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Title: Poganuc People - Their Loves and Lives
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Poganuc People - Their Loves and Lives" ***

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  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  One occurrence of the oe ligature has been replaced by oe, in the word
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  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
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  More detail can be found at the end of the book.



POGANUC PEOPLE.



MRS. STOWE'S RECENT BOOKS.

_Among the writers of fiction there is no single name that stands
higher than that of Mrs. Stowe, as one whose style is always fresh,
attractive, and charming, whose wit and humor are genuine, whose
depiction of human nature is apt and true, and the atmosphere of
whose writings is invariably wholesome, clean, stimulating to the
moral sense. The following books from her pen may be had of all
booksellers; or, if not, will be mailed, postpaid, to any address on
receipt of the price, by_

FORDS, HOWARD, & HULBERT, 27 Park Place, N.Y.


  MY WIFE AND I: or, Harry Henderson's History. A Novel.
  _Illustrated._ 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

  WE AND OUR NEIGHBORS: The Records of an Unfashionable Street. A
  Novel. _Illustrated._ 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

  BETTY'S BRIGHT IDEA: and Other Tales. Comprising "Betty's Bright
  Idea," "Deacon Pitkin's Farm," and "The First Christmas in New
  England." _Illustrated._ 12mo. Cloth, 75 cts.

  POGANUC PEOPLE: Their Loves and Lives. A Novel. _Illustrated._
  12mo. Cloth, $1.50. (_Just out._)

  BIBLE HEROINES: Narrative Biographies of Prominent Hebrew Women
  in the Patriarchal, National and Christian Eras. Imperial Octavo.
  _Spirited colored frontispiece_, "Deborah the Prophetess."
  Elegantly bound, red burnished edges. $2.

  FOOTSTEPS OF THE MASTER: Studies in the Life of Christ. With
  Illustrations and Illuminated Titles. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.



[Illustration: THE PARSON'S DAUGHTER.

"_Oh, Nabby, Nabby! do tell me what they are doing up at your church.
I've seen 'em all day carrying armfulls and armfulls--ever so
much--of spruce and pine up that way._"--p. 8.]



  POGANUC PEOPLE:


  THEIR LOVES AND LIVES.


  BY HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.

  _Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "My Wife and I," "We and Our
  Neighbors," etc._


  With Illustrations.

  [Illustration: (Publisher's colophon.)]

  NEW YORK:
  FORDS, HOWARD, & HULBERT.



  COPYRIGHT, 1878, A.D.



  CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                               PAGE

        I. DISSOLVING VIEWS,                               7

       II. DOLLY,                                         16

      III. THE ILLUMINATION,                              24

       IV. DOLLY'S ADVENTURE,                             39

        V. DOLLY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY,                   48

       VI. VILLAGE POLITICIANS,                           61

      VII. THE DOCTOR'S SERMON,                           68

     VIII. MR. COAN ANSWERS THE DOCTOR,                   81

       IX. ELECTION DAY IN POGANUC,                       90

        X. DOLLY'S PERPLEXITIES,                         107

       XI. DOLLY AND NABBY ARE INVITED OUT,              115

      XII. DOLLY GOES INTO COMPANY,                      127

     XIII. COLONEL DAVENPORT'S EXPERIENCES,              138

      XIV. THE PUZZLE OF POGANUC,                        150

       XV. THE POGANUC PUZZLE SOLVED,                    160

      XVI. POGANUC PARSONAGE,                            166

     XVII. SPRING AND SUMMER COME AT LAST,               181

    XVIII. DOLLY'S FOURTH OF JULY,                       190

      XIX. SUMMER DAYS IN POGANUC,                       203

       XX. GOING "A-CHESTNUTTING,"                       220

      XXI. DOLLY'S SECOND CHRISTMAS,                     228

     XXII. THE APPLE BEE,                                239

     XXIII. SEEKING A DIVINE IMPULSE,                    250

      XXIV. "IN SUCH AN HOUR AS YE THINK NOT,"           260

       XXV. DOLLY BECOMES ILLUSTRIOUS,                   267

      XXVI. THE VICTORY,                                 274

     XXVII. THE FUNERAL,                                 280

    XXVIII. DOLLY AT THE WICKET GATE,                    290

      XXIX. THE CONFLICT,                                294

       XXX. THE CRISIS,                                  300

      XXXI. THE JOY OF HARVEST,                          309

     XXXII. SIX YEARS LATER,                             317

    XXXIII. THE DOCTOR MAKES A DISCOVERY,                325

     XXXIV. HIEL AND NABBY,                              330

      XXXV. MISS DEBBY ARRIVES,                          337

     XXXVI. PREPARATIONS FOR SEEING LIFE,                344

    XXXVII. LAST WORDS,                                  350

   XXXVIII. DOLLY'S FIRST LETTER TO BOSTON,              354

     XXXIX. DOLLY'S SECOND LETTER,                       360

        XL. ALFRED DUNBAR TO EUGENE SINCLAIR,            365

       XLI. FINALE,                                      370



  ILLUSTRATIONS.


  THE PARSON'S DAUGHTER,                       FRONTISPIECE.

  CASTE,                                       PAGE       67

  HIEL IN HIS GLORY,                             "       109

  CHESTNUTTING,                                  "       226



POGANUC PEOPLE.



CHAPTER I.

DISSOLVING VIEWS.


The scene is a large, roomy, clean New England kitchen of some sixty
years ago. There was the great wide fire-place, with its crane and
array of pot-hooks; there was the tall black clock in the corner,
ticking in response to the chirp of the crickets around the broad,
flat stone hearth. The scoured tin and pewter on the dresser caught
flickering gleams of brightness from the western sunbeams that
shone through the network of elm-boughs, rattling and tapping as
the wind blew them against the window. It was not quite half-past
four o'clock, yet the December sun hung low and red in the western
horizon, telling that the time of the shortest winter days was come.
Everything in the ample room shone with whiteness and neatness;
everything was ranged, put up, and in order, as if work were some
past and bygone affair, hardly to be remembered. The only living
figure in this picture of still life was that of a strapping, buxom
Yankee maiden, with plump arms stripped to the elbow and hands
plunged deep in the white, elastic cushion of puffy dough, which rose
under them as she kneaded.

Apparently pleasant thoughts were her company in her solitude, for
her round, brown eyes twinkled with a pleased sparkle, and every now
and then she broke into fragments of psalmody, which she practiced
over and over, and then nodded her head contentedly, as if satisfied
that she had caught the tune.

Suddenly the outside door flew open and little Dolly Cushing burst
into the kitchen, panting and breathless, her cheeks glowing with
exercise in face of the keen winter wind.

In she came, noisy and busy, dropping her knitting-work and
spelling-book in her eagerness, shutting the door behind her with a
cheerful bang, and opening conversation without stopping to get her
breath:

"Oh, Nabby, Nabby! do tell me what they are doing up at your church.
I've seen 'em all day carrying armfulls and armfulls--ever so
much--spruce and pine up that way, and Jim Brace and Tom Peters told
me they were going to have a 'lumination there, and when I asked
what a 'lumination was they only laughed at me and called me a
Presbyterian. Don't you think it's a shame, Nabby, that the big boys
will laugh at me so and call me names and won't tell me anything?"

"Oh, land o' Goshen, Dolly, what do you mind them boys for?" said
Nabby; "boys is mostly hateful when girls is little; but we take our
turn by and by," she said with a complacent twinkle of her brown
eyes. "I make them stand around, I bet ye, and you will when you get
older."

"But, Nabby, what is a 'lumination?"

"Well now, Dolly, you jest pick up your book, and put up your
knittin' work, and sweep out that snow you've tracked in, and hang up
your bonnet and cloak, and I'll tell you all about it," said Nabby,
taking up her whole cushion of dough and letting it down the other
side with a great bound and beginning kneading again.

The little maiden speedily complied with all her requisitions and
came and stood, eager and breathless, by the bread bowl.

And a very pretty picture she made there, with her rosy mouth just
parted to show her little white teeth, and the afternoon sunshine
glinting through the window brightness to go to the brown curls that
hung over her round, white forehead, her dark blue eyes kindling with
eagerness and curiosity.

"Well, you see," said Nabby, "to-morrow's Christmas; and they've
been dressin' the church with ground pine and spruce boughs, and
made it just as beautiful as can be, and they're goin' to have a
great gold star over the chancel. General Lewis sent clear to Boston
to get the things to make it of, and Miss Ida Lewis she made it;
and to-night they're going to 'luminate. They put a candle in every
single pane of glass in that air church, and it'll be all just as
light as day. When they get 'em all lighted up you can see that air
church clear down to North Poganuc."

Now this sentence was a perfect labyrinth of mystery to Dolly; for
she did not know what Christmas was, she did not know what the
chancel was, she never saw anything dressed with pine, and she was
wholly in the dark what it was all about; and yet her bosom heaved,
her breath grew short, her color came and went, and she trembled with
excitement. Something bright, beautiful, glorious, must be coming
into her life, and oh, if she could only see it!

"Oh, Nabby, are you going?" she said, with quivering eagerness.

"Yes, I'm goin' with Jim Sawin. I belong to the singers, and I'm
agoin' early to practice on the anthem."

"Oh, Nabby, won't you take me? Do, Nabby!" said Dolly, piteously.

"Oh, land o' Goshen! no, child; you mustn't think on't. I couldn't
do that noways. Your pa never would hear of it, nor Mis' Cushing
neither. You see, your pa don't b'lieve in Christmas."

"What is Christmas, Nabby?"

"Why, it's the day Christ was born--that's Christmas."

"Why, my papa believes Christ was born," said Dolly, with an injured
air; "you needn't tell me that he don't. I've heard him read all
about it in the Testament."

"I didn't say he didn't, did I?" said Nabby; "but your papa ain't
a 'Piscopal, and he don't believe in keeping none of them air
prayer-book days--Christmas, nor Easter, nor nothin'," said Nabby,
with a generous profusion of negatives. "Up to the 'Piscopal
church they keep Christmas, and they don't keep it down to your
meetin'-house; that's the long and short on't," and Nabby turned her
batch of dough over with a final flounce, as if to emphasize the
statement, and, giving one last poke in the middle of the fair, white
cushion, she proceeded to rub the paste from her hands and to cover
her completed batch with a clean white towel and then with a neat
comforter of quilted cotton. Then, establishing it in the warmest
corner of the fireplace, she proceeded to wash her hands and look at
the clock and make other movements to show that the conversation had
come to an end.

Poor little Dolly stood still, looking wistful and bewildered. The
tangle of brown and golden curls on the outside of her little head
was not more snarled than the conflicting ideas in the inside. This
great and wonderful idea of Christmas, and all this confusion of
images, of gold stars and green wreaths and illuminated windows
and singing and music--all done because Christ was born, and yet
something that her papa did not approve of--it was a hopeless puzzle.
After standing thinking for a minute or two she resumed:

"But, Nabby, _why_ don't my papa like it? and why don't we have a
'lumination in our meeting-house?"

"Bless your heart, child, they never does them things to Presbyterian
meetin's. Folks' ways is different, and them air is 'Piscopal ways.
For my part I'm glad father signed off to the 'Piscopalians, for it's
a great deal jollier."

"Oh, dear! my papa won't ever sign off," said Dolly, mournfully.

"To be sure he won't. Why, what nonsense that is!" said Nabby, with
that briskness with which grown people shake off the griefs of
children. "Of course _he_ won't when he's a minister, so what's the
use of worryin'? You jest shet up now, for I've got to hurry and get
tea; 'cause your pa and ma are goin' over to the lecture to-night in
North Poganuc school-house and they'll want their supper early."

Dolly still hung about wishfully.

"Nabby, if I should ask papa, and he _should_ say I might go, would
you take me?" said Dolly.

Now, Nabby was a good-natured soul enough and in a general way
fond of children; she encouraged Miss Dolly's prattling visits to
the kitchen, let her stand about surveying her in various domestic
processes, and encouraged that free expression of opinion in
conversation which in those days was entirely repressed on the part
of juveniles in the presence of their elders. She was, in fact, fond
of Dolly in a certain way, but not fond enough of her to interfere
with the serious avocations of life; and Nabby was projecting very
serious and delicate movements of diplomacy that night. She was going
to the church with Jim Sawin, who was on the very verge of a declared
admiration, not in the least because her heart inclined toward Jim,
but as a means of bringing Ike Peters to capitulation in a quarrel of
some weeks' standing. Jim Sawin's "folks," as she would have phrased
it, were "meetin'ers," while Ike Peters was a leading member of the
Episcopal choir, and it was designed expressly to aggravate him that
she was to come in exhibiting her captive in triumph. To have "a
child 'round under her feet," while engaged in conducting affairs
of such delicacy, was manifestly impossible--so impossible that she
thought stern repression of any such idea the very best policy.

"Now, Dolly Cushing, you jest shet up--for 'tain't no use talkin'.
Your pa nor your ma wouldn't hear on't; and besides, little girls
like you must go to bed early. They can't be up 'night-hawkin','
and goin' round in the cold. You might catch cold and die like
little Julia Cavers. Little girls must be in bed and asleep by eight
o'clock."

Dolly stood still with a lowering brow. Just then the world looked
very dark. Her little rose-leaf of an under lip rolled out and
quivered, and large bright drops began falling one by one over her
cheeks.

Nabby had a soft spot in her heart, and felt these signs of
affliction; but she stood firm.

"Now, Dolly, I'm sorry; but you can't go. So you jest be a good girl
and not say no more about it, and don't cry, and I'll tell you what
I'll do: I'll buy you a sugar dog down to the store, and I'll tell
you all about it to-morrow."

Dolly had seen these sugar dogs in the window of the store,
resplendent with their blue backs and yellow ears and pink
tails--designed probably to represent dogs as they exist at the end
of the rainbow. Her heart had burned within her with hopeless desire
to call one of these beauties her own; and Nabby's promise brought
out a gleaming smile through the showery atmosphere of her little
face. A sugar dog might reconcile her to life.

"Now, you must promise me 'certain true as black is blue,'" said
Nabby, adjuring by an apparently irrational form of conjuration in
vogue among the children in those times. "You must promise you won't
say a word about this 'ere thing to your pa or ma; for they wouldn't
hear of your goin', and if they would I shouldn't take you. I really
couldn't. It would be very inconvenient."

Dolly heaved a great sigh, but thought of the sugar dog, and calmed
down the tempest that seemed struggling to rise in her little breast.
A rainbow of hope rose over the cloud of disappointment, and a sugar
dog with yellow ears and pink tail gleamed consolingly through it.



CHAPTER II.

DOLLY.


Our little Dolly was a late autumn chicken, the youngest of ten
children, the nursing, rearing and caring for whom had straitened the
limited salary of Parson Cushing, of Poganuc Center, and sorely worn
on the nerves and strength of the good wife who plied the laboring
oar in these performances.

It was Dolly's lot to enter the family at a period when babies
were no longer a novelty, when the house was full of the wants and
clamors of older children, and the mother at her very wits' end with
a confusion of jackets and trowsers, soap, candles and groceries,
and the endless harassments of making both ends meet which pertain
to the lot of a poor country minister's wife. Consequently Dolly
was disposed of as she grew up in all those short-hand methods by
which children were taught to be the least possible trouble to their
elders. She was taught to come when called, and do as she was bid
without a question or argument, to be quenched in bed at the earliest
possible hour at night, and to speak only when spoken to in the
presence of her elders. All this was a dismal repression to Dolly,
for she was by nature a lively, excitable little thing, bursting with
questions that she longed to ask, and with comments and remarks that
she burned to make, and so she escaped gladly to the kitchen where
Nabby, the one hired girl, who was much in the same situation of
repressed communicativeness, encouraged her conversational powers.

On the whole, although it never distinctly occurred to Dolly to
murmur at her lot in life yet at times she sighed over the dreadful
insignificance of being only a little girl in a great family of
grown up people. For even Dolly's brothers nearest her own age were
studying in the academy and spouting scraps of superior Latin at her
to make her stare and wonder at their learning. They were tearing,
noisy, tempestuous boys, good natured enough and willing to pet her
at intervals, but prompt to suggest that it was "time for Dolly to
go to bed" when her questions or her gambols interfered with their
evening pleasures.

Dolly was a robust, healthy little creature, never ailing in any way,
and consequently received none of the petting which a more delicate
child might have claimed, and the general course of her experience
impressed her with the mournful conviction that she was always liable
to be in the way--as she commonly was, with her childish curiosity,
her burning desire to see and hear and know all that interested
the grown people above her. Dolly sometimes felt her littleness
and insignificance as quite a burden, and longed to be one of the
grown-up people. _They_ got civil answers when they asked questions,
instead of being told not to talk, and they were not sent to bed
the minute it was dark, no matter what pleasant things were going
on about them. Once Dolly remembered to have had sore throat with
fever. The doctor was sent for. Her mother put away all her work and
held her in her arms. Her father came down out of his study and sat
up rocking her nearly all night, and her noisy, roistering brothers
came softly to her door and inquired how she was, and Dolly was only
sorry that the cold passed off so soon, and she found herself healthy
and insignificant as ever. Being gifted with an active fancy, she
sometimes imagined a scene when she should be sick and die, and her
father and mother and everybody would cry over her, and there would
be a funeral for her as there was for a little Julia Cavers, one of
her playmates. She could see no drawback to the interest of the scene
except that she could not be there to enjoy her own funeral and see
how much she was appreciated; so on the whole she turned her visions
in another direction and fancied the time when she should be a grown
woman and at liberty to do just as she pleased.

It must not be imagined, however, that Dolly had an unhappy
childhood. Indeed it may be questioned whether, if she had lived in
our day when the parents often seem to be sitting at the feet of
their children and humbly inquiring after their sovereign will and
pleasure, she would have been much happier than she was. She could
not have all she wanted, and the most petted child on earth cannot.
She had learned to do without what she could not get, and to bear
what she did not like; two sources of happiness and peace which we
should judge to be unknown to many modern darlings. For the most part
Dolly had learned to sail her own little boat wisely among the bigger
and bustling crafts of the older generation.

There were no amusements then specially provided for children. There
were no children's books; there were no Sunday-schools to teach
bright little songs and to give children picnics and presents. It
was a grown people's world, and not a child's world, that existed
in those days. Even children's toys of the period were so poor and
so few that, in comparison with our modern profusion, they could
scarcely be said to exist.

Dolly, however, had her playthings, as every child of lively fancy
will. Childhood is poetic and creative, and can make to itself toys
out of nothing. Dolly had the range of the great wood-pile in the
back yard, where, at the yearly "wood-spell," the farmers deposited
the fuel needed for the long, terrible winters, and that woodpile was
a world of treasure to her. She skipped, and sung, and climbed among
its intricacies and found there treasures of wonder. Green velvet
mosses, little white trees of lichen that seemed to her to have tiny
apples upon them, long grey-bearded mosses and fine scarlet cups
and fairy caps she collected and treasured. She arranged landscapes
of these, where green mosses made the fields, and little sprigs of
spruce and ground-pine the trees, and bits of broken glass imitated
rivers and lakes, reflecting the overshadowing banks. She had, too,
hoards of chestnuts and walnuts which a squirrel might have envied,
picked up with her own hands from under the yellow autumn leaves; and
she had--chief treasure of all--a wooden doll, with staring glass
eyes, that had been sent her by her grandmother in Boston, which doll
was the central point in all her arrangements. To her she showed
the chestnuts and walnuts; she gave to her the jay's feathers and
the bluebird's wing which the boys had given to her; she made her a
bed of divers colors and she made her a set of tea-cups out of the
backbone of a codfish. She brushed and curled her hair till she took
all the curl out of it, and washed all the paint off her cheeks in
the zeal of motherly ablutions.

In fact nobody suspected that Dolly was not the happiest of children,
as she certainly was one of the busiest and healthiest, and when that
evening her two brothers came in from the Academy, noisy and breezy,
and tossed her up in their long arms, her laugh rung gay and loud, as
if there were no such thing as disappointment in the world.

She pursed her mouth very tight for fear that she should let out
something on the forbidden subject at the supper-table. But it
was evident that nothing could be farther from the mind of her
papa, who, at intervals, was expounding to his wife the difference
between natural and moral inability as drawn out in a pamphlet
he was preparing to read at the next ministers' meeting--remarks
somewhat interrupted by reproof to the boys for giggling at table and
surreptitiously feeding Spring, the dog, in contravention of family
rules.

It is not to be supposed that Will and Tom Cushing, though they were
minister's boys, were not _au courant_ in all that was going on
note-worthy in the parish. In fact, they were fully versed in all
the details of the projected ceremonies at the church and resolved
to be in at the show, but maintained a judicious reticence as to
their intentions lest, haply, they might be cut short by a positive
interdict.

The Episcopal church at Poganuc Center was of recent origin. It
was a small, insignificant building compared with the great square
three-decker of a meeting-house which occupied conspicuously the
green in Poganuc Center. The minister was not a man particularly
gifted in any of those points of pulpit excellence which Dr. Cushing
would be likely to appreciate, and the Doctor had considered it
hitherto too small and unimportant an affair to be worth even a
combative notice; hence his ignorance and indifference to what was
going on there. He had heard incidentally that they were dressing the
church with pines and going to have a Christmas service, but he only
murmured something about "_tolerabiles ineptiæ_" to the officious
deacon who had called his attention to the fact. The remark, being
in Latin, impressed the Deacon with a sense of profound and hidden
wisdom. The people of Poganuc Center paid a man a salary for knowing
more than they did, and they liked to have a scrap of Latin now and
then to remind them of this fact. So the Deacon solemnly informed all
comers into the store who discussed recent movements that the Doctor
had his eyes open; he knew all about these doings and they should
hear from him yet; the Doctor had expressed his mind to him.

The Doctor, in fact, was far more occupied with a certain Dr.
Pyncheon, whose views of moral inability he expected entirely to
confound by the aforesaid treatise which he had been preparing.

So after supper the boys officiously harnessed and brought up the
horse and sleigh destined to take their parents to North Poganuc
school-house, and saw them set off--listening to the last jingle of
the sleigh bells with undisguised satisfaction.

"Good! Now, Tom, let's go up to the church and get the best places to
see," exclaimed Bill.

"Oh, boys, are you going?" cried Dolly, in a piteous voice. "Oh, do
take me! Nabby's going, and everybody, and I want to go."

"Oh, you mustn't go; you're a little girl and it's your bed-time,"
said Tom and Bill, as with Spring barking at their heels they burst
in a windy swoop of noise out of the house, boys and dog about
equally intelligent as to what it was all about.



CHAPTER III.

THE ILLUMINATION.


Before going farther in our story we pause to give a brief answer to
the queries that have risen in the minds of some who remember the
old times in New England: How came there to be any Episcopalians or
Episcopal church in a small Puritan town like Poganuc?

The Episcopal Church in New England in the early days was
emphatically a root out of dry ground, with as little foothold in
popular sympathy as one of those storm-driven junipers, that the
east wind blows all aslant, has in the rocky ledges of Cape Cod.
The soil, the climate, the atmosphere, the genius, and the history
of the people were all against it. Its forms and ceremonies were
all associated with the persecution which drove the Puritans out of
England and left them no refuge but the rock-bound shores of America.
It is true that in the time of Governor Winthrop the colony of
Massachusetts appealed with affectionate professions to their Mother,
the Church of England, and sought her sympathy and her prayers; but
it is also unfortunately true that the forms of the Church of England
were cultivated and maintained in New England by the very party whose
intolerance and tyranny brought on the Revolutionary war.

All the oppressive governors of the colonies were Episcopalians, and
in the Revolutionary struggle the Episcopal Church was very generally
on the Tory side; hence, the New Englanders came to have an aversion
to its graceful and beautiful ritual and forms for the same reason
that the free party in Spain and Italy now loathe the beauties of the
Romish Church, as signs and symbols of tyranny and oppression.

Congregationalism--or, as it was then called by the common people,
Presbyterianism--was the religion established by law in New England.
It was the State Church. Even in Boston in its colonial days,
the King's Chapel and Old North were only dissenting churches,
unrecognized by the State, but upheld by the patronage of the
colonial governors who were sent over to them from England. For
a long time after the Revolutionary war the old _régime_ of the
State Church held undisputed sway in New England. There was the one
meeting-house, the one minister, in every village. Every householder
was taxed for the support of public worship, and stringent law
and custom demanded of every one a personal attendance on Sunday
at both services. If any defaulter failed to put in an appearance
it was the minister's duty to call promptly on Monday and know the
reason why. There was no place for differences of religious opinion.
All that individualism which now raises a crop of various little
churches in every country village was sternly suppressed. For many
years only members of churches could be eligible to public offices;
Sabbath-keeping was enforced with more than Mosaic strictness, and
New England justified the sarcasm which said that they had left the
Lords-Bishops to be under the Lords-Brethren. In those days if a
sectarian meeting of Methodists or Baptists, or an unseemly gathering
of any kind, seemed impending, the minister had only to put on his
cocked hat, take his gold-headed cane and march down the village
street, leaving his prohibition at every house, and the thing was so
done even as he commanded.

In the very nature of things such a state of society could not
endure. The shock that separated the nation from a king and monarchy,
the sense of freedom and independence, the hardihood of thought
which led to the founding of a new civil republic, were fatal to all
religious constraint. Even before the Revolutionary war there were
independent spirits that chafed under the constraint of clerical
supervision, and Ethan Allen advertised his farm and stock for sale,
expressing his determination at any cost to get out of "this old holy
State of Connecticut."

It was but a little while after the close of the war that established
American independence that the revolution came which broke up the
State Church and gave to every man the liberty of "signing off," as
it was called, to any denomination that pleased him. Hence arose
through New England churches of all names. The nucleus of the
Episcopal Church in any place was generally some two or three old
families of ancestral traditions in its favor, who gladly welcomed
to their fold any who, for various causes, were discontented with
the standing order of things. Then, too, there came to them gentle
spirits, cut and bleeding by the sharp crystals of doctrinal
statement, and courting the balm of devotional liturgy and the cool
shadowy indefiniteness of more æsthetic forms of worship. Also, any
one that for any cause had a controversy with the dominant church
took comfort in the power of "signing off" to another. In those days,
to belong to no church was not respectable, but to sign off to the
Episcopal Church was often a compromise that both gratified self-will
and saved one's dignity; and, having signed off, the new convert was
obliged, for consistency's sake, to justify the step he had taken
by doing his best to uphold the doctrine and worship of his chosen
church.

The little edifice at Poganuc had been trimmed and arranged with
taste and skill. For that matter, it would seem as if the wild woods
of New England were filled with garlands and decorations already
made and only waiting to be used in this graceful service. Under the
tall spruces the ground was all ruffled with the pretty wreaths of
ground-pine; the arbor vitæ, the spruce, the cedar and juniper, with
their balsamic breath, filled the aisles with a spicy fragrance. It
was a cheaply built little church, in gothic forms, with pointed
windows and an arch over the chancel; and every arch was wreathed
with green, and above the chancel glittered a great gold star,
manufactured by Miss Ida Lewis out of pasteboard and gilt paper
ordered in Boston. It was not gold, but it glittered, and the people
that looked on it were not _blasé_, as everybody in our days is, with
sight seeing. The innocent rustic life of Poganuc had no pageants,
no sights, no shows, except the eternal blazonry of nature; and
therefore the people were prepared to be dazzled and delighted with a
star cut out of gilt paper. There was bustling activity of boys and
men in lighting the windows, and a general rush of the populace to
get the best seats.

"Wal, now, this beats all!" said Hiel Jones the stage driver, who had
secured one of the best perches in the little gallery.

Hiel Jones, in virtue of his place on the high seat of the daily
stage that drove through Poganuc Center on the Boston turnpike, felt
himself invested with a sort of grandeur as occupying a predominant
position in society from whence he could look down on all its
movements and interests. Everybody bowed to Hiel. Every housekeeper
charged him with her bundle or commissioned him with her errand.
Bright-eyed damsels smiled at him from windows as he drove up to
house-doors, and of all that was going on in Poganuc Center, or any
of the villages for twenty miles around, Hiel considered himself as
a competent judge and critic. Therefore he came at an early hour
and assumed a seat where he could not only survey the gathering
congregation but throw out from time to time a few suggestions on the
lighting up and arrangements.

"Putty wal got up, this 'ere, for Poganuc Center," he said to Job
Peters, a rather heavy lad who had secured the place beside him.

"Putty wal, considerin'! Take care there, Siah Beers, ye'll set them
air spruce boughs afire ef you ain't careful lightin' your candles;
spruce boughs go like all natur ef ye once start 'em. These 'ere
things takes jedgment, Siah. Tell Ike Bissel there to h'ist his pole
a leetle higher; he don't reach them air top candles; what's the
feller thinkin' of? Look out, Jimmy! Ef ye let down that top winder
it flares the candles, and they'll gutter like thunder; better put it
up."

When the church was satisfactorily lighted Hiel began his comments on
the assembling audience:

"There goes Squire Lewis and Mis' Lewis and old lady Lewis and Idy
Lewis and the Lewis boys. On time, they be. Heads down--sayin'
prayers, I s'pose! Folks don't do so t' our meetin'; but folks' ways
is different. Bless my soul, ef there ain't old Zeph Higgins, lookin'
like a last year's mullen-stalk! I swow, ef the old critter hain't
act'ally hitched up and come down with his hull team--wife and boys
and yaller dog and all."

"Why, Zeph Higgins ain't 'Piscopal, is he?" said Job, who was less
versed than Hiel in the gossip of the day.

"Lordy massy, yis! Hain't ye heard that Zeph's signed off two months
ago, and goin' in strong for the 'Piscopals?"

"Wal, that air beats all," said his auditor. "Zeph is about the last
timber I'd expect to make a 'Piscopal of."

"Oh, lands! he ain't no more 'Piscopal than I be, Zeph Higgins ain't;
he's nothin' but a mad Presbyterian, like a good many o' the rest on
'em," said Hiel.

"Why, what's he mad about?"

"Laws, it's nothin' but that air old business about them potatoes
that Zeph traded to Deacon Dickenson a year ago. Come to settle up,
there was about five and sixpence that they couldn't 'gree 'bout.
Zeph, he said the deacon cheated him, and the deacon stood to it he
was right; and they had it back and forth, and the deacon wouldn't
give in, and Zeph wouldn't. And there they stood with their horns
locked like two bulls in a pastur' lot. Wal, they had 'em up 'fore
the church, and they was labored with--both sides. The deacon said,
finally, he'd pay the money for peace' sake, if Zeph would take back
what he said 'bout his bein' a cheat and a liar; and Zeph he said he
wouldn't take nothin' back; and then the church they suspended Zeph;
and Zeph he signed off to the 'Piscopals."

"I want to know, now," said Job, with a satisfied air of dawning
comprehension.

"Yis, sir, that air's the hull on't. But I tell you, Zeph's led
the old deacon a dance. Zeph, ye see, is one o' them ropy, stringy
fellers, jest like touch-wood--once get 'em a burnin' and they keep
on a burnin' night and day. Zeph really sot up nights a hatin' the
deacon, and contrivin' what he could do agin him. Finally, it come
into his head that the deacon got his water from a spring on one
of Zeph's high pastur' lots. The deacon had laid pipes himself and
brought it 'cross lots down to his house. Wal, wat does Zeph do,
without sayin' a word to the deacon, but he takes up all the deacon's
logs that carried the water 'cross his lot, and throw'd 'em over
the fence; and, fust the deacon's wife knowed, she hadn't a drop o'
water to wash or cook with, or drink, nor nothin'. Deacon had to get
all his water carted in barrels. Wal, they went to law 'bout it and
'tain't settled yit; but Zeph he took Squire Lewis for his lawyer.
Squire Lewis, ye see, he's the gret man to the 'Piscopal Church.
Folks say he putty much built this 'ere church."

"Wal, now," said Job, after an interval of meditation, "I shouldn't
think the 'Piscopals wouldn't get no gret advantage from them sort o'
fellers."

"That air's jest what I was a tellin' on 'em over to the store," said
Hiel, briskly. "Deacon Peasley, he was a mournin' about it. Lordy
massy, deacon, says I, don't you worry. If them 'Piscopalians has got
Zeph Higgins in their camp--why, they've bit off more'n they can
chaw, that's all. They'll find it out one o' these days--see if they
don't."

"Wal, but Zeph's folks is putty nice folks, now," said Job.

"O--wal, yis--they be; don't say nothin' agin his folks. Mis' Higgins
is a meek, marciful old body, kind o' heart-broken at leavin' Parson
Cushing and her meetin'. Then there's Nabby, and the boys. Wal, they
sort o' like it--young folks goes in for new things. There's Nabby
over there now, come in with Jim Sawin. I believe she's makin' a fool
o' that 'ere fellow. Harnsom gal, Nabby is--knows it too--and sarves
out the fellers. Maybe she'll go through the wood and pick up a
crooked stick 'fore she knows it. I've sot up with Nabby myself; but
laws, she ain't the only gal in the world--plenty on 'em all 'round
the lot."

"Why," exclaimed his neighbor, "if there ain't the minister's boys
down there in that front slip!"

"Sartin; you may bet on Bill and Tom for bein' into the best seat
whatever's goin' on. Likely boys; wide awake they be! Bill there
could drive stage as well as I can, only if I didn't hold on to him
he'd have us all to the darnation in five minutes. There's the makin'
of suthin' in that Bill. He'll go strong to the Lord or to the devil
one o' these days."

"Wal, what's his father think of his bein' here?"

"Parson Cushing! Lordy massy, he don't know nothin' where they
be. Met him and Mis' Cushing jinglin' over to the Friday evenin'
prayer-meetin' to North Poganuc."

"Wal, now," said his neighbor, "ef there ain't Lucius Jenks down
there and Mis' Jenks, and all his folks."

"Yis--yis, jes' so. They say Lucius is thinkin' of signin' off to
the 'Piscopals to get the trade. He's jest sot up store, and Deacon
Dickenson's got all the ground; but there's the Lewises and the
Copleys and the Danforths goes to the 'Piscopals, and they's folks
that lives well and uses lots of groceries. I shouldn't wonder ef
Lucius should make a good thing on't. Jenks ain't one that cares
much which church he goes to, and, like enough, it don't make much
difference to some folks."

"You know this 'ere minister they've got here?" asked Job.

"Know him? Guess so!" said Hiel, with a superior smile. "I've known
Sim Coan ever since he wore short jackets. Sim comes from over by
East Poganuc. His gran'ther was old Gineral Coan, a gret Tory he was,
in the war times. Sim's ben to college, and he's putty smart and
chipper. Come to heft him, tho', he don't weigh much 'longside o'
Parson Cushing. He's got a good voice, and reads well; but come to a
_sermon_--wal, ain't no gret heft in't."

"Want to know," said his auditor.

"Yis," said Hiel, "but Sim's almighty plucky. You'd think now,
comin' into this 'ere little bit of a church, right opposite Parson
Cushing's great meetin'-house, and with the biggest part of folks
goin' to meetin', that he'd sing small at fust; but he don't. Lordy
massy, no! He comes right out with it that Parson Cushing ain't
no minister, and hain't got no right to preach, nor administer
sacraments, nor nothin'--nor nobody else but him and his 'Piscopal
folks, that's been ordained by bishops. He gives it to 'em, hip and
thigh, I tell you."

"That air don't look reasonable," said Job, after a few minutes of
profound reflection.

"Wal, Sim says this 'ere thing has come right stret down from the
'Postles--one ordainin' another in a steady string all the way down
till it come to him. And Parson Cushing, he's out in the cold, 'cause
there hain't no bishop ordained him."

"Wal, I declare!" said the other. "I think that air's cheek."

"Ain't it now?" said Hiel. "Now, for my part, I go for the man
that does his work best. Here's all our ministers round a savin'
sinners and convartin' souls, whether the 'Postles ordained 'em
or not--that's what ministers is _fur_. I'll set Parson Cushing
'longside any minister--preachin' and teachin' and holdin' meetin's
in Poganuc Center, and North and South Poganuc, and gatherin' church
members, and seein' to the schools, and keepin' every thing agoin'.
That air kind o' minister 's good enough for _me_."

"Then you've no thoughts of signing off?"

"Not a bit on't. My old mother, she thinks every thing o' Parson
Cushing. She's a gret deal better jedge than I be o' this 'ere sort
o' thing. I shall go to meetin' with Mother."

"It's sort o' takin' and pretty, though, this 'ere dressing up the
church and all," said his neighbor.

"Wal, yis, _'tis_ putty," said Hiel, looking around with an air of
candid allowance, "but who's going to pay for it all? These 'ere sort
of things chalk up, ye know. All these 'ere taller candles ain't
burnt out for nothing--somebody's got to foot the bills."

"Wal, I like the orgin," said Job. "I wish we had an orgin to our
meetin'."

"Dunno," said Hiel, loth to admit any superiority. "Wal, they
wouldn't a hed none ef it hadn't been for Uncle Sol Peters. You know
he's kind o' crazy to sing, and he hain't got no ear, and no more
voice 'n a saw-mill, and they wouldn't hev 'im in our singer seats,
and so he went off to the 'Piscopals. And he bought an orgin right
out and out, and paid for it, and put it in this church so that
they'd let him be in the singin'. You know they can make noise enough
with an orgin to drown his voice."

"Wal, it was considerable for Uncle Sol to do--wa'n't it?" said Job.

"Laws, he's an old bachelor, hain't got no wife and children to
support, so I s'pose he may as well spend his money that way as any.
Uncle Sol never could get any gal to hev him. There he is now, tryin'
to get 'longside o' Nabby Higgins; but you'll see he won't do it. She
knows what she's about. Now, for my part, I like our singin' up to
the meetin'-house full as wal as this 'ere. I like good old-fashioned
psalm tunes, with Ben Davis to lead--that's the sort _I_ like."

It will have been remarked that Hiel was one of that common class of
Yankees who felt provided with a ready-made opinion of everything
and every subject that could possibly be started, from stage-driving
to apostolic succession, with a most comfortable opinion of the
importance of his approbation and patronage.

When the house was filled and the evening service begun Hiel looked
down critically as the audience rose or sat down or bowed in the
Creed. The tones of the small organ, leading the choral chant and
somewhat covering the uncultured roughness of the voices in the
choir, rose and filled the green arches with a solemn and plaintive
sound, affecting many a heart that scarce could give a reason why. It
was in truth a very sweet and beautiful service, and one calculated
to make a thoughtful person regret that the Church of England had
ever expelled the Puritan leaders from an inheritance of such
lovely possibilities. When the minister's sermon appeared, however,
it proved to be a spirited discourse on the obligation of keeping
Christmas, to which Hiel listened with pricked-up ears, evidently
bristling with combativeness.

"Parson Cushing could knock that air all to flinders; you see if
he can't," said Hiel, the moment the concluding services allowed
him space to speak his mind. "Wal, did ye see old Zeph a-gettin'
up and a-settin' down in the wrong place, and tryin' to manage his
prayer-book?" he said. "It's worse than the militia drill--he never
hits right. I hed to laugh to see him. Hulloa! if there ain't little
Dolly down there in the corner, under them cedars. How come she out
this time o' night? Guess Parson Cushing 'll hev to look out for this
'ere!"



CHAPTER IV.

DOLLY'S ADVENTURE.


And, after all, Dolly was there! Yes, she was. Human nature, which
runs wild with the oldest of us at times, was too strong for poor
little Dolly.

Can any of us look back to the earlier days of our mortal pilgrimage
and remember the helpless sense of desolation and loneliness caused
by being forced to go off to the stillness and darkness of a solitary
bed far from all the beloved voices and employments and sights of
life? Can we remember lying, hearing distant voices, and laughs of
more fortunate, older people, and the opening and shutting of distant
doors, that told of scenes of animation and interest from which we
were excluded? How doleful sounded the tick of the clock, and how
dismal was the darkness as sunshine faded from the window, leaving
only a square of dusky dimness in place of daylight!

All who remember these will sympathize with Dolly, who was hustled
off to bed by Nabby the minute supper was over, that she might have
the decks clear for action.

"Now be a good girl; shut your eyes, and say your prayers, and go
right to sleep," had been Nabby's parting injunction as she went out,
closing the door after her.

The little head sunk into the pillow and Dolly recited her usual
liturgy of "Our Father who art in Heaven," and "I pray God to bless
my dear father and mother and all my dear friends and relations, and
make me a good girl;" and ending with

    "'Now I lay me down to sleep.'"

But sleep she could not. The wide, bright, wistful blue eyes lay
shining like two stars towards the fading light in the window,
and the little ears were strained to catch every sound. She heard
the shouts of Tom and Bill and the loud barking of Spring as they
swept out of the door; and the sound went to her heart. Spring--her
faithful attendant, the most loving and sympathetic of dogs, her
friend and confidential counsellor in many a solitary ramble--Spring
had gone with the boys to see the sight, and left her alone. She
began to pity herself and cry softly on her pillow. For awhile she
could hear Nabby's energetic movements below, washing up dishes,
setting back chairs, and giving energetic thumps and bangs here and
there, as her way was of producing order. But by and by that was all
over, and she heard the loud shutting of the kitchen door and Nabby's
voice chatting with her attendant as she went off to the scene of
gaiety.

In those simple, innocent days in New England villages nobody thought
of locking house doors at night. There was in those times no idea
either of tramps or burglars, and many a night in summer had Dolly
lain awake and heard the voices of tree-toads and whippoorwills
mingling with the whisper of leaves and the swaying of elm boughs,
while the great outside door of the house lay broad open in the
moonlight. But then this was when everybody was in the house and
asleep, when the door of her parents' room stood open on the front
hall, and she knew she could run to the paternal bed in a minute for
protection. Now, however, she knew the house was empty. Everybody had
gone out of it; and there is something fearful to a little lonely
body in the possibilities of a great, empty house. She got up and
opened her door, and the "tick-tock" of the old kitchen clock for
a moment seemed like company; but pretty soon its ticking began to
strike louder and louder with a nervous insistancy on her ear, till
the nerves quivered and vibrated, and she couldn't go to sleep.
She lay and listened to all the noises outside. It was a still,
clear, freezing night, when the least sound clinked with a metallic
resonance. She heard the runners of sleighs squeaking and crunching
over the frozen road, and the lively jingle of bells. They would come
nearer, nearer, pass by the house, and go off in the distance. Those
were the happy folks going to see the gold star and the Christmas
greens in the church. The gold star, the Christmas greens, had all
the more attraction from their vagueness. Dolly was a fanciful little
creature, and the clear air and romantic scenery of a mountain town
had fed her imagination. Stories she had never read, except those in
the Bible and the Pilgrim's Progress, but her very soul had vibrated
with the descriptions of the celestial city--something vague, bright,
glorious, lying beyond some dark river; and Nabby's rude account of
what was going on in the church suggested those images.

Finally a bright thought popped into her little head. She could see
the church from the front windows of the house; she would go there
and look. In haste she sprang out of bed and dressed herself. It was
sharp and freezing in the fireless chamber, but Dolly's blood had a
racing, healthy tingle to it; she didn't mind cold. She wrapped her
cloak around her and tied on her hood and ran to the front windows.
There it was, to be sure--the little church with its sharp-pointed
windows every pane of which was sending streams of light across the
glittering snow. There was a crowd around the door, and men and boys
looking in at the windows. Dolly's soul was fired. But the elm-boughs
a little obstructed her vision; she thought she would go down and
look at it from the yard. So down stairs she ran, but as she opened
the door the sound of the chant rolled out into the darkness with a
sweet and solemn sound:

"_Glory be to God on high; and on earth peace, good will towards
men._"

Dolly's soul was all aglow--her nerves tingled and vibrated; she
thought of the bells ringing in the celestial city; she could no
longer contain herself, but faster and faster the little hooded form
scudded across the snowy plain and pushed in among the dark cluster
of spectators at the door. All made way for the child, and in a
moment, whether in the body or out she could not tell, Dolly was
sitting in a little nook under a bower of spruce, gazing at the star
and listening to the voices:

"_We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we
give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, Heavenly King,
God, the Father Almighty._"

Her heart throbbed and beat; she trembled with a strange happiness
and sat as one entranced till the music was over. Then came reading,
the rustle and murmur of people kneeling, and then they all rose
and there was the solemn buzz of voices repeating the Creed with a
curious lulling sound to her ear. There was old Mr. Danforth with his
spectacles on, reading with a pompous tone, as if to witness a good
confession for the church; and there was Squire Lewis and old Ma'am
Lewis; and there was one place where they all bowed their heads and
all the ladies made courtesies--all of which entertained her mightily.

When the sermon began Dolly got fast asleep and slept as quietly as
a pet lamb in a meadow, lying in a little warm roll back under the
shadows of the spruces. She was so tired and so sound asleep that she
did not wake when the service ended, lying serenely curled up, and
having perhaps pleasant dreams. She might have had the fortunes of
little Goody Two-Shoes, whose history was detailed in one of the few
children's books then printed, had not two friends united to find her
out.

Spring, who had got into the slip with the boys, and been an equally
attentive and edified listener, after service began a tour of
investigation, dog-fashion, with his nose; for how could a minister's
dog form a suitable judgment of any new procedure if he was
repressed from the use of his own leading faculty? So, Spring went
round the church conscientiously, smelling at pew-doors, smelling of
the greens, smelling at the heels of gentlemen and ladies, till he
came near the door of the church, when he suddenly smelt something
which called for immediate attention, and he made a side dart into
the thicket where Dolly was sleeping, and began licking her face
and hands and pulling her dress, giving short barks occasionally,
as if to say, "Come, Dolly, wake up!" At the same instant Hiel, who
had seen her from the gallery, came down just as the little one was
sitting up with a dazed, bewildered air.

"Why, Dolly, how came you out o' bed this time o' night! Don't ye
know the nine o'clock bell's jest rung?"

Dolly knew Hiel well enough--what child in the village did not! She
reached up her little hands saying in an apologetic fashion,

"They were all gone away, and I was so lonesome!"

Hiel took her up in his long arms and carried her home, and was just
entering the house-door with her as the sleigh drove up with Parson
Cushing and his wife.

"Wal, Parson, your folks has all ben to the 'lumination--Nabby and
Bill and Tom and Dolly here; found her all rolled up in a heap like
a rabbit under the cedars."

"Why, Dolly Cushing!" exclaimed her mother. "What upon earth got you
out of bed this time of night? You'll catch your death o' cold."

"I was all alone," said Dolly, with a piteous bleat.

"Oh, there, there, wife; don't say a word," put in the Parson. "Get
her off to bed. Never mind, Dolly, don't you cry;" for Parson Cushing
was a soft-hearted gentleman and couldn't bear the sight of Dolly's
quivering under lip. So Dolly told her little story, how she had
been promised a sugar dog by Nabby if she'd be a good girl and go to
sleep, and how she couldn't go to sleep, and how she just went down
to look from the yard, and how the music drew her right over.

"There, there," said Parson Cushing, "go to bed, Dolly; and if Nabby
don't give you a sugar dog, I will.

"This Christmas dressing is all nonsense," he added, "but the child
's not to blame--it was natural."

"After all," he said to his wife the last thing after they were
settled for the night, "our little Dolly is an unusual child. There
were not many little girls that would have dared to do that. I shall
preach a sermon right away that will set all this Christmas matter
straight," said the doctor. "There is not a shadow of evidence that
the first Christians kept Christmas. It wasn't kept for the first
three centuries, nor was Christ born anywhere near the 25th of
December."



CHAPTER V.

DOLLY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY.


The next morning found little Dolly's blue eyes wide open with all
the wondering eagerness of a new idea. In those early times the life
of childhood was much more in the imagination than now. Children were
let alone, to think their own thoughts. There were no kindergartens
to train the baby to play philosophically, and infuse a stealthy
aroma of geometry and conic sections into the very toys of the
nursery. Parents were not anxiously watching every dawning idea of
the little mind to set it straight even before it was uttered; and
there were then no newspapers or magazines with a special corner for
the bright sayings of children.

Not that children were any less beloved, or motherhood a less holy
thing. There were many women of deep hearts, who, like the "most
blessed among women," kept all the sayings of their darlings and
pondered them in their hearts; but it was not deemed edifying or
useful to pay much apparent attention to these utterances and
actions of the youthful pilgrim.

Children's inquiries were freely put off with the general answer that
Mamma was busy and they must not talk--that when they were grown up
they would know all about these things, etc.; and so they lived apart
from older people in their own little child-world of uninvaded ideas.

Dolly, therefore, had her wise thoughts about Christmas. She had been
terribly frightened at first, when she was brought home from the
church; but when her papa kissed her and promised her a sugar dog she
was quite sure that, whatever the unexplained mystery might be, he
did not think the lovely scene of the night before a wicked one. And
when Mrs. Cushing came and covered the little girl up warmly in bed,
she only said to her, "Dolly, you must never get out of bed again
at night after you are put there; you might have caught a dreadful
cold and been sick and died, and then we should have lost our little
Dolly." So Dolly promised quite readily to be good and lie still ever
after, no matter what attractions might be on foot in the community.

Much was gained, however, and it was all clear gain; and forthwith
the little fanciful head proceeded to make the most of it, thinking
over every feature of the wonder. The child had a vibrating, musical
organization, and the sway and rush of the chanting still sounded in
her ears and reminded her of that wonderful story in the "Pilgrim's
Progress," where the gate of the celestial city swung open, and
there were voices that sung, "Blessing and honor and glory and power
be unto Him who sitteth on the throne." And then that wonderful
star, that shone just as if it were a real star--how could it be!
For Miss Ida Lewis, being a young lady of native artistic genius,
had cut a little hole in the center of her gilt paper star, behind
which was placed a candle, so that it gave real light, in a way most
astonishing to untaught eyes. In Dolly's simple view it verged on
the supernatural--perhaps it was _the_ very real star read about in
the gospel story. Why not? Dolly was at the happy age when anything
bright and heavenly seemed credible, and had the child-faith to which
all things were possible. She had even seriously pondered at times
the feasibility of walking some day to the end of the rainbow to look
for the pot of gold which Nabby had credibly assured her was to be
found there; and if at any time in her ramblings through the wood a
wolf had met her and opened a conversation, as in the case of little
Red Riding Hood, she would have been no way surprised, but kept up
her part of the interview with becoming spirit.

"I wish, my dear," said Mrs. Cushing, after they were retired to
their room for the night, "that to-morrow morning you would read the
account of the birth of Christ in St Matthew, and give the children
some good advice upon the proper way of keeping Christmas."

"Well, but you know we don't _keep_ Christmas; nobody knows anything
about Christmas," said the Doctor.

"You know what I mean, my dear," replied his wife. "You know that my
mother and her family _do_ keep Christmas. I always heard of it when
I was a child; and even now, though I have been out of the way of it
so long, I cannot help a sort of kindly feeling towards these ways. I
am not surprised at all that the children got drawn over last night
to the service. I think it's the most natural thing in the world, and
I know by experience just how attractive such things are. I shouldn't
wonder if this Episcopal church should draw very seriously on your
congregation; but I don't want it to begin by taking away our own
children. Dolly is an inquisitive child; a child that thinks a good
deal, and she'll be asking all sorts of questions about the why and
wherefore of what she saw last night."

"Oh, yes, Dolly is a bright one. Dolly's an uncommon child," said the
Doctor, who had a pardonable pride in his children--they being, in
fact, the only worldly treasure that he was at all rich in.

"And as to that little dress-up affair over there," he continued, "I
don't think any real harm has been done as yet. I have my eyes open.
I know all about it, and I shall straighten out this whole matter
next Sunday," he said, with the comfortable certainty of a man in the
habit of carrying his points.

"I don't feel so very sure of that," said his wife; "at the same time
I shouldn't want anything like an open attack on the Episcopalians.
There are sincere good people of that way of thinking--my mother, for
instance, is a saint on earth, and so is good old Madam Lewis. So
pray be careful what you say."

"My dear, I haven't the least objection to their dressing their
church and having a good Christian service any day in the year if
they want to, but our people may just as well understand our own
ground. I know that the Democrats are behind this new move, and they
are just using this church to carry their own party purposes--to
break up the standing order and put down all the laws that are left
to protect religion and morals. They want to upset everything that
our fathers came to New England to establish. But I'm going to head
this thing off in Poganuc. I shall write a sermon to-morrow, and
settle matters."

Now, there is no religious organization in the world in its genius
and history less likely to assimilate with a democratic movement than
the Episcopal Church. It is essentially aristocratic in form, and, in
New England, as we have already noticed, had always been on the side
of monarchical institutions.

But, just at this point in the history of New England affairs, all
the minor denominations were ready to join any party that promised to
break the supremacy of the State Church and give them a foothold.

It was the "Democratic party" of that day that broke up the exclusive
laws in favor of the Congregational Church and consequently gained
large accessions to their own standard. To use a brief phrase, all
the _outs_ were Democrats, and all the _ins_ Federalists. But the
Democratic party had, as always, its radical train. Not satisfied
with wresting the scepter from the hands of the Congregational
clergyman, and giving equal rights and a fair field to other
denominations, the cry was now to abolish all laws in any way
protective of religious institutions, or restrictive of the fullest
personal individualism; in short, the cry was for the liberty of
every man to go to church or not, to keep the Sabbath or not, to
support a minister or not, as seemed good and proper in his own eyes.

This was in fact the final outcome of things in New England, and
experience has demonstrated that this wide and perfect freedom is
the best way of preserving religion and morals. But it was not given
to a clergyman in the day of Dr. Cushing, who had hitherto felt that
a state ought to be like a well-governed school, under the minister
for schoolmaster, to look on the movements of the Democratic party
otherwise than as tending to destruction and anarchy. This new
movement in the Episcopal Church he regarded as but a device by
appeals to the senses--by scenic effects, illuminations and music--to
draw people off to an unspiritual and superficial form of religion,
which, having once been the tool of monarchy and aristocracy, had now
fallen into the hands of the far more dangerous democracy; and he
determined to set the trumpet to his mouth on the following Sabbath,
and warn the watchmen on the walls of Zion.

He rose up early, however, and proceeded to buy a sugar dog at the
store of Lucius Jenks, and when Dolly came down to breakfast he
called her to him and presented it, saying as he kissed her,

"Papa gives you this, not because it is Christmas, but because he
loves his little Dolly."

"But _isn't_ it Christmas?" asked Dolly, with a puzzled air.

"No, child; nobody knows when Christ was born, and there is nothing
in the Bible to tell us _when_ to keep Christmas."

And then in family worship the doctor read the account of the birth
of Christ and of the shepherds abiding in the fields who came at the
call of the angels, and they sung the old hymn:

    "While shepherds watched their flocks by night."

"Now, children," he said when all was over, "you must be good
children and go to school. If we are going to keep any day on account
of the birth of Christ, the best way to keep it is by doing all our
duties on that day better than any other. Your duty is to be good
children, go to school and mind your lessons."

Tom and Bill, who had been at the show the evening before and
exhausted the capabilities of the scenic effects, were quite ready
to fall in with their father's view of the matter. The candles were
burnt out, the play over, for them, and forthwith they assumed to
look down on the whole with the contempt of superior intelligence.
As for Dolly, she put her little tongue advisedly to the back of her
sugar dog and found that he was very sweet indeed--a most tempting
little animal. She even went so far as to nibble off a bit of the
green ground he stood on--yet resolved heroically not to eat him
at once, but to make him last as long as possible. She wrapped him
tenderly in cotton and took him to the school with her, and when her
confidential friend, Bessie Lewis, displayed her Christmas gifts,
Dolly had something on her side to show, though she shook her curly
head wisely and informed Bessie in strict confidence that there
wasn't any such thing as Christmas, her papa had told her so--a
heresy which Bessie forthwith reported when she went home at noon.

"Poor little Presbyterian--and did she say so?" asked gentle old
Grandmamma Lewis. "Well, dear, you mustn't blame her--she don't know
any better. You bring the little thing in here to-night and I'll give
her a Christmas cookey. I'm sorry for such children."

And so, after school, Dolly went in to see dear old Madam Lewis, who
sat in her rocking-chair in the front parlor, where the fire was
snapping behind great tall brass andirons and all the pictures were
overshadowed with boughs of spruce and pine. Dolly gazed about her
with awe and wonder. Over one of the pictures was suspended a cross
of green with flowers of white everlasting.

"What is _that_ for?" asked Dolly, pointing solemnly with her little
forefinger, and speaking under her breath.

"Dear child, that is the picture of my poor boy who died--ever so
many years ago. That is my cross--we have all one--to carry."

Dolly did not half understand these words, but she saw tears in the
gentle old lady's eyes and was afraid to ask more.

She accepted thankfully and with her nicest and best executed
courtesy a Christmas cookey representing a good-sized fish, with fins
all spread and pink sugar-plums for eyes, and went home marveling yet
more about this mystery of Christmas.

As she was crossing the green to go home the Poganuc stage drove in,
with Hiel seated on high, whipping up his horses to make them execute
that grand _entrée_ which was the glory of his daily existence.

Now that the stage was on runners, and slipped noiselessly over the
smooth frozen plain, Hiel cracked his whip more energetically and
shouted louder, first to one horse and then to another, to make
up for the loss of the rattling wheels; and he generally had the
satisfaction of seeing all the women rushing distractedly to doors
and windows, and imagined them saying, "There's Hiel; the stage is
in!"

"Hulloa, Dolly!" he called out, drawing up with a suddenness which
threw the fore-horses back upon their haunches. "I've got a bundle
for your folks. Want to ride? You may jest jump up here by me and
I'll take you 'round to your father's door;" and so Dolly reached up
her little red-mittened hand, and Hiel drew her up beside him.

"'Xpect ye want a bit of a ride, and I've got a bundle for Widder
Badger, down on South Street, so I guess I'll go 'round that way to
make it longer. I 'xpect this 'ere bundle is from some of your ma's
folks in Boston--'Piscopals they be, and keeps Christmas. Good sized
bundle 'tis; reckon it'll come handy in a good many ways."

So, after finishing his detour, Hiel landed his little charge at the
parsonage door.

"Reckon I'll be over when I've put up my hosses," he said to Nabby
when he handed down the bundle to her. "I hain't been to see ye much
lately, Nabby, and I know you've been a pinin' after me, but fact
is--"

"Well, now, Hiel Beers, you jest shet up with your imperence," said
Nabby, with flashing eyes; "you jest look out or you'll get suthin."

"I 'xpect to get a kiss when I come round to-night," said Hiel,
composedly. "Take care o' that air bundle, now; mebbe there's glass
or crockery in 't."

"Hiel Beers," said Nabby, "don't give me none o' your saase, for I
won't take it. Jim Sawin said last night you was the brassiest man
he ever see. He said there was brass enough in your face to make a
kettle of."

"You tell him there's sap enough in his head to fill it, any way,"
said Hiel. "Good bye, Nabby, I'll come 'round this evenin'," and he
drove away at a rattling pace, while Nabby, with flushed cheeks and
snapping eyes, soliloquized,

"Well, I hope he will come! I'd jest like a chance to show him how
little I care for him."

Meanwhile the bundle was soon opened, and contained a store of
treasures: a smart little red dress and a pair of red shoes for
Dolly, a half dozen pocket-handkerchiefs for Dr. Cushing, and
"Robinson Crusoe" and "Sanford and Merton," handsomely bound, for the
boys, and a bonnet trimming for Mrs. Cushing. These were accompanied
by a characteristic letter from Aunt Debby Kittery, opening as
follows:

  "DEAR SISTER:

  "Mother worries because she thinks you Presbyterians won't get any
  Christmas presents. I tell her it serves you right for being out of
  the true church. However, this comes to give every one of you some
  of the crumbs which fall from the church's table, and Mother says
  she wishes you all a pious Christmas, which she thinks is better
  than a merry one. If I didn't lay violent hands on her she would
  use all our substance in riotous giving of Christmas presents to
  all the beggars and chimney sweeps in Boston. She is in good health
  and talks daily of wanting to see you and the children; and I hope
  before long you will bring some of them, and come and make us a
  visit.

  "Your affectionate sister,

  "DEBBY KITTERY."

There was a scene of exultation and clamor in the parsonage as these
presents were pulled out and discussed; and when all possible joy was
procured from them in the sitting-room, the children rushed in a body
into the kitchen and showed them to Nabby, calling on her to join
their acclamations.

And then in the evening Hiel came in, and Nabby prosecuted her
attacks upon him with great vigor and severity, actually carrying
matters to such a length that she was obliged, as a matter of pure
Christian charity, to "kiss and make up" with him at the end of the
evening. Of course Hiel took away an accurate inventory of every
article in the bundle, for the enlightenment of any of his particular
female friends who had a curiosity to know "what Mis' Cushin's folks
sent her in that air bundle from Boston."

On the whole, when Dolly had said her prayers that night and thought
the matter over, she concluded that her Christmas Day had been quite
a success.



CHAPTER VI.

VILLAGE POLITICIANS.


We have traced our little Dolly's fortunes, haps and havings through
Christmas day, but we should not do justice to the situation did we
not throw some light on the views and opinions of the Poganuc people
upon this occasion.

The Episcopal church had been newly finished. There was held on
this day, for the first time in open daylight, the full Christmas
Service. The illumination and services of the evening before had been
skillfully designed to make an impression on the popular mind, and to
draw in children and young people with all that floating populace who
might be desirous of seeing or hearing some new things.

It had been a success. Such an audience had been drawn and such a
sensation produced that on Christmas day everybody in the village was
talking of the church; and those who did not go ran to the windows
to see who did go. A week-day church service other than a fast, and
thanksgiving, and "preparatory lecture" was a striking novelty; and
when the little bell rang out its peal and the congregation began to
assemble it was watched with curious eyes from many a house.

The day was a glorious one. The bright, cold sun made the icicles
that adorned the fronts of all the houses glitter like the gems of
Aladdin's palace, and a well-dressed company were seen coming up from
various points of the village and thronging the portals of the church.

The little choir and their new organ rang out the _Te Deum_ with
hearty good-will, and many ears for the first time heard that
glorious old heroic poem of the early church. The waves of sound
rolled across the green and smote on the unresponsive double row of
windows of the old meeting-house, which seemed to stare back with a
gaze of blank astonishment. The sound even floated into the store of
Deacon Dickenson, and caused some of the hard-handed old farmers who
were doing their trading there, with their sleds and loads of wood,
to stop their discourse on turnips, eggs and apple-sauce, and listen.
To them it bore the sound as of a challenge, the battle-cry of an
opposing host that was rising up to dispute the ground with them; and
so they listened with combative ears.

"Seem to be a hevin' it all their own way over there, them
'Piscopals. Carryin' all before 'em," said one.

"How they are a gettin' on!" said another.

"Yes," said Deacon Dickenson; "all the Democrats are j'inin' them,
and goin' to make a gen'l push next 'lection. They're goin' clean
agin everything--Sunday laws and tiding-man and all."

"Wal," said Deacon Peasley, a meek, mournful little man, with a bald
top to his head, "the Democrats are goin' to carry the state. I feel
sure on 't."

"Good reason," said Tim Hawkins, a stout two-fisted farmer from one
of the outlying farms. "The Democrats beat 'cause they're allers
up and dressed, and we Fed'lists ain't. Why, look at 'em to town
meetin! Democrats allers on time, every soul on 'em--rag, tag and
bobtail--rain or shine don't make no difference with them; but it
takes a yoke of oxen to get a Fed'list out, and when you've got
him you've got to set down on him to keep him. That's just the
difference."

"Wal," said Deacon Peasley in a thin, querulous voice, "all this 'ere
comes of extending the suffrage. Why, Father says that when he was
a young man there couldn't nobody vote but good church members in
regular standin', and couldn't nobody but them be elected to office.
Now it's just as you say, 'rag, tag and bobtail' can vote, and you'll
see they'll break up all our institutions. They've got it so now
that folks can sign off and go to meetin' anywhere, and next they'll
get it so they needn't go nowhere--that's what'll come next. There's
a lot of our young folks ben a goin' to this 'ere 'lumination."

"Wal, I told Parson Cushing about that air 'lumination last night,"
said Deacon Dickenson, "and he didn't seem to mind it. But I tell
you he'll hev to mind. Both his boys there, and little Dolly,
too, runnin' over there after she was put to bed; he'll hev to do
somethin' to head this 'ere off."

"He'll do it, too," said Tim Hawkins. "Parson Cushing knows what he's
about, and he'll come out with a sarmon next Sunday, you see if he
don't. There's more in Parson Cushing's little finger than there is
in that Sim Coan's hull body, if he did come right straight down from
the 'Postles.

"I've heard," said Deacon Peasley, "that Mis' Cushing's folks in
Boston was 'Piscopal, and some thought mebbe she influenced the
children."

"Oh, wal, Mis' Cushing, she did come from a 'Piscopal family," said
Deacon Dickenson. "She was a Kittery, and her gran'ther, Israel
Kittery, was a tory in the war. Her folks used to go to the old North
in Boston, and they didn't like her marryin' Parson Cushing a grain;
but when she married him, why, she _did_ marry him. She married his
work, and married all his pinions. And nobody can say she hain't been
a good yoke-fellow; she's kept up her end, Mis' Cushing has. No,
there's nobody ought to say nothin' agin Mis' Cushing."

"Wal, I s'pose we shall hear from the doctor next Sunday," said
Hawkins. "He'll speak out; his trumpet won't give an unsartin sound."

"I reely want ter know," said Deacon Peasley, "ef Zeph Higgins has
reely come down with his folks _to-day_, givin' up a hull day's work!
I shouldn't 'a' thought Zeph'd 'a' done that for any meetin'?"

"Oh, laws, yis; Zeph 'll do anything he sets his will on, particular
if it's suthin' Mis' Higgins don't want to do--then Zeph 'll do it,
sartin. I kind o' pity that air woman," said Hawkins.

"Oh, yis," said the deacon; "poor Mis' Higgins, she come to my wife
reely mournin' when Zeph cut up so about them water-pipes, and says
she, 'Mis' Dickenson, I'd rather 'a' worked my fingers to the bone
than this 'ere should 'a' happened; but I can't do nothin',' says
she; 'he's that sort that the more you say the more sot he gets,'
says she. Wal, I don't wish the 'Piscopals no worse luck than to get
Zeph Higgins, that's all I've got to say."

"Wal," said Tim Hawkins, "let 'em alone. Guess they'll find out what
he is when they come to pass the hat 'round. I expect keepin' up
that air meetin' 'll be drefful hard sleddin' yit--and they won't get
nothin' out o' Zeph. Zeph's as tight as the bark of a tree."

"Wonder if that air buildin's paid fer? Hiel Jones says there's a
consid'able debt on't yit," said Deacon Peasley, "and Hiel gen'ally
knows."

"Don't doubt on't," said Deacon Dickenson. "Squire Lewis he's in for
the biggest part on't, and he's got money through his wife. She was
one of them rich Winthrops up to Boston. The squire has gone off now
to Lucius Jenks's store, and so has Colonel Danforth and a lot more
of the biggest on 'em. I told Hiel I didn't mind, so long as I kep'
Colonel Davenport and Judge Belcher and Judge Peters and Sheriff
Dennie. I have a good many more aristocracy than he hez."

"For my part I don't care so very much for these 'ere town-hill
aristocracy," said Tim Hawkins. "They live here in their gret houses
and are so proud they think it's a favor to speak to a farmer in
his blue linsey shirt a drivin' his team. I don't want none on 'em
lookin' down on me. I am as good as they be; and I guess you make as
much in your trade by the farmers out on the hills as you do by the
rich folks here in town."

[Illustration: CASTE.

"_O yis, sartin,_" _said Deacon Dickenson, making haste to
propitiate.... "I'd rather see your sled a-standin' front o' my door
than the finest carriage any on 'em drives._"--p. 67.]

"Oh, yis, sartin," said Deacon Dickenson, making haste to
propitiate. "I don't want no better trade than I get out your way,
Mr. Hawkins. I'd rather see your sled a standin' front o' my door
than the finest carriage any of 'em drives. I haint forgot Parson
Cushing's sarmon to the farmers, 'The king himself is sarved by the
field.'"

"I tell you that was a sarmon!" said Hawkins "We folks in our
neighborhood all subscribed to get it printed, and I read it over
once a month, Sundays. Parson Cushing 's a good farmer himself. He
can turn in and plow or hoe or mow, and do as good a day's work as I
can, if he does know Latin and Greek; and he and Mis' Cushing they
come over and visit 'round 'mong us quite as sociable as with them
town-hill folks. I'm jest a waitin' to hear him give it to them air
'Piscopals next Sunday. He'll sarve out the Democrats--the doctor
will."

"Wal," said Deacon Dickenson, "I don't think the doctor hed reely got
waked up when I spoke to him 'bout that 'lumination, but I guess his
eyes are open now, and the doctor 's one o' that sort that's _wide_
awake when he is awake. He'll do suthin' o' Sunday."



CHAPTER VII.

THE DOCTOR'S SERMON.


Poganuc was a pretty mountain town in Connecticut. It was a county
seat, and therefore of some considerable importance in the vicinity.
It boasted its share of public buildings--the great meeting-house
that occupied the central position of the village green, the tavern
where the weekly stage put up, a court-house, a jail, and other
defenses of public morals, besides the recently added Episcopal
church.

It was also the residence of some stately and dignified families of
comfortable means and traditions of ancestral importance. Of these,
as before stated, a few had availed themselves of the loosening
of old bonds and founded an Episcopal church; but it must not be
supposed that there was any lack of dignified and wealthy old
families in the primitive historic church of Poganuc, which had so
long borne undisputed sway in the vicinity. There were the fine old
residences of Judge Gridley and Judge Belcher adorning the principal
streets. Conspicuous in one of the front pews of the meeting-house
might be seen every Sunday the stately form of Col. Davenport,
who had been a confidential friend of General Washington and an
active commander during the revolutionary war, and who inspired
awe among the townspeople by his military antecedents. There might
be seen, too, the Governor of the State and the High Sheriff of
Poganuc County, with one Mr. Israel Deyter, a retired New York
merchant, gifted, in popular belief, with great riches. In short, the
meeting-house, for a country town, had no small amount of wealth,
importance and gentility. Besides these residents, who encamped about
the green and on the main street, was an outlying farming population
extending for miles around, whose wagons conveying their well-dressed
wives, stalwart sons and blooming daughters poured in from all
quarters, punctual as a clock to the ringing of the second bell every
Sunday morning.

Not the least attentive listeners or shrewd critics were to be found
in these hardy yeomanry who scanned severely all that they paid for,
whether temporal or spiritual. As may have been noticed from the
conversation at Deacon Dickenson's store, Dr. Cushing had rather a
delicate rôle to maintain in holding in unity the aristocracy and
the democracy of his parish; for in those days people of well-born,
well-bred families had a certain traditional stateliness and
punctiliousness which were apt to be considered as pride by the
laboring democracy, and the doctor, as might be expected, found
it often more difficult to combat pride in homespun than pride in
velvet--perhaps having no very brilliant success in either case.

The next Sunday was one of high expectation. Everybody was on tiptoe
to hear what "our minister" would have to say.

The meeting-house of Poganuc was one of those square, bald,
unsentimental structures of which but few specimens have come down
to us from old times. The pattern of those ancient edifices was
said to be derived from Holland, where the Puritans were sheltered
before they came to these shores. At all events, they were a marked
departure in every respect from all particulars which might remind
one of the graceful ecclesiastical architecture and customs of
the Church of England. They were wide, roomy, and of a desolate
plainness; hot and sunny in summer, with their staring rows of
windows, and in winter cold enough in some cases even to freeze the
eucharistic wine at the communion.

It was with great conflict of opinion and much difficulty that
the people of Poganuc had advanced so far in the ways of modern
improvement as to be willing to have a large box stove set up
in the middle of the broad aisle, with a length of black pipe
extending through the house, whereby the severity of winter sanctuary
performances should be somewhat abated. It is on record that, when
the proposal was made in town meeting to introduce this luxurious
indulgence, the zeal of old Zeph Higgins was aroused, and he rose and
gave vent to his feelings in a protest:

"Fire? Fire? A fire in the house o' God? I never heard on't. I never
heard o' hevin' fire in a meetin'-house."

Sheriff Dennie here rose, and inquired whether _Mrs._ Higgins did not
bring a foot-stove with fire in it into the house of God every Sunday.

It was an undeniable fact not only that Mrs. Higgins but every
respectable matron and mother of a family brought her foot-stove to
church well filled with good, solid, hickory coals, and that the
passing of this little ark of mercy from one frozen pair of feet to
another was among the silent motherly ministries which varied the
hours of service.

So the precedent of the foot-stove carried the box-stove into the
broad aisle of the meeting-house, whereby the air was so moderated
that the minister's breath did not freeze into visible clouds of
vapor while speaking, and the beards and whiskers of the brethren
were no longer coated with frost during service time.

Yet Poganuc was a place where winter stood for something. The
hill, like all hills in our dear New England, though beautiful for
situation in summer was a howling desolation for about six months
of the year, sealed down under snow and drifted over by winds that
pierced like knives and seemed to search every fiber of one's
garments, so that the thickest clothing was no protection.

The Sunday in question was one of those many when the thermometer
stood any number of degrees below zero; the air clear, keen and
cutting; and the bright, blooming faces of the girls in the singers'
seat bore token of the frosty wind they had encountered. All was
animation through the church, and Mr. Benjamin Davis, the leader of
the singing, had selected old "Denmark" as a proper tune for opening
the parallels between them and the opposing forces of ritualism. Ben
had a high conceit of his own vocal powers, and had been heard to
express himself contemptuously of the new Episcopal organ. He had
been to Doctor Cushing with suggestions as to the tunes that the
singers wanted, to keep up the reputation of their "meetin'-house."
So after "Denmark" came old "Majesty," and Ben so bestirred himself
beating time and roaring, first to treble and then to counter and
then to bass, and all the singers poured forth their voices with such
ringing good-will, that everybody felt sure they were better than
any Episcopal organ in the world.

And as there is a place for all things in this great world of ours,
so there was in its time and day a place and a style for Puritan
music. If there were pathos and power and solemn splendor in the
rhythmic movement of the churchly chants, there was a grand wild
freedom, an energy of motion, in the old "fuguing" tunes of that day
that well expressed the heart of a people courageous in combat and
unshaken in endurance. The church chant is like the measured motion
of the mighty sea in calm weather, but those old fuguing tunes were
like that same ocean aroused by stormy winds, when deep calleth unto
deep in tempestuous confusion, out of which at last is evolved union
and harmony. It was a music suggestive of the strife, the commotion,
the battle cries of a transition period of society, struggling onward
toward dimly-seen ideals of peace and order. Whatever the trained
musician might say of such a tune as old "Majesty," no person of
imagination and sensibility could ever hear it well rendered by a
large choir without deep emotion. And when back and forth from every
side of the church came the different parts shouting,

    "On cherubim and seraphim
      Full royally he rode,
    And on the wings of mighty winds
      Came flying all abroad"--

there went a stir and a thrill through many a stern and hard nature,
until the tempest cleared off in the words,

    "He sat serene upon the floods,
      Their fury to restrain,
    And he, as sovereign Lord and King,
      Forever more shall reign."

And when the doctor rose to his sermon the music had done its work on
his audience, in exalting their mood to listen with sympathetic ears
to whatever he might have to say.

When he spread out his sermon before him there was a rustle all over
the house, as of people composing themselves to give the strictest
attention.

He announced his text from Galatians iv., 9, 10, 11.

  "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God,
  how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye
  desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and
  times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you
  labor in vain."

The very announcement of the text seemed to bring out upon the
listening faces of the audience a sympathetic gleam. Hard,
weather-beaten countenances showed it, as when a sunbeam passes over
points of rocks.

What was to come of such a text was plain to be seen. The yoke of
bondage from which Puritan New England had escaped across the waters
of a stormy sea, the liberty in Christ which they had won in this
new untrodden land, made theirs by prayers and toils and tears and
sacrifice, for which they had just fought through a tedious and
bloody war--there was enough in all these remembrances to evoke a
strain of heartfelt eloquence which would awaken a response in every
heart.

Then the doctor began his investigations of Christmas; and here his
sermon bristled with quotations in good Greek and Latin, which he
could not deny himself the pleasure of quoting in the original as
well as in the translation. But the triumphant point in his argument
was founded on a passage in Clemens Alexandrinus, who, writing at the
close of the second century, speaks of the date of Christ's birth
as an unimportant and unsettled point. "There are some," says the
Father, "who over-curiously assign not only the year but the day of
our Saviour's birth, which they say was the 25th of Pachon, or the
20th of May."

The doctor had exulted in the finding of this passage as one that
findeth much spoil, and he proceeded to make the most of it in
showing that the modern keeping of Christmas was so far unknown in
the earliest ages of the church that even the day was a matter of
uncertainty.

Now it is true that his audience, more than half of them, did not
know who Clement was. Even the judges, men of culture and learning,
and the teacher at the Academy, professionally familiar with Greek,
had only the vaguest recollection of a Christian Father who had lived
some time in the primitive ages; the rest of the congregation, men
and women, only knew that their minister was a learned man and were
triumphant at this new proof of it.

The doctor used his point so as to make it skillfully exciting to
the strong, practical, matter-of-fact element which underlies New
England life. "If it had been important for us to keep Christmas," he
said, "certainly the date would not have been left in uncertainty.
We find no traces in the New Testament of any such observance; we
never read of Christmas as kept by the apostles and their followers;
and it appears that it was some centuries after Christ before such
an observance was heard of at all." In fact the doctor said that the
keeping of the 25th of December as Christmas did not obtain till
after the fourth century, and then it was appointed to take the
place of an old heathen festival, the "_natalis solis invicti_;" and
here the doctor rained down names and authorities and quotations
establishing conflicting suppositions till the wilderness of learning
grew so wild that only the Academy teacher seemed able to follow
it through. He indeed sat up and nodded intelligently from point to
point, feeling that the eyes of scholars might be upon him, and that
it was well never to be caught napping in matters like these.

The last point of the Doctor's sermon consisted in historical
statements and quotations concerning the various abuses to which
the celebration of the Christmas festival had given rise, from the
days of Augustine and Chrysostom down to those of the Charleses
and Jameses of England, in all of which he had free course and was
glorified; since under that head there are many things more true than
edifying that might be recounted.

He alluded to the persecutions which had forced upon our fathers the
alternative of conforming to burdensome and unspiritual rites and
ceremonies or of flying from their native land and all they held
dear; he quoted from St. Paul the passage about false brethren who
came in privily to spy out our liberty that we have in Christ Jesus,
that they might bring us again into bondage--"to whom" (and here the
doctor grew emphatic and thumped the pulpit cushion) "we gave place
by subjection _not for an hour_."

The sermon ended with a stirring appeal to walk in the good old ways,
to resist all those, however fair their pretenses, who sought to
remove the old landmarks and repeal the just laws and rules that had
come down from the fathers. It was evident from the enkindled faces
in every pew that the doctor carried his audience fully with him, and
when in the closing petition he prayed to the Lord that "our judges
might be as at the first, and our counsellors as at the beginning,"
everybody felt sure that he was thinking of the next election, and
Tim Hawkins with difficulty restrained himself from giving a poke
of the elbow to a neighbor in the next pew suspected of Democratic
proclivities.

As to Dolly, who as a babe of grace was duly brought to church every
Sunday, her meditations were of a very confused order. Since the gift
of her red dress and red shoes, and the well remembered delightful
scene at the church on Christmas Eve, Christmas had been an
interesting and beautiful mystery to her mind; a sort of illuminated
mist, now appearing and now disappearing.

Sometimes when her father in his sermon pronounced the word
"Christmas" in emphatic tones, she fixed her great blue eyes
seriously upon him and wondered what he could be saying; but when
Greek and Latin quotations began to rain thick and fast she turned to
Spring, who as a good, well-trained minister's dog was allowed to go
to meeting with his betters, and whose serious and edified air was a
pattern to Dolly and the boys.

When she was cold--a very common experience in those windy pews--she
nestled close to Spring and put her arms around his neck, and
sometimes dropped asleep on his back. Those sanctuary naps were a
generally accorded privilege to the babes of the church, who could
not be expected to digest the strong meat of the elders.

Dolly had one comfort of which nothing could deprive her: she had
been allowed to wear her new red dress and red shoes. It is true the
dress was covered up under a dark, stout little woolen coat, and
the red shoes quenched in the shade of a pair of socks designed to
protect her feet from freezing; but at intervals Dolly pulled open
her little coat and looked at the red dress, and felt warmer for it,
and thought whether there was any such day as Christmas or not it
was a nice thing for little girls to have aunties and grandmas who
believed in it, and sent them pretty things in consequence.

When the audience broke up and the doctor came down from the pulpit
he was congratulated on his sermon as a master-piece. Indeed, he had
the success that a man has always when he proves to an audience that
they are in the right in their previous opinions.

The general opinion, from Colonel Davenport and Sheriff Dennie down
to Tim Hawkins and the farmers of the vicinity, was that the doctor's
sermon ought to be printed by subscription, and the suggestion was
left to be talked over in various circles for the ensuing week.



CHAPTER VIII.

MR. COAN ANSWERS THE DOCTOR.


The doctor's sermon had the usual effect of controversial sermons--it
convinced everybody that was convinced before and strengthened those
who before were strong. Everybody was talking of it. The farmers as
they drove their oxen stepped with a vigorous air, like men that were
not going to be brought under any yoke of bondage. Old ladies in
their tea-drinkings talked about the danger of making a righteousness
of forms and rites and ceremonies, and seemed of opinion that the
proceedings at the Episcopal church, however attractive, were only an
insidious putting forth of one paw of the Scarlet Beast of Rome, and
that if not vigorously opposed the whole quadruped, tooth and claw,
would yet be upon their backs.

But it must not be supposed that this side of the question had all
the talk to itself. The Rev. Simeon Coan was a youth of bright parts,
vigorous combativeness and considerable fluency of speech, and he
immediately prepared a sermon on his side of the question, by which,
in the opinion of the Lewises, the Danforths, the Copleys and all
the rest of his audience, he proved beyond a doubt that Christmas
ought to be kept, and that the 25th of December was the proper time
for keeping it. He brought also quotations from Greek and Latin thick
as stars in the skies; and as to the quotations of the doctor he
ignored them altogether, and talked about something else.

The doctor had been heard to observe with a subdued triumph that he
really would like to see how "Coan" would "get round" that passage in
Clement, but he could not have that pleasure, because "Coan" did not
get anywhere near it, but struck off as far as possible from it into
a region of quotations on his own side; and as his audience were not
particularly fitted to adjudicate nice points in chronology, and as
quotations from the Church Fathers on all sides of almost any subject
under the sun are plentiful as blackberries in August, Mr. Coan
succeeded in making his side to the full as irrefragable in the eyes
of his hearers as the doctor's in those of his.

But besides this he reinforced himself by proclaiming with vigor the
authority of the Church. "The Church has ordained," "The Church in
her wisdom has directed," "The Church commands," and "The Church hath
appointed," were phrases often on his tongue, and the sound rolled
smoothly above the heads of good old families who had long felt the
want of some definite form of authority to support their religious
preferences in face of the general Congregationalism of the land.

The _Church_, that mysterious and awful power that had come down from
distant ages, had survived the dissolution of monarchies and was
to-day the same as of old! The thought was poetical and exciting, and
gave impulse to the fervor inspired by a liturgy and forms of worship
allowed even by adversaries to be noble and beautiful; and their
minister's confident assertion that the Church commanded, approved
and backed up all that they were doing was immensely supporting to
the little band. The newly-acquired members, born and brought up in
Congregational discipline, felt all the delight of a new sense of
liberty. It had not always been possible to go to any other than the
dominant church, and there was a fresh emotion of pleasure in being
able to do as they pleased in the matter; so they readily accepted
Mr. Coan's High Church claims and doctrines. Instead of standing on
the defensive and apologizing for their existence he boldly struck
out for the rock of apostolic succession, declared their church
_the_ true Apostolic Church, the only real church in the place,
although he admitted with an affable charity that doubtless good
Christian people among the various sects who departed from this true
foundation might at last be saved through the uncovenanted mercies of
God.

Imagine the scorn which this doctrine inspired in Puritan people, who
had been born in the faith that New England was the vine which God's
right hand had planted--who had looked on her church as the Church
of God, cast out indeed into the wilderness, but bearing with her
"the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, the giving of the
law, and the service of God, and the promises." That faith was woven
into the very existence of the New England race. They cast great
roots about it as the oaks of the forest grasped and grew out of the
eternal rocks of their hard and barren shores. So, when Mr. Simeon
Coan, in a white surplice, amid suspicious chantings and bowings and
genuflections, announced a doctrine which disfranchised them of the
heavenly Jerusalem, and made them aliens from the commonwealth of
Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, there was a grim
sense of humor mingled with the indignation which swelled their
bosoms.

"Uncovenanted marcies!" said stout Tim Hawkins. "Thet's what they
call 'em, do they? Wal, ef thet's what Parson Cushing and all the
ministers of our association has got to live and die by--why, it's
good enough for me. I don't want no better; I don't care which kind
they be. I scorn to argue with such folks."

In fact they felt as if they had seen a chip sparrow flying in the
face of an eagle in his rock-bound eyrie.

But the doctor's sermon had the effect to draw the lines as to
keeping Christmas up to the tightest brace. The academy teacher took
occasion on Monday to remark to his scholars how he had never thought
of such a thing as suspending school for Christmas holidays, and
those of the pupils who, belonging to Episcopal families, had gone
on Christmas Day to church were informed that marks for absence and
non-performance of lessons would stand against them, no matter what
excuses they might bring from parents. As to Christmas holidays--the
giving up to amusement a week, from Christmas to New Year's--he spoke
of it as a popish enormity not to be mentioned or even thought of in
God-fearing New England, which abhorred a holiday as much as nature
abhors a vacuum. Those parents whose children had been drawn in to
attend these seductive festivities were anxiously admonished by their
elders in homilies from the text, "Surely, in vain the net is spread
in the sight of any bird."

For example, witness one scene. It is Sunday evening, and the bright
snapping fire lights up the great kitchen chimney where the widow
Jones is sitting by the stand with her great Bible before her. A
thin, weary, kindly old face is hers, with as many lines in it as
Denner's celebrated picture of the old woman. Everything about her,
to her angular figure and her thin bony hands, bore witness to the
unsparing work that had been laid upon every hour and moment of her
life. Even now the thin hands that rested on the Bible twitched at
times mechanically as if even in the blessed rest of Sunday evening
she felt the touch of the omnipresent knitting needles.

On the settle beside the fire, half stretched out, lounges Hiel, her
youngest born son and the prop of her old age; for all others have
gone hither and thither seeking their future in the world. Hiel has
been comforting her heart by the heartiest praises of the minister's
sermon that day.

"I tell you what, Mother, them 'Piscopals got pitched into lively,
now; the Doctor pursued 'em 'even unto Shur,' as the Scriptur' says."

"Yis; and, Hiel, I hope you won't be seen goin' to the 'Piscopal
meetings no more. I felt reely consarned, after I heard the sarmon,
to think of your bein' in to that air 'lumination."

"Oh laws, Mother, I jest _hed_ to go to see to things. Things hez to
be seen to; there was the Doctor's boys right up in the front slips,
and little Dolly there rolled up like a rabbit down there under them
spruces. I had to take her home. I expect it's what waked up the
Doctor so, what I said to him."

"Wal, Hiel, mebbe it was all fer the best; but I hope you'll let it
alone now. And I heard you was a settin' up with Nabby Higgins the
other evening; was you?"

A curious expression passed over Hiel's droll handsome face, and he
drew his knife from his pocket and began reflectively to shave a bit
of shingle.

"Wal, yis, Mother; the fact is, I did stay with Nabby Christmas
evening, as they call it. Nabby and me's allers ben good friends,
you know. You know, Mother, you think lots of Nabby's mother, Mis'
Higgins, and it ain't her fault nor Nabby's ef she hez to leave our
meetin'. It's old Zeph that makes 'em."

"O yis. I ha'n't nothin' agin Mis' Higgins. Polly Higgins is a good
woman as is goin'. I don't want no better; but as to Nabby, why,
she's light and triflin', and she's goin' right into all these 'ere
vanities; and I don't want no son of mine to get drawn away arter
her. You know how 'twas in old times, it was the Moabitish women that
allers made mischief."

"Oh land o' Goshen, Mother, jes as ef it would do any harm for me to
set up with Nabby in the minister's own kitchen. Ef she don't pisen
the minister's boys and Dolly she won't pisen me; besides, I wanted
to see what was in that air bundle Mis' Cushing's folks sent to her
from Boston. Of course I knew you'd be a wantin' to know."

"Wal, did you see?" said the widow, snapping at once at the bait so
artfully thrown.

"I rather reckon I did. Dolly she got a red frock and red shoes, and
she was so tickled nothing would do but she must bring her red frock
and red shoes right out to show to Nabby. They think all the world of
each other, Nabby and Dolly do."

"Was the dress made up?" said the widow.

"Oh, yis; all made up, ready to put right on."

"Red, did you say?"

"Yes, red as a robin, with little black sprigs in't, and her shoes
red morocco. I tell you she put 'em on and squeaked round in 'em
lively! Then there was six silk pocket-handkerchers for the Doctor,
all hemmed, and his name marked in the corner; and there was a nice
book for each o' them boys, and a bonnet-ribbin for Miss Cushing."

"What color was it?" said the widow.

"Wal, I don't know--sort o' sky-blue scarlet," said Hiel, tired of
particulars. "I never know what women call their ribbins."

"Wal, reely now, it's a good thing for folks to have rich
relations," soliloquized the widow. "I don't grudge Mis' Cushing her
prosperity--not a grain."

"Yis, and the doctor's folks was glad enough to get them things, if
they _was_ Christmas presents. The Christmas didn't pisen 'em, any
way; Mis' Cushing's folks up to Boston 's 'Piscopals, but she thinks
they're pretty nice folks, if they _be_ 'Piscopals.

"Now, Hiel," said the widow, "Nabby Higgins is a nice girl--a girl
that's got faculty, and got ambition, and she's handsome. I expect
she's prudent and laid by something out of her wages"--and here the
widow paused and gazed reflectively at the sparks on the chimney-back.

"Wal, Mother, the upshot on't is that if I and Nabby should want
to make a team together there wouldn't be no call for wailin' and
gnashin' of teeth. There might wuss things happen; but jes now Nabby
and I's good friends--that's all."

And with this settlement the widow Jones, like many another mother,
was forced to rest contented, sure that her son, in his own good
time, would--do just as he pleased.



CHAPTER IX.

ELECTION DAY IN POGANUC.


The month of March had dawned over the slippery, snow-clad hills
of Poganuc. The custom that enumerates this as among the spring
months was in that region the most bitter irony. Other winter months
were simple _winter_--cold, sharp and hard enough--but March was
winter with a practical application, driven in by winds that pierced
through joints and marrow. Not an icicle of all the stalactites
which adorned the fronts of houses had so much as thought of
thawing; the snow banks still lay in white billows above the tops
of the fences; the roads, through which the ox-sleds of the farmers
crunched and squeaked their way, were cut deep down through heavy
drifts, and there was still the best prospect in the world for future
snow-storms; but yet it was called "spring." And the voting day had
come; and Zeph Higgins, full of the energy of a sovereign and voter,
was up at four o'clock in the morning, bestirring himself with a
tempestuous clatter to rouse his household and be by daylight on the
way to town to exercise his rights.

The feeble light of a tallow dip seemed to cut but a small circle
into the darkness of the great kitchen. The frost sparkled white on
the back of the big fire-place, where the last night's coals lay
raked up under banks of ashes. An earthquake of tramping cowhide
boots shook the rafters and stairs, and the four boys appeared on the
scene of action. Backlog and forestick were soon piled and kindlings
laid, and the fire roared and snapped and crackled up the ample
chimney. Meek, shadowy Mrs. Higgins, with a step like a snow-flake,
and resignation and submission in every line of her face, was
proceeding to cut off frozen sausages from the strings of the same
that garnished the kitchen walls. The tea kettle was hung over the
blaze, and Zeph and the boys, with hats crowded down to their eyes,
and tippets tied over their ears, plowed their way to the barn to
milk and feed the stock.

When they returned, while the tea-kettle was puffing and the sausages
frying and sizzling, there was an interval in which Zeph called to
family prayers, and began reading the Bible with a voice as loud and
harsh as the winds that were blowing out of doors.

Zeph always read the Bible straight along in course, without a
moment's thought or inquiry as to the sense of what he was reading,
which this morning was from Zechariah xi., as follows: "Open thy
doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir
tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled. Howl,
O ye oaks of Bashan, for the forest of the vintage is come down.
There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds, for their glory
is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions, for the pride of
Jordan is spoiled." Zeph rendered the whole chapter with his harshest
tones, and then, all standing, he enunciated in stentorian voice the
morning prayer, whose phrases were an heir-loom that had descended
from father to son for generations.

The custom of family worship was one of the most rigid inculcations
of the Puritan order of society, and came down from parent to child
with the big family Bible, where the births, deaths and marriages of
the household stood recorded.

In Zeph's case the custom seemed to be merely an inherited tradition,
which had dwindled into a habit purely mechanical. Yet, who shall say?

Of a rugged race, educated in hardness, wringing his substance out of
the very teeth and claws of reluctant nature, on a rocky and barren
soil, and under a harsh, forbidding sky, who but the All-Seeing could
judge him? In that hard soul there may have been thus uncouthly
expressed a loyalty for Something Higher, however dimly perceived.
It was acknowledging that even he had his master. One thing is
certain, the custom of family prayers, such as it was, was a great
comfort to the meek saint by his side, to whom any form of prayer,
any pause from earthly care and looking up to a Heavenly Power, was
a blessed rest. In that daily toil, often beyond her strength, when
she never received a word of sympathy or praise, it was a comfort
all day to her to have had a chapter in the Bible and a prayer in
the morning. Even though the chapter were one that she could not by
possibility understand a word of, yet it put her in mind of things
in that same dear book that she did understand; things that gave her
strength to live and hope to die by, and it was enough! Her faith in
the Invisible Friend was so strong that she needed but to touch the
hem of his garment. Even a table of genealogies out of _his_ book was
a sacred charm, an amulet of peace.

Four sons--tall, stout and ruddy, in different stages of
progression--surrounded the table and caused sausages, rye and Indian
bread, and pork and beans, rapidly to disappear. Of these sons two
only were of the age to vote. Zeph rigorously exacted of his boys the
full amount of labor which the law allowed till their majority; but
at twenty-one he recognized their legal status, and began giving
them the wages of hired men. On this morning he longed to have his
way as to their vote; but the boys had enough of his own nature in
them to have a purpose and will of their own, and how they were to
vote was an impenetrable secret locked up in the rocky fastnesses of
their own bosoms.

As soon as there were faint red streaks in the wintry sky, Zeph's
sled was on the road, well loaded up with cord-wood to be delivered
at Colonel Davenport's door; for Zeph never forgot business nor the
opportunity of earning an honest penny. The oxen that drew his sled
were sleek, well-fed beasts, the pride of Zeph's heart, and as the
red sunlight darted across the snowy hills their breath steamed up,
a very luminous cloud of vapor, which in a few moments congealed in
sparkling frost lines on their patient eye-winkers and every little
projecting hair around their great noses. The sled-runners creaked
and grated as Zeph, with loud "Whoa," "Haw," or "Gee," directed the
plodding course of his beasts. The cutting March wind was blowing
right into his face; his shaggy, grizzled eye-brows and bushy beard
were whitening apace; but he was in good spirits--he was going
to vote against the Federalists; and as the largest part of the
aristocracy of Town Hill were Federalists, he rejoiced all the more.
Zeph was a creature born to oppose, as much as white bears are made
to walk on ice.

And how, we ask, would New England's rocky soil and icy hills have
been made mines of wealth unless there had been human beings born to
oppose, delighting to combat and wrestle, and with an unconquerable
power of will?

Zeph had taken a thirteen-acre lot so rocky that a sheep could
scarce find a nibble there, had dug out and blasted and carted the
rocks, wrought them into a circumambient stone fence, plowed and
planted, and raised crop after crop of good rye thereon. He did it
with heat, with zeal, with dogged determination; he did it all the
more because neighbors said he was a fool for trying, and that he
could never raise anything on that lot. There was a stern joy in this
hand-to-hand fight with nature. He got his bread as Sampson did his
honeycomb, out of the carcass of the slain lion. "Out of the eater
came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." Even
the sharp March wind did not annoy him. It was a controversial wind,
and that suited him; it was fighting him all the way, and he enjoyed
beating it. Such a human being has his place in the Creator's scheme.

Poganuc was, for a still town, pretty well alive on that day. Farmers
in their blue linsey frocks, with their long cart whips and their
sleds hitched here and there at different doors, formed frequent
objects in the picture. It was the day when they felt themselves as
good as anybody. The court house was surrounded by groups earnestly
discussing the political questions; many of them loafers who made
a sort of holiday, and interspersed their observations and remarks
with visits to the bar-room of Glazier's tavern, which was doing a
thriving business that morning.

Standing by the side of the distributor of the Federal votes might be
seen a tall, thin man, with a white head and an air of great activity
and keenness. In his twinkling eye and in every line and wrinkle of
his face might be read the observer and the humorist; the man who
finds something to amuse him in all the quips and turns and oddities
of human nature. This was Israel Dennie, High Sheriff of the County,
one of the liveliest and shrewdest of the Federal leaders, who was,
so to speak, crackling with activity, and entering into the full
spirit of the day in all its phases.

"Here comes one of your party, Adams," he said with a malicious side
twinkle to the distributor of the Democratic votes, as Abe Bowles,
a noted "_mauvais sujet_" of the village, appeared out of Glazier's
bar-room, coming forward with a rather uncertain step and flushed
face.

"Walk up, friend; here you are."

"I'm a-goin' for toleration," said Abe, with thick utterance. "We've
ben tied up too tight by these 'ere ministers, we have. I don't want
no priestcraft, I don't. I believe every man's got to do as he darn
pleases, I do."

"And go straight to the Devil if he wants to," said Squire Dennie
smoothly. "Go ahead, my boy, and put in your vote."

"There comes old Zeph Higgins," he added with alertness; "let us have
a bit of fun with him."

"Hulloa, Higgins; step this way; here's Mr. Adams to give you your
vote. You're going to vote the Democratic ticket, you know."

"No, I ain't, nuther," said Zeph, from the sheer mechanical instinct
of contradiction.

"Not going to vote with the Democrats, Higgins? All right, then
you're going to vote the Federal ticket; here 'tis."

"No, I ain't, nuther. You let me alone. I ain't a-goin' to be
dictated to. I'm a-goin' to vote jest as I'm a mind ter. I won't vote
for nuther, ef I ain't a mind ter, and I'll vote for jest which one I
want ter, and no other."

"So you shall, Higgins; so you shall," said Squire Dennie
sympathetically, laying his hand on Zeph's shoulder.

"I shan't, nuther; you let me alone," said Zeph, shaking off the
Sheriffs hand; and clutching at the Democratic ticket, he pushed up
towards the polls.

"There's a fellow, now," said Sheriff Dennie, looking after him with
a laugh. "That fellow's so contrary that he hates to do the very
thing he wants to, if anybody else wants him to do it. If there was
any way of voting that would spite both parties and please nobody,
he'd take that. The only way to get that fellow to heaven would be to
set out to drive him to hell; then he'd turn and run up the narrow
way, full chisel."

It was some comfort to Zeph, however, to work his way up to the
polls with Judge Belcher right in front and with Colonel Davenport's
aristocratic, powdered head and stately form pushing him along
behind, their broadcloth crowded against his homespun carter's frock,
and he, Zephaniah, that day just as good as either. He would not have
been so well pleased if he knew that his second son, Abner--following
not long after him--dropped in the box the Federalist ticket. It
was his right as a freeman; but he had no better reason for his
preference than the wish to please his mother. He knew that Dr.
Cushing was a Federalist, and that his mother was heart and soul for
every thing that Dr. Cushing was for, and therefore he dropped this
vote for his mother; and thus, as many times before and since, a
woman voted through her son.

In fact, the political canvass just at this epoch had many features
that might shock the pious sensibilities of a good house-mother. The
union of all the minor religious denominations to upset the dominant
rule of the Congregationalists had been reinforced and supplemented
by all that Jacobin and irreligious element which the French
Revolution had introduced into America.

The Poganuc _Banner_, a little weekly paper published in the
village, expended its energies in coarse and scurrilous attacks upon
ministers in general, and Dr. Cushing in particular. It ridiculed
church-members, churches, Sunday-keeping, preaching and prayers; in
short, every custom, preference and prejudice which it had been the
work of years to establish in New England was assailed with vulgar
wit and ribaldry.

Of course, the respectable part of the Democratic party did not
exactly patronize these views; yet they felt for them that tolerance
which even respectable people often feel in a rude push of society
in a direction where they wish to go. They wanted the control of
the State, and if rabid, drinking, irreligious men would give it to
them, why not use them after their kind? When the brutes had won the
battle for them, they would take care of the brutes, and get them
back into their stalls.

The bar-room of Glazier's Tavern was the scene of the feats and
boasts of this class of voters. Long before this time the clergy of
Connecticut, alarmed at the progress of intemperance, had begun to
use influence in getting stringent laws and restraints upon drinking,
and the cry of course was, "Down with the laws."

"Tell ye what," said Mark Merrill; "we've ben tied up so tight we
couldn't wink mor'n six times a week, and the parsons want to git it
so we can't wink at all; and we won't have it so no longer; we're
goin' to have liberty."

"Down with the tithing-man, say I," said Tim Sykes. "Whose business
is it what I do Sundays? I ain't goin' to have no tithing-man spying
on my liberty. I'll do jest what I'm a mind ter, Sundays. Ef I wan
ter go a-fishin' Sundays, I'll go a-fishin'."

"Tell ye what," said Liph Kingsley, as he stirred his third glass of
grog. "This 'ere priestcraft's got to go down. Reason's got on her
throne, and chains is fallin'. I'm a free man--I be."

"You look like it," said Hiel, who stood with his hands in his
pockets contemptuously surveying Liph, while with leering eye and
unsteady hand he stirred his drink.

"That air's what you call Reason, is't?" added Hiel. "Wal, she's got
on a pretty topplish throne, seems to me. I bet you Reason can't walk
a crack now," he said, as Liph, having taken off his glass, fell with
a helpless dump upon the settle.

"Sot down like a spoonful of apple-saas," said Hiel, looking him over
sarcastically. The laugh now turned against the poor brute, and Hiel
added: "Wal, boys, s'pose you like this 'ere sort of thing. Folks is
different; for my part I like to kinder keep up a sort o' difference
'tween me and a hog. That air's my taste; but you're welcome to
yourn," and Hiel went out to carry his observations elsewhere.

Hiel felt his own importance to the community of Poganuc Center too
much to have been out of town on this day, when its affairs needed
so much seeing to, therefore he had deputed Ned Bissel, a youth yet
wanting some two years of the voting age, to drive his team for
him while he gave his undivided attention to public interests; and
indeed, as nearly as mortal man can be omnipresent, Hiel had been
everywhere and heard everything, and, as the French say, "assisted"
generally at the political struggle. Hiel considered himself as
the provisional owner and care-taker of the town of Poganuc. It
was _our_ town, and Dr. Cushing was _our_ minister, and the great
meeting-house on the green was _our_ meeting-house, and the singers'
seat therein was _our_ singers' seat, and he was ready to bet on any
sermon, or action, or opinion of _our_ minister. Hiel had not yet, as
he phrased it, experienced religion, nor joined the church; but he
"calculated he should some of these days." It wasn't Doctor Cushing's
fault if he wasn't converted, he was free to affirm. Hiel had been
excessively scandalized with the scurrilous attacks of the Poganuc
_Banner_, and felt specially called to show his colors on that day.
He had assured his mother on going out that morning that she needn't
be a mite afeared, for _he_ was a-goin' to stand up for the minister
through thick and thin, and if any of them Democrats "saassed" him
he'd give 'em as good as they sent.

In virtue of his ardent political zeal, he felt himself to-day
on equal and speaking terms with all the Federal magnates; he
clapped Colonel Davenport on the shoulder assuringly, and talked
about "our side," and was familiar with Judge Belcher and Sheriff
Dennie--darting hither and thither, observing and reporting with
untiring zeal.

But, after all, that day the Democrats beat, and got the State of
Connecticut. Sheriff Dennie was the first to carry the news of defeat
into the parsonage at eventide.

"Well, Doctor, we're smashed. Democrats beat us all to flinders."

A general groan arose.

"Yes, yes," said the Sheriff. "Everything has voted that could stand
on its hind legs, and the hogs are too many for us. It's a bad
beat--bad beat."

That night when little Dolly came in to family prayers, she looked
around wondering. Her father and mother looked stricken and overcome.
There was the sort of heaviness in the air that even a child can feel
when deep emotions are aroused. The boys, who knew only in a general
way that their father's side had been beaten, looked a little scared
at his dejected face.

"Father, what makes you feel so bad?" said Will, with that surprised
wonder with which children approach emotions they cannot understand.

"I feel for the Church of God, my child," he said, and then he sung
for the evening psalm:

    I love thy kingdom, Lord,
    The house of thine abode;
    The Church our dear Redeemer saved
    With his own precious blood.

    For her my tears shall fall,
    For her my prayers ascend;
    To her my cares and toils be given
    Till toils and cares shall end.

In the prayer that followed he pleaded for New England with all the
Hebraistic imagery by which she was identified with God's ancient
people:

"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel; thou that leadest Joseph like a
flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. * *
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou didst cast forth the
heathen, and plant it; thou preparedst room for it and didst cause
it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered
with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly
cedars. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges so that all that
pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it;
the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee,
O Lord, and visit this vine and vineyard that thou has planted and
the branch that thou madest strong for thyself."

It was with a voice tremulous and choking with emotion that Dr.
Cushing thus poured forth the fears and the sorrows of his heart for
the New England of the Puritans; the ideal church and state which
they came hither to found.

Little Dolly cried from a strange childish fear, because of the
trouble in her father's voice. The pleading tones affected her, she
knew not why. The boys felt a martial determination to stand by their
father and a longing to fight for him. All felt as if something deep
and dreadful must have happened, and after prayers Dolly climbed
into her father's lap, and put both arms around his neck, and said:
"Papa, there sha'n't anything hurt you. I'll defend you." She was
somewhat abashed by the cheerful laugh which followed, but the
Doctor kissed her and said: "So you shall, dear; be sure and not let
anything catch me," and then he tossed her up in his arms gleefully,
and she felt as if the trouble, whatever it was, could not be quite
hopeless.

But Dolly marveled in her own soul as she went to bed. She heard
the boys without stint reviling the Democrats as the authors of all
mischief; and yet Bessie Lewis's father was a Democrat, and he seemed
a nice, cheery, good-natured man, who now and then gave her sticks
of candy, and there was his mother, dear old Madame Lewis, who gave
her the Christmas cookey. How could it be that such good people were
Democrats? Poor Dolly hopelessly sighed over the mystery, but dared
not ask questions.

But the Rev. Mr. Coan rejoiced in the result of the election. Not
that he was by any means friendly to the ideas of the Jacobinical
party by whose help it had been carried; but because, as he said,
it opened a future for the church--for he too had his idea of "The
Church." Meanwhile the true church, invisible to human eyes--one in
spirit, though separated by creeds--was praying and looking upward,
in the heart of Puritan and Ritualist, in the heart of old Madame
Lewis, of the new Church, and of old Mrs. Higgins, whose soul was
with the old meeting-house; of all everywhere who with humble purpose
and divine aspiration were praying: "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be
done."

That kingdom was coming even then--for its coming is in safer hands
than those on either side--and there came a time, years after, when
Parson Cushing, looking back on that election and its consequences,
could say with another distinguished Connecticut clergyman:

"I suffered more than tongue can tell for the best thing that ever
happened to old Connecticut."



CHAPTER X.

DOLLY'S PERPLEXITIES.


Dolly went to bed that night, her little soul surging and boiling
with conjecture. All day scraps of talk about the election had
reached her ears; her nerves had been set vibrating by the tones of
her father's prayer, some words of which yet rung in her ear--tones
of passionate pleading whose purport she could scarcely comprehend.
What was this dreadful thing that had happened or was going to
happen? She heard her brother Will emphatically laying off the
state of the case to Nabby in the kitchen, and declaring that "the
Democrats were going to upset the whole State, for father said so."

Exactly what this meant, Dolly could not conceive; but, coupled with
her mother's sorrowful face and her father's prayer, it must mean
something dreadful. Something of danger to them all might be at hand,
and she said her "pray God to bless my dear father and mother" with
unusual fervor.

Revolving the matter on her pillow, she had a great mind, the next
time she met General Lewis with his smiling face, to walk boldly up
to him and remonstrate, and tell him to let her papa alone and not
upset the State!

Dolly had a great store of latent heroism and felt herself quite
capable of making a courageous defense of her father--and her heart
swelled with a purpose to stand by him to the last gasp, no matter
what came.

But sleep soon came down with her downy wings, and the great blue
eyes were closed, and Dolly knew not a word more till waked by the
jingling of sleigh bells and the creaking of sleds at early sunrise.

She sprang up, dressed quickly, and ran to the window. Evidently the
State had _not_ been upset during the night, for the morning was
clear, bright and glorious as heart could desire.

The rosy light of morning filled the air, the dreary snow wreaths lay
sparkling in graceful lines with tender hues of blue and lilac and
pink in their shadows, and merry sleigh bells were ringing and the
boys were out snow-balling each other in mere wantonness of boy life,
while Spring was barking frantically, evidently resolved to be as
frisky a boy as any of them.

[Illustration: HIEL IN HIS GLORY.

_"And wasn't you running to look at him?" asked Dolly._

_"Land o' Goshen, no!" said Nabby. "I jest wanted to see----well,
them horses he's got." ... "Oh" said Dolly._--p. 109.]

The fears and apprehensions of last night were all gone like a cloud,
and she hurried down into the kitchen to find Nabby stirring up her
buckwheat batter, and running to the window to see Hiel go by on
the stage, kissing his hand to her as he passed.

"I declare! the imperence of that cretur," said Nabby.

"What, Hiel?" asked Dolly.

"Yes, Hiel Jones! he's the conceitedest fellow that ever I did see.
You can't look out of a window but he thinks your running to look at
_him_."

"And wasn't you running to look at him?" asked Dolly.

"Land o' Goshen, no! What should I want to look at _him_ for? I jest
wanted to see--well, them horses he's got."

"Oh," said Dolly.

Upon reflection she added,

"I thought you liked Hiel, Nabby."

"You thought I liked Hiel?" said Nabby laughing. "What a young 'un!
Why, I can't bear the sight of him," and Nabby greased her griddle
with combative energy. "He's the saassiest fellow I ever see. _I cant
bear him!_"

Dolly reflected on this statement gravely, while Nabby dropped on the
first griddleful of cakes; finally she said,

"If you don't like Hiel, Nabby, what made you sit up so late with him
Christmas night?"

"Who said I did?" said Nabby, beginning to turn griddle-cakes with
velocity.

"Why, Will and Tom; they both say so. They heard when Hiel went out
the kitchen door, and they counted the clock striking twelve just as
he went. Will says he kissed you, too, Nabby. Did he?"

"Well, if ever I see such young 'uns!" said Nabby, flaming carnation
color over the fire as she took off the cakes. "That Bill is saassy
enough to physic a hornbug. I never see the beat of him!"

"But did Hiel stay so late, Nabby?"

"Well, yes, to be sure he did. I thought I never should have got him
out of the house. If I hadn't let him kiss me I believe in my soul
I'd a had to set up with him till morning; he said he wouldn't go
without. I've been mad at him ever since. I told him never to show
his face here again; but I know he'll come. He does it on purpose to
plague me."

"That is dreadful!" said Dolly, meditatively. "I wouldn't let him.
I'll tell you what," she added, with animation, "_I'll_ talk to him
and tell him he mustn't come here any more. Sha'n't I, Nabby?"

But Nabby laughed and said, "No, no; little girls mustn't talk so.
Don't you never say nothin' to Hiel about it; if you do I won't tell
you no more. Here, carry in this plate o' cakes, for they're eatin'
breakfast. I heard your pa askin' blessin' just after you came down.
You carry these in while I get on the next griddleful."

Dolly assumed her seat at table, but there again the trouble met her.
Her father and mother were talking together with sad, anxious faces.

"It is a most mysterious dispensation why this is allowed," said her
mother.

"Yes, my dear, 'clouds and darkness are round about Him,' but we must
have faith."

Here Spring varied the discourse by putting his somber black visage
over Dolly's arm and resting his nose familiarly on the table,
whereat she couldn't help giving him the half of a griddle-cake.

"How many times must I tell you, Dolly, that Spring is never to be
fed at the table?" said her mother. "I love dogs," she added, "but it
spoils them to be fed at table."

"Why, papa does it sometimes," pleaded Tom.

Mrs. Cushing was obliged to confess to the truth of this, for the
doctor when pursuing the deeper mazes of theology was sometimes so
abstracted that his soul took no note of what his body was doing,
and he had been more than once detected in giving Spring large
rations under the table while expounding some profound mysteries of
foreknowledge and free will.

Tom's remark was a home-thrust, but his mother said, reprovingly:

"Your father never means to do it; but he has so much to do and think
of that he is sometimes absent-minded."

A conscious twinkle might have been observed playing about the blue
eyes of the doctor, and a shrewd observer might have surmised that
the offense was not always strictly involuntary, for the doctor,
though a most docile and tractable husband, still retained here
and there traces of certain wild male instincts and fell at times
into singular irregularities. He had been known to upset all Mrs.
Cushing's nicely arranged yarn-baskets and stocking-baskets and
patch-baskets, pouring the contents in a heap on the floor, and
carrying them off bodily to pick up chestnuts in, when starting off
with the children on a nutting expedition. He would still persist at
intervals in going to hunt eggs in the barn with Dolly, and putting
the fruits of the search in his coat-tail pocket, though he had once
been known to sit down on a pocketful at a preparatory lecture, the
bell for which rung while he was yet on the hay-mow.

On this occasion, therefore, Spring made an opportune diversion in
the mournful turn the conversation was taking. The general tone of
remark became slightly admonitory on the part of Mrs. Cushing and
playfully defensive on the part of the doctor. In their "heart of
heart" the boys believed their father sometimes fed Spring when
he _did_ know what he was about, and this belief caused constant
occasional lapses from strict statute law on their part.

That morning, in prayers, their father read: "God is our refuge and
strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore will
we not fear, though the earth be removed; though the mountains be
carried into the midst of the sea;" and at those verses he stopped
and said: "There, my dear, there must be our comfort." And then they
sung:

    "Our God, our help in ages past,
      Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
      And our eternal home."

Then in prayer he plead for the Church--the Church of God, the vine
of his planting--and said:

"When the enemy cometh in like a flood, may Thy spirit lift up a
standard against them;" and again Dolly trembled and wondered. But
after prayers Bill suddenly burst back into the house.

"Oh! mamma, there _is_ a bluebird! Spring is come!"

"A bluebird! Impossible so early in March. You must be mistaken."

"No. Come to the door; you can hear him just as plain!"

And, sure enough, on the highest top of the great button-ball tree
opposite the house sat the little blue angel singing with all his
might--a living sapphire dropped down from the walls of the beautiful
city above. A most sanguine and imprudent bluebird certainly he must
have been, though the day was so lovely and the great icicles on
the eaves of the house were actually commencing to drip. But there
undoubtedly he was--herald and harbinger of good days to come.

"It is an omen," said the doctor, as he put his arms fondly round his
wife. "The Lord liveth, and blessed be our rock!"

And the boys and Dolly ran out, shouting wildly,

"There's been a bluebird. Spring is coming--spring is coming!"



CHAPTER XI.

DOLLY AND NABBY INVITED OUT.


Yes. Spring was coming; the little blue herald was right, though he
must have chilled his beak and frozen his toes as he sat there. But
he came from the great Somewhere, where things are always bright;
where life and summer and warmth and flowers are forever going on
while we are bound down under ice and snow.

There was a thrill in the hearts of all the children that day, with
visions of coming violets, hepaticas and anemones, of green grass and
long bright sunny rambles by the side of the Poganuc river.

The boys were so premature in hope as to get out their store of
fish-hooks, and talk of trouting. The Doctor looked over his box
of garden seeds, and read the labels. "Early Lettuce," "Early
Cucumbers," "Summer Squashes"--all this was inspiring reading, and
seemed to help him to have faith that a garden was coming round
again, though the snow banks yet lay over the garden-spot deep and
high. All day long it thawed and melted; a warm south wind blew and
the icicles dripped, so that there was a continual patter.

Two circumstances of importance in Dolly's horoscope combined on this
happy day: Hiel invited Nabby to an evening sleigh-ride after supper,
and Mrs. Davenport invited her father and mother to a tea-drinking at
the same time.

Notwithstanding her stout words about Hiel, Nabby in the most brazen
and decided manner declared her intention to accept his invitation,
because (as she remarked) "Hiel had just bought a bran new sleigh,
and Almiry Smith had said publicly that _she_ was going to have the
first ride in that air sleigh, and she would like to show Almiry that
she didn't know every thing." Nabby had inherited from her father a
fair share of combativeness, which was always bubbling and boiling
within her comely person at the very idea of imaginary wrongs; and,
as she excitedly wiped her tea-cups, she went on:

"That air Almiry Smith is a stuck-up thing; always turning up her
nose at me, and talking about my being a hired gal. What's the
difference? I live out and work, and she stays to home and works. I
work for the minister's folks and get my dollar a week, and she works
for her father and don't git nothin' but just her board and her
keep. So, I don't see why she need take airs over me--and she sha'n't
do it!"

But there was a tranquilizing influence breathing over Nabby's soul,
and she soon blew off the little stock of spleen and invited Dolly
into her bed-room to look at her new Leghorn bonnet, just home from
Miss Hinsdale's milliner-shop, which she declared was too sweet for
anything.

Now, Leghorn bonnets were a newly-imported test of station, grandeur
and gentility in Poganuc. Up to this period the belles of New England
had worn braided straw, abundantly pretty, and often braided by the
fair fingers of the wearers themselves, while they studied their
lessons or read the last novel or poem.

But this year Miss Hetty Davenport, and Miss Ellen Dennie, and the
blooming daughters of the governor, and the fair Maria Gridley had
all illuminated their respective pews in the meeting-house with
Leghorn flats--large and fine of braid, and tremulous with the
delicacy of their fiber. Similar wonders appeared on the heads of
the juvenile aristocracy of the Episcopal church; and the effect was
immediate.

Straw bonnets were "no where." To have a Leghorn was the thing;
and Miss Hinsdale imported those of many qualities and prices, to
suit customers. Nabby's was not of so fine a braid as that of the
governor's daughters; still it was a real Leghorn hat, and her soul
was satisfied. She wanted a female bosom to sympathize with her in
this joy, and Dolly was the chosen one.

Proud of this confidence, Dolly looked, exclaimed, admired, and
assisted at the toilette-trial--yet somewhat wondering at the
facility with which Nabby forgot all her stringent declarations of
the morning before.

"You don't suppose he would dare to kiss you again, Nabby?" Dolly
suggested timidly, while Nabby stood at the glass with her bonnet on,
patting her curls, shaking her head, pulling into place here a bow
and there a flower.

"Why, Dolly Cushing," said Nabby, laughing; "what a young 'un you are
to remember things! I never saw such a child!"

"But you said"----cried Dolly,--

"Oh, never mind what I said. Do you suppose I can't keep that fellow
in order? I'd just like to have him try it again--and see what he'd
get! There now, what do you think of that?" And Nabby turned round
and showed a general twinkle of nodding flowers, fluttering ribbons,
bright black eyes, and cheeks with laughing dimples which came and
went as she spoke or laughed.

"Nabby, I do declare, you are splendid," said Dolly. "Hiel said once
you was the handsomest girl in Poganuc."

"He did, did he? Well, I'll let him know a thing or two before I've
done with him; and Almiry Smith, too, with her milk-and-water face
and stringy curls."

"Did that bonnet cost a great deal?" asked Dolly.

"What do you mean, child?" asked Nabby, turning quickly and looking
at her.

"Nothing, only Mrs. Davenport said that hired girls were getting to
dress just like ladies."

Nabby flared up and grew taller, and seemed about to rise from the
floor in spontaneous combustion.

"I declare!" she said. "That's just like these 'ere stuck-up Town
Hill folks. Do they think nobody's to have silk gowns and Leg'orn
bonnets but them? Who 's a better right, I should like to know? Don't
we _work_ for our money, and ain't it _ourn_? and ain't we just as
good as they be? I'll buy just such clothes as I see fit, and if
anybody don't like it why they may lump it, that's all. I've a better
right to my bonnet than Hetty Davenport has to hers, for I earned the
money to pay for it, and she just lives to do nothing, and be a bill
of expense to her folks."

Dolly cowered under this little hurricane; but, Poganuc being a windy
town, Dolly had full experience that the best way to meet a sudden
gust is to wait for it to blow itself out, as she did on the present
occasion. In a minute Nabby laughed and was herself again; it was
impossible to be long uncomfortable with a flower garden on one's
head.

"I shall be lonesome to-night without you, Nabby," said Dolly; "the
boys talk Latin to me and plague me when I want to play with them."

"Oh, I heard Mis' Cushing say she was going to take you to the
tea-party, and that'll be just as good for you."

Dolly jumped up and down for joy and ran to her mother only to have
the joyful tidings confirmed. "I shall never leave Dolly alone in the
house again, with nobody but the boys," she said, "and I shall take
her with us. It will be a lesson in good manners for her."

It may have been perceived by the intimations of these sketches
hitherto that there were in the town of Poganuc two distinct circles
of people, who mingled in public affairs as citizens and in church
affairs as communicants, but who rarely or never met on the same
social plane.

There was the _haute noblesse_--very affably disposed, and perfectly
willing to _condescend_; and there was the proud democracy, prouder
than the noblesse, who wouldn't be condescended to, and insisted on
having their way and their say, on the literal, actual standpoint of
the original equality of human beings.

The sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics would willingly
exchange labor with each other; the daughters would go to a
neighboring household where daughters were few, and help in the
family work, and the sons likewise would hire themselves out where
there was a deficiency of man-power; but they entered the family as
full equals, sharing the same table, the same amusements, the same
social freedoms, with the family they served.

It was because the Town Hill families wished to hire _servants_,
according to the Old-World acceptation of the term, that it became
a matter of exceeding difficulty to get any of the free democratic
citizens or citizenesses to come to them in that capacity.

Only the absolute need of money reconciled any of them to taking such
a place, and then they took it with a secret heart-burning and a
jealous care to preserve their own personal dignity.

Nabby had compromised her pride in working for "the minister," for
the minister in early New England times was the first gentleman of
the parish, and a place in his family was a different thing from one
in any other.

Nevertheless, Nabby required to be guided with a delicate hand and
governed with tact and skill. There were things that no free-born
American girl would do, and Mrs. Cushing had the grace not to expect
those things. For instance, no Yankee girl would come at the ringing
of a bell. To expect this would, as they held it, be to place them
on a level with the negroes still retained as servants in some old
families. It was useless to argue the point. Nabby's cheeks would
flush, and her eyes flash, and the string of her tongue would be
loosed, and she would pour forth torrents of declamation if one
attempted to show that calling by a bell was no worse than calling by
the voice or sending out one of the children. Mrs. Cushing did not
try to do it.

Another point was the right to enter the house by the front door.
Now, as Nabby's work lay in the kitchen and as her sleeping-room
was just above, it was manifestly an inconvenience to enter by any
other than the kitchen door. Nevertheless, she had heard the subject
discussed among other girls, and had admired the spirit shown by her
intimate friend, Maria Pratt, when Mrs. Israel Deyter pointed out to
her the propriety of entering by the back door,--"Mrs. Deyter, do you
think there will be a back and a front door to heaven?"

But Mrs. Cushing avoided the solution of this theological problem
by looking on with a smile of calm amusement when Nabby very
conspicuously and perseveringly persisted in entering by the front
door the first week of her engagement with the family. As nothing was
said and nothing done about it, Nabby gradually declined into doing
what was most convenient--went the shortest way to her work and room.
Nabby was in her way and place a person worth making concessions
to, for she was a workwoman not to be despised. Her mother, Mrs.
Higgins, was one of those almost fabulous wonders of household genius
who by early rising, order, system, neatness and dispatch reduced
the seemingly endless labors of a large family to the very minimum
of possibility. Consequently there was little occasion for the
mistress of a family to overlook or to teach Nabby. When she entered
the household she surveyed the situation with trained eyes, took an
account of all work to be done, formed her system and walked through
it daily with energetic ease, always securing to herself two or three
hours of leisure every day in which to do her own cutting, fitting
and sewing. According to the maxims in which she had been brought
up, a girl that did not "do up her work in the morning," so as to
have this interval of leisure, was not mistress of her business. On
washing days Nabby's work began somewhere in the latter part of the
night, and daylight saw her flags of victory waving on the lines in
the shape of renovated linen, and Nabby with great composure getting
breakfast as on any other day.

She took all her appointed work as a matter of course. Strong, young,
and healthy, she scarcely knew what fatigue was. She was cheerful,
obliging, and good tempered, as thoroughly healthy people generally
are. There was, to be sure, a little deposit of gunpowder in Nabby's
nature, and anybody who chose to touch a match to her self-esteem,
her sense of personal dignity or independence, was likely to see a
pretty lively display of fireworks; but it was always soon over, and
the person making the experiment did not generally care to repeat it.

But Hiel Jones found this chemical experiment irresistibly
fascinating, and apparently did not care how often he burned his
fingers with it. Hiel was somewhat _blasé_ with easy conquests.

The female sex have had in all ages their spoiled favorites, who are
ungrateful just in proportion to the favors bestowed upon them; and
Hiel was in his circle as much courted and pursued with flattering
attentions as any spoiled tenor of the modern opera. For him did
Lucinda and Jane bake surreptitious mountains of sponge cake. Small
tributes of cream, butter, pies of various name and model, awaited
him at different stopping-places, and were handed him by fair hands
with flattering smiles. The Almira of whom Nabby discoursed with such
energetic vehemence had knit Hiel a tippet, worked his name on a
pocket-handkerchief with her hair, and even gone so far as to present
him with one of the long yellow curls which Nabby was pleased to call
"stringy." Nabby's curls certainly could not have merited any such
epithet, as every separate one of them had a will and a way of its
own, and all were to the full as mutinous as their mistress. Yet Hiel
would have given more for one of those rebellious curls than for all
Almira's smooth-brushed locks, and although a kiss from Nabby was
like a kiss from one on an electric stool, snapping and prickling at
every touch, yet somehow the perverse Hiel liked the excitement of
the shock.

Hiel's tactics for the subjugation of a female heart were in the
spirit of a poet he never heard of:

    "Pique her, and soothe in turns;
    Soon passion crowns thy hopes."

He instituted a series of regular quarrels with Nabby, varied by
flattering attentions, and delighted to provoke her to anger, sure
that she would say a vast deal more than she meant, and then, in the
reaction which is always sure to follow in the case of hot-tempered,
generous people, he should find his advantage.

So, when the stars looked out blinking and winking through a
steel-blue sky, Nabby, in the fascinating new bonnet, was handed
into the smart new sleigh, tucked in with Hiel under a profusion of
buffalo robes, and went jingling away. A supper and a dance awaited
them at a village tavern ten miles off, and other sleighs and other
swains with their ladies were on the same way, where we take our
leave of them to follow our little Dolly into the parlors of the
_haute noblesse_.



CHAPTER XII.

DOLLY GOES INTO COMPANY.


When Dolly found herself arrayed in her red dress and red shoes, her
hair nicely curled, she was so happy that, to speak scripturally,
she leaped for joy--flew round and round with her curls flying, like
a little mad-cap--till her mother was obliged to apply a sedative
exhortation.

"Take care, Dolly; take care. I can't take you, now, unless you are
good. If you get so wild as that I shall have to leave you at home.
Come here, and let me talk to you."

And Dolly came and stood, grave and serious, at her mother's knee,
who, while she made over and arranged some of the tumbled curls,
proceeded to fortify her mind for the coming emergency with suitable
precepts.

"It's a great thing for a little girl like you, Dolly, to be allowed
to sit up with grown people till nine o'clock, and to go out with
your mamma, and I want you to be very careful and behave as a good
little girl should. I take you, so that you may learn good manners.
Now, remember, Dolly, you mustn't speak to any of them unless you
are spoken to."

Dolly reflected on this precept gravely, and then said:

"Don't they speak to any one except when they are spoken to?"

"Yes, my dear, because they are grown-up people, and know when to
speak and what is proper to be said. Little girls do not; so they
must be silent. Little girls should be seen and not heard."

Dolly knew this maxim by heart already, and she no more questioned
the propriety of it than of any of the great laws of nature.

After an interval of serious reflection, she asked:

"But, if any of them should talk to me, then I may talk to them; may
I?"

"Yes, my dear; if any body talks to you, you must answer, but be
careful not to talk too long."

"Do you think, Mamma, that Judge Gridley will be there?"

"Yes, my dear, I presume so."

"Because I am acquainted with him," remarked Dolly gravely; "he
always talks to me. He meets me sometimes coming home from school and
talks to me. I am glad he will be there."

Mrs. Cushing smiled aside to her husband as she was tying on Dolly's
little hood, and then her father took her up in his arms and they
started.

Tea parties in the highest circles of Poganuc began at six and ended
at nine, and so when Dolly and her father and mother arrived they
found a room full of people. Col. Davenport was a tall, elegant man,
with an upright, soldierly carriage, his hair powdered white, and
tied in a queue down his back; his eyes of a clear, piercing blue,
looking out each side of a well-defined aquiline nose; his voice
deep and musical, with a sort of resonance which spoke of one used
to command. The Colonel was one of the most active members of the
church;--the one who in the absence of the pastor officiated as
lay-reader, and rendered the sermon and made the prayers, in the same
sonorous, military voice that suggested the field and the commander.
Mrs. Davenport, a lady of delicate and refined appearance, with a
certain high-bred manner toned down to a kind of motherly sweetness,
received the Doctor and Mrs. Cushing with effusion, kissed and patted
Dolly on the cheek, and remarked what a nice little girl she was
getting to be; and the Colonel stooped down and took her hand, like
an affable eagle making court to a little humming-bird, and hoped she
was quite well, to which Dolly, quite overcome with awe, answered
huskily: "Very well, I thank you, sir."

Then kind Mrs. Davenport busied herself in ordering to the front
a certain little chair that had a family history. This was duly
brought and placed for Dolly by old Cato, an ancient negro servitor
of the Colonel's, who had once served as his waiter in the army,
and had never recovered from the sense of exaltation and dignity
conferred by this experience. Dolly sat down, and began employing her
eyes about the high and dainty graces of the apartment. The walls
were hung with paper imported from France and ornamented with family
portraits by Copley. In the fire place, the high brass andirons
sustained a magnificent fire, snapping and sparkling and blazing in
a manner gorgeous to behold. Soon Cato came in with the tea on a
waiter, followed by Venus, his wife, who, with a high white turban
on her head and a clear-starched white apron in front, bore after
him a tray laden with delicate rolls, sandwiches, and multiplied and
tempting varieties of cake. Dolly spread her handkerchief in her
little lap, and comported herself as nearly as possible as she saw
the grand ladies doing, who, in satin and velvet and point lace, were
making themselves agreeable, and taking their tea with elegant ease.

The tea parties of Poganuc were not wanting in subjects for
conversation. It was in rule to discuss the current literature of the
day, which at that time came from across the water--the last articles
in the _Edinburgh Review_, the latest Waverley novel, the poetry of
Moore, Byron, Southey, and Wordsworth--all came under review and had
place of consideration.

In those days, when newspapers were few and scanty, when places were
isolated and travel was tedious and uncertain, the intellectual life
of cultivated people was intense. A book was an event in Poganuc. It
was heard of first across the ocean, and watched for, as one watches
for the rising of a new planet. While the English packet was slowly
laboring over, bearing it to our shores, expectation was rising, and
when the book was to be found in the city book stores an early copy
generally found its way to the élite circle of Poganuc.

Never in this day--generation of jaded and sated literary
appetite--will any one know the fresh and eager joy, the vivid
sensation of delight with which a poem like "The Lady of the Lake,"
a novel like "Ivanhoe," was received in lonely mountain towns by a
people eager for a new mental excitement. The young folks called the
rocks and glens and rivers of their romantic region by names borrowed
from Scott; they clambered among the crags of Benvenue and sailed on
the bosom of Loch Katrine.

The students in the law offices and the young ladies of the
first families had their reading circles and their literary
partialities--some being partisans of Byron, some of Scott,
etc.--and there was much innocent spouting of poetry. There were
promising youths who tied their open shirt collars with a black
ribbon, and professed disgust at the hollow state of human happiness
in general, and there were compassionate young ladies who considered
the said young men all the more interesting for this state of
mysterious desolation, and often succeeded in the work of consoling
them. It must be remarked, however, that the present gathering was a
married people's party, and the number of young men and maidens was
limited to the immediate family connections. The young people had
their parties, with the same general decorum, where the conversation
was led by them. In the elderly circles all these literary and
social topics came under discussion. Occasionally Judge Belcher, who
was an authority in literary criticism, would hold the ear of the
drawing-room while he ran a parallel between the dramatic handling
of Scott's characters as compared with those of Shakespeare, or gave
an analysis of the principles of the Lake School of Poetry. The
Judge was an admirable talker, and people in general liked to hear
him quite as well as he liked to hear himself, and so his monologues
proceeded _nem. con._

On this particular evening, however, literature was forgotten in
the eagerness of politics. The news from the state elections was not
in those days spread by telegraph, it lumbered up in stages, and was
recorded at most in weekly papers; but enough had come to light to
make the Poganuc citizens aware that the State of Connecticut had
at last been revolutionized, and gone from the Federalists to the
Democrats.

Judge Belcher declaimed upon the subject in language which made the
very hair rise upon Dolly's head.

"Yes, sir," he said, addressing Dr. Cushing; "I consider this as
the ruin of the State of Connecticut! It's the triumph of the lower
orders; the reign of 'sans culotte-ism' begun. In my opinion, sir, we
are over a volcano; I should not be surprised, sir, at an explosion
that will blow up all our institutions!"

Dolly's eyes grew larger and larger, although she was a little
comforted to observe the Judge carefully selecting a particular
variety of cake that he was fond of, and helping himself to a third
cup of tea in the very midst of these shocking prognostications.

Dolly had not then learned the ease and suavity of mind with which
both then and ever since people at tea drinkings and other social
recreations declare their conviction that the country is going
to ruin. It never appears to have any immediate effect upon the
appetite. Dolly looked at her father, and thought he assented with
somewhat of a saddened air; and Mrs. Davenport looked concerned; and
Mrs. Judge Gridley said it was a very dark providence why such things
were permitted, but a little while after was commending the delicacy
of the cake, and saying she must inquire of Venus about her peculiar
mode of confection.

Judge Gridley--a white-haired, lively old gentleman with bright
eyes, who wore the old-fashioned small-clothes, knee-buckles, silk
stockings and low shoes--had fixed his eyes upon Dolly for some time,
and now crossing the room drew her with him into a corner, saying:
"Come, now, Miss Dolly, you and I are old friends, you know. What do
you think of all these things?"

"Oh, I'm so glad you came," said Dolly, with a long sigh of relief.
"I hoped you would, because mamma said I mustn't talk unless somebody
spoke to me, and I do so want to know all about those dreadful
things. What is a volcano? Please tell me!"

"Why, my little Puss," he said, lifting her in his lap and twining
her curls round his finger, "what do you want to know that for?"

"Because I heard Judge Belcher say that we were all over a volcano
and it would blow us all up some day. Is it like powder?"

"You dear little soul! don't you trouble your head about what Judge
Belcher says. He uses strong language. He only means that the
Democrats will govern the state."

"And are they so dreadfully wicked?" asked Dolly. "I want to tell
you something"--and Dolly whispered, "Bessie Lewis's father is a
Democrat, and yet they don't seem like wicked people."

"No, my dear; when you grow up you will learn that there are good
people in every party."

"Then you don't think Bessie's father is a bad man?" said Dolly. "I'm
so glad!"

"No; he's a good man in a bad party; that is what I think."

"I wish you'd talk to him and tell him not to do all these dreadful
things, and upset the state," said Dolly. "I thought the other night
_I_ would; but I'm only a little girl, you know; he wouldn't mind
me. If I was a grown-up woman I would," she said, with her cheeks
flushing and her eyes kindling.

Judge Gridley laughed softly to himself and stroked her head.

"When you are a grown-up woman I don't doubt you can make men do
almost anything you please, but I don't think it would do any good
for _me_ to talk to General Lewis; and now, little Curly-wurly, don't
bother your pretty head about politics. Neither party will turn the
world upside down. There's a good God above us all, my little girl,
that takes care of our country, and he will bring good out of evil.
So now don't you worry."

"I'm afraid, Judge Gridley, that Dolly is troubling you," said Mrs.
Cushing, coming up.

"Oh, dear me! madame, no; Miss Dolly and I are old acquaintances. We
have the best possible understanding."

But just then, resounding clear and loud through the windy March air,
came the pealing notes of the nine o'clock bell, and an immediate
rustle of dresses, and rising, and shaking of hands, and cutting
short of stories, and uttering last words followed.

For though not exactly backed by the arbitrary power which enforced
the celebrated curfew, yet the nine o'clock bell was one of the
authoritative institutions of New England; and at its sound all
obediently set their faces homeward, to rake up house-fires, put out
candles, and say their prayers before going to rest.

Old Captain Skeggs, a worn-out revolutionary soldier, no longer good
for hard service, had this commanding post in Poganuc, and no matter
how high blew the wind, how fiercely raged the storm, the captain in
his white woolen great coat, with three little capes to it, stamped
his way through the snow, pulled valiantly on the rope, and let
all the hills and valleys of Poganuc know that the hour of rest had
come. Then, if it were a young people's party, each young man chose
out his maiden and asked the pleasure of seeing her home; and in the
clear frosty night and under the silent stars many a word was said
that could not be said by candle-light indoors:--whereof in time came
life-long results.



CHAPTER XIII.

COLONEL DAVENPORT RELATES HIS EXPERIENCES.


A few days after the tea-party, Colonel and Mrs. Davenport came to
take tea at the parsonage. It was an engagement of long standing, and
eagerly looked forward to by the children, who with one accord begged
that they might be allowed to sit up and hear the Colonel's stories.

For, stories of the war it was known the Colonel could tell; the
fame of them hovered in vague traditions on the hills and valleys of
Poganuc, and whenever he was to be in the circle it was always in the
programme of hope that he might be stimulated and drawn out to tell
of some of the stirring scenes of his camp-life.

In a general way, too, the children were always glad to have company.
The preparations had a festive and joyous air to their minds. Mrs.
Cushing then took possession of the kitchen in person, and various
appetizing and suggestive dainties and condiments stood about in
startling profusion. Dolly and the boys stoned raisins, pounded
cinnamon, grated nutmegs and beat eggs with enthusiasm, while Nabby
heated the oven and performed the part of assistant priestess in high
and solemn mysteries. Among her many virtues and graces, Mrs. Cushing
had one recommendation for a country minister's wife which commanded
universal respect: she could make cake. Yea, more, she could make
_such_ cake as nobody else could make--not even Colonel Davenport's
Venus.

So the children had stoned raisins, without eating more than the
natural tribute to be expected in such cases; they had been allowed
in perquisites a stick of cinnamon apiece; and the pound-cake, the
sponge-cake, the fruit-cake and the tea-rusks were each in their kind
a perfect success.

During tea-time every word uttered by the Colonel was eagerly watched
by attentive and much-desiring ears; but as yet no story came. The
vivacity imparted by two or three cups of the best tea was all spent
in denunciations of the Democrats, their schemes, designs and dangers
to the country, when the Colonel and Dr. Cushing seemed to vie with
each other in the vigor and intensity of their prognostications of
evil.

But after tea there came the genial hour of the social sit-down in
front of the andirons, when the candles were duly snuffed, and the
big fore-stick had burned down to glowing coals, and the shadows
played in uncertain flashes up and down the walls of the fire-lighted
room; and then the Colonel's mind began traveling a road hopeful to
his listening auditors.

From Democracy to Jefferson, from Jefferson to France and the French
Revolution, the conversation led by easy gradations, and thence
to the superior success of our own Revolution--from La Fayette to
Washington.

Now, the feeling of the Doctor and of his whole family for General
Washington was to the full as intense as that of the ancient
Israelites for Moses. They were never tired of hearing the smallest
particular about him--how he looked; how he walked; what he wore; the
exact shade of his eyes; the least word that ever dropped from his
lips.

"You have no doubt whatever that the General was a religious man?"
said the Doctor, propounding what was ever his most anxious inquiry
with regard to one who had entered on the Invisible Verities.

"Not a doubt, sir," was the Colonel's reply, in those ringing and
decisive tones which were characteristic of him.

"I have always heard," pursued the Doctor, "that he was eminently a
man of prayer."

"Eminently so," said the Colonel. "The General, sir, was a
communicant in the Episcopal Church, a firm believer in
Christianity, and I think he was sustained in all the trying
emergencies of the war by his faith in his God. That, sir, I have not
a doubt of."

"That has always been my belief," said the Doctor; "but I am glad to
hear you say so."

"Yes, sir," added the Colonel with energy; "his influence in the
army was openly and decidedly that of a Christian. You recollect
his general order at one time, excusing soldiers and sailors from
fatigue-duty on Sunday, that they might have time to attend religious
service, and his remarks upon the custom of profane swearing in the
army; how he reminded both officers and men that 'We could have but
little hope of the blessing of Heaven upon our arms, if we insult it
by impiety.'"

"Yes, I remember all that," said the Doctor. "Nothing could have been
better worded. It must have had an immense influence. But does it
not seem astonishing that a military man, going through the terrible
scenes that he did, should never have been tempted to profanity? I
declare," said the Doctor, musingly, "I would not answer for myself.
There were times in that history when without preventing grace I am
quite sure _I_ could not have held myself in."

"Well, sir, since you speak on that subject," said the Colonel, "I
am free to say that, on one occasion I saw our General carried
beyond himself. I have often thought I would like to tell you the
circumstances, Doctor."

There was a little edging towards the Colonel, both of the Doctor and
Mrs. Cushing, as the Colonel, looking dreamily far into the hickory
coals, said:

"Yes, sir; that was one of those critical times in our war, when it
turned on the events of a few hours whether we had been the nation we
are now, or trodden down under the British heel; whether Washington
had been made President of the United States, or hanged for treason.
It was at the time of the Long Island retreat."

"And you were there?" asked Dr. Cushing. The Doctor knew very well
that the Colonel was there, and was eager to draw him out.

"There? Sir, indeed I was," answered the Colonel. "I shall never
forget it to my dying day. We had been fighting all day at terrible
odds, our men falling all around us like leaves, and the British
pressing close upon us; so close, that when it grew dark we could
hear every movement in their camp, every sound of pick, or shovel,
or gun. Our men had got behind their intrenchments, and there the
enemy stopped pursuing. What a night that was! We were deadly
tired--dispirited as only fellows can be that have seen their friends
shot down about them; no tents, no shelter, and the sentries of the
victorious enemy only a quarter of a mile from our lines. Nearly two
thousand, out of the five thousand men we had in the fight, were
killed, wounded, or missing. Well, it was a terribly anxious night
for Washington; for what had we to expect, next day? He went round at
four o'clock in the morning to see to us and speak a word of cheer
here and there. It was a cold, drizzling, gloomy, rainy morning,
but we could see through the fog a large encampment; and they were
intrenching themselves, though the rain drove them into their tents.
The day advanced, continuing rainy and stormy, and they made no
move to attack us. Our scouts, that were out watching the motions
of the enemy down at Red Hook, got a peep at the shipping at Staten
Island and saw at once that there was a movement and bustle there,
as if there were something on foot; and they got the idea that the
enemy were planning at turn of tide to come up behind us in the East
River, and cut us off from the army in New York. Sir, that was just
what they were meaning to do; and, if they had, we should have been
caught there like rats in a trap, the war would have been ended, and
Washington hanged. The party hurried back to tell the General. A
council of war was held, and it was decided that we all must cross to
New York that very night. There it was; nine thousand men, with all
our baggage and artillery, to steal away in the night from that great
army, and they so near that we could hear every dog that barked or
man that whistled among them."

"How wide was the place to be crossed?" asked the Doctor.

"Full three-quarters of a mile, sir, and with a rapid tide sweeping
through. As the Lord's providence would have it, Colonel Glover had
just come in that day with his Marblehead regiment--thirteen hundred
fishermen and sailors, such as the world cannot equal."

"Glorious!" exclaimed the Doctor. "God bless the Marblehead boys!"

"Yes, they saved us, under God and the General; we never could have
crossed without them.

"Well, the General sent to the Quartermaster to impress all the boats
and transports of every kind that could be got, and have them ready
by evening. By eight o'clock they were all at Brooklyn, and under the
management of the Marblehead regiment. Word was given out in the army
to be prepared for a night attack, and the poor fellows, tired as
they were, were all up and ready to move on order.

"Then Washington ordered Gen. Mifflin's brigade, including what
remained of our regiment, to stay and keep the intrenchments with
guards and patrols and sentinels posted, to make the enemy believe
we were there, while the rest all moved down to the water and
embarked.

"Now I tell you, sir, it was a good deal harder to stand there
than to be moving just then. We were wide awake and we counted the
minutes. It is always longer to those who wait than to those who
work. The men were true as steel, but, poor fellows, there is a limit
to human endurance, and they got pretty restive and nervous. So,
between you and me, did we officers too. Standing still in such a
danger is a thousand times worse than fighting.

"Finally the men began to growl and mutter; it was all we could do to
hold them; they were sure the army had crossed--word _must_ have been
sent to them! So, finally, when Washington's aid misunderstood his
order and came running to say that we were to move down, we started
on the double-quick and got to the shore. There we found that the
tide had turned, a strong north-east wind was blowing, the boats had
been brought without oars enough to convey the troops, the sail-boats
were unable to make head against wind and tide, and full half the
army were still on Long Island shore!

"Washington stood there amid the confusion and perplexity--when, in
the midst of his troubles, down we all came.

"Sir, I never saw a mortal being look as Gen. Washington looked at
us. He ordered us back with a voice like thunder, and I never heard
such a terrific volley of curses as he poured out upon us when the
men hesitated. Sir, that man was so dreadful that we all turned and
ran. We had rather face the judgment-day than face him. Upon my soul,
I thought when I turned back that I was going straight into eternity,
but I had rather face death than him."

"And he swore?"

"Indeed he did--but it was not profane swearing; it was not taking
God's name in vain, for it sent us back as if we had been chased by
lightning. It was an awful hour, and he saw it; it was life or death;
country or no country."

"Sir," said Dr. Cushing, starting up and pacing the room, "it was the
oath of the Lord! It would be profane to call it swearing."

"Yes, sir," said the Colonel, "you remember that one time Moses threw
down both tables of the law and broke them, and the Lord did not
reprove him."

"Exactly," answered the Doctor; "he saw his nation going to ruin and
forgot all else to save them. The Lord knows how to distinguish."

"But, sir," said the Colonel, "I never tell this except to the
initiated. No man who saw Washington then dared ever to allude
to it afterward. He was habitually so calm, so collected, so
self-contained, that this outburst was the more terrific. Whatever he
felt about it was settled between him and his Maker. No man ever took
account with him."

Then followed a few moments of silence, when Dolly emerged from a
dark corner--her cheeks very much flushed, her eyes very wide and
bright--and, pressing up to the Colonel's knee, said eagerly: "But,
oh please, sir, what became of you and the men?"

The Colonel looked down and smiled as he lifted Dolly on his knee.
"Why, my little girl, here I am, you see; I wasn't killed after all."

"But did you really go clear back?" asked Dolly.

"Yes, my dear, we all went back and staid two or three hours; and
when it came morning we made believe to be the whole army. We made
our fires and we got our breakfasts and we whistled and talked and
made all the stir we could, but as the good Lord would have it there
was such a thick fog that you could not see your hand before your
face. You see that while the fog hung over the island and covered us,
it was all clear down by the river."

"Why, that's just the way it was when they crossed the Red Sea," said
Dolly, eagerly; "wasn't it, Papa?"

"Something so, my dear," said her father; but her mother made her a
sign not to talk.

"How long did it take to do the whole thing?"

"Well, thanks to those Marblehead boys, by daybreak the greater part
of the army were safe on the New York side. A little after daylight
we marched off quietly and went down to the ferry. Washington was
still there, and we begged him to go in the first boat; but no, he
was immovable. He saw us all off, and went himself in the very last
boat, after every man was in."

"What a glorious fellow!" said the Doctor.

"Please, sir," said Will, who, with distended eyes, had been
listening, "what did the British say when they found out?"

The Colonel laid his head back and gave a hearty laugh.

"They had a message sent them, by a Tory woman down by the ferry,
what was going on. She sent her black servant, and he got through
our American lines but was stopped by the Hessians, who could not
understand his gibberish, and so kept him till long after all
was over. Then a British officer overhauled him and was pretty
well amazed at his story. He gave the alarm, and General Howe's
aid-de-camp, with a body of men, climbed over the intrenchments and
found all deserted. They hurried down to the landing just in time to
see the rear boats half way across the river."

"Well, that is _almost_ like the crossing of the Red Sea," said the
Doctor.

"Oh, weren't the British furious!" cried Bill.

"Yes, they did fire away at the boats, and one straggling boat they
hit and forced the men to return; but it turned out only three
vagabonds that had come to plunder."

It was after the nine o'clock bell had dismissed the Colonel and his
lady that the Doctor noticed the wide and radiant eyes of little
Dolly and his boys.

"My children," he said, "to use the name of the great God solemnly
and earnestly for a great and noble purpose is not to 'swear.'
Swearing is taking God's holy name in vain, in a trifling way, for a
trivial purpose--a thing which our great and good general never did.
But this story I would rather you would never repeat. It might not be
understood."

"Certainly," said Bill, with proud gravity; "common boys wouldn't
understand--and, Dolly, don't _you_ tell."

"Of course I shouldn't," said Dolly. "I never shall tell even Nabby,
nor Bessie, nor anybody."

And afterwards, in the family circle, when General Washington was
spoken of, the children looked on one another with grave importance,
as the trusted depositaries of a state secret.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE PUZZLE OF POGANUC.


Notwithstanding the apparition of the blue-bird and the sanguine
hopes of the boys, the winter yet refused to quit the field. Where
these early blue-birds go to, that come to cheer desponding hearts
in arctic regions like Poganuc, is more than one can say. Birds'
wings are wonderful little affairs, and may carry them many hundred
southward miles in a day. Dolly, however, had her own theory about
it, and that was that the bird went right up into heaven, and there
waited till all the snow-storms were over.

Certain it was that the Poganuc people, after two promising days of
thaw, did not fall short of that "six weeks' sledding in March" which
has come to be proverbial.

The thaw, which had dripped from icicles and melted from snow-banks,
froze stiffer than ever, and then there came a two days'
snow-storm--good, big, honest snow-feathers, that fell and fell all
day and all night, till all the houses wore great white night-caps,
the paths in front of all the house-doors had to be shoveled out
again, and the farmers with their sleds turned out to break roads.

The Doctor was planning a tour in his sleigh to fulfill his monthly
round of visiting the schools.

Schools there always were in every district, from the time the first
log school-house had been erected in the forests, down to the days
when, as now, the school-house is a comfortable, well-furnished
building.

In the Doctor's day the common schoolhouses were little, mean
shanties, built in the cheapest possible manner, consisting of one
small room and a vestibule for hanging bonnets, hats, and dinner
baskets. In winter, a box-stove, the pipe of which passed through one
of the windows, gave warmth. Blackboards were unknown. The teacher's
care was simply to hear reading in the Bible and the "Columbian
Orator;" to set copies in ruled copy-books; to set "sums" from
"Daboll's Arithmetic;" to teach parsing from "Murray's Grammar;"
to mend pens, and to ferule and thrash disorderly scholars. In the
summer months, when the big boys worked in the fields, a woman
generally held sway, and taught knitting and sewing to the girls. On
Saturday all recited the "Assembly's Catechism," and once a month the
minister, and sometimes his wife, came in to hear and commend the
progress of the scholars.

One of the troubles of a minister in those times was so to hold the
balance as to keep down neighborhood quarrels;--not an easy matter
among a race strong, opinionated, and who, having little variety in
life, rather liked the stimulus of disagreements. A good quarrel was
a sort of moral whetstone, always on hand for the sharpening of their
wits.

Such a quarrel had stood for some two or three years past in
regard to the position of the North Poganuc schoolhouse. It had
unfortunately been first located on a high, slippery, windy hill,
very uncomfortable of access in the winter months, and equally hot
and cheerless in summer. Subsequently, the building of several new
farm-houses had carried most of the children a considerable distance
away, and occasioned increased sense of inconvenience.

The thing had been talked of and discussed in several successive
town-meetings, but no vote could be got to change the position of the
school-house. Zeph Higgins was one of the most decided in stating
what ought to be done and where the school-house ought to stand;
but, unfortunately, Zeph's mode of arguing a question was such as
to rouse all the existing combativeness in those whom he sought to
convince. No more likely mode to ruin a motion in town-meeting than
to get Zeph interested to push it. In Poganuc, as elsewhere, there
were those in town-meeting that voted on the principle stated by the
immortal Bird o' Freedom Sawin:

    "I take the side that isn't took
    By them consarned teetotalers."

In the same manner, Zeph's neighbors were for the most part inclined
in town meeting, irrespective of any other consideration, to take the
side he didn't take.

Hiel Jones had often been heard to express the opinion that, "Ef
Zeph Higgins would jest shet up his gash in town-meetin', that air
school-house could be moved fast enough; but the minit that Dr.
Cushing had been round, and got folks kind o' slicked down and
peaceable, Zeph would git up and stroke 'em all back'ards and git
their dander up agin. Folks warn't a-goin' to be druv; and Zeph was
allers fer drivin'."

The subject of an approaching town-meeting was beginning to loom
dimly in the discussions of the village. One characteristic of
the Yankee mind, as developed in those days, was the slowness and
deliberation with which it arrived at any purpose or conclusion.
This was not merely in general movements, but in particular ones
also. Did the Widow Brown contemplate turning her back buttery into
a sink-room, she forthwith went over to the nearest matrons of her
vicinity, and announced that she was "talkin' about movin' her sink,"
and the movement in all its branches and bearings was discussed in
private session. That was step No. 1. Then all the women at the next
quilting, or tea-drinking, heard that Widow Brown was "talking about
changing her sink," and _they_ talked about it. Then Seth Chickering,
the neighborhood carpenter, was called into consultation, and came
and investigated the premises, and reported--first to the widow and
second to his wife, who told all the other women what "Seth, he
said," etc. The _talking_ process continued indefinitely, unless some
active Providential dispensation brought it to an end.

The same process was repeated when Mrs. Slocum thought of investing
in a new winter cloak; the idea in those days prevailing that a
winter cloak was a thing never but once in a lifetime to be bought,
and after that to endure for all generations, the important article
must not be bought lightly or unadvisedly. When Deacon Dickenson
proposed to build a new back parlor on his house and to re-shingle
the roof, the talking and discussion lasted six months, and threw the
whole neighborhood into commotion; carpenters came before daybreak
and roosted on the fences, and at odd times as they found leisure,
at all hours of the day, gathered together, and Seth Chickering
took the opinions of Sam Parmelee and Jake Peters; and all Mrs.
Dickenson's female friends talked about it, till every shingle,
every shingle-nail and every drop of paint had received a separate
consideration, and the bargain was, so to speak, whittled down to the
finest possible point.

Imagine the delicacies of discussion, then, that attended the moving
of a schoolhouse at the public expense--a schoolhouse in which
everybody in the neighborhood had a private and personal claim--and
how like the proceedings of a bull in a china shop was the advocacy
of a champion like Zeph Higgins, and one may see how infinitely
extended in this case might be the area of "talkin' about movin' that
air schoolhouse," and how hopelessly distant any decision. The thing
had already risen on the horizon of Deacon Dickenson's store, like
one of those puzzling stars or fractiously disposed heavenly bodies
that seem created to furnish astronomers with something to talk about.

The fateful period was again coming round; the spring town-meeting
was at hand, and more than one had been heard to say that "Ef that
air schoolhouse hed to be moved, it oughter be done while the
sleddin' was good."

In Deacon Dickenson's store a knot of the talkers were gathered
around the stove, having a final talk and warm-up previous to
starting their sleds homeward to their supper of pork-and-beans and
doughnuts.

Our mournful friend, Deacon Peasley, sat in his usual drooping
attitude on a mackerel-keg placed conveniently by the stove; and
then, like Beattie's hermit,

                  " ... his plaining begun.
    Tho' mournful his spirit, his soul was resigned."

"I'm sure I hope I don't wanter dictate to the Lord, nor nothin, but
_ef_ he should send a turn o' rheumatism on Zeph Higgins, jest afore
town-meetin' day--why, seems to me 'twould be a marcy to us all."

"I don't see, fer my part," said Tim Hawkins, "why folks need to mind
what he says; but they do. He'll do more _agin_ a motion talkin'
_fer_ it, than I can do talkin' agin it fer a year. I never see the
beat of him--never."

"Aint there nobody," said Deacon Peasley, caressing his knee, and
looking fondly at the stove door, "that could kind o' go to him, and
sort o' set it in order afore him how he henders the very thing he's
sot on doin'?"

"Guess you don't know him as I do," said Deacon Dickenson, "or you
wouldn't 'a' thought o' that."

"And now he's gone in with the Democrats, and agin Parson Cushing
and the church, it'll be worse 'n ever," remarked Tim Hawkins.

"Now, there's Mis' Higgins," said the Deacon; "she can't do nothin'
with him; he won't take a word from her; she hez to step round softly
arter him, a-settin' things right. Why, Widder Brown, that lives up
by the huckleberry pastur' lot, was a-tellin' my wife, last Sunday,
how Zeph's turkeys would come a-trampin' in her mowin', and all she
could say and do he wouldn't keep 'em to hum. And then when they
stole a nest there, Zeph he took the eggs and carried 'em off, 'cause
he said the turkeys was hisn. Mis' Higgins, she jest put on her
bonnet, and went right over, that arternoon, and took the turkey eggs
back to the widder. Mis' Brown said Mis' Higgins didn't _say_ a word,
but she _looked_ consid'able--her eyes was a-shinin' and her mouth
sort o' set, as ef she'd about come to the eend of her patience."

"Wal," said Deacon Peasley, "I rather wonder she durst to do it."

"Wal," said Tim, "my wife sez that there _is_ places where Mis'
Higgins jest takes her stand, and Zeph has to give in. Ef she gets
her back agin a text in the Bible, why, she won't stir from it ef
he killed her; and when it comes to that Zeph hez to cave in. Come
to standin'--why she kin stand longer 'n he kin. I rather 'xpect he
didn't try to git back them turkey eggs. Ef he did, Mis' Higgins
would 'a' stood right in the road, and he'd 'a' hed to 'a' walked
over her. I 'xpect by this time Zeph knows what he kin make her do
and what he can't."

"Wal," said Hiel Jones, who had just dropped in, "I tell ye Zeph's
screwed himself into a tight place now. That air 'Piscopal parson,
he's gret on orderin' and commandin', and thinks he didn't come right
down from the 'Postles for nothin'. He puts his new folks through the
drills lively, I tell ye; he's ben at old Zeph 'cause he don't bow to
suit him in the creed--Zeph's back is stiff as a ramrod, and he jest
hates it. Now, there's Mis' Higgins; _she'll_ allers do any thing to
'blige anybody, and if the minister wants her to make a curtsey, why
she does it the best she's able, and Nabby and the boys, they take to
it; but it gravels Zeph. Then all this 'ere gittin' up and sittin'
down aggravates him, and he comes out o' church as cross as a bull in
fly-time."

Of course, the laugh was ready at this picture of their neighbor's
troubles, and Hiram added:

"He'll put it through, though; he won't go back on his tracks, but
it's pikery and wormwood to him, I tell ye. I saw him t'other day,
after Parson had been speaking to him, come out o' church, and give
his hoss such a twitch, and say 'Darn ye!' in a way I knew wa'n't
meant for the _critter_. Zeph don't swear," added Hiel, "but I will
say he can make _darn_ sound the most like _damn_ of any man in
Poganuc. He's got lots o' swear in him, that ole feller hez."

"My mother says she remembers when Polly Higgins (that is) was the
prettiest gal in all the deestrict," said Deacon Peasley. "She was
Polly Adams, from Danbury. She came to keep the deestrict school, and
Zeph he sot his eyes on her, and hev her he would; he wouldn't take
'No' for an answer; he didn't give her no peace till he got her."

"Any feller can get a gal that way," said Hiel, with a judicial air.
"A gal allers says 'No' at fust--to get time to think on't."

"Is that the way with Nabby?" asked the Deacon, with a wink of
superior intelligence. Whereat there came a general laugh, and Hiel
pulled up his coat collar, and, looking as if he might say something
if delicacy did not forbid, suddenly remembered that "Mother had sent
him for a quarter of a pound o' young Hyson."

Definite business at once broke up the session, and every man,
looking out his parcels, mounted his sled and wended his way home.



CHAPTER XV.

THE POGANUC PUZZLE SOLVED.


Zeph Higgins had the spirit of a general. He, too, had his vision of
an approaching town-meeting, and that evening, sitting in his family
circle, gave out his dictum on the subject:

"Wal--they'll hev a town-meetin' afore long, and hev up that air old
school'us' bizness," he said, as he sat facing the blaze of the grand
kitchen fire.

Mrs. Higgins sat by in her little splint-bottomed rocking-chair,
peacefully clicking her knitting-needles. Abner sat at her right
hand, poring over a volume of "Rollin's Ancient History." Abel and
Jeduthun were playing fox-and-goose with grains of corn in the
corner, and Tim was whittling a goose-poke.

All looked up at the announcement of this much-bruited subject.

"They never seem to come to anything on that subject," said Mrs.
Higgins. "I wish the school-house was better situated; a great many
are kept from the prayer meetings there that would come if it wasn't
for that windy, slippery hill. The last time I went, it was all I
could do to get up," she said; "and I thought I caught a cold."

"There's not the least doubt on't," said Zeph, "and the children are
allers catchin' colds. Everybody knows where that air school'us'
ought to be. Confounded fools they be, the hull lot on 'em; and, for
my part, I'm tired o' this 'ere quarrelin' and jawin', and I ain't
a-goin' to stan' it no longer. It's a shame and it's a sin to keep up
these 'ere quarrels among neighbors, and I'm a-goin' to put a stop to
it."

It may be imagined that this exordium caused a sensation in the
family circle.

Mrs. Higgins opened her meek blue eyes upon her husband with a
surprised expression; the two boys sat with their game suspended and
their mouths open, and the goose-poke and "Rollin's History" were
alike abandoned in the pause of astonishment.

"Tomorrow's Saturday," said Zeph; "and Saturday afternoon there won't
be no school, and I'll jest take the boys, both yoke of oxen and
the sleds, and go up and move that air school'us' down to the place
where't orter be. I'll wedge it up and settle it good and firm, and
that'll be the end on't. Tain't no sort o' use to talk. I'm jest
a-goin' to _do_ it."

Zeph looked as if he meant it, and his family had ceased to think
anything impossible that he took in hand to do. If he had announced
his intention of blowing up the neighboring crag of Bluff Head, and
building a castle out of the fragments, they would have expected to
see it done.

So Zeph took the family Bible, and, in a high-pitched and determined
voice, read the account of Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza,
repeated his evening prayer, ordered all hands to bed, raked up the
fire, had all snug and quiet, and stepped into bed just as the last
stroke of the nine o'clock bell was resounding.

At four o'clock the next afternoon, as Hiel Jones was coming in on
his high seat on the Poganuc stage, whistling cheerily, a sudden new
sensation struck him. Passing over North Poganuc hill, he bethought
him of the schoolhouse question, and lifted up his eyes, and lo!
no schoolhouse was there. For a moment Hiel felt giddy. What was
the matter with his head? He rubbed his eyes, and looked on all the
other familiar objects; there was the old pine tree, there the great
rock, but the schoolhouse was gone. The place where it had stood was
disturbed by tramping of many feet, and a broad, smooth trail led
down the hill.

"Wal, somebody hez gone and ben and done it," said Hiel, as he
whipped up his horses to carry the news.

Farther on, in a convenient spot at the junction of three roads,
under the shelter of a hill, stood the schoolhouse--serene as if
it had grown there; while Zeph Higgins and his son Abner were just
coming forward on the road toward Hiel, Zeph triumphantly whipping
his oxen and shouting the word of command in an elevated voice.

Hiel drew to one side, and gave a long whistle. "Je-_ru_-salem," he
exclaimed, "ef you hain't ben and done it!"

Zeph lifted his head with an air of as much satisfaction as his hard
features could assume, and, nodding his head in the direction of the
schoolhouse, said:

"Yis--there 'tis!"

Hiel laid his head back, and burst into a loud, prolonged laugh, in
which he was joined by Abner and the boys.

"Don't see nothin' to laugh at," said Zeph, with grim satisfaction.
"Fact is, I can't hev these 'ere quarrels--and I won't hev 'em. That
air's the place for that school'us', and it's _got_ to stand there,
and that's the eend on't. Come, boys, hurry home; mother's beans will
be a-gettin cold. Gee--g'lang!" and the black whip cracked over the
back of the ox-team.

Hiel was a made man. He had in possession an astounding piece of
intelligence, that nobody knew but himself, and he meant to make the
most of it.

He hurried first to Deacon Peasley's store, where quite a number were
sitting round the stove with their Saturday night purchases. In burst
Hiel:

"Wal, that air North Poganuc school'us' is _moved_, and settled down
under the hills by the cross-road."

The circle looked for a moment perfectly astounded and stupefied.

"You don't say so!"

"Dew tell!"

"Don't believe ye."

"Wal, ye kin all go and see. I came by, jest half an hour ago, and
see it with my own eyes, and Zeph Higgins and his boys a-drivin' off
with their sleds and oxen. I tell ye that air thing is jest _done_.
I'm a-goin' to tell Dr. Cushing's folks."

Poganuc People had something to talk about now, in good earnest.

Hiel stopped his stage at the parson's door, and Dr. Cushing,
expecting some bundle from Boston, came out to the gate.

"Doctor, thought I'd jest stop and tell ye that the North Poganuc
school'us' hez ben moved to the cross-roads, down under the
hill--thought ye'd like to hear it."

The Doctor's exclamation and uplifted hands brought to the door Mrs.
Cushing and Dolly and the two boys, with Nabby. Hiel was in his
glory, and recounted all the circumstances with great prolixity, the
Doctor and Mrs. Cushing and all his audience laughing at his vigorous
narrative.

"Yis," said Hiel, "he said he wa'n't a-goin' to hev no more
quarrelin' about it; everybody knew the school'us' ought to be there,
and there 'twas. It was all wedged up tight and stiddy, and the stove
in it, and the pipe stickin' out o' the winder, all nateral as could
be, and he jest goin' off home, as ef nothin' hed happened."

"Well, if that ain't jest like father!" exclaimed Nabby, with an air
of pride. "If he wants a thing done he will do it."

"Certainly this time he has done a good thing," said the Doctor; "and
for my part I'm obliged to him. I suppose the spirit of the Lord came
on him, as it did on Samson."

And for weeks and months thereafter, there was abundance of talking
and every variety of opinion expressed as to the propriety of Zeph's
_coup d'état_, but nobody, man, woman, or child, ever proposed to
move the schoolhouse back again.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE POGANUC PARSONAGE.


The parsonage was a wide, roomy, windy edifice that seemed to have
been built by a succession of after-thoughts. It was at first a model
New England house, built around a great brick chimney, which ran up
like a light-house in the center of the square roof. Then came, in
course of time, a side-wing which had another chimney and another
suite of rooms. A kitchen grew out on another side, and out of the
kitchen a sink-room; and out of the sink-room a wood-house, and
out of the wood-house a carriage-house, and so on with a gradually
lessening succession of out-buildings.

New England houses have been said by a shrewd observer to be
constructed on the model of a telescope; compartment after
compartment, lessening in size, and all under one cover.

But in the climate where the business of one half of the year
is to provide fuel for the other half, such a style of domestic
architecture becomes convenient. During the long winter months
everything was under cover, giving grand scope for the children to
play.

When the boys were graciously disposed to Dolly, she had a deal of
good fun with them in the long range of the divers sheds. They made
themselves houses, castles and fortresses in the wood-pile, and
played at giving parties and entertainments, at which Spring and the
cat also assisted in silent and subsidiary parts.

Sometimes they held town-meetings or voting-days, in which the
Democrats got their dues in speeches that might have struck terror to
their souls had they heard them. At other times they held religious
meetings, and sung hymns and preached, on which occasions Dolly had
been known to fall to exhorting with a degree of fervor and a fluency
in reciting texts of Scripture which for the time produced quite an
effect on her auditors, and led Nabby, who listened behind the door,
to say to Mrs. Cushing that 'that air child was smarter than was good
for her; that she'd either die young or else come to suthin' one of
these days'--a proposition as to which there could not rationally be
any difference of opinion.

The parsonage had also the advantage of three garrets--splendid
ground for little people. There was first the garret over the
kitchen, the floors of which in the fall were covered with stores
of yellow pumpkins, fragrant heaps of quinces, and less fragrant
spread of onions. There were bins of shelled corn and of oats, and,
as in every other garret in the house, there were also barrels of
old sermons and old family papers. But most stimulating to the
imagination of all the features of this place was the smoke-house,
which was a wide, deep chasm made in the kitchen chimney, where the
Parson's hams and dried beef were cured. Its door, which opened into
this garret, glistened with condensed creosote, a rumbling sound was
heard there, and loud crackling reverberated within. Sometimes Dolly
would open the door and peer in fearfully as long as her eyes could
bear the smoke, and think with a shudder of a certain passage in John
Bunyan, which reads:

"Then I saw in my dream that the shepherds had them to another place,
in a bottom, where was a door in the side of a hill; and they opened
the door and bid them look in. They looked in, therefore, and saw
that within it was dark and smoky; they also thought that they heard
a rumbling noise as of fire and a cry of some tormented, and that
they smelt the scent of brimstone. Then said Christian, What means
this? The shepherds told them, This is a by-way to Hell, a way that
hypocrites go in at, namely, such as sell their birthright with Esau;
such as sell their Master with Judas; such as lie and dissemble with
Ananias and Sapphira his wife."

Dolly shivered when she thought of this, and was glad when Nabby
would come up behind and, with her strong hands, seize and whirl her
away, remarking,

"Dolly Cushing, _what_ won't you be into next, I want ter know?"
And then she would proceed to demonstrate the mundane and earthly
character of the receptacle by drawing from it a very terrestrial and
substantial ham.

Garret number two was over the central portion of the original
house. There were vast heaps of golden corn on the cob, spread
upon sheets. There were piles of bed-quilts and comforters, and
chests of blankets. There were rows and ranges of old bonnets and
old hats, that seemed to nod mysteriously from their nails. There
were old spinning-wheels, an old clock, old armchairs, and old
pictures, snuffy and grim, and more barrels of sermons. There also
were the boys' cabinets of mineralogical specimens; for the Academy
teacher was strong on geology, and took his boys on long tramps with
stone-hammers on their shoulders, and they used to discuss with great
unction to Dolly of tourmaline, and hornblende, and mica, and quartz,
and feldspar, delighted to exhibit before her their scientific
superiority.

This garret was a favorite resort of the children, and the laws
of the Parsonage requiring everything to be always in order were
conveniently mitigated and abridged in favor of this one spot, where
it was so convenient to let the whole noisy brood range when their
presence disturbed the order below.

There the boys whittled and made windmills and boats, and
rabbit-traps, and whistles with which they whistled grievously at
unexpected and startling moments, and this always led to their mother
telling them that she was "astonished" at them, or to her asking, How
many times she must say whistling was _not_ allowed in the house?

Perhaps among other subjects of speculative inquiry it may have
occurred to Mrs. Cushing to wonder why nature, having gifted boys in
their own proper lungs with such noise-producing power, should also
come to their assistance with so many noise-producing instruments.
There were all the squash-vines in the garden offering trumpets ready
made; there was the elder-bush, growing whistle-wood by the yard; and
then the gigantic whistles that could be manufactured from willow,
and poplar, and black alder were mysteries distressing to contemplate.

One corner of the garret was reserved safe from the rummaging of the
children, and there hung in order the dried herbs, which formed
the pharmacopoeia of those early days. There were catnip, and
boneset, and elder-blow, and hard-hack, and rosemary, and tansy, and
pennyroyal, all gathered at the right time of the moon, dried and
sorted and tied in bundles, hanging from their different nails--those
canonized floral saints, which when living filled the air with odors
of health and sweetness, and whose very mortal remains and dry bones
were supposed to have healing virtues. Some of Dolly's happiest hours
were those long sunny, joyous, Saturday afternoons in which many of
these stores were gathered, when she rushed through the lush, long
grass, along the borders of mossy old stone fences, and pulled down
starry constellations of elder blossoms, and gathered pink spires
of hard-hack, till her little arms could scarcely clasp around the
bundle. Then she would rush home panting and energetic, with torn
dress, her sunbonnet off on her shoulder, and curls all tangled
from the wrestles with blackberry bushes which had disputed the way
with her. This corner of the garret always filled Dolly's head with
visions and longings for the late, slow-coming spring, which seemed
far off as the dream of Heaven.

Then those barrels of sermons and old pamphlets! Dolly had turned
and turned them, upsetting them on the floor, and pawing helplessly
with her little pink hands and reading their titles with amazed
eyes. It seemed to her that there were some thousands of the
most unintelligible things. "An Appeal on the Unlawfulness of a
Man's Marrying his Wife's Sister" turned up in every barrel she
investigated, by twos or threes or dozens, till her soul despaired
of finding an end. Then there were Thanksgiving sermons; Fast-day
sermons; sermons that discoursed on the battle of Culloden; on the
character of Frederick the Great; a sermon on the death of George the
Second, beginning, "George! George! George is no more." This somewhat
dramatic opening caused Dolly to put that one discourse into her
private library. But oh, joy and triumph! one rainy day she found at
the bottom of an old barrel a volume of the "Arabian Nights," and
henceforth her fortune was made. Dolly had no idea of reading like
that of our modern days--to read and to dismiss a book. No; to read
was with her a passion, and a book once read was read daily; always
becoming dearer and dearer, as an old friend. The "Arabian Nights"
transported her to foreign lands, gave her a new life of her own;
and when things went astray with her, when the boys went to play
higher than she dared to climb in the barn, or started on fishing
excursions, where they considered her an incumbrance, then she found
a snug corner, where, curled up in a little, quiet lair, she could at
once sail forth on her bit of enchanted carpet into fairy land.

One of these resorts was furnished by the third garret of the house,
which had been finished off into an arched room and occupied by her
father as a study. High above all the noise of the house, with a
window commanding a view of Poganuc Lake and its girdle of steel-blue
pines, this room had to her the air of a refuge and sanctuary. Its
walls were set round from floor to ceiling with the friendly, quiet
faces of books, and there stood her father's great writing-chair,
on one arm of which lay open always his "Cruden's Concordance" and
his Bible. Here Dolly loved to retreat and niche herself down in a
quiet corner, with her favorite books around her. She had a kind of
sheltered, satisfied feeling as she thus sat and watched her father
writing, turning his books, and speaking from time to time to himself
in a loud, earnest whisper. She vaguely felt that he was about some
holy and mysterious work above her little comprehension, and she was
careful never to disturb him by question or remark.

The books ranged around filled her, too, with a solemn awe. There
on the lower shelves were great enormous folios, on whose backs she
spelled in black letters, "Lightfooti Opera," a title whereat she
marveled, considering the bulk of the volumes. And overhead, grouped
along in friendly and sociable rows, were books of all sorts and
sizes and bindings, the titles to which she had read so often that
she knew them by heart. "Bell's Sermons," "Bonnett's Inquiries,"
"Bogue's Essays," "Toplady on Predestination," "Boston's Fourfold
State," "Law's Serious Call," and other works of that kind she had
looked over wistfully, day after day, without getting even a hope
of something interesting out of them. The thought that her father
could read and could understand things like these filled her with a
vague awe, and she wondered if ever she should be old enough to know
what it was all about. But there was one of her father's books which
proved a mine of wealth to her. It was a happy hour when he brought
home and set up in his book-case Cotton Mather's "Magnalia," in a new
edition of two volumes. What wonderful stories these! and stories,
too, about her own country, stories that made her feel that the very
ground she trod on was consecrated by some special dealing of God's
providence.

When the good Doctor related how a plague that had wasted the Indian
tribes had prepared the room for the Pilgrim Fathers to settle
undisturbed, she felt nowise doubtful of his application of the
text, "He drave out the heathen and planted them."

But who shall describe the large-eyed, breathless wonder with which
she read stories of witchcraft, with its weird marvels of mysterious
voices heard in lonely places, of awful visitations that had
overtaken sinners, and immediate deliverances that had come in answer
to the prayers of God's saints? Then, too, the stories of Indian
wars and captivities, when the war-whoop had sounded at midnight,
and little children like her had awakened to find the house beset
with legions of devils, who set fire to the dwellings and carried
the people off through dreary snow and ice to Canada. No Jewish
maiden ever grew up with a more earnest faith that she belonged to a
consecrated race, a people especially called and chosen of God for
some great work on earth. Her faith in every word of the marvels
related in this book was full as great as the dear old credulous Dr.
Cotton Mather could have desired.

But the mysterious areas of the parsonage were not exhausted with
its three garrets. Under the whole house in all its divisions
spread a great cavernous cellar, where were murky rooms and dark
passages explored only by the light of candles. There were rows
of bins, in which were stored the apples of every name and race
harvested in autumn from the family orchard: Pearmains, Greenings,
Seek-no-furthers, Bristers, Pippins, Golden Sweets, and other
forgotten kinds, had each its separate bin, to which the children
at all times had free access. There, too, was a long row of cider
barrels, from whence, in the hour of their early sweetness, Dolly had
delighted to suck the cider through straws for that purpose carefully
selected and provided.

Not without a certain awe was her descent into this shadowy Avernus,
generally under the protecting wing of Nabby or one of the older
boys. Sometimes, with the perverse spirit which moves the male
nature to tyrannize over the weaker members, they would agonize her
by running beyond her into the darker chambers of the cellar, and
sending thence Indian war-whoops and yells which struck terror to her
soul, and even mingled their horrors with her dreams.

But there was one class of tenants whose influence and presence in
the house must not be omitted--and that was the rats.

They had taken formal possession of the parsonage, grown, bred, and
multiplied, and become ancient there, in spite of traps or cats or
anything that could be devised against them.

The family cat in Dolly's day, having taken a dispassionate survey of
the situation, had given up the matter in despair, and set herself
quietly to attending to her own family concerns, as a sensible cat
should. She selected the Doctor's pamphlet closet as her special
domestic retreat. Here she made her lair in a heap of old sermons,
whence, from time to time, she led forth coveys of well-educated,
theological kittens, who, like their mother, gazed on the rats with
respectful curiosity, and ran no imprudent risks. Consequently, the
rats had a glorious time in the old parsonage. Dolly, going up the
kitchen stairs into the back garret, as she did on her way bedward,
would see them sitting easy and _dégagés_ on the corners of boxes and
bins, with their tails hanging gracefully down, engaged in making
meals on the corn or oats. They ramped all night on the floor of the
highest garret over her sleeping room, apparently busy in hopping
with ears of corn across the garret and then rolling them down
between the beams to their nests below. Sometimes Dolly heard them
gnawing and sawing behind the very wainscot of her bed as if they had
set up a carpenter's shop there, and she shrunk apprehensively for
fear they were coming through into her bed. Then there were battles
and skirmishes and squealings and fightings, and at times it would
appear as if whole detachments of rats rolled in an avalanche down
the walls with the corn they had been stealing. And when the mighty
winter winds of Poganuc Mountain were out, and rumbled and thundered,
roaring and tumbling down this chimney, rattling all the windows and
creaking all the doors, while the beams of the house wrenched and
groaned like a ship at sea, and the house seemed to shake on its very
foundations,--then the uproar among the rats grew higher and jollier,
and, with all put together, it is not surprising that sometimes Dolly
put the bed-clothes over her head in fear, or ran and jumped into
Nabby's warm arms for protection.

We have dwelt thus long on the old parsonage because it was a silent
influence, every day fashioning the sensitive, imaginative little
soul that was growing up in its own sphere of loneliness there.

For Mrs. Cushing had, besides Dolly, other children who engaged her
thoughts and care. The eldest a son, studying for the ministry;
the second a daughter, married and settled in a distant part of
the state; another son working as teacher to pay his past college
expenses; another son in college, whose bills, clothing, books, and
necessary expenses formed constant items of thought, study, and
correspondence; so that, with the two boys in the academy and our
little Dolly, she had heart and hands full, and small time to watch
all the fancies and dreams that drifted through that little head as
clouds through summer skies. Satisfied that the child was healthy,
and that there was no positive danger or harm to be fallen into,
she dismissed her from her thoughts, except in the way of general
supervision.

Yet every day, as the little maiden grew, some quaint, original touch
was put to the forming character by these surroundings.

As to Dolly's father, he was a worthy representative of that wise and
strong Connecticut clergy that had the wisdom immediately to face a
change in the growth of society, to lay down gracefully a species of
power they could no longer wield, and to take up and exercise, and
strengthen themselves in, a kind of power that could never be taken
from them. Privileged orders of society are often obstructionists,
because they do not know, in the day of it, the things that belong to
their peace.

The Connecticut and New England clergy did not thus err. When the
theocracy had passed away, they spent no time lamenting it. They let
the cocked hat, gold-headed cane, gown and bands go down stream;
they let all laws protecting their order go by; and addressed
themselves simply to the work of leading their people, as men with
men, only by seeking to be stronger, wiser, and better men. To know
more, to have more faith in the Invisible and Eternal, to be able
to argue more logically to convince and to persuade--these were now
their ambition. Dr. Cushing was foremost in this new crusade of
earnestness. He determined to preach more and preach better than
ever he had done before, and consequently in his wide parish, which
covered a square of about ten miles, he was every day preaching,
visiting, attending prayer-meetings. Often his wife was with him,
and this gave Dolly many hours when she was free to follow her own
little pursuits, and to pick up at the chimney-corner some of the
traditionary lore of the period.



CHAPTER XVII.

SPRING AND SUMMER COME AT LAST.


But at last--at last--spring did come at Poganuc! This marvel and
mystery of the new creation _did_ finally take place there every
year, in spite of every appearance to the contrary. Long after the
blue-bird that had sung the first promise had gone back into his own
celestial ether, the promise that he sang was fulfilled.

Like those sweet, foreseeing spirits, that on high, bare tree-tops of
human thought pour forth songs of hope in advance of their age and
time, our blue-bird was gifted with the sure spirit of prophecy; and,
though the winds were angry and loud, though snows lay piled and deep
for long weeks after, though ice and frost and hail armed themselves
in embattled forces, yet the sun behind them all kept shining and
shining, every day longer and longer, every day drawing nearer and
nearer, till the snows passed away like a bad dream, and the brooks
woke up and began to laugh and gurgle, and the ice went out of the
ponds. Then the pussy-willows threw out their soft catkins, and the
ferns came up with their woolly hoods on, like prudent old house
mothers, looking to see if it was yet time to unroll their tender
greens, and the white blossoms of the shad-blow and the tremulous
tags of the birches and alders shook themselves gaily out in the
woods. Then under brown rustling leaf-banks came the white waxy
shells of the trailing arbutus with its pink buds, fair as a winter's
dawn on snow; then the blue and white hepaticas opened their eyes,
and cold, sweet white violets starred the moist edges of water
courses, and great blue violets opened large eyes in the shadows,
and the white and crimson trilliums unfurled under the flickering
lace-work shadows of the yet leafless woods; the red columbine
waved its bells from the rocks, and great tufts of golden cowslips
fringed the borders of the brooks. Then came in flocks the delicate
wind-flower family: anemones, starry white, and the crow foot, with
its pink outer shell, and the spotted adder's tongue, with its
waving yellow bells of blossom. Then, too, the honest, great green
leaves of the old skunk cabbage, most refreshing to the eye in its
hardy, succulent greenness, though an abomination to the nose of the
ill-informed who should be tempted to gather them. In a few weeks
the woods, late so frozen--hopelessly-buried in snow drifts--were
full of a thousand beauties and delicacies of life and motion, and
flowers bloomed on every hand. "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they
are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth."

And, not least, the opening season had set free the imprisoned
children; and Dolly and the boys, with Spring at their heels, had
followed the courses of the brooks and the rippling brown shallows
of Poganuc River for many a blissful hour, and the parsonage had
every where been decorated with tumblers and tea-cups holding floral
offerings of things beautiful at the time they were gathered, but
becoming rather a matter of trial to the eye of exact housekeeping.
Yet both Mrs. Cushing and Nabby had a soft heart for Dolly's
flowers, sharing themselves the general sense of joy for the yearly
deliverance of which they were the signs and seals. And so the work
of renewing the face of the earth went on from step to step. The
forest hills around Poganuc first grew misty with a gentle haze of
pink and lilac, which in time changed to green and then to greener
shades, till at last the full-clothed hills stood forth in the joy
of re-creation, and, as of old, "all the trees of the field clapped
their hands."

Poganuc in its summer dress was a beautiful place. Its main street
had a row of dignified white houses, with deep door-yards and large
side-gardens, where the great scarlet peony flamed forth, where were
generous tufts of white lilies, with tall spires of saintly blossoms,
and yellow lilies with their faint sweet perfume, and all the good
old orthodox flowers of stately family and valid pretensions. In
all the door-yards and along the grassy streets on either side were
overshadowing, long-branching trees, forming a roof of verdure, a
green upper world from whose recesses birds dropped down their songs
in languages unknown to us mortals. Who shall interpret what is meant
by the sweet jargon of robin and oriole and bobolink, with their
endless reiterations? Something wiser, perhaps, than we dream of in
our lower life here.

Not a bit, however, did Hiel Jones trouble his head on this subject
as he came in on his high stage seat in lordly style on the evening
of the third of July. Far other cares were in Hiel's head, for
to-morrow was the glorious Fourth--the only really secular fête known
to the Yankee mind--and a great celebration thereof had been resolved
on by the magnates of Poganuc, and Hiel was captain of the "Poganuc
Rangers"--a flourishing militia company which was to be the ornament
of the forthcoming celebration.

It had been agreed for that time to drop all political distinctions.
Federalists and Democrats, Town Hill folk and outside folk, were all
of one mind and spirit to make this a celebration worthy of Poganuc
Center and the great cause of American Independence. A veritable
cannon had been hauled up upon the village green and fired once or
twice to relieve the bursting impatience of the boys and men who had
helped put it there. The flag with its stars and stripes was already
waving from the top of the Court-house, and a platform was being put
up in the Meeting-house, and people were running this way and that,
and standing in house-doors, and talking with each other over fences,
in a way that showed that something was impending.

Hiel sprang from his box, and, after attending to his horses,
speedily appeared on the green to see to things--for how could the
celebration to-morrow be properly presented without Hiel's counsels?

"Look here, now, boys," he said to the group assembled around the
cannon, "don't be a burnin' out yer powder. Keep it for to-morrow.
Let her be now; ye don't want to keep bangin' and bangin' afore the
time. To-morrow mornin' we'll let 'er rip bright and early, and wake
all the folks. Clear out, now, and go home to yer suppers, and don't
be a blowin' yerselves up with powder so that ye can't see the show
to-morrow."

Hiel then proceeded into the Meeting-house and criticised proceedings
there.

"Look here, Jake, you jest stretch that air carpet a leetle forrard;
ye see, ye want the most out in front where't shows; back there, why,
the chairs and table 'll kiver it; it ain't so much matter. Wonder
now ef them air boards is firm? Wouldn't do, lettin' on 'em all down
into the pews in the midst on't. Look here, Seth Chickering, ye need
another prop under there; ye hain't calkerlated for the heft o' them
fellers--governors and colonels and ministers weighs putty heavy, and
there ain't no glory in a gineral smash-up, and we're a goin' in for
glory to-morrow; we're goin' to sarve it out clear, and no mistake."

Hiel was a general favorite; his word of criticism was duly accepted,
and things were pretty comfortably adjusted to his mind when he went
home to eat his supper and try on his regimentals.

The dry, hard, colorless life of a Yankee boy in those days found
some relief in the periods called "training-days," when the militia
assembled in uniform and marched and drilled to the sound of fife and
drum. Hiel had expended quite a round sum upon his uniform and was
not insensible to the transformation which it wrought in his personal
appearance.

The widow Jones kept his gold-laced cocked-hat, his bright gold
epaulets, his whole soldier suit in fact, enveloped in many papers
and napkins, and locked away in one of her most sacred recesses; but
it was with pride that she gave him up the key, and when he came out
before her, all in full array, her soul was inly uplifted. Her son
was a hero in her eyes.

"It's all right, Mother, I believe," said Hiel, surveying himself
first over one shoulder and then the other, and consulting the
looking-glass fringed with gilt knobs that hung in the widow's
"keeping-room."

"Yes, indeed, Hiel, it's all right. I've kep' camphor gum with it to
keep out the moths, and wrapped it up to save the gold, and I don't
see that it's a grain altered since it came home new. It's just as
new as ever 'twas."

Hiel may be pardoned for smiling somewhat complacently on the image
in the glass--which certainly was that of a very comely youth--and
when he reflected that Nabby would to-morrow see him at the head of
his company his heart swelled with a secret exultation. It is not
alone the privilege of the fair sex to know when things are becoming
to them, and Hiel knew when he looked well, as surely as if any one
had told him. He gave himself a patronizing wink and whistled a
strain of "Yankee Doodle" as he turned away from the glass, perhaps
justly confiding in the immemorial power which military trappings
have always exercised over the female heart.

It was with reluctance that he laid aside the fascinating costume,
and set himself to brightening up here and there a spot upon his
sword-hilt or blade that called for an extra touch.

"We must have breakfast early to-morrow, Mother; the boys will be
here by sunrise."

"Never you fear," said the widow. "I've got everything ready, and
we'll be all through by that time; but it's as well to get to bed
now."

And so in a few minutes more the candles were out and only the
sound of the frogs and the whippoorwills broke the stillness of the
cottage. Long before the nine o'clock bell rung Hiel and his mother
were happy in the land of dreams.

In the parsonage, too, there had been an effort of discipline
to produce the needed stillness and early hours called for by
to-morrow's exactions.

The boys, who had assisted at the dragging in of the cannon and
heard its first reverberation, were in a most inflammatory state
of patriotism, longing wildly for gunpowder. In those days no
fire-crackers or other vents of the kind had been provided for the
relief of boys under pressure of excitement, and so they were forced
to become explosive material themselves, and the walls of the
parsonage rang with the sound. Dolly also was flying wildly around,
asking Nabby questions about to-morrow and running away before she
got her answer, to listen to some new outburst from the boys.

Nabby, however, had her own very decisive ways of putting things,
and settled matters at last by putting her to bed, saying as she did
so, "Now, Dolly Cushing, you just shut up. You are crazier than a
bobolink, and if you don't be still and go to sleep I won't touch
to take you with me to see the trainers to-morrow. Your ma said you
might go with me if you'd be good; so you just shut up and go to
sleep;" and Dolly shut her eyes hard and tried to obey.

We shall not say that there were not some corresponding movements
before the glass on the part of Nabby before retiring. It certainly
came into her head to try on her bonnet, which had been thriftily
re-trimmed and re-arranged for summer use since the time of that
sleigh-ride with Hiel. Moreover, she chose out her gown and sorted
a knot of ribbons to go with it. "I suppose," she said to herself,
"all the girls will be making fools of themselves about Hiel Jones
to-morrow, but I ain't a going to." Nevertheless, she thought there
was no harm in looking as well as she could.



CHAPTER XVIII.

DOLLY'S "FOURTH."


Bang! went the cannon on the green, just as the first red streak
appeared over Poganuc hills, and open flew Dolly's great blue eyes.
Every boy in town was out of bed as if he had been fired out of a
pop-gun, and into his clothes and out on the green with a celerity
scarcely short of the miraculous. Dolly's little toilet took more
time; but she, too, was soon out upon the scene with her curls in a
wild, unbrushed tangle, her little breast swelling and beating with a
great enthusiasm for General Washington and liberty and her country,
all of which were somehow to be illustrated and honored that day in
Poganuc.

As the first rays of the rising sun struck the stars and stripes
floating over the Court-house, and the sound of distant drum and fife
announced the coming in of the Poganuc Rangers, Dolly was so excited
that she burst into tears.

"What in the world are you crying for, Dolly?" said Bill rather
impatiently. "I don't see any thing to cry about."

"I can't help it, Will," said Dolly, wiping her eyes, "it's so
glorious!"

"If that isn't just like a girl!" said Bill. Contempt could go no
farther, and Dolly retreated abashed. She was a girl--there was no
help for that; but for this one day she envied the boys--the happy
boys who might some day grow up and fight for their country, and do
something glorious like General Washington. Meanwhile, from mouth to
mouth, every one was giving in advance an idea of what the splendors
of the day were to be.

"I tell ye," said Abe Bowles, "this 'ere's goin' to be a reel
slam-bang, this 'ere is. Colonel Davenport is a goin' to review the
troops, and wear the very same uniform he wore at Long Island.

"Yes," said Liph Kingsley, "and old Cæsar's goin' to wear his uniform
and wait on the colonel. Tell ye what, the old snowball is on his
high heels this morning--got a suit of the colonel's old uniform.
Won't he strut and show his ivories!"

"Hulloa, boys, there's going to be a sham fight; Hiel told me so,"
said Bob Cushing. "Some are going to be British and some Americans,
and the Americans are going to whip the British and make 'em run."

"Tell ye what," said Jake Freeman, "there'll be a bangin' and
poppin'! won't there, boys!"

"Oh," said Dolly, who irrepressibly was following her brothers into
the throng, "they won't _really_ shoot anybody, will they?"

"Oh no, they'll only fire powder, of course," said Bill majestically,
"don't you know that?"

Dolly was rebuked and relieved at once.

"I say, boys," said Nabby, appearing suddenly among the throng, "your
ma says you must come right home to breakfast this minit; and you,
Dolly Cushing, what are you out here for, round among the fellers
like a tom-boy? Come right home."

"Why, Nabby, I wanted to see!" pleaded Dolly.

"Oh yes, you're allers up to everything and into everything, and your
hair not brushed nor nothin'. You'll see it all in good time--come
right away. Don't be a-lookin' at them trainers, now," she added,
giving herself, however, a good observing glance to where across the
green a knot of the Poganuc Rangers were collecting, and where Hiel,
in full glory of his uniform, with his gold epaulets and cocked hat,
was as busy and impressive as became the situation.

"Oh, Nabby, do look; there's Hiel," cried Dolly.

"Yes, yes; I see plain enough there's Hiel," said Nabby; "he thinks
he's mighty grand, I suppose. He'll be conceiteder'n ever, I expect."

Just at that moment Hiel, recognizing Nabby, took off his gold-laced
hat and bowed with a graceful flourish.

Nabby returned a patronizing little nod, and either the morning dawn,
or the recent heat of the kitchen fire, or _something_, flushed her
cheeks. It was to be remarked in evidence of the presence of mind
that distinguishes the female sex that, though she had been sent out
on a hurried errand to call the children, yet she had on her best
bonnet, and every curl of her hair had evidently been carefully and
properly attended to that morning.

"Of course, I wasn't going to look like a fright," she soliloquized.
"Not that I care for any of 'em; but looks is looks any time o' day."

At the minister's breakfast-table the approaching solemnities
were discussed. The procession was to form at the Court-house at
nine o'clock. Democrats and Federalists had united to distribute
impartially as possible the honors of the day. As Col. Davenport,
the only real live revolutionary officer the county boasted, was an
essential element of the show, and as he was a staunch Federalist,
it was necessary to be conciliatory. Then there was the Federal
ex-Governor to sit on the platform with the newly elected Democratic
Governor. The services were in the Meeting-house, as the largest
building in town; and Dr. Cushing was appointed to make the opening
prayer. As a compliment to the Episcopal Church the Federal members
of the committee allotted a closing prayer to the Reverend Simeon
Coan.

That young man, however, faithful to the logic of his creed, politely
declined joining in public services where his assisting might be held
to recognize the ordination of an unauthorized sectarian preacher,
and so the Rev. Dr. Goodman, of Skantic, was appointed in his place.

Squire Lewis was observed slightly to elevate his eye-brows and shrug
his shoulders as he communicated to the committee the grounds of his
rector's refusal. He was in fact annoyed, and a little embarrassed,
by the dry, amused expression of Sheriff Dennie's countenance.

"Oh, speak it all out; never fear, Lewis," he said. "I like to see
a man face the music. Your minister is a logical fellow, and keeps
straight up to what he teaches. You old Episcopalians were getting
loose in your ideas; you needed cording up."

"There's such a thing as cording too tight and breaking a string
sometimes," muttered the Squire, who was not well pleased at the
scruple that kept his church unrepresented in the exercises.

The domestic arrangements for the parson's family were announced at
the breakfast table. The boys were endowed with the magnificent sum
of six cents each and turned loose for the day, with the parting
admonition to keep clear of powder--a most hopeless and unnecessary
charge, since powder was the very heart and essence of all the glory
of the day.

At an early hour the bell of the Meeting-house rang out over all the
neighboring hills and valleys; the summons was replied to by streams
of wagons on the roads leading to Poganuc for a square of ten miles
round. Not merely Poganuc--North, South, East, West, and Center--was
in motion, but several adjacent towns and villages sent forth their
trainers--bands of militia, who rose about midnight and marched till
morning to be on time.

By nine o'clock nominally (but far nearer to ten really) the
procession started from the Court-house with drum and fife and
banners. Dolly had been committed for the day to the charge of Nabby,
who should see that she took no harm, and engineer for her the best
chances of seeing all that went on; while Mrs. Cushing, relieved of
this care, took her seat quietly among the matronage of Poganuc and
waited for the entrance of the procession. But Dolly saw them start
from the Court-house, with beat of drum and peal of fife; and Dolly
saw the banners, and saw Colonel Davenport with his white hair and
splendid physique, now more splendid in the blue and gold of his
military dress; and they all marched with majestic tread towards the
meeting-house. Then Nabby hurried with her charge and got for her
a seat by herself in the front singers' seat in the gallery, where
she could see them all file in and take their seats on the platform.
Nabby had been one of the flowers of this singers' seat before her
father's change of base had transferred her to the Episcopal Church,
and her presence to-day was welcomed by many old friends--for Nabby
had a good, strong clear voice of her own, and was no small addition
to the choral force.

The services opened by the national Puritan psalm:

    "Let children hear the mighty deeds
    Which God performed of old,
    Which in our younger years we saw
    And which our fathers told.

    "Our lips shall teach them to our sons,
    And they again to theirs,
    That generations yet unborn
    May teach them to their heirs.

    "That they may learn, in God alone
    Their hope securely stands;
    That they may ne'er his laws forget,
    But practice his commands."

The wild warble of "St. Martin's," the appointed tune whose wings
bore these words, swelled and billowed and reverberated through the
house, carrying with it that indefinable thrill which always fills a
house when deep emotions are touched--deepest among people habitually
reserved and reticent of outward demonstration. It was this solemn
undertone, this mysterious, throbbing sub-bass of repressed emotion,
which gave the power and effect to the Puritan music. After the
singing came Dr. Cushing's prayer--which was a recounting of God's
mercies to New England from the beginning, and of his deliverances
from her enemies, and of petitions for the glorious future of
the United States of America--that they might be chosen vessels,
commissioned to bear the light of liberty and religion through all
the earth and to bring in the great millennial day, when wars should
cease and the whole world, released from the thraldom of evil, should
rejoice in the light of the Lord.

The millennium was ever the star of hope in the eyes of the New
England clergy: their faces were set eastward, towards the dawn of
that day, and the cheerfulness of those anticipations illuminated
the hard tenets of their theology with a rosy glow. They were
children of the morning. The Doctor, however, did not fail to make
use of his privilege to give some very decided political hits, and
some petitions arose which caused sensation between the different
parties. The New England clergyman on these occasions had his
political antagonists at decided advantage. If he could not speak
at them he could pray at them, and of course there was no reply to
an impeachment in the court of heaven. So when the Doctor's prayer
was over, glances were interchanged, showing the satisfaction or
dissatisfaction, as might be, of the listeners.

And now rose Colonel Davenport to read the Declaration of
Independence. Standing square and erect, his head thrown back, he
read in a resonant and emphatic voice that great enunciation upon
which American national existence was founded.

Dolly had never heard it before, and even now had but a vague idea
of what was meant by some parts of it; but she gathered enough
from the recital of the abuses and injuries which had driven her
nation to this course to feel herself swelling with indignation,
and ready with all her little mind and strength to applaud that
concluding Declaration of Independence which the Colonel rendered
with resounding majesty. She was as ready as any of them to pledge
her "life, fortune and sacred honor" for such a cause. The
heroic element was strong in Dolly; it had come down by "ordinary
generation" from a line of Puritan ancestry, and just now it swelled
her little frame and brightened her cheeks and made her long to do
something, she scarce knew what; to fight for her country or to make
some declaration on her own account.

But now came the oration of the day, pronounced by a lively young
Virginia law student in the office of Judge Gridley. It was as ornate
and flowery, as full of patriotism and promise, as has been the
always approved style of such productions. The bird of our nation
received the usual appropriate flourishes, flew upward and sun-ward,
waved his pinions, gazed with undaunted eye on the brightness, and
did all other things appointed for the American Eagle to do on the
Fourth of July. It was a nicely-written classical composition, and
eminently satisfactory to the audience; and Dolly, without any very
direct conception of its exact meaning, was delighted with it, and so
were all the Poganuc People.

Then came the singing of an elaborate anthem, on which the choir had
been practicing for a month beforehand and in which the various parts
ran, and skipped, and hopped, and chased each other round and round,
and performed all sorts of unheard-of trills and quavers and musical
evolutions, with a heartiness of self-satisfaction that was charming
to witness.

Then, when all was over, the procession marched out--the magnates on
the stage to a dinner, and the Poganuc military to refresh themselves
at Glazier's, preparatory to the grand review in the afternoon.

Dolly spent her six cents for ginger-bread, and walked unwearyingly
the rounds of sight-seeing with Nabby, her soul inly uplifted with
the grandeur of the occasion.

In the afternoon came the military display; and Colonel Davenport
on his white horse reviewed the troops; and just behind him, also
mounted, was old Cato, with his gold-laced hat and plume, his buff
breeches and long-tailed blue coat. On the whole, this solemn
black attendant formed a striking and picturesque addition to the
scene. And so there were marching and counter-marching and military
evolutions of all kinds, and Hiel, with his Poganuc Rangers, figured
conspicuously in the eyes of all.

It was a dangerous sight for Nabby. She really could not help feeling
a secret awe for Hiel, as if he had been wafted away from her into
some higher sphere; he looked so very determined and martial that
she began to admit that he might carry any fortress that he set
himself seriously to attack. After the regular review came the sham
fight, which was in fact but an organized military frolic. Some of
the West Poganuc youth had dressed themselves as Indians, and other
companies, drawn by lot, were to personate the British, and there was
skirmishing and fighting and running, to the wild and crazy delight
of the boys. A fort, which had been previously constructed of bushes
and trees, was furiously attacked by British and Indians, and set on
fire; and then the Americans bursting out scattered both the fire and
the forces, and performed prodigies of valor.

In short, it was a Day of days to Dolly and the children, and when
sober twilight drew on they came home intoxicated with patriotism and
sight-seeing.

On her way home Dolly was spied out by her old friend Judge Gridley,
who always delighted to have a gossip with her.

"Ha, my little Dolly, are you out to-day?"

"To be sure, sir," said Dolly; "indeed I'm out. Oh, hasn't it been
glorious! I've never been so happy in my life. I never heard the
Declaration of Independence before."

"Well, and what do you think of it?" asked the Judge.

"I never heard anything like it," said Dolly. "I didn't know before
how they did abuse us, and wasn't it grand that we wouldn't bear it!
I never heard anything so splendid as that last part."

"You would have made a good soldier."

"If I were a man I would. Only think of it, Colonel Davenport fought
in the war! I'm so glad we can see one man that did. If we had lived
then, I know my papa and all my brothers would have fought; we would
have had 'liberty or death.'"

Dolly pronounced these words, which she had heard in the oration,
with a quivering eagerness. The old Judge gave her cheek a friendly
pinch.

"You'll do," he said; "but now you must let Nabby here get you home
and quiet you down, or you won't sleep all night. Good by, Pussy."

And so went off Dolly's Fourth of July.

But Hiel made an evening call at the parsonage in his full
regimentals; and stayed to a late hour unreproved. There were
occasions when even the nine o'clock bell did not send a young fellow
home. This appeared to be one of them.



CHAPTER XIX.

SUMMER DAYS IN POGANUC.


So passed Dolly's Fourth of July; a confused dream of glory and
patriotism, of wonderful sights and surprises--but, like a dream, it
all melted away.

New England life was too practical and laborious to give more than
one day to holiday performances, and with the night of the Fourth
the whole pageant vanished. Hiel's uniform, with its gold lace and
feathers, returned to the obscurity of Mother Jones's pillow-cases
and camphor-gum, and was locked away in secret places; and Hiel was
only a simple stage-driver, going forth on his route as aforetime.
So with the trappings of the Poganuc Rangers--who the day before had
glittered like so many knights-errant in the front of battle--all
were laid by in silent waiting, and the Poganuc Rangers rose at four
o'clock and put on their working clothes and cow-hide shoes, and
were abroad with their oxen. The shoe-maker and the carpenter, who
yesterday were transfigured in blue and gold, to-day were hammering
shoe-soles and planing boards as if no such thing had happened. In
the shadows of the night the cannon had vanished from the village
green and gone where it came from; the flag on the Court-house was
furled, and the world of Poganuc Center was again the same busy,
literal, work-a-day world as ever. Only Liph Kingsbury, who had
burned his hand with gunpowder in consequence of carrying too much
New England rum in his head, and one or two boys, who had met with a
sprain or bruise in the excitement of the day, retained any lasting
memorials of the celebration.

It is difficult in this our era of railroads and steam to give any
idea of the depths of absolute stillness and repose that brooded
in the summer skies over the wooded hills of Poganuc. No daily
paper told the news of distant cities. Summer traveling was done in
stages, and was long and wearisome, and therefore there was little
of that. Everybody staid at home, and expected to stay there the
year through. A journey from Poganuc to Boston or New York was more
of an undertaking in those days than a journey to Europe is in
ours. Now and then some of the great square houses on the street
of Poganuc Center received a summer visitor, and then everybody in
town knew it and knew all about it. The visitor's family, rank,
position in life, probable amount of property, and genealogy to
remote ancestors, were freely discussed and settled, till all Poganuc
was fully informed. The elect circle of Poganuc called on them, and
made stately tea-parties in their honor, and these entertainments
pleasantly rippled the placid surface of society. But life went on
there with a sort of dreamy stillness. The different summer flowers
came out in their successive ranks in the neatly-kept garden; roses
followed peonies, and white lilies came and went, and crimson and
white phloxes stood ranged in midsummer ranks, and the yellow tribes
of marigolds brought up the autumnal season. And over on the woody
hills around the town the spring tints deepened and grew dark in
summer richness, and then began breaking here and there into streaks
and flecks of gold and crimson, foretelling autumn. And there were
wonderful golden sunsets, and moonlight nights when the street of
Poganuc seemed overshot with a silver network of tracery like the
arches of some cathedral. The doors and windows of the houses stood
innocently open all night for the moon to shine in, and youths and
maidens walked and wandered and sentimentalized up and down the long,
dewy street, and nobody seemed to know how fast the short, beautiful
summer of those regions was passing away.

As to Dolly, summer was her time of life and joy; but it was not by
any means a joy unmixed.

Dolly's education was conducted on the good old-fashioned principle
that everyone must do his little part in the battle of life, and
that nobody was pretty enough or good enough to be kept merely for
ornamental purposes.

She was no curled darling, to be kept on exhibition in white dresses
and broad sashes, and she had been sedulously instructed in the
orthodoxy of Dr. Watts, that

    "Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do."

It was the duty of the good house-mother of those days to be so
much in advance of this unpleasant personage that there should be
no room for his temptations. Accordingly, any part of the numerous
household tasks of the Parsonage that could be trusted to a little
pair of hands were turned over to Dolly. In those days were none
of the thousand conveniences which now abridge the labors of the
housekeeper. Everything came in the rough, and had to be reduced to a
usable form in the household.

The delicate, smooth white salt which filled the cellars at the table
was prepared by Dolly's manipulation from coarse rock-salt crystals,
which she was taught to wash and dry, and pound and sift, till it
became of snowy fineness; and quite a long process it was. Then there
were spices to be ground, and there was coffee to be browned to the
exact and beautiful shade dear to household ideality; and Dolly could
do that.

Being a bright, enterprising little body, she did not so much object
to these processes, which rather interested her, but her very soul
was wearied within her at the drill of the long and varied sewing
lessons that were deemed indispensable to her complete education.
Pounding salt, or grinding spice, or beating eggs, or roasting
coffee, were endurable; but darning stockings and stitching
wristbands, and "scratching" gathers, were a weariness unto her
spirit. And yet it was only at the price of penances like these, well
and truly performed, that Dolly's golden _own_ hours of leisure were
given.

Most of her household tasks could be performed in the early morning
hours before school, and after school Dolly measured the height of
the afternoon sun with an avaricious eye. Would there be time enough
to explore the woody hills beyond Poganuc River before sundown? and
would they let her go?

For oh, those woods! What a world of fairyland, what a world of pure,
untold joy was there to Dolly! When she found her face fairly set
towards them, with leave to stay till sundown, and with Spring at her
heels, Dolly was as blissful, as perfectly happy, as a child can ever
be made by any one thing.

The sense of perfect freedom, the wonder, the curiosity, the vague
expectation of what she might find or see, made her heart beat
with pleasure. First came the race down through the tall, swaying
meadow-grass and white-hatted daisies to the Poganuc River--a brown,
clear, gurgling stream, wide, shallow, and garrulous, that might be
easily crossed on mossy stepping-stones. Here was a world of delight
to Dolly. Skipping from stone to stone, or reclining athwart some
great rock around which the brown waters rippled, she watched the
little fishes come and go, darting hither and thither like flecks of
silver. Down under the shade of dark hemlocks the river had worn a
deep pool where the translucent water lay dark and still; and Dolly,
climbing carefully and quietly to the rocky side, could lean over and
watch the slim, straight pickerel, holding themselves so still in the
water that the play of their gossamer fins made no ripple,--so still,
so apparently unwatchful and drowsy, that Dolly again and again
fancied she might slily reach down her little hand and take one out
of the water; but the moment the rosy finger-tips touched the wave,
with a flash, like a ray of light, the coveted prize was gone. There
was no catching a pickerel asleep, however quiet he might appear.
Yet, time after time, Dolly tried the experiment, burning with the
desire to win glory among the boys by bringing home an actual and
veritable pickerel of her own catching.

But there were other beauties, dryad treasures, more accessible. The
woods along the moist margin of the river were full of the pink and
white azalea, and she gathered besides the fragrant blossoms stores
of what were called "honeysuckle apples" that grew upon them--fleshy
exudations not particularly nice in flavor, but crisp, cool, and
much valued among children. There, too, were crimson wintergreen
berries, spicy in their sweetness, and the young, tender leaves of
the wintergreen, ranking high as an eatable dainty among little folk.
Dolly's basket was sure to fill rapidly when she set herself to
gathering these treasures, and the sun would be almost down before
she could leave the enchanted shades of the wood and come back to
real life again.

But Saturday afternoon was a sort of child's Paradise. No school was
kept, and even household disciplinarians recognized a reasonably
well-behaved child's right to a Saturday afternoon play-spell.

"Now, Dolly," had Nabby said to her the week before, "you be sure and
be a good girl, and do up all your stitching and get the stockings
mended afore Saturday comes, and then we'll take Saturday afternoon
to go a-huckleberrying up to Pequannock Rock; and we'll stop and see
Mis' Persis."

This, let it be known, was a programme to awaken Dolly's ambition.
Pequannock Rock was a distance which she never would be permitted
to explore alone, and Mis' Persis was to her imagination a most
interesting and stimulating personage. She was a widow, and the
story ran that her deceased husband had been an Indian--a story
which caused Dolly to regard her with a sort of awe, connecting her
with Cotton Mather's stories of war-whoops and scalping-knives, and
midnight horrors when houses were burned and children carried off to
Canada.

Nevertheless, Mis' Persis was an inoffensive and quite useful member
of society. She had her little house and garden, which she cultivated
with energy and skill. She kept her cow, her pig, her chickens, and
contrived always to have something to sell when she needed an extra
bit of coin. She was versed in all the Indian lore of roots and
herbs, and her preparations of these for medicinal purposes were
much in request. Among the farming population around, Mis' Persis
was held in respect as a medical authority, and her opinions were
quoted with confidence. She was also of considerable repute among
the best families of Poganuc as a filler of gaps such as may often
occur in household economy. There was nothing wanted to be done
that Mis' Persis could not do. She could wash, or iron, or bake,
or brew, or nurse the sick, as the case might require. She was, in
fact, one of the reserved forces of Poganuc society. She was a member
of Dr. Cushing's church, in good and regular standing, and, in her
way, quite devoted to her minister and church, and always specially
affable and gracious to Dolly.

This particular Saturday afternoon all the constellations were
favorable. Dolly was pronounced a good girl, her week's tasks well
performed; and never were dinner-dishes more rapidly whirled into
place than were Nabby's on that same afternoon; so that before three
o'clock the pair were well on their way to the huckleberry-field.
There, under the burning August sun, the ground shot up those ardent
flower-flames well called fire-lilies, and the wild roses showered
their deep pink petals as they pushed through the thickets, and the
huckleberry-bushes bent low under the weight of the great sweet
berries; and Dolly's cheeks were all a-flame, like the fire-lilies
themselves, with heat and enthusiasm as she gathered the purple
harvest into her basket. When the baskets were filled and Dolly had
gathered fire-lilies and wild roses more than she knew how to carry,
it was proposed to stop a little and rest, on the homeward route, at
Mis' Persis's cottage.

They found her sitting on her door-step, knitting. A little wiry,
swart, thin woman was she, alert in her movements, and quick and
decided of speech. Her black eyes had in them a latent fiery gleam
that suggested all the while that though pleased and pleasant at the
present moment Mis' Persis might be dangerous if roused, and Dolly
was always especially conciliatory and polite in her addresses to her.

On the present occasion Mis' Persis was delightfully hospitable. She
installed Dolly in a small splint-bottomed rocking-chair at the door,
and treated her to a cup of milk and a crisp cooky.

"Why, what a little girl you are to be so far from home!" she said.

"Oh, I don't mind," said Dolly; "I am never tired. I could pick
berries all day."

"But, sakes alive! ain't you afraid of snakes?" said Mis' Persis.
"Why, my sister got dreadfully bit by a rattlesnake when she wa'n't
much older 'n you," and Mis' Persis shook her head weirdly.

"Oh, dear me! Did it kill her?" said Dolly, in horror.

"No; she lived many a year after," said Mis' Persis, with a reticent
air, as one who could say more if properly approached.

"Do, do tell us all about it; do, Mis' Persis. I never saw a
rattlesnake. I never heard one. I shouldn't know what it was if I saw
one."

"You wouldn't ever forget it if you did," said Mis' Persis,
oracularly.

"Oh, please, Mis' Persis, do tell about it," said Dolly, eagerly.
"Where were you, and how did it happen?"

"Well," said Mis' Persis, "it was when I was a girl and lived over in
Danbury. There's where I come from. My sister Polly and me, we went
out to High Ledge one afternoon after huckleberries, and as we was
makin' our way through some low bushes we heard the sharpest noise,
jest like a locust screechin', right under foot, and jest then Polly
she screams out, 'Oh, Sally,' says she, 'somethin's bit me!' and I
looked down and saw a great rattlesnake crawlin' off through the
bushes--a great big fellow, as big as my wrist.

"'Well,' says I, 'Polly, I must get you home quick as I can;' and
we set down our pails and started for home. It was a broilin' hot
day, and we hed a'most a mile to walk, and afore we got home I hed
to carry her. Her tongue was swelled so that it hung out of her
mouth; her neck and throat was all swelled, and spotted like the
snake. Oh, it was dreadful! We got her into the house, and on the
bed, and sent for the Indian doctor--there ain't nobody knows about
them snake-bites but Indians. Well, he come and brought a bag of
rattlesnake-weed with him, and he made poultices of it and laid all
over her stomach and breast and hands and feet, and he made a tea of
it and got some down her throat, and kep' a feedin' on it to her till
she got so she could swallow. That's the way she got well."

"Oh, Mis' Persis," said Dolly, after a pause of awe and horror, "what
is rattlesnake-weed?"

"Why, it's a worse poison than the snake-bite, and it kills the
snake-poison 'cause it's stronger. Wherever the snakes grow, there
the rattlesnake-weed grows. The snakes know it themselves, and when
they fight and bite each other they go and eat the weed and it cures
'em. Here's some of it," she said, going to the wall of the room
which was all hung round with dried bunches of various herbs--"here's
some I got over on Poganuc Mountain, if you ever should want any."

"Oh, I hope I never shall," said Dolly. "Nabby, only think! What if
there had been a snake in those bushes!"

"Well, you can always know," said Mis' Persis, "if you hear somethin'
in the bushes jest like a locust, sharp and sudden--why, you'd better
look afore you set your foot down. But we don't hev no rattlesnakes
round this way. I've beat all these lots through and never seen
tail of one. This 'ere ain't one o' their places; over to Poganuc
Mountain, now, a body has to take care how they step."

"Do you suppose, Mis' Persis," said Dolly, after a few moments of
grave thought, "do you suppose God made that weed grow on purpose to
cure rattlesnake bites?"

"Of course he did," said Mis' Persis, as decidedly as if she had been
a trained theologian, "that's what rattlesnake-weed was made fer; any
fool can see that."

"It seems to me," said Dolly, "that it would have been better not to
have the snakes, and then people wouldn't be bit at all--wouldn't it?"

"Oh, we don't know everything," said Mis' Persis; "come to that,
there's a good many things that nobody knows what they's made fer.
But the Indians used to say there was some cure grew for every
sickness if only our eyes was opened to see it, and I expect it's so."

"Come, Dolly," said Nabby, "the sun is gettin' pretty low; I must
hurry home to get supper."

Just then the bell of the distant meeting-house gave three tolling
strokes, whereat all the three stopped talking and listened intently.

Of all the old Puritan customs none was more thrillingly impressive
than this solemn announcement of a death, and this deliberate tolling
out of the years of a finished life.

It was a sound to which every one, whether alone or in company,
at work or in play, stopped to listen, and listened with a nervous
thrill of sympathy.

"I wonder who that is?" said Nabby.

"Perhaps it's Lyddy Bascom," said Mis' Persis, "she's been down with
typhus fever."

The bell now was rapidly tolling one, two, three, four, and all the
company counted eagerly up to sixteen, seventeen, when Mis' Persis
interposed.

"No, 'taint Lyddy; it's goin' on," and they counted and counted, and
still the bell kept tolling till it had numbered eighty. "It's old
Granny Moss," said Mis' Persis decisively; "she's ben lyin' low some
time. Well, she's in heaven now; the better for her."

"Ah, I'm glad she's in heaven," said Dolly, with a shivering sigh;
"she's all safe now."

"Oh, yes, she's better off," said Nabby, getting up and shaking her
dress as if to shake off the very thought of death. A warm, strong,
glowing creature she was, as full of earth-life as the fire-lilies
they had been gathering. She seemed a creature made for this world
and its present uses, and felt an animal repulsion to the very
thought of death.

"Come, Dolly," she said, briskly, as she counted the last toll, "we
can't wait another minute."

"Well, Dolly," said Mis' Persis, "tell your mother I'm a comin' this
year to make up her candles for her, and the work sha'n't cost her a
cent. I've been tryin' out a lot o' bayberry wax to put in 'em and
make 'em good and firm."

"I'm sure you are very good," said Dolly, with instinctive politeness.

"I want to do my part towards supportin' my minister," said Mis'
Persis, "and that's what I hev to give."

"I'll tell my mother, and I know she'll thank you," answered Dolly,
as they turned homeward.

The sun was falling lower and lower toward the west. The long shadows
of the two danced before them on the dusty road.

After walking half a mile they came to a stone culvert, where a
little brawling stream crossed the road. The edges of the brook were
fringed with sweet-flag blades waving in the afternoon light, and the
water gurgled and tinkled pleasantly among the stones.

"There, Dolly," said Nabby, seating herself on a flat stone by the
brook, "I'm goin' to rest a minute, and you can find some of them
sweet-flag 'graters' if you want." This was the blossom-bud of the
sweet flag, which when young and tender was reckoned a delicacy among
omnivorous children.

"Why, Nabby, I thought you were in such a hurry to get home," said
Dolly, gathering the blades of sweet-flag and looking for the
"graters."

"No need of hurry," said Nabby, "the sun's an hour and a half high,"
and she leaned over the curb of the bridge and looked at herself in
the brook. She took off her sun-bonnet and fanned herself with it.
Then she put a bright spotted fire-lily in her hair and watched the
effect in the water. It certainly was a brilliant picture, framed by
the brown stones and green rushes of the brook.

"Oh, Nabby," cried Dolly, "look! There's the stage and Hiel coming
down the hill!"

"Sure e-nough!" said Nabby, in a tone of proper surprise, as if she
had expected anything else to happen on that road at that time of the
afternoon. "As true as I live and breathe it is Hiel and the stage,"
she added, "and not a creature in it. Now, we'll get a ride home."

Nabby's sun-bonnet hung on her arm; her hair fell in a tangle of
curls around her flushed cheeks as she stood waiting for Hiel to come
up. Altogether she was a picture.

That young man took in the points of the view at once and vowed in
his heart that Nabby was the handsomest girl upon his beat.

"Waitin' for me to come along?" he said as he drew up.

"Well, you're sort o' handy now and then," said Nabby. "We've been
huckleberrying all the afternoon, and are tired."

Hiel got down and opened the stage door and helped the two to get in
with their berries and flowers.

"You owe me _one_ for this," said Hiel when he handed in Nabby's
things.

"Well, there's one," said Nabby, laughing and striking him across the
eyes with her bunch of lilies.

"Never mind, miss. I shall keep the account," said Hiel; and he
gathered up the reins, resumed his high seat, made his grand entrance
into Poganuc, and drew up at the parson's door.

For a week thereafter it was anxiously discussed in various circles
how Nabby and Dolly came to be in that stage. Where had they been?
How did it happen? The obscurity of the event kept Hiel on the brain
of several damsels who had nothing better to talk about.

And the day closed with a royal supper of huckleberries and milk. So
went a specimen number of Dolly's Saturday afternoons.



CHAPTER XX

GOING "A-CHESTNUTTING."


The bright days of summer were a short-lived joy at Poganuc. One
hardly had time to say "How beautiful!" before it was past. By
September came the frosty nights that turned the hills into rainbow
colors and ushered in autumn with her gorgeous robes of golden-rod
and purple asters. There was still the best of sport for the
children, however; for the frost ripened the shag-bark walnuts and
opened the chestnut burrs, and the glossy brown chestnuts dropped
down among the rustling yellow leaves and the beds of fringed blue
gentians.

One peculiarity of the Puritan New England _régime_ is worthy of
special notice, and that is the generosity and liberality of its
dealing in respect to the spontaneous growths of the soil. The
chestnuts, the hickory-nuts, the butternuts--no matter upon whose
land they grew--were free to whoever would gather them. The girls and
boys roamed at pleasure through the woods and picked, unmolested,
wherever they could find the most abundant harvest. In like
manner the wild fruits--grapes, strawberries, huckleberries, and
cranberries--were for many years free to the earliest comer. This
is the more to be remarked in a community where life was peculiarly
characterized by minute economy, where everything had its carefully
ascertained money-value. Every board, nail, brad, every drop of
paint, every shingle, in house or barn, was counted and estimated.
In making bargains and conducting domestic economies, there was
the minutest consideration of the money-value of time, labor and
provision. And yet their rigidly parsimonious habit of life presented
this one remarkable exception, of certain quite valuable spontaneous
growths left unguarded and unappropriated.

Our Fathers came to New England from a country where the poor man
was everywhere shut out from the bounties of nature by game-laws and
severe restrictions. Though his children might be dying of hunger he
could not catch a fish, or shoot a bird, or snare the wild game of
the forest, without liability to arrest as a criminal; he could not
gather the wild fruits of the earth without danger of being held a
trespasser, and risking fine and imprisonment. When the Fathers took
possession of the New England forest it was in the merciful spirit of
the Mosaic law, which commanded that something should always be left
to be gathered by the poor. From the beginning of the New England
life till now there have been poor people, widows and fatherless
children, who have eked out their scanty living by the sale of the
fruits and nuts which the custom of the country allowed them freely
to gather on other people's land.

Within the past fifty years, while this country has been filling up
with foreigners of a different day and training, these old customs
have been passing away. Various fruits and nuts, once held free,
are now appropriated by the holders of the soil and made subject to
restriction and cultivation.

In the day we speak of, however, all the forest hills around Poganuc
were a free nut-orchard, and one of the chief festive occasions of
the year, in the family at the Parsonage, was the autumn gathering of
nuts, when Dr. Cushing took the matter in hand and gave his mind to
it.

On the present occasion, having just finished four sermons which
completely cleared up and reconciled all the difficulties between
the doctrines of free agency and the divine decrees, the Doctor was
naturally in good spirits. He declared to his wife, "There! my dear,
_that_ subject is disposed of. I never before succeeded in really
clearing it up; but now the matter is done for all time." Having thus
wound up the sun and moon, and arranged the courses of the stars in
celestial regions, the Doctor was as alert and light-hearted as any
boy, in his preparations for the day's enterprise.

"Boys," he said, "we'll drive over to Poganuc Ledge; up there are
those big chestnuts that grow right out of the rock; there's no
likelihood of anybody's getting them--but I noticed the other day
they were hanging full."

"Oh, father, those trees are awful to climb."

"Of course they are. I won't let you boys try to climb them--mind
that; but I'll go up myself and shake them, and you pick up
underneath."

No Highland follower ever gloried more in the physical prowess of
his chief than the boys in that of their father. Was there a tree
he could not climb--a chestnut, or walnut, or butternut, however
exalted in fastnesses of the rock, that he could not shake down? They
were certain there was not. The boys rushed hither and thither, with
Spring barking at their heels, leaving open doors and shouting orders
to each other concerning the various pails and baskets necessary to
contain their future harvest. Mrs. Cushing became alarmed for the
stability of her household arrangements.

"Now, father, _please_ don't take all my baskets this time," pleaded
she, "just let me arrange----"

"Well, my dear, have it all your own way; only be sure to provide
things enough."

"Well, surely, they can all pick in pails or cups, and then they can
be emptied into a bag," said Mrs. Cushing. "You won't get more than a
bushel, certainly."

"Oh yes, we shall--three or four bushels," said Will, triumphantly.

"There's no end of what we shall get when father goes," said Bob.
"Why, you've no idea how he rattles 'em down."

Meanwhile Mrs. Cushing and Nabby were packing a hamper with
bread-and-butter, and tea-rusks, and unlimited ginger-bread, and
doughnuts crisp and brown, and savory ham, and a bottle of cream,
and coffee all ready for boiling in the pot, and tea-cups and
spoons--everything, in short, ready for a gipsy encampment, while the
parson's horse stood meekly absorbing an extra ration of oats in that
contemplative attitude which becomes habitual to good family horses,
especially of the ministerial profession. Mrs. Cushing and the
Doctor, with Nabby and Dolly, and the hamper and baskets, formed the
load of the light wagon, while Will and Bob were both mounted upon
"the colt"--a scrawny, ewe-necked beast, who had long outgrown this
youthful designation. The boys, however, had means best known to
themselves of rousing his energies and keeping him ahead of the wagon
in a convulsive canter, greatly to the amusement of Nabby and Dolly.

Our readers would be happy could they follow the party along the
hard, stony roads, up the winding mountain-paths, where the trees,
flushing in purple, crimson and gold, seemed to shed light on their
paths; where beds of fringed gentian seemed, as the sunlight struck
them, to glow like so many sapphires, and every leaf of every plant
seemed to be passing from the green of summer into some quaint new
tint of autumnal splendor. Here and there groups of pines or tall
hemlocks, with their heavy background of solemn green, threw out the
flamboyant tracery of the forest in startling distinctness. Here and
there, as they passed a bit of low land, the swamp maples seemed
really to burn like crimson flames, and the clumps of black alder,
with their vivid scarlet berries, exalted the effect of color to the
very highest and most daring result. No artist ever has ventured to
put on canvas the exact copy of the picture that nature paints for us
every year in the autumn months. There are things the Almighty Artist
can do that no earthly imitator can more than hopelessly admire.

As to Dolly, she was like a bird held in a leash, full of
exclamations and longings, now to pick "those leaves," and then to
gather "those gentians," or to get "those lovely red berries;" but
was forced to resign herself to be carried by.

"They would all fade before the day is through," said her mother;
"wait till we come home at night, and then, if you're not too tired,
you may gather them." Dolly sighed and resigned herself to wait.

We shall not tell the joys of the day: how the Doctor climbed the
trees victoriously, how the brown, glossy chestnuts flew down in
showers as he shook the limbs, and how fast they were gathered by
busy fingers below. Not merely chestnuts, but walnuts, and a splendid
butternut tree, that grew in the high cleft of a rocky ledge, all
were made to yield up their treasures till the bags were swelled to a
most auspicious size.

Then came the nooning, when the boys delighted in making a roaring
hot fire, and the coffee was put on to boil, and Nabby spread the
table-cloth and unpacked the hamper on a broad, flat rock around
which a white foam of moss formed a soft, elastic seat.

[Illustration: CHESTNUTTING.

"_How the Doctor climbed the trees victoriously, how the brown,
glossy chestnuts flew down in showers.... And Nabby unpacked the
hamper on a broad, flat rock._"--p. 226.]

The Doctor was most entertaining, and related stories of the fishing
and hunting excursions of his youth, of the trout he had caught and
the ducks he had shot. The boys listened with ears of emulation,
and Dolly sighed to think she never was to be a man and do all these
fine things that her brothers were going to do.

But in the midst of all came Abel Moss, a hard-visaged farmer from
one of the upland farms, who, seeing the minister's wagon go by, had
come to express his mind to him concerning a portion of his last
Sunday's sermon; and the Doctor, who but a moment before had thought
only of trout and wild ducks, sat down by the side of Abel on a
fragment of rock and began explaining to him the difference between
the laws of matter and the laws of mind in moral government, and the
difference between divine sovereignty as applied to matter and to
mind.

The children wandered off during the discussion, which lasted some
time; but when the western sunbeams, sloping through the tree-trunks,
warned them that it was time to return, the Doctor's wagon might have
been seen coming down the rough slope of the mountain.

"There, my dear, I've set Moss right," he said. "There was a block in
his wheels that I've taken out. I think he'll go all straight now.
Moss has a good head; when he once sees a thing, he does see it,--and
I think I've clinched the nail with him to-day."



CHAPTER XXI.

DOLLY'S SECOND CHRISTMAS.


Once more had Christmas come round in Poganuc; once more the
Episcopal church was being dressed with ground-pine and spruce; but
this year economy had begun to make its claims felt. An illumination
might do very well to open a church, but there were many who said "to
what purpose is this waste?" when the proposition was made to renew
it yearly. Consequently it was resolved to hold the Christmas Eve
service with only that necessary amount of light which would enable
the worshipers to read the prayers.

The lines in Poganuc were now drawn. The crowd who flock after a new
thing had seen the new thing, and the edge of curiosity was somewhat
dulled. Both ministers had delivered their Christmas sermons, to the
satisfaction of themselves and their respective flocks, and both
congregations had taken the direction of their practical course
accordingly.

On this Christmas Eve, therefore, Dolly was not racked and torn with
any violent temptation to go over to the church, but went to bed at
her usual hour with a resigned and quiet spirit. She felt herself a
year older, and more than a year wiser, than when Christmas had first
dawned upon her consciousness.

We have seen that the little maiden was a most intense and
sympathetic partisan, and during the political discussions of the
past year she had imbibed the idea that the Episcopal party were
opposed to her father. Nay, she had heard with burning indignation
that Mr. Simeon Coan had said that her father was not a regularly
ordained minister, and therefore had no right to preach or administer
ordinances. Dolly had no idea of patronizing by her presence people
who expressed such opinions. Whoever and whatever in the world might
be in error, Dolly was sure her father never could be in the wrong,
and went to sleep placidly in that belief.

It was not altogether pleasant to Mrs. Cushing to receive a message
from Mis' Persis that she would come and make up her candles for her
on the 25th of December. In a figurative and symbolical point of
view, the devoting that day to the creation of the year's stock of
light might have seemed eminently appropriate. But the making of so
many candles involved an amount of disagreeable particulars hard to
conceive in our days, when gas and kerosene make the lighting of
houses one of the least of cares.

In the times we speak of, candle-making for a large household was a
serious undertaking, and the day devoted to it was one that any child
would remember as an unlucky one for childish purposes of enjoyment,
seven-fold worse in its way even than washing-day. Mrs. Cushing
still retained enough of the habits of her early education to have
preferred a quiet day for her Christmas. She would willingly have
spent it in letter-writing, reading and meditation, but when Mis'
Persis gave her time and labor it seemed only fair to allow her to
choose her own day.

So, upon this Christmas morning, Mis' Persis appeared on the ground
by day-dawn. A great kettle was slung over the kitchen fire, in which
cakes of tallow were speedily liquefying; a frame was placed quite
across the kitchen to sustain candle-rods, with a train of boards
underneath to catch the drippings, and Mis' Persis, with a brow like
one of the Fates, announced: "Now we can't hev any young 'uns in
this kitchen to-day;" and Dolly saw that there was no getting any
attention in that quarter.

Mis' Persis, in a gracious Saturday afternoon mood, sitting in her
own tent-door dispensing hospitalities and cookies, was one thing;
but Mis' Persis in her armor, with her loins girded and a hard day's
work to be conquered, was quite another: she was terrible as Minerva
with her helmet on.

Dinner-baskets for all the children were hastily packed, and they
were sent off to school with the injunction on no account to show
their faces about the premises till night. The Doctor, warned of what
was going on, retreated to his study at the top of the house, where,
serenely above the lower cares of earth, he sailed off into President
Edwards's treatise on the nature of true virtue, concerning which he
was preparing a paper to read at the next Association meeting.

That candles were a necessity of life he was well convinced, and by
faith he dimly accepted the fact that one day in the year the whole
house was to be devoted and given up to this manufacture; and his
part of the business, as he understood it, was, clearly, to keep
himself out of the way till it was over.

"There won't be much of a dinner at home, anyway," said Nabby to
Dolly, as she packed her basket with an extra doughnut or two. "I've
got to go to church to-day, 'cause I'm one of the singers, and your
ma'll be busy waitin' on _her_; so we shall just have a pick-up
dinner, and you be sure not to come home till night; by that time
it'll be all over."

Dolly trotted off to school well content with the prospect before
her: a nooning, with leave to play with the girls at school, was not
an unpleasant idea.

But the first thing that saluted her on her arrival was that Bessie
Lewis--her own dear, particular Bessie--was going to have a Christmas
party at her house that afternoon, and was around distributing
invitations right and left among the scholars with a generous freedom.

"We are going to have nuts, and raisins, and cake, and mottoes," said
Bessie, with artless triumph. The news of this bill of fare spread
like wildfire through the school.

Never had a party been heard of which contemplated such a liberal
entertainment, for the rising generation of Poganuc were by no
means _blasé_ with indulgence, and raisins and almonds stood for
grandeur with them. But these _mottoes_, which consisted of bits of
confectionery wrapped up in printed couplets of sentimental poetry,
were an unheard-of refinement. Bessie assured them that her papa had
sent clear to Boston for them, and whoever got one would have his or
her fortune told by it.

The school was a small, select one, comprising the children of all
ages from the best families of Poganuc. Both boys and girls, and
all with great impartiality, had been invited. Miss Titcome, the
teacher, quite readily promised to dismiss at three o'clock that
afternoon any scholar who should bring a permission from parents, and
the children nothing doubted that such a permission was obtainable.

Dolly alone saw a cloud in the horizon. She had been sent away with
strict injunctions not to return till evening, and children in those
days never presumed to make any exceptions in obeying an absolute
command of their parents.

"But, of course, you will go home at noon and ask your mother, and of
course she'll let you; won't she, girls?" said Bessie.

"Oh, certainly; of course she will," said all the older girls,
"because you know a party is a thing that don't happen every day,
and your mother would think it strange if you _didn't_ come and ask
her." So too thought Miss Titcome, a most exemplary, precise and
proper young lady, who always moved and spoke and thought as became
a schoolmistress, so that, although she was in reality only twenty
years old, Dolly considered her as a very advanced and ancient
person--if anything, a little older than her father and mother.

Even she was of opinion that Dolly might properly go home to lay a
case of such importance before her mother; and so Dolly rushed home
after the morning school was over, running with all her might and
increasing in mental excitement as she ran. Her bonnet blew off upon
her shoulders, her curls flew behind her in the wind, and she most
inconsiderately used up the little stock of breath that she would
want to set her cause in order before her mother.

Just here we must beg any mother and housekeeper to imagine herself
in the very midst of the most delicate, perplexing and laborious of
household tasks, when interruption is most irksome and perilous,
suddenly called to discuss with a child some new and startling
proposition to which at the moment she cannot even give a thought.

Mrs. Cushing was sitting in the kitchen with Mis' Persis, by the side
of a melted caldron of tallow, kept in a fluid state by the heat of
a portable furnace on which it stood. A long train of half-dipped
candles hung like so many stalactites from the frames on which the
rods rested, and the two were patiently dipping set after set and
replacing them again on the frame.

"As sure as I'm alive! if there isn't Dolly Cushing comin'
back--runnin' and tearin' like a wild cretur'," said Mis' Persis.
"She'll be in here in a minute and knock everything down!"

Mrs. Cushing looked, and with a quick movement stepped to the door.

"Dolly! what are you here for? Didn't I tell you not to come home
this noon?"

"Oh, Mamma, there's going to be a party at General Lewis's--Bessie's
party--and the girls are all going, and mayn't I go?"

"No, you can't; it's impossible," said her mother. "Your best dress
isn't ready to wear, and there's nobody can spend time to get you
ready. Go right back to school."

"But, Mamma----"

"Go!" said her mother, in the decisive tone that mothers used in the
old days, when arguing with children was not a possibility.

"What's all this about?" asked the Doctor, looking out of the door.

"Why," said Mrs. Cushing, "there's going to be a party at General
Lewis's, and Dolly is wild to go. It's just impossible for me to
attend to her now."

"Oh, I don't want her intimate at Lewis's; he's a Democrat and an
Episcopalian," said the Doctor, and immediately he came out behind
his wife.

"There; run away to school, Dolly," he said. "Don't trouble your
mother; you don't want to go to parties; why, it's foolish to think
of it. Run away now, and don't think any more about it--there's a
good girl!"

Dolly turned and went back to school, the tears freezing on her
cheek as she went. As for not thinking any more about it--that was
impossible.

When three o'clock came, scholar after scholar rose and departed,
until at last Dolly was the only one remaining in the school-room.

Miss Titcome made no comments upon the event, but so long as one
scholar was left she conscientiously persisted in her duties towards
her. She heard Dolly read and spell, and then occupied herself with
writing a letter, while Dolly sewed upon her allotted task. Dolly's
work was a linen sheet, which was to be turned. It was to be sewed up
on one side and ripped out on the other--two processes which seemed
especially dreary to Dolly, and more particularly so now, when she
was sitting in the deserted school-room. Tears fell and fell on the
long, uninteresting seam which seemed to stretch on and on hopelessly
before her; and she thought of all the other children playing at
"oats, pease, beans and barley grows," of feasting on almonds and
raisins, and having their fortunes told by wonderful mottoes bought
in Boston. The world looked cold and dark and dreary to Dolly on this
her second Christmas. She never felt herself injured; she never even
in thought questioned that her parents were doing exactly right by
her--she only felt that just here and now the right thing was very
disagreeable and very hard to bear.

When Dolly came home that night the coast was clear, and the candles
were finished and put away to harden in a freezing cold room; the
kitchen was once more restored, and Nabby bustled about getting
supper as if nothing had happened.

"I really feel sorry about poor little Dolly," said Mrs. Cushing to
her husband.

"Do you think she cared much?" asked the Doctor, looking as if a new
possibility had struck his mind.

"Yes, indeed, poor child, she went away crying; but what could I do
about it? I couldn't stop to dress her."

"Wife, we must take her somewhere to make up for it," said the Doctor.

Just then the stage stopped at the door and a bundle from Boston was
handed in. Dolly's tears were soon wiped and dried, and her mourning
was turned into joy when a large jointed London doll emerged from the
bundle, the Christmas gift of her grandmother in Boston.

Dolly's former darling was old and shabby, but this was of twice the
size, and with cheeks exhibiting a state of the most florid health.

Besides this there was, as usual in Grandmamma's Christmas bundle,
something for every member of the family; and so the evening went on
festive wings.

Poor little Dolly! only that afternoon she had watered with her
tears the dismal long straight seam, which stretched on before her as
life sometimes does to us, bare, disagreeable and cheerless. She had
come home crying, little dreaming of the joy just approaching; but
before bed-time no cricket in the hearth was cheerier or more noisy.
She took the new dolly to bed with her, and could hardly sleep, for
the excitement of her company.

Meanwhile, Hiel had brought the Doctor a message to the following
effect:

"I was drivin' by Tim Hawkins's, and Mis' Hawkins she comes out and
says they're goin' to hev an apple-cuttin' there to-morrow night,
and she would like to hev you and Mis' Cushin' and all your folks
come--Nabby and all."

The Doctor and his lady of course assented.

"Wal, then, Doctor--ef it's all one to you," continued Hiel, "I'd
like to take ye over in my new double sleigh. I've jest got two new
strings o' bells up from Boston, and I think we'll sort o' make the
snow fly. S'pose there'd be no objections to takin' my mother 'long
with ye?"

"Oh, Hiel, we shall be delighted to go in company with your mother,
and we're ever so much obliged to you," said Mrs. Cushing.

"Wal, I'll be round by six o'clock," said Hiel.

"Then, wife," said the Doctor, "we'll take Dolly, and make up for the
loss of her party."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE APPLE-BEE.


Punctually at six o'clock Hiel's two-horses, with all their bells
jingling, stood at the door of the parsonage, whence Tom and Bill,
who had been waiting with caps and mittens on for the last half hour,
burst forth with irrepressible shouts of welcome.

"Take care now, boys; don't haul them buffalo skins out on t' the
snow," said Hiel. "Don't get things in a muss gen'ally; wait for your
ma and the Doctor. Got to stow the grown folks in fust; boys kin hang
on anywhere."

And so first came Mrs. Cushing and the Doctor, and were installed on
the back seat, with Dolly in between. Then hot bricks were handed in
to keep feet warm, and the buffalo robe was tucked down securely.
Then Nabby took her seat by Hiel in front, and the sleigh drove round
for old Mrs. Jones. The Doctor insisted on giving up his place to
her and tucking her warmly under the buffalo robe, while he took the
middle seat and acted as moderator between the boys, who were in a
wild state of hilarity. Spring, with explosive barks, raced first on
this and then on that side of the sleigh as it flew swiftly over the
smooth frozen road.

The stars blinked white and clear out of a deep blue sky, and the
path wound up-hill among cedars and junipers and clumps of mountain
laurel, on whose broad green leaves the tufts of snow lay like
clusters of white roses. The keen clear air was full of stimulus and
vigor; and so Hiel's proposition to take the longest way met with
enthusiastic welcome from all the party. Next to being a bird, and
having wings, is the sensation of being borne over the snow by a pair
of spirited horses who enjoy the race, apparently, as much as those
they carry. Though Hiel contrived to make the ride about eight miles,
it yet seemed but a short time before the party drove up to the great
red farm-house, whose lighted windows sent streams of radiant welcome
far out into the night.

The fire that illuminated the great kitchen of the farm-house was
a splendid sight to behold. It is, alas, with us only a vision and
memory of the past; for who in our days can afford to keep up the
great fire-place, where the back-logs were cut from the giants of the
forest and the fore-stick was as much as a modern man could lift? And
then the glowing fire-place built thereon! That architectural pile
of split and seasoned wood, over which the flames leaped and danced
and crackled like rejoicing genii--what a glory it was! The hearty,
bright, warm hearth in those days stood instead of fine furniture and
handsome pictures. The plainest room becomes beautiful and attractive
by fire-light, and when men think of a country and home to be fought
for and defended they think of the fireside.

Mr. Timothy Hawkins was a thrifty farmer and prided himself on always
having the best, and the fire that was crackling and roaring up the
chimney that night was, to use a hackneyed modern expression, a
"work of art." The great oak back-log had required the strength of
four men to heave it into its place; and above that lay another log
scarcely less in size; while the fore-stick was no mean bough of
the same tree. A bed of bright solid coals lay stretched beneath,
and the lighter blaze of the wood above was constantly sending down
contributions to this glowing reservoir.

Of course, on an occasion like this, the "best room" of the house was
open, with a bright fire lighting up the tall brass andirons, and
revealing the neatly-fitted striped carpet of domestic manufacture,
and the braided rugs, immortal monuments of the never-tiring industry
of the housewife. Here first the minister and his wife and Dolly
were inducted with some ceremony, but all declared their immediate
preference of the big kitchen, where the tubs of rosy apples and
golden quinces were standing round, and young men, maids, and matrons
were taking their places to assist in the apple-bee.

If the Doctor was a welcome guest in the stately circles of Poganuc
Center, he was far more at home in these hearty rural gatherings.
There was never the smallest room for jealousy, on the part of his
plainer people, that he cared more for certain conventional classes
of society than for them, because all instinctively felt that in
heart he was one of themselves. Like many of the educated men of
New England, he had been a farmer's boy in early days, and all his
pleasantest early recollections were connected with that simple,
wholesome, healthful, rural life. Like many of the New England
clergy, too, he was still to some extent a practical farmer, finding
respite from brain labor in wholesome out-door work. His best
sermons were often thought out at the plow or in the corn-field,
and his illustrations and enforcements of truth were those of a man
acquainted with real life and able to interpret the significance
of common things. His people felt a property in him as their ideal
man--the man who every Sunday expressed for them, better than they
could, the thoughts and inquiries and aspirations which rose dimly
in their own minds.

"I could ha' said all that myself ef I'd only hed the eddication; he
puts it so one can see it can't be no other way," was the comment
once made on a sermon of the Doctor's by a rough but thoughtful
listener; and the Doctor felt more pleased with such applause than
even the more cultured approval of Judge Belcher.

In the wide, busy kitchen there was room enough for all sorts of
goings on. The Doctor was soon comfortably seated, knee to knee, in
a corner with two or three controversial-looking old farmers, who
were attacking some of the conclusions of his last Sunday's sermon.
Of the two results, the Doctor always preferred a somewhat combative
resistance to a sleepy assent to his preaching, and nothing delighted
him more than a fair and square argumentative tilt, showing that the
points he made had been taken.

But while the Doctor in his corner discussed theology, the young
people around the tubs of apples were having the very best of times.

The apple, from the days of Mother Eve and the times of Paris and
Helen, has been a fruit full of suggestion and omen in the meetings
of young men and maidens; and it was not less fruitful this evening.
Our friend Hiel came to the gathering with a full consciousness of
a difficult and delicate part to be sustained. It is easy to carry
on four or five distinct flirtations when one is a handsome young
stage-driver and the fair objects of attention live at convenient
distances along the route. But when Almiry Ann, and Lucindy Jane, and
Lucretia, and Nabby are all to be encountered at one time, what is a
discreet young man to do?

Hiel had come to the scene with an armor of proof in the shape of a
new patent apple-peeler and corer, warranted to take the skin from
an apple with a quickness and completeness hitherto unimaginable.
This immediately gave him a central position and drew an admiring
throng about him. The process of naming an apple for each girl, and
giving her the long ribbon of peel to be thrown over her head and
form fateful initial letters on the floor, was one that was soon in
vigorous operation, with much shrieking and laughing and opposing of
claims among the young men, all of whom were forward to claim their
own initials when the peeling was thrown by the girl of their choice.
And Hiel was loud in his professions of jealousy when by this mode
of divination Almira Smith was claimed to be secretly favoring Seth
Parmelee, and Nabby's apple-peeling thrown over her head formed a
cabalistic character which was vigorously contended for both by Jim
Sawin and Ike Peters. As the distinction between an I and a J is of
a very shadowy nature, the question apparently was likely to remain
an open one; and Hiel declared that it was plain that nobody cared
for _him_, and that he was evidently destined to be an old bachelor.

It may be imagined that this sprightly circle of young folks were not
the ones most particularly efficient in the supposed practical labors
of the evening. They did, probably, the usual amount of work done
by youths and maids together at sewing societies, church fairs and
other like occasions, where by a figure of speech they are supposed
to be assisting each other. The real work of the occasion was done by
groups of matrons who sat with their bright tin pans in lap, soberly
chatting and peeling and cutting, as they compared notes about pies
and puddings and custards, and gave each other recipes for certain
Eleusinian mysteries of domestic cookery.

Yet, let it not be supposed that all these women thought of nothing
but cookery, for in the corner where the minister was talking were
silent attentive listeners, thoughtful souls, who had pushed their
chairs nearer, and who lost not a word of the discussion on higher
themes. Never was there a freer rationalism than in the inquiries
which the New England theology tolerated and encouraged at every
fireside. The only trouble about them was that they raised awful
questions to which there is no answer, and when the Doctor supposed
he had left a triumphant solution of a difficulty he had often left
only a rankling thorn of doubt.

A marked figure among the Doctor's circle of listeners is Nabby's
mother. A slight figure in a dress of Quakerlike neatness, a thin old
delicate face, with its aureole of white hair and its transparent
cap-border--the expression of the face a blending of thoughtful
calmness and invincible determination. Her still, patient blue eyes
looked as if they habitually saw beyond things present to some
far off future. She was, in fact, one of those quiet, resolute
women whose power lay more in doing than in talking. She had
passed, through the gate of silence and self-abnegation, into that
summer-land where it is always peace, where the soul is never more
alone, because God is there.

Now, as she sits quietly by, not a word escapes her of what her
minister is saying; for though at her husband's command she has left
her church, her heart is still immovably fixed in its old home.

Her husband had stubbornly refused to join the social circle, though
cordially invited. However, he offered no word of comment or dissent
when his wife departed with all her sons to the gathering. With her
boys, Mary Higgins was all-powerful. They obeyed the glance of her
eye; they listened to her softest word as they never heeded the
stormy imperiousness of their father.

She looks over with satisfaction to where her boys are joining with
full heart in the mirth of the young people, and is happy in their
happiness. The Doctor comes and sits beside her, and inquires after
each one; and the measure of her content is full. She does not need
to explain to him why she has left her church; she sees that he
understands her position and her motives; but she tells him her heart
and her hopes, her ambition for her darling son, Abner, who alone
of all her boys has the passion for learning and aspires toward a
college education; and the Doctor bids her send her boy to him and
he will see what can be done to help him on his way. More talk they
have, and more earnest, on things beyond the veil of earth--on the
joy that underlies all the sorrows of this life and brightens the
life beyond--and the Doctor feels that in the interview he has gained
more than he has given.

Long before the evening was through, the task of apple-cutting was
accomplished, the tubs and pans cleared away, and the company sat
about the fire discussing the nuts, apples and cider which were
passed around, reinforced by doughnuts and loaf-cake. Tales of
forest life, of exploits in hunting and fishing, were recounted,
and the Doctor figured successfully as a _raconteur_, for he was an
enthusiast in forest lore, and had had his share of adventure.

In those days there was still a stirring background of wilderness
life, of adventures with bears, panthers, and wild Indians, and of
witches and wizards and ghostly visitors and haunted houses, to make
a stimulating fireside literature; and the nine o'clock bell ringing
loudly was the first break in the interest of the circle. All rose at
once, and while the last greetings were exchanged, Hiel and the other
young men brought their horses to the door, and the whole party were,
in their several sleighs, soon flying homeward.

Our little Dolly had had an evening of unmixed bliss. Everybody had
petted her, and talked to her, and been delighted with her sayings
and doings, and she was carrying home a paper parcel of sweet things
which good Mrs. Hawkins had forced into her hand at parting.

As to Hiel and Nabby, they were about on an even footing. If he had
been devoted to Lucinda Jane Parsons she had distinguished Jim Sawin
by marks of evident attention, not forgetting at proper intervals to
pay some regard to Ike Peters; so that, as she complacently said to
herself, 'he didn't get ahead of _her_.'

Of course, on the way home, in the sleigh with Doctor and Mrs.
Cushing, there were no advantages for a settling-up quarrel, but
Nabby let fly many of those brisk little missiles of sarcasm and
innuendo in which her sex have so decided a superiority over
the other, and when arrived at the door of the house, announced
peremptorily that she was 'going straight to bed and wasn't goin' to
burn out candles for nobody _that_ night!'

Hiel did not depart broken-hearted, however; and as he reviewed the
field mentally, after his return home, congratulated himself that
things were going on "'bout as well as they could be."

A misunderstanding to be made up, a quarrel to be settled, was, as he
viewed it, a fair stock in trade for a month to come.



CHAPTER XXIII.

SEEKING A DIVINE IMPULSE.


In the scenes which we have painted we have shown our Dr. Cushing
mingling as man with men, living a free, natural, healthy human life.
Yet underneath all this he bore always on his spirit a deeper and
heavier responsibility.

The ideal of a New England minister's calling was not the mere
keeping up of Sunday services, with two regular sermons, the pastoral
offices of visiting the sick, performing marriages, and burying the
dead. It was not merely the oversight of schools, and catechising of
children, and bringing his people into a certain habitual outward
routine of religion, though all these were included in it. But,
deeper than all these, there was laid upon his soul the yearning
desire to bring every one in his flock to a living, conscious union
with God; to a life whose source and purposes were above this earth
and tending heavenward. In whatever scene of social life he met
his people his eye was ever upon them, studying their characters,
marking their mental or moral progress, hoping and praying for this
final result. Besides the stated services of Sunday, our good Doctor
preached three or four evenings in a week in the small district
school-houses of the outlying parishes, when the fervor of his zeal
drew always a full audience to listen. More especially now, since the
late political revolution had swept away the ancient prescriptive
defenses of religion and morals, and thrown the whole field open to
individual liberty, had the Doctor felt that the clergy must make up
in moral influence what had passed away of legal restraints.

With all his soul he was seeking a revival of religion; a deep,
pathetic earnestness made itself felt in his preaching and prayers,
and the more spiritual of his auditors began to feel themselves
sympathetically affected. Of course, all the church members in good
standing professed to believe truths which made life a sublime
reality, and religion the one absorbing aim. The New Testament gives
a glorified ideal of a possible human life, but hard are his labors
who tasks himself to keep that ideal uppermost among average human
beings.

The coarse, the low, the mean, the vulgar, is ever thrusting itself
before the higher and more delicate nature, and claiming, in virtue
of its very brute strength, to be the true reality.

New England had been founded as a theocracy. It had come down to Dr.
Cushing's time under laws and customs specially made and intended to
form a Christian State, and yet how far it was below the teachings of
the New Testament none realized so deeply as the minister himself.

He was the confidant of all the conflicts between different
neighborhoods, of the small envies, jealousies and rivalries that
agitated families and set one part of his parish against another. He
was cognizant of all the little unworthy gossip, the low aims, the
small ambitions of these would-be Christians, and sometimes his heart
sank at the prospect.

Yet the preaching, the prayers, the intense earnestness of the New
England religious life had sometimes their hour of being outwardly
felt; the sacred altar-flame that was burning in secret in so many
hearts threw its light into the darkness, and an upspringing of
religious interest was the result.

The quarrel which had separated Zeph Higgins from the church had
spread more or less unwholesome influence through the neighborhood,
and it was only through some such divine impulse as he sought that
the minister could hope to bring back a better state of things.
In this labor of love he felt that he had a constant, powerful
co-operative force in the silent, prayerful woman, who walked by
Zeph's side as a guardian angel. Had it not been for her peculiar
talent for silence and peace the quarrel would have gone much
farther and produced wider alienation; but there is nothing that so
absolutely quenches the sparks of contention as silence. Especially
is this the case with the silence of a strong, determined nature,
that utters itself only to God. For months Zeph had been conscious
of a sort of invisible power about his wife--a power that controlled
him in spite of himself. It was that mysterious atmosphere created by
intense feeling without the help of words.

People often, in looking on this couple, shook their heads and said,
"How _could_ that woman ever have married that man?"

Such observers forget that the woman may see a side of the man's
nature that they never see, and that often the chief reason why
a man wins a woman's heart is that she fancies herself to have
discerned in him that which no other could discern, an undiscovered
realm peculiarly her own. The rough, combative, saturnine man known
as Zeph Higgins had had his turn of being young, and his youth's
blossoming-time of love, when he had set his heart on this Mary,
then an orphan, alone in the world. Like many another woman, she was
easily persuaded that the stormy, determined, impetuous passion thus
seeking her could take no denial; was of the same nature with the
kind of love she felt able to give in return--love faithful, devoted,
unseeking of self, and asking only to bless.

But, in time, marriage brought its revelations, and life lay before
her a bare, cold, austere reality, with the lover changed into the
toiling fellow-laborer or the exacting master.

A late discernment of spirit showed her that she was married to a man
whose love for her was all demand, who asked everything from her and
had little power of giving in return; that, while he needed her, and
clung to her at times with a sort of helpless reliance, he had no
power of understanding or sympathizing with her higher nature, and
that her life, in all that she felt most deeply and keenly, must be a
solitary one.

These hours of disillusion come to many, and are often turning
points in the soul's history. Rightly understood, they may prove
the seed-bed where plants of the higher life strike deepest root.
Mary Higgins was one of those who found in her religion the strength
of her soul. The invisible Friend, whose knock is heard in every
heart-trial, entered in to dwell with her, bringing the peace which
the world cannot give; and henceforth she was strong in spirit, and
her walk was in green pastures and by still waters.

They greatly mistake the New England religious development who
suppose that it was a mere culture of the head in dry metaphysical
doctrines. As in the rifts of the granite rocks grow flowers of
wonderful beauty and delicacy, so in the secret recesses of Puritan
life, by the fireside of the farm-house, in the contemplative silence
of austere care and labor, grew up religious experiences that brought
a heavenly brightness down into the poverty of commonplace existence.

The philosophic pen of President Edwards has set before us one such
inner record, in the history of the wife whose saintly patience and
unworldly elevation enabled him to bear the reverses which drove him
from a comfortable parish to encounter the privations of missionary
life among the Indians. And such experiences were not uncommon among
lowly natures, who lacked the eloquence to set them forth in words.
They lightened the heart, they brightened the eye, they made the
atmosphere of the home peaceful.

Such was the inner life of her we speak of. At rest in herself, she
asked nothing, yet was willing to give everything to the husband and
children who were at once her world of duty and of love. Year in and
out, she kept step in life with a beautiful exactness, so perfect
and complete in every ministry of the household that those she served
forgot to thank her, as we forget to thank the daily Giver of air and
sunshine. Zeph never had known anything at home but neatness, order,
and symmetry, regular hours and perfect service.

His wife had always been on time, and on duty, and it seemed to him
like one of the immutable laws of nature that she should do so. He
was proud of her housekeeping, proud of her virtues, as something
belonging to himself, and, though she had no direct power over his
harsher moods of combativeness and self-will, she sometimes came to
him as a still small voice after the earthquake and the tempest, and
her words then had weight with him, precisely because they were few,
and seldom spoken.

She had been silent all through the stormy quarrel that had rent him
away from his church. Without an argument where argument would only
strengthen opposition, she let his will have its way. She went with
him on Sundays to the Episcopal Church, and sat there among her sons,
a lowly and conscientious worshiper, carefully following a service
which could not fail to bring voices of comfort and help to a devout
soul like hers. Nevertheless, the service, to any one coming to it
late in life and with no previous training, has its difficulties,
which were to her embarrassing, and to him, in spite of his proud
self-will, annoying. Zeph had the Spartan contempt for everything
æsthetic, the scorn of beauty which characterized certain rough
stages of New England life. He not only did not like symbolic forms,
but he despised them as effeminate impertinences; and every turn
and movement that he was compelled to make in his new ritualistic
surroundings was aggravating to his temper. To bend the knee at the
name of Jesus, to rise up reverently when the words of Jesus were
about to be read in the Gospel of the day, were acts congenial to
his wife as they were irksome to him; and, above all, the idea of
ecclesiastical authority, whether exercised by rector, bishop or
church, woke all the refractory nerves of opposition inherited from
five generations of Puritans. So that Zeph was as little comfortable
in his new position as his worst enemy could have desired. Nothing
but the strength of his obstinate determination not to yield a point
once taken kept him even outwardly steady. But to go back to his
church, to confess himself in the wrong and make up his old quarrel
with the Deacon, would be worse than to stay where he was.

The tenacity and devotion with which some hard natures will cleave
to a quarrel which embitters their very life-blood is one of the
strange problems of our human nature. In the hereditary form of
family prayer that Zeph Higgins used every day, there was the
customary phrase "We are miserable sinners;" and yet Zeph, like many
another man who repeats that form in the general, would rather die
than confess a fault in any particular; and in this respect we must
admit that he was not, after all, a very exceptional character. How
often in our experience do we meet a man brave enough, when once
fully committed, to turn a square corner and say "I was wrong"? If
only such have a stone to cast at Zeph Higgins, the cairn will not be
a very high one.

Zeph never breathed an opposing word when his wife, every Friday
evening, lighted the lantern, and with all her sons about her set off
to the evening prayer-meeting in the little red school-house, though
after his quarrel with the Deacon he never went himself. Those weekly
meetings, when she heard her minister and joined in the prayers and
praises of her church, were the brightest hours of her life, and her
serene radiant face, following his words with rapt attention, was a
help and inspiration to her pastor.

"There is a revival begun over there," he said to his wife as they
were riding home from one of his services. "It is begun in the heart
of that good woman. She has long been praying for a revival, and I
am confident that _her_ prayers will be answered."

They were answered, but in a way little dreamed of by any one.

The prayers we offer for heavenly blessings often come up in our
earthly soil as plants of bitter sorrow.

So it proved in this case.



CHAPTER XXIV.

"IN SUCH AN HOUR AS YE THINK NOT."


One morning in the latter part of spring Zeph Higgins received a
shock which threw his whole soul into confusion.

His wife, on rising to go forth to her wonted morning cares, had
fainted dead away and been found lying, apparently lifeless, on the
bed, when her husband returned for his breakfast.

Instantly everything was in commotion. The nearest neighbor was sent
for, and restoratives applied with such skill as domestic experience
could suggest, and one of the boys dispatched in all haste for the
doctor, with orders to bring Nabby at once to take her mother's place.

The fainting fit proved of short duration, but was followed by a
violent chill and a rise of fever, and when the doctor arrived he
reported a congestion of the lungs threatening the gravest results.

Forthwith the household was to be organized for sickness. A fire was
kindled in the best bed-room and the patient laid there; Mis' Persis
was sent for and installed as nurse; Nabby became housekeeper, and
to superficial view the usual order reigned. Zeph went forth to the
labors of the field, struggling with a sort of new terror; there
was an evil threatening his house, against the very thought and
suggestion of which he fought with all his being. His wife _could_
not, _should_ not, _ought_ not to be sick,--and as to dying, that
was not to be thought of! What could he do without her? What could
any of them do without her? During the morning's work that was the
problem that he kept turning and turning in his mind--what life would
be without her. Yet, when Abner, who was working beside him, paused
over his hoe and stood apparently lost in thought, he snapped a harsh
question at him with a crack like the sound of a lash.

"What ye doin' there?"

Abner started, looked confused and resumed his work, only saying, "I
was thinking about Mother."

"Nonsense! Don't make a fool of yourself. Mother'll come all right."

"The doctor said"--said Abner.

"Don't tell me nothin' what the doctor said; I don't want to hear
on't," said Zeph, in a high voice; and the two hoes worked on in
silence for a while, till finally Zeph broke out again.

"Wal! what did the doctor say? Out with it; as good say it 's think
it. What _did_ the doctor say? Why don't you speak?"

"He said she was a very sick woman," answered Abner.

"He's a fool. I don't think nothin' o' that doctor's jedgment. I'll
have Dr. Sampson over from East Poganuc. Your mother's got the best
constitution of any woman in this neighborhood."

"Yes; but she hasn't been well lately, and I've seen it," said Abner.

"That's all croakin'. Don't believe a word on't. Mother's been right
along, stiddy as a clock; 'taint nothin' but one o' these 'ere pesky
spring colds she's got. She'll be up and 'round by to-morrow or next
day. I'll have another doctor, and I'll get her wine and bark, and
strengthenin' things, and Nabby shall do the work, and she'll come
all right enough."

"I'm sure I hope so," said Abner.

"Hope! what d'ye say _hope_ for? I ain't a goin' to hope nothin'
'bout it. I _know_ so; she's got to git well--ain't no two ways 'bout
that."

Yet Zeph hurried home an hour before his usual time and met Nabby at
the door.

"Wal, ain't your mother gettin' better?"

There were tears in Nabby's eyes as she answered,

"Oh, dear! she's been a raisin' blood. Doctor says it's from her
lungs. Mis' Persis says it's a bad sign. She's very weak--and she
looks so pale!"

"They must give her strengthenin' things," said Zeph. "Do they?"

"They're givin' what the Doctor left. Her fever's beginnin' to rise
now. Doctor says we mustn't talk to her, nor let her talk."

"Wal, I'm a goin' up to see her, anyhow. I guess I've got a right to
speak to my own wife." And Zeph slipped off his heavy cowhide boots,
and went softly up to the door of the room, and opened it without
stopping to knock.

The blinds were shut; it seemed fearfully dark and quiet. His wife
was lying with her eyes closed, looking white and still; but in the
center of each pale cheek was the round, bright, burning spot of the
rising hectic.

Mis' Persis was sitting by her with the authoritative air of a nurse
who has taken full possession; come to stay and to reign. She was
whisking the flies away from her patient with a feather fan, which
she waved forbiddingly at Zeph as he approached.

"Mother," said he in an awe-struck tone, bending over his wife,
"don't you know me?"

She opened her eyes; saw him; smiled and reached out her hand. It was
thin and white, burning with the rising fever.

"Don't you feel a little better?" he asked. There was an imploring
eagerness in his tone.

"Oh, yes; I'm better."

"You'll get well soon, won't you?"

"Oh, yes; I shall be well soon," she said, looking at him with that
beautiful bright smile.

His heart sank as he looked. The smile was so strangely sweet--and
all this quiet, this stillness, this mystery! She was being separated
from him by impalpable shadowy forces that could not be battled
with or defied. In his heart a warning voice seemed to say that
just so quietly she might fade from his sight--pass away, and be
forever gone. The thought struck cold to his heart, and he uttered an
involuntary groan.

His wife opened her eyes, moved slightly, and seemed as if she would
speak, but Mis' Persis put her hand authoritatively over her mouth.
"Don't you say a word," said she.

Then turning with concentrated energy on Zeph, she backed him out of
the room and shut the door upon him and herself in the entry before
she trusted herself to speak. When she did, it was as one having
authority.

"Zephaniah Higgins," she said, "air you crazy? Do you want to kill
your wife? Ef ye come round her that way and git her a-talkin' she'll
bleed from her lungs agin, and that'll finish her. You've jest got to
shet up and submit to the Lord, Zephaniah Higgins, and that's what
you hain't never done yit; you've got to know that the Lord is goin'
to do _his_ sovereign will and pleasure with your wife, and you've
got to be still. That's all. You can't do nothin'. We shall all do
the best we can; but you've jest got to wait the Lord's time and
pleasure."

So saying, she went back into the sick-room and closed the door,
leaving Zeph standing desolate in the entry.

Zeph, like most church members of his day, had been trained in
theology, and had often expressed his firm belief in what was in
those days spoken of as the "doctrine of divine sovereignty."

A man's idea of his God is often a reflection of his own nature. The
image of an absolute monarch, who could and would always do exactly
as he pleased, giving no account to any one of his doings, suited
Zeph perfectly as an abstract conception; but when this resistless
awful Power was coming right across his path, the doctrine assumed
quite another form.

The curt statement made by Mis' Persis had struck him with a sudden
terror, as if a flash of lightning had revealed an abyss opening
under his feet. That he was utterly helpless in his Sovereign's hands
he saw plainly; but his own will rose in rebellion--a rebellion
useless and miserable.

His voice trembled that night as he went through the familiar words
of the evening prayer; a rush of choking emotions almost stopped his
utterance, and the old words, worn smooth with use, seemed to have no
relation to the turbulent tempest of feeling that was raging in his
heart.

After prayers he threw down the Bible with an impatient bang, bolted
for his room and shut himself in alone.

"Poor Father! he takes it hard," said Nabby, wiping her eyes.

"He takes everything hard," said Abner. "I don't know how we'll get
along with him, now Mother isn't round."

"Well, let's hope Mother's goin' to get well," said Nabby. "I
can't--I ain't goin' to think anything else."



CHAPTER XXV.

DOLLY BECOMES ILLUSTRIOUS.


At the Parsonage the illness in Zeph's household brought social
revolution.

The whole burden of family ministration, which had rested on Nabby's
young and comely shoulders, fell with a sudden weight upon those of
Mrs. Cushing. This was all the more unfortunate because the same
exigency absorbed the services of Mis' Persis, who otherwise might
have been relied on to fill the gap.

But now was Dolly's hour for feeling her own importance and assuming
womanly cares. She rushed to the front with enthusiasm and attacked
every branch of domestic service, with a zeal not always according to
knowledge but making her on the whole quite an efficient assistance.
She washed and wiped dishes, and cleared, and cleaned, and dusted,
and set away, as she had seen Nabby do; she propped herself on a
stool at the ironing-table and plied the irons vigorously; and,
resenting the suggestion that she should confine herself to towels
and napkins, struck out boldly upon the boys' shirts and other
complicated tasks, burning her fingers and heating her face in the
determination to show her prowess and ability.

"Dolly is really quite a little woman," she overheard her mother
saying to her father; and her bosom swelled with conscious pride and
she worked all the faster.

"Now, you boys must be very careful not to make any more trouble than
you can help," she said with an air of dignity as Will and Bob burst
into the kitchen and surprised her at the ironing-table. "Nabby is
gone, and there is nobody to do the work but me."

"Upon my word, Mrs. Puss!" said Will, stopping short and regarding
the little figure with a serio-comic air. "How long since you've been
so grand? How tall we're getting in our own eyes--oh my!" and Will
seized her off the ironing stool and, perching her on his shoulder,
danced round the table with her in spite of her indignant protests.

Dolly resented this invasion of her dignity with all her little
might, and the confusion called her mother down out of the chamber
where she had been at work.

"Boys, I'm astonished at you," said she. Now Mrs. Cushing had been
"astonished" at these same boys for about thirteen or fourteen
years, so that the sensation could not be quite overpowering at this
time.

"Well, Mother," said Will, with brisk assurance, setting Dolly down
on her stool, "I was only giving Dolly a ride," and he looked up in
her face with the confident smile that generally covered all his
sins, and brought out an answering smile on the face of his mother.

"Come now, boys," she said, "Nabby has gone home; you must be good,
considerate children, make as little trouble as possible and be all
the help you can."

"But, Mother, Dolly was taking such grown-up airs, as if she was our
mother. I _had_ just to give her a lesson, to show her who she was."

"Dolly is a good, helpful little girl, and I don't know what I should
do without her," said Mrs. Cushing; "she does act like a grown-up
woman, and I am glad of it."

Dolly's face flushed with delight; she felt that at last she had
reached the summit of her ambition: she was properly appreciated!

"And you boys," continued Mrs. Cushing, "must act like grown-up men,
and be considerate and helpful."

"All right, Mother; only give the orders. Bob and I can make the
fires, and bring in the wood, and fill the tea-kettle, and do lots
of things." And, to do the boys justice, they did do their best to
lighten the domestic labors of this interregnum.

The exigency would have been far less serious were it not that the
minister's house in those days was a sort of authorized hotel, not
only for the ministerial brotherhood but for all even remotely
connected with the same, and all that miscellaneous drift-wood of
hospitality that the eddies of life cast ashore. The minister's
table was always a nicely-kept one; the Parsonage was a place where
it was pleasant to abide; and so the guest-chamber of the Parsonage
was seldom empty. In fact, this very week a certain Brother Waring,
an ex-minister from East Poganuc, who wanted to consult the Poganuc
Doctor, came, unannounced, with his wife and trunk, and they settled
themselves comfortably down.

Such inflictions were in those days received in the literal spirit
of the primitive command to "use hospitality without grudging;" but
when a week had passed and news came that Mrs. Higgins was going down
to the grave in quick consumption, and that Nabby would be wanted at
home for an indefinite period, it became necessary to find some one
to fill her place at the Parsonage, and Hiel Jones's mother accepted
the position temporarily--considering her services in the minister's
family as a sort of watch upon the walls of Zion. Not that she was by
any means insensible to the opportunity of receiving worldly wages;
but she wished it explicitly understood that she was not going out
to service. She was "helpin' Mis' Cushing." The help, however, was
greatly balanced in this case by certain attendant hindrances such as
seem inseparable from the whole class of "lady helps."

Mrs. Jones had indeed a very satisfactory capability in all domestic
processes; her bread was of the whitest and finest, her culinary
skill above mediocrity, and she was an accomplished laundress. But
so much were her spirits affected by the construction that might
possibly be put on her position in the family that she required
soothing attentions and expressions of satisfaction and confidence
every hour of the day to keep her at all comfortable. She had
stipulated expressly to be received at the family table, and, further
than this, to be brought into the room and introduced to all callers;
and, this being done, demeaned herself in a manner so generally
abused and melancholy that poor Mrs. Cushing could not but feel that
the burden which had been taken off from her muscles had been thrown
with double weight upon her nerves.

After a call of any of the "town-hill" aristocracy, Mrs. Jones would
be sure to be found weeping in secret places, because 'Mrs. Colonel
Davenport had looked down on her,' or the Governor's lady 'didn't
speak to her,' and she 'should like to know what such proud folks
was goin' to do when they got to heaven!' Then there was always
an implication that if ministers only did their duty all these
distinctions of rank would cease, and everybody be just as good as
everybody else. The poor body had never even dreamed of a kingdom of
heaven where the Highest was "as him that serveth;" and what with
Mrs. Jones's moans, and her tears, and her frequent sick headaches,
accompanied by abundant use of camphor, Mrs. Cushing, in some
desperate moments, felt as if she would rather die doing her own work
than wear herself out in the task of conciliating a substitute.

Then, though not a serious evil, it certainly was somewhat
disagreeable to observe Mrs. Jones's statistical talents and habits
of minute inspection, and to feel that she was taking notes which
would put all the parish in possession of precise information as
to the condition of Mrs. Cushing's tablecloths, towels, napkins,
and all the minutiæ of her housekeeping arrangements. There is, of
course, no sin or harm in such particularity; but almost every lady
prefers the shades of poetic obscurity to soften the details of her
domestic interior. In those days, when the minister was the central
object of thought in the parish, it was specially undesirable that
all this kind of information should be distributed, since there were
many matrons who had opinions all ready made as to the proper manner
in which a minister's wife should expend his salary and order his
household.

It was therefore with genuine joy that, after a fortnight's care of
this kind, a broad-faced, jolly African woman was welcomed by Mrs.
Cushing to her kitchen in place of Mrs. Jones. Dinah was picked up
in a distant parish, and entered upon her labors with an unctuous
satisfaction and exuberance that was a positive relief after the
recent tearful episode. It is true she was slow, and somewhat
disorderly, but she was unfailingly good-natured, and had no dignity
to be looked after; and so there was rest for a while in the
Parsonage.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE VICTORY.


Summer with its deep blue skies was bending over the elms of Poganuc.
The daisies were white in the meadows and the tall grass was nodding
its feathery sprays of blossom. The windows of the farm houses stood
open, with now and then a pillow or a bolster lounging out of them,
airing in the sunshine. The hens stepped hither and thither with a
drowsy continuous cackle of contentment as they sunned themselves in
the warm embracing air.

In the great elm that overhung the roof of Zeph Higgins's farm house
was a mixed babble and confusion of sweet bird voices. An oriole
from her swinging nest caroled cheerfully, and bobolinks and robins
replied, and the sounds blended pleasantly with the whisper and
flutter of leaves, as soft summer breezes stirred them.

But over one room in that house rested the shadow of death; there,
behind the closed blinds, in darkened stillness days passed by; and
watchers came at night to tend and minister; and bottles accumulated
on the table; and those who came entered softly and spoke with bated
breath; and the doctor was a daily visitor; and it was known that the
path of the quiet patient who lay there was steadily going down to
the dark river.

Every one in the neighborhood knew it: for, in the first place,
everybody in that vicinity, as a matter of course, knew all about
everybody else: and then, besides that, Mrs. Higgins had been not
only an inoffensive, but a much esteemed and valued neighbor. Her
quiet step, her gentle voice, her skillful ministry had been always
at hand where there had been sickness or pain to be relieved, and
now that her time was come there was a universal sympathy. Nabby's
shelves were crowded with delicacies made up and sent in by one or
another good wife to tempt the failing appetite. In the laborious,
simple life that they were living in those days, there was small
physiological knowledge, and the leading idea in most minds in
relation to the care of sickness was the importance of getting the
patient to _eat_; for this end, dainties that might endanger the
health of a well person were often sent in as a tribute to the sick.
Then almost every house-mother had her own favorite specific, of
sovereign virtue, which she prepared and sent in to increase the
army of bottles which always gathered in a sick-room. Mis' Persis,
however, while graciously accepting these tributes, had her own
mental reservations, and often slyly made away with the medicine in a
manner that satisfied the giver and did not harm the patient. Quite
often, too, Hiel Jones, returning on his afternoon course, stopped
his horses at the farm-house door and descended to hand in some
offering of sympathy and good will from friends who lived miles away.

Hiel did not confine himself merely to transmitting the messages
of neighbors, but interested himself personally in the work of
consolation, going after Nabby wherever she might be found--at the
spinning wheel, in the garret, or in the dairy below--and Nabby,
in her first real trouble, was so accessible and so confiding that
Hiel found voice to say unreproved what the brisk maiden might have
flouted at in earlier days.

"I'm sure I don't know what we can do without Mother," Nabby said one
day, her long eye-lashes wet with tears. "Home won't ever seem home
without her."

"Well," answered Hiel, "I know what _I_ shall want you to do, Nabby:
come to me; and you and I'll have a home all to ourselves."

And Nabby did not gainsay the word, but only laid her head on his
shoulder and sobbed, and said he was a real true friend and she
should never forget his kindness; and Hiel kissed and comforted her
with all sorts of promises of future devotion. Truth to say, he found
Nabby in tears and sorrow more attractive than when she sparkled in
her gayest spirits.

But other influences emanated from that shadowy room--influences felt
through all the little neighborhood. Puritan life had its current
expressions significant of the intense earnestness of its faith in
the invisible, and among these was the phrase "a triumphant death."
There seemed to be in the calm and peaceful descent of this quiet
spirit to the grave a peculiar and luminous clearness that fulfilled
the meaning of that idea. The "peace that passeth understanding"
brightened, in the sunset radiance, into "joy unspeakable and full of
glory." Her decline, though rapid and steady, was painless: and it
seemed to those who looked upon her and heard her words of joy and
trust that the glory so visible to her must be real and near--as if
in that sick-chamber a door had in very deed been opened into heaven.

When she became aware that the end was approaching she expressed a
wish that her own minister should be sent for, and Dr. Cushing came.
The family gathered in her room. She was propped up on pillows,
her eyes shining and cheeks glowing with the hectic flush, and an
indescribable brightness of expression in her face that seemed almost
divine.

The Doctor read from Isaiah the exultant words: "Arise, shine, for
thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the
people, but the Lord shall arise on thee, and his glory shall be
seen on thee. The sun shall no more be thy light by day, neither for
brightness shall the moon give light to thee, but the Lord shall be
unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall
no more go down nor thy moon withdraw itself, for the Lord shall be
thy everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."
In the prayer that followed he offered thanks that God had given
unto our sister the victory, and enabled her to rejoice in hope of
the glory of God, while yet remaining with them as a witness of the
faithfulness of the promise. He prayed that those dear to her might
have grace given them to resign her wholly to the will of God and to
rejoice with her in her great joy.

When they rose from prayer, Zeph, who had sat in gloomy silence
through all, broke out:

"I can't--I _can't_ give her up! It's hard on me. I _can't do it_,
and I won't."

She turned her eyes on him, and a wonderful expression of love and
sorrow and compassion came into her face. She took his hand, saying,
with a gentle gravity and composure:

"I want to see my husband alone."

When all had left the room, he sunk down on his knees by the bed and
hid his face. The bed was shaken by his convulsive sobbing. "My dear
husband," she said, "you know I love you."

"Yes--yes, and you are the only one that does--the only one that can.
I'm hard and cross, and bad as the devil. Nobody _could_ love me but
you; and I can't--I _won't_--give you up!"

"You needn't give me up; you must come with me. I want you to come
where I am; I shall wait for you; you're an old man--it won't be
long. But oh, do listen to me now. You can't come to heaven till
you've put away all hard feeling out of your heart. You must make up
that quarrel with the church. When you know you've been wrong, you
must say so. I want you to promise this. Please do!"

There was silence; and Zeph's form shook with the conflict of his
feelings.

But the excitement and energy which had sustained the sick woman thus
far had been too much for her; a blood vessel was suddenly ruptured,
and her mouth filled with blood. She threw up her hands with a slight
cry. Zeph rose and rushed to the door, calling the nurse.

It was evident that the end had come.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE FUNERAL.


On that morning, before Dr. Cushing had left the Parsonage to go to
the bedside of his dying parishioner, Dolly, always sympathetic in
all that absorbed her parents, had listened to the conversation and
learned how full of peace and joy were those last days.

When her father was gone, Dolly took her little basket and went out
into the adjoining meadow for wild strawberries. The afternoon was
calm and lovely; small patches of white cloud were drifting through
the intense blue sky, and little flutters of breeze shook the
white hats of the daisies as she wandered hither and thither among
them looking for the strawberries. Over on the tallest twig of the
apple-tree in the corner of the lot a bobolink had seated himself,
swinging and fluttering up and down, beating his black and white
wings and singing a confused lingo about "sweetmeats and sweetmeats,"
and "cheer 'em and cheer 'em."

This bobolink was one of Dolly's special acquaintances. She had
often seen him perched on this particular twig of the old apple-tree,
doubtless because of a nest and family establishment that he had
somewhere in that neighborhood, and she had learned to imitate
his jargon as she crept about in the tall grass; and so they two
sometimes kept up quite a lively conversation.

But this afternoon she was in no mood for chattering with the
bobolink, for the strings of a higher nature than his had been set
vibrating; she was in a sort of plaintive, dreamy revery--so sorry
for poor Nabby, who was going to lose her mother, and so full of awe
and wonder at the bright mystery now opening on the soul that was
passing away.

Dolly had pondered that verse of her catechism which says that "the
souls of believers at their death are made perfect in holiness, and
do immediately pass into glory," and of what that unknown glory, that
celestial splendor, could be she had many thoughts and wonderings.

She had devoured with earnest eyes Bunyan's vivid description of the
triumphal ascent to the Celestial City through the River of Death,
and sometimes at evening, when the west was piled with glorious
clouds which the setting sun changed into battlements and towers of
silvered gold, Dolly thought she could fancy it was something like
that beautiful land. Now it made her heart thrill to think that one
she had known only a little while before--a meek, quiet, patient,
good woman--was just going to enter upon such glory and splendor, to
wear those wonderful white robes and sing that wonderful song.

She filled her basket and then sat down to think about it. She lay
back on the ground and looked up through the white daisies into the
deep intense blue of the sky, wondering with a vague yearning, and
wishing that she could go there too and see what it was all like.
Just then, vibrating through the sunset air, came the plaintive
stroke of the old Meeting-house bell. Dolly knew what that sound
meant--a soul "made perfect in holiness" had passed into glory; and
with a solemn awe she listened as stroke after stroke tolled out the
years of that patient earth-life, now forever past.

It was a thrilling mystery to think of where _she_ now was. _She_
knew all now! she had seen! she had heard! she had entered in! Oh,
what joy and wonder!

Dolly asked herself should she too ever be so happy--she, poor little
Dolly; if she went up to the beautiful gate, would they let her
in? Her father and mother would certainly go there; and they would
surely want her too: couldn't she go in with them? So thought Dolly,
vaguely dreaming, with the daisy-heads nodding over her, and the
bobolink singing, and the bell tolling, while the sun was sinking in
the west. At last she heard her father calling her at the fence, and
made haste to take up her basket and run to him.

The day but one after this Dolly went with her father and mother to
the funeral. Funerals in those old days had no soothing accessories.
People had not then learned to fill their houses with flowers, and
soften by every outward appliance the deadly severity of the hard
central fact of utter separation.

The only leaves ever used about the dead in those days were the tansy
and rosemary--bitter herbs of affliction. Every pleasant thing in the
house was shrouded in white; every picture and looking-glass in its
winding-sheet. The coffin was placed open in the best front room, and
the mourners, enveloped in clouds of black crape, sat around. The
house on this occasion was crowded; wagons came from far and near;
the lower rooms were all open and filled, and Dr. Cushing's voice
came faintly and plaintively through the hush of silence.

He spoke tenderly of the departed:--"We have seen our sister for many
weeks waiting in the land of Beulah by the River of Death. Angels
have been coming across to visit her; we have heard the flutter of
their wings. We have seen her rejoicing in full assurance of hope,
having laid down every earthly care; we have seen her going down the
dark valley, leaning on the Beloved; and now that we have met to pay
the last tribute to her memory, shall it be with tears alone? If we
love our sister, shall we not rejoice because she has gone to the
Father? She has gone where there is no more sickness, no more pain,
no more sorrow, no more death, and she shall be ever with the Lord.
Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks unto God, who hath given her
the victory, and let us strive like her, by patient continuance in
well-doing, to seek for glory and honor and immortality."

And then arose the solemn warble of the old funeral hymn:

    "Why should we mourn departing friends
      Or shake at death's alarms?
    'Tis but the voice that Jesus sends
      To call them to his arms.

    "Why should we tremble to convey
      Their bodies to the tomb?
    There the dear form of Jesus lay,
      And scattered all the gloom.

    "Thence He arose, ascending high,
      And showed our feet the way;
    Up to the Lord we, too, shall fly
      At the great rising day.

    "Then let the last loud trumpet sound,
      And bid our kindred rise;
    Awake! ye nations under ground;
      Ye saints! ascend the skies!"

The old tune of "China," with its weird arrangement of parts,
its mournful yet majestic movement, was well fitted to express
that mysterious defiance of earth's bitterest sorrow, that solemn
assurance of victory over life's deepest anguish, which breathes
in those words. It is the major key invested with all the mournful
pathos of the minor, yet breathing a grand sustained undertone of
triumph--fit voice of that only religion which bids the human heart
rejoice in sorrow and glory in tribulation.

Then came the prayer, in which the feelings of the good man,
enkindled by sympathy and faith, seemed to bear up sorrowing souls,
as on mighty wings, into the regions of eternal peace.

In a general way nothing can be more impressive, more pathetic and
beautiful, than the Episcopal Church funeral service, but it had been
one of the last requests of the departed that her old pastor should
minister at her funeral; and there are occasions when an affectionate
and devout man, penetrated with human sympathy, can utter prayers
such as no liturgy can equal. There are prayers springing heavenward
from devout hearts that are as much superior to all written ones
as living, growing flowers out-bloom the dried treasures of the
herbarium. Not always, not by every one, come these inspirations; too
often what is called extemporary prayer is but a form, differing from
the liturgy of the church only in being poorer and colder.

But the prayer of Dr. Cushing melted and consoled; it was an uplift
from the darkness of earthly sorrow into the grand certainties of the
unseen; it had the undertone that can be given only by a faith to
which the invisible is even more real than the things that are seen.

After the prayer one and another of the company passed through the
room to take the last look at the dead. Death had touched her gently.
As often happens in the case of aged people, there had come back to
her face something of the look of youth, something which told of a
delicate, lily-like beauty which had long been faded. There was too
that mysterious smile, that expression of rapturous repose, which
is the seal of heaven set on the earthly clay. It seemed as if the
softly-closed eyes must be gazing on some ineffable vision of bliss,
as if, indeed, the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her.

Among the mourners at the head of the coffin sat Zeph Higgins, like
some rugged gray rock--stony, calm and still. He shed no tear, while
his children wept and sobbed aloud; only when the coffin-lid was
put on a convulsive movement passed across his face. But it was
momentary, and he took his place in the procession to walk to the
grave in grim calmness.

The graveyard was in a lovely spot on the Poganuc River. No care
in those days had been bestowed to ornament or brighten these last
resting-places, but Nature had taken this in hand kindly. The blue
glitter of the river sparkled here and there through a belt of pines
and hemlocks on one side, and the silent mounds were sheeted with
daisies, brightened now and then with golden buttercups, which bowed
their fair heads meekly as the funeral train passed over them.

Arrived at the grave, there followed the usual sounds, so terrible to
the ear of mourners--the setting down of the coffin, the bustle of
preparation, the harsh grating of ropes as the precious burden was
lowered to its last resting-place. And then, standing around the open
grave, they sang:

    "My flesh shall slumber in the ground
    Till the last trumpet's joyful sound.
    Then burst the chains, with sweet surprise,
    And in my Saviour's image rise."

Then rose the last words of prayer, in which the whole finished
service and all the survivors were commended to God.

It was customary in those days for the head of a family to return
thanks at the grave to the friends and neighbors who had joined in
the last tribute of respect to the departed. There was a moment's
pause, and every eye turned on Zeph Higgins. He made a movement and
stretched out his hands as if to speak; but his voice failed him, and
he stopped. His stern features were convulsed with the vain effort to
master his feeling.

Dr. Cushing saw his emotion and said, "In behalf of our brother I
return thanks to all the friends who have given us their support and
sympathy on this occasion. Let us all pray that the peace of God may
rest upon this afflicted family." The gathered friends now turned
from the grave and dispersed homeward.

With the instinct of a true soul-physician, who divines mental states
at a glance, Dr. Cushing forbore to address even a word to Zeph
Higgins; he left him to the inward ministration of a higher Power.

But such tact and reticence belong only to more instructed natures.
There are never wanting well-meaning souls who, with the very best
intentions, take hold on the sensitive nerves of sorrow with a coarse
hand.

Deacon Peaslee was inwardly shocked to see that no special attempt
had been made to "improve the dispensation" to Zeph's spiritual
state, and therefore felt called on to essay his skill.

"Well, my friend," he said, coming up to him, "I trust this
affliction may be sanctified to you."

Zeph glared on him with an impatient movement and turned to walk
away; the Deacon, however, followed assiduously by his side, going on
with his exhortation.

"You know it's no use contendin' with the Lord."

"Well, who's ben a contendin' with the Lord?" exclaimed Zeph, "I
haint."

The tone and manner were not hopeful, but the Deacon persevered.

"We must jest let the Lord do what he will with us and ours."

"I _hev_ let him--how was I goin' to help it?"

"We mustn't murmur," continued the Deacon in a feebler voice, as he
saw that his exhortation was not hopefully received.

"Who's ben a murmurin? _I_ haint!"

"Then you feel resigned, don't you?"

"I can't help myself. I've got to make the best on't," said Zeph,
trying to out-walk him.

"But you know----"

"LET ME ALONE, can't ye?" cried Zeph in a voice of thunder; and the
Deacon, scared and subdued, dropped behind, murmuring, "Drefful state
o' mind! poor critter, so unreconciled!--really awful!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

DOLLY AT THE WICKET GATE.


The next Sunday rose calm and quiet over the hills of Poganuc.

There was something almost preternatural in the sense of stillness
and utter repose which the Sabbath day used to bring with it in those
early times. The absolute rest from every earthly employment, the
withholding even of conversation from temporal things, marked it off
from all other days. To the truly devout the effect was something the
same as if the time had been spent in heaven.

On this particular dewy, fresh summer morning it seemed as if Nature
herself were hushing her breath to hear the music of a higher
sphere. Dolly stood at her open window looking out on the wooded
hills opposite, feathered with their varied green, on the waving
meadows with their buttercups and daisies, on the old apple tree in
the corner of the lot where the bobolink was tilting up and down,
chattering and singing with all his might. She was thinking of what
she had heard her father saying to her mother at breakfast: how the
sickness and death of one good woman had been blessed to all that
neighborhood, and how a revival of religion was undoubtedly begun
there.

All this made Dolly very serious. She thought a great deal about
heaven, and perfectly longed to be quite sure she ever should get
there. She often had wished that there were such a thing in reality
as a Wicket Gate, and an old Interpreter's house, and a Palace
Beautiful, for then she would set right off on her pilgrimage at
once, and in time get to the Celestial City. But how to get this
spiritual, intangible preparation she knew not. To-day she knew was
a sacramental Sunday, and she should see all the good people taking
that sacrificial bread and wine, but she should be left out.

And how to get in! There were no Sunday-schools in those days,
no hymns or teachings specially adapted to the child; and Dolly
remembered to have heard serious elderly people tell of how they were
brought "under conviction" and suffered for days and weeks before
the strange secret of mercy was revealed to them, and she wondered
how she ever should get this conviction of sin. Poor Dolly had often
tried to feel very solemn and sad and gloomy, and to think herself a
dreadful sinner, but had never succeeded. She was so young and so
healthy--the blood raced and tingled so in her young veins; and if
she was pensive and sad a little while, yet, the first she knew, she
would find herself racing after Spring, or calling to her brothers,
or jumping up and down with her skipping rope, and feeling full as
airy and gay as the bobolink across in the meadow. This morning she
was trying her best to feel her sins and count them up; but the birds
and the daisies and the flowers were a sad interruption, and she went
to meeting quite dissatisfied.

When she saw the white simple table and the shining cups and snowy
bread of the Communion she inly thought that the service could have
nothing for her--it would be all for those grown-up, initiated
Christians. Nevertheless, when her father began to speak she was
drawn to listen to him by a sort of pathetic earnestness in his voice.

The Doctor was feeling very earnestly and deeply, and he had chosen
a theme to awaken responsive feeling in his church. His text was the
declaration of Jesus: "I call you not servants, but friends;" and his
subject was Jesus as the soul-friend offered to every human being.
Forgetting his doctrinal subtleties, he spoke with all the simplicity
and tenderness of a rich nature concerning the faithful, generous,
tender love of Christ, how he cared for the soul's wants, how he
was patient with its errors, how he gently led it along the way of
right, how he was always with it, teaching its ignorance, guiding its
wanderings, comforting its sorrows, with a love unwearied by faults,
unchilled by ingratitude, till he brought it through the darkness of
earth to the perfection of heaven.

Real, deep, earnest feeling inclines to simplicity of language, and
the Doctor spoke in words that even a child could understand. Dolly
sat absorbed, her large blue eyes gathering tears as she listened;
and when the Doctor said, "Come, then, and trust your soul to this
faithful Friend," Dolly's little heart throbbed "I will." And she
did. For a moment she was discouraged by the thought that she had not
had any conviction of sin; but like a flash came the thought that
Jesus could give her that as well as anything else, and that she
could trust him for the whole. And so her little earnest child-soul
went out to the wonderful Friend. She sat through the sacramental
service that followed, with swelling heart and tearful eyes, and
walked home filled with a new joy. She went up to her father's study
and fell into his arms, saying, "Father, I have given myself to
Jesus, and he has taken me."

The Doctor held her silently to his heart a moment, and his tears
dropped on her head.

"Is it so?" he said. "Then has a new flower blossomed in the Kingdom
this day."



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE CONFLICT.


There is one class of luckless mortals in this world of ours whose
sorrows, though often more real than those of other people, never
bring them any sympathy. It is those in whom suffering excites an
irritating conflict, which makes them intolerable to themselves and
others. The more they suffer the more severe, biting and bitter
become their words and actions. The very sympathy they long for, by a
strange contrariness of nature they throw back on their friends as an
injury. Nobody knows where to have them, or how to handle them, and
when everybody steers away from them they are inwardly desolate at
their loneliness.

After the funeral train had borne away from the old brown farm-house
the silent form of her who was its peace, its light, its comfort,
Zeph Higgins wandered like an unquiet spirit from room to room,
feeling every silent memorial of her who was no longer there as a
stab in the yet throbbing wound. Unlovely people are often cursed
with an intense desire to be loved, and the more unlovely they grow
the more intense becomes this desire. His love for his wife had been
unusually strong in the sense of what is often called loving--that
is, he needed her, depended on her, and could not do without her. He
was always sure that she loved him; he was always sure of her patient
ear to whatever he wished to say, of her wish to do to her utmost
whatever he wanted her to do. Then he was not without a certain
sense of the beauty and purity of her character, and had a sort of
almost superstitious confidence in her prayers and goodness, like
what the Italian peasant has in his patron saint. He felt a sort
of helplessness and terror at the idea of facing life without her.
Besides this, he was tormented by a secret unacknowledged sense of
his own unloveliness: he was angry with himself--cursed himself,
called himself hard names; and he who quarrels with himself has this
disadvantage, that his adversary is inseparably his companion--lies
down and rises, eats, drinks and sleeps with him.

What intensified this conflict was the remembrance of his wife's
dying words, enjoining on him the relinquishment of the bitter
quarrel which had alienated him from his church and his neighbors,
and placed her in so false a position.

He knew that he was in the wrong; he knew that she was in the right,
and that those words spoken on her death-bed were God's voice to him.
But every nerve and fiber in him seemed to rebel and resist; he would
not humble himself; he would not confess; he would not take a step
toward reconciliation.

The storm that was raging within expressed itself outwardly in an
impatience and irritability which tried his children to the utmost.
Poor Nabby did her best to assume in the family all her mother's
cares, but was met at every turn by vexatious fault-finding.

"There now!" he said, coming out one morning, "where's my stockings?
Everything's being neglected--not a pair to put on!"

"Oh yes, Father, I sat up and mended your stockings last night before
I went to bed. I didn't go into your room, because I was afraid of
waking you; but here they are on my basket."

"Give 'em here, then!" said Zeph harshly. "I want my things where I
know where they are. Your mother always had everything ready so I
didn't have to ask for it."

"Well, I never shall be as good as Mother if I try till I'm gray,"
said Nabby, impatiently.

"Don't you be snapping back at me," said Zeph. "But it's jest so
everywhere. Nobody won't care for me now. I don't expect it."

"Well, Father, I'm sure I try the best I can, and you keep scolding
me all the time. It's discouraging."

"Oh, yes, I'm a devil, I suppose. Everybody 's right but me. Well, I
shall be out of the way one of these days, and nobody'll care. There
ain't a critter in the world cares whether I'm alive or dead--not
even my own children."

The sparks flashed through the tears in Nabby's eyes. She was cut to
the soul by the cruel injustice of these words, and a hot and hasty
answer rose to her lips, but was smothered in her throat.

Nabby had become one of the converts of the recently-commenced
revival of religion, and had begun to lay the discipline of the
Christian life on her temper and her tongue, and found it hard work.
As yet she had only attained so far as repression and indignant
silence, while the battle raged tempestuously within.

"I'd like just to go off and leave things to take care of
themselves," she said to herself, "and then he'd see whether I don't
do anything. Try, and try, and try, and not a word said--nothing
but scold, scold, scold. It's too bad! Flesh and blood can't stand
everything! Mother did, but I ain't Mother. I must try to be like
her, though; but it's dreadful hard with Father. How did Mother ever
keep so quiet and always be so pleasant? She used--to pray a great
deal. Well, I must pray."

Yet if Nabby could have looked in at that moment and seen the misery
in her father's soul her indignation would have been lost in pity;
for Zeph in his heart knew that Nabby was a good, warm-hearted girl,
honestly trying her very best to make her mother's place good. He
knew it, and when he was alone and quiet he felt it so that tears
came to his eyes; and yet this miserable, irritable demon that
possessed him had led him to say these cruel words to her--words that
he cursed himself for saying, the hour after. But on this day the
internal conflict was raging stronger than ever. The revival in the
neighborhood was making itself felt and talked about, and the Friday
evening prayer-meeting in the school-house was at hand.

Zeph was debating with himself whether he would take the first step
towards reconciliation with his church by going to it. His wife's
dying words haunted him, and he thought he might at least go as far
as this in the right direction; but the mere suggestion of the first
step roused a perfect whirlwind of opposition within him.

Certain moral conditions are alike in all minds, and this stern,
gnarled, grizzled old New England farmer had times when he felt
exactly as Milton has described a lost archangel as feeling:

    "Oh, then, at last relent! Is there no place
    Left for repentance? none for pardon left?
    None left but by submission, and that word
    Disdain forbids me and my dread of shame."

It is curious that men are not generally ashamed of any form of
anger, wrath or malice; but of the first step towards a nobler
nature--the confession of a wrong--they are ashamed.

Never had Zeph been more intolerable and unreasonable to his sons in
the field-work than on this day.

He was too thoroughly knit up in the habits of a Puritan education
to use any form of profane language, but no man knew so well how to
produce the startling effect of an oath without swearing; and this
day he drove about the field in such a stormy manner that his sons,
accustomed as they were to his manners, were alarmed.

"Tell you what," said one of the boys to Abner, "the old man's awful
cranky to-day. Reely seems as if he was a little bit sprung. I don't
know but he's going crazy!"



CHAPTER XXX.

THE CRISIS.


It was a warm, soft June evening. The rosy tints of sunset were just
merging into brown shadows over the landscape, the frogs peeped and
gurgled in the marshes, and the whippoorwills were beginning to
answer each other from the thick recesses of the trees, when the old
ministerial chaise of Dr. Cushing might have been seen wending its
way up the stony road to the North Poganuc school-house.

The Doctor and his wife were talking confidentially, and Dolly,
seated between them, entered with eager sympathy into all they were
saying.

They were very happy, with a simple, honest, earnest happiness, for
they hoped that the great object of his life and labors was now
about to be accomplished, that the power of a Divine Influence was
descending to elevate and purify and lift the souls of his people to
God.

"My dear, I no longer doubt," he said. "The presence of the Lord is
evidently with us. If only the church will fully awaken to their
duty we may hope for a harvest now."

"What a pity," answered Mrs. Cushing, "that that old standing quarrel
of Zeph Higgins and the church cannot be made up; his children are
all deeply interested in religion, but he stands right in their way."

"Why don't you talk to him, Papa?" asked Dolly.

"Nobody can speak to him but God, my child; there's a man that nobody
knows how to approach."

Dolly reflected silently on this for some minutes, and then said,

"Papa, do you suppose Christ loves him? Did he die for him?"

"Yes, my child. Christ loved and died for all."

"Do you think _he believes_ that?" asked Dolly, earnestly.

"I'm afraid he doesn't think much about it," answered her father.

Here they came in sight of the little school-house. It seemed already
crowded. Wagons were tied along the road, and people were standing
around the doors and windows.

The Doctor and Mrs. Cushing made their way through the crowd to
the seat behind the little pine table. He saw in the throng not
merely the ordinary attendance at prayer-meetings, but many of the
careless and idle class who seldom were seen inside a church. There
were the unusual faces of Abe Bowles and Liph Kingsley and Mark
Merrill, who had left the seductions of Glazier's bar-room to come
over and see whether there was really any revival at North Poganuc,
and not perhaps without a secret internal suggestion that to be
converted would be the very best thing for them temporally as well
as spiritually. Liph's wife, a poor, discouraged, forsaken-looking
woman, had persuaded him to come over with her, and sat there
praying, as wives of drunken men often pray, for some help from above
to save him, and her, and her children.

Nothing could be rougher and more rustic than the old
school-house,--its walls hung with cobwebs; its rude slab benches and
desks hacked by many a schoolboy's knife; the plain, ink-stained pine
table before the minister, with its two tallow candles, whose dim
rays scarcely gave light enough to read the hymns. There was nothing
outward to express the real greatness of what was there in reality.

There are surroundings that make us realize objectively the grandeur
of the human soul, and the sublimity of the possibilities which
Christianity opens to it. The dim cathedral, whose arches seem to
ascend to the skies, from whose distant recesses pictured forms of
saints and angels look down, whose far-reaching aisles thrill with
chants solemn and triumphant, while clouds of incense arise at the
holy altar, and white-robed priests and kneeling throngs prostrate
themselves before the Invisible Majesty--all this "pomp of dreadful
sacrifice" enkindles the ideas of the infinite and the eternal, and
makes us feel how great, how glorious, how mysterious and awful is
the destiny of man.

But the New England Puritan had put the ocean between him and all
such scenic presentations of the religious life. He had renounced
every sensuous aid, and tasked himself to bring their souls to
face the solemn questions of existence and destiny in their simple
nakedness, without drapery or accessories; there were times in the
life of an earnest minister when these truths were made so intensely
vivid and effective as to overbear all outward disadvantages of
surrounding; and to-night the old school-house, though rude and
coarse as the manger of Bethlehem, like that seemed hallowed by the
presence of a God.

From the moment the Doctor entered he was conscious of a present
Power. There was a hush, a stillness, and the words of his prayer
seemed to go out into an atmosphere thrilling with emotion; and when
he rose to speak he saw the countenances of his parishioners with
that change upon them which comes from the waking up of the soul to
higher things. Hard, weather-beaten faces were enkindled and eager;
every eye was fixed upon him; every word he spoke seemed to excite a
responsive emotion.

The Doctor read from the Old Testament the story of Achan. He told
how the host of the Lord had been turned back because there was one
in the camp who had secreted in his tent an accursed thing. He asked,
"Can it be now, and here, among us who profess to be Christians, that
we are secreting in our hearts some accursed thing that prevents
the good Spirit of the Lord from working among us? Is it our pride?
Is it our covetousness? Is it our hard feeling against a brother?
Is there anything that we know to be wrong that we refuse to make
right--anything that we know belongs to God that we are withholding?
If we Christians lived as high as we ought, if we lived up to our
professions, would there be any sinners unconverted? Let us beware
how we stand in the way. If the salt have lost its savor wherewith
shall it be salted? Oh, my brethren, let us not hinder the work of
God. I look around on this circle and I miss the face of a sister
that was always here to help us with her prayers; now she is with
the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are
written in heaven, with the spirits of the just made perfect. But
her soul will rejoice with the angels of God if she looks down and
sees us all coming up to where we ought to be. God grant that her
prayers may be fulfilled in us. Let us examine ourselves, brethren;
let us cast out the stumbling-block, that the way of the Lord may be
prepared."

The words, simple in themselves, became powerful by the atmosphere of
deep feeling into which they were uttered; there were those solemn
pauses, that breathless stillness, those repressed breathings,
that magnetic sympathy that unites souls under the power of one
overshadowing conviction.

When the Doctor sat down, suddenly there was a slight movement, and
from a dark back seat rose the gaunt form of Zeph Higgins. He was
deathly pale, and his form trembled with emotion. Every eye was fixed
upon him, and people drew in their breath, with involuntary surprise
and suspense.

"Wal, I must speak," he said. "_I'm_ a stumbling-block. I've allers
ben one. I hain't never ben a Christian--that's jest the truth
on't. I never hed oughter 'a' ben in the church. I've ben all
wrong--_wrong_--WRONG! I knew I was wrong, but I wouldn't give up.
It's ben jest my awful WILL. I've set up my will agin God Almighty.
I've set it agin my neighbors--agin the minister and agin the church.
And now the Lord's come out agin me; he's struck me down. I know he's
got a right--he can do what he pleases--but I ain't resigned--not a
grain. I submit 'cause I can't help myself; but my heart's hard and
wicked. I expect my day of grace is over. I ain't a Christian, and I
can't be, and I shall go to hell at last, and sarve me right!"

And Zeph sat down, grim and stony, and the neighbors looked one on
another in a sort of consternation. There was a terrible earnestness
in those words that seemed to appall every one and prevent any from
uttering the ordinary commonplaces of religious exhortation. For a
few moments the circle was silent as the grave, when Dr. Cushing
said, "Brethren, let us pray;" and in his prayer he seemed to rise
above earth and draw his whole flock, with all their sins and needs
and wants, into the presence-chamber of heaven.

He prayed that the light of heaven might shine into the darkened
spirit of their brother; that he might give himself up utterly to
the will of God; that we might _all_ do it, that we might become as
little children in the kingdom of heaven. With the wise tact which
distinguished his ministry he closed the meeting immediately after
the prayer with one or two serious words of exhortation. He feared
lest what had been gained in impression might be talked away did he
hold the meeting open to the well-meant, sincere but uninstructed
efforts of the brethren to meet a case like that which had been laid
open before them.

After the service was over and the throng slowly dispersed, Zeph
remained in his place, rigid and still. One or two approached to
speak to him; there was in fact a tide of genuine sympathy and
brotherly feeling that longed to express itself. He might have been
caught up in this powerful current and borne into a haven of peace,
had he been one to trust himself to the help of others: but he looked
neither to the right nor to the left; his eyes were fixed on the
floor; his brown, bony hands held his old straw hat in a crushing
grasp; his whole attitude and aspect were repelling and stern to such
a degree that none dared address him.

The crowd slowly passed on and out. Zeph sat alone, as he thought;
but the minister, his wife, and little Dolly had remained at the
upper end of the room. Suddenly, as if sent by an irresistible
impulse, Dolly stepped rapidly down the room and with eager gaze laid
her pretty little timid hand upon his shoulder, crying, in a voice
tremulous at once with fear and with intensity, "O, _why_ do you say
that you can not be a Christian? Don't you know that Christ loves
you?"

Christ loves you! The words thrilled through his soul with a strange,
new power; he opened his eyes and looked astonished into the little
earnest, pleading face.

"Christ loves you," she repeated; "oh, do believe it!"

"Loves _me_!" he said, slowly. "Why should he?"

"But he does; he loves us all. He died for us. He died for you. Oh,
believe it. He'll help you; he'll make you feel right. Only trust
him. Please say you will!"

Zeph looked at the little face earnestly, in a softened, wondering
way. A tear slowly stole down his hard cheek.

"Thank'e, dear child," he said.

"You will believe it?"

"I'll try."

"You will trust Him?"

Zeph paused a moment, then rose up with a new and different
expression in his face, and said, in a subdued and earnest voice, "_I
will_."

"Amen!" said the Doctor, who stood listening; and he silently grasped
the old man's hand.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE JOY OF HARVEST.


When Zeph turned from the little red school-house to go home,
after the prayer-meeting, he felt that peace which comes after
a great interior crisis has passed. He had, for the first time
in his life, yielded his will, absolutely and thoroughly. He had
humbled himself, in a public confession of wrong-doing, before all
his neighbors, before those whom he had felt to be enemies. He
had taken the step convulsively, unwillingly, constrained thereto
by a mighty overmastering power which wrought within him. He had
submitted, without love, to the simple, stern voice of conscience
and authority--the submission of a subject to a monarch, not that
of a child to a father. Just then and there, when he felt himself
crushed, lonely, humbled and despairing, the touch of that child's
hand on his, the pleading childish face, the gentle childish voice,
had spoken to him of the love of Christ.

There are hard, sinful, unlovely souls, who yet long to be loved,
who sigh in their dark prison for that tenderness, that devotion,
of which they are consciously unworthy. Love might redeem them; but
who can love them? There is a fable of a prince doomed by a cruel
enchanter to wear a loathsome, bestial form till some fair woman
should redeem him by the transforming kiss of love. The fable is a
parable of the experience of many a lost human soul.

The religion of Christ owes its peculiar power to its revealing a
Divine Lover, the one Only Fair, the altogether Beautiful, who can
love the unlovely back into perfectness. The love of Christ has been
the dissolving power that has broken the spells and enchantments
which held human souls in bondage and has given them power to rise to
the beauty and freedom of the sons of God.

As Zeph walked homeward through the lonely stillness of the night,
again and again the words thrilled through his soul, "_Christ loves
you_"--and such tears as he had never wept before stood in his eyes,
as he said wonderingly, "Me--me? Oh, is it possible? Can it be?" And
Christ _died for him_! He had known it all these years, and never
thanked him, never loved him. The rush of new emotion overpowered
him; he entered his house, walked straight to the great family Bible
that lay on a stand in the best room of the house; it was the very
room where the coffin of his wife had stood, where he had sat, stony
and despairing, during the funeral exercises. Zeph opened the Bible
at random and began turning the leaves, and his eye fell on the
words, "_Unto Him that_ LOVED US and washed us from our sins in his
own blood and hath made us to our God kings and priests, to him be
glory!" His heart responded with a strange new joy--a thrill of hope
that he, too, might be washed from his sins.

Who can read the awful mysteries of a single soul? We see human
beings, hard, harsh, earthly, and apparently without an aspiration
for any thing high and holy; but let us never say that there is not
far down in the depths of any soul a smothered aspiration, a dumb
repressed desire to be something higher and purer, to attain the
perfectness to which God calls it.

Zeph felt at this moment that Christ who so loved him could purify
him, could take away his pride and willfulness; and he fell on his
knees, praying without words, but in the spirit of him of old who
cried, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." As he prayed a great
peace fell upon him, a rest and stillness of soul such as he had
never felt before; he lay down that night and slept the sleep of a
little child.

But when next day Zeph Higgins walked into Deacon Dickenson's store
and of his own accord offered to put back the water-pipes that led
to his spring, and to pay whatever cost and damage the Deacon might
have incurred in throwing them out, there was then no manner of doubt
that some higher power than that of man had been at work in his soul.

The Deacon himself was confounded, almost appalled, by the change
that had come over his neighbor. He had been saying all his life that
the grace of God could do anything and convert anybody, but he never
expected to see a conversion like that. Instead of grasping eagerly
at the offered reparation he felt a strange emotion within himself,
a sort of choking in his throat; and now that he saw the brother
with whom he had contended yielding so unconditionally, he began to
question himself whether he had no wrong to confess on his side.

"Wal now, I expect I've ben wrong too," he said. "We ain't perfectly
sanctified, none on us, and I know I hain't done quite right, and I
hain't felt right. I got my back up, and I've said things I hadn't
orter. Wal, we'll shake hands on't. I ain't perticklar 'bout them
water-pipes now; we'll let bygones be bygones."

But Zeph had set his heart on reparation, and here was a place where
the pertinacity of his nature had an honest mission; so by help of
reference to one or two neighbors as umpires the whole loss was
finally made good and the long-standing controversy with all its
ill-feeling settled and buried forever out of sight.

The news of this wonderful change spread through all the town.

"I declar' for't," said Liph Kingsley to Bill Larkins, "this ere's a
reel thing, and it's time for me to be a-thinkin'. I've got a soul to
be saved too, and I mean to quit drinkin' and seek the Lord."

"Poh!" said Bill, "you may say so and think so; but you won't do it.
You'll never hold out."

"Don't you believe that; Christ will help you," said Zeph Higgins,
who had overheard the conversation. "He has helped me; he can help
you. He can save to the uttermost. There 'tis in the Bible--try it.
We'll all stand by ye."

A voice like this from old Zeph Higgins impressed the neighbors as
being almost as much of a miracle as if one of the gray cliffs of
old Bluff Head had spoken; but his heart was full, and he was ready
everywhere to testify to the love that had redeemed him. No exhorter
in the weekly prayer-meeting spoke words of such power as he.

The few weeks that followed were marked in the history of the town.
Everywhere the meetings for preaching and prayer were crowded.
Glazier's bar-room was shut up for want of custom, and Glazier
himself renounced the selling of liquor and became one of the
converts of the revival. For a while every member of the church in
the village acted as if the wonderful things which they all professed
to believe were really true--as if there were an immortality of glory
to be gained or lost by our life here.

The distinction between the aristocracy of Town Hill and the outlying
democracy of the farming people was merged for the time in a sense
of a higher and holier union. Colonel Davenport and Judge Gridley
were seen with Doctor Cushing in the school-houses of the outlying
districts, exhorting and praying, and the farmers from the distant
hills crowded in to the Town Hill meetings. For some weeks the
multitude was of one heart and one soul. A loftier and mightier
influence overshadowed them, under whose power all meaner differences
sunk out of sight. Such seasons as these are like warm showers that
open leaf and flower, buds that have been long forming. Everybody in
those days that attended Christian services had more or less of good
purposes, of indefinite aspiration to be better, of intentions that
related to some future. The revival brought these out in the form of
an immediate practical purpose, a definite, actual beginning in a new
life.

"Well, Mother," said Hiel Jones, "I've made up my mind to be a
Christian. I've counted the cost, and it will cost something, too. I
was a-goin' up to Vermont to trade for a team o' hosses, and I can't
make the trade I should 'a' made. If I jine the church I mean to live
up to 't, and I can't make them sharp trades fellers do. I could
beat 'em all out o' their boots," said Hiel, with rather a regretful
twinkle in his eye, "but I won't; I'll do the right thing, ef I
don't make so much by 't. Nabby and me's both agreed 'bout that. We
shall jine the church together, and be married as soon as I get back
from Vermont. I allers meant to git religion sometime--but somehow,
lately, I've felt that _now_ is the time."

On one bright autumnal Sabbath of that season the broad aisle of the
old meeting-house was filled with candidates solemnly confessing
their faith and purpose to lead the Christian life. There, standing
side by side, were all ages, from the child to the gray-haired man.
There stood Dolly with her two brothers, her heart thrilling with
the sense of the holy rite in which she was joining; there Nabby and
Hiel side by side; there all the sons of Zeph Higgins; and there,
lastly, the gray, worn form of old Zeph himself. Although enrolled as
a church member he had asked to stand up and take anew those vows of
which he had never before understood the meaning or felt the spirit,
and thus reunite himself with the church from which he had separated.

That day was a recompense to Dr. Cushing for many anxieties and
sorrows. He now saw fully that though the old _régime_ of New
England had forever passed, yet there was still in the hands of her
ministry that mighty power which Paul was not ashamed to carry to
Rome as adequate to regenerate a world. He saw that intemperance and
profanity and immorality could be subdued by the power of religious
motive working in the hearts of individual men, taking away the
desire to do evil, and that the Gospel of Christ is to-day, as it was
of old and ever will be, the power of God and the wisdom of God to
the salvation of every one that believeth.



CHAPTER XXXII.

SIX YEARS LATER.


Six years step softly, with invisible footsteps, over the plain of
life, bearing us on with an insensible progress. Six years of winter
snows and spring thaws, of early blue-birds and pink May-flower buds
under leafy banks, of anemone, crowfoot and violet in the fields, of
apple-blossoms in the orchards, and new green leaves in the forest;
six years of dark-green summers in the rustling woods, of fire-lilies
in the meadow-lots and scarlet lobelias by the water-brooks, of roses
and lilies and tall phloxes in the gardens; six years of autumnal
golden rod and aster, of dropping nuts and rainbow-tinted forests,
of ripened grain and gathered corn, of harvest home and thanksgiving
proclamation and gathering of families about the home table to
consider the loving-kindness of the Lord:--by such easy stages, such
comings and goings, is our mortal pilgrimage marked off. When the
golden rod and aster have bloomed for us sixty or seventy seasons,
then we are near the banks of the final river, we are coming to the
time of leaving the flowers of earth for the flowers of Paradise.

The six years in Poganuc had brought their changes, not in external
nature, for that remained quiet and beautiful as ever; the same
wooded hills, with their sylvan shades and hidden treasures of fruits
and flowers, the same brown, sparkling river, where pickerel and
perch darted to and fro, and trout lurked in cool, shadowy hollows:
but the old graveyard bore an added stone or two; mounds wet with
bitter tears had grown green and flowery, and peaceable fruits of
righteousness had sprung up from harvests sown there in weeping.

As to the Parsonage and its inmates, six years had added a little
sprinkle of silver to the Doctor's head, and a little new learning
of the loving-kindness of the Lord to his heart. The fruits of the
revival gathered into his church were as satisfactory as ordinary
human weakness allows. The Doctor was even more firmly seated in
the respect and affection of his parish than in old days, when the
ministry was encompassed by the dignities and protections of law.
Poganuc was a town where an almshouse was almost a superfluous
institution, and almsgiving made difficult by the fact that there
were no poor people; for since the shutting of Glazier's bar-room,
and the reformation of a few noted drunkards, there was scarce
anybody not in the way of earning a decent and comfortable living.
Such were our New England villages in the days when its people were
of our own blood and race, and the pauper population of Europe had
not as yet been landed upon our shores.

As to the characters of our little story, they, also, had moved on a
stage in the journey of life.

Hiel Jones had become a thriving man; had bought a share in the
stage-line that ran through the town, and owned the finest team
of horses in the region. He and our friend Nabby were an edifying
matrimonial firm, comfortably established at housekeeping in a trim,
well-kept dwelling not far from the Parsonage, with lilac bushes over
the front windows, and red peonies and yellow lilies in the door-yard.

A sturdy youngster of three years, who toddled about, upsetting
matters generally, formed a large part of the end and aim of Nabby's
existence. To say the truth, this young, bright-eyed, curly-pated
slip of humanity was enough to furnish work for a dozen women, for he
did mischief with a rapidity, ingenuity and energy that was perfectly
astonishing. What small efforts the parents made in the direction of
family government were utterly frustrated by the fond and idolatrous
devotion of old Zeph, who evidently considered it the special
privilege of a grandfather to spoil the rising generation.

Scarce a day passed that Zeph was not at the house, his pockets
stuffed with apples, cakes or nuts for the boy. The old man bowed his
grey head to the yoke of youth; he meekly did the infant's will; he
was the boy's horse and cantered for him, he was a cock and crowed
for him, he was a hen and cackled for him; he sacrificed dignity and
consistency at those baby feet as the wise men of old laid down their
gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Zeph had ripened like a winter apple. The hard, snarly astringency of
his character had grown sweet and mild. His was a nature capable of a
great and lasting change. When he surrendered his will to his God he
surrendered once for all, and so the peace of God fell upon him and
kept him. He was a consistent and most useful member of the church,
and began to be known in the neighborhood by the semi-affectionate
title of "Uncle Zeph," a sort of brevet rank which indicated a
certain general confidence in his disposition to neighborly good
offices.

The darling wish of his wife's heart had been accomplished in his
eldest son Abner. He had sent him through college, sparing no labor
and no hardship in himself to give the youth every advantage. And
Abner had proved an able scholar; his college career had been even
brilliant, and he had now returned to his native place to pursue his
theological studies under Dr. Cushing.

It will be well remembered that in the former days of New England
there were no specific theological institutions, but the young
candidate for the ministry took his studies under the care of some
pastor, who directed his preparatory course and initiated him into
his labors, and this course of things once established was often
continued from choice even after institutions of learning were
founded.

The Doctor had an almost paternal pride in this offshoot that had
grown up in his parish; he taught him with enthusiasm; he took him
in his old chaise to the associations and ministerial meetings about
the State, and gave him every opportunity to exercise his gifts in
speaking.

It was a proud Sunday for old Zeph when his boy preached his
first sermon in the Doctor's pulpit. The audience in the Poganuc
meeting-house, as we have indicated, was no mean one in point of
education, ability and culture, but every one saw and commended the
dignity and self-possession with which the young candidate filled the
situation, and there was a universal approval of his discourse from
even the most critical of his audience. But the face and figure of
old Zeph as he leaned forward in his seat, following with breathless
eagerness every word; his blue eyes kindling, the hard lines of his
face relaxing into an expression of absorbed and breathless interest,
would have made a study for a painter. Every point in the argument,
the flash of every illustration, the response to every emotion,
could have been read in his face as in an open book; and when after
service the young candidate received the commendations of Colonel
Davenport, Judge Belcher and Judge Gridley, Zeph's cup of happiness
was full. Abner was an exception to the saying that a prophet hath
no honor in his own country, for both classes in society vied with
each other to do him honor. The farming population liked him for
being one of themselves, the expression of what they felt themselves
capable of being and becoming under similar advantages; while the
more cultivated class really appreciated the talent and energy of the
young man, and were the better pleased with it as having arisen in
their own town.

So his course was all fair, until, as Fate would have it, he asked
one thing too much of her--and thereof came a heart-ache.

Our little friend Dolly had shot up into a blooming and beautiful
maiden--warm-hearted, enthusiastic, and whole-souled as we have seen
her in her childhood. She was in everything the sympathetic response
that parents love to find in a child. She entered with her whole soul
into all her father's feelings and plans, and had felt and expressed
such an honest, frank, and hearty friendliness to the young man, such
an interest in his success, that the poor youth was beguiled into
asking more than Dolly could give.

Modern young ladies, who count and catalogue their victims, would
doubtless be amused to have seen Dolly's dismay at her unexpected
and undesired conquest. The recoil was so positive and decided as to
be beyond question, but Dolly's conscience was sorely distressed.
She had meant nothing but the ordinary loving-kindness of a good
and generous heart. She had wanted to make him happy, and had ended
in making him apparently quite miserable; and Dolly was sincerely
afflicted about it. What had she done? Had she done wrong? She never
thought--never dreamed--of such a thing.

The fact was that Dolly had those large, earnest, persuasive eyes
that are very dangerous, and sometimes seem to say more than they
mean; and she had quick, sudden smiles, and twinkling dimples, and
artless, honest ways, and so much general good-will and kindliness,
that one might pardonably be deceived by her.

It is said that there are lakes whose waters are so perfectly
transparent that they deceive the eye as to their depth. Dolly was
like these crystal waters; with all her impulsive frankness there
was a deep world within--penetralia that had been yet uninvaded--and
there she kept her ideals. The man she _might_ love was one of the
immortals, not in the least like a blushing young theological student
in a black coat, with a hymn-book under his arm. Precisely what he
was she had never been near enough to see; but she knew in a minute
what he was _not_. Therefore she had said "No" with a resolute energy
that admitted of no hope, and yet with a distress and self-reproach
that was quite genuine.

This was Dolly's first real trouble.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE DOCTOR MAKES A DISCOVERY.


"Why, wife," said the Doctor, pushing up his spectacles on his
forehead and looking up from his completed sermon, "our little Dolly
is really a grown-up young lady."

"Well, of course, what should she be?" rejoined Mrs. Cushing, with
the decisive air which becomes the feminine partner on strictly
feminine ground; "she's taller than I am, and she's a handsome girl,
too."

"I don't think," said the Doctor, assuming a confidential tone, "that
there's a girl in our meeting-house to be compared with her--there
really is not."

"There is no great fault to be found with Dolly's looks," said Mrs.
Cushing as she turned a stocking she had been darning. "Dolly always
was pretty."

"Well, what do you think Higgins has been saying to me about her?"
continued the Doctor.

"Some nonsense I suppose," said Mrs. Cushing, "something he might as
well have left unsaid, for all the good it will do."

"Now, my dear, Higgins is going to make one of the leading ministers
of the State. He has a bright, strong, clear mind; he is a thorough
scholar and a fine speaker, and I have had a letter from the church
in Northboro' about settling him there."

"All very well. I'm sure I'm glad of it, with all my heart," said
Mrs. Cushing; "but if he has any thoughts of our Dolly the sooner he
gets them out of his head the better for him. Dolly has felt very
kindly to him, as she does to everybody; she has been interested in
him simply and only as a friend; but any suggestion of particular
interest on his part would exceedingly annoy her. You had better
speak very decidedly to him to this effect. You can say that I
understand my daughter's mind, and that it will be very painful to
her to have anything more said on the subject."

"Well, really, I'm sorry for Higgins," said the Doctor, "he's such a
good-hearted worthy fellow, and I believe he's very deep in love."

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Cushing decidedly; "but our Dolly can't marry
every good-hearted worthy fellow that comes in her way, if he is in
love; and I'm sure I'm in no hurry to give her away,--she is the
light and music of the house."

"So she is," said the Doctor; "I couldn't do without her; but I pity
poor Higgins."

"Oh, you may spare your pity; he won't break his heart. Never fear.
Men never die of that. There'll be girls enough in his parish, and
he'll be married six months after he gets a place--ministers always
are."

The Doctor made some few corrections in the end of his sermon without
contradicting this unceremonious statement of his wife's.

"But," continued Mrs. Cushing, "the thing is a trial to Dolly; I
think it would be quite as well if she shouldn't see any more of him
for the present, and I have just got a letter from Deborah urging me
to let her go to Boston for a visit. Mother says she is getting old,
now, and that she shall never see Dolly unless the child comes to
her. Here's the letter."

The Doctor took it, and we, looking over his shoulder, see the large,
sharp, decided style of writing characteristic of Miss Debby Kittery:

  "DEAR SISTER:

  "Mother wants you to let us have Dolly to make a good, long visit.
  Mother is getting old now, and says she hasn't seen Dolly since
  she has grown up, and thinks we old folks will be the better for a
  little young life about us. You remember Cousin Jane Davies, that
  married John Dunbar and went over to England? Well, brother Israel
  Kittery has taken a fancy to her youngest son during his late visit
  to England, and is going to bring him to Boston and turn over his
  business to him and make him his heir. We are expecting them now by
  every ship, and have invited them to spend the Christmas Holidays
  with us. I understand this young Alfred Dunbar is a bright,
  quick-witted young slip, just graduated from Oxford, and one that
  finds favor in all eyes. He will help make it lively for Dolly, and
  if anything should come of it why it will be all the better. So if
  you will have Dolly ready to leave I will be up to visit you in
  December and bring her home with me. Mother sends a great deal of
  love,--her rheumatism has gone to her right arm now, which is about
  all the variety she is treated to; but she is always serene, as
  usual, and sends no end of loving messages.

  "Your affectionate sister,

  "DEBBY.

  "P. S.--Don't worry about Dolly's dress. My pink brocade will cut
  over for her, and it is nearly as good as new. I'll bring it when I
  come."

On reading this letter the Doctor fell into a deep muse.

"Well, what do you think?" asked his wife.

"What? Who? I?" said the Doctor, with difficulty collecting himself
from his reverie.

"Yes, _you_," answered his wife incisively, with just the kind of a
tone to wake one out of a nap.

The fact was that the good Doctor had a little habit of departing
unceremoniously into some celestial region of thought in the midst of
conversation, and the notion of Dolly's going to Boston had aroused
quite a train of ideas connected with certain doctrinal discussions
now going on there in relation to the Socinian controversy, so that
his wife's voice came to him from afar off, as one hears in a dream.

To Mrs. Cushing, whose specific work lay here, and now, in the
matters of this present world, this little peculiarity of her husband
was at times a trifle annoying; so she added, "I do wish you would
attend to what we were talking about. Don't you think it would be
just the best thing in the world for Dolly to make this visit to
Boston?"

"Oh, certainly I do--by all means," he said eagerly, with the air of
a man just waked up who wants to show he hasn't been asleep. "Yes,
Dolly had better go."

The Doctor mused for another moment, and then added, in a sort
of soliloquy: "Boston is a city of sacred associations; it is
consecrated ground; the graves of our fathers, of the saints and the
martyrs are there. I shall like little Dolly to visit them."

This was not precisely the point of view in which the visit was
contemplated in the mind of his wife; but the enthusiasm was a
sincere one. Boston, to all New England, was the Jerusalem--the city
of sacred and religious memories; they took pleasure in her stones,
and favored the dust thereof.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

HIEL AND NABBY.


"Only think, Hiel, Dolly's going to Boston," said Nabby, when they
had seated themselves cosily with the infant Zeph between them at the
supper-table.

"Ye don't say so, now!" said Hiel, with the proper expression of
surprise.

"Yes, Miss Kittery, her Boston aunt, 's comin' next week, and I'm
goin' in to do up her muslins for her. Yes, Dolly 's goin' to Boston."

"Good!" said Hiel. "I hope she'll get a husband there."

"That's jest all you men think of," answered Nabby. "Dolly ain't
one o' that kind; she ain't lookin' out for fellers--though there's
plenty would be glad to have her. She ain't one o' that sort."

"Wal," said Hiel, "she's too good-lookin' to be let alone; she'll
_hev_ to hev somebody."

"Oh, there's enough after her," said Nabby. "There was that Virginny
fellow in Judge Belcher's office, waitin' on her home from meetin'
and wanting to be her beau; she wouldn't have nothin' to say to him.
Then there was that academy teacher used to walk home with her, and
carry her books and go with her to singin' school; but Dolly didn't
want him. And there's Abner--he jest worships the ground she treads
on; and she's jest good friends with him. She's good friends with 'em
all round, but come to case in hand she don't want any on 'em."

"Wal, there ain't nothin' but the doctrine o' 'lection for such
gals," said Hiel. "When the one they's decreed to marry comes along
then their time comes, jest as yours and mine did, Nabby."

The conversation was here interrupted by the infant Zeph, who had
improved the absorbed state of his parents' minds to carry out a plan
he had been some time meditating, of upsetting the molasses pitcher.
This was done with such celerity that before they could make a move
both his fat hands were triumphantly spatted into the brown river,
and he gave a crow of victory.

"There! clean table-cloth this very night! Did I ever see such a
young un!" cried Nabby, as she caught him away from the table.
"Father thinks he's perfection. I should like to have him have
the care of him once," she added, bustling and brightening and
laughing as she scolded; while Hiel, making perfectly sincere but
ill-directed efforts to scrape up the molasses with a spoon,
succeeded only in distributing it pretty equally over the table-cloth.

"Well, now, if there ain't a pair of you!" said Nabby, when she
returned to the table. "If that ain't jest like a man!"

"Wal, what would ye hev me--like a girl, or a dog, or what?" asked
Hiel, as he stood, with his hands in his pockets, surveying the
scene. "I did my best; but I ain't used to managing molasses and
babies together; that's a fact."

"It's lucky Mother went out to tea," said Nabby, as she whisked off
the tablecloth, wiped the table, re-clothed it with a clean one, and
laid the supper dishes back in a twinkling. "Now, Hiel, we'll try
again; and be sure and put things where _he_ can't get 'em; he does
beat all for mischief!"

And the infant phenomenon, who had had his face washed and his apron
changed in the interim, looked up confidingly in the face of each
parent and crowed out a confident laugh.

"Don't let's tell Mother," said Nabby; "she's always sayin' we don't
govern him; and I'm sure she spoils him more than we do; but if she'd
been here she wouldn't get over it for a week."

In fact, the presence of Mother Jones in the family was the only
drawback on Nabby's domestic felicity, that good lady's virtues, as
we have seen, being much on the plaintive and elegiac order. There
is indeed a class of elderly relatives who, their work in life being
now over, have nothing to do but sit and pass criticisms on the
manner in which younger pilgrims are bearing the heat and burden of
the day.

Although Nabby was confessedly one of the most capable and energetic
of housekeepers, though everything in her domestic domains fairly
shone and glittered with neatness, though her cake always rose even,
though her bread was the whitest, her biscuits the lightest, and
her doughnuts absolute perfection, yet Mother Jones generally sat
mildly swaying in her rocking-chair and declaring herself consumed by
care--and averring that she had "_everything_ on her mind." "I don't
_do_ much, but I feel the care of everything," the old lady would
remark in a quavering voice. "Young folks is so thoughtless; they
don't feel care as I do."

At first Nabby was a little provoked at this state of things; but
Hiel only laughed it off.

"Oh, let her talk. Mother _likes_ to feel care; she wants something
to worry about; she'd be as forlorn as a hen without a nest-egg if
she hadn't that. Don't you trouble your head, Nabby, so long as I
don't."

For all that, Nabby congratulated herself that Mother Jones was not
at the tea-table, for the nurture and admonition of young Zeph was
one of her most fruitful and weighty sources of care. She was always
declaring that "children was sech an awful responsibility, that she
wondered that folks dared to git married!" She laid down precepts,
strict even to ferocity, as to the early necessity of prompt,
energetic government, and of breaking children's wills; and then gave
master Zeph everything he cried for, and indulged all his whims with
the most abject and prostrate submission.

"I know I hadn't orter," she would say, when confronted with this
patent inconsistency; "but then I ain't his mother. I ain't got the
responsibility; and the fact is he _will_ have things and I _hev_
to let him. His parents orter break his will, but they don't; it's
a great care to me;" and Mother Jones would end by giving him the
sugar-bowl to play with, and except for the immutable laws of nature
she would doubtless have given him the moon or any part of the solar
system that he had cried for.

Nevertheless, let it not be surmised that Mother Jones,
notwithstanding the minor key in which she habitually indulged, was
in the least unhappy. There are natures to whom the "unleavened bread
and bitter herbs" of life are an agreeable and strengthening diet,
and Mother Jones took real pleasure in everything that went to show
that this earth was a vale of tears. A funeral was a most enlivening
topic for her, and she never allowed an opportunity to pass within
riding distance without giving it her presence, and dwelling on all
the details of the state of the "corpse" and the minutiæ of the
laying-out for weeks after, so that her presence at table between
her blooming son and daughter answered all the moral purposes of the
skeleton which the ancient Egyptians kept at their feasts. Mother
Jones also, in a literal sense, "_enjoyed_ poor health" and petted
her coughs and her rheumatisms, and was particularly discomposed
with any attempt to show her that she was getting better. Yet when
strictly questioned the good lady always admitted, though with a
mournful shake of the head, that she had everything to be thankful
for--that Hiel was a good son, and Nabby was a good daughter, and
'since Hiel had jined the church and hed prayers in his family, she
hoped he'd hold on to the end--though it really worried her to see
how light and triflin' he was.'

In fact Hiel, though maintaining on the whole a fairly consistent
walk and profession, was undoubtedly a very gleesome church member,
and about as near Mother Jones's idea of a saint as a bobolink on a
clover-top. There was a worldly twinkle in his eye, and the lines
of his cheery face grew rather broad than long, and his mother's
most lugubrious suggestions would often set him off in a story that
would upset even the old lady's gravity and bring upon her pangs of
repentance. For the spiritual danger and besetting sin that Mother
Jones more especially guarded against was an "undue levity;" but
when she remembered that Dr. Cushing himself and all the neighboring
clergymen, on an occasion of a "ministers' meeting" when she had
been helping in the family, had vied with each other in telling good
stories, and shaken their sides with roars of heartiest laughter,
she was somewhat consoled about Hiel. She confessed it was a mystery
to her, however, 'how folks could hev the heart to be a-laughin' and
tellin' stories in sich a dying world.'



CHAPTER XXXV.

MISS DEBBY ARRIVES.


"To Dr. Cushing's, Ma'am?"

This question met the ear of Miss Debby Kittery just after she had
deposited her umbrella, with a smart, decisive thump, by her side,
and settled herself and her bandbox on the back seat of the creaking,
tetering old stage on the way to Poganuc.

Miss Debby opened her eyes, surveyed the questioner with a well-bred
stare, and answered, with a definite air, "Yes, sir."

"Oh, yis; thought so," said Hiel Jones. "Miss Kittery, I s'pose; the
Doctor's folks is expecting ye. Folks all well in Boston, I s'pose?"

Miss Debby in her heart thought Hiel Jones very presuming and
familiar, and endeavored to convey by her behavior and manner that
such was her opinion; but the effort was quite a vain one, for the
remotest conception of any such possibility in his case was so far
from Hiel's mind that there was not there even the material to make
it of. The look of dignified astonishment with which the good lady
responded to his question as to the "folks in Boston" was wholly
lost on him.

The first sentence in the Declaration of Independence, that all men
are "created equal," had so far become incarnate in Hiel that he
never yet had seen the human being whom he did not feel competent to
address on equal terms, and, when exalted to his high seat on the
stage-box, could not look down upon with a species of patronage.
Even the _haute noblesse_ of Poganuc allowed Hiel's familiarities
and laughed at his jokes; he was one of their institutions; and what
was tolerance and acceptance on the part of the aristocracy became
adulation on the part of those nearer his own rank of life. And so
when Miss Debby Kittery made him short answers and turned away her
head, Hiel merely commented to himself, "Don't seem sociable. Poor
old lady! Tired, I s'pose; roads _is_ pretty rough," and, gathering
up his reins, dashed off cheerfully.

At the first stage where he stopped to change horses he deemed it
his duty to cheer the loneliness of the old lady by a little more
conversation, and so, after offering to bring her a tumbler of water,
he resumed:

"Ye hain't ben to Poganuc very often;--hain't seen Dolly since she's
grow'd up?"

"Are you speaking of _Miss_ Cushing, sir?" asked Miss Debby, in tones
of pointed rebuke.

"Yis--wal, we allers call her 'Dolly' t' our house," said Hiel.
"We've know'd her sence she was _that_ high. My wife used to live to
the Doctor's--she thinks all the world of Dolly."

Miss Debby thought of the verse in the Church Catechism in which
the catechumen defines it as his duty to 'order himself lowly and
reverently to all his betters.' Evidently Hiel had never heard
of this precept. Perhaps if he had, the inquiry as to who _are_
betters, as presented to a shrewd and thoughtful mind, might lead to
embarrassing results.

So, as he seemed an utterly hopeless case, and as after all he
appeared so bright, and anxious to oblige, Miss Debby surrendered
at discretion, and during the last half of the way found herself
laughing heartily at some of Hiel's stories and feeling some interest
in the general summary of Poganuc news which he threw in gratis.

"Yis, the Doctor's folks is all well. Doctor's had lots o' things
sent in this year, Thanksgiving time--turkeys and chickens and
eggs and lard--every kind o' thing you can think of. Everybody
sent--Town Hill folks, and folks out seven miles round. Everybody
likes the Doctor; they'd orter, too! There ain't sech a minister
nowhere. The way he explains the doctrines and sets 'em home--I tell
ye, there ain't no mistake about _him_; he's a hull team, now, and
our folks knows it. Orter 'a' ben here a week ago, when the Doctor
had his wood-spell. Tell ye, if the sleds didn't come in! Why, his
back-yard's a perfect mountain o' wood--best sort too, good oak and
hickory, makes good solid coals--enough to keep him a year round.
Wal, folks _orter_ do it. He's faithful to them, they'd orter do wal
by him."

"Isn't there an Episcopal church in your town?" asked Miss Debby.

"Oh, yis, there is a little church. Squire Lewis he started it 'bout
six years ago, and there was consid'able many signed off to it. But
our Poganuc folks somehow ain't made for 'Piscopals. A 'Piscopal
church in our town is jest like a hill o' potatoes planted under a
big apple-tree; the tree got a-growin' afore they did, and don't give
'em no chance. There was my wife's father, he signed off, 'cause of a
quarrel he hed with his own church; but he's come back agin, and so
have all his boys, and Nabby, and jined the Doctor's church. Fact is,
our folks sort o' hanker arter the old meetin'-house."

"Who is the rector of the Episcopal church?"

"Oh, that's Sim Coan; nice, lively young feller, Sim is; but can't
hold a candle to the Doctor. Sim he ain't 'fraid of nobody--preaches
up the 'Piscopal doctrine sharp, and stands up for his side; and he's
all the feasts and fasts and anthems and things at his tongue's end;
and his folks likes him fust rate. But the church don't grow much;
jest holds its own, that's all."

These varied items of intelligence, temporal and spiritual, were
poured into Miss Debby's ear at sundry periods when horses were to be
changed, or in the interval of waiting for dinner at the sleepy old
country tavern; and by the time she reached Poganuc she had conceived
quite a friendly feeling towards Hiel and unbent her frigid demeanor
to that degree that Hiel told Nabby "the old lady reely got quite
sociable and warmed up afore she got there."

Dolly was somewhat puzzled and almost alarmed on her first
introduction to her aunt, who took possession of her in a summary
manner, turning her round and surveying her, and giving her opinion
of her with a distinct and decisive air, as if the damsel had been an
article of purchase sent home to be looked over.

"So this is my niece Dolly, is it?" she said. "Well, come kiss your
old aunty; upon my word, you are taller than your mother." Then
holding her at arm's length and surveying her, with her head on one
side, she added, "There's a good deal of Pierrepont blood in her,
sister; that is the Pierrepont nose--I should know it anywhere. Her
way of carrying herself is Pierrepont. Blushing!" she added, as
Dolly grew crimson under this survey; "that's a family trick. I
remember when I went to dancing school the first time, my face was
crimson as my sash. She'll get the better of that as she gets older,
as I have. Sit down by your aunty, child. I think I shall like you.
That's right, sit up straight and hold your shoulders back--the girls
of this generation are getting round-shouldered."

Though Dolly was somewhat confused and confounded by this abrupt mode
of procedure, yet there was after all something quaint and original
about her aunt's manner that amused her, and an honest sincerity
in her face that won her regard. Miss Debby was one of those human
beings who carry with them the apology for their own existence. It
took but a glance to see that she was one of those forces of nature
which move always in straight lines and which must be turned out
for if one wishes to avoid a collision. All Miss Debby's opinions
had been made up, catalogued, and arranged, at a very early period
of life, and she had no thought of change. She moved in a region of
certainties, and always took her own opinions for granted with a calm
supremacy altogether above reason. Yet there was all the while about
her a twinkle of humorous consciousness, a vein of original drollery,
which gave piquancy to the brusqueness of her manner and prevented
people from taking offence.

So this first evening Dolly stared, laughed, blushed, wondered, had
half a mind to be provoked, but ended in a hearty liking of her new
relative and most agreeable anticipations of her Boston visit.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

PREPARATIONS FOR SEEING LIFE.


The getting ready for Dolly's journey began to be the engrossing
topic of the little household.

Miss Simpkins, the Poganuc dress-maker, had a permanent corner in
the sitting-room, and discoursed _ex cathedra_ on "piping-cord" and
"ruffling cut on the bias," and Dolly and Mrs. Cushing and Miss
Deborah obediently ran up breadths, hemmed, stitched and gathered at
her word of command.

The general course of society in those days as to dress and outward
adornment did not run with the unchecked and impetuous current that
it now does. The matter of dress has become in our day a yoke and a
burden, and many a good house-mother is having the springs of her
existence sapped by responsibilities connected with pinking and
frilling and quilling, and an army of devouring cares as to hemming,
stitching and embroidery, for which even the "consolations of
religion" provide no panacea.

In the simple Puritan days, while they had before their eyes the
query of Sacred Writ, "Can a maid forget her ornaments?"--they felt
that there was no call to assist the maid in her meditations on this
subject. Little girls were assiduously taught that to be neat and
clean was the main beauty. Good mothers who had pretty daughters
were very reticent of any remarks that might lead in the direction
of personal vanity; any extra amount of time spent at the toilet,
any apparent anxiety about individual adornment, met a persistent
discouragement.

Never in all her life before had Dolly heard so much discourse on
subjects connected with personal appearance, and, to say the truth,
she did not at all enter into it with the abandon and zeal of a girl
of our modern days, and found the fitting and trying on and altering
rather a tribulation to be conscientiously endured. She gathered,
hemmed, stitched and sewed, however, and submitted herself to the
trying-on process with resignation.

"The child don't seem to think much of dress," said Miss Debby, when
alone with her sister. "What is she thinking of, with those great
eyes of hers?"

"Oh, of things she is planning," said her mother; "of books she is
reading, of things her father reads to her, of ways she can help
me--in short, of anything but herself."

"She is very pretty," said Miss Debby, "and is sure to be very
attractive."

"Yes," answered her mother, "but Dolly hasn't the smallest notion of
anything like coquetry. Now, she has been a good deal admired here,
and there have been one or two that would evidently have been glad to
go farther; but Dolly cuts everything of that kind short at once. She
is very pleasant, very kind, very friendly, up to a certain point,
but the moment she is made love to--everything is changed."

"Well," said Miss Deborah, "I am glad I came after her. There's
everything, with a girl like Dolly, in putting her into proper
society. When a girl comes to her years one should put her in the way
of a suitable connection at once."

"As to that," said Mrs. Cushing, "I always felt that things of that
kind must be left to Providence."

"I believe, however, your husband preaches that we must 'use the
means,' doesn't he? One must put children in proper society, to give
Providence a chance."

"Well, Debby, you have your schemes, but I forwarn you Dolly is
one who goes her own path. She seems very sweet, very gentle, very
yielding, but she has a little quiet way of her own of looking at
things and deciding for herself; she always knows her own mind very
definitely, too."

"Good!" said Miss Debby, taking a long and considerate pinch of
snuff. "We shall see."

Miss Debby had unbounded confidence in her own powers of management.
She looked upon Dolly as a very creditably educated young person
so far, but did not in the least doubt her own ability to add a
few finishing touches here and there, which should turn her out a
perfected specimen.

On Sunday morning Miss Debby arose with the spirit of a confessor.
For her brother-in-law the good lady had the sincerest respect and
friendship, but on this particular day she felt bound to give her
patronage and support to the little church where, in her view, the
truly appointed minister dispensed the teaching of the true church.

The Doctor lifted his glasses and soberly smiled as he saw her
compact energetic figure walking across the green to the little
church. Dolly's cheeks flamed up; she was indignant; to her it looked
like a slight upon her father, and Dolly, as we have seen, had a very
active spirit of partisanship.

"Well, I must say I wonder at her doing so," she commented. "Does she
not think we are Christians?"

"She has a right to her own faith, my child," said the Doctor.

"Yes, but what would she think of me, when I am in Boston, if I
should go off to some other church than hers?"

"My dear, I hope you will give her no such occasion," said Mrs.
Cushing. "Your conscience requires no such course of you; hers does."

"Well, it seems to me that Aunty has a very narrow and bigoted way of
looking at things," said Dolly.

"Your aunt is an old lady--very decided in all her opinions--not in
the least likely to be changed by anything you or I or anybody can
say to her. It is best to take her as she is."

"Besides," said the Doctor, "she has as much right to think I am in
the wrong as I have to think she is. Let every one be fully persuaded
in his own mind."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I was very glad, my dear, _you_ answered Dolly as you did," said
Mrs. Cushing to her husband that night when they were alone. "She
has such an intense feeling about all that relates to you, and the
Episcopal party have been so often opposed to you, that she will need
some care and caution now she is going where everything is to be
changed. She will have to see that there can be truth and goodness
in both forms of worship."

"Oh, certainly; I will indoctrinate Dolly," said the Doctor. "Yes, I
will set the whole thing before her. She has a good clear mind. I can
make her understand."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

LAST WORDS.


At last all the preparations were made, and Dolly's modest wardrobe
packed to the very last article, so that her bureau drawers looked
mournfully empty.

It was a little hair trunk, with "D. C." embossed in brass nails
upon one end, that contained all this young lady's armor--a very
different affair from the Saratoga trunks of our modern belles. The
pink brocade with its bunches of rose-buds; some tuckers of choice
old lace that had figured in her mother's bridal toilet; a few
bits of ribbon; a white India muslin dress, embroidered by her own
hands;--these were the stock in trade of a young damsel of her times,
and, strange as it may appear, young ladies then were stated by good
authority to have been just as pretty and bewitching as now, when
their trunks are several times as large.

Dolly's place and Aunt Debby's had been properly set down on Hiel's
stage-book for the next morning at six o'clock; and now remained only
an evening of last words.

So Dolly sits by her father in his study, where from infancy she has
retreated for pleasant quiet hours, where even the books she never
read seem to her like familiar friends from the number of times she
has pondered the titles upon their backs. And now, though she wants
to go, and feels the fluttering eagerness of the young bird, who has
wings to use and would like to try the free air, yet the first flight
from the nest is a little fearful. Boston is a long way off--three
long days--and Dolly has never been farther from Poganuc than she
has ridden by her father's side in the old chaise; so that the very
journey has as much importance in her eyes as fifty years later a
modern young lady will attach to a voyage to England.

"My daughter," said the Doctor, "I know you will have a pleasant
time; I hope, a profitable one. Your aunt is a good woman. I have
great confidence in her affection for you; your own mother could not
feel more sincere desire for your happiness. And your grandmother
is an eminently godly woman. Of course, while with them you will
attend the services of the Episcopal Church; for that you have my
cordial consent and willingness. The liturgy of the church is full of
devout feelings, and the Thirty-nine Articles (with some few slight
exceptions) are a very excellent statement of truth. In adopting
the spirit and language of the prayers in the service you cannot go
amiss; very excellent Christians have been nourished and brought
up upon them. So have no hesitation about uniting in all Christian
exercises with your relatives in Boston."

"Oh, Papa, I am almost sorry I am going," said Dolly, impulsively.
"My home has been always so happy, I feel almost afraid to leave it.
It seems as if I ought not to leave you and Mother alone."

The Doctor smiled and stroked her hair gently in an absent way. "We
shall miss you, dear child, of course; you are the last bird in the
nest, but your mother and I are quite sure it is for the best."

And then the conversation wandered back over many a pleasant field
of the past--over walks and talks and happy hours long gone; over
the plans and hopes and wishes for her brothers that Dolly had felt
proud to be old enough to share; until the good man's voice sometimes
would grow husky as he spoke and Dolly's long eye-lashes were wet and
tearful. It was the kind of pleasant little summer rain of tears that
comes so easily to young eyes that have never known what real sorrow
is.

And when Dolly after her conference came to bid her mother
good-night, she fell upon her neck and wept for reasons she could
scarce explain herself.

"I should like to know what you've been saying to Dolly," said Mrs.
Cushing to the Doctor, suddenly appearing at the study-door.

"Saying to Dolly?" exclaimed the Doctor, looking up dreamily, "why,
nothing particular."

"Well, you've made her cry. I declare! you men have no kind of idea
how to talk to a girl."

The Doctor at first looked amazed, and then an amused expression
passed slowly over his face. He drew his wife down beside him and
passing his arm around her said significantly,

"There _was_ a girl, once, who thought I knew how to talk to her--but
that is a good many years ago."

Mrs. Cushing laughed, and blushed, and said, "Oh, nonsense!"

But the Doctor looked triumphant.

"As to Dolly," he said, "never fear. She's a tender-hearted little
thing, and made herself cry thinking that we should be lonesome, and
a dozen other little pretty kindly things that set her tears going.
She's a precious child, and we shall miss her. I have settled her
mind as to the church question."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

DOLLY'S FIRST LETTER FROM BOSTON.


MY DEAR PARENTS: Here I am in Boston at last, and take the very first
quiet opportunity to write to you. Hiel Jones said he would call
and tell you immediately about how we got through the first day.
He was very kind and attentive to us all day, taking care at every
stopping-place to get the bricks heated, so that our feet were kept
quite warm, and in everything he was so thoughtful and obliging that
Aunt Deborah in time quite forgave him for presuming on his rights as
a human being to keep up a free conversation with us at intervals,
which he did with his usual cheerful goodwill.

It amuses me all the time to talk with Aunty. All her thoughts
are of a century back, and she is so unconscious and positive
about them that it is really entertaining. All this talk about the
"lower classes," and the dangers to be apprehended from them; of
"first families" and their ways and laws and opinions; and of the
impropriety of being too familiar with common people, amuses me. She
seems to me like a woman in a book--one of the old-world people one
reads of in Scott's novels. She is very kind to me; no mother could
be kinder--but all in a sort of taking-possession way. She tells me
where to sit, and what to do, and what to wear, and seems to feel a
comfortable sense that she has me now all to herself. It amuses me to
think how little she knows of what I really am inside.

We stopped the first night at a gloomy little tavern, and our room
was so cold that Aunty and I puffed at each other like two goblins, a
cloud coming out of our mouths every time we opened them. They made
a fire in the chimney, but the chimney had swallows' nests in it and
smoked; so we had to open our windows to let out the smoke, which did
not improve matters.

The next night we slept at Worcester, and thought we would try not
having a fire in our room; so it grew colder and colder all night,
and in the morning we had to break the ice in our pitchers. My
fingers felt like so many icicles, and my hair snapped with the
electricity. But Aunty kept up good cheer and made me laugh through
it all with her odd sayings. She is very droll and has most original
ways of taking things, and is so active and courageous nothing comes
amiss to her.

Our third and last day was in a driving snow-storm, and the stage
was upon runners. I could see nothing all day but white drifts and
eddies of snow-feathers filling the air; but at sunset all cleared
away and the sun came out just as we were coming into Boston. My
heart beat quite fast when I saw the dome of the State House and
thought of all the noble, good men that had lived and died for our
country in that brave old city. My eyes were full of tears, but I
didn't say a word to Aunty, for she doesn't feel about any of these
things as I do. I daresay she thinks it a great pity that the old
Church and King times cannot come round again.

It was quite dark when we got home to Grandmamma's, and a lovely,
real home it seems to me. Dear Grandmamma was so glad to see me,
and she held me in her arms and cried and said I was just my
mother over again; and that pleased me, for I like to hear that I
look like Mother. Mamma knows just how the old parlor looks, with
Grandmamma's rocking-chair by the fire and her table of books by
her side. The house and everything about it is like a story-book,
the furniture is old and dark and quaint, and the pictures on the
wall are all of old-time people--aunts and cousins and uncles
and grandfathers--looking down sociably at us in the flickering
fire-light.

It was all nice and sweet and good. By and by Uncle Israel came
in and I was introduced to him, and our new English cousin, Alfred
Dunbar. They both seemed glad to see me, and we had a very cheerful,
pleasant evening. Uncle Israel is a charming old gentleman, full of
talk and stories of by-gone times, and Cousin Alfred is not stiff and
critical as Englishmen often are when they come to our country. He
likes America, and says he comes here to make it his country, and so
far he is delighted with all he has seen. He seems to be one of those
who have the gift of seeing the best side of everything. I think it
is as great a gift as any we read of in fairy stories.

Well, altogether we had a very pleasant evening, and at nine o'clock
the servants came in, and Grandmamma read prayers out of the great
prayer-book by her side. It was very sweet to hear her trembling
voice commending us all to God's care before we lay down to rest.
Grandmamma is really altogether lovely. I feel as if it was a
blessing to be in the house with her. I am so sleepy that I must
leave this letter to be finished to-morrow.


  _December 24th._

I have not written a word to-day, because Aunty said that we had
come home so late that it would be all we could do to get the house
trimmed for Christmas; and the minute breakfast was done there was
a whole cart-load of greens discharged into the hall, and we set to
work to adorn everything. I made garlands and wreaths and crosses,
and all sorts of pretty things, and Cousin Alfred put them up, and
Aunty said that really, "for a blue Presbyterian girl," I showed
wonderful skill and insight in the matter.

Cousin Alfred seemed puzzled, and asked me privately if our family
were "Dissenters." I explained to him how in our country the tables
were turned and it is the Episcopalians that are the dissenters; and
he was quite interested and wanted to know all about it. So I told
him that you could tell much better than I could, and he said he was
coming some day to see his relations in the country, and inquire all
about these things. He seems to be studying the facts in our country
philosophically, and when I told him how I meant to visit the Copp's
Hill Cemetery and the other graveyards where our fathers are buried,
he said he should like to go with me. He is not at all trifling and
worldly, like a great many young men, but seems to _think_ a great
deal and to want to know everything about the country, and I know
Papa would be interested to talk with him.

Between us, you've no idea how like a bower we have made the old
house look. Aunty prides herself on keeping the old English customs,
and had the Yule log brought in and laid with all ceremony, and we
had all the old Christmas dishes for supper in the evening, and grew
very merry indeed. And indeed we have made it so late that, if I am
to sleep at all to-night, I must close this letter which I want to
have ready to be posted to-morrow morning.

Dear parents, I know you will be glad that I am happy and enjoying
everything, but I never forget you, and think of you every moment.

  Your affectionate      DOLLY.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

DOLLY'S SECOND LETTER.


MY DEAR PARENTS: We had such a glorious Christmas morning--clear,
clean white snow lying on the earth and on all, even the little
branches of the trees. You know, Mamma, the great square garden back
of the house. Every little tree there was glittering like fairy frost
work. We all hung our stockings up the night before, and at breakfast
examined our presents. I had lovely things--a beautiful prayer-book
bound in purple velvet from Grandmamma, and a charming necklace of
pearls from Uncle Israel, and a scarlet cloak trimmed with lace from
Aunt Deborah, and a beautiful Chinese fan from cousin Alfred. Aunty
has been putting up the usual Christmas bundle for you; so you will
all share my prosperity.

I was waked in the morning by the old North chimes, which played
all sorts of psalm tunes and seemed to fill the air with beautiful
thoughts. It was very sweet to me to think of what it was all about.
It is not necessary to believe that our Saviour really was born this
very day of all others; but that he was born on _some_ day we all
know. So when we walked to church together, and the church was like
one green bower, and the organ played, and the choir sung, it seemed
as if all there was in me was stirred. I never heard the _Te Deum_
before, and how glorious, how wonderful it is! It took me up to the
very gates of heaven. I felt as if I was hearing the angels sing; and
when I thought of the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and the
holy church of Christ throughout the world, I felt that I was one
with them, and was happy to be one drop in that great ocean of joy.
For though I was only a little one I felt _in_ it, and _with_ it, and
a part of it, and all the joy and glory was mine. I trembled with
happiness.

When the communion service came I went with Grandmamma and knelt
at the altar. It seemed as if Christ himself was there giving me
the bread and the wine. I never felt so near to Him. After church I
went home. I was so full that I could not speak. No one else seemed
to feel as I did--they were all used to it--but it was all new and
wonderful to me, and made heavenly things so real that I felt almost
averse to coming back to every day life. I wanted to go alone to my
room and dwell on it. There was quite a company invited to dinner,
and I did not feel like joining them, but I knew Aunty wanted me to
make myself agreeable, and so I tried my best, and after a while took
my part in the conversation, as gay as the rest of them. Only once in
a while some of those noble words I had been hearing came back to me
with a sudden thrill, and would bring tears to my eyes even while I
was gayest.

Cousin Alfred noticed that I was feeling very much about something,
and in the evening when we were alone for a few minutes he asked
me about it, and then I told him all how the service affected me,
and made me feel. He looked a little surprised at first, and then
he seemed thoughtful; and when I said, "I should think those who
hear and say such glorious things at church, ought to live the
very noblest lives, to be perfect Christians," he said, "Cousin, I
am sorry to say, it is not so with me. We hear these things from
childhood; we hear them Sunday after Sunday, in all sorts of moods,
and I'm afraid many of us form a habit of not really thinking how
much they mean. I wish I could hear our service as you have done, for
the first time, and that it would seem as real and earnest to me as
it does to you."

We talked a good deal after this; he has a deep, thoughtful mind, and
I wish you, my dear Father, could talk with him. I know you will
like him. Isn't it pleasant to find relations that one can like and
esteem so much? Cousin Alfred is like a brother to me already, and
to-morrow we are going out to explore the antiquities of Boston. He
seems as much interested in them as I do.

Dear Parents, this Christmas puts me in mind of the time years ago
when they dressed the little church in Poganuc, and I ran away, over
to the church, and got asleep under a great cedar-bush, listening to
the Christmas music. It affected me then just as it has done now. Is
it not beautiful to think we are singing words that Christians have
been singing for more than a thousand years! It gives you the feeling
of being in a great army--one of a great host; and for a poor little
insignificant thing like me it is a joyful feeling.

You ought to see how delighted Aunt Deborah is that I take so kindly
to the prayer-book and the service. She gives me little approving
nods now and then, and taps me on the shoulder in a patronizing way
and says there is good blood in my veins, for all I was brought up a
Presbyterian! This is all very well, but when she goes to unchurching
all our churches and saying there are no ordained ministers in the
United States except the few in Episcopal pulpits, I am dreadfully
tempted to run a tilt with her, though I know it would do no earthly
good. I believe I should do it, however, if Cousin Alfred did not
take up the argument on our side, and combat her so much better than
I could that I am content to let her alone. She tells him that he is
no Englishman and no churchman, but a very radical; and he tells her
that he came to America to learn to use his common sense and get rid
of old rubbish!

For all this they are excellent friends, and dear old Grandmamma
always takes our part because she is so afraid Aunt Debby will hurt
my feelings, though Aunty says that in her heart Grandmamma is a
regular old Tory.

I asked Grandma about this one day, when we were alone, and she said
she always loved and honored the king and royal family, and was
grieved when they stopped praying for them in the churches. If she
was a Tory she was so from love, and it is quite charming to hear her
talk about the old times.

It seems to me no great change ever comes on this earth without
grieving some good people.

But it is past midnight and I must not sit up writing any longer.
Dear parents, I wish you a happy Christmas!

  Your loving            DOLLY.



CHAPTER XL.

ALFRED DUNBAR TO EUGENE SINCLAIR.


DEAR OLD FELLOW: Here I am in America--in Boston--and every day
I spend here makes me more and more satisfied with my change of
situation. The very air here is free and inspiring, full of new hope
and life. The old world with all its restraints and bounds, its musty
prejudices, its time-honored inconveniences and hindrances, is a
thing gone by; it is blue in the dim distance, and I see before me a
free, generous, noble country that offers everything equally to all.
I like Massachusetts; I like Boston; and more and more I feel that I
am a fortunate fellow to have been selected by my uncle for this lot.

He is all that is kind and generous and fatherly to me, and I should
be an ungrateful cur if I did not give him the devotion of a son. He
is so amiable and reasonable that this is not at all a hard task.

We are spending our Christmas holidays with his mother and sister;
after that he will go to housekeeping in his own house. He wants me
to get married with all convenient dispatch, but I am one that cannot
enter into the holy state simply to furnish a housekeeper to my uncle
or to place a well-dressed, well-mannered woman at the head of my own
table.

You at home called me fastidious and romantic. Well, I am so to this
degree, that I never shall marry unless I see the woman I cannot live
without. The feast of matrimony may be well appointed, the oxen and
fatlings be killed, and all things ready, but I never shall accept
unless some divine power "_compels_" me to come in;--and up to this
day I have felt no such call.

Mark me, I say, _up to this day_; for I am by no means certain I
shall say as much a month hence. To be frank with you, there is
spending the Christmas holidays under the same roof with me a very
charming girl whom I am instructed by my Aunt Deborah to call "Cousin
Dolly."

Now, in point of fact, this assumption of relationship is the most
transparent moonshine. I am, I believe, second or third cousin to
my "Uncle Israel," who is real uncle to this Miss Dolly. Of course
my cousinship to her must be of a still more remote and impalpable
nature; but if it is agreed that we call each other "cousin,"
certainly it is not _I_ that am going to object to the position and
its immunities--oh, no! A cousin stands on a vantage-ground; all
sorts of delightful freedoms and privileges are permitted to him!

I "take the good the gods provide" me, and so Cousin Dolly and I have
become the best of friends, and we have been busy making wreaths
and crosses and Christmas decorations under the superintendence
of Aunt Deborah, in the most edifying and amicable way. This Aunt
Deborah is the conventional upright, downright, good, opinionated,
honest, sincere old Englishwoman, of whom there are dozens at every
turn in the old country, but who here in America have the interest
that appertains to the relics of a past age. But she is vigorously
determined that in her domains the old customs shall be in full
force, and every rule of Christmas-keeping observed.

Of course I put up mistletoe in all the proper places, and I found
my new cousin, having grown up as a New England Congregational
minister's daughter, knew nothing of its peculiar privileges and
peculiarities, so that when the kissing began I saw a bright flush of
amazement and almost resentment pass over her face; though when it
was explained to be an old Christmas custom she laughed and gave way
with a good grace. But I observed my young lady warily inspecting
the trimmings of the room, and quietly avoiding all the little green
traps thereafter.

It is quite evident that, though she has all the gentleness of a
dove, she has some of the wisdom of the serpent, and possesses
very definite opinions as to what she likes and does not like. She
impresses me as having, behind an air of softness and timidity, a
very positive and decided character. There is a sort of reserved
force in her; and one must study her to become fully acquainted with
her. Thus far I hope I have not lost ground.

I find she is an enthusiast for her country, for her religion, for
everything high and noble; and not one of the mere dolls that have no
capability for anything but ribbons and laces. She has promised to
show me the antiquities of Boston and put me in the way of knowing
all that a good American ought to know; you see our time for the
holidays is very agreeably planned out in advance.

And now, my dear old fellow, I see you shake your head and say, What
is to come of all this?

Wait and see. If it _should_ so happen that I should succeed in
pleasing this little American princess--if, having gained her ear as
Cousin, I should succeed in proving to her that I am no cousin at
all, but want to be more than cousin or brother or the whole world
together to her--if all this should come to pass, why--there have
stranger things happened in this world of ours.

But I am running before my time. Miss Dolly is yet an unknown
quantity and there may be a long algebraic problem to be done before
I can know what may be; and so, good-night for the present.

  Yours ever truly,

  ALFRED DUNBAR.



CHAPTER XLI.

FINALE.


After reading the preceding letters, there is no one who has cared to
follow Dolly's fortunes thus far that is not ready to declare the end
of the story.

One sees how the Christmas holidays stretched on and on; how Aunt
and Grandmamma importuned Dolly to stay longer; how Dolly staid, and
how she and Cousin Alfred walked and talked and studied New England
history, and visited all the shrines in Boston and Cambridge and the
region round about; how Aunt Debby plumed herself on the interesting
state of things evidently growing up, but wisely said nothing to
either party; how at last when spring came, and April brought back
the mayflower buds, and Dolly felt that she could stay no longer but
_must_ go home to her parents, "Cousin Alfred" declared that he could
not think of her taking a three days' journey alone, that he must go
with her and protect her, and improve the opportunity to make the
acquaintance of his relations in the country.

All this came to pass, and one fine evening, just at sunset, Hiel
drove into Poganuc in glory, and deposited Dolly and her little hair
trunk and her handsome attendant at the Parsonage door.

There was a bluebird singing on the top of the tall buttonwood tree
opposite, just as he used to sing years before; and, as to Hiel, he
returned home even better content with himself than ordinarily.

"There now, Nabby! didn't I tell ye what would happen when Dolly went
to Boston? Wal, I've just set her down to the Doctor's with as fine
a young sprig as you'd wish to see, who came all the way from Boston
with her. I tell _you_, that air young man's eyes is _sot_; he knows
what he's come to Poganuc fer, ef no one else don't."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Nabby and Mother Jones, both rushing to the
window simultaneously with the vain hope of getting a glimpse.

"Oh, there's no use lookin'!" said Hiel; "they're gone in long ago.
Doctor and Mis' Cushing was standin' in the door-way when I come up,
and mighty glad they was to see her, and him too, and shook hands
with him. Oh, thet air's a fixed-up thing, you may depend."

"Dear me, what is he?" queried Mother Jones. "Do you know, Hiel?"

"Of course I know," said Hiel; "he's a merchant in the Injy trade up
there to Boston. I expect he makes lots o' money."

"Dear me! I hope they won't set their hearts on worldly prosperity,"
said Mother Jones in a lugubrious tone; "this 'ere's a dyin' world."

"For all that, Mother," said Hiel as they sat down to the tea-table,
"you enjoy a cup o' hot tea as well as any woman livin', and why
shouldn't the parson's folks be glad o' their good things?"

"Wal, I don' know," answered Mother Jones, "but it allers kind o'
scares me when everything seems to be goin' jest right fer folks. Ye
know the hymn says:

    'We should suspect some danger nigh
    When we possess delight.'

I remember poor Bill Parmerlee fell down dead the very week he was
married!"

"Well, Nabby and I neither of us fell down dead when _we_ was
married," said Hiel, "and nobody else that ever I heerd on, so we
won't weep and wail if Dolly Cushing _hez_ got a rich, handsome
feller, and is goin' to live in Boston."

       *       *       *       *       *

But, after all, Dolly and Alfred Dunbar were not yet engaged. No
decisive word had been spoken between them; though it seemed now as
if but a word were wanting.

It was after a week of happy visiting, when he had made himself most
charming to all in the house, when Dolly and he had together explored
every walk and glen and waterfall around Poganuc, that at last the
young man found voice to ask the Doctor for what he wanted; and,
armed with the parental approval, to put the decisive question to
Dolly. Her answer is not set down. But it is on record that in the
month of June there was a wedding at Poganuc which furnished the town
with things to talk about for weeks.

It was a radiant June morning, when the elms of Poganuc were all
alive with birds, when the daisies were white in the meadows, and
the bobolink on the apple-tree was outdoing himself, that Hiel
drove up to the door of the Parsonage to take Dolly and her husband
their first day's journey towards their new home. There were the
usual smiles and tears and kissing and crying, and then Hiel shut
the stage-door, mounted his box, and drove away in triumph. It was
noticed that he had ornamented his horses with a sprig of lilac
blossoms over each ear, and wore a great bouquet in his button-hole.

And so our Dolly goes to her new life, and, save in memories of her
childhood, is to be no longer one of the good people of Poganuc.

       *       *       *       *       *

Years have passed since then. Dolly has held her place among the
matronage of Boston; her sons have graduated at Harvard, and her
daughters have recalled to memory the bright eyes and youthful bloom
of their mother.

As to Poganuc, all whom we knew there have passed away; all the
Town-Hill aristocracy and the laboring farmers of the outskirts have
gone, one by one, to the peaceful sleep of the Poganuc graveyard.
There was laid the powdered head, stately form, and keen blue eye of
Colonel Davenport; there came in time the once active brain and ready
tongue of Judge Belcher; there, the bright eyes and genial smile of
Judge Gridley; there, the stalwart form of Tim Hawkins, the gray,
worn frame of Zeph Higgins. Even Hiel's cheery face and vigorous
arm had its time of waxing old and passing away, and was borne in
to lie quiet under the daisies. The pastor and his wife sleep there
peacefully with their folded flock around them.

    "Kinsman and townsman are laid side by side,
    Yet none have saluted, and none have replied."

A village of white stones stands the only witness of the persons of
our story. Even the old meeting-house is dissolved and gone.

Generation passeth, generation cometh, saith the wise man, but the
earth abideth forever. The hills of Poganuc are still beautiful in
their summer woodland dress. The Poganuc river still winds at their
feet with gentle murmur. The lake, in its steel-blue girdle of pines,
still reflects the heavens as a mirror; its silent forest shores are
full of life and wooded beauty. The elms that overarch the streets
of the central village have spread their branches wider, and form a
beautiful walk where other feet than those we wot of are treading.
As other daisies have sprung in the meadows, and other bobolinks and
bluebirds sing in the tree-tops, so other men and women have replaced
those here written of, and the story of life still goes on from day
to day among the POGANUC PEOPLE.

  THE END.



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  _MAY 1st, 1878._


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  A LIBRARY OF POETRY AND SONG: Being Choice Selections from the Best
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  from the Greek, Latin, German, Spanish, Italian, etc., with an
  Introduction in the form of a Treatise on the History and Functions
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  LIFE AND TIMES OF SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. A Memorial of one whose name
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==> CORRESPONDENCE IS INVITED.



  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  One occurrence of the oe ligature has been replaced by oe, in the word
  'pharmacopoeia'.

  One occurrence of the 'pointing hand' symbol has been replaced by ==>.

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, misspelling in the text, and
  inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example,
  trowsers; instancy; cookey, cooky; blue bird, blue-bird; court house,
  court-house.

  Pg 59.  'saace' replaced by 'saase'.
  Pg 72.  'de-degrees' replaced by 'degrees'.
  Pg 130. 'varities' replaced by 'varieties'.
  Pg 133. 'suprised' replaced by 'surprised'.
  Pg 139. 'prognostigations' replaced by 'prognostications'.
  Pg 184. 'langguages' replaced by 'languages'.
  Pg 193. 'Just as' replaced by 'Just at'.
  Pg 240. 'fire-palace' replaced by 'fire-place'.
  Pg 243. 'in a a corner' replaced by 'in a corner'.
  Pg 345. 'and remarks' replaced by 'any remarks'.





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