, and the swaggering lover persisted in his attentions at all times, so that the poor girl had scarce a half-hour to herself. She grew thin and pale and unhappy enough; and one day George Adams, stepping in unexpectedly, found her with her apron to her eyes, crying most bitterly. It took some persuasion, and some more daring caresses than he had yet ventured on, to get Dely's secret trouble to light. I am inclined to think George kissed her at least once before she would tell him what she was crying about; but Dely naturally came to the conclusion, that, if he loved her enough to kiss her, and she loved him enough to like it, she might as well share her troubles, and the consequence was, George asked her then and there to share his. Not that either of them thought there would be troubles under that copartnership, for the day was sufficient to them; and it did not daunt Dely in the least to know that George's only possessions were a heifer calf, a suit of clothes, and twenty dollars.
About a month after this eventful day, Dely went into Hanerford on an errand, she said; so did George Adams. They stepped into the minister's together and were married; so Dely's errand was done, and she rode out on the front seat of George's empty wagon, stopping at the bakery to tell her mother and get her trunk: having wisely chosen a day for her errand when her step-father had gone away after a load of flour down to Hanerford wharves. Mrs. Kenyon went at once into wild hysterics, and called Dely a jade-hopper, and an ungrateful child; but not understanding the opprobrium of the one term, and not deserving the other, the poor girl only cried a little, and helped George with her trunk, which held all she could call her own in the world,—her clothes, two or three cheap trinkets, and a few books. She kissed the cats all round, hugged the dog, was glad her robin had died, and then said good-bye to her mother, who refused to kiss her, and said George Adams was a snake in the grass. This was too much for Dely; she wiped her eyes, and clambered over the wagon-wheel, and took her place beside George with a smile so much like crying that he began to whistle, and never stopped for two miles. By that time they were in a piece of thick pine woods, when, looking both before and behind to be certain no one was coming, he put his arm round his wife and kissed her, which seemed to have a consoling effect; and by the time they reached his mother's little house, Dely was as bright as ever.
A little bit of a house it was to bring a wife to, but it suited Dely. It stood on the edge of a pine wood, where the fragrance of the resinous boughs kept the air sweet and pure, and their leaves thrilled responsive to every breeze. The house was very small and very red, it had two rooms below and one above, but it was neater than many a five-story mansion, and far more cheerful; and when Dely went in at the door, she thought there could be no prettier sight than the exquisitely neat old woman sitting in her arm-chair on one side of the fireplace, and her beautiful cat on the other, purring and winking, while the tea-kettle sang and sputtered over the bright fire of pine-cones, and the tea-table at the other side of the room was spread with such clean linen and such shining crockery that it made one hungry even to look at the brown bread and butter and pink radishes that were Dely's wedding-supper.
It is very odd how happy people can be, when they are as poor as poverty, and don't know where to look for their living but to the work of their own hands. Genteel poverty is horrible; it is impossible for one to be poor, and elegant, and comfortable; but downright, simple, unblushing poverty may be the most blessed of states; and though it was somewhat of a descent in the social scale for Dely to marry a farm-hand, foreman though he might be, she loved her George so devoutly and healthily that she was as happy as a woman could be. George's mother, the sweetest and tenderest mother to him, took his wife to a place beside his in her heart, and the two women loved each other the more for this man's sake; he was a bond between them, not a division; hard work left them no thought of rankling jealousy to make their lives bitter, and Dely was happier than ever she had thought she should be away from her mother. Nor did the hard work hurt her; for she took to her own share all of it that was out of doors and troublesome to the infirmities of the old lady. She tended the calf in its little log hut, shook down the coarse hay for its bed, made its gruel till it grew beyond gruel, then drove it daily to the pasture where it fed, gave it extra rations of bread and apple-parings and carrot-tops, till the creature knew her voice and ran to her call like a pet kitten, rubbing its soft, wet nose against her red cheek, and showing in a dozen blundering, calfish ways that it both knew and loved her.
There are two sorts of people in the world,—those who love animals, and those who do not. I have seen them both, I have known both; and if sick or oppressed, or borne down with dreadful sympathies for a groaning nation in mortal struggle, I should go for aid, for pity, of the relief of kindred feeling, to those I had seen touched with quick tenderness for the lower creation,—who remember that "the whole creation travaileth in pain together," and who learn God's own lesson of caring for the fallen sparrow, and the ox that treadeth out the corn. With men or women who despise animals and treat them as mere beasts and brutes I never want to trust my weary heart or my aching head; but with Dely I could have trusted both safely, and the calf and the cat agreed with me.
So, in this happy, homely life, the sweet centre of her own bright little world, Dely passed the first year of her wedded life, and then the war came! Dreadful pivot of almost all our late lives! On it also this rude idyl turned. George enlisted for the war.
It was not in Dely or his mother to stop him. Though tears fell on every round of his blue socks and sprinkled his flannel shirts plentifully,—though the old woman's wan and wrinkled face paled and saddened, and the young one's fair throat quivered with choking sobs when they were alone,—still, whenever George appeared, he was greeted with smiles and cheer, strengthened and steadied from this home armory better than with sabre and bayonet, "with might in the inner man." George was a brave fellow, no doubt, and would do good service to his free country; but it is a question with me, whether, when the Lord calls out his "noble army of martyrs" before the universe of men and angels, that army will not be found officered and led by just such women as these, who fought silently with the flesh and the Devil by their own hearth, quickened by no stinging excitement of battle, no thrill of splendid strength and fury in soul and body, no tempting delight of honor or even recognition from their peers,—upheld only by the dull, recurrent necessities of duty and love.
At any rate, George went, and they stayed. The town made them an allowance as a volunteer's family; they had George's bounty to begin with; and a friendly boy from the farm near by came and sawed their wood, took care of the garden, and, when Dely could not go to pasture with the heifer, drove her to and fro daily.
After George had been gone three months, Dely had a little baby. Tiny and bright as it was, it seemed like a small star fallen down from some upper sky to lighten their darkness. Dely was almost too happy; and the old grandmother, fast slipping into that other world whence baby seemed to have but newly arrived, stayed her feeble steps a little longer to wait upon her son's child. Yet, for all the baby, Dely never forgot her dumb loves. The cat had still its place on the foot of her bed; and her first walk was to the barn, where the heifer lowed welcome to her mistress, and rubbed her head against the hand that caressed her with as much feeling as a cow can show, however much she may have. And Biddy, the heifer, was a good friend to that little household, all through that long ensuing winter. It went to Dely's heart to sell her first calf to the butcher, but they could not raise it, and when it was taken away she threw her check apron over her head, and buried her face deep in the pillow, that she might not hear the cries of appeal and grief her favorite uttered. After this, Biddy would let no one milk her but her mistress; and many an inarticulate confidence passed between the two while the sharp streams of milk spun and foamed into the pail below, as Dely's skilful hands coaxed it down.
They heard from George often: he was well, and busy with drill and camp life,—not in active service as yet. Incidentally, too, Dely heard of her mother. Old Kenyon was dead of apoplexy, and Steve like to die of drink. This was a bit of teamster's gossip, but proved to be true. Toward the end of the winter, old Mother Adams slept quietly in the Lord. No pain or sickness grasped her, though she knew she was dying, kissed and blessed Dely, sent a mother's message to George, and took the baby for the last time into her arms; then she laid her head on the pillow, smiled and drew a long breath,—no more.
Poor Dely's life was very lonely; she buried her dead out of her sight, wrote a loving, sobbing letter to George, and began to try to live alone. Hard enough it was! March revenged itself on the past toleration of winter; snow fell in blinding fury, and drifts hid the fences and fenced the doors all through Hartland Hollow. Day after day Dely struggled through the path to the barn to feed Biddy and milk her; and a warm mess of bread and milk often formed her only meal in that bitter weather. It is not credible to those who think no more of animals than of chairs and stones how much society and solace they afford to those who do love them, Biddy was really Dely's friend. Many a long day passed when no human face but the baby's greeted her from dawn till dusk, But the cow's beautiful purple eyes always turned to welcome her as she entered its shed-door; her wet muzzle touched Dely's cheek with a velvet caress; and while her mistress drew from the downy bag its white and rich stores, Biddy would turn her head round, and eye her with such mild looks, and breathe such fragrance toward her, that Dely, in her solitary and friendless state, came to regard her as a real sentient being, capable of love and sympathy, and had an affection for her that would seem utter nonsense to half, perhaps three quarters, of the people in this unsentimental world. Many a time did the lonely little woman lay her head on Biddy's neck, and talk to her about George with sobs and silences interspersed; and many a piece of dry bread steeped in warm water, or golden carrot, or mess of stewed turnips and bran flavored the dry hay that was the staple of the cow's diet. The cat was old now, and objected to the baby so strenuously that Dely regarded her as partly insane from age; and though she was kind to her of course, and fed her faithfully, still a cat that could growl at George's baby was not regarded with the same complacent kindness that had always blessed her before; and whenever the baby was asleep at milking-time, Pussy was locked into the closet,—a proceeding she resented. Biddy, on the contrary, seemed to admire the child,—she certainly did not object to her,—and necessarily obtained thereby a far higher place in Dely's heart than the cat.
As I have already said, Dely had heard of her step-father's death some time before; and one stormy day, the last week in March, a team coming from Hanerford with grain stopped at the door of the little red house, and the driver handed Dely a dirty and ill-written letter from her mother. Just such an epistle it was as might have been expected from Mrs. Kenyon,—full of weak sorrow, and entreaties to Dely to come home and live; she was old and tired, the bakery was coming to trouble for want of a good manager, the foreman was a rogue, and the business failing fast, and she wanted George and Dely there: evidently, she had not heard, when the letter began, of George's departure or baby's birth; but the latter half said, "Cum, anyway. I want to se the Baby. Ime an old critur, a sinking into my graiv, and when george cums back from the wars he must liv hear the rest off his life."
Dely's tender heart was greatly stirred by the letter, yet she was undecided what to do. Here she was alone and poor; there would be her mother,—and she loved her mother, though she could not respect her; there, too, was plenty for all; and if George should ever come home, the bakery business was just the thing for him,—he had energy and courage enough to redeem a sinking affair like that. But then what should she do with the cow? Puss could go home with her; but Biddy?—there was no place for Biddy. Pasture was scarce and dear about Hanerford; Dely's father had given up keeping a cow long before his death for that reason; but how could Dely leave and sell her faithful friend and companion? Her heart sank at the thought; it almost turned the scale, for one pitiful moment, against common-sense and filial feeling. But baby coughed,—nothing more than a slight cold, yet Dely thought, as she had often thought before, with a quick thrill of terror, What if baby were ever sick? Seven miles between her and the nearest doctor; nobody to send, nobody to leave baby with, and she herself utterly inexperienced in the care of children. The matter was decided at once; and before the driver who brought her mother's letter had come, on his next journey, for the answer he had offered to carry, Dely's letter was written, sealed, and put on the shelf, and she was busy contriving and piecing out a warm hood and cloak for baby to ride in.
But every time she went to the barn to milk Biddy or feed her, the tears sprang to her eyes, and her mind misgave her. Never before had the dainty bits of food been so plentiful for her pet, or her neck so tenderly stroked. Dely had written to her mother that she would come to her as soon as her affairs were settled, and she had spoken to Orrin Nye, who brought the letter, to find a purchaser for her cow. Grandfather Hollis, who bought Biddy, and in whose farm-yard I made her acquaintance, gave me the drover's account of the matter, which will be better in his words than mine. It seems he brought quite a herd of milch cows down to Avondale, which is twenty miles from Hanerford, and hearing that Grandfather wanted a couple of cows, he came to "trade with him," as he expressed it. He had two beautiful Ayrshires in the lot,—clean heads, shining skins, and good milkers,—that mightily pleased the old gentleman's fancy; for he had long brooded over his favorite scheme of a pure-blooded herd, and the red and white clouded Ayrshires showed beautifully on his green hillside pastures, and were good stock besides. But Aaron Stow insisted so pertinaciously that he should buy this red cow, that the Squire shoved his hat back and put both his hands in his pockets, a symptom of determination with him, and began to question him. They fenced awhile, in true Yankee fashion, till at last Grandfather became exasperated.
"Look here, Aaron Stow!" said he, "what in thunder do you pester me so about that cow for? She's a good enough beast, I see, for a native; but those Ayrshires are better cows and better blood, and you know it. What are you navigating round me for, so glib?"
"Well, now, Squire," returned Aaron, whittling at the gate with sudden vehemence, "fact is, I've set my mind on your buyin' that critter, an' you jes' set down on that 'ere milkin'-stool an' I'll tell ye the rights on 't, though I feel kinder meechin' myself, to be so soft about it as I be."
"Leave off shaving my new gate, then, and don't think I'm going to trust a hundred and eighty-five solid flesh to a three-legged stool. I'm too old for that. I'll sit on the step here. Now go ahead, man."
So Grandfather sat down on the step, and Aaron turned his back against the gate and kicked one boot on the other. He was not used to narration.
"Well, you know we had a dreadful spell o' weather a month ago, Squire. There ha'n't never been such a March in my day as this last; an' 't was worse up our way 'n' 't was here, an' down to Hartland Holler was the beat of all. Why, it snowed an' it blowed an' it friz till all Natur' couldn't stan' it no more! Well, about them days I was down to Hartland Centre a-buyin' some fat cattle for Hanerford market, an' I met Orrin Nye drivin' his team pretty spry, for he see it was comin' on to snow; but when he catched sight o' me, he stopped the horses an' hollered out to me, so I stepped along an' asked what he wanted; an' he said there was a woman down to the Holler that had a cow to sell, an' he knowed I was apt to buy cow-critters along in the spring, so he'd spoke about it, for she was kinder in a hurry to sell, for she was goin' to move. So I said I'd see to 't, an' he driv along. I thought likely I should git it cheap, ef she was in a hurry to sell, an' I concluded I'd go along next day; 't wa'n't more 'n' seven mile from the Centre, down by a piece o' piny woods, an' the woman was Miss Adams. I used ter know George Adams quite a spell ago, an' he was a likely feller. Well, it come on to snow jest as fine an' dry as sand, an' the wind blew like needles, an', come next day, when I started to foot it down there, I didn't feel as though I could ha' gone, ef I hadn't been sure of a good bargain; the snow hadn't driv much, but the weather had settled down dreadful cold; 't was dead still, an' the air sorter cut ye to breathe it; but I'm naterally hardy, an' I kep' along till I got there. I didn't feel so all-fired cold as I hev sometimes, but when I stepped in to the door, an' she asked me to hev a cheer by the fire, fust I knew I didn't know nothin'; I come to the floor like a felled ox. I expect I must ha' been nigh on to dead with clear cold, for she was the best part o' ten minutes bringin' on me to. She rubbed my hands an' face with camphire an' gin me some hot tea; she hadn't got no sperits in the house, but she did everything a little woman could do, an' I was warmed through an' through afore long, an' we stepped out into the shed to look at the cow.
"Well, Squire, I ha'n't got much natur' into me noway, an' it 's well I ha'n't; but that cow beat all, I declare for 't! She put her head round the minute Miss Adams come in; an' if ever you see a dumb beast pleased, that 'ere cow was tickled to pieces. She put her nose down to the woman's cheek, an' she licked her hands, an' she moved up agin' her an' rubbed her ear on her,—she all but talked; an' when I looked round an' see them black eyes o' Miss Adams's with wet in 'em, I 'most wished I had a pocket-handkercher myself.
"'You won't sell her to a hard master, will you?' says she. 'I want her to go where she'll be well cared for, an' I shall know where she is; for if ever things comes right agin, I want to hev her back. She's been half my livin' an' all my company for quite a spell, an' I shall miss her dreadfully.'
"'Well,' says I, 'I'll take her down to Squire Hollis's in Avondale; he's got a cow-barn good enough for a Representative to set in, an' clean water, an' chains to halter 'em up with, an' a dry yard where the water all dreens off as slick as can be, an' there a'n't such a piece o' land nowhere round for root-crops; an' the Squire he sets such store by his cows an' things, I've heerd tell he turned off two Irishmen for abusin' on 'em; an' they has their bags washed an' their tails combed every day in the year,—an' I don't know but what they ties 'em up with a blew ribbin.'"
"Get out!" growled Grandfather.
"Can't, jest yet, Squire, not t'll I've done. Anyway, I figgered it off to her, an' she was kinder consoled up to think on 't; for I told her I thought likely you'd buy her cow, an' when we come to do the tradin' part, why, con-found it! she wa'n't no more fit to buy an' sell a critter than my three-year-old Hepsy. I said a piece back I ha'n't got much natur', an' a man that trades dumb beasts the biggest part o' the time hedn't oughter hev; but I swan to man! natur' was too much for me this time; I couldn't no more ha' bought that cow cheap than I could ha' sold my old gran'ther to a tin-peddler. Somehow, she was so innocent, an' she felt so to part with the critter, an' then she let me know 't George was in the army; an' thinks I, I guess I'll help the Gov'ment along some; I can't fight, 'cause I'm subject to rheumatiz in my back, but I can look out for them that can; so, take the hull on 't, long an' broad, why, I up an' gin her seventy-five dollars for that cow,—an' I'd ha' gin twenty more not to ha' seen Miss Adams's face a-lookin' arter me an' her when we went away from the door.
"So now, Squire, you can take her or leave her."
Aaron Stow knew his man. Squire Hollis pulled out his pocket-book and paid seventy-five dollars on the spot for a native cow called Biddy.
"Now clear out with your Ayrshires!" said he, irascibly. "I'm a fool, but I won't buy them, too."
"Well, Squire, good day," said Aaron, with a grin.
But I am credibly informed that the next week he did come back with the two Ayrshires, and sold them to Grandfather, remarking to the farmer that he "should ha' been a darned fool to take the old gentleman at his word; for he never knowed a man hanker arter harnsome stock but what he bought it, fust or last."
Now I also discovered that the regiment George enlisted in was one whose Colonel I knew well: so I wrote and asked about Sergeant Adams. My report was highly honorable to George, but had some bad news in it: he had been severely wounded in the right leg, and, though recovering, would be disabled from further service. A fortnight after I drove into Hanerford with Grandfather Hollis, and we stopped at the old bakery. It looked exquisitely neat in the shop, as well as prosperous externally, and Dely stood behind the counter with a lovely child in her arms. Grandfather bought about half a bushel of crackers and cookies, while I played with the baby. As he paid for them, he said in his kind old voice that nobody can hear without pleasure,—
"I believe I have a pet of yours in my barn at Avondale, Mrs. Adams."
Dely's eyes lighted up, and a quick flush of feeling glowed on her pretty face.
"Oh, Sir! you did buy Biddy, then? and you are Squire Hollis?"
"Yes, Ma'am, and Biddy is well, and well cared for, as fat and sleek as a mole, and still comes to her name."
"Thank you kindly, Sir!" said Dely, with an emphasis that gave the simple phrase most earnest meaning.
"And how is your husband, Mrs. Adams?" said I.
A deeper glow displaced the fading blush Grandfather had called out, and her beautiful eyes flashed at me.
"Quite well, I thank you, and not so very lame. And he's coming home next week."
She took the baby from me, as she spoke, and, looking in its bright little face, said,—
"Call him, Baby!"
"Pa-pa!" said the child.
"If ever you come to Avondale, Mrs. Adams, come and see my cows," said Grandfather, as he gathered up the reins. "You maybe sure I won't sell Biddy to anybody but you."
Dely smiled from the steps where she stood; and we drove away.
NEEDLE AND GARDEN.
THE STORY OF A SEAMSTRESS WHO LAID DOWN HER NEEDLE AND BECAME A STRAWBERRY-GIRL.
WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
I cannot tell why the price of everything we eat or drink or wear has so much increased during the last year or two. I have heard many reasons given, and have read of so many more, all differing, as to lead me to suspect that no one really knows. Yet there is a general, broad admission that it must in some way be owing to the war, for every one knows that such enhancement did not previously exist. But among the strange, the unaccountable, the utterly heartless facts of this eventful crisis is the reduction of the wages of the sewing-woman, while the cost of everything necessary to keep her alive is threefold greater than before. The salaries of clerks have been raised, the wages of the working-man increased, in some cases doubled, the labor of men in every department of business is better paid, yet that of the sewing-woman is reduced in price.
The heartlessness of the fact is equalled only by its strangeness. Every article of clothing which the sewing-woman makes commands a higher price than formerly, yet she receives much less for her work than when it sold for a lower one. And while thus meagrely paid, there has been a demand for the labor of her hands so urgent that the like was never seen among us. A customer, in the person of the Government, came into the market and created a demand for clothing, that swept every factory clear of its accumulated stock, and bound the proprietors in contracts for more, which required them to run night and day. All this unexampled product was to be made up into tents, accoutrements, and army-clothing, and principally by women. One would suppose, that, with so unusual a call for female labor, there would be an increase of female wages. It was so in the case of those who fabricated cannon, muskets, powder, and all other articles which a government consumes in time of war, and which men produce: they demanded higher wages for their work, and obtained them: the increase showing itself to the buyer in the enhanced price of the article.
This enhancement became contagious: it spread to everything,—doubling and trebling the price of whatever the community required, except the single item of the sewing-woman's labor. Had the price of this remained even stationary, it would have excited surprise; but that her wages should be cut down at a time when everybody's else went up excited astonishment among such as became aware of it, while the reduction coming contemporaneously with an unprecedented rise in the price of all the necessaries of life overwhelmed this deserving class with indescribable misery. Multitudes of them gave up the commonest articles of food,—coffee, tea, butter, and sugar,—and others dispensed even with many of the actual necessaries. How could they eat butter at sixty cents a pound, when earning only fifteen cents a day?
Finally the reduction of sewing-women's wages became so shamefully great as to raise a wailing cry from these poor victims of cupidity, which attracted public attention. It was shown that as the price of food rose, their wages went down. In 1861 the sewing-woman received seventeen and a half cents for making a shirt, sugar being then thirteen cents a pound; but in 1864, when sugar was up to thirty cents, the price for making a shirt had been ground down to eight cents! It was nearly the same with all other articles of her work, as the following list of cruel reductions in the prices paid at our arsenal and by contractors will show.
COMPARISON OF PRICES FOR 1861 AND 1864.
Arsenal. Arsenal. Contractors. 1861. 1864. 1864. Shirts, 17-1/2 15 8 Drawers, 12-1/2 10 7 @ 8 Infantry Pantaloons, 42-1/2 27 17 @ 20 Cavalry Pantaloons, 60 50 28 @ 30 Lined Blouses, 45 40 20 Unlined Blouses, 40 35 15 @ 20 Cavalry Jackets, 1.12-1/2 1.00 75 @ 80 Overalls, 25 20 8 Bed Sacks, 20 20 7 Covering Canteens, 4 2-1/2 —
Here was a state of things wholly without parallel in our previous social history. On such wages women could not exist; they were the strongest and surest temptation to the abandonment of a virtuous course of life. Labor was here evidently cheated of its just reward. The Government gave out the work by contract at the prices indicated in the first two columns, and the contractors put it out among the sewing-women at the inhuman rates set down in the third column. In this wrong the Government participated; for it reduced its prices to the sewing-women, while it was constantly increasing those it paid to every other class of work-people. Even the freedmen on the sea-islands or in the contraband camps made better wages,—while the liberated negro washer-woman, who had never been paid wages during a life of sixty years, was suddenly elevated to a position about the camps which enabled her to earn more, every day, than thousands of intelligent and exemplary needle-women in Philadelphia.
An extraordinary feature of the case was, that, while there was probably four times as much sewing to be done, there were at least ten times as many women to do it as before. The condition of things showed that this must be the fact, because, though the work to be given out was enormous in amount, yet there was a crowd and pressure to obtain it which was even greater. I saw this myself on more than one occasion.
While congratulating ourselves that our women have not yet been degraded to working at coal-mining, dressed in men's attire, or at gathering up manure in the streets of a great city, we may be sure, that, if, in this emergency, they were saved from actual starvation, it was not through any generous, spontaneous outpouring of that sympathy whose fountain is in the bottom of men's pockets. They pined, and worked, and saved themselves.
At last they met together in public, common sufferers under a common calamity, interchanged their experiences, and mingled their tears. If the personal history of the pupils in my sewing-school was diversified, in this assembly the domestic experience of each individual was in mournful harmony with that of all. The great majority were wives of soldiers who had gone forth to uphold the flag of our country. Hundreds of them were clad in mourning,—their husbands had died in battle,—their remittances of pay had ceased,—their dependence had been suddenly cut off,—and they were thus thrown back upon the needle, which they had laid down on getting married. Oh, how many hollow cheeks and attenuated figures were to be seen in that sad meeting of working-women! There was the dull eye, the pinched-up face, which betokened absolute deprivation of necessary food,—yet withal, the careful adjustment of a faded shawl or dress, the honest pride, even in the depth of misery, to be at least decent, after the effort to preserve the old gentility had been found vain.
It was the extraordinary number of the wives and daughters of the killed and wounded in battle, who, suddenly added to the standing army of sewing-women, had glutted the labor-market of the city, and whose impatient necessity for employment had enabled heartless contractors to cut down the making of a shirt to eight cents. I remember, when the first rumor of the first battle reached our city, how the news-resorts were thronged by these women to know whether they had been made widows or not,—how the crowd pressed up to and surged around the placards containing the lists of killed and wounded,—how those away off from these centres of early intelligence waited feverishly for the morning paper to tell them whether they were to be miserable or happy. I remember, too, how, as the bloody contest went on, this impatient anxiety died out,—use seemed to have made their condition a sort of second nature,—they kept at home, hopeful, but resigned. Alas! how many, in the end, needed all the resignation that God mercifully extends to the stricken deer of the great human family!
They came together on the occasion referred to to compare grievances, and devise whatever poor remedy might be found to be in the power of a body of friendless needle-women. The straits to which many of these deserving widows had been reduced were awful. The rich men of my native city may hang their heads in shame over the recital of sufferings at their very door. No generous movement had been made by any of them in mitigation.
One widow, taking out shirts at the arsenal, earned two dollars and forty cents in two weeks, but was denied permission to take them in when done, though urgently needing her pay, being told that she would be making too much money. Another made vests with ten button-holes and three pockets for fifteen cents, furnishing her own cotton at twenty cents a spool. A third, whose husband was then in the army, found the price of infantry-pantaloons reduced from forty-two to twenty-seven cents,—reduced by the Government itself,—but she made eight pair a week, took care of five children, and was always on the verge of starvation. She declared, that, if it were not for her children, she would gladly lie down and die! A fourth worked for contractors on overalls at five cents a pair! Having the aid of a sewing-machine, she made six pair daily, but was the object of insult and abuse from her employer.
The widow of a brave man who gave up his life at Fredericksburg worked for the Government, and made eight pair of pantaloons a week, receiving two dollars and sixteen cents for the uninterrupted labor of six days of eighteen hours each. Another made thirteen pair of drawers for a dollar, and by working early and late could sometimes earn two dollars in the week. The wife of another soldier, still fighting to uphold the flag, worked on great-coats for the contractors at thirty cents each, and earned eighty cents a week, keeping herself and three children on that! A wounded hero came home to die, and did so, after lingering six months dependent on his wife. With six children, she could earn only two dollars and a quarter a week, though working incessantly. She did contrive to feed them, but they went barefoot all winter.
An aged woman worked on tents, making in each tent forty-six button-holes, sewing on forty-six buttons, then buttoning them together, then making twenty eyelet-holes,—all for sixteen cents. After working a whole day without tasting food, she took in her work just five minutes after the hour for receiving and paying for the week's labor. She was told there was no more work for her. Then she asked them to pay her for what she had just delivered, but was refused. She told them she was without a cent, and that, if forced to wait till another pay-day, she must starve. The reply was, "Starve and be d——d! That is none of my business. We have our rules, and shall not break them for any ——."
A soldier's wife had bought coal by the bucketful all winter, at the rate of sixteen dollars a ton, and worked on flannel shirts at a dollar and thirty cents a dozen. She was never able to eat a full meal, and many times went to bed hungry. A tailor gave to another sewing-woman a lot of pantaloons to make up. The cloth being rotten, the stitches of one pair tore out, but by exercising great care she succeeded in getting the others made up. When she took them in, he accused her of having ruined them, and refused to pay her anything. She threatened suit, whereupon he told her to "sue and be d——d," and finally offered a shilling a pair, which her necessities forced her to accept. Another needle-woman worked on hat-leathers at two and a half cents a dozen. She found her own silk and cotton, and put upwards of five thousand stitches into the dozen leathers. How could such a slave exist? Her four children and herself breakfasted on bread and molasses, with malt coffee sweetened with molasses. They dined on potatoes, and made a quarter peck serve for three meals!
So much for the mercy of the Government and the conduct of the trade. Now for the doings of those who claimed to belong to the religious class. One public praying man paid less than any other contractor, and frequently allowed his hands to go unpaid for two or three weeks together. Another would give only a dollar for making thirteen shirts and drawers, of which a woman could finish but three in a day. One of those in his employ, becoming weary of such low pay, applied for work at another tailor's. There she found the inspector cursing an aged woman. When solicited for work, he told the applicant to "clear out and be d——d; he didn't want to see anything in bonnet or hoops again that day."
What but fallen women must some of the subjects of such atrocious treatment become? It was ascertained from a letter sent by one of this class, that she had given way under the pressure of starvation. She said,—
"I was once an innocent girl, the daughter of a clergyman. Left an orphan at an early age, I tried hard to make a living, but, unable to endure the hard labor and live upon the poor pay I received, I fell into sin. Tell your public that thousands like me have been driven by want to crime. Tell them, that, though it is well to save human souls from pollution, it is better that they shall be kept pure, and know no shame."
Another confessed as much; but how many more were driven to the same alternative, who remained mute under their shame, no one can tell. Yet the men who thus drove virtuous women to despair were amassing large fortunes. Their names appeared in the newspapers as liberal contributors to every public charity that was started,—to sanitary fairs, to women's-aid societies, to the sick and wounded soldiers, to everything that would be likely to bring their names into print. They figured as respectable and spirited citizens. Of all men they were supremely loyal. Loyal to what? Not to the cause of poor famishing women, but to their own interest. Some of them were church-members, famous as class-leaders and exhorters, powerful in prayer, especially when made in public, counterparts of the Pharisees of old. Their wives and daughters wore silk dresses, hundred-dollar shawls, and had boxes at the opera.
What would have been said of this unheard-of robbery by the men who won victories at Gettysburg and Atlanta, had they known that it was committed on the wives and mothers whom they had left behind? These women gave up husbands and sons to fight the battles of the nation, never dreaming that those who remained at home to make fortunes would seek to do so by starving them. They considered the first sacrifice great enough; but here was another. Who but they can describe how terrible it was?
On this subject employers have generally remained silent, offering few rebuttals to these charges of cruelty, extortion, and robbery. The sewing-women and their friends have remonstrated, but the oppressors have rarely condescended to reply. Even those of the same sex, who have large establishments and employ numbers of women, have seldom done so. This silence has been significant of inability, an admission of the facts alleged.
Philanthropy has not been idle, however, while these impositions on sewing-women have been practised. Numerous plans for preventing them, and for otherwise improving the condition of the sex, have been proposed, some of which have been put into successful operation,—the object sought for being to diversify employment by opening other occupations than that of the needle. It is a settled truism, that the measure of civilization in a nation is the condition of its women. While heathen and savage, they are drudges; when enlightened by education and moulded by Christianity, they rise to the highest plane of humanity. When a Neapolitan woman gave birth to a girl, it was, until very recently, the custom of the poorer classes to display a black flag from an upper window of the house, to avoid the unpleasant necessity of informing inquirers of the sex of the infant. Even at the birth of a child in the higher ranks, the midwife and physician who are in attendance never announce to the anxious mother the sex of the newly born, if a girl, until pressed to disclose it, because a female child is never welcome.
It is much the fashion of the times to say that the sphere of woman is exclusively within the domestic circle. It is highly probable that the great majority desire no wider range; but even in the obscure quietude of that circle they are subject to a thousand chances. We see what kind of husbands many women obtain,—and that even the most deserving are at times overtaken by sickness or poverty, and then are left with no certain means of living. Poets and novelists may limit their destiny to that of being beautiful and charming, but the wise and considerate have long since seen that some comprehensive improvement in their condition is needed. Their resources must be enlarged and made available. It will increase their self-respect, and make them spurn dependence on the charity of friends. I am inclined to think that all true women are working-women,—at least they would be such, if they could obtain the proper employment. American girls cannot all become house-servants, and few of them are willing to be such. Their aspirations are evidently higher. They have sought the factory, the bindery, the printing-office,—thus graduating, by force of their own inherent aptitude for better things, to a higher and more intellectual occupation, leaving the Irish and Germans in undisputed possession of the kitchen.
A volume has been printed, giving a list of employments suitable for women, but meagre in practical suggestions how to secure them. It was thought that the war would bring about a brisk demand for female labor, as great armies cannot be collected without causing a corresponding drain from many occupations into which women would thus find admission. But the melancholy facts already recited show how fallacious the idea is, that war can be in any way a blessing to the sex. If some have been employed in consequence, multitudes who had been previously supported by their husbands have been compelled to beg for work. The war has everywhere brought poverty and grief to the humbler classes of American women.
It is true that in the West, where the foreign population is large, the German women go into the fields, and plough, and sow, and reap, and harvest, with all the skill and activity of the men. It is equally true of other sections of our country, in which no harvests would be gathered, but for female help. But these are exceptional cases; and these women can live without working on shirts at five to eight cents apiece.
While the distress was greatest in our city, some one advertised for two men, to be employed in a millinery establishment, who were acquainted with trimmings, and before the day had passed, sixty applicants had presented themselves for the situation: the men had not become scarcer. Another shop, which advertised for three girls, at a dollar and a half a week, "intelligent, genteel girls," as the advertisement read, was so overrun before night with applications for even that pitiful compensation, that the proprietor lost his temper under the annoyance, and drove many away with insult and abuse. If the war gives employment to women in the fields, it affords an insufficient amount of it in the cities.
There are more female beggars in our streets, with infants in their arms, than ever before. The saloons and beer-shops, stripped of their male bar-tenders, have adopted female substitutes, driven by necessity to take up with an employment that always demoralizes a woman. The surgical records of the army show, that, among the wounded brought into the hospitals, many women have thus been discovered as soldiers. Others have been detected and sent home, Many of these heroines declared that they entered the army because they could find no other employment. The incognito they had preserved was strongly confirmatory of their truthfulness. These are some of the minor effects of the war upon our sex. Many have been sadly demoralizing, while probably very few have been in any way beneficial.
It is one of the curiosities of the study how to improve the condition of women, that the most eccentric plans have originated with their own sex. The deportation of girls from England to Australia and other colonies, where the majority of settlers are single men, is patronized and presided over by ladies. It has been so extensive as to confer the utmost benefit on distant settlements, equalizing the disparity of the sexes, promoting a higher civilization by a proper infusion of female society, and providing homes for thousands of virtuous, but friendless and dependent girls, who had found the utmost difficulty in obtaining even a precarious living. The exodus of American girls from New England to California, as teachers first and wives afterwards, which some years ago took place, originated with an American lady, who personally superintended the enterprise. All through the West there are families whose mothers are of the same enterprising class, while the South is not without its representatives. There is a tribe of writers whose study it is to ridicule and sneer at these humane and truly noble efforts to make dependent women comfortable; but happily their sarcasm has been unavailing.
I knew a young girl who was without a single relation in the world, so far as she was aware. She had been picked up from a curb-stone in the street, at the foot of a lamp-post, when perhaps only a week old,—her mother having abandoned her to the charity of the first passer. She was found by the watchman on his midnight beat, who, having no children, adopted her as his own. One may feel surprised that foundlings are so frequently adopted into respectable families, especially when infants of only a few weeks old. But there are solitary couples whose hearts instinctively yearn for the possession of children. Providence having denied them offspring, they fill the void in their affections by taking to their bosoms the helpless, friendless, and abandoned waifs of others. Foundlings are preferred, because there is no chance of their reclamation; the mother never troubles herself to demand possession of her child; she may remember it, but it is only to rejoice at having cast it off. The new parents are not annoyed by outside interference. The foundling grows in their affections; they love it as they would their own offspring; it cannot be torn away from them.
When only ten years of age, the protectors of the child referred to both died, and she was turned loose to shift for herself. For three years she underwent all the hardships incident to changing one bad mistress for another, being poorly clothed, half fed, her education discontinued, even the privilege of the Sunday school denied her, a total stranger to kindness or sympathy.
An agent of a children's-aid society one day saw her washing the pavement in front of her mistress's house, and being struck by her shabby dress and evidently uncared-for condition, accosted her and ascertained the principal facts of her little history. She was of just the class whom it was the mission of the society to save from the destitution and danger of a totally friendless position, by sending them to good homes in the West. Thither she went, liberated from an uncompensated bondage to the scrubbing-brush and washtub, and was ushered into a new and joyous existence by the agency of one of the noblest charities that Christian benevolence ever put it into the human heart to extend to orphan children. The foundling of the lamp-post, thus having an opening made for her, improved it and prospered. Out of the atmosphere of city life, she grew up virtuous and respected. Her true origin had been charitably concealed; she was known as an orphan; it would have done no good to have it said that she was a foundling. She married well, and became the mother of a family.
Hundreds of street-tramping orphan girls, with surroundings more unfriendly to female purity than those of this foundling, have been taken from the lowest haunts of a shocking city-life by the same noble charity, and introduced into peaceful country homes, where they have grown up to be respectable members of society. In this emigration effort women have been conspicuous actors. In England they have been equally prominent in promoting the emigration of nearly half a million of unmarried females to the various colonies. They publish books, and pamphlets, and magazines, and newspapers, in advocacy of the movement. Educated and intellectual ladies leave wealthy homes and accompany their emigrants on voyages of thousands of miles, to see that they are comfortably cared for.
It would seem that in the ordering of Divine Providence there will always be a multitude of women who do not marry. It is shown by the census of every country in which the population is numbered periodically, that there is an excess of females. In England there are thirty women in every hundred who never marry, and there are three millions who earn their own living. It is there contended that all effort is improper which is directed toward making celibacy easy for women, and that marriage, their only true vocation, should be promoted at any cost, even at that of distributing through the colonies England's half million of unmarried ones. Some declare that it is impossible to make the labor of single women remunerative, or their lives free and happy. But if the occupations of women were raised and diversified as much as they might be, such impossibility would of itself be impossible. If it is to be granted that a woman possesses only inferior powers, let her be taught to use such powers as she has.
I doubt not that He who created woman has some mission, some purpose, for those who, in His divine ordering, remain single. There is a church which has taken note of this great fact, and devotes its single women to cloisters or to hospitals, sometimes to useful objects, sometimes to improper ones,—but seeing that they are a numerous class, it has specifically appropriated them. I presume the lesson of a single life, the necessity of living alone, must be a difficult one to learn. The heart, the young heart always, is perpetually seeking for something to love. Amid the duties of the household, around the domestic fireside, this loving spirit has room for growth, expansion, and intensity. The soft tendrils which it is ever throwing out find gentle objects to which they may cling with indissoluble attachment. Solitude is fatal to the household affections. The single woman lives in a comparative solitude,—a solitude of the heart.
Yet it cannot be denied that even such hermitesses find compensations in their retirement. If one resolve to remain single,—and it must require strength of mind to come to this determination,—it is remarkable how Nature fits such a woman for a position for which she could not have been created. She takes her stand with a power of endurance not exceeded by that of the other sex, and becomes more independent and at ease than they. Let man's condition be what it may, whether rich or poor, he will find his home cheerless and uncomfortable without the presence of a woman. His desolateness at an hotel or boarding-house is proverbial. He is unceasingly conscious that he has no home. But the single woman can create one for herself.
Go into the cells of any prison for women, and those who never visited such abodes will be astonished at the neatness, the order, the embellishments, which many of them display. The home feeling that seems to be natural to most of us develops itself here with affecting energy. No man could surround his penitential cell with graces so profuse and pleasing as do some of these unfortunate women.
Thus, go where a woman may, a native instinct teaches and qualifies her to make a home for herself. If single, taste and housewifery are combined within even the narrow limits of one or two rooms. Her singleness need not chill the heart,—for there are other things to love than men. The power to make tender friendships was born with her, and is part of her nature; nor does it leave her now. She has, moreover, the proud satisfaction of knowing that she has never lived to tempt others to an act of sin and shame. But are the men who live equally solitary lives as guiltless as she?
GOING TO SLEEP.
The light is fading down the sky, The shadows grow and multiply, I hear the thrushes' evening song; But I have borne with toil and wrong So long, so long! Dim dreams my drowsy senses drown,— So, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
My life's brief spring went wasted by,— My summer ended fruitlessly; I learned to hunger, strive, and wait,— I found you, love,—oh, happy fate!— So late, so late! Now all my fields are turning brown,— So, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
Oh, blessed sleep! oh, perfect rest! Thus pillowed on your faithful breast, Nor life nor death is wholly drear, O tender heart, since you are here, So dear, so dear! Sweet love, my soul's sufficient crown! Now, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
Miss Johns meets the new-comer with as large a share of kindness as she can force into her manner; but her welcome lacks, somehow, the sympathetic glow to which Adele has been used; it has not even the spontaneity and heartiness which had belonged to the greeting of that worldly woman, Mrs. Brindlock. And as the wondering little stranger passes up the path, and into the door of the parsonage, with her hand in that of the spinster, she cannot help contrasting the one cold kiss of the tall lady in black with the shower of warm ones which her old godmother had bestowed at parting. Yet in the eye of the Doctor sister Eliza had hardly ever worn a more beaming look, and he was duly grateful for the strong interest which she evidently showed in the child of his poor friend. She had equipped herself indeed in her best silk and with her most elaborate toilet, and had exhausted all her strategy,—whether in respect of dress, of decorations for the chamber, or of the profuse supper which was in course of preparation,—to make a profound and favorable impression upon the heart of the stranger.
The spinster was not a little mortified at her evident want of success, most notably in respect to the elaborate arrangements of the chamber of the young guest, who seemed to regard the dainty hangings of the little bed, and the scattered ornaments, as matters of course; but making her way to the window which commanded a view of both garden and orchard, Adele clapped her hands with glee at sight of the flaming hollyhocks and the trees laden with golden pippins. It was, indeed, a pretty scene: silvery traces of the brook sparkled in the green meadow below the orchard, and the hills beyond were checkered by the fields of buckwheat in broad patches of white bloom, and these again were skirted by masses of luxuriant wood that crowned all the heights. To the eye of Adele, used only to the bare hill-sides and scanty olive-orchards of Marseilles, the view was marvellously fair.
"Tiens! there are chickens and doves," said she, still gazing eagerly out; "oh, I am sure I shall love this new home!"
And thus saying, she tripped back from the window to where Miss Eliza was admiringly intent upon the unpacking and arranging of the little wardrobe of her guest. Adele, in the flush of her joyful expectations from the scene that had burst upon her out of doors, now prattled more freely with the spinster,—tossing out the folds of her dresses, as they successively came to light, with her dainty fingers, and giving some quick, girlish judgment upon each.
"This godmother gave me, dear, good soul!—and she sewed this bow upon it; isn't it coquette? And there is the white muslin,—oh, how crushed!—that was for my church-dress, first communion, you know; but papa said, 'Better wait,'—so I never wore it."
Thus woman and child grew into easy acquaintance over the great trunk of Adele: the latter plunging her little hands among the silken folds of dress after dress with the careless air of one whose every wish had been petted; and the spinster forecasting the pride she would herself take in accompanying this little sprite, in these French robes, to the house of her good friends, the Hapgoods, or in exciting the wonderment of those most excellent people, the Tourtelots.
Meantime Reuben, with a resolute show of boyish indifference, has been straying off with Phil Elderkin, although he has caught a glimpse of the carriage at the door. Later he makes his way into the study, where the Doctor, after giving him kindly reproof for not being at home to welcome them, urges upon him the duty of kindness to the young stranger who has come to make her home with them, and trusts that Providence may overrule her presence there to the improvement and blessing of both. It is, in fact, a little lecture which the good, but prosy Doctor pronounces to the boy; from which he slipping away, so soon as a good gap occurs in the discourse, strolls with a jaunty affectation of carelessness into the parlor. His Aunt Eliza is there now seated at the table, and Adele standing by the hearth, on which a little fire has just been kindled. She gives a quick, eager look at him, under which his assumed carelessness vanishes in an instant.
"This is Adele, our little French guest, Reuben."
The lad throws a quick, searching glance upon her, but is abashed by the look of half-confidence and half-merriment that he sees twinkling in her eye. The boy's awkwardness seems to infect her, too, for a moment.
"I should think, Reuben, you would welcome Adele to the parsonage," said the spinster.
And Reuben, glancing again from under his brow, sidles along the table, with far less of ease than he had worn when he came whistling through the hall,—sidles nearer and nearer, till she, with a coy approach that seems to be full of doubt, meets him with a little furtive hand-shake. Then he, retiring a step, leans with one elbow on the friendly table, eying her curiously, and more boldly when he discovers that her look is downcast, and that she seems to be warming her feet at the blaze.
Miss Johns has watched narrowly this approach of her two proteges, with an interest quite uncommon to her; and now, with a policy that would have honored a more adroit tactician, she slips quietly from the room.
Reuben feels freer at this, knowing that the gray eye is not upon the watch; Adele too, perhaps; at any rate, she lifts her face with a look that invites Reuben to speech.
"You came in a ship, didn't you?"
"Oh, yes! a big, big ship!"
"I should like to sail in a ship," said Reuben; "did you like it?"
"Not very much," said Adele, "the deck was so slippery, and the waves were so high, oh, so high!"—and the little maid makes an explanatory gesture with her two hands, the like of which for grace and expressiveness Reuben had certainly never seen in any girl of Ashfield. His eyes twinkled at it.
"Were you afraid?" said he.
"Oh, not much."
"Because you know," said Reuben, consolingly, "if the ship had sunk, you could have come on shore in the small boats." He saw a merry laugh of wonderment threatening in her face, and continued authoritatively, "Nat Boody has been in a sloop, and he says they always carry small boats to pick up people when the big ships go down."
Adele laughed outright. "But how would they carry the bread, and the stove, and the water, and the anchor, and all the things? Besides, the great waves would knock a small boat in pieces."
Reuben felt a humiliating sense of being no match for the little stranger on sea topics, so he changed the theme.
"Are you going to Miss Onthank's?"
"That's a funny name," says Adele; "that's the school, isn't it? Yes, I suppose I'll go there: you go, don't you?"
"Yes," says Reuben, "but I don't think I'll go very long."
"Why not?" says Adele.
"I'm getting too big to go to a girls' school," said Reuben.
"Oh!"—and there was a little playful malice in the girl's observation that piqued the boy.
"Do the scholars like her?" continued Adele.
"Pretty well," said Reuben; "but she hung up a little girl about as big as you, once, upon a nail in a corner of the school-room."
"Quelle bete!" exclaimed Adele.
"That's French, isn't it?"
"Yes, and it means she's a bad woman to do such things."
In this way they prattled on, and grew into a certain familiarity: the boy entertaining an immense respect for her French, and for her knowledge of the sea and ships; but stubbornly determined to maintain the superiority which he thought justly to belong to his superior age and sex.
That evening, after the little people were asleep, the spinster and the Doctor conferred together in regard to Adele. It was agreed between them that she should enter at once upon her school duties, and that particular inquiry concerning her religious beliefs, particular instruction on that score,—further than what belonged to the judicious system of Miss Onthank,—should be deferred for the present. At the same time the Doctor enjoined upon his sister the propriety of commencing upon the next Saturday evening the usual instructions in the Shorter Catechism, and of insisting upon punctual attendance upon the family devotions. The good Doctor hoped by these appointed means gradually to ripen the religious sensibilities of the little stranger, so that she might be prepared for that stern denunciation of those follies of the Romish Church amid which she had been educated, and that it would be his duty at no distant day to declare to her.
The spinster had been so captivated by a certain air of modish elegance in Adele as to lead her almost to forget the weightier obligations of her Christian duty toward her. She conceived that she would find in her a means of recovering some influence over Reuben,—never doubting that the boy would be attracted by her frolicsome humor, and would be eager for her companionship. It was possible, moreover, that there might be some appeal to the boy's jealousies, when he found the favors which he had spurned were lavished upon Adele. It was therefore in the best of temper and with the airiest of hopes (though not altogether spiritual ones) that Miss Eliza conducted the discussion with the Doctor. In two things only they had differed, and in this each had gained and each lost a point. The Doctor utterly refused to conform his pronunciation to the rigors which Miss Eliza prescribed; for him Adele should be always and only Adaly. On the other hand, the parson's exactions in regard to sundry modifications of the little girl's dress miscarried: the spinster insisted upon all the furbelows as they had come from the hands of the French modiste; and in this she left the field with flying colors.
The next day Doctor Johns wrote to his friend Maverick, announcing the safe arrival of his child at Ashfield, and spoke in terms which were warm for him, of the interest which both his sister and himself felt in her welfare. "He was pained," he said, "to perceive that she spoke almost with gayety of serious things, and feared greatly that her keen relish for the beauties and delights of this sinful world, and her exuberant enjoyment of mere temporal blessings, would make it hard to wean her from them and to centre her desires upon the eternal world. But, my friend, all things are possible with God: and I shall diligently pray that she may return to you, in a few years, sobered in mind, and a self-denying missionary of the true faith."
No such event could take place in Ashfield as the arrival of this young stranger at the parsonage, without exciting a world of talk up and down the street. There were stories that she came of a vile Popish family, and there were those who gravely believed that the poor little creature had made only a hair-breadth escape from the thongs of the Inquisition. There were few even of those who knew that she was the daughter of a wealthy gentleman, now domiciled in France, and an old friend of the Doctor's, who did not look upon her with a tender interest, as one miraculously snatched by the hands of the good Doctor from the snares of perdition. The gay trappings of silks and ribbons in which she paced up the aisle of the meeting-house upon her first Sunday, under the patronizing eye of the stern spinster, were looked upon by the more elderly worshippers—most of all by the mothers of young daughters—as the badges of the Woman of Babylon, and as fit belongings to those accustomed to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Even Dame Tourtelot, in whose pew the face of Miss Almira waxes yellow between two great saffron bows, commiserates the poor heathen child who has been decked like a lamb for the sacrifice. "I wonder Miss Eliza don't pull off them ribbons from the little minx," said she, as she marched home in the "intermission," locked commandingly to the arm of the Deacon.
"Waael, I s'pose they're paid for," returns the Deacon.
"What's that to do with it, Tourtelot?"
"Waael, Huldy, we do pootty much all we can for Almiry in that line: this 'ere Maverick, I guess, doos the same. What's the odds, arter all?"
"Odds enough, Tourtelot," as the poor man found before bedtime: he had no flip.
The Elderkins, however, were more considerate. Very early after her arrival, Adele had found her way to their homestead, under the guidance of Miss Eliza, and by her frank, demonstrative manner had established herself at once in the affections of the whole family. The Squire, indeed, had rallied the parson not a little, in his boisterous, hearty fashion, upon his introduction of such a dangerous young Jesuit into so orthodox a parish.
At all which, so seriously uttered as to take the Doctor fairly aback, good Mrs. Elderkin shook her finger warningly at the head of the Squire, and said, "Now, for shame, Giles!"
Good Mrs. Elderkin was, indeed, the pattern woman of the parish in all charitable deeds,—not only outside, (where so many charitable natures find their limits,) but indoors. With gentle speech and gentle manner, she gave, maybe, her occasional closet-counsel to the Squire; but most times her efforts to win him to a more serious habit of thought are covered under the shape of some charming plea for a kindness to herself or the "dear girls," which she knows that he will not have the hardihood to resist. And even this method she does not push too far,—making it a cardinal point in her womanly strategy that his home shall be always grateful to the Squire,—that he shall never be driven from it by any thought or suspicion of her exactions. Thus, if Grace—who is her oldest daughter, and almost woman grown—has some evening appointment at Bible class, or other such gathering, and, the boys being out, appeals timidly to the father, good Mrs. Elderkin says,—
"I am afraid your papa is too tired, Grace; do let him enjoy himself."
At which the Squire, shaking off his lethargy, says,—
"Get your things, child!"
And as he goes out with Grace, he is rewarded by one of those tender smiles upon the lip of the mother which captivated him twenty years before, and which still make his fireside the most cherished spot in the town.
No wonder that the little half-orphaned creature, Adele, with her explosive warmth of heart, is kindly received among the Elderkins. Phil was some three years her senior, a ruddy-faced, open-hearted fellow, who had been well-nurtured, like his two elder brothers, but in whom a certain waywardness just now appearing was attributed very much, by the closely observing mother, to the influence of that interesting, but mischievous boy, Reuben. Phil was the superior in age, indeed, and in muscle, (as we may find proof,) but in nerve-power the more delicate-featured boy of the parson outranked him.
Rose Elderkin was a year younger than the French stranger, and a marvellously fair type of New England girl-beauty: light brown hair in unwieldy masses; skin wonderfully clear and transparent, and that flushed at a rebuke, or a run down the village street, till her cheeks blazed with scarlet; a lip delicately thin, but blood-red, and exquisitely cut; a great hazel eye, that in her moments of glee, or any occasional excitement, fairly danced and sparkled with a kind of insane merriment, and at other times took on a demure and pensive look, which to future wooers might possibly prove the more dangerous of the two. The features named make up a captivating girlish beauty, but one which, under a New England atmosphere, is rarely carried forward into womanhood. The lips grow pinched and bloodless; the skin blanched against all proof of blushes; the eyes sunken, and the blithe sparkle that was so full of infectious joy is lost forever in that exhausting blaze of girlhood. But we make no prophecy in regard to the future of our little friend Rose. Adele thinks her very charming; Reuben is disposed to rank her—whatever Phil may think or say—far above Suke Boody. And in his reading of the delightful "Children of the Abbey," which he has stolen, (by favor of Phil, who owns the book,) he has thought of Rose when Amanda first appeared; and when the divine Amanda is in tears, he has thought of Rose; and when Amanda smiles, with Mortimer kneeling at her feet, he has still thought of Rose.
These four, Adele, Phil, Rose, and Reuben are fellow-attendants at the school of the excellent Miss Betsey Onthank. The schoolhouse itself is a modest one, and stands upon a cross-road leading from the main street of the village, and is upon the side of the little brook which courses through the valley lying to the westward. A half-dozen or more of sugar-maples stand near it, and throw over it a grateful shade in August. In March these trees are exposed to a series of tappings on the part of the more mechanically inclined of the pupils,—Phil Elderkin being chiefest,—and gimlets, quills, and dinner-pails are brought into requisition with prodigious results. In the heats of summer, and when the brook is low, adventurous ones, of whom Reuben is chiefest, undertake to dam its current; and it being traditional in the school that one day a strange fisherman once took out two trout, half as long as Miss Onthank's ruler, from under the bridge by which the high road crosses the brook, Reuben plies every artifice, whether of bent pins, or hooks purchased from the Tew partners, (unknown to Aunt Eliza, who is prejudiced against fish-hooks as dangerous,) to catch a third; and finding other resources vain, he punches two or three holes through the bottom of his little dinner-pail, to make a scoop-net of it, and manfully wades under the bridge to explore all the hollows of that unknown region. While in this precarious position, he is reported by some timid child to the mistress, who straightway sallies out, ferule in hand and cap-strings flying, and orders him to land; which Reuben, taking warning by the threatening tone of the old lady, refuses, unless she promises not to flog him; and the kind-hearted mistress, fearing too long exposure of the lad to the chilly water, gives the promise. But with the tell-tale pail dangling at his belt, he does not escape so easily the inquisitive Aunt Eliza.
The excellent Miss Onthank—for by this title the parson always compliments her—is a type of a schoolmistress which is found no longer: grave, stately, with two great moppets of hair on either side her brow, (as in the old engravings of Louis Philippe's good queen Amelia,) very resolute, very learned in the boundaries of all Christian and heathen countries, patient to a fault, with a marvellous capacity for pointing out with her bodkin every letter to some wee thing at its first stage of spelling, and yet keeping an eye upon all the school-room; reading a chapter from the Bible, and saying a prayer each morning upon her bended knees,—the little ones all kneeling in concert,—with an air that would have adorned the most stately prioress of a convent; using her red ferule betimes on little, mischievous, smarting hands, yet not over-severe, and kind beneath all her gravity. She regards Adele with a peculiar tenderness, and hopes to make herself the humble and unworthy instrument of redeeming her from the wicked estate in which she has been reared. And Adele, though not comprehending the excess of her zeal, and opening her eyes in great wonderment when the good woman talks about her "providential deliverance from the artful snares of the adversary," is as free in her talk with the grave mistress as if she were her mother confessor.
Phil and Reuben, being the oldest boys of the school, resent the indignity of being still subject to woman rule by a concerted series of rebellious outbreaks. Some six or eight months after the arrival of Adele upon the scene, this rebel attitude culminates in an incident that occasions a change of programme. The rebels on their way to school espy a few clam-shells before some huckster's door, and, putting two or three in their pockets, seize the opportunity when the good lady's eyes are closed in the morning prayer to send two or three scaling about the room, which fall with a clatter among the startled little ones. One, aimed more justly by Reuben, strikes the grave mistress full upon the forehead, and leaves a red cut from which one or two beads of blood trickle down.
Adele, who has not learned yet that obstinate closing of the eyes which most of the scholars have been taught, and to whom the sight recalls the painted heads of martyrs in an old church at Marseilles, gives a little hysteric scream. But the mistress, with face unchanged and voice uplifted and unmoved, completes her religious duty.
The whole school is horrified, on rising from their knees, at sight of the old lady's bleeding head. The mistress wipes her forehead calmly, and, picking up the shell at her feet, says, "Who threw this?"
There is silence in the room.
"Adele," she continues, "I heard you scream, child; do you know who threw this?"
Adele gives a quick, inquiring glance at Reuben, whose face is imperturbable, rallies her courage for a struggle against the will of the mistress, and then bursts into tears.
Reuben cannot stand this.
"I threw it, Marm," says he, with a great tremor in his voice.
The mistress beckons him to her, and, as he walks thither, motions to a bench near her, and says gravely,—
"Sit by me, Reuben."
There he keeps till school-hours are over, wondering what shape the punishment will take. At last, when all are gone, the mistress leads him into her private closet, and says solemnly,—
"Reuben, this is a crime against God. I forgive you; I hope He may"; and she bids him kneel beside her, while she prays in a way that makes the tears start to the eyes of the boy.
Then, home,—she walking by his side, and leading him straight into the study of the grave Doctor, to whom she unfolds the story, begging him not to punish the lad, believing that he is penitent. And the meekness and kindliness of the good woman make a Christian picture for the mind of Reuben, in sad contrast with the prim austerity of Aunt Eliza,—a picture that he never loses,—that keeps him meekly obedient for the rest of the quarter; after which, by the advice of Miss Onthank, both Phil and Reuben are transferred to the boys' academy upon the Common.
Meantime, Adele is making friends in Ashfield and in the parsonage. The irrepressible buoyancy of her character cannot be kept under even by the severity of conduct which belongs to the home of the Doctor. If she yields rigid obedience to all the laws of the household, as she is taught to do, her vivacity sparkles all the more in those short intervals of time when the laws are silent. There is something in this beaming mirth of hers which the Doctor loves, though he struggles against the love. He shuts his door fast, that the snatches of some profane song from her little lips (with him all French songs are profane) may not come in to disturb him; but as her voice rises cheerily, higher and higher, in the summer dusk, he catches himself lending a profane ear; the blitheness, the sweetness, the mellowness of her tones win upon his dreary solitude; there is something softer in them than in the measured vocables of sister Eliza; it brings a souvenir of the girlish Rachel, and his memory floats back upon the strains of the new singer, to the days when that dear voice filled his heart; and he thinks—thanking Adaly for the thought—she is singing with the angels now!
But the spinster, who has no ear for music, in the midst of such a carol, will cry out in sharp tones from her chamber, "Adele, Adele, not so loud, child! you will disturb the Doctor!"
Even then Adele has her resource in the garden and the orchard, where she never tires of wandering up and down,—and never wandering there but some fragment of a song breaks from her lips.
From time to time the Doctor summons her to his study to have serious talk with her. She has, indeed, shared the Saturday-night instruction in the Catechism, in company with Reuben, and being quick at words, no matter how long they may be, she has learned it all; and Reuben and she dash through "what is required" and "what is forbidden" and "the reasons annexed" like a pair of prancing horses, kept diligently in hand by that excellent whip, Miss Johns. But the study has not wrought that gravity in the mind of the child which the good parson had hoped for; the seed, he fears, has fallen upon stony places. He therefore, as we have said, summons her from time to time to his study.
And Adele comes, always at the first summons, with a tripping step, and, with a little coquettish adjustment of her dress and hair, flings herself into the big chair before him,—
"Now, New Papa, here I am!"
"Ah, Adaly! I wish, child, that you could be more serious than you are."
"Serious! ha! ha!"—(she sees a look of pain on the face of the Doctor,) "but I will be,—I am"; and with great effort she throws a most unnatural expression of repose into her face.
"You are a good girl, Adaly; but this is not the seriousness I want to find in you. I want you to feel, my child, that you are walking on the brink of a precipice,—that your heart is desperately wicked."
"Oh, no, New Papa! you don't think I'm desperately wicked?"—and she says it with a charming eagerness of manner.
"Yes, desperately wicked, Adaly,—leaning to the things of this world, and not fastening your affections on things above, on the realities beyond the grave."
"But all that is so far away, New Papa!"
"Not so far as you think, child; they may come to-day."
Adele is sobered in earnest now, and tosses her little feet back and forth, in an agony of apprehension.
The Doctor continues,—
"To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts"; and the sentiment and utterance are so like to the usual ones of the pulpit, that Adele takes courage again.
The little girl has a profound respect for the Doctor; his calmness, his equanimity, his persistent zeal in his work, would alone provoke it. But she sees, furthermore,—what she does not see always in "Aunt Eliza,"—a dignity of character that is proof against all irritating humors; then, too, he has appeared to Adele a very pattern of justice. She had taken exceptions, indeed, when, on one or two rare occasions, he had reached down the birch rod which lay upon the same hooks with the sword of Major Johns, in the study, and had called in Reuben for extraordinary discipline; but the boy's manifest acquiescence in the affair when his cool moments came next morning, and the melancholy air of kindness with which the Doctor went in to kiss him a goodnight, after such regimen, kept alive her faith in the unvarying justice of the parson. Therefore she tried hard to torture her poor little heart into a feeling of its own blackness, (for that it was very black she had the good man's averment,) she listened gravely to all he had to urge, and when he had fairly overburdened her with the enumeration of her wicked, worldly appetites, she could only say, with a burst of emotion,—
"Well, but, New Papa, the good God will forgive me."
"Yes, Adaly, yes,—I trust so, if forgiveness be sought in fear and trembling. But remember, 'When God created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience.'"
This brings back to poor Adele the drudgery of the Saturday's Catechism, associated with the sharp correctives of Aunt Eliza; and she can only offer a pleading kiss to the Doctor, and ask plaintively,—
"May I go now?"
"One moment, Adaly,"—and he makes her kneel beside him, while he prays, fervently, passionately, drawing her frail little figure to himself, even as he prays, as if he would carry her with him in his arms into the celestial presence.
The boy Reuben, too, has had his seasons of this closet struggle; but they are rarer now; the lad has shrewdly learned to adjust himself to all the requirements of such occasions. He has put on a leaden acquiescence in the Doctor's theories, whether with regard to sanctification or redemption, that is most disheartening to the parson. Does any question of the Doctor's, by any catch-word, suggest an answer from the "Shorter Catechism" as applicable, Reuben is ready with it on the instant.
Does the Doctor ask,—
"Do you know, my son, the sinfulness of the estate in which you are living?"
"Sinfulness of the estate whereunto man fell?" says Reuben, briskly.
"Know it like a book:—'Consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin the want of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature which is commonly called original sin together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.' There's a wasp on your shoulder, father,—there's two of 'em; I'll kill em."
No wonder the good Doctor is disheartened, and trusts more and more, in respect to his boy, to the silent influences of the Spirit.
Adele has no open quarrels with Miss Johns; she is obedient; she, too, has fallen under the influence of that magnetic voice, and accepts the orders and the commendations conveyed by it as if they were utterances of Fate. Yet, with her childish instincts, she has formed a very fair estimate of the character of Miss Eliza; it is doubtful even if she has not fathomed it in certain directions more correctly and profoundly than the grave Doctor. She sees clearly that the spinster's unvarying solicitude in regard to the dress and appearance of "dear Adele" is due more to that hard pride of character which she nurses every day of her life than to any tenderness for the little stranger. For at the hands of her old godmother and of her father Adele has known what real tenderness was. It is a lesson children never unlearn.
"Adele, my dear, you look charmingly to-day, with that pink bow in your hair. Do you know, I think pink is becoming to you, my child?"
And Adele listens with a composed smile, not unwilling to be admired. What girl of—any age is? But the admiration of Miss Johns does not touch her; it never calls a tear to her eye.
In the bright belt-buckle, in the big leg-of-mutton sleeves, in the glittering brooch containing coils of the Johns' hair, in the jaunty walk and authoritative air of the spinster, the quick, keen eye of Adele sees something more than the meek Christian teacher and friend. It is a sin in her to see it, perhaps; but she cannot help it.
Miss Johns has not succeeded in exciting the jealousy of Reuben,—at least, not in the manner she had hoped. Her influence over him is clearly on the wane. He sees, indeed, her exaggerated devotion to the little stranger,—which serves, in her presence, at least, to call out all his indifference. Yet even this, Adele, with her girlish instinct, seems to understand, too, and bears the boy no grudge in consequence of it. Nay, when he has received some special administration of the parson's discipline, she allows her sympathy to find play in a tender word or two that touch Reuben more than he dares to show.
And when they meet down the orchard, away from the lynx eye of Aunt Eliza, there are rare apples far out upon overhanging limbs that he can pluck, by dint of venturous climbing, for her; and as he sees through the boughs her delicate figure tripping through the grass, and lingers to watch it, there comes a thought that she must be the Amanda of the story, and not Rose,—and he, perched in the apple-tree, a glowing Mortimer.
In the year 183-, Mr. Maverick writes to his friend Johns that the disturbed condition of public affairs in France will compel him to postpone his intended visit to America, and may possibly detain him for a long time to come. He further says,—"In order to prevent all possible hazards which may grow out of our revolutionary fervor on this side of the water, I have invested in United States securities, for the benefit of my dear little Adele, a sum of money which will yield some seven hundred dollars a year. Of this I propose to make you trustee, and desire that you should draw so much of the yearly interest as you may determine to be for her best good, denying her no reasonable requests, and making your household reckoning clear of all possible deficit on her account.
"I am charmed with the improved tone of her letters, and am delighted to see by them that even under your grave regimen she has not lost her old buoyancy of spirits. My dear Johns, I owe you a debt in this matter which I shall never be able to repay. Kiss the little witch for me; tell her that 'Papa' always thinks of her, as he sits solitary upon the green bench under the arbor. God bless the dear one, and keep all trouble from her!"
She, gaining in height now month by month, wins more and more upon the grave Doctor,—wins upon Rose, who loves her as she loves her sisters,—wins upon Phil, whose liking for her is becoming demonstrative to a degree that prompts a little jealousy in the warm-blooded Reuben, and that drives out all thought of the pink cheeks and fat arms of Suke Boody. Miss Johns still regards her with admiring eyes, and shows all her old assiduity in looking after her comforts and silken trappings. Day after day, in summer weather, Rose and she idle together along the embowered paths of the village; the Tew partners greet the pair with smiles; good Mistress Elderkin has always a cordial welcome; the stout Squire stoops to kiss the little Jesuit, who blushes at the tender affront through all the brownness of her cheek, like a rose. Day after day the rumble of the mill breaks on the country quietude; and as autumn comes in, burning with all its forest fires, the farmer's flails beat time together, as they did ten years before.
At the academy, Phil and Reuben plot mischief, and they cement their friendship with not a few boyish quarrels.
Thus, Reuben, in the way of the boyish pomologists of those days, has buried at midsummer in the orchard a dozen or more of the finest windfalls from the early apple-trees, that they may mellow, away from the air, into good eating condition, and he has marked the spot in his boyish way with a little pyramid of stones. Strolling down the orchard a few days later, he sees Phil coming away from that locality, with his pockets bulging out ominously, and munching a great apple with extraordinary relish. Perhaps there is a thought that he may design a gift out of the stolen stores for Adele; at any rate, Reuben flies at him.
"I say, Phil, that's doosed mean now, to be stealing my apples!"
"Who's stole your apples?" says Phil, with a great roar of voice.
"You have," says Reuben; and having now come near enough to find his pyramid of stones all laid low, he says more angrily,—"You're a thief! and you've got 'em in your pocket!"
"Thief!" says Phil, looking threateningly, and throwing away his apple half-eaten, "if you call me a thief, I say you're a——you know what."
"Well, blast you," says Reuben, boiling with rage, "say it! Call me a liar, if you dare!"
"I do dare," says Phil, "if you accuse me of stealing your apples; and I say you're a liar, and be darned to you!"
At this, Reuben, though he is the shorter by two or three inches, and no match for his foe at fisticuffs, plants a blow straight in Philip's face. (He said afterward, when all was settled, that he was ten times more mortified to think that he had done such a thing in his father's orchard.)
But Phil closed upon him, and kneading him with his knuckles in the back, and with a trip, threw him heavily, falling prone upon him. Reuben, in a frenzy, and with a torrent of much worse language than he was in the habit of using, was struggling to turn him, when a sharp, loud voice, which they both knew only too well, came down the wind,—"Boys! boys!" and presently the Doctor comes up panting.
"What does this mean? Philip, I'm ashamed of you!" he continues; and Philip rises.
Reuben, rising, too, the instant after, and with his fury unchecked, dashes at Phil again; when the Doctor seizes him by the collar and drags him aside.
"He struck me," says Phil.
"And he stole my apples and called me a liar," says Reuben, with the tears starting, though he tries desperately to keep them back, seeing that Phil shows no such evidence of emotion.
"Tut! tut!" says the Doctor,—"you are both too angry for a straight story. Come with me."
And taking each by the hand, he led them through the garden and house, directly into his study. There he opens a closet-door, with the sharp order, "Step in here, Reuben, until I hear Philip's story." This Phil tells straight-forwardly,—how he was passing through the orchard with a pocketful of apples, which a neighbor's boy had given, and how Reuben came upon him with swift accusation, and then the fight. "But he hurt me more than I hurt him," says Phil, wiping his nose, which showed a little ooze of blood.
"Good!" says the Doctor,—"I think you tell the truth."
"Thank you," says Phil,—"I know I do, Doctor."
Next Reuben is called out.
"Do you know he took the apples?" asks the Doctor.
"Don't know," says Reuben,—"but he was by the place, and the stones thrown down."
"And is that sufficient cause, Reuben, for accusing your friend?"
At which, Reuben, shifting his position uneasily from one foot to the other, says,—
"I believe he did, though."
"Stop, Sir!" says the Doctor in a voice that makes Reuben sidle away.
"Here," says Phil, commiserating him in a grand way, and beginning to discharge his pockets on the Doctor's table, "he may have them, if he wants them."
Reuben stares at them a moment in astonishment, then breaks out with a great tremor in his voice, but roundly enough,—
"By George! they're not the same apples at all. I'm sorry I told you that, Phil."
"Don't say 'By George' before me, or anywhere else," says the Doctor, sharply. "It's but a sneaking oath, Sir; yet" (more gently) "I'm glad of your honesty, Reuben."
At the instigation of the parson they shake hands; after which he leads them both into his closet, beckoning them to kneel on either side of him, as he commends them in his stately way to Heaven, trusting that they may live in good-fellowship henceforth, and keep His counsel, who was the great Peacemaker, always in their hearts.
Next morning, when Reuben goes to reconnoitre the place of his buried treasure, he finds all safe, and taking the better half of the fruit, he marches away with a proud step to the Elderkin house. The basket is for Phil. But Phil is not at home; so he leaves the gift, and a message, with a short story of it all, with the tender Rose, whose eyes dance with girlish admiration at this stammered tale of his, and her fingers tremble when they touch the boy's in the transfer of his little burden.
Reuben walks away prouder yet; is not this sweet-faced girl, after all, Amanda?
There come quarrels, however, with the academy teacher not so easily smoothed over. The Doctor and the master hold long consultations. Reuben, it is to be feared, has bad associates. The boy makes interest, through Nat Boody, with the stage-driver; and one day the old ladies are horrified at seeing the parson's son mounted on the box of the coach beside the driver, and putting his boyish fingers to the test of four-in-hand. Of course he is a truant that day from school, and toiling back footsore and weary, after tea, he can give but a lame account of himself. He brings, another time, a horrid fighting cur, (as Miss Eliza terms it in her disgust,) for which he has bartered away the new muffler that the spinster has knit. He thinks it a splendid bargain. Miss Johns and the Doctor do not.
He is reported by credible witnesses as loitering about the tavern in the summer nights, long after prayers are over at the parsonage, and the lights are out: thus it is discovered, to the great horror of the household, that by connivance with Phil he makes his way over the roof of the kitchen from his chamber-window to join in these night forays. After long consideration, in which Grandfather Handby is brought into consultation, it is decided to place the boy for a while under the charge of the latter for discipline, and with the hope that removal from his town associates may work good. But within a fortnight after the change is made, Grandfather Handby drives across the country in his wagon, with Reuben seated beside him with a comic gravity on his face; and the old gentleman, pleading the infirmities of age, and giving the boy a farewell tap on the cheek, (for he loves him, though he has whipped him almost daily,) restores him to the paternal roof.