THE OLD STONE HOUSE
by ANNE MARCH
(CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON)
"He that goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed, shall
doubtless come again with joy and bring his sheaves with him."
I.—THE FIVE COUSINS
II.—LIFE AT THE OLD STONE HOUSE
III.—THE EDITOR'S SANCTUM
V.—FOURTH OF JULY
VIII.—RIGHT AT LAST
IX.—THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER
THE FIVE COUSINS.
Aunt Faith sat alone on the piazza, and sad thoughts crowded into her
heart. It was her birthday,—the first day of June,—and she could
look back over more than half a century, with that mournful retrospect
which birthdays are apt to bring. Aunt Faith had seen trouble, and had
met affliction face to face. When she was still a bride, her husband
died suddenly and left her lonely forever; then, one by one, her
brothers and sisters had been taken, and she was made sole guardian of
their orphan children,—a flock of tender little lambs,—to be
nourished and protected from the cold and the rain, the snare and the
pitfalls, the tempter and the ravening wolf ever prowling around the
fold. Hugh and Sibyl, Tom and Grace, and, last of all, wild little
Bessie from the southern hill-country,—this was her charge. Hugh and
Sibyl Warrington were the children of an elder brother; Tom and Grace
Morris the children of a sister, and Bessie Darrell the only child of
Aunt Faith's youngest sister, who had been the pet of all her family.
For ten long years Aunt Faith had watched over this little band of
orphans, and her heart and hands had been full of care. Children will
be children, and the best mother has her hours of trouble over her
wayward darlings; how much more an aunt, who, without the delicate
maternal instinct as a guide, feels the responsibility to be doubly
And now, after years of schooling and training, Aunt Faith and her
children were all together at home in the old stone house by the
lake-shore, to spend a summer of freedom away from books and rules.
Hugh was to leave her in the autumn to enter upon business life with a
cousin in New York city, and Sibyl had been invited to spend the
winter in Washington with a distant relative; Grace was to enter
boarding-school in December, and Tom,—well, no one knew exactly what
was to be done with Tom, but that something must be done, and that
speedily, every one was persuaded. There remained only Bessie, "and
she is more wilful than all the rest," thought Aunt Faith; "she seems
to be without a guiding principle; she is like a mariner at sea
without a compass, sailing wherever the wind carries her. She is
good-hearted and unselfish; but when I have said that I have said all.
Careless and almost reckless, gay and almost wild, thoughtless and
almost frivolous, she seems to grow out of my control day by day and
hour by hour. I have tried hard to influence her. I believe she loves
me; but there must be something wrong in my system, for now, at the
end of ten years, I begin to fear that she is no better, if indeed,
she is as good as she was when she first came to me, a child of six
years. I must be greatly to blame; I must have erred in my duty. And
yet, I have labored so earnestly!" Another tear stole down Aunt
Faith's cheek as she thought of the heavy responsibility resting upon
her life. "Shall I be able to answer to my brothers and sisters for
all these little souls?" she mused. "There is Hugh also. Can I dare to
think he is a true Christian? He is not an acknowledged soldier of the
Cross; and, in spite of all the care and instruction that have been
lavished upon him, what more can I truthfully say than that he is
generous and brave? Can I disguise from myself his faults, his
tendencies towards free-thinking, his gay idea of life,—ideas, which,
in a great city, will surely lead him astray? No; I cannot! And yet he
is the child of many prayers. How well I remember his mother! how
earnestly she prayed for the little boy! Have I faithfully filled her
place? If she had lived, would not her son have grown into a better
man, a better Christian?" Here Aunt Faith again broke down, and buried
her face in her hands. Hugh was her darling; and, although he was now
twenty years of age, and so tall and strong that he could easily carry
his aunt in his arms, to her he was still the curly-haired boy,
Fitzhugh Warrington, whom the dying mother gave to Aunt Faith for her
own. "There is Sibyl, also," she thought, as she glanced towards the
garden, where her niece sat reading under the arbor; "she is at the
other extreme, as unlike her brother as snow is unlike fire. Sibyl
never does wrong. I believe I have never had cause to punish her, even
in childhood. But she is so cold, so impassive; I can never get down
as far as her heart; I am never sure that she loves me." Aunt Faith
sighed heavily. Sibyl's coldness was harder for her to bear than
Then her thoughts turned towards the younger children. "Grace is too
young to cause me much anxiety; but still I seem to have made no more
impression upon her religious nature than I could have done upon a
running brook; and as for Tom,—" Here Aunt Faith's musings were
rudely interrupted by a shout and a howl. Through the hall behind her
came a galloping procession. First, "Turk," the great Newfoundland
dog, harnessed to a rattling wagon, in which sat "Grip," the mongrel,
muffled in a shawl, his melancholy countenance encircled with a white
ruffled cap; then came Tom, as driver, and behind him "Pete" the
terrier, fastened by a long string, and dragging Miss Estella Camilla
Wales, in her little go-cart, very much against his will. "Miss
Estella Camilla Wales" was Grace's favorite doll, and no sooner did
she behold the danger of her pet, than she sprang from the
sitting-room sofa and gave chase. But Tom flourished his whip, old
Turk galloped down the garden-walk with the whole train at his heels,
and Miss Wales was whirled across the street before Grace could reach
"Tom, Tom Morris! stop this minute, you wicked boy! You'll break
Estella's nose!" she cried, as they pursued the cavalcade toward the
grove opposite the house. Here Pete, excited by the uproar, began
barking furiously, and running around in a circle with a speed which
soon brought Estella to the ground, besides tying up Tom's legs in a
complicated manner with the cord which served as a connecting link
between the team in front and the team behind. Old Turk, after taking
a survey of the scene, gently laid himself down, harness and all, and
wagged his ponderous tail; while poor Grip, in his efforts to free
himself from the shawl, managed to pull his cap over his eyes, and
howled in blind dismay. In the midst of the confusion, Grace rescued
Miss Wales from her perilous position, and, finding her classic nose
still unbroken, laid her carefully in the crotch of a tree, and
prepared for revenge. In his desire to secure the obedience of his
dog-team, Tom had fastened them securely, by long cords, to his belt;
Pete had already managed to wind his tether tightly around Tom's legs,
and Grace incited Turk to rebellion, so that he, too, began to gambol
about in his elephantine way, and Tom was soon tangled in another net.
"I say, Grace, let the dogs alone, will you!" he said angrily, as he
vainly tried to disentangle himself. "Here, Turk! lie down sir! Where
in the world is my knife? Pete Trone, you are in for a switching,
young man, as soon as these cords are cut!" During this time Grip had
been pulling at his night-cap with all the strength of his paws; but
as he only succeeded in drawing it farther over his nose, he finally
gave up in despair, and, hearing Grace's voice, patiently sat up on
his hind legs, with fore-paws in the air, begging to be released. He
looked so ridiculous that both Tom and his sister burst into a fit of
laughter. Good humor was restored, the tangles cut, and the procession
returned homeward, Grip released from his cap, but still wearing his
When they reached the gate Tom stopped, and calling the dogs in a
line, he began an address: "Turk, Grip, and Pete Trone, Esquires, you
have all behaved very badly, and deserve condign punishment!" At these
words, uttered in a harsh voice, Pete Trone gave a short bark, and
Grip instantly sat up on his hind legs, as if to beg for mercy. "None
of that, gentlemen, if you please!" continued Tom; "special pleading
is not allowed before this jury. Turk, Grip, and Pete Trone, Esquires,
you are hereby sentenced to walk around the—garden on the top of the
fence. Up, all of you! jump!" said Tom, picking up a switch. Now,
indeed, all the culprits knew what was before them. That fence was a
well-known penance,—for when they did anything wrong this was their
punishment. Old Turk felt the touch of the switch first, and mounted
heavily to his perch, his great legs curved inward to keep a footing
on the narrow top; then came Pete, and, last of all, Grip, who, being
a heavy-bodied cur, crouched himself down as low as he could, and
crawled along with extreme caution. The fence was high, with a flat,
horizontal top about four inches wide. It ran around three sides of
the garden, and often, as Aunt Faith sat at her work in the
sitting-room, the melancholy procession of dogs passed the window on
this fence-top, followed by Tom with his switch. But Aunt Faith never
interfered. She knew that Tom was a kind master, who never ill-treated
or tormented any creature. Tom was a large-hearted boy, and, although
full of mischief, was never cruel or heartless; he found no pleasure
in ill-treating a dog or a cat, nor would he suffer other boys to do
so in his presence. Many a battle had he fought with boys of mean and
cruel natures, to rescue a bird, or some other helpless creature. "It
is only cowards," he would say, "who like to torment birds, cats, and
dogs. They know the poor things can't fight them back again."
Old Turk,—a giant in size among dogs,—had been in the family for
many years; Grip was rescued from the canal, where some cruel boys had
thrown him, by Tom himself; and Pete Trone, Esquire, was bought with
Tom's first five-dollar bill, and soon proved himself a terrier of
manifold accomplishments,—the brightest and most mischievous member
of the trio. All the dogs had been carefully trained by Tom. They
could fetch and carry, lie down when they were bid, sit up on their
hind legs, and do many other tricks. Aunt Faith used to say, that if
Tom would only learn his lessons half as well as he made his dogs
learn theirs, there would be no more imperfect marks in his weekly
In the meantime, the dogs had turned the corner of the fence, and were
slowly advancing towards the house; while Grace, carrying Estella,
came up the garden-walk. "Halt!" said Tom, and the three dogs stopped
instantly; Turk, not daring to turn his head to see what was the
matter, for fear of losing his balance, blinked out of the corner of
his eye, as much as to say, "I wouldn't turn round if I could." "Pete
Trone," said Tom gravely, "it is evident that this punishment is not
severe enough for you; a dog that has time to wag his tail and yawn,
cannot be in much anxiety to keep his position on the fence. Pete
Trone, Esquire, for the rest of the way you shall wear Grip's cap." So
the terrier's black face was encircled with the white frill, and, this
accomplished, the march was resumed, and the three dogs disappeared
behind the house.
"Aunt Faith," said Grace, as she reached the piazza, "that wicked Tom
put Estella Camilla Wales in her wagon, and made Pete draw her all
over. It's a wonder her nose wasn't broken and her eyes knocked out.
If they had been, that would have been the end of her, like the last
ten dolls I have had."
"Not ten, surely, my dear?"
"Yes, Aunt Faith, ten whole dolls! Polly he painted black to make her
like the Queen of Sheba; he made Babes in the Woods of Beauty and
Jane, and it rained on them all night; Isabella and Arabella I found
on the clothes-line all broken to pieces, and he said they were only
dancing on a tight rope; he sent Rose and Lily,—the paper-dolls, you
know,—up in the air tied to the tail of his kite; the rag-baby he
took for a scarecrow over his garden; and surely, Aunt Faith, you have
not forgotten how he made Jeff Davis on the apple-tree, out of my dear
china Josephine, or how he blew up Julia Rubber with his cannon last
Fourth of July, when I lent her to him for the Goddess of Liberty?"
"Well, Gem, I did not realize that you had suffered so much. Take good
care of Estella, and perhaps Santa Claus will make up your losses."
Grace, or Gem, as she was called from the three initials of her names,
Grace Evans Morris,—G. E. M.,—ran off into the house to look up
Estella, leaving Aunt Faith once more alone.
On a rustic seat in the arbor sat Sibyl Warrington reading. Her golden
hair was coiled in close braids around her well-shaped head, her firm
erect figure was arrayed in a simple dress of silver gray, and
everything about her, from the neat little collar to the trim boot,
pleased the eye unconsciously without attracting the attention. Sibyl
Warrington knew what was becoming to her peculiar style of beauty, and
nothing could induce her to depart from her inflexible rules. Fashion
might decree a tower of frizzed curls, and Sibyl would calmly watch
the elaborate structure raised on the heads of all her friends, but
her own locks, in the meanwhile, remained plainly folded back from her
white forehead with quaker-like smoothness. Fashion might turn her
attention to the back of the head, and forthwith waterfalls and
chignons would appear at her behest, but Sibyl, while congratulating
her friends upon the wonders they achieved, would still wind her thick
golden braids in a classical coil, so that her head in profile brought
up to the beholder's mind a vision of an antique statue. Rare was her
taste; no clashing colors or absurd puffs and furbelows were ever
allowed to disfigure her graceful form, and thus her appearance always
charmed the artistic eye, although many of her schoolmates called her
"odd" and "quakerish." Sibyl had already obtained her little triumphs.
An artist of world-wide fame had asked permission to paint her head in
profile, as a study, and whenever she appeared at a party the
strangers present were sure to inquire who she was, and follow her
movements with admiring glances, although there were many eyes equally
bright, and many forms equally graceful in the gay circle of Westerton
society. But in spite of her beauty, Sibyl was not a general favorite;
she had no intimate friends among her girl companions, and she never
tried to draw around her a circle of admirers. She had no ambition to
be "popular," as it is called, and she did not accept all the
invitations that came to her as most young girls do; for, as she said,
"occasionally it is better to be missed." Thus, in a small way, Miss
Warrington was something of a diplomatist, and it was evident to Aunt
Faith that her niece looked beyond her present sphere, and cherished a
hidden ambition to shine in the highest circles of the queen cities of
America,—Boston, New York, and Washington. With this inward aim,
Sibyl Warrington held herself somewhat aloof from the young gentlemen
of Westerton; there were, however, two whom she seemed to favor in her
gentle way, and Aunt Faith watched with some anxiety the progress of
events. Graham Marr was a young collegian, the only child of a widowed
mother who lived in Westerton during the summer months. He had a
certain kind of fragile beauty, but his listless manner and drawling
voice rendered him disagreeable to Aunt Faith, who preferred manly
strength and vivacity even though accompanied by a shade of bluntness.
But Sibyl always received Graham Marr with one of her bright smiles,
and she would listen to his poetry hour after hour; for Graham wrote
verses, and liked nothing better than reclining in an easy chair and
reading them aloud.
"What Sibyl can see in Gra-a-m'ma, I cannot imagine," Bessie would
sometimes say; "he is a lazy white-headed egotist; a good judge of
lace and ribbons, but mortally afraid of a dog, and as to powder, the
very sight of a gun makes him faint."
But Aunt Faith had heard of the fortune which would come to Graham
Marr at the death of an uncle, and she could not but fear that Sibyl
had heard of it also. The grandfather, displeased with his sons, had
left a mill tying up his estate for the grandchildren, who were not to
receive it until all of the first generation were dead. Only one son
now remained, an infirm old man of seventy, and at his death the
hoarded treasure would be divided among the heirs, two girls living in
North Carolina, and Graham Marr, who was just twenty-one. Sibyl was
eighteen, and self-possessed beyond her years; could it be that she
really found anything to like in Graham Marr? Aunt Faith could not
tell. As she sat on the piazza, looking down into the garden, the gate
opened and a young man entered,—the Rev. John Leslie, a clergyman who
had recently come to Westerton to take charge of a new church in the
suburbs, a struggling little missionary chapel, where it required a
large faith to see light ahead in the daily toil and slow results. Mr.
Leslie caught the shimmer of Sibyl's gray dress under the arbor, and
turning off to the right through a box-bordered path, he made his way
to her side and seated himself on the bench. Aunt Faith could not hear
their conversation, for the old-fashioned garden was large and wide,
but now and then she caught the tones of the young man's earnest
voice, although Sibyl's replies were inaudible, for she possessed that
excellent thing in woman, a clear, low voice.
John Leslie was poor. He had only his salary, and that was but scanty.
Energetic and enthusiastic, he loved his work, and his whole soul was
in it. He was no plodding laborer, who had taken the field because it
happened to be nearest to him; he was no loiterer, who had entered the
field because he thought it would give him a larger chance for
idleness than the close-drawn ranks of business life. He had felt the
inward call which is given to but few, and he obeyed it instantly. To
him the world was literally a harvest field, and he, one of the hard
working laborers; he had no worldly ambition; he looked upon life with
the eyes or a true Christian; his little chapel was as much to him as
a large city church, influential and wealthy, could have been, as he
loved his small and somewhat uninteresting congregation with his whole
heart. Older men called him an enthusiast. Would that the world held
more enthusiasts like him; men who have forsaken all to follow Him,
men to whom the whole world and its riches are as nothing compared to
the souls waiting to hear the tidings of salvation. For even in
Christian America, there are in all our streets souls who have not
heard the tidings. It is their own fault, do you say? They can come to
our churches at any time. Nay, my friend; we must go out into the
highways and hedges and force them to come in with kindly sympathy and
John Leslie was the other friend whom Sibyl Warrington had selected
from the large circle of Westerton society. Did she really like him?
Aunt Faith could not decide this either, but she noticed the
increasing interest in the young clergyman's manner, as he came and
went to and from the old stone house. Free from guile as Nathanael of
old, John Leslie felt an increasing attachment to the beautiful Miss
Warrington, who came occasionally to his little church, and seemed,
whenever he spoke on the subject, so truly interested in the work of
his life; he talked with her about his Sunday School, and her
suggestions had been of service to him; for Sibyl possessed a talent
for organization, and a ready tact quite unusual for one so young. And
in this work she was no hypocrite; she enjoyed her conversations with
Mr. Leslie, and looked forward to his visits with real pleasure. What
wonder that he thought her a true child of God, an earnest Christian,
a fellow-laborer in the vineyard? Sometimes, when Aunt Faith was
present and heard Mr. Leslie's conversation, her old heart glowed
within her breast, and she felt herself carried back to the ancient
days when the young converts went about the world with ardent
enthusiasm, preaching the new gospel to every creature in spite of
perils by land and sea, perils of torture, and perils of death itself.
Then she would look at Sibyl. Sometimes the girl's cheek glowed with
an answering enthusiasm, and for the time being, Aunt Faith would
think that her heart was touched, and her soul uplifted by the earnest
love of God which shone out from John Leslie's words. But the next
day, perhaps, a letter from her cousin in Washington would come, and
Sibyl's face would light up over the descriptions of some great ball,
and her thoughts turn towards the approaching winter with double
A mist came with the twilight, and a slight chill in the air soon
brought Sibyl to the shelter of the piazza; she never trifled with her
health, her good looks were of serious importance to her, and she
never hazarded them for the sake of such sentiment as sitting in an
arbor when the dew was falling, or loitering in the moonlight when the
air was chilly.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie as they approached,
holding out his hand in cordial greeting; "we have come up to the
shelter of your pleasant piazza to finish our conversation in safety."
"I hope there was no danger," replied Aunt Faith with a smile; "a hot
argument, for instance."
"Oh, no; on the contrary the danger, if there was any, came from the
opposite direction. I was afraid the dew might dampen Miss
"And her enthusiasm also," said Aunt Faith, with a shade of merriment
in her pleasant voice.
"Certainly not her enthusiasm," replied the young clergyman gravely;
"I think it would take more than dew-drops to dampen such enthusiasm
as hers." As he spoke, his eyes were turned full towards Sibyl's face,
but he met no answering glance; Sibyl was occupied in spreading out
the folds of her skirt to counteract any possible injury from the
dampness. "He does not doubt her sincerity in the least," thought Aunt
Faith; "perhaps, after all, his influence will be strong enough to
cure her one fault, the one blemish of her character, the tendency
towards worldliness which I have noticed in her since early
"We were speaking of Margaret Brown, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie
when they were all seated on the piazza; "that girl has made a brave
battle with fate, and I have been trying to help her. Miss Warrington
has also been much interested in her; no doubt she has told you
"No," replied Aunt Faith, "I have heard nothing of her." Sibyl
colored, and Mr. Leslie looked surprised; a slight shade rested on his
frank face a moment, but soon vanished in the interest of the story.
"Margaret Brown is a poor working girl about twenty years of age, Mrs.
Sheldon; an orphan with a younger sister and two younger brothers to
support, and nothing but her two busy hands to depend upon. She is a
sewing-girl and a skilful workwoman, so that by incessant labor over
her machine, day after day, she is able to keep her little family
together, and, more than all, to send them to school. She realizes the
disadvantages of her own ignorance, and she feels a noble ambition to
educate those orphan children. Her faith is great; it is like the
faith of the primitive Christians who lived so near the times of the
Lord Jesus, that, in their prayers, they asked for what they needed
with childish confidence. It was her great faith which first drew me
towards her; she was a regular attendant at the chapel service, and in
the course of my visits, I went to see her in the little home she has
made in the third story of a lodging house at South End. It was
Saturday, and I saw the three children, already showing evidences of
improved education in their words and looks, while, busily sewing on
her machine, sat the sister-mother, pale and careworn, but happy in
the success of her plan. It seemed to me a great load for one pair of
shoulders, and I said so. The children had gone into another room, and
as I spoke, rashly perhaps, the overworked girl burst into tears. 'Oh,
sir,' she said, 'it is the wish of my life to give them a good
schooling, and I don't mind the work. But sometimes it is so hard!
If it was not for the prayers, I could not get through another day.'
"'Your prayers are a comfort to you,' I asked.
"'They are more than that, sir,' she replied earnestly; 'they are life
itself. Every morning I kneel down and just put the whole day into the
Lord's hands, asking Him to give us bread, and help us all,—me in my
work and the children in their lessons. And while I'm asking, some way
a kind of peace comes over me, and although I may know there is not a
crumb in the closet, or a cent in my purse, I always get up with a
light heart. The Bible is true, indeed, sir; I can't read it myself,
but my little sister, she reads to me evenings. It says, 'the Lord
will provide.' He does; He has. So far, me and mine have not suffered,
although I can never see my way a week ahead.'"
"Mr. Leslie," said Aunt Faith, "I must try and help Margaret; please
give me her address."
"Miss Warrington has it; I think she has already been there," replied
Mr. Leslie. At this moment a form approached the house through the
dusk of evening, a step sounded up the walk, and Graham Marr appeared.
"Ah, good evening, ladies!" he said, in his languid voice. "Mr.
Leslie, I believe! Your servant, sir. Miss Warrington, I have brought
that new poem from the French; I am sure you will like it."
"Thank you," said Sibyl, smiling. "Pray be seated, Mr. Marr."
But the enthusiasm died away, the conversation languished, and Mr.
Leslie soon rose to take leave. Then Sibyl stepped forward, and
accompanied him part way down the garden-walk, pausing for a few
moments earnest conversation before he said "good night."
"Now what made her do that?" thought Aunt Faith, as she tried to keep
up a conversation with the languid Mr. Marr; "does she like Mr. Leslie
better than she is willing to acknowledge?"
But Sibyl returned to her place on the piazza, and soon entered into
an animated discussion of the last volume of poems, in which Aunt
Faith's old-fashioned ideas found little to interest them.
"Well, young people," she said pleasantly, after half an hour of
patient listening, "I am afraid I do not appreciate modern poetry.
I am behind the times, I suppose; but I really like to understand what
a poet means, and, now-a-days, that is almost impossible."
"The mystery of poetry is its highest charm," said Graham Marr; "true
poetry is always unintelligible."
"Then I fear I am not poetical, Mr. Marr. But I am, as you see, frank
enough to acknowledge my deficiencies, and, if you will excuse me, I
will go into the sitting-room and finish some work that lies in my
Want of courtesy was not one of Graham's faults; indeed, he prided
himself upon his polished manners; so he accompanied Aunt Faith within
doors, placed an arm-chair by the table, drew up a footstool for her
comfort, and even lingered a moment to admire the shaded worsteds in
her basket, before he returned to the piazza and Sibyl. Once back in
the moonlight, however, the poetical conversation soon began again,
and the murmur of the two voices came faintly to Aunt Faith's ear as
she sat by the table, while the light breeze brought up from the
garden the fragrance of the flowers, always strongest after nightfall.
Back of the old stone house on the north side, the ground sloped down
towards the lake; first grassy terrace and bank, then a large
vegetable and fruit garden, terminating in a pasture and grove. The
stable and carriage-house stood off to the left, and the place was
somewhat carelessly kept, more like a farm than a residence; but an
air of cosy comfort pervaded the whole, and the grounds seemed to be
as full of chickens and ducks, cats and dogs, doves and sparrows,
horses and cows, as the house was full of canary and mocking-birds,
gold-fish, kittens, and plants, besides a large aquarium. Up from the
back pasture, at this moment, two shadowy forms were stealing. As they
drew nearer, sharp eyes might have discovered that they were two
persons on horseback coming up from the road which ran east and west
across the foot of the pasture. At the garden-fence they stopped, the
gentleman dismounted and lifted the lady to the ground. It was Bessie
Darrell and her cousin Hugh Warrington.
"Hush, Hugh; don't make me laugh so! we shall be discovered," she
said, as she gathered up her long skirt.
"But it is such a good joke!" said Hugh, mounting his horse again.
"Think of the fun we've had! And you ride like a little witch."
"We can go again to-morrow night, can't we, Hugh?"
"I suppose so; if you can get away unobserved."
"Of course I can. Oh, it is such fun! I like it better than anything
I ever did, Hugh; and you are a dear good fellow to teach me."
"Teach you!" exclaimed Hugh, with a laugh; "that's good! Why, you took
to it as a duck takes to water. What a glorious gallop we have had! By
the way, Bessie, Gideon Fish would look well on horseback!"
"Or Graham Marr," said Bessie laughing. "I do believe he is on the
piazza with Sibyl this very moment."
"If he is, I propose we extinguish him. Out, little candle," said
Hugh, striking a dramatic attitude.
"You won't be gone long, Hugh?"
"No; the man will be waiting at the road."
"Then I will run upstairs, lock up my riding skirt, and come down and
wait for you."
Bessie went through the garden and up to her room, while Hugh, riding
one horse and leading the other, crossed the pasture and the grove,
and gave them to a man who was waiting near the fence: he led them
down the narrow road towards the west, for the old stone house was in
the east suburb of Westerton, more than two miles from the business
portion of the town.
Bessie Darrell was sixteen,—a tall, slender maiden, with irregular
features, brown complexion, dark eyes, and a quantity of dark, curling
hair which defied all restraint, whether of comb, net, or ribbon. Her
eyes were bright and her expression merry, but beyond this there was
little beauty in her face. A quick student, Bessie always stood at the
head of her classes for scholarship, and at the foot as regards
demeanor. Twice had she been expelled for daring escapades in defiance
of rule, and Aunt Faith's heart had ached with anxiety, when the
truant returned home in disgrace. But her merry vivacity had made home
so pleasant, that the seasons of penance were, as Tom said, "the
jolliest of the year," and Gem openly hoped that Bessie would soon be
expelled again. Poor Aunt Faith sometimes thought there must be a
tinge of gypsy blood in Bessie's ancestors on the Darrell side of the
house, for in no other way could she account for her niece's taste for
wild rambles and adventure. "Bessie, my child," she said one evening
during the previous year, when she had happened to discover her
wayward niece returning from a solitary drive with Sultan, one of the
carriage horses, in Hugh's high buggy, "if you are fond of driving,
you shall go when you please. I will hire a low basket phaeton for
your especial use, and I shall be glad to go with you when you wish."
"Oh, Auntie! if I can go when I please, there is no fun in it," said
"Then I am to conclude, my dear, that the fun, as you call it,
consists in deceiving me," said Aunt Faith, gravely.
"Oh no, Auntie; not you especially, but all the world, you know. 'It's
against the rule!' That sentence has always been my greatest
temptation. I do so long to try all those forbidden things; if I had
been Eve, and if the forbidden fruit had been a delicious peach
instead of a commonplace apple, I should certainly have taken it. Now
there was Miss Sykes at Corry Institute; she was always saying, 'Young
ladies, it is against the rule to go into the garret. Three bad marks
to any one who even opens the door.' That was enough for me; I slipped
off my shoes and climbed up the stairs, while a crowd of girls stood
in the hall to see what happened. I opened the door and went in, and
after a moment I stepped right through the lath and plastering and
hurt myself severely. Of course I got the bad marks, and a big bill
for lath and plastering in addition to my lame leg, and the whole
thing was Miss Sykes' fault."
"You deliberately disobeyed her rule, Bessie."
"Why have such a goose of a rule, then? Why didn't she say right out
that we must not go into the garret because there was no flooring
there? Then we would have understood the whole thing. For my part, I
don't believe in piling temptation in people's way like that."
"My dear child, we cannot always know. We must all sometimes be
content to give up our wills to the guidance of a Wiser Hand,—be
content simply to trust."
"I don't think that time will ever come to me, Aunt Faith; Hugh says
the human mind is sufficient for itself."
Aunt Faith sighed, and laid her hand gently on the young girl's dark
curls. "My child," she said in a low voice, "I cannot bring myself to
pray that you may learn the lesson of trust, for it is a very hard
one. But I fear it will come to you, as, sooner or later, it comes to
almost all of us."
"Dear Aunt Faith," said the impulsive Bessie, throwing her arms around
her aunt's neck, "of all your children, not one loves you more truly
than I do!"
"I believe you do, my child," said Aunt Faith, returning the caress.
Arrayed in her ordinary dress, Bessie Darrell went down the back
stairs and seated herself on the porch steps. In a few moments Hugh
joined her. "Do you feel tired?" he asked.
"Tired! No, indeed. Horseback riding never tired me. You will take me
again to-morrow night?"
"I think it is you that takes me, Brownie. Is Marr there?"
"Yes; quoting poetry like everything. I heard him out of the
front-hall window; something about 'a rosy cloud,' I believe."
"Are they sitting directly under the hall window?" asked Hugh.
"Yes; in two arm-chairs, side by side."
"Let us go up and have a look at them," said Hugh. So up they stole,
and took their places at the upper window.
The old stone house was two stories high, with wings on each side,
which projected out beyond the main building; the space enclosed by
stone walls on three sides was floored with stone, and lofty stone
pillars ran up to the overhanging room. There was no intersection at
the second story, so that the view of the piazza from the upper
windows was uninterrupted. It was a pleasant piazza, fronting towards
the south, overlooking the old-fashioned garden with its little
box-bordered paths, and entirely cut off from the lake winds, which
are apt to have an easterly sharpness in them. On this piazza sat
Sibyl and Graham Marr, and the two listeners above caught fragments of
their poetical conversation. "I say, Bessie, do you know what a
'lambent waif' is?" whispered Hugh. "What a calf that Marr is! How can
Sibyl listen to him? He has not common sense."
"I believe he is to have uncommon cents, sometime," said Bessie,
punning atrociously. "However, if my knowledge of Sibyl is worth
anything, I should say she really prefers Mr. Leslie."
"What, the minister!" exclaimed Hugh; "I am surprised. Not that I
object at all, but ministers' wives sometimes have a hard life."
"Gideon Fish says, that ministers' wives ought to be the happiest
women on earth, because their husbands are always at home, brightening
the domestic shrine with their presence," quoted Bessie, with a
"That is a fish-story; I know it by the sound. I say, Bessie, wouldn't
it be fine fun to throw the great red blanket down on their heads in
the middle of the next verse?"
As Bessie highly approved of this suggestion, the two conspirators
crept away softly to find their blanket. But it was safely packed away
in the bottom of a chest, and some search was necessary to bring it to
the surface; in the midst of which, Tom and Gem appeared on the scene,
curious to know what was going on.
"Run away, children, and shut the door after you!" said Hugh, coming
up from the chest with a red face.
"No, Mr. Fitz!" replied Tom, deliberately seating himself on a box;
"not one step do I go until I know what you're up to—some fun, I
know. Come, Bessie; tell us, that's a good fellow."
"We shall have to tell them, Hugh," said Bessie, "or they might spoil
the whole thing." So the plan was hastily explained.
"Come along, Gem," said Tom, in great glee.
"All right, Bessie, we won't spoil your fun."
The two children ran off down the back stairs and out upon the terrace
behind the house. "Don't you say one word, Gem Morris," said Tom in an
excited whisper, "but I'm going to be in this game, if I know myself.
The blanket's very well, but the dogs are better, and Graham Marr is
terribly afraid of 'em. I never liked him since he called me 'my lad,'
and this will be a good chance to pay him off." So saying, Tom started
towards the carriage-house, closely followed by Gem; for, as Hugh
said, they always hunted in couples, and whether they played or
quarrelled, they were always together.
Opening a side door of the carriage-house, Tom called out Pete and
Grip; Turk had a kennel of his own, and sleepily obeyed his master's
"Now Gem," said Tom, "I shall go round to the big barberry-bush, and
when the blanket comes down I shall send the dogs at it. They won't
hurt anybody,—they never do,—but they'll make believe to be awful
savage, and Grip will bark like mad. You'd better slip round into the
parlor and look through the blinds; it's dark there." Gem obeyed
softly, and Tom disappeared around the corner of the house, followed
by the dogs, who understood from their master's low order, that a
secret reconnaissance was to be made, and moved stealthily behind him
single file, big Turk first, then Pete Trone, Esq., and last of all
plebeian Grip, his tail fairly sweeping the ground in the excess of
On the piazza all was peaceful and romantic. No thought of coming
danger clouded the poet's fancies, as he repeated a stanza composed
the previous evening by the light of the moon. "I never write by
gas-light, Miss Warrington," he said, "but I keep pencil and paper at
hand to transcribe the poetical thoughts that come to me in the
moonlight. Here is a verse that floated into my mind when the moon was
at its highest splendor last night:—
'Shine out, Oh moon! in the wide sky,—
The creamy cloud,—the dreamy light—
My heart is seething in the night.
Shine out, Oh moon! and let me die.'"
"I think we'd better let him, don't you?" whispered Hugh to Bessie at
the upper window. She assented, and down went the great blanket on the
heads of the two below, enveloping them in sudden darkness. At the
same instant the three dogs plunged forward and pawed at the dark
mass; Grip barking furiously, and Pete nosing underneath as if he was
in search of a rat-hole. The noise brought Aunt Faith to the door.
"What is it?" she said in alarm, gazing at the struggling blanket with
her near-sighted eyes.
"Nothing, Aunt Faith, but some of the children's nonsense," answered
Sibyl, extricating herself, and stepping out from the stifling
covering. "Mr. Marr, I hope you are not alarmed or hurt."
"Not in the least,—oh!—oh!—" gasped poor Graham, crawling out of
the blanket. "Those dogs!—oh!—get out!—get down, sir!"
"They will not hurt you," said Sibyl, coming to the rescue. "Grip, be
quiet! Pete get down, sir! You are not going, Mr. Marr?"
"I think,—yes,—I think I will," said the discomfited poet; "it is
getting late. I was on the point of making my adieu when,—when the
children played their little joke. Ha!—ha!—really, a very good joke.
Quite amusing! Good-evening, ladies! Really,—quite amusing!"
When Graham had gone, Aunt Faith stepped out on the piazza. "Tom," she
said, in a severe tone, "I am ashamed of you! Such pranks are only fit
for a child!" But no answer came from the silent garden.
"Grace, you are there somewhere! come out and show yourself," said
Aunt Faith. But still no reply. Then she called the dogs, but they,
too, had mysteriously disappeared.
"Sibyl," she said, going back into the sitting room, "I am very sorry
the children were so rude. I am afraid Mr. Marr will feel seriously
"Oh, as to that, Aunt Faith, it is a matter of small consequence what
he feels. But I see Pete has torn off part of the trimming of my
skirt; I will mend it before I go to bed. Good-night,—" and Sibyl
kissed her aunt in her gentle way, and went off to her room in the
"I don't believe she cares for the calf after all," whispered Hugh to
Bessie, as, after watching this scene from the top of the stairs, they
separated for the night.
A few minutes later, when Aunt Faith went up to her room, all her
children seemed to be unusually sound asleep; the lights were all out,
and Tom's snores came through his half-opened door with astonishing
"It's of no use, my dears," called out Aunt Faith, standing at the
door of her room; "I know you are all wide awake, and know you were
all in that blanket-and-dog affair." A burst of stifled laughter
greeted this announcement, and, when Aunt Faith got safely in her own
room and closed the door, she laughed too.
LIFE AT THE OLD STONE HOUSE.
"Come, come, children," said Aunt Faith, as she went down the stairs,
"do not waste so much time in talking or you will be late for
The talking consisted of a dialogue between Tom and Gem, carried on
through the half-closed door of their respective rooms during the
morning toilet, and the subject, as usual, was Pete Trone, Esq. "Who
did Pete vote for?" began Gem.
"Pete voted the Republican ticket, like a sensible dog!" replied Tom,
in a high key.
"He did not! I watched him at the polls. He is an out-and-out
Democrat!" returned Gem, at the top of her voice.
"No such thing!" shouted back her brother; "he attended a rat-ification
meeting last night in the cellar, and made a speech from the text,
'aut rates aut bones.'"
"Oh, if you're going to quote Latin, I give up," said Gem, "and
besides, there's the bell."
In a few moments the family assembled in the sitting-room,—Tom, Gem,
Sibyl, and after some delay, Bessie; Hugh did not appear, and Aunt
Faith, with an inward sigh, opened her Bible and read a chapter from
the New Testament. Then they all met in prayer, and the mother-aunt's
heart went up in earnest petition for help during the day, and a
thanksgiving for the peaceful rest of the previous night; as she rose
from her knee—, she kissed each one of her children with a fervent
blessing, and the day was begun.
The sitting-room was large and sunny and the old-fashioned windows
were set low down in the thick stone walls, so that a recess was
formed in which a cushioned seat was fitted; Gem's favorite resort,
with Estella Camilla Wales. A cabinet organ, a harp, and a violin,
betrayed the musical tastes of the family, and an easel, with a
picture in water-colors, as well as the books and papers on the table
showed their varied occupations. Aunt Faith believed that music was a
safeguard against danger. The love of harmony kept young people
together around a piano, and filled their evenings with enjoyment; it
was always a resource, and opened a field of interest and employment
which increased the store of life's innocent pleasures. In addition to
this negative virtue, Aunt Faith believed in the duty of taking part
in the worship of the sanctuary; she believed that every voice, unless
absolutely disqualified, should join in the praises of the great
Creator, and some of her happiest moments, were those when her
children gathered around the cabinet organ to sing the hymns she had
taught them, or took their part in the congregational worship of song.
Sibyl played correctly both upon the piano and organ; Grace was
already an apt scholar; Hugh sang, when in the mood, with a wonderful
expression in his rich baritone; and Bessie, although negligent in
practising, sometimes brought a world of melody out of her harp,
charming all ears with her wild improvisations.
Tom owned the violin. The cousins united in the declaration that he
had no musical ability, but Aunt Faith stood by him, and even
encouraged his spasmodic attempts to find the tune. His favorite air
was "Nelly Bly." On this he would progress satisfactorily until he
came to "Hi," when he was sure to waver. "Hi," E flat; "Hi," E
natural; "Hi," F natural; and finally, when all within hearing were
driven nearly to frenzy, out would come the missing F sharp, and the
tune go on triumphantly to its close.
The breakfast table at the old stone house was always a pleasant
scene; Aunt Faith presided behind the coffee urn, and before the meal
was over, the postman came with letters and papers, which caused
another half hour of pleasant loitering. This morning Sibyl had her
usual heap,—letters from various schoolmates, and one from Mrs.
Leighton, her relative in Washington, which seemed to be full of
interest. Aunt Faith also had several letters, and Bridget handed one
to Bessie,—a large, yellow envelope, whose ill-formed address
attracted general curiosity. "I say, Bess, who's your friend?" said
"Never mind," answered his cousin, with flushing cheeks, as she put
the unopened letter into her pocket and went on hastily with her
breakfast. Hugh, who had entered a moment before, glanced at Bessie,
and then diverted the attention by a word-assault upon his sister.
"What a mass of writing, Sibyl," he began, stretching out his hand;
"I'll help you to read it. That rose-colored sheet will do; the one
crossed over four times." But Sibyl quietly secured her correspondence,
and went on with her reading. "Does she tell you what she wore at the
last ball, dear? Was it blue, with rose ruffles, or pink with green
puffles," continued Hugh. Sibyl smiled; her temper was never disturbed
by her brother's banter. "If you could see Louisa May, you would be
sure to admire her, Hugh, ruffles and all," she said, calmly.
"Undoubtedly; but as I cannot see her, ruffles and all, give me the
nearest thing to it, a sight of that page,—
'Tis but a little criss-cross sheet,
But oh,—how fondly dear!
'Twill cheer my breakfast while I eat,
And keep the coffee clear,"
chanted Hugh, in a melo-dramatic tone.
"Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, as she rose to leave the table, "Mrs.
Leighton has invited me to go to Saratoga next month, to stay four
"Saratoga!" exclaimed Bessie. "Well, you are always lucky, Sibyl. But
why don't you do something instead of standing there so quietly?"
"What would you have me do?" said Sibyl, smiling.
"Why, dance,—sing,—hurrah,—anything to give vent to your
"But I am not excited, Bessie," answered Sibyl, quietly.
"I don't believe you'd be excited if the house was on fire," said Tom,
looking up from his plate.
"No, probably not," said Aunt Faith; "and for that reason, Sibyl would
be of more use in such an emergency than all the rest of you put
together. Does Mrs. Leighton fix any time for the journey, dear?"
"Yes, aunt; about the fifteenth of July."
"Would you like to go?" continued Aunt Faith, somewhat anxiously.
"Of course she would!" exclaimed Bessie. "Four weeks at Saratoga.
Think of it!"
"Of course she would!" said Hugh. "Four weeks of puffs and ruffles!"
"Of course she would!" said Gem. "Four weeks of dancing!"
"Of course she would!" said Tom. "Ice cream every day!"
"I believe I will not decide immediately," said Sibyl, slowly; "I will
think over the matter before I write." As her niece left the room,
Aunt Faith's eyes followed her with a perplexed expression, but
recalling her thoughts, she rang the bell, and then set about her
daily task of washing the delicate breakfast-cups, and polishing the
old-fashioned silver until it reflected her own face back again.
In the garret over the old stone house, a small room had been finished
off as a "studio" for Bessie. It was but a rough little den with
board walls and ceiling, but two south windows let in a flood of
light, and the boards were covered with pictures in all stages of
completion,—fragments of landscape, and portraits of all the members
of the family circle, more or less caricatured according to Bessie's
mood when she executed them. A strong patent-lock secured the door of
this treasure-house, and seldom was any one admitted save Hugh. In
vain had Tom bored holes in the walls, in vain had Gem pleaded
pathetically through the key-hole, Bessie was inexorable and the door
was closed. Chalked upon the outside of this fortress were some of
Tom's sarcastic comments intended as a revenge for his exclusion,—
"Turn, stranger, turn, and from this sanctum rush,—
The fires of genius burn when Bessie wields the brush."
And this: "She won't let me in! Hinc illae lachrymae!" This legend
was accompanied by a chalk picture of himself shedding large
tear-drops into a tub.
This morning, however, the studio was not in a state of siege, as Tom
and Gem were both engaged in a work of great importance in the garden.
Seated near one of the windows was Bessie, her eyes full of tears, and
her face the image of despair. A low knock at the door interrupted her
reverie. "Is it you, Hugh?" she said, rising.
"Yes," replied her cousin, and in a minute he was admitted. "What is
the matter, Bessie?" he said kindly. "I saw at breakfast that
something was wrong. You will tell me, won't you?"
Bessie hesitated, and a flush rose in her dark face. "I suppose I
must!" she answered, after a pause; "I always tell you everything
Hugh, and I want your advice; but I don't know what you will think of
me after you have read this letter."
"Never mind; give it to me, Brownie. You have always been my dear,
little cousin, and it will take more than a letter to separate us,"
said Hugh, opening the envelope. The letter was as follows; "Miss B.
Daril: I don't want to trouble you, but I must have that money. Bills
is coming in every day. It belongs to me, as you know yourself, Miss,
very well, and I've a right to every cent. If it don't come soon I
shall have to send a lawyer for it, which I hate to do, Miss; and am
yours respectful, J. Evins."
"What can this mean, Bessie?" asked Hugh, in astonishment.
"It means, last winter, at Featherton Hall, Hugh, I got into a wild
set of girls there, and one of our amusements was sending out for
suppers late in the evening; the servants would do anything for money,
and they were always willing to go over to Evins, and get what we
wanted for a small bribe. The bill was allowed to run on in my name,
for, although it was understood that all the dormitory girls should
share in the expense, it was more convenient to order in one name.
Then the end of the term came, and there was so much confusion and
hurry, that most of the girls forgot all about the bill, and went home
without paying anything towards the suppers. I fully intended to give
my share to Evins before I left, but the amount was so large I could
not come near it," concluded Bessie, with two tears rolling down her
"You have not told Aunt Faith, then," asked Hugh.
"No; I do not want to tell her, for it would make her feel badly, and
besides, she would pay it herself, and I don't want her to do that,
for she has already taken ever so much of her own little income to buy
me new summer dresses in place of those I have torn and stained."
"How much do you owe this man?" said Hugh gravely.
"Two hundred and fifty dollars," said Bessie desperately.
"How could you contrive to run up such a bill in one winter?"
exclaimed Hugh in astonishment.
"Why, you see there were a good many girls in the dormitory, and we
always had plum-cake, eclairs, and French candy; and then I have no
doubt but that the servants took their share," said Bessie, with a
"And why was your name selected for the bills?"
"I don't know, unless because I was,—the,—the,—"
"The ringleader?" suggested Hugh.
"I am afraid so," murmured Bessie, hiding her face.
"Have you got this man's bill?" said Hugh, after a pause.
"Ah! yes. He sent it to me weeks ago."
"Let me have it, please."
"Oh, Hugh! what are you going to do with it?"
"Pay it, of course."
"Pay it! How can you?"
"So long as it is paid, what do you care about it, Brownie?"
"But I do care, Hugh; and I shall not give it to you unless you tell
"Well then, listen, Miss Obstinate. You may not know that Sibyl and I
have some money coming to us this month. We shall be quite rich. I
shouldn't wonder if there were five hundred dollars in all. Quite a
fortune, you see! And I shall take mine to pay the debts of my foolish
little cousin, who must be a real sugar-dolly to have eaten so much
candy," said Hugh, laughing.
"Oh, Hugh! you splendid, generous fellow," said Bessie, with the tears
still shining in her eyes; "but I shall not let you do it."
"Yes you will, Bessie; you would do the same for me."
"That is true enough; but I hate to take your money, Hugh."
"You don't take it; 'J. Evins' takes it," said Hugh merrily. "Come,
give me the bill, and say no more about it, or we shall quarrel." So
it was settled, and there were two light hearts in the studio that
bright June morning.
While Aunt Faith was busy with her house-keeping duties, she heard
Sibyl's touch on the piano,—giving full value to every note, and
exact time to every measure. Sibyl was an accurate musician, and
several hours of each day were invariably devoted to piano practice.
She never turned over a pile of sheet-music, trying now a little of
this, and now a little of that; but, having made her selections, she
played the piece entirely through, note for note, exactly as it was
written. Most people liked to hear Miss Warrington play, for the
performance was very complete. She sat gracefully at the piano, showed
no nervous anxiety, interpreted the notes conscientiously, and
finished the music to the very last octave. But Aunt Faith detected a
want of expression in this studied mechanism; it seemed to her that
Sibyl did not, in her heart, feel the spirit of the music which her
fingers played. Coming in from the kitchen, this morning, after
setting in motion the household wheels for the day, she again noticed
this automatic execution in the strains of Mendelssohn's
"Spring-Song," and it grated on her ear as she tended the hanging
baskets on the piazza. Continuing her round from her plants to her
birds and gold-fish, Aunt Faith kept listening to the monotonous sound
of the piano. "I wonder if Sibyl has a heart?" she thought; "sometimes
I am tempted to think she has none. How can she practise so steadily
when she has so much to decide? This visit to Saratoga will mean more
than it looks. The decision will be between religion and the world. If
she deliberately makes up her mind to go, it will show me that Mr.
Leslie's influence has not been strong enough to subdue her
worldliness and secret ambition. Poor child! she is like her mother.
And yet, Mabel Fitzhugh became an earnest Christian before she died.
God grant that her daughter may grow in grace also. Hugh, now, is all
Warrington; he is like his father, with all his father's faults and
all his father's generosity. Dear James! my favorite brother!" and
Aunt Faith wiped away a tear, as she crossed the hall and entered the
parlor where Sibyl was practising.
The parlor in the old stone house was the counterpart of the
sitting-room, large and square, with two north and two south
windows,—for the main body of the house contained only the length of
the apartments finished by a north and south piazza, while the other
rooms ran off on either side in wings and projections, as though the
designer had tried to cover as much ground as possible. The parlor was
plainly furnished as regards cost, for there was no superb set of
furniture, no tall mirror, no velvet carpet or lace curtains.
Easy-chairs of various patterns were numerous, the carpet was small
figured, in neutral tints, and the plain, gray walls brought out the
beauties of the two fine pictures which lighted up the whole room with
their vivid idealism; the piano was a perfect instrument, filling a
corner of its own, and opposite to it was an open book-case filled
with pleasant-looking, well-used books, well worn too, like old
friends, so much better than new ones. The crimson lounge seemed to
invite the visitor with its generous breadth and softness, and the
white muslin curtains were in perfect keeping with the old-fashioned
windows, through which came the perfume of the old-fashioned flowers
in the garden.
"Sibyl," said Aunt Faith, as her niece paused in her practising;
"shall we talk over your plans for the summer now?"
"Yes, if you please, aunt; I can finish my practising another time,"
said Sibyl, carefully replacing the sheet-music in its portfolio.
"Mrs. Leighton is very kind to invite you, Sibyl; such a summer
excursion will be expensive."
"Yes, Aunt, I suppose so; but cousin Jane knows that the addition of a
young lady will add to the attractions of her party."
"Do you really wish to go, dear?"
"I have been thinking it over, Aunt Faith. While I was practising I
looked at the subject in all lights, and I have almost decided to go;
there is nothing to keep me here, and no doubt the society at Saratoga
and Newport would be of great advantage to me."
"In what way, Sibyl?"
"In giving me the acquaintance of persons and families who will be
desirable friends for a lifetime. I am not rich, as you know, Aunt
Faith, and I do not wish to be a burden upon Hugh. I consider it
prudent to look to the future, and see life as it really is; I do not
believe in fancies,—I must have something sure."
Aunt Faith looked at the speaker in silence for a moment. Then she
said, "There is nothing sure in this life, Sibyl, but our trust in
"I know that, Aunt; I hope you do not think I have been remiss in my
"No, child no," replied Aunt Faith with a half-sigh; "but are you sure
there is nothing in Westerton that interests you more than the
fashionable life at Saratoga!"
"Nothing, Aunt; except affection for all of you, of course." Sibyl's
voice did not waver, neither did the shade of color in her oval cheek
deepen; Aunt Faith, who was watching her closely, said no more on that
subject, but turned the discussion towards the arrangements for the
journey. "You will need some additions to your wardrobe, I suppose, my
"Yes, Aunt; I think I shall take that money that is coming to me this
month for the purpose. I do not care for many dresses, but they must
be perfect of their kind, and I think I shall purchase that antique
set of pearls at Carton's,"
"But they are very costly, Sibyl."
"Of course they are. I should not wish them if they were not rare.
Pearls become me, and the antique setting will set me off far better
than anything modern; a white organdie, long and flowing, with the
pearls, would be just my style," said Sibyl in a musing voice, as
though she saw herself so arrayed. As she spoke, a vision rose before
Aunt Faith's eyes: Sibyl at Saratoga, her classical head and hair
adorned with the antique circlet, rising in simple beauty from the
soft, white draperies. "She will look like a Greek statue," thought
the elder lady; "after all, how beautiful she is!"
The discussion went on, arranging the details of the various toilets,
a committee of ways and means highly important in Sibyl's eyes.
"At any rate, you need not begin immediately, Sibyl," said Aunt Faith;
"if you only wish two or three dresses; and those are to be so simple,
a week will be time enough to devote to them. You can have a full
month of quiet here with all of us, dear; and, after all, something
may happen to change your plans."
"I think not, Aunt Faith. Are you going? Then I may as well finish my
practising;" and for the next hour the Spring-song filled the parlor
with its oft-repeated harmony.
Down in the back garden, Tom and Gem were deeply engaged in the
construction of an underground shanty. The grassy terrace behind the
north piazza sloped down in a gentle declivity towards the vegetable
garden, and at the base of this small hill the two sappers and miners
were at work, their operations being marked by a convenient growth of
currant-bushes at the top. The three dogs watched the proceedings with
great interest. Turk, always thoughtful of his own comfort, had
stretched himself out near by under the shadow of the bushes, and Pete
Trone, in the excess of his zeal, had burrowed so far into the hill
that nothing was to be seen but his tail and hind legs; Grip, however,
persisted in tearing around the garden in wild circles, barking
furiously every time he passed his master as if to encourage him in
his labors. "This will never do!" said Tom, pausing and wiping his
forehead; "Grip will spoil everything with his ridiculous barking, and
the whole neighborhood will come to see what is the matter. Here,
Grip! Here, this minute! Very well, sir! ver-y well! ex-treme-ly
well! You'd better come, sir! You'd bet-ter,—oh! you're coming, are
you? There! get into that tub, sir, and don't let me see you so much
as wag your tail without permission!"
So Grip sat mournfully in his tub, and watched the work in silence,
resting his nose on the side, and blinking his eyes at every fresh
shovel-full of earth. The sun shone out warmly, and the laborers felt
the perspiration on their heated faces. Gem was the first to drop her
shovel. "Oh, Tom!" she said, wiping her forehead, "my hands are all
"What of that?" said Tom, shovelling steadily; "the honest hand of
toil, you know." But Gem didn't know, and betook herself to the shade
of the bushes for a rest. "There's Dick Nelson coming up through the
pasture, Tom," she said, after a few moments.
"Is it? oh, how jolly! Now we'll have a shanty that will beat the
town. I'll get Dick to bring all the B. B.'s to help."
So saying, Tom ran down to meet his friend, and the two, after some
conversation, darted away to the right and the left, returning in
about fifteen minutes with the "Band of Brothers," as they called
themselves, a number of boys who lived in the vicinity, and hunted in
a herd, as the neighbors said, for they were seldom seen apart.
"The B. B.'s have come, Gem! the B. B's have come!" cried Tom, as they
approached; "now you'll see a shanty fit for a king! Just run in and
get all the shovels you can find, will you?"
Gem obeyed, and having confiscated those in use in the kitchen, she
went up to the garret to find the fire utensils belonging to the other
rooms, stored away there for the summer. Collecting a number, she
started to return, but, loaded as she was, this was no easy matter.
First one shovel fell, then another, and finally to save the whole
load from going, she sat down on the stairs and considered the
Hugh and Bessie were still in the studio; for, her troubles over,
Bessie's good spirits had returned, and she had persuaded Hugh to give
her a sitting in order that she might satisfy a long-cherished desire
to paint his portrait. "But what can you make out of my stupid phiz?"
Hugh had said, laughing.
"I can make Fitz Hugh Warrington out of it; fair and golden, Saxon and
strong; ruddy and stalwart; lithe and long. Now sit still, Hugh, and I
will do my best. If you had black eyes I would not paint you; black
eyes are snaky; that's the reason I don't like Gideon Fish."
"But he likes you, Queen Bess."
"No, he only likes Aunt Faith's cake. If he had to choose between me
and pie, I am afraid I should not have a chance. As for jelly, he
fairly gloats over it. Do you know, Hugh, I shall feel so sorry for
his wife when he marries; how tired she will be of him!"
"Oh, no, she won't," said Hugh; "she will think he is perfect, and
cook for him all her life without ever once finding out what a humbug
"Well, perhaps it is better so. Deception is sometimes a blessing,"
said Bessie. At this point a singular noise was heard outside the
door; then another, and still another.
"What can that be?" said Hugh, opening the door; "Gem, what are you
"Oh, Hugh, don't make any noise," said Gem, in a whisper.
"I am not making any noise. It is you with your shovels. What are
you doing with them?" asked Hugh, laughing.
"Oh, Hugh, please don't tell! but Tom and the B. B.'s are making an
underground shanty, and they sent me for all the shovels, and I got
all I could find, and now I can't carry them," said Gem dolefully.
"An underground shanty! What in the world are you going to do with it,
and who are the B. B.'s?" asked Hugh, relieving his little cousin from
her load, and carrying it down the stairs for her.
"Live in it, like Robinson Crusoe, you know, and roast potatoes and
"It will be rather hot, won't it, Pussy?"
"Oh, no!" said Gem decisively; "Tom says it will be delightfully cool.
We're going to have a stove, and chairs, and a table, and candles, and
things to eat; and then the dogs can stay there too. Grip has never
had a regular house, you know, and Tom says it isn't respectable for
him to be loose round the garden at night any more, and so he's going
to let him live in the shanty."
"Happy Grip!" said Hugh, as he delivered the shovels at the foot of
the stairs; "but who are the B. B.'s, Gem?"
"Oh! the Band of Brothers,—a secret society. Don't let them see you,
please, Hugh, for I promised not to tell, and I'm almost afraid of
them, they've got such a dreadful motto."
"What is it, Pussy?"
"Ruin, Riot, and Revenge," said Gem in a solemn whisper.
"Well done, B. B.'s!" said Hugh laughing; "truly, a terrific motto!
There, take your shovels and run, little one. I won't betray you."
So the shovels disappeared, and Hugh, returning to the studio, related
the adventure to Bessie with a hearty laugh. "Do you know anything
about the B. B.'s?" he asked, as Bessie resumed her work.
"Oh, yes!" she replied; "I know them to my cost. They are ruin to
water-melons, riot on peaches, and revenge to anyone who interferes
with them. A few weeks ago, they frightened Mrs. Lane and her sister
almost into a fainting-fit. You know that high board fence below here?
Well! one evening the B. B.'s happened to find out that they were over
at Mrs. Reed's, so they waited until the ladies came along, and then
they laid themselves down on the ground close behind the fence, and
putting their mouths against the boards, groaned out, one by one,
'seven years ago I was murdered and buried under this fence,
oh!—oh!—oh!'—each boy keeping up the groan until the next one took
it up as the ladies hurried by."
Hugh laughed; "What did they do it for?" he asked.
"Oh, I believe Mrs. Lane had ordered them out of her garden, one day,
when they were playing there with her Johnny."
"I am afraid if Aunt Faith knew they were undermining her terrace, she
would order them out of her's, too."
"I think not, Hugh. Aunt Faith likes boys, and she never seems to see
"Dear Aunt Faith! she is certainly the kindest aunt a graceless nephew
ever had," said Hugh warmly.
"That she is; I love her dearly, and I do mean to try not to vex her
any more," said Bessie earnestly.
"But, the horseback-riding, Bessie!"
"But, the horseback-riding, Hugh!"
The two offenders looked at each other a moment in silence, and then
burst into a peal of laughter.
"It's of no use," said Bessie; "we can't be good."
"Do you think Aunt Faith would be very much shocked if we should tell
her?" asked Hugh.
"Of course she would. She does not like to see a lady on horseback,
because her cousin was killed by a fall from a horse, you know. Still,
she might not forbid my going, provided I would ride quietly on a
country road; but that is just what I do not want to do. The whole
excitement is in the racing, you know."
"Well, I suppose it would be better not to tell her, then," said Hugh
Dinner-time came, and the family assembled in the dining-room, Sibyl
attired in a fresh muslin, and Bessie and Hugh somewhat dusty after
their morning in the studio. Tom and Gem came in with flushed
faces;—the B. B.'s were to return after dinner and finish the
excavation, and the afternoon was to be full of glory.
"Sibyl," said Aunt Faith, when the others had left the dining-room,
"would you like to go with me to see Margaret Brown, about four
o'clock? You have been there before, I believe?"
"No, Aunt Faith, I have never been there."
"I thought Mr. Leslie said so."
"He did, but he was mistaken," replied Sibyl calmly. "I will go with
you, however, this afternoon, aunt, if you wish."
"Do not go merely to oblige me, my dear. I thought you seemed to be
interested in Mr. Leslie's description. For my part, I have thought of
it ever since."
A slight flush rose in Sibyl's fair face. "I was much interested,
aunt," she said quickly, "and I shall be glad to go with you, if you
will allow it."
So Aunt Faith went upstairs for her afternoon siesta, and soon fell
asleep on the cool chintz lounge, in her shaded room, where the
old-fashioned furniture, high bedstead, spindle-legged chairs, and
antique toilet-table, had remained unchanged from her youth, when the
oval mirror reflected back a merry, rosy girl-face, instead of the
pale, silver-haired woman.
But Sibyl did not sleep. She went into the still parlor, and seated
herself by the window with a book; but her thoughts were busy, and
only her eyes were fixed upon the page, as her mind wandered far away
from the author's subject. "Shall I or shall I not go to Saratoga?"
she mused. "This is more than the mere question of a summer journey;
I know that very well. It is, I feel it, a turning-point in my life.
Can I deliberately give up my ambition, my hopes, all my prospects for
a bright and prosperous future? Is it, after all, wrong to like wealth
and ease? Is it wrong to like elegance and refinement, the society of
cultivated people, and the charming surroundings which only money can
bring? I have an innate horror of misery,—an inability to endure the
want of all that is beautiful in life. I think I could be a very good
woman in an elegant city home, with all my little wishes gratified,
and nothing to offend my taste. But I fear, yes, I know, I should be
a miserable, if not a wicked woman, in a poor home, with nothing but
rasping, wearing poverty, day after day. Why, the very smell and steam
of the wet flannels coming from the kitchens of small houses where I
have happened to be on washing-days, has made me uncomfortable for
hours. I know I am not heroic, but I am afraid I was not intended for
a heroine. I know myself and all my faults thoroughly. I am sure I
should be generous with my money if I was rich,—kind to the poor, and
regular in the discharge of all my religious duties. People would love
me; I should make them happy, and be happy myself. Now the question
is, am I right in thinking such a life far better for me, constituted
as I am, than any other?
"Let me look at the opposite side, now. It is not likely I should ever
be obliged to work at severe manual labor; but the annoyances and
privations of a limited income seem to me almost worse than that. I
think I would rather be a washerwoman, provided I could acquire the
strength, than the wife of a struggling man who has all the refined
tastes and sensitive nerves of a gentleman, without a gentleman's
income. I should see him growing more and more careless, more and more
haggard, day after day; I should see myself growing old, ugly,
ill-tempered, and sick, hour after hour. I have not the moral force of
mind, or the physical force of body, to make a cold, half-furnished
house seem a haven of rest, a piece of corned-beef and potatoes
continued indefinitely through the week seem a delicious repast, or an
old-fashioned cloak and dowdy bonnet seem like my present pretty fresh
attire. Well! this being the case, I am afraid I am but a worldly
woman, and, as such, would I not wrong a poor man if I consented to be
his wife? Would he not be sure to repent when it was too late,—when
he had discovered the selfishness and love of luxury which are in me?
I know he would. I will not put myself in such a position. I will do
the best I can; but, as I cannot make myself over, I will select the
life which is best suited to me."
Here Sibyl sighed, and tried to bring her mind back upon her book. In
vain; her thoughts would wander. "There is poor Aunt Faith. I can
easily see how anxious she is about me, and how her heart aches over
my worldliness. I do love her dearly; all the good in me I owe to her,
and if I ever do anything right, it will be the result of her loving
guidance. Sometimes I am tempted to tell her all that is in my
heart,—all I have been thinking this afternoon, for instance. I
believe I will write it down now, and give it to her. She will
understand me better, then; and, if I request it, she will never
allude to the paper in words. Yes, I think I will do it." So Sibyl
took a sheet of paper from the drawer, and, in her clear handwriting,
wrote out her thoughts of the afternoon, adding a request that the
subject might not be brought into discussion, and also, that the paper
should be destroyed. "I will not take any false steps," she thought;
"I will be true to my determination, and therefore I will not go to
see Margaret Brown this afternoon; there would be a double motive in
the visit, I fear." Rising, she went slowly up the stairs to Aunt
Faith's room; the door was partly open, and she could hear the rustle
of book-leaves. "Aunt Faith!" she said, standing outside in the hall,
"I have decided not to go with you this afternoon, if you will excuse
me. I shall go over to the cottage to see Rose Saxon. And I have
written down some ideas of mine on this paper; perhaps you may be
interested in reading them."
She did not wait for a reply, but laying down the folded paper on a
chair by the door, she went down the stairs, took her little straw
round hat, and walked over to the cottage, the residence of Mrs. Marr,
whose niece, Rose Saxon, had been one of her schoolmates. Aunt Faith
laid aside her book and read Sibyl's paper several times over; then
she arranged her dress, and went alone to see Margaret Brown, leaving
an order for some work, and inviting the children to come and play in
the large garden at the old stone house. Her voice was gentle, her
words cordial, and Margaret felt cheered by the visit; but the
visitor's heart was sad, and when, on her way home, she met Mr.
Leslie, she merely bowed, without stopping as usual to exchange a
pleasant greeting. But the young clergyman joined his old friend in
spite of her constrained manner, and began talking: "You have been to
see Margaret Brown, I presume, Mrs. Sheldon. I am very glad. I am sure
she will interest you, and she has so few friends to help her, that I
feel anxious to gain for her your good will. Miss Warrington has also
visited her, I believe?"
"No, Mr. Leslie," replied Aunt Faith; "Sibyl has never been to see
Margaret, and she did not care to accompany me this afternoon."
A shade came over the young clergyman's face, but he made no comment.
"Westerton is very dull for Sibyl; she is better fitted for the gay
society of the busy city," pursued Aunt Faith, determined at any cost
to prevent Mr. Leslie from looking at her niece with blinded eyes.
"Miss Warrington is fitted for any life," replied the young clergyman
gravely; "if you please, Mrs. Sheldon, I will accompany you home. I
would like to see Miss Warrington."
Poor Aunt Faith! what could she do but murmur an invitation. As they
reached the old stone house and Sibyl greeted them with a bright
smile, poor Aunt Faith felt very much like the spider in the old song
of the spider and the fly.
The tea-table was inviting, and the circle around it as pleasant as
six handsome young faces and one handsome old face could make
it,—faces handsome with vivacity and good nature as well as artistic
beauty. Mr. Leslie was there, and being a general favorite, the
conversation was full of life and interest.
"He's just splendid!" said Gem to Tom after the meal was over, "and I
wish we dared to show him the shanty. He'd like it ever so much; I've
heard him tell such funny stories about what he did when he was a
"But he would not like our keeping it all from Aunt Faith."
"That's true. Well, I suppose, then, we'd better not tell him now.
But, oh! Tom, how I wish I could stay up with the B. B.'s to-night."
"No; girls must always stay in nights. I've always thought it a great
pity you could not be a boy, Gem. But it can't be helped now.
Remember, if I fling a stone up, it will mean that we want something,
and you must be sure to get it."
Aunt Faith spent the evening in the sitting-room busily engaged in her
fancy work. On the piazza, Sibyl and Mr. Leslie talked in low tones,
and now and then she caught a word or two which seemed to indicate the
serious character of the conversation. "I fear I am doing wrong to
allow it," she thought; "there is no doubt in my mind as to John
Leslie's liking for Sibyl, and the child is so worldly! Still, what
can I do? The way in which he put aside my little endeavors this
afternoon and walked boldly into the very danger! It certainly looks
as though he was not afraid of anything, and, to tell the truth, I do
not think he is. I shall have to let him take care of himself; he
looks fully able to do it," and Aunt Faith smiled at her own
discomfiture, as a vision of the clergyman's resolute face and broad
shoulders rose before her eyes.
Later in the evening Bessie came in and slipped into the sofa corner
by her aunt's side.
"How flushed you are," said Aunt Faith, stroking the young girl's
cheek; "do you feel quite well, dear?"
"Oh yes, auntie," said Bessie with downcast eyes; "the evening is
warm, you know."
"Do you find it warm also?" asked Aunt Faith, as Hugh entered, fanning
himself with his straw hat. Hugh, who had just taken the horses down
through the pasture, murmured some inarticulate reply and crossed the
hall into the parlor. "Let us have some music, Bessie," he called out
as he opened the piano. Then as his cousin joined him, he said in a
low tone, "I cannot bear this deception, Bessie. It makes me feel like
"Oh Hugh, you are not going to tell, and spoil all my fun?"
"You are a second Eve with her apple, Brownie."
"I am not Eve, and I don't like apples," said Bessie indignantly.
"Don't spoil my fun, now, Hugh. The summer will soon be over, and you
will be gone. Then I shall be oh!—so good."
"When you have no longer a chance to be naughty," said Hugh, laughing.
At eleven o'clock the lights were all extinguished in the old stone
house, and every one was soon asleep. After awhile a sharp rap on the
closed blinds awoke Gem; at first she was startled, but instantly
remembering the night-watch in the underground shanty, she stole to
the window and peeped out. There stood Tom! "We want something to
eat," he said in a loud whisper; "the B. B.'s are awful hungry. Come
down and open the back door."
"Oh, Tom, I don't dare to do it!" said Gem, trembling.
"Don't be a baby, Gem! Come down, or I'll tell, the B. B.'s you're
afraid of the dark."
This taunt aroused Gem's failing courage, she stole down the stairs
and slipped back the bolt, regaining her room with the speed of a
little pussy cat. She heard nothing more for some time, and was almost
asleep when another tap on the blinds aroused her.
"We want more candles," whispered Tom; "I can't find 'em. Of course
you know where they are. Hurry up!"
"Oh, Tom! must I come down again?" pleaded Gem.
"Of course you must! hurry up!"
So Gem got the candles and crept back to her bed with a lessening
respect for the delights of the underground shanty. In a few moments
another tap was heard. "Oh, Tom! what is it now?"
"I want my fiddle; the B. B.'s are awful sleepy, and they say they'll
all go home if I don't play for them."
"Oh, Tom, somebody will hear you!"
"Not under the ground, you silly! Come down and get the fiddle; I
can't go in the sitting-room with my boots on."
So the violin was handed out, and poor Gem at last fell asleep, with a
vague intention of being a good girl, and giving up the society of Tom
and the B. B.'s forever.
About half past twelve Aunt Faith awoke; "I certainly hear music!" she
thought. Opening the blinds she heard the faint strains of "Nelly
Bly," with the well known "Hi," E flat; "Hi," E natural; "Hi," F
natural, and at the same time saw a light proceeding mysteriously from
the ground. Hastily dressing herself, she ran over to Tom's room; it
was empty. Much disturbed, she knocked at Hugh's door; "Hugh! Hugh!"
she called; "something is wrong. Please get up."
"What is it, Aunt Faith?" said a sleepy voice.
"Get up at once! Tom is gone; there is music somewhere, and the
strangest light coming out of the ground in the back garden."
"The B. B.'s, I'll be bound," said Hugh with a laugh, as he threw on
his clothes. "Don't be frightened, Aunt Faith; it's Ruin, Riot and
"Dreadful!" murmured Aunt Faith outside the door.
By this time the whole household was awake, and a group of persons
stole out of the back door and went down the garden walk. Finding a
barricade of boards at the base of the hill, they opened it, and
discovered a little den in the earth containing one chair, a table,
the three dogs, and Tom; a candle stuck in a bottle gave light to the
scene, and the table was covered with the remains of a feast, cake and
pies having evidently once filled the empty dishes. Tom was playing
dismally upon his violin, and the three dogs sat mournfully at his
"Thomas, what does this mean?" said Aunt Faith severely.
Tom looked up and saw the extent of his audience. "It's just my
underground shanty, Aunt Faith," he said dejectedly; "I've worked like
a slave over it all day, and the B. B.'s agreed to sit up here all
night and have lots of fun, so I climbed out of the back window and
came down. But first they wanted things to eat, and I had to get 'em;
and then, when they'd eaten up everything, they said if I didn't play
they'd go home, so I had to get my fiddle. And I only knew one tune,
and they got tired of it after a while, and a few minutes ago they all
skedaddled and left me here alone with the dogs. However, I wasn't
going to give it up, so I was just playing to amuse myself a little
"Before daylight?" said Aunt Faith; "what time do you think it is
"I suppose about four or five," said Tom.
"It isn't one yet," said Hugh laughing. "Come in and go to bed, you
At first Tom objected, but the dogs had already taken advantage of the
open door to depart, the candle burned dimly, and the air was damp. He
yielded, and the underground shanty was left to its earthy seclusion.
THE EDITOR'S SANCTUM.
"Justice has never been done to the month of months," said Hugh,
coming in to the breakfast-table one morning, bringing a spray of
roses with the dew shining on their fragrant petals. "I propose we
celebrate the day, the fifteenth of June; the most perfect day of the
most perfect month of this most perfect year of our lives. Who knows
where we shall be before another June comes round? 'We have lived and
loved together through many a changing year; we have shared each
other's pleasures and wept each other's tears.' But tempus fugit,
oh, how fast! and before we know it we shall all be old! Friends, fill
your coffee-cups to the brim, and let us resolve to celebrate."
"A picnic!" said Gem.
"A torch-light procession and fireworks!" said Tom.
"A croquet-party!" said Sibyl.
"A dance!" said Bessie.
"An editor's sanctum," said Hugh.
The novelty of this suggestion made a favorable impression. "Explain
yourself, Hugh," said Aunt Faith; "I am afraid your project is too
large for the field."
"Oh, no, Aunt Faith, it is not so large as you fancy. There is a store
of hidden genius in this family, and I propose, to bring it out and
let it scintillate in the light of day! We will invite a few friends
to spend the evening, give them notice that they must bring to the
'Sanctum' an original contribution, in prose or verse as they please,
and at nine o'clock we, will all assemble in the parlor to hear them
read aloud. I will act as editor, receive manuscripts, throw them into
a basket, and when the appointed time comes, take them out and read
them aloud, as they happen to come."
"Splendid!" said Tom; "I'll go right away and begin mine."
"Oh, I can never think of anything to say!" said Gem in a despairing
"I have never noticed any difficulty of that kind in you, Pussy," said
"Oh, I mean to write, of course," said Gem; "I don't know what I
shall do unless you'll take my last composition?"
"Anything you like as long as it's original," said Hugh.
So Gem went upstairs with a lightened heart and the others discussed
the list of invitations.
"We will have old Mr. Gay," began Bessie; "he is always an addition. I
wish he would stay here permanently instead of going back to Boston."
"A Boston man will never forsake the 'Rub,'" said Hugh; "that is too
much to expect. We will have Mr. Leslie, of course."
"Rose Saxon and Graham Marr," said Sibyl.
"Now, Sibyl, how can you?" said Hugh. "Graham is not a congenial
"He is congenial to me," replied Sibyl calmly.
"Of course we will have the Marrs," said Aunt Faith; "and Gideon Fish
"Oh, Aunt Faith! Not Gideon?" said Bessie.
"Poor Gid! If he could hear you say so," said Hugh, laughing.
"I wish he could," answered Bessie hotly; "he does not understand a
"How should he, doubly enrolled as he is in his own self-importance?"
"I am inclined to think there are good points in Gideon Fish," said
gentle Aunt Faith.
"Have you ever seen him eat?" asked Bessie with marked emphasis.
"No, my dear; but we all eat, do we not?" said Aunt Faith, smiling.
"Not like Gideon Fish, I hope, auntie. He never has enough; he is
always eyeing the baskets at picnics, and the supper-table at parties.
And then he never openly takes what he wants,—as Hugh does for
instance,—but he always pretends he does not care for anything, that
he is too much absorbed in intellectual conversation to attend to
anything so sublunary as eating, while all the time he is gloating
over the nice things, and sure to outstay everybody at the table. The
very way he gets a piece of cake is a study. He never takes it boldly,
like any one else, but eyes it awhile; then he turns the plate to the
right or the left, edging it a little nearer; then he looks furtively
at the slices, and gradually he gets hold of a piece, his little
finger carefully extended all the time, and his face wearing an
expression of pure self-sacrifice to an arduous duty."
Everybody laughed at this description, but Aunt Faith said, "Gently,
Bessie, gently. If that is all you have against Gideon, he has fewer
faults than most young persons of his age."
Somewhat conscience-stricken, Bessie did not reply, and the discussion
went on until the list was fully made out, and Hugh departed to
deliver the invitations and explain the conditions connected with the
editor's sanctum. He returned in an hour with acceptances from most of
the invited guests, and then silence reigned in the old stone house
for the remainder of the day, while all the contributors wooed the
Muses, ransacked their brains, or paced their floors in desperation,
according to their various temperaments. Aunt Faith having been
exempted from duty, moved about the house, arranging flowers and
decorating the pretty supper-table which stood in the sitting-room.
Gem had nothing to do but copy her composition, and yet she consumed
the whole day in a battle with the ink, and came out with a blotted
page at the last. Tom had disappeared; no one knew where he was. Sibyl
came down to dinner in her usual unruffled state, but Bessie's curly
hair stood on end, and there was a deep wrinkle between her eyes.
"Well, Sibyl, have you made a commencement?" she asked, as her cousin
took her seat at the dinner-table.
"I have finished my contribution entirely," said Sibyl.
"Did it take you all the morning? I have not heard a sound from your
"Oh no! I finished it some time ago, and since then I have been making
a new underskirt for my Swiss muslin; the old one was not quite
"There it is," said Bessie, half laughing, half vexed; "you are always
ahead of me, Sibyl. Your contribution will be perfect, and your dress
will be perfect,—and I am always just—"
"Bessie Darrell!" interrupted Hugh; "and I would not have you
different if I could."
"Thank you, Hugh; but the rest of the world may not agree with you."
"If you mean Gideon Fish," began Hugh, merrily, but something in his
cousin's face stopped him. It was seldom that the keenest observer
could detect anything like wounded feelings in Bessie Darrell's bright
eyes, but when it did come, they were like the eyes of a wounded fawn.
"How has your contribution advanced, Hugh?" asked Aunt Faith.
"Done! madam, at your service," said Hugh with a low bow. "The muses
visited me in a body, and I had hard work to choose between the
numerous gifts they offered."
"Very well," said Bessie, "I see I am entirely behind you all. I shall
shut myself into the studio this afternoon, and my ghost will come out
at tea-time, deliver a manuscript written in blood, and vanish into
thin air. Farewell, my friends, farewell!"
Evening came, and found Sibyl seated on the piazza looking like a lily
in her white draperies. Tom and Gem were in the parlor, in their best
attire, trying to look grown-up and dignified; Tom's collar was
especially imposing. The guests assembled slowly; Hugh received their
folded papers as they entered, and placed them in a covered basket.
Nine o'clock struck, and the merry party seated themselves in the
parlor, Sibyl by the side of Graham Marr, and Rose Saxon on the
opposite side of the room with Mr. Leslie. When they were all in
place, the door opened and Hugh appeared, carrying the basket. His
entrance was greeted with applause; an arm-chair by the table, and a
shaded light were ready, and, with much solemnity, the reader took his
seat. Placing the basket on the floor before him, he coughed, unfolded
a pocket-handkerchief, and laid it on the table at his elbow, brought
out a box of troches and placed them in position by the handkerchief,
gravely asked for a glass of water, which was also ranged in order,
and then, putting on a pair of green spectacles, bowed to the company
and began his preliminary speech:—
"Ladies and gentlemen; the humble individual who now addresses you
asks in advance for your kind sympathy for his present embarrassing
position. Of a gentle nature, timid as the wild rabbit, blushing as
the rosy dawn, he yet finds himself called upon to address the
public,—and such a public! (applause ). Ladies and gentlemen,—his
feelings are too much for him, and, withdrawing to the basket, he
hides his own personality in the following no doubt brilliant
effusions taken at random from this intellectual vortex. Ladies and
gentlemen,—I beg your attention to the story of:—
'THE UNSEEN VISITOR
"'While I was still a school-girl, I paid a visit to a young lady
friend in the pleasant city of C———. We occupied a room together in
the second story, and were the only persons on that floor, as the
other members of the family slept down-stairs, the house being large,
with irregular one-story wings on each side in the old-fashioned
style. C——— is a city of a hundred-thousand inhabitants, the
streets closely built up, lighted, paved, and guarded by a
well-regulated police force. It is a new town also, with no old
associations, old legends, or old people to cast a veil of mystery
over its new houses and young history; thus, it, would seem to be the
last place for anything mysterious, and yet it was there that a
singular incident occurred which I have never been able to explain.
One night I had been asleep perhaps two hours, when suddenly I
awoke,—it was about half-past ten when Kate and I went to our
room,—and soon after I awoke, I heard the clock strike one. The
street lamps were not lighted, in accordance with the almanac which
predicted a fine moon without any regard for the possibility, now a
certainty, of heavy clouds; not a gleam, therefore, came in through
the blinds to lighten the dark, still house. Our room was large,
opening into the hall which was long and broad, extending from one end
of the house to the other; the stairs from below came up into this
hall, and there was no way of getting to the back part of the house,
where the servants slept, without going entirely through it to the
"'Waking suddenly in the night always gives me a strange sensation. I
feel as though some one must have called me, and, involuntarily, I
listen for a second summons. This night I listened as usual, and
distinctly heard a step in the hall. Our door stood partly open, but
the darkness was intense. At first I thought it might be a member of
the family in search of something in the upper story, for there were
several unoccupied rooms and a medicine-closet opening into the hall;
but, after a moment, I noticed that the step did not pause or enter
these chambers, but seemed to keep in the hall, going back and forth,
from one end to the other, with perfect regularity and steadiness.
Much perplexed, I gently awakened Kate, and, placing my hand over her
lips, I whispered in her ear, 'listen!' She obeyed, and, with beating
hearts, we heard the footstep pacing back and forth before our door,
now at the west end, now at the east, in a measured gait to which we
could almost beat time, so regularly came the sound. The hall was
carpeted, and the footfalls soft, yet not as though the unseen visitor
was trying to deaden the sound. It was a natural step. From the light
tread we might have supposed it to be a woman's foot, but from the
stride it was more like a man. I do not know how long we lay there
motionless. I felt myself growing more and more nervous, and Kate's
hand, as it pressed mine, was cold and trembling. I think we would
have been relieved if the step had paused, or even entered our room;
that, at least, would have been like an ordinary burglar. But this
steady march, to and fro, seemed so unaccountable. If the steps, too,
had been soft and muffled, if we could have supposed the person was
creeping about after booty of some kind, we should have been
frightened, no doubt, but not so appalled as we were now at this
singular, easy, and apparently aimless promenade. We did not speak,
but lay trembling, and scarcely daring to breathe. Our room was long,
and the distance to the open door so great that we could not hope to
reach it unnoticed in the darkness, before the step would be upon us
again. Besides, the lock was out of order, so that even if we could
have summoned courage to shut it, it could not be fastened. The
stairway, too, was at such a distance beyond our door, that we did not
dare to try that way of escape, bringing us, as it would, face to face
with our unseen visitor. There was nothing left but silent endurance,
and thus we lay counting the footsteps through the long hours. We
could not hope, either, that the other members of the family would be
aroused, as their sleeping-rooms were not directly below us, but
beyond, in the wings. The clock struck two, and half-past, and
steadily the step kept on its regular sound, passing and repassing our
door. It grew insupportable. It seemed as though I should not be able
to keep from shrieking aloud each time it drew near. If we could have
spoken to each other we might have regained some courage, but we were
paralyzed with nervous fear; our throats were parched, and our muscles
rigid with long continued tension, for we dared not move. It was like
a spell, and the fact that we did not know what it was we feared, made
the fear all the more intense. At length, after what seemed a century
of suffering, the strange footsteps paused. Our hearts gave a leap.
Was it coming in? Who was it? Would it come and stand by the bedside,
and look at us in the darkness? No! Slowly—and steadily it went down
the stairs. We counted every step to the bottom. Then a pause. Would
it go towards the dining-room, where the silver was, or towards the
sleeping-rooms? We almost hoped it would, for that would prove a
desire for plunder. Still silence! We dared not move for fear it might
have crept softly up the stairs; it might even now be crawling towards
us in the darkness. We shuddered; the silence seemed worse than the
regular footfalls. Suddenly we heard a distinct snap in the hall
below. We instantly recognized the bolt of the front door, and
simultaneously we sprang from the bed. It—whatever It was,—was
going. We ran across the room, hearing, as we went, the sound of the
footfalls on the stone walk outside, which led from the door to the
street. We rushed down-stairs and alarmed the house. The front-door
was found open, but no trace of our unseen visitor remained, although
the neighborhood was carefully searched. Investigation showed that
entrance had been effected through a dining-room window. But the
silver was untouched; nothing had been disturbed, although the house
contained many valuables, and it was evident that none of the
sleeping-rooms had been visited. It, whatever it was, had entered,
passed up the stairs, spent the night pacing to and fro in the upper
hall, and then, just before dawn, had departed as strangely as it
"'Who or what it was, we never knew. The only possible solution was,
that it might have been some somnambulist; and, in that case, it must
have been some acquaintance who bad been in the house in his waking
moments. But even this solution seemed unsatisfactory, and finally
Kate and I gave up trying to solve the enigma, content to let it rest
as the mystery of our Unseen Visitor.
"Oh, Sibyl! you never told us anything about it before!" exclaimed
Gem, who had listened with breathless interest. "Is it all really
"Entirely true," replied Sibyl; "it is an exact description of what
happened during my visit to C——— last summer."
After a little general conversation upon somnambulism, and the stories
connected with it, Hugh took up another paper.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "the next manuscript, which I have
taken at random from the basket, seems to be poetical. It is prefaced
by the following note:—
"'To the Editor,—Sir: I am a Boston man; I do not deny it, but glory
in the title! Some winters ago I was tempted to go west on business,
and found myself snowed up in that great Metropolis of the Lakes,—the
Pride of the West,—the Garden City,—in a word, Chicago! It was
before the great fire; the hotels were crowded; I was in the fifth
story, and, need I say it, I was miserable! In addition to my bodily
sufferings, my ear was tortured by the various pronunciations given to
the city's name. No sooner had I mastered one than I heard another! At
last, driven to desperation, I tried to while away the time in
composing the following 'Ode,' in which my feelings, and the three
different pronunciations are expressed:—
'ODE TO CHICAGO.
The wind is loud, and on the road
The snow lays an embargo,
While, in his room, a Boston man
Sits snow-bound in Chi-CAR-go.
A monkey when he is so sick
That he can't make his paw go,
Feels better than a Boston man
When storm-bound in Chi-CAW-go.
A spinster, when she cannot make
Her thin and grayish hair grow,
Feels happier than a Boston man
When storm-bound in Chi-CARE-go.
A Boston man would sooner lose
His credit, cash, and cargo,
He'd sooner be a beggar than
A dweller in Chi-CAR-go.
A Boston man would sooner far
To wigwam with a squaw go,
Than to enjoy domestic bliss
In the best house in Chi-CAW-go.
All the extreme and dreadful lengths
A Boston man would dare go,
Could ne'er include the direful thought
Of DWELLING in Chi-CARE-go.
There was a general laugh over this effusion of the Boston bachelor.
Mr. Gay was a genial, pleasant man, and although approaching his
three-score years and ten, he enjoyed the companionship of young
people, and, what is more unusual, the young people sought his
company; he entered into their feelings and interests, and was not so
devoted to memories of the past but that; he could see the advantages
and improvements of the present.
"The next article to which I shall call your attention," said Hugh,
taking another paper from the basket, "is a grave and scholarly essay
upon that momentous subject, ambition. After the story and the poem,
no doubt our minds will receive much enjoyment from the contemplation
of this instructive theme:—
Ambition is the curse of nations.
If it was not for ambition, America would be a better country.
Ambition is wrong.
Americans are very ambitious.
It is always better to be content with what we have got.
Especially when we have got so much.
It is not right to be too ambitious.
It is said we are going to have Cuba, Mexico and Canada.
Of course we can have them if we want to.
Or anything else.
But we must always remember that ambition is wrong.
"Very good, my boy," said Mr. Gay to Tom, whose scarlet face had
betrayed the authorship of this profound essay long before his name
was read; "adhere to that moral, and, mark my words, you will—never
be President of the United States."
Tom's embarrassment checked the smiles of the audience, and Hugh took
up another paper. "Ah!" he said with enthusiasm, "this seems to be a
poem in earnest, breathing the real afflatus, written with the pen of
Melpomene! With your permission, ladies and gentlemen, I will refresh
myself with a glass of water before I begin:—
'A JUNE LYRIC.
After all, not to labor only,—
But to breathe in the essence of vivified sheen,
The fragrance of rarefied thoughts as they surge to and
Heaving the unknown depths up to mountains of night.
Crystalline, luminous, rare, opalescently rare,—
This,—this is June!
"Ah, blank verse," said Sibyl to her companion, with admiring
interest. He bowed and stroked his moustache with a dreamy air.
"Very blank, I should say," murmured Bessie to Mr. Gay.
"It seems to me as though I had heard the beginning of it before,
somewhere," answered the Boston bachelor in the same tone.
"The next contribution consists of a series of illustrations," said
Hugh, unfastening some loose sheets of drawing paper; "the following
introduction is appended:—
'The hand is not only an index of character, but it has a character of
its own. We may disguise or droll our features, cultivate our voices
and expression, but our hands betray us; I propose to illustrate this
principle by a series of sketches. To begin: when you see an irregular
hand with large, broad palm, strong wrist, but shapely, tapering
fingers, you may know that hand betokens a duplex temperament, where
opposite characteristics are constantly struggling for the mastery.
The palm may denote strength and industry, but the fingers may
overbalance these qualities by their love of ease or generous
prodigality. For instance, when you see a hand of this nature, you may
know that its owner might give you half his fortune, might even give
you his life, and yet would be very likely to keep the household in
discomfort for months, for want of one new shingle on the roof. In
short, my friends, you might know it was—'"
Here the reader paused, and held up a large drawing of two hands, so
lifelike and alive with character that the whole company cried out
with one voice, "Hugh!"
"Rather embarrassing for the editor," said Hugh, hastening on with his
task as the laughter subsided. "Here, my friends is another design.
When you see a hand proportioned in careful outlines, beautiful, but
also firm; white, but also strong to the playing of a sonata, you may
know the owner will be prompt, even-tempered and calm; you may know
the owner will be such a one as—" here Hugh held up another design;
"Sibyl!" said the audience, as the two hands appeared.
Mr. Leslie rose, and crossed the room to examine the drawing; he did
not lay it aside, but carried it back to his seat, as though it was
the most natural thing in the world. Sibyl's color rose, but she
turned with marked interest towards Graham Marr, and listened to his
remarks with a bright smile.
"The next design," Hugh read, "requires no explanation. It is the
strong, broad, long palm, and strong, long, shapely fingers of the
well-balanced, resolute man, who will fight the battle of life with
all his strength, and never give up until it is won. In short, it
"Mr. Leslie!" said the audience, as the illustration was held up for
inspection. Sibyl's eyes brightened as she saw the life-like picture,
but she sat silent as the others poured forth criticisms and comments.
"Go on, Hugh!" said Mr. Leslie laughing; "this is quite an ordeal, I
"The next design," read Hugh, "shows all the faults of nature's worst
handiwork. (No pun intended.) A scraggy little paw, brown, knotted and
shapeless; of course every one will know that it is—"
"Bessie!" cried the laughing audience, as two ridiculous caricatures
of Bessie's little brown hands came into view.
"Last of all, I present the fat-simile of a perfect hand. Our other
designs have been youthful, but this one has borne the burden and heat
of the day. Originally beautiful and shapely, it is now worn with
labor for others; it has given to the poor, it has tended the sick, it
has guarded the young, and soothed the afflicted. It is,—I am sure
you will recognize it,—"
"Aunt Faith!"—"Mrs. Sheldon!" cried the company, as the last drawing
"Bravo, Bessie!" said Tom; "your contribution is the best so far."
When the buzz of conversation had subsided, Hugh took another paper
from the basket.
"The next contribution is poetical," he said; "it is entitled:—
'A JUNE RHAPSODY.
The lovely month of June has come,
The sweetest of the year,—
(I've heard this somewhere;—never mind;)
The meadows green and sear;—
Sear's not the word; there's something wrong,—
I fear my muse will drop
The fire of genius' flowing song,
And so I'd better stop!
A general laugh followed this effusion, and no one joined in it more
heartily than the authoress, a bright little brunette with sparkling
eyes, in whose expression merriment predominated.
"Our next manuscript seems to be of a serious nature," said Hugh; "it
treats of a solemn subject, and I beg you to give it your attentive
Boys are funny sometimes, but girls are more dignified for their age.
Boys are rude, but girls are polite and lady-like. It is a pity boys
are not lady-like too. Once I knew a boy, a very little boy, and he
had a pair of boots. Real boots,—the first he ever had. One night
when his father came home, he found Jimmy sitting on the stairs in the
hall. The boots were outside the parlor door,—against the wall. "What
are you doing here, Giant Grimm?" said his father. (His father called
him "Giant Grimm," sometimes; for fun, I suppose.) "I'm seein' how my
boots 'ud look if they was stood outside the door at a hotel to be
cleaned," said Jimmy. He could not speak very plain, so I have not
written it plain.
GRACE EVANS MORRIS.'"
"Very good, little girl," said Aunt Faith, drawing her youngest child
to her side, and signing to Hugh to go on in order to divert attention
from her; "I didn't know you could write so well."
"THE OHIO CAPTAIN,"
"When the war for the Union broke out, I had just completed my studies
and entered the ministry. My intention had been to enter upon my new
duties in a little village not far from my home, but as the excitement
spread through the country, and the young men left their fields, their
workshops, and their homes, to join the army, I could not overcome my
desire to go with them. I could not sleep, through many exciting
weeks; in imagination I saw this one, and that one, friends that I
knew, cold in death, or lying wounded alone in the night. I seemed to
walk through crowded hospitals and to hear the 'ping' of the balls; I
felt that if ever there was a place where the gospel words were
needed, it was after the battle, when men were left with the awful
shadow of death hanging over them. My youth and inexperience would be
obstacles in the well-regulated quiet village, but in the army might
they not be overlooked, if accompanied by willing hands and heart? In
the great haste, in the great excitement, in the great agony, might
not the great tidings be delivered acceptably even by an inexperienced
messenger? Thus I thought, and soon after the battle of Bull Run, I
obtained an appointment as chaplain, joined the army, and remained
with it until the close of the war.
"Part of this time I was with an Ohio volunteer regiment; the colonel
belonged to the regular army, but all the other officers were
volunteers. I grew to know them all, and among them I found many noble
hearts, and, had I the time, I could relate many incidents of
generosity and true courage, part of that unwritten history of the war
which will never come into print. Among these officers there was one
young captain whom I especially liked. He was quiet and reserved, and
although he never talked with me as his companions sometimes did,
although he told me nothing of his life and history, I still felt
that, he was a Christian at heart, probably one of those who have
never been drawn out of themselves, or taught the pleasure of
sympathetic fellowship. Captain Worthington often came to the Sunday
service, when I was able to hold one, and his voice joined in the
hymns, which gave the greatest charm to those military prayer-meetings;
but beyond this I could not pass. He was reserved and silent; I could
not force myself upon him. Sensitive natures abhor an intruder.
"One evening in September, while passing through the camp, I met
Captain Worthington walking up and down under the trees; he spoke to
me with unusual cordiality, and we continued the walk together,
strolling through the forest at, random, and talking upon any subject
which happened to suggest itself. The week had been hard and annoying.
The brigade had been marching and counter-marching in an apparently
purposeless way, although, no doubt, there was a concealed motive in
every movement; the ground was stony, and broken by deep ravines, the
forage wretched, and rain had been falling almost continuously, so
that deep mud alternated with sharp stones, making every mile seem
two. There had, also, been no enemy in sight to keep up the ardor of
the soldiers, and make them forget their discomfort; it had been, as
I said before, a wretched week, and Allan Worthington, always grave,
seemed this evening almost sad. We sat down upon a fallen tree, and in
the still gloom of that night he first spoke of his home.
"'I have been thinking about my mother,' he said; 'I cannot explain
it, but home seems very near to me to-night. I can see the house as
plainly as though it stood here before me, and I see mother sitting in
her arm-chair by the table, knitting. Poor mother! how lonely she
"'Has she no other children?' I asked.
"'No; I am her only child. She let me go because I would not stay; I
sometimes think perhaps I was wrong to leave her. We lived alone on
the hill, and when I rode into the country town and heard the latest
news, I seemed to be all on fire; I would ride back over the quiet
road, my blood fairly tingling with excitement. At last, as the story
of the battles began to come, I could stand it no longer, and I told
mother I must go. The regiments from my part of the country were all
full, but I got a lieutenant's place in another county, and marched
away. That was more than two years ago, and I have never felt homesick
until this evening. I don't know what has come over me.'
"'In what part of Ohio does your mother live, captain?' I asked.
"'At Benton Fails, South county. I hope to get a furlough before long.
I want to go home, if only for a few days; there is one there besides
mother whom I want to see; I never knew how much until now.'
"These last words were spoken in a low tone, almost as if the young
soldier had forgotten my presence and was talking to himself. He was
sitting on the log, with his back against a large oak-tree, resting as
though he was in an arm-chair. He said no more, and I strolled away
for a moment, thinking that if he resumed the subject when I returned,
I would gladly pursue it, but unwilling to take advantage of what
might have been an inadvertent utterance. I was absent several
minutes, climbing down the bank to the spring to get a drink of water;
then I returned and took my place upon the log again.
"'I suppose you often hear from your mother, captain?' I said.
"He did not answer. I repeated the question; no reply. I was
perplexed. Could he have fallen into a brown study? His eyes were
open, and he appeared to be looking off through the forest. At length
I touched his shoulder, but he did not move. I took his hand; he was
dead! Shot through the heart. The roaring of the brook, and the steep
bank, had prevented my hearing the report; but, as I sat there holding
the dead hand, suddenly the woods seemed to grow alive with noise and
light. Our camp had evidently been surprised by the enemy, and a sharp
conflict began. I took poor Allan's note-book and watch, and,
remembering his mother, I managed to cut off a lock of his curly hair;
but, before I had gone far, I myself was struck by a stray shot, and
knew nothing more until I awoke in a border hospital two months
afterwards, pale and weak, the very shadow of my former self. As
memory came back, I thought of the captain. The relics had been
preserved, and, as soon as I was able, I sent them to the poor mother,
with a letter describing my last conversation with her boy,—his last
words on earth. I supposed, of course, that she knew from other
sources all the details of the attack, but I felt that I must also
tell her what I knew; possibly it would be some comfort to her. In
about a week I received a letter written in a careful, old-fashioned
handwriting. The poor mother had known nothing all that long time save
this: 'Captain A. Worthington reported missing.' Our regiment had
suffered severely. The camp had been abandoned, and the dead left on
the field. The suspense had been dreadful, and she had prayed for
relief. It had come in the inward conviction that her boy was dead;
that he was not in the southern prisons or languishing in a hospital,
but gone from earth forever. My letter brought her the first definite
tidings, and my description of that last conversation, the first
comfort. 'I shall go to him though he shall not return to me,' wrote
the afflicted mother; and she gave me her blessing in such solemn,
tender words, that I can never forget them. In the letter she enclosed
a picture of Allan, sent home to her during the previous year; and
with it another, a picture of the one of whom Allan said, 'I want to
see her; I never knew how much until now.'"
As Hugh finished reading, he took the photographs from an envelope,
and handed them to Aunt Faith. They were passed from hand to hand,
with gentle comments, and some tear-dimmed eyes gazed on the pictured
faces,—a resolute, grave young soldier, with earnest eyes, and a
little, delicate, wistful maiden, as fair and simple as a wild-flower.
"The war made many partings," said Aunt Faith, as she replaced the
pictures in their envelope, and returned them to Mr. Leslie; "but the
lost ones are only gone before. There are no partings there."
The gayety had subsided into a quiet thoughtfulness, by common consent
the reading was abandoned, and, as it was growing late, Aunt Faith led
the way into the sitting-room, where the pretty supper-table soon
aroused the vivacity of the young people. Youth is buoyant, and, as
for Aunt Faith, she was never saddened by the thought of death. She
had lost so many loved ones, that her home seemed more there than
here. In a few moments all the company were talking and laughing as
merrily as ever, and in the crowd around the table no one noticed that
Rose Saxon had slipped away. If they noticed anything beside
themselves, it was the amount of chocolate-ice which Gideon Fish
Rose was in the parlor. The basket was still in its place, and she was
looking over the remaining manuscripts. "'Gideon Fish,'" she
murmured, "no one wants to hear that; 'Lida Powers,' 'William Mount,'
'Edith Chase,'—oh, here is something! I know the handwriting,
although there is no name. Let me see,—yes; this is Hugh's. It is
sure to be good, and I mean to have it read." So, just before the
company broke up, Rose rapped on the table with her plump little fist.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she began, in her merry voice, "I presume you
all know Mr. Pete Trone, the distinguished terrier, whose
accomplishments and sagacity are in every mouth."
"Oh, we know him!" answered the company; "we know him well." "He is
the celebrated dog of republican principles,"—"who climbs trees;"—"and
walks the tight-rope;"—"and dances the hornpipe!"
"I perceive that you know him," said Rose, "and therefore you will be
pleased to hear an epic poem in his honor. Indeed, it is supposed that
he wrote it himself. He speaks with modesty of his achievements,
alludes with feeling to his fancy for digging in the garden, and begs
for sympathy. With your permission, I will read the:—
'COMPLAINT OF PETE TRONE, ESQ.
I'm only a poor little terrier,
Very small, black-and-tan,
But a dog who is brighter or merrier
Never breathed, never ran.
I'm death on piratical cats,
And, mangled and gory,
The bodies of hundreds of rats
Testify to my glory.
My duty I try to fulfil
Whenever I know it;
If I do not accomplish your will
You've only to show it;
Yet, though I'm thus honest and square
In all my dealings,
It is plain that you are not aware
A dog has his feelings.
If master is kept in at school
Why must I feel the stick?
If sweetheart is distant and cool,
Why should I get a kick?
If Turk steals the mutton for dinner,
And goes off to gulp it,
Why screen HIM, the solemn old sinner,
And call ME the culprit?
And if I am fond of the sand-banks,
And fresh garden-soil,
Why should you molest with your brickbats
My hard, honest toil?
And why should you call it a 'dusty muss,'
And make me abandon
My labor? Remember, 'DE GUSTIBUS
NON EST DISPUTANDUM!'
The world should remember a canine
Has a heart in his breast;
If you knew all you never could say mine
Was worse than the rest.
Then help me to gain the position
To which I aspire,
And grant this poor dog-gerel petition
Of Pete Trone, Esquire!'"
"Excellent! excellent!" cried the audience, as Rose finished reading
"I propose we have the hero in person," said Mr. Gay.
So Tom went out, and after some delay returned with Mr. P. Trone, who
had been hastily attired in his red suit for the occasion, four red
pantaloons, a red coat, and little cap with a red feather. He was
received with applause, and, after being regaled with macaroons, went
through all his tricks, concluding with a slow horn pipe to the tune
About midnight the guests took their departure, and the cousins
assembled in the parlor for a few moments before going to bed.
"I think the sanctum was real fun," said Gem; "but you did not read
all the papers, Hugh?"
"No; it would have taken too much time," answered Hugh; "what a good
thing you made of those hands, Bessie. We must keep the drawings.
Why!—where is Sibyl's?"
"Mr. Leslie took it away;—he laid a paper over it and put it in his
pocket, just as though it belonged to him," said Tom; "but of all the
contributions, I liked Mr. Gay's 'Chicago' the best."
"And I liked Mr. Leslie's story," said Aunt Faith; "it is singular he
never before mentioned his army life."
"Oh! he isn't one of the talking kind like Gideon Fish," said Hugh.
"Gid is always telling everybody about his 'emotional nature,' and his
inner 'consciousness.' He seems to think his mental condition, a
subject of public interest, and constantly sends out bulletins for the
benefit of anxious friends. His manuscript was poetical, but I took
good care to hide it in the bottom of the basket. By the way, Sibyl,
how did you like Graham Marr's Lyric? Pretty deep, wasn't it?"
Sibyl was arranging the books and music in their proper places. "You
know I am not myself poetical," she answered calmly; "but I like Mr.
Marr, and therefore I like his verses, Hugh."
"Oh, Sibyl! surely not so well as Mr. Leslie's story?" said Bessie
"Poetry and prose cannot be compared, neither can Mr. Marr and Mr.
Leslie be compared," said Sibyl; "they are very different."
"I should think they were!" said Hugh.
"And tastes are different also," added Sibyl, as she finished her
task. "Good-night all."
The cousins dispersed, while Aunt Faith turned out the lights. "I
almost think she likes that Marr, after all," whispered Hugh to Bessie
as they went up the stairs; "she was with him all the evening."
"Let me tell you, Hugh Warrington, that if Sibyl likes anybody, it is
Mr. Leslie," returned Bessie emphatically.
"When did you discover that, Brownie?"
"I have always suspected it, but to-night I saw it plainly," replied
"To-night! Why, she was with Marr all the time!"
"Men are as blind as bats," said Bessie scornfully; "good-night."
One bright morning towards the last of June, Bessie and Hugh were
together in the studio; Bessie was working at her picture, and her
cousin, seated in an old arm-chair, was gazing dreamily out through
the open window over the pasture, and grove, and the blue lake beyond.
"I think life is very beautiful," he said, after a long pause. "I have
no patience with people who are always sighing and complaining, always
talking of the cold world, the hard lot of man, and the sufferings of
humanity. I always felt sure that they themselves have no taste for
beauty, no affection for their friends, or enthusiasm for great deeds,
and, judging others by themselves, of course they are always looking
for double motives in the kindest actions, and hypocrisy in the most
"What has brought these thoughts to the surface, Hugh?"
"The beauty of the sky and the lake. How can any one look at them and
not be happy?"
"If you were very poor, Hugh, you might not have time to look at
them," said Bessie, taking up the other side.
"Why not? One can work and not be blind! I expect to work all my life,
but I am going to be happy too."
"But suppose you should lose all those you love,—suppose they should
all die," said Bessie, pursuing the argument.
"Even then I should be happy on such a day and with such a sky. I
cannot understand how people who believe God's word can brood over
their sorrows in such a gloomy way. Are not the dead with their great
Creator? Can we not trust them to Him? Why, when I look up into this
blue sky, I can almost see them there. My mother,—how often I think
of her; not with sadness, always with pleasure, and a bright
anticipation of meeting her again. Bessie, if I should die, you must
not mourn for me. Think of me as gone into another world where sooner
or later you will come too."
"Why do you say such things, Hugh?" said Bessie, laying down her brush
with her eyes full of tears.
"Because they happened to come into my mind, I suppose. Why, you are
not crying! Nonsense, Brownie! look at me. Do I look like dying? Am I
not a young giant, with every prospect of outliving all my family? I
fully expect to live to a hale old age, and you have no idea how full
and busy my life is going to be. Go to work again, and I will tell you
all my plans; I have never told them to any one before. In the first
place, I shall go, of course, to New York, and enter Cousin John's
establishment. I shall work with all my might, and, with the aid of my
relationship, I shall no doubt be able to obtain a good position there
in the course of a few years. Gradually I shall mount higher and
higher, I shall make myself indispensable to the firm, and at the end
of ten years you will see me a partner; at the end of twenty, a rich
man. I shall then retire from active business, and spend part of my
time in travelling, although I intend to be very domestic, also. I
shall buy beautiful pictures, choice books, and fine statues; I shall
give private concerts, and, if possible, have a small orchestra of my
own; I shall entertain my friends in the easiest and most charming
manner. In addition to my city home, I shall have a yacht for summer
cruises, and a pretty cottage on the seashore, and I shall invite
pleasant people to visit me; not the rich and the fashionable merely,
but others who are shut out from all such luxuries, young authors,
poor artists, musicians, and many others who are obliged to work night
and day while their intellectual inferiors live in ease. Oh! I shall
have a beautiful, happy life, Bessie. Do you not think so?"
"Yes, Hugh. But will it be so easy to get rich?"
"Twenty years of hard labor and earnest application will do it, with
the opening I have. I suppose it sounds conceited, but I have
unbounded confidence in myself. What man has done man can do, you
know; and why am not I the man?"
"I think you can do anything, Hugh."
"Thank you, Miss Flattery. But, really Bessie, there is something
stirring within me that makes me feel sure I can take my place in the
world, and make my mark among men. I do not, mean that I am wiser or
stronger than my fellows, but only, that my courage is indomitable,
and that I am determined to succeed. I will succeed!"
"Of course you will," said Bessie, laying down her brush again, and
looking at her cousin's kindling eyes and flushed cheeks with
"And then," pursued Hugh, "when I have got my money, I shall not hoard
it; I shall make others as well as myself happy with it. I shall use
it worthily; I shall not be ashamed to render my account at last. Oh,
Bessie, it is a glorious future! Life is so beautiful,—so full of
happiness!" Hugh paused, and his eyes wandered over the blue horizon;
Bessie went on with her painting, and there was silence in the studio
for many minutes. At length Aunt Faith's voice was heard at the foot
of the stairs; "Hugh! Hugh!" she called.
"Coming, aunt," said Hugh, opening the door and going down to the
second story; "do you want me?"
"Yes, will you come into my room, dear."
The two went in and the door was closed. Aunt Faith's room was like
herself, old-fashioned and pleasant; the sunshine streamed in through
the broad windows across the floor, and the perfume of the garden
filled the air. Hugh took a seat on the chintz lounge, and Aunt Faith
having taken a letter from her desk, sat down in her arm-chair by the
table. "I wish to consult you, my dear boy, on a matter of business,"
she said. "You know the condition of my property and the amount of my
income, I am anxious to make some necessary repairs in that little
house of mine in Albion, where poor Mrs. Crofts lives, a second cousin
of mine, you remember, a widow with very limited means of support. The
repairs ought to be made at once, and, just at present, I have not the
money on hand; I could borrow it, of course, elsewhere, but I prefer
to borrow it of you, the amount that came to you a week or two ago.
Sibyl will need hers for her summer wardrobe, but you will have no use
for yours at present, and on the first of August, I shall repay you;
with interest," added Aunt Faith, smiling; "I am not sure but that I
shall pay twenty-five per cent."
A flush rose in Hugh's face; he did not raise his eyes, but trifled
with a piece of string.
"Well, my dear?" said Aunt Faith in some surprise at his silence.
"I am very sorry, Aunt," said Hugh in a low tone; "I have not got the
money, I have spent it all."
"Spent it?" echoed Aunt Faith in astonishment. "My dear boy, is it
"Yes, it is all gone," said Hugh, with downcast eyes.
A shade of trouble clouded Mrs. Sheldon's gentle face, and she sighed;
the old heart-ache came back, the same pain which had assailed her on
the first of June, her birthday, when doubts came thronging into her
mind, doubts as to her own fitness for her position with its heavy
responsibility of training five young souls in the path of duty and
righteousness. "Hugh must have got into some trouble," she thought,
"and something, too, which he has not confided to me. I fear it is a
debt; perhaps a debt of which he is ashamed. Oh, my poor, poor boy!"
Hugh did not speak, and at length his aunt said gently, "I fear you
have had some debts, dear; if you had told me, I could have helped you
"I know you are always ready to help me, Aunt Faith."
"Then it was a debt, Hugh?"
"Yes; it was a debt, Aunt Faith," said Hugh gravely.
"Is it all paid now?"
"Yes; every cent. I have the receipt."
"I am glad of that; but have you any other debts?"
"No, not one," said Hugh, raising his eyes at last with a brighter
expression. "I cannot tell you about that debt, Aunt Faith, but I
can tell you that it was no disgrace to me."
The shadow melted away from Mrs. Sheldon's face, she laid her hand
upon her nephew's golden hair, and looked lovingly into his dark blue
eyes. "Hugh," she said earnestly, "you are like your father, and he
was my favorite brother. I love you very much, more than you know, and
I believe you would not willingly grieve me. You are still under
twenty-one, and you are soon to leave me to enter the busy life of a
great city. I am so anxious for you, Hugh! If I could only know that
you had that firm faith which is man's only safeguard in temptation!"
Tears stood in her eyes as she spoke, and Hugh felt that she loved him
"What is faith?" he said thoughtfully.
"A firm belief in the mercy of God through His son, our Lord Jesus
Christ, and a realization of the necessity of a Saviour to atone for
our sins," said Aunt Faith reverently.
"I believe in God, Aunt Faith. I believe in Him implicitly. I cannot
understand how a reasonable being can deny His personal and omnipotent
majesty. The sky alone would be enough to convince me, without
counting the wonders of the earth and our every-day life. How can any
one look out of the window, at night, and see those myriad lights on
high, without bowing in adoration before the incomprehensible
greatness of the Creator? What do we know of the stars, after all? How
much has the most profound science discovered? Next to nothing! Not
but that I read all that has been written by the late astronomers, for
the subject is very fascinating; it is the fairy tale of science. But
still, the nursery rhyme expresses it best:—
'Twinkle, twinkle, little star!
How I wonder what you are!'"
"What we know not now, we shall know here-after," said Aunt Faith;
"but in addition to your belief in the Creator, do you not also
recognize the necessity for a Saviour?"
"There it is, Aunt Faith! Are we all really such miserable sinners? Is
there none good? Must we always answer, 'no, not one?' Even in my
short life, I have known so many who are good and generous! I never
could endure whining, you know. I never could endure a gloomy, tearful
religion. If we were put into the world, it surely was intended that
we should enjoy its beautiful life, and be happy with our fellow
mortals. I believe men should try to be good sons, good husbands, and
good citizens, and should try to be happy themselves, as well as to
make others happy. I can never believe in the virtue of morbid
self-analysis, gloomy depression, and harsh judgment. 'Worms of the
dust!' they say. Well, if the worms are created, and put into the
dust, that is the state of life to which they are called, and they
will be better worms if they fulfil the duties of a worm, no matter
how humble, than they would be if they crawled up on a solitary stone,
and wilfully starved themselves to death."
"Surely, Hugh, there is nothing in the idea of a merciful Saviour to
forbid a reasonable enjoyment of life."
"There ought not to be, Aunt Faith; and if I was not so weary of
hypocrisy, I think I could almost throw myself at His feet and give my
life into His hands. I want to believe in Him; indeed, I may say I do
believe in Him. But I have been kept from coming forward as an 'avowed
disciple,' by the contempt I cannot help feeling for some whom I know
as 'avowed disciples.' If there is a contemptible fault in the world
it is hypocrisy. I will not believe that God loves the rich
church-member, who makes long prayers, and puts five cents in the
plate, better than the poor outcast who goes half-starved for days in
order to help a sick companion."
"But, Hugh, no one asks you to believe anything of the kind. Do you
not remember our Saviour's parable of the Good Samaritan who saved the
wounded man, while the priest and the Levite, men supposed to be
particularly religious, passed by on the other side! The world was the
same in our Saviour's day that it is now, and there is no class
against which He utters more severe reproaches than these very
"But, Aunt Faith, these hypocrites are so often prominent in the
churches. That is what offends me."
"It was so then, Hugh. Our Saviour saw it, and repeatedly tore off the
"But if the hypocrites are in the church, is it not better to stay
"By no means, my dear boy. God has commanded us to make an open
profession before men, and we must obey with reverent humility. It is
not enough to believe; we must also openly avow our belief. Because
there are tares in the field we must not, therefore, stay out in the
desert. Because there are hypocrites in the church, we must not,
therefore, give ourselves up to evil."
"Oh, I don't mean that, aunt! We could be just as good Christians all
"No, Hugh. That is a fatal error. Men are weak, and God mercifully
helps them to conquer themselves by sending them the safeguards of
religious vows and duties. It is His appointed way, and we must not
question His wisdom. The dangers are ten times greater outside the
church than within it, and a blessing is given to obedience. God
requires obedience. He distinctly says, 'he that is not with me, is
against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.' And
as regards hypocrisy, Hugh, it is indeed a wretched fault; but, are
there not other faults equally bad?"
"No, aunt; not to me. I can never go to church in the winter without
a bitter feeling towards old Mr. Braine, who always leaves his poor
horse tied outside through the long service, during the severest
weather. Then there is Gideon Fish, too. How very, very good he is!
When he was a little boy he always took the highest place in school
for good conduct, and yet, there was not a meaner boy in town. He
copied the other scholars' exercises, peeped into the books, and had
a key to his Arithmetic. He never got into trouble at recess, and why?
Because he was too cowardly to take his share of the sport. As he grew
older, he grew to be more and more of a pattern. He was always talking
about his feelings. He always 'felt it to be his duty' to do just what
he most wished to do, and he always had some wonderfully
self-sacrificing motive for the greatest self-indulgence. He 'felt it
to be his duty' to stay at home from church to warn truant boys not to
steal the peaches on the Sabbath-day, and how many do you suppose he
himself ate that morning?"
"It seems to me, Hugh, that you and Bessie are unreasonably severe
upon Gideon's love of eating," said Aunt Faith smiling. "Perhaps some
time there will come a revelation to Gideon Fish; perhaps some great
affliction or disappointment will open his eyes and cause him to see
his selfish propensities as they are. In the meantime, let us not
forget the beam in our own eyes while we are talking of the mote in
our brother's eye. To go back to our subject; you have acknowledged
your belief in God and also, I hope, in His Son our Saviour Jesus
"Yes, Aunt Faith; but I cannot acknowledge that the world is a
miserable place and life a failure."
"I do not ask you to acknowledge that, Hugh; you are young and it may
be that you have not yet been assailed by the terrible temptations
which come, sooner or later, to most of us. Perhaps you have not yet
learned from sad experience how hard is the struggle against evil
inclinations, and how many are the relapses into which the best of men
are apt to fall. It was only when worn with the contest and depressed
by repeated failures that the good men of all ages have sent up those
cries of abasement and gloom which you so much dislike. This time has
not yet come to you; you know nothing of its power. I do not ask you
to be wise beyond your years; I only wish you to become as a little
child and reverently say, 'Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.'
The rest will come in due time. There is a blessing given to prompt
obedience, and this blessing I want you to gain."
For several minutes there was silence in the pleasant room, and then
Hugh rose. "Dear Aunt Faith," he said, "you and I will have many more
talks on this subject. Who knows but I shall be a pillar of the church
in my old age?"
"I hope so, Hugh. But do not put off till old age a plain duty of the
present. Give the best of your life to your Maker; after all, the
present is all you can call your own."
"Oh, no, Aunt Faith, the future is mine too. How glorious, how bright
it looks! You will be proud of your nephew some day."
"I am proud of him now," said Aunt Faith, with an affectionate smile;
"but I want to feel secure as to his safety. Oh, Hugh! if you could
only say in perfect sincerity these two sentences: 'Lord I believe;
help Thou mine unbelief,' and 'Lord be merciful to me a sinner,' I
should rest content."
"Well, Aunt Faith, when I can say them with all my heart, I will tell
you first of all."
"God grant that it may be soon," and then Hugh left her.
Bessie was still busy with her painting when she heard a tap at the
door. "Is it you, Hugh?" she said; "I am so glad you have come back. I
cannot get the exact color of your eyes. Sit down, please, and let me
try again." Hugh sat down in the old arm-chair, and for some minutes
he said nothing; at last, however, he burst forth, "Bessie, shall we
not tell Aunt Faith about the horseback-riding."
"Oh, Hugh! and give up all our fun?"
"I do so hate hypocrisy, Bessie; and here I have been rating away
against Gideon Fish without even a thought that all the time I myself
was deceiving Aunt Faith."
"I don't call that hypocrisy, Hugh."
"What is hypocrisy, then?"
"A hypocrite is a person who pretends to be very good, and I am sure
you never pretended to be good at all."
Hugh laughed; "That is true," he said "but I hate all underhand
"But you won't tell, Hugh? Please don't."
"Et tu Brute?"
"And don't quote Latin either."
"I only meant that you should help my good intentions instead of
thwarting them," said Hugh.
"I am not good myself, Hugh, and never was."
"Oh, yes, you are, Brownie."
"No, I am not. I have been expelled twice."
"I believe it is your nature to be naughty, Bessie."
"I don't know about that, Hugh; but, at any rate, I ought to have some
allowances made because I am so homely. It is easy to be good if one
happens to be good-looking too. Everybody loves beautiful children,
everybody admires beautiful girls; people are predisposed to like
them, and make the best of everything they do. Beauty is of little
consequence to a boy, but it makes or mars many a girl. I presume,
now, if my nose had been Grecian, and my complexion lily fair, I
should have been far more amiable."
Hugh laughed merrily at this tirade. "But, Brownie," he said, "I
have always thought you pretty."
A shade of color rose in Bessie's dark cheek "Thank you, cousin," she
said quickly, "you are kind to say so. But your real taste is for a
very different style; a dove-eyed blonde, fair as a lily, and gentle
"Like Edith Chase, I suppose," said Hugh, with a merry twinkle in his
eye. "Well, a man might do worse. I venture to say the fair Edith
never took a horseback-ride after dark in her life."
"Certainly not; is she not a pattern?" said Bessie sharply. "And, by
the way, Hugh, of course you will give me my ride to-night."
"Oh, Bessie, Bessie, you are incorrigible! Well, if I must, I must!
The musicale is to-night, you know."
"I had forgotten it; but we can go afterwards."
"That is, if you will mend my gloves."
"Do get a new pair, Hugh."
"No; I have only ten dollars left; I shall not have any more until
August, and my heart is set upon a little picture at Gurner's. You
have no idea how much I want it; I stop to look at it every time I
pass the window, and the liking has, grown into a positive longing.
I really must have it."
"What is the subject?"
"It is, I suppose, an allegorical design, but what attracted me was
the beauty of the coloring and its fidelity to nature. It represents
a youth standing in a little shaded valley, looking forward and upward
through a vista which gradually rises into a bold mountain peak. The
atmosphere is all morning, early morning, with purple hues on the
hill-side, mists rising from the river, and a vague remoteness even in
the nearest forest; deep shadows lie over the valley, but the rising
sun shines on the mountain-peak, lighting it up with a golden
radiance, while behind it, there seemed to spread away into distance
the atmosphere of another country, a beautiful unseen Paradise.
Towards this mountain-peak the youth is looking with ardent eyes; one
feels sure that his hopes are there, and that sooner or later he will
reach the golden country beyond."
"I remember the picture. Is there not a crown shining in the sunlight
over the mountain-top, and the outline of a great cross in the dark
shadow over the steep path which leads up to the summit?"
"I believe so; but it was the figure of the youth that attracted me.
His face expressed aspiration, that bright confidence in the future
which Aunt Faith and I have been discussing this morning."
"So you were in her room all that time, were you?"
"Yes; and that reminds me that I must do a little reading. I am
growing shamefully lazy. Good-bye, Queen Bessie. Be sure and make my
picture as handsome as you can."
"I shall do my best;"—"but I cannot hope to make it as handsome as
the original," she added, after the door closed.
Twilight came and the two cousins were riding in a country lane
several miles from the old stone house; they had left the turnpike
where they usually rode, and, instead of going at headlong speed, the
horses were walking slowly over the grassy path as if the summer
evening had influenced their riders with its peaceful quiet.
"I have never been here before," said Bessie; "where does that path
"To Rocky brook where we used to go a fishing."
"Let us go that way, please. I have not been to Rocky brook for years
and years." So the horses were turned, and, after a pleasant ride
through the woods, they reached the edge of the ravine; the path, an
Indian trail, came to an end, and down below they could hear the
rushing sound of the water.
"Oh I must get down, Hugh!" said Bessie eagerly; "I want to go down to
"It will be hard climbing in that long skirt, Bessie. I will bring you
out some other time."
"No, Hugh; I want to go now, this very minute."
"I suppose you must have your way, then," said her cousin, as he
lifted her to the ground; "wait until I fasten the horses so that I
can help you."
But Bessie had already disappeared, swinging herself from rock to rock
by aid of the bushes, as actively as a squirrel; she had reached the
bottom of the ravine as Hugh appeared at the top. "Don't go too near
the bridge," he shouted; "wait till I come down."
Bessie looked down the ravine, and seeing the plank which served for
a bridge high in the air over the foaming water, she was seized with a
sudden desire to cross it; Hugh's warning, as usual, only stimulated
this desire. If there was any danger, she wanted to be in it
immediately. So she clambered over the rocks towards the forbidden
locality with a pleasant excitement, not really believing in the
danger, but lured on by the spirit of adventure strong within her from
"Don't go near the bridge!" shouted Hugh again, by this time half way
down the bank.
"Hugh is too despotic," thought his cousin, as she climbed up on the
wet stones. "I shall certainly do as I please. If he wants implicit
obedience, he must go to Edith Chase." In another instant she was on
the plank, and balancing herself, walked forward over the torrent,
holding her long skirt over her arm; her head was steady, she did not
know what fear was; many a time she had crossed deeper chasms in
safety, and she laughed to herself as she heard Hugh crashing through
the bushes down the bank behind her. "He will like me all the better
for my courage," she thought, somewhat surprised at his silence, for
she had expected to hear further remonstrance. Suddenly, when she had
reached the middle of the bridge, the plank cracked, gave way
entirely, and in an instant she was in the foaming torrent below. She
sank, and for one moment, one dreadful moment, she was under water,
suffocating and terror-stricken, while all the events of her life
seemed to rush before her like an instantaneous panorama. Then she
felt the air again, and opening her eyes, found herself in Hugh's
arms, as he strode out of the water and laid her down on the bank.
"Oh, Hugh!" she gasped, "it was dreadful!"
"Are you hurt, dear? Did your head strike the rocks?" asked her cousin
"No, I think not; but I feel rather dizzy," said Bessie, closing her
"Can you stay here for a moment alone, while I run back to the
farm-house? Fortunately the weather is so warm there is not much
danger of your taking cold."
"Oh, yes," said Bessie, smiling, as her cousin chafed her hands with
anxiety that belied his words. He sprang up the bank, and after some
delay reappeared carrying shawls and wrappings. "Do you feel better?
Are you faint?" he asked, as he enveloped her in the shawls.
"I feel quite well now," said Bessie, trying to rise.
"Stop; I am going to carry you," said Hugh.
"You shall do nothing of the kind, Hugh. I am able to walk, and the
bank is steep."
"I shall take you round by the path, so don't make any objection, for
it will be useless. The farmer will have his carriage waiting for us,
and we shall drive home as rapidly as possible."
"Oh, Hugh, I am so heavy! You will never be able to do it," said
Bessie, as Hugh lifted her slight form muffled in shawls.
"Very heavy! Really, quite elephantine! A matter of ninety pounds, I
"Nonsense, sir! I weigh one hundred and ten."
"And what is that to a man of muscle? Don't you know that I pride
myself upon my strength! The old proverb says that cleanliness is
next to godliness; if that is so, I give the third place to strength.
What a pity we cannot say 'muscleness,' to keep up the rhythm! Do you
know, Bessie, if ministers had more muscle, I should like them
"Mr. Leslie has muscle, Hugh."
"Yes; he has got a good strong fist of his own. I like him, too, in
every way. He is so manly in his goodness, and so frank in his
religion! He is one of those fine, large-hearted men who give their
very best to the cause. He did not take to the ministry because he was
not fitted for anything else; he has the capabilities and
qualifications for a first-rate business man, civil engineer, or
soldier. But it is evident that the whole world was as nothing to him
compared to the great work of salvation. I honor him. He is a man to
be envied, for he is living up to his ideal."
"Why, Hugh! I had no idea you admired him so much! Are you thinking of
following his example?"
"Don't joke, Bessie. The subject is too serious."
"I am not joking," said Bessie, in a low voice.
"I am no hero," said Hugh, with a half sigh, as they reached the lane;
"I could never do as Mr. Leslie has done. I can only hope to make
others happy in my small way by—"
"By helping ill-behaved cousins out of their troubles," interrupted
Bessie, "paying their debts, saving their lives, and so forth and so
The ride home was pleasant, in spite of wet clothes. Hugh drove the
farmer's horse in an old carryall, and the farmer himself rode Hugh's
horse, leading the other alongside. When they reached the back-pasture
it was quite dark. Hugh lifted Bessie out, threw the shawls back into
the carryall, and farmer Brown, after fastening the saddle-horses
behind, drove away towards the town, where he was to leave them at the
livery-stable according to agreement.
"Now, Bessie, take up that skirt, and let us have a run across the
garden," said Hugh. "I am so afraid you will take cold."
But Bessie's long, wet skirt proved such an obstacle, that in spite of
her objection, Hugh lifted her up again, and carried her across the
pasture, through the garden, and up the terrace into the house.
"Shall you go to the musicale?" he whispered, as he put her down in
the dark hall.
"No," said Bessie; "I wish you would make it all right with Aunt
Faith. I have a headache; the fright, I suppose."
Hugh went off to his room, and in an incredibly short time he was
down-stairs again, in evening dress. Aunt Faith came in a few moments
afterwards, dressed in gray silk with delicate white lace around her
throat and wrists; "Is it not time to go?" she said. "Where is Sibyl?"
"Here, Aunt," said Sibyl from the parlor; "I have been ready some
"Come in, child, and let us see you"
Sibyl crossed the hall and stood in the door-way. Her dress of soft
blue harmonized with her fair beauty, and brought out the tints of her
hair and complexion; she wore no ornaments, and the flowing drapery
floated around her devoid of any kind of trimming. "Her dress was
nothing; just a plain, blue tarleton," said one of her companions the
next day to a mutual friend. "But Sibyl herself looked lovely." This
was Sibyl's art; her dress was always subordinate to herself.
"You look like the evening star, sister," said Hugh.
"Thank you, brother. A compliment from you is precious, because rare,"
said Sibyl, smiling; "and as for you, you look like the Apollo in
"Bravo! That's a compliment worth having," said Hugh, tossing back his
golden locks. "And now that we are both gorged with compliments, let
us start for the halls of Euterpe."
"Where is Bessie?" said Aunt Faith, as Hugh rose.
"She is not going. She has a headache," answered Hugh.
"Poor child! I will run up and see her before I go."
"That is not necessary, Aunt. I think she would rather not be
disturbed," said Hugh. "Let us start; it is late."
The musicale was held at the residence of Mrs. Arlington, on the
opposite side of the avenue, but a short distance from the old stone
house, and Bessie, after taking off her wet clothes, dressed herself
in a wrapper, and took her seat at the open hall-window in the second
story, where she could see the lights through the trees, and even hear
an occasional strain of the music on the night breeze. She felt
depressed; her head ached, and her conscience likewise. "I am always
doing something wrong," she thought ruefully; "I let Hugh pay that
debt; then I teased him out of his idea of telling Aunt Faith, and
made him take me riding again, and when he was kind enough to give in
to my wish, I deliberately went out on that plank when he told me not
to go, and the result was I came near being drowned, and poor Hugh
must have had a struggle to get me out in that current. I suppose he
is over there now talking with Edith Chase! she is an affected, silly
girl, but I suppose Hugh does not understand her as well as I do.
However, perhaps she is better than I am! I am dreadful, I know; and
so homely, too! I look just like an Indian. Edith is considered
pretty. To be sure I think she looks just like a white cat; but
then, some people think white cats are pretty. Well, her looks are
nothing to me. I don't care anything about it!" And in truth of this
assertion, Bessie crouched down among the cushions of the lounge, and
had what girls call "a good cry."
About an hour afterwards she heard a step on the gravel walk in front
of the house, and the sound of a latch-key in the front-door; in
another minute Hugh came up the stairs on the way to his room. "Hugh!
Hugh!" called out a voice in the darkness.
"Is that you, Bessie? What are you doing here?" said her cousin,
lighting a burner in the chandelier. "Why, you have been crying! Does
your head ache? Do you feel faint?"
"My head is better, Hugh; but I am wicked," murmured Bessie from the
heap of cushions.
"Wicked! What do you mean, Brownie?"
"Just what I say. I am always in trouble myself and drawing you in
too. You would be a great deal better without me, Hugh. I shall be
glad when you go to New York."
"I mean it will be better for you," murmured Bessie.
"And how about yourself?"
"Oh, I shall never be good at all; I shall stay at home and be wicked,
I suppose," said Bessie, with the sound of tears in her voice. Hugh
did not reply, but he put out his hand and stroked the dark curls
gently. After a moment or two Bessie suddenly recovered her spirits.
"How was Miss Chase?" she asked gayly.
"Lovely as a lily," said Hugh, laughing; "I told her so, too."
"Was Graham Marr there?"
"Yes; I left him with Sibyl."
"Did he quote poetry?"
"I presume so, in the intervals of the music, Gid was there, too."
"At the door of the supper-room, I suppose?"
"Yes, he was looking at the salad when I came away."
"That reminds me; why did you leave so early, Hugh?"
"I believe, after all, I am a little tired; I strained my wrist
slightly in the brook."
"Let me get some arnica for you; do, Hugh."
"Oh, no! the strain is very slight. It will be all over in a day or
"Was there really any danger, Hugh?"
"Yes; I think it right that you should know it, because you may be
tempted to do the same thing again. The water was deep there, and the
brook swollen by the last rains; the current was very strong, and
there is a fall just below. But your greatest danger was from the
sharp jagged rocks; when I plunged after you I cannot express how
alarmed I was!"
Bessie covered her face with her hands. "It was all owing to my
obstinate wilfulness," she said in a low tone, "Oh, Hugh! can you
"Do not think of it any more." said her cousin, "but come down and
give me some music."
"What! In this old wrapper, Hugh?"
"There speaks feminine vanity. As though I knew a wrapper from a
So Bessie went down to the sitting-room, and, taking the cover off her
harp, sat down in her old wrapper to play for Hugh. When she was in
the mood she brought very spirited music out of the silver strings,
but to-night she played soft airs, and minor chords, weaving in among
them Hugh's favorite plaintive melodies, with her now wild
improvisations between. At last she rose and replaced the harp-cover.
"It is late; I must go," she said. "They will be coming home before
long, Of course you won't say anything about our ride, Hugh. It
would only frighten Aunt Faith. But I have decided not to go again;
what happened to-night seems like a warning."
"No; I am only trying to stop before I drag you into any more danger.
Think how much trouble I have given you, too! And, oh, Hugh! you had
to pay that farmer," added Bessie, as the idea came to her for the
"Run upstairs, Brownie; it is late."
"I shall not run, Hugh. I know very well you had to pay him that ten
dollars, and I have robbed you of your last cent," said Bessie
"Oh, what a dismal face! Run, before Aunt Faith comes."
"And the picture you were going to buy," said Bessie, with tearful
"Foolish child! as if I cared for the picture; when I am rich I shall
buy a whole gallery. Now run; I positively hear their voices at the
As Bessie went away with a full heart, Aunt Faith, Sibyl, and Graham
Marr came up the garden-walk and entered the house. "You came away
early, Hugh," said Aunt Faith; "do you feel well?"
"I am tired, aunt; that is all."
"It was a pleasant party," continued Aunt Faith; "did you not think
"I enjoyed it!" said Sibyl quietly.
"It was a rare feast," said Graham; "one seldom meets such a
combination of aesthetic talent in Westerton."
"Mr. Leslie was not there, however," said Hugh.
"Ah,—no. But ministers are not generally cultivated musicians,"
said Graham, in his slow way. "They have not the time to,—ah,—to
muse upon the mystery of harmony."
"Mr. Leslie is a fine musician," said Hugh bluntly; "I have seldom
heard so fine a baritone,—so rich and manly."
Now Graham sang tenor,—a very delicate tenor, and naturally he could
not sympathize with Hugh's fancy for a rich baritone. As he rose to
take leave, Sibyl said, "I wish you would bring over your music, Mr.
Marr, and sing for us. We were all charmed with that little German
song you sung this evening; it was so full of pathos."
"Pathos!" whispered Hugh to Aunt Faith, as Sibyl accompanied the poet
into the hall. "How can Sibyl endure that calf!"
"As Pete Trone said, 'de gustibus' and so forth, Hugh," said Sibyl's
voice from the hall as she closed the door behind Graham.
"Well, Sibyl; I did not intend you to hear the epithet, but I cannot
with sincerity take it back," said Hugh.
"I like calves," said Sibyl, "they have beautiful eyes! Good-night!"
"I never can make Sibyl out!" said Hugh, as his sister disappeared.
"She never loses her temper, and truth always comes out with the
temper, you know. Well, Aunt Faith, I have been a very bad boy all
day. Will you pardon all my misdeeds?"
"If you are penitent," said Aunt Faith, smiling. Then, more seriously,
"You will not forget what I said to you this morning, Hugh?"
"No, aunt; I shall not forget. Your words sank deeper than you knew,"
said Hugh gravely.
FOURTH OF JULY.
The first of July came, and with it the summer heat. Hugh hung up a
hammock in the second story hall, between the north and south windows,
so as to catch every wandering zephyr; and, armed with a book, he
betook himself to this airy retreat for the purpose of study. At least
that was his announcement at the breakfast-table. "For the purpose of
sleep?" suggested Sibyl. "Day-dreaming!" said Bessie. "Lazying!" said
Tom, coining a word for the occasion with true American versatility.
"Very well, fellow-citizens, laugh on," said Hugh; "these are the last
strawberries of the season, and I have no inclination to discuss
anything at present but their sweetness. But I will venture to assert
that at six o'clock this evening I shall have imbibed more knowledge
in that very hammock then any of you in your prosy chairs."
"I shall go and see Miss Skede about my white dresses," said Sibyl,
"Not this warm morning," exclaimed Bessie.
"The very time. I could not have chosen a better day. Miss Skede has
no imagination; she can never lift herself beyond the present. If I
had gone to her in June, she would have made my dresses heavy, in
spite of all my orders and descriptions. Even yesterday, for instance,
she would have been unable to conceive anything more than half-way
effects; but to-day it is so warm that the heat may inspire her, and
I hope to get out of her something as flowing and delicate as a summer
"I see now, Sibyl, where all your poetry goes," said Hugh, laughing;
"the puffs and ruffles get it all!"
"Fortunately Graham has enough for two," said Bessie, looking up with
a malicious smile.
But Sibyl's temper was never ruffled: "I like Graham, as you know,
Bessie. You, also, have your likes and dislikes, but I do not tease
you about them."
"That is true, Sibyl," said Bessie, warmly; "you certainly have the
best disposition in the family. I wish I had half your amiability."
Soon after breakfast, Tom and Gem went out into the garden, and sat
down under the shade of the great elm-tree. The three dogs were not
long in discovering their place of retreat, and invited themselves to
join the party with their usual assurance,—Turk stretching himself on
the ground alongside, Grip under a currant-bush, and Pete Trone
occupying himself in tilling the soil.
"What are you going to do to-day, Tom?" said Gem, as she adorned
Turk's shaggy back with flowers.
"Well, I don't exactly know," replied Tom; "the B. B.'s are coming,
and we've thought a little of building a house up a tree."
"What for?" said Gem rather languidly,—for when the thermometer
stands in the eighties, the idea of building becomes oppressive.
"What for!" repeated Tom indignantly; "that's just like a girl! For
fun, of course. What else, do you suppose? But you needn't have
anything to do with it. You can go right into the house this very
minute, if you like."
"I don't want to go into the house; you know that very well, Tom
Morris. I always like to see the B. B.'s, and I think a house in a
tree will be splendid!" said Gem quickly.
"Won't it, though! We're going to take the big cask over there, and
hoist up all the boards, and nails, and things. There's a place in the
main branches where we can build a real room, big enough for all of
us, if we squeeze tight. We're going to have a floor, and roof, and
sides, and a hole in the bottom to climb in,—a sort of sally-port,
you know. It will be a regular fort, and I rather guess those
south-end fellows will wink out of the wrong sides of their eyes when
they see it."
"Won't it be rather warm up there?" suggested Gem.
"I never saw such a baby!" exclaimed Tom. "Warm? of course it will be,
and what then? The monitors were warm, I reckon, but you never caught
our soldiers whining about it. The B. B.'s will stand up to their work
like men, and they'll stay in that house when it's built, even if they
melt down to their very backbones!"
"I wonder what Pete is doing?" said Gem, after a pause, wisely making
a diversion in the conversation.
"Oh! burying bones, I suppose," said Tom; "He's always at it. I
believe he'd dig a hole in an iron floor if he was chained up on it.
Hallo, Pete! stop that! You're making too much dust. Do you hear me,
sir? Very well! you'd—a—bet—" When Tom got as far as "bet,"
pronounced in an awful voice, Pete knew that a stick was forthcoming.
He accordingly paused in his digging, his little black nose covered
with yellow earth, and his eyes fixed mournfully on the half-finished
hole. "Let us go and dig up some of his bones and show them to him,"
said Tom; "it always makes him feel so ashamed! I know where they are;
he has his favorite places, and I've often seen him toiling up and
down from one to the other, as important as the man that goes round
with the panorama and jaws at the people."
"What an expression!" said Gem, with an air of superiority; "you boys
are so common!"
"And you girls are so soft!" said Tom. "I'd rather be a boy than a
girl, any day. Come, now!"
But Gem was not inclined to argue this point, so they carried out
their bone-hunting project, much to the discomfiture of Pete Trone,
Esq., who followed behind as if fascinated, watched the disinterment
of each relic with mortified interest, and, when the last was brought
into view, drooped his head and tail, and sought refuge in the
corn-field where he relieved his feelings by burrowing wildly in
twenty different places.
"There come the B. B.'s!" exclaimed Gem, interrupting Tom in a search
for artichokes; "eight of them, as sure as you live!"
"What an expression," said Tom, imitating his sister's voice; "you
girls are so common!" But the approach of the visitors made a truce a
matter of necessity, and soon the project of the tree-house engrossed
the entire attention. Boards were brought from the little tool-house,
saws were in demand, and Gem was deputed to confiscate all the hammers
and nails in the house for the use of the builders; the work went
bravely on, and by noon the walls of the fortification were up, and
the roof well advanced towards completion. A ladder brought from the
barn, took the workmen half-way up the trunk; but the old tree was
lofty, and a long space intervened between the end of the ladder and
the lowest branches, which must of necessity be ascended in that
squirming manner peculiar to boys, wherein they delight to bark their
shins, tear their trousers, and blister their hands in the pursuit of
glory. Gem, of course, could not hope to emulate the B. B.'s in this
mode of progression towards the fortification, but she brought nails
and carried boards with great energy. When there was no call for her
services, she watched with intense interest the B. B. who happened to
be squirming up. If there was no B. B. squirming up, there was sure to
be one squirming down, for a principal part of the time seemed to be
devoted to journeys below and aloft, besides elaborate contrivances
for slinging boards and tools to the climbers' backs; indeed, to a
looker-on, this seemed to be the chief interest of the fortification.
At last it was done, all but the floor; Tom said it did not matter
about that, as the boys could easily stand on the branches. Word was
given to ascend, and, one by one, all the B. B.'s squirmed up the tree
and took their places inside; nothing was to be seen but their feet,
huddled together on the branches. It took ten minutes for all the band
to assemble on high, but in less than two, down they squirmed again.
"What is the matter?" said Gem in astonishment; she had not expected
to see the B. B.'s for hours, absorbed as they would be in their leafy
"We're going to take up the dogs," said Tom, who came first; "we're
going to sling 'em up in a basket. It will be such fun, and they'll
like it first-rate."
"Oh, don't, Tom!" exclaimed Gem; "Turk is too big, Grip will be sure
to fall out, and it will make Pete Trone seasick."
But no attention was paid to her remonstrances, and the B. B.'s
inspired to new exertions, made numerous journeys up and down, rigging
a pulley and making various preparations for the aerial voyage. When
all was ready there was a discussion as to which dog should go. Turk
was too big, no basket would hold him; and Grip, Tom said, had "no
common sense," and would not appreciate the situation. Pete Trone was
evidently the man for the place, and he jumped gayly into the basket
at Tom's command, without any suspicion of danger; and when he found
himself hanging in mid-air, he did not flinch, but settled down
resolutely on his haunches, looking over the side with one eye as much
as to say, "Who's afraid?"
"Didn't I tell you?" said Tom enthusiastically. "I knew Pete would
come out strong. It will take a good while to get him up there. I say,
boys, let's sing 'Up in a Balloon.' It will be appropriate to the
So all the B. B.'s joined in the chorus with so much power that Aunt
Faith came to the back door to listen.
"Tom! Tom!" she called, when the song was finished; "what are you
"It's only the B. B.'s, Aunt Faith. We're hoisting Pete Trone up into
the tree," shouted Tom.
"Dinner will be ready in a few moments; you had better come in and
rest; you must be very warm," said Aunt Faith from the shaded piazza.
When the basket reached the air-shanty, the B. B.'s who were there to
receive it, suddenly remembered that there was no floor, and Pete,
although a dog of varied accomplishments, could hardly be expected to
keep his footing on the branches. So there was nothing to be done but
let him down again, which was accordingly effected with great care,
Pete sitting composedly in the basket without moving a muscle, and
jumping out when he reached the ground with conscious importance
wagging in his tail. It was one o'clock, and the B. B.'s, after
promising to return, adjourned for dinner; Tom and Gem bathed their
burning faces, and joined the family circle in the cool dining-room.
"You are as bad as a fire-ball, Tom," said Hugh, looking at his red
face; "what have you been doing?"
"Splendid fun! We've been building a house in a tree." And forthwith
Tom launched into a full description of the fortification.
"'Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness, some boundless contiguity of
shade!' That was the motive which actuated the Band of Brothers, I
suppose," said Hugh.
"The B. B.'s don't know anything about poetry," said Tom, with scorn;
"they've got other things to attend to, I can tell you."
"They're coming again this afternoon," said Gem, "to talk over what we
shall do on Fourth of July."
"To be sure; the Birthday of Freedom is close upon us," said Hugh;
"whatever you do, my countrymen, let it be worthy of the occasion."
"We've got two or three plans," began Gem, but Tom interrupted her;
"Don't breathe a word, it will spoil all, Gem."
"I hope it is not dangerous," said patient Aunt Faith, who associated
the Birthday of Independence with visions of boys disfigured for life
with gunpowder, and girls running madly towards the house with their
muslin dresses blazing.
"None of the plans are dangerous, Aunt Faith," said Tom; "but we don't
want anybody to know anything about them beforehand; especially Hugh."
"I smell a rat,—I see him floating in the air,—but I shall yet be
able to nip him in the bud," quoted Hugh, with pointed emphasis.
"Now don't, Hugh! just promise that you won't cross the back terrace
until after the Fourth," pleaded Gem. "It will be twice the fun for
you, too, if you don't know anything about it beforehand." After some
delay the two conspirators wrenched the required promise from their
cousin, who pretended to be deeply curious about the plot, and
heroically unselfish in abandoning his designs upon it.
At three o'clock the meeting was held under the elm-tree on the
terrace; the B. B.'s reinforced to the number of twelve were there,
and Tom and Gem did the honors with cordial hospitality. Many plans
were brought forward for the consideration of the patriots, but
objections were found to one and all; at length Gem disappeared and
after a long delay, returned carrying some books under her arm. "I
have thought of something," she said, taking a seat under the tree;
"we will have the battle of Bunker Hill and the life of General Israel
Putnam." The word "battle" stimulated the B. B.'s, who were lying
about on the grass, worn out with their efforts to arrange a
programme. "Bunker Hill forever!" said one, tossing up his hat. Tom
said nothing; he was not going to be carried away by any of Gem's
nonsense, not he! "My plan is this," began Gem, encouraged by the
general attention; "we will have a real battle,—we've got torpedoes,
fire-crackers, and Tom's cannon, you know,—and we'll make a big
monument of boards for Bunker's Hill; I've been there and know just
how it looks."
"It wasn't there when the battle was fought, Goosey," said Tom.
"How do you know?" retorted Gem; "you were not there, I guess. And
as to history, who got ten imperfect marks in one week?"
The B. B.'s not being strong in history, did not take sides in this
contest, and Gem went on triumphantly. "Jim Morse can be General
Putnam, because his uncle's name is Putnam; you see, I thought of
that," said Gem, with conscious pride.
"Hurrah for Jim!" said the enthusiastic B. B. before mentioned.
"Then there will be the wolf-scene," continued Gem. "You remember how
Putnam went down in a cave when everybody else was afraid, and shot a
great wolf there. They had a rope around his legs, and when he pulled
it they jerked it up, and out he came holding the wolf by the ears.
Now that will do splendidly for us, for we can have the underground
shanty for the cave, and Turk will just do for the wolf."
This last idea was received with applause, and the discussion became
general, even Tom forgetting his scorn in the interest of the
occasion, and actually taking some importance upon himself because his
sister was the originator of so much brilliancy. Books were consulted,
suggestions and changes made, and the whole plot of the drama altered
again and again. Each B. B. felt himself called upon to be a general,
and they had all selected the names of revolutionary heroes, when some
one suggested that an army composed entirely of generals would be
difficult to manage. Then, there was the question of time, also.
Should they confine themselves to Bunker Hill, or give an abstract of
the whole war? Tom was for the whole war; but that was because he had
already announced himself as George Washington, and naturally wished
for as many battles as possible. He intended, also, to throw in the
episode of the hatchet; "It will be real easy," he said, advocating
his plan, "I know it all, out of the reader, and besides, we've got a
But another boy maintained that more than one battle would spoil the
effect; a number of the forces must of course be left dead and wounded
upon the field, and it would not look well for them to come to life
over and over again, right before everybody.
It was finally decided to adopt a circuitous course, steering between
the impossibilities, yet bringing in all the desired effects. The
drama was to open with the wolf-hunt. Then the scene was to change;
Putnam, peacefully engaged in ploughing, was to hear the glorious news
and depart instantly for Bunker Hill. The battle was to rage fiercely
on the terrace slope, and in the vegetable garden, while a masked
battery did terrible execution in the asparagus bed, and whole ranks
of the enemy were to be mowed down in the cornfield conveniently out
of sight. As Tom said, "Something must be left to the imagination."
The third scene was to bring in the hanging of the spy, Nathan Palmer,
in order that Putnam might read his famous letter on the subject; but
as Gem objected to the tragical end, it was decided to alter history a
little, and let Nathan escape by night, which change would also give a
fine chance for dark-lanterns, masks, and a muffled drum. The whole
was to close with a tableau, and the singing of the "Star-Spangled
Banner," in which the audience were to be especially requested to
The outline of the performance was now arranged and nothing remained
but to fill in the details; the whole afternoon was consumed in this
labor, and still the work was not completed. For several days the
B. B.'s studied severely; United States histories were in great
demand, and the pages of Shakespeare were turned over for inspiration.
Each boy was to compile his own speeches, and many hurried
consultations were held over back fences, and in haylofts; one boy,
who represented General Stark, selected Hamlet's 'to be or not to be.'
A companion objected to the lines as inappropriate, but General Stark
replied, "Well, I know the piece because I've spoken it in school, and
I ain't going to learn another, I can tell you! I don't see why it
won't do as well as anything else."
Fourth of July came, and with it, great excitement in the vicinity of
the old stone house. The B. B.'s belonged to the neighboring families,
and their fathers, mothers and sisters were to compose the audience
for whom benches had already been placed on the terrace under the
trees. The day was warm, but enthusiasm was warmer, and although there
was some foreboding of suffering among the audience as they looked out
from their cool parlors into the vivid sunshine, there was no
flinching among the actors.
There had, however, been great difficulty with the cows who were to
represent General Putnam's oxen, for the horses' harness did not fit
them very well, and they objected to dragging the plough as
well-regulated oxen should have done; so at the last moment it was
decided to give up the idea of a moving scene, and simply attempt a
tableau; General Putnam at his plough in the field, reading the
Declaration of Independence. A sheet could be held up until the cows
were in position, then it was to be dropped and the tableau revealed
to the audience. "The effect would be grand," Tom said.
At ten o'clock the actors were all in the vegetable garden, and the
audience under cover of straw hats and parasols were slowly assembling
on the benches above. The cannon was loaded at the top of an earthwork
commanding the asparagus-bed, torpedo ammunition was stored in a box
half way down the hill, and fire-crackers were everywhere, provided by
the combatants who had clubbed their spending-money for the purpose.
A hole had been made in the roof of the underground shanty through
which Putnam was to be let down by a rope, and Turk, as the wolf, had
been imprisoned there since early morning, with Grip to keep him
company. At last all was ready, and the orchestra opened the
entertainment with "Hail Columbia" on the violin, by Tom, accompanied
by the jews-harp, tambourine and triangle, and a flute which could
only play two notes, but made up in power what it lacked in variety.
Tom had tried hard to learn "Hail Columbia" for this occasion. He
thought he knew it, and the family thought so too, from the amount of
practising they had heard. But the excitement confused the performer,
and the violin, after careering around among "Independence be your
boast," ended in the well-known "Nelly Bly," Tom's chef-d'oeuvre.
Fortunately the change made no difference to the rest of the
orchestra, their accompaniment was the same to all tunes, and "Nelly
Bly" was finished in triumph, and received with applause by the
good-natured audience and calls for "first-violin."
But the orchestra had already dispersed to aid in the grand opening
scene, the wolf-hunt, an "historical incident in the life of General
Israel Putnam of glorious memory," as the written programme designated
it. First appeared one of the B. B.'s attired as the "Classic Muse,"
with a wreath of laurel around his brow. He recited the following
lines taken from the "Putnam Memorial:—"
"Hail! Hero of Bunker's Hill.
Thy presence now my soul doth thrill!
This is a sacred and heavenly spot
Where thou, Putnam, didst thy body drop;
May future generations be blest
With the patriotic spirit thou possessed!
Thy memory is like a sweet balm,
That will bless and do no harm."
This remarkable ode concluded, the Muse retired, and Putnam himself
appeared, dressed in full uniform with a sword by his side, and a
majestic feather in his hat. The general made a bow to the audience
and repeated the following verse, also extracted from the "Memorial."
"I am Israel Putnam the brave,
Who in Pomfret shot the wolf in the cave;
And by her ears did draw her out,—
I am no coward, but rash and stout!"
Having thus announced his character, General Putnam walked towards the
shanty and brandished his sword. "Ha!" he said, snorting fiercely,
"there is a wolf here! I shall descend and slay him!"
"Nay, nay!" shouted the B. B.'s in a chorus, as they rushed from the
currant-bushes where they had remained hidden to give full effect to
the scene. "Putnam, descend not; the wolf is wild!" cried one.
"Putnam, descend not; remember thy child!" said another. (This was
considered highly poetical by the B. B.'s). But Putnam was not to be
persuaded, and the rope was therefore carefully secured to his belt.
He took leave of all his friends, shaking them all by the hand, and
then, feather and all, he was lowered into the cave, i.e. underground
shanty. It was intended that there should be no delay in this part of
the scene; Turk had been through his portion of the programme many
times, and had allowed himself to be hauled up and down with his usual
good-nature. As it was expected, therefore, that Putnam would vanquish
the wolf in no time, no dialogue had been provided for the friends and
neighbors waiting outside, and as time passed and no signal to "draw
up," came, they grew somewhat embarrassed. Tom, urged by necessity,
spoke impromptu: "He fighteth the wolf!" he cried; "he fighteth
fiercely!" Then, in an undertone to his next neighbor, "say something,
Will; anything will do." But Will could think of nothing but "He
fighteth the wolf!" also; so he said it to Dick and kicked him on the
shin as a signal to proceed. "Doth he?" said Dick after a long pause;
then, at his wits' end as he received another and fiercer kick, he
varied the phrase and stammered out, "Doth he?" in a despairing voice,
at which all the audience laughed uproariously. Still there was no
signal from below, and Tom grew desperate. Stooping down he called
through the aperture, "I say, Putnam, why don't you jerk out that
wolf?" But no answer came from the den. "Sing something," said Tom to
the B. B.'s in an undertone, "'Battle Cry of Freedom' will do; while I
run down and see what is the matter." So all the friends and neighbors
joined in singing a song, probably to intimidate the wolf, while Tom
hurried down to the door at the bottom of the hill.
"What is the matter, Jim?" he cried, bursting in to the underground
shanty; "you've almost spoilt the whole thing! Why don't you hurry
"It's all very well to say 'hurry up,'" said General Putnam,
indignantly, "but Turk won't let me come near him. He's worse than a
wolf any day."
"I suppose he's tired; he's been shut up here since daylight," said
Tom looking at the angry old dog. "Well, I suppose you'll have to take
Grip, then. Hurry,—they're at the last verse."
So the signal was given, and the friends and neighbors, rejoiced that
their embarrassment was over, began to pull with such a will that Tom
had hardly time to run back and repeat his prepared speech. "He is
safe! Our noble Putnam is safe!" cried Tom, with enthusiasm. "He
bringeth out the wolf, the great, the dreadful wolf!" At this instant
the General hove into view, his feathered hat knocked over his eyes,
the rope girding his chest with alarming tightness, and wee little
Grip suspended by the nape of his neck as the wolf, "the great, the
dreadful wolf!" A burst of irrepressible laughter from the audience
greeted this tableau, and Putnam's mother cried out in great anxiety,
"Jimmy, Jimmy, take off that rope directly; it will hurt your chest!"
The first part over, the scene was supposed to be changed. Half of the
B. B.'s were required to bring the two cows from the cow-house where
they were standing already harnessed, and the others put the plough in
position and hold up the sheet. But the cows were obstinate and would
not walk together, so that gradually the whole force was summoned, and
Gem was left to hold up the curtain with the assistance of a small
boy, the brother of General Stark. At length, after severe labor, the
cows were brought up behind the sheet and attached to the plough, but
before Putnam could take his position, one of them, a frisky animal,
put down her head and shook her horns so threateningly that Gem
abandoned her corner of the sheet and fled in terror, leaving the
mortified patriots to the full blaze of public ridicule. Tom was
furious, but he reserved his rage for another time. "Bring those cows
together by main force and hold 'em still, boys," he said in a
concentrated tone as he picked up the corner of the sheet. "Take hold
of the plough, Jim. Now, Dick, say your piece." The Classic Muse
advancing before the curtain obeyed, in the following language:
"Behold the peaceful Putnam tilling the soil. His gentle oxen feed
among the clover. But the noble Declaration of Independence rouseth
his manly heart. He leaveth his team in the furrow and goeth to Bunker
Hill!" declaimed the Muse at the top of his voice as the sheet was
dropped disclosing the spectacle of ten boys fiercely holding the two
cows in position while Putnam, in full uniform as usual, peacefully
read a huge paper document apparently all unmindful of the struggles
of his team.
The effect of this tableau was, like the first, far greater than
anticipated. The audience laughed till they cried; and not the least
part of the amusement was the retreat of the "peaceful oxen," wildly
careering back to the pasture, their harness fluttering behind their
After a short pause the Battle of Bunker Hill began in earnest, and
was esteemed a great success. The cannon raked the asparagus-bed very
effectively, and the musketry of torpedoes and fire-crackers, was
really deafening; the British flag was ignominiously hauled down from
the Bunker Hill Monument, and the Stars and Stripes raised in its
place; every now and then, also, the shrieks and groans of the
wounded, were heard from the corn-patch, which added, of course, the
pathetic element to the scene. At last, when all the ammunition was
exhausted, peace was declared, and the American forces assembling
around the monument, listened to General Stark, as he vehemently burst
forth into "To be, or not to be," pointing aloft, at intervals, to the
Banner of Freedom, and closing with,—
"The Flag of our Union! At Lexington first
Through clouds of oppression its radiance burst;
But at brave Bunker Hill rolled back the last crest,
And, a bright constellation, it blazed in the West.
Division! No, never! The Union forever!
And cursed be the hand that our country would sever!"
as a highly appropriate termination, giving a local and military
coloring to Hamlet's celebrated soliloquy.
The battle well over, and generous applause bestowed upon the army,
the episode of the spy was introduced, and Gem retrieved her character
by patiently holding up her end of the sheet while the tent was
constructed out of some poles and colored blankets,—a real camp-fire
along side being relied upon to give a life-like resemblance to
"Valley Forge." The sheet removed, General Putnam was discovered
seated within his tent, writing a letter. Enter, from the potato-patch,
an orderly, who reported in a deep voice, "General Tryon demands
"Ha! Doth he so! British miscreant! thus will I fell him!" exclaimed
Putnam, brandishing his sword with so much ferocity that the whole
tent fell to the ground, covering him with blankets and confusion.
Rescued from the wreck by the orderly, the general stammered out his
next sentence: "Behold what I have written to Tryon! Take the letter
and read it to the army!" he said sternly, and retired—to what was
once his tent. The enemy filed in from the chicken-yard, presented
arms, and stood motionless while the orderly read as follows:—
"MARCH 8th, 1777.
"Nathan Palmer, a lieutenant in your king's
service, was taken in my camp as a spy, He was
tried as a spy; he was condemned as a spy; and
he shall be hanged as a spy.
"P. S.—Night. He is hanged."
This celebrated letter having been read, Putnam's part was over, and
he retired backwards to the corn-patch to slow music from the
orchestra hidden behind the currant-bushes, while the army marched
away in the opposite direction,—the two effects having been contrived
by Tom to imitate a dissolving view. This pantomime was received by
the merry audience with great applause.
The next scene exhibited, after long preparation, the body of the
unfortunate Palmer hanging from a tree, suspended by his hands, with a
rope conspicuously coiled around his neck. The Classic Muse again
appeared, and took his position near by, while the American army in
masks, with dark-lanterns and muffled drums, filed in softly, and
formed a circle around the tree. "Friends!" said one of the band
stepping forward, "I am Ethan Allen, and I cannot leave this man,
although a British subject, suspended to this tree. We will bury him,
friends, 'darkly, at dead of night, by the struggling moonbeams' misty
light, and our lanterns dimly burning.'"
The army agreed to these sentiments, and, deputing two of their number
to act as bearers, marched away to the sound of the muffled drums. But
the body, which had conveniently dropped to the ground in the
meantime, proved too heavy for the bearers. John Chase, who had been
thoughtlessly allowed to take the part of the Spy, was a particularly
heavy boy, and the bearers pulled and tugged in vain. The army,
absorbed in the muffled drums (each boy had one), was already at some
distance, and the final tableau, in which the body took a part, was
still to be enacted; the bearers made another effort, the perspiration
rolled down their faces, but all in vain. There was nothing to be done
but signal to the Classic Muse to come forward and help. He hastily
tucked up his robes and took hold. With his aid the spy was hurried
after the retreating army, reaching it just in time to spring to his
feet under the flag-staff where floated the Star-Spangled Banner, Red,
White, and Blue, and exclaim fervently, "Fellow-citizens, I am not
dead! Behold me a changed man! From this moment I am a true and loyal
patriot. Long live the Sword of Bunker Hill!" As the resuscitated spy
uttered these words, the army formed an effective tableau around him,
and the Classic Muse, still breathless from his late exertions, waved
his laurel-wreath in the foreground, and struck up the "Star-Spangled
Banner," in which the audience joined with enthusiasm.
The patriotic drama being over, great applause ensued, and then the
army was invited in to lunch in Aunt Faith's cool dining-room; here
ice-cream, cakes, and other camp-dishes were provided in great
abundance, the soldiers stacked arms, and seemed to enjoy themselves
as easily as private citizens. The numerous young sisters of the
B. B.'s gradually forgot their shyness, and the afternoon was spent in
games and merriment,—the Old Stone House being entirely given up to
the young folks early in the evening, when the weary warriors
"It's been a splendid Fourth!" said Tom, throwing himself into a chair
when the last guests had taken their departure; "I wish we could have
such fun every day!"
"If you had it every day you would soon be tired of it," said Aunt
About midnight, when all was still, Aunt Faith, who had not been
asleep, thought she heard a slight sound; she listened, and
distinguished faint sobs coming from Gem's room, as though the child
had her head buried in the pillows. Throwing on a wrapper, she hurried
thither, and found her little niece with flushed cheeks and tearful
eyes, tossing uneasily on her bed. "What is the matter, dear?" asked
Aunt Faith, anxiously.
"Oh, is it you, Aunt Faith? I am so glad you have come!" said Gem.
"There is nothing the matter, only I cannot sleep, and I feel so
Do you feel ill? Are you in any pain?"
"No; only hot, and, and—a little frightened."
"Frightened? My dear child, what do you mean?"
"I don't know, auntie. I woke up, and kept thinking of dreadful
things," sobbed Gem, burying her head in the pillows. Aunt Faith saw
that the child was trembling violently, and, sitting down on the edge
of the bed, she drew the little form into her motherly arms, and
soothed her as she would have soothed a baby. "Come into my room,
dear," she said; "you are tired and excited after this busy day. I
have not slept, either, and I shall be glad to have you go with me."
So the two went, back across the hall, Gem clinging to her aunt, and
glancing fearfully around, as though she expected to see some ghostly
object in every well-known corner. When she had crept into her bed,
however, she felt more safe, and nestled down with a deep sigh of
relief. After some conversation on various subjects, Aunt Faith said:
"And now, my little girl, you must tell me what frightened you. I have
always thought you a brave child. What was it you fancied?"
"Oh, I don't know, auntie; all kinds of things. Ghosts, and
"Gem, you know very well there are no such things as ghosts."
"Really and truly, Aunt Faith?" asked Gem, in a low tone.
"Certainly not. I am surprised that you have any such ideas. Where did
you get them?"
"I have heard the girls talking about them, sometimes, in the kitchen.
They believe in them, Aunt Faith."
"That is because they are ignorant, my dear. Ignorant people believe
a great many things that are false. You know there are no fairies,
Gem? You know there is no such person as Santa Claus, don't you?"
"Of course, aunt. Only very little children believe in Santa Claus."
"Well, my dear, ignorant people are like little children; they will
tell and believe stories about ghosts just as little children tell and
believe stories about Santa Claus and his coming down the chimney. My
dear little girl, never think of those silly ghost-stories again.
People die, and the good Lord takes them into another life; where they
go or what they are doing we do not know, but we need never fear
that they will trouble us. It is of far more consequence that we
should think of ourselves, and whether we are prepared to enter into
the presence of our Creator. Our summons will come and we know not how
soon it may be. When I think of our family circle, six of us under the
roof to-night, I know that it is possible, I may even say probable
that among so many a parting will come before very long. And, my
little Gem, if it should be you, the youngest, I pray that you may be
ready. I do not want you to think of death as anything dreadful, dear.
It is not dreadful, although those who are left behind feel lonely and
sad. I look forward with a happy anticipation to meeting my brothers
and sisters, my father and mother, and my husband; it will be like
going home to me. But, although I am old, the summons does not always
come to the oldest, first. Tell me, my child, are you trying to be
good, to govern your temper, and to do what is right as far as you are
"I try when I think of it, Aunt Faith," said Gem, "but half the time I
don't think; I forget all about it."
"I do not expect you to think of it all the time, dear; but when you
do think of it, will you promise me to try as hard as you can? Will
you try to speak gently to Tom, to forgive him when he teases you, to
give up your own way when your playmates desire something else, and,
above all, to pray night and morning with your whole heart?"
"Yes, Aunt Faith," whispered Gem, "I will try as hard as I can."
"God bless you, my darling," said Aunt Faith, kissing her little niece
affectionately. "And now, go to sleep; it is very late."
With the happy facility of youth, Gem was soon asleep, but Aunt Faith
lay wakeful through several hours of the still summer night. Her
heart, was disturbed by thoughts of Sibyl and her worldly ambition, of
Hugh and his unsettled religious views, of Bessie and her lack of
serious thoughts on any subject. Again the sore feeling of trouble
came to her, the doubt as to her own fitness for the charge of
educating and training the five little children left in her care. "I
fear I am not strong enough," she thought; "I fear both my faith and
my perseverance have been weak. Have I entirely failed? When I look at
Sibyl, and Hugh, and Bessie, I fear I have. Even the younger children
are by no means what I had hoped they would be."
A terrible despondency crept into Aunt Faith's heart, and the slow
tears of age rolled down her cheeks; but with a strong effort of will
she conquered the feeling, and kneeling down by the bedside, she
poured out her sorrows in prayer. She laid all her troubles at the
feet of her Saviour, and besought Him to strengthen her and give her
wisdom for her appointed task. Again and again she asked for faith,
earnest faith, which should never falter, although the future might
look dark to her mortal eyes, and again and again she gave all her
darlings into the Lord's hand. "Give me strength to do my best," she
prayed, "and faith to leave the rest to Thee,"—and gradually there
came to her a peace which passeth all understanding, a peace which
cometh after earnest prayer, and which those who pray not earnestly,
can never know.
Aunt Faith knelt a while longer, but no words formed themselves in her
mind; she seemed to feel a benediction falling around her, and a sweet
contentment came into her heart. When she lay down again, sleep came,
and for the rest of the night all was quiet in the old stone house.
Breakfast at the old stone house was later on Sunday morning than on
week days, by Aunt Faith's especial direction. She gave all the family
a longer sleep than usual to mark the day of rest and give it a
pleasant opening, but they all understood that when the first bell
rang there must be no further delay, and at the sound of the second
bell they all assembled in the sitting-room in their fresh Sunday
attire for morning prayers. Aunt Faith's rule was gentle, but there
were some regulations which the cousins had been brought up to obey
implicitly; this way of beginning the Lord's day was one of them,
and unless prevented by illness they never failed to assemble promptly
in the sitting-room, carefully dressed, and with pleasant, quiet
demeanor at the sound of the second bell. This bright July Sunday,
Aunt Faith received them with a smile, and when they were seated, she
opened her Bible, and read in her clear voice the seventeenth chapter
of the Gospel according to St. John, the beloved disciple of our Lord.
Then Sibyl went to the cabinet organ, and all the young voices joined
in singing a morning hymn, simple and cheerful like the praise of
creation at the dawn of day, when from the forest ascends the song of
thousands of God's creatures, praising their Maker in the only way
they know. The hymn ended, Aunt Faith knelt down, and they all joined
in the Lord's prayer. Then came the petition for the day, for a better
realization of God's goodness, and a reverent spirit in the worship of
this temple; for forgiveness of sins and aid in forgiving the faults
of others; and above all, for a spirit of hearty thankfulness and
praise to the Maker of the universe, and loving remembrance of His Son
the Saviour of mankind. With a final petition for the aid of the Holy
Spirit, Aunt Faith closed her prayer, and the morning worship was
concluded by the ancient ascription of praise to Jehovah. The
conversation at the breakfast-table was bright and happy; there was no
gloomy or sullen look, no fault-finding. When the children were
little, their tempers often showed themselves on Sunday as well as on
other mornings, but patience overcomes many obstacles, and Aunt
Faith's unvarying effort had been so far crowned with success, that as
they grew older, they grew to remember and even love the brightness of
the Sunday morning breakfast-table. Habit is a powerful agent, and
perhaps also the fact that Aunt Faith did not severely rebuke every
manifestation of ill temper on week days, but allowed them to come
naturally to the surface, helped to produce the placid atmosphere of
Sunday morning. Her children were not afraid of her; they never
hurried out of her presence to vent their bad feelings; she saw the
worst of it, whatever it was, and at some quiet hour she sought the
offender alone, and reasoned or rebuked as the case required. The
cousins loved her dearly, and as her rule was easy, it was generally
obeyed; love is a great aid to authority where children are concerned.
Aunt Faith, on her part, also, never transgressed her own rules; no
matter what her cares, feelings, or bodily ailments might be, she
never allowed them to darken the opening of the Lord's day. They were
thrown aside as far as possible, and, in after years when the old
stone house was tenantless and its inmates dispersed, their thoughts
often turned with affectionate regret towards the bright Sunday
morning breakfast table.
An hour later, the faint sound of the church-bells brought the family
together again in the front hall, and, as every one was dressed for
the day before breakfast, there was no hurry, no confusion. Aunt Faith
had in early life seen much of tardiness, haste, and consequent ill
temper on Sunday morning; at the last moment somebody would be late,
something lost, and everybody cross in consequence; little biting
speeches would be spoken, unnecessary comments made, and the result
was, that the family almost always arrived at the church-door in
anything but a peaceful state. Indeed, "Sunday headaches," and "Sunday
temper," were by-words in the house, and, as a child once expressed
it, "everybody's cross on Sunday."
With this example, (and it is a very common one) before her, Aunt
Faith had striven to bring about; a different order of things in the
old stone house. She had not confined herself to theory, but, for
years she had made it a rule to examine personally on Saturday all the
clothes to be worn on Sunday, to inspect the strings and buttons which
are apt to give way under impatient, childish fingers, and to see that
all was in order from the hat to the shoe-strings. She superintended
the Saturday-night bath, for she was rigid in her ideas of personal
neatness, and the five little children always tumbled into their five
little beds on Saturday night, as fresh and clean as it was possible
to make them. Not that this was the only cleansing time in the week,
for they were taught to jump into their bath-tubs daily, but on
Saturday more time was given to the work, and it was made pleasant
with nice soaps, soft towels, and all the little luxuries that
children love; for children are made as happy by gentle purification
as other little animals, and it is a mistake to suppose they dread the
water. It is the rough hand they dread; to be caught up roughly,
smeared with coarse soap, sent into a shivering fit with cold water,
rubbed the wrong way with torturing towels, rasped against the grain
with stiff hair-brushes, and left to stand on an icy oil-cloth,
naturally excites their terror. I imagine there are few grown persons
who could endure it with equanimity. But Aunt Faith had no such
method. She made the bathing-hour a happy time, and showed the little
children all the luxuries of personal neatness, so that as they grew
older, they kept up themselves all the habits she had taught them, as
matters of necessity for their own comfort.
Thus, trained in these habits, the children grew into men and women
with physical health to help them in their contest with evil. And it,
is a great help. Aunt Faith knew that all the cleanliness in the world
could not compensate for the lack of godliness, but she reasoned that
while first attention should be paid to the inside of the platter,
certainly second attention should be given to the outside that both
may be clean together. A clean heart in a clean body, she thought, was
better than a clean heart in a dirty body; health and steady nerves
help a man to be orderly and even-tempered, while nervousness,
dyspepsia and weakness are so many additional temptations besetting
him on every side.
This July Sunday, the cousins started from the old stone house with
time enough for a leisurely walk amid the music of the bells, arriving
at the church-door before the service commenced, without hurry, quiet
and composed, and ready to join in the worship without distracting
thoughts. The church was full, Aunt Faith had two pews, one for
herself with Gem and Tom, another immediately behind for Sibyl,
Bessie, and Hugh. As the organ was pealing out the opening voluntary,
a young girl came up the aisle and entered the first seat; Aunt Faith
looked up and recognizing Margaret Brown, she smiled and pressed her
hand cordially. When she visited Margaret, she asked her to accept a
seat in her pew when ever she desired to come to that church, but the
invitation had passed from her mind among the occupations of her busy
life, so that she was surprised as well as pleased when the young girl
appeared. Aunt Faith had no respect for persons; she thought of them
only as so many souls sent into the world, all equally dear to the
Creator, and precious to the Saviour of mankind. That there were great
differences in their lot on earth, that some were more easily tempted
than others, that, some had apparently small chance for improvement
and religious privileges while others found all ready to their hand,
that some suffered trouble, affliction, sickness and hard labor while
others seemed to pass through life without a cloud, she well knew, but
she did not attempt to explain it. She left it all in the hands of a
Higher Wisdom and addressed herself to the evident duty that lay
before her. Some of her friends said that she was narrow minded, that
she had no interest in the progress of humanity; it is true that she
cared more about having the children of the Irish laborer, down on the
flats, washed and comfortably dressed, than about an essay on
philanthropy, and took more pleasure in aiding Margaret Brown than in
talking about the sufferings of human nature; but perhaps she was none
the worse for that. Once when an enthusiastic lady called to ask her
aid in establishing an International Society for Reform, Aunt Faith
listened quietly, and then said, "I will join you, Mrs. B———, when
I have the leisure time at my disposal." She never found the time, but
in her answer, she was not insincere. If she had been left unemployed,
she might have joined some organization for religious work, and
esteemed it a pleasant privilege, but as it was, her daily home duties
stood first, and as long as they surrounded her, she did not lift her
The minister was an old man, who had officiated in the same church
many years of his life, and hoped to die, as he expressed it, "in the
harness." The people loved him, and respected his wishes with more
unanimity than they might have given to a younger man; there was no
discord, no restless desire for novelty among the congregation, and
the various good works connected with the church moved forward at a
steady pace, growing with the growth of the town, but not running into
any violent extremes to the right hand or the left.
Mr. Hays, the venerable minister, was a gentle, kind-hearted man; the
children in the Sunday school listened to him with attention, and
their parents loved to hear his sermons. He had the rare faculty of
interesting children, and when he addressed them, the teachers had no
difficulty in keeping their classes in order, because the children
really wished to hear what he said. In church, among older hearers,
the effect was the same; his sermons were simple, but all liked to
hear them. As he grew older, he seemed to think more and more of the
beautiful words, "God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten son;" on this text all that he said and did was founded, and
he never wearied of telling his hearers about this great love, and
urging them to give their reverent affection in return.
"If we were all like Mr. Hays, the world would be a very different
place, Aunt Faith," said Hugh, as they walked home together; "I
suppose he has had nothing but love all his life."
"You are greatly mistaken, Hugh. He has endured severe suffering, and
no doubt the want of earthly affection has taught him to appreciate
the dearer worth of heavenly love."
"I thought he had lived here in Westerton for forty years without
anything to disturb his quiet," said Hugh.
"Because his troubles came to him long ago, they were none the less
heavy to bear, Hugh. Before he came here, a half-brother to whom he
had trusted all his little fortune, disappeared, carrying the whole
with him; and not only that, but upon hearing of his loss, the young
girl to whom he was engaged, broke her promise and married another.
Thus he was left doubly bereft; not only forsaken and injured, but
also wounded by the discovery of treachery in those he trusted with
all his heart."
"I could never recover from such a blow," said impulsive Hugh; "the
thought of being deceived and betrayed by those we love and trust is
fearful to me."
"It was fearful to Mr. Hays also, Hugh; after a short time he came to
Westerton, and threw his whole strength into his work. It may have
been a hard struggle at first, but you can yourself see how he has
conquered at last; love is the groundwork of all he says and all he
does, and his sufferings instead of turning his heart into bitterness,
seem rather to have given it a new sweetness."
"Yes, that is why I like Mr. Hays. He is not censorious. He does not
denounce sin so continually that he has no time to tell of
forgiveness; he does not keep us so constantly trembling over the past
that we have not the courage to hope for better things in the future;
I like him for that."
Aunt Faith did not reply. She knew when to be silent, and she had long
hoped that the gentle, fervent words of the good old man would yet
bring her impulsive nephew into the right path. She knew that much
harm was sometimes done by too much urging, and when she saw that Mr.
Hays' words had made an impression upon Hugh, she left the impression
to sink by its own weight.
The Sunday-noon meal at the old stone house was always a simple lunch,
prepared the previous day in order to give the servants full liberty
to attend church. It was, however, abundant and attractive. In the
winter, Aunt Faith added a hot soup, prepared by her own hands, but at
this season of the year, cold dishes were the most appetizing.
Directly after lunch the family dispersed, Sibyl, Bessie, and Hugh
going to their rooms, and Aunt Faith remaining in the sitting-room
with Tom and Gem while they looked over their Sunday school lessons.
At half-past two, the children started for the church, and then Aunt
Faith rested quietly on the sofa until it was time to prepare for
afternoon service at the chapel where Mr. Leslie officiated, a mission
in whose welfare she was much interested. There was never any
regularity about attending this afternoon service; sometimes Aunt
Faith would go alone, sometimes Sibyl would accompany her, and
sometimes the three cousins would all go. This afternoon they all came
down, and Aunt Faith welcomed them pleasantly; she knew that Hugh
might have been influenced by the beauty of the weather, Bessie by
Hugh's companionship, and Sibyl by the opportunity of seeing Mr.
Leslie; but she believed that all her children were truly reverent at
heart, and she had large faith in the solemn influence of the house of
God, so she always encouraged them to go to church whenever they
would, and on this occasion she made the walk pleasant with her
The chapel stood in one of the suburbs of Westerton, where the houses
of the railroad workmen were crowded together in long rows, with the
smoke from the mills and shops hanging in a cloud over them all the
week. Busy, grimy men lived there, careless, tired women, and a throng
of children, some neglected, some apparently well-tended, but all
poor. In the midst of this bustle and smoke Mr. Leslie lived and
worked. When he first came to Westerton, this chapel was almost
deserted, but now it was filled with a congregation of its own, a
congregation drawn from the neighboring houses, the laborers and their
families whose zeal and liberty according to their means, might have
put to shame many a church record in the rich quarters of the town.
Aunt Faith and her party entered the door as the little bell rang out
its last note, and took their seats upon the benches, for there were
no pews, and the sittings were free to all. The organ was played by a
young workman, a German, with the national taste for music, and when
the hymn was given out, the congregation as with one voice took up the
strain, and in a powerful burst of melody, carried the words, as it
were, high towards heaven. The music was inspiring, as true
congregational music always is. All sang the air, but the harmony was
well supplied by the organ; all sang, men, women, and children, and if
there were any discordant voices, they were lost in the powerful
melody. Hugh liked to sing, and he liked the simple hymns which Mr.
Leslie always selected for his congregation; so he found all the
places and sang with real enjoyment, while Bessie, looking over the
same book, joined in after awhile in her low alto, as if borne along
by his example. Then came the sermon, and, as Mr. Leslie gave out his
text, Aunt Faith recognized it as one of the verses which she had read
in the morning,—St. John, the seventeenth chapter, and the fifteenth
verse, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but
that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "My friends," said Mr.
Leslie, speaking as usual without notes, "we often hear and read of
the great desire felt by Christians of this and all ages to leave this
world, this world of sickness and sorrow, of labor and poverty, and
enter immediately into another life. Young persons who have lost dear
friends wish to go and join them, for life looks dreary without love,
and the days seem very long when they are not broken by the sound of
that well-known footstep on the walk, and the words of love in that
well-known voice which they can never hear on earth again. 'I cannot
stay on earth alone,' they cry; 'I shall grow wicked in my wild grief.
Let me go to them, since they cannot come back to me.' The middle-aged
who have outlived the quick feelings of youth, sigh over the years
still before them, years neither dark nor light, neither hard nor
easy, the dull, monotonous path lengthening out before them, with
neither great joy to lighten it, or great sorrow to darken it, the
same commonplace cares and duties until the end. 'This is doing us no
good,' they think; 'life is slowly withering, zeal is gone. A flower
cannot bloom in the desert! Let me go to a better country.'
"The old, who are past all labor, sometimes grow weary of waiting. 'I
am of no use,' they say; 'I am only a burden to myself and every one
else. I have outlived my time, and it would be better for the world if
I was taken out of it. My day is over. Let me go.' Thus they all
lament, and thus they sometimes pray, forgetting that the Lord knoweth
"The feeling is natural, and is founded upon the innate aspiration of
the soul towards immortality, the consciousness and certainty that
better things are laid up in store for us in another world. This
innate consciousness of immortality is found in all men, even the most
ignorant heathen possessing a glimmering of the idea, and this fact is
an eternal contradiction to the arguments of the atheist; he cannot
destroy this soul hope, for even if he should succeed in blighting it
in the father, it would be there to confront him in the child, and so
on from generation to generation. That there are persons who have
wilfully stifled this divinely-given hope, that there are persons who
have brought themselves to contradict their very being is an idea so
awful that we shudder to think of it. A man may murder his companion
and yet repent and be forgiven; but a man who murders his soul, a man
who turns his back upon his Creator cannot repent, for he does not
believe in his sin, and he cannot ask for forgiveness because he
cannot believe in the existence of a power to forgive. My friends, the
idea of such a man is almost super-human; and some wise persons have
said that no such men have ever existed. They may think they have
stifled their consciences and souls, and even live a long life in this
belief, but sooner or later the terrible certainty of their mistake
will overwhelm them, and they will find themselves stripped of their
poor sophistries, of all sinners the most miserable.
"I hope and believe that there are no such persons in this
congregation to-day. Do you not, on the contrary, feel in your hearts,
the certainty of another and better life? I feel sure that you
do,—that there is not one of you who is not looking forward to that
happiness which God has prepared for those who love Him; a happiness
which eye has not seen, which ear has not heard, and which it has not
entered into the heart of men to conceive.
"But this precious engrafted hope must not be abused. It must not be
twisted into an excuse for neglecting our duties here on earth. We
are put into the world to live in it, and the duties which lie nearest
to us must be faithfully performed, no matter how humble or how
commonplace they may be. We must not go sighing through life, deluding
ourselves with the idea that we are too good for our lot, and that it
is praiseworthy to hold ourselves above common labor and dull routine,
and devote our time to so-called religious aspiration. If the labor
and routine are placed before us, it is our duty to accept them, and,
whatever we do, do it with our might. I tell you, my friends, our
path is clear before us, and we are sinning if we turn out of it.
Suppose we are afflicted, suppose our loved ones are taken from us; we
may weep, for Jesus wept. But we must not throw down our appointed
work, and sit with idle hands and gloomy regret, while the precious
time slips by. The mourner who stays in her darkened room, and refuses
to interest herself in anything but her sorrow, is far less a
Christian mourner than she who goes forth to take up her tasks again,
thinking of her lost ones as only 'gone before.'
"Those of us who have dull lives, with neither the sunshine nor the
thunder-cloud to vary the monotonous gray of our horizon, must still
strive to perform faithfully our uninteresting duties. We must not
murmur over our lot, or think we are fitted for better things; we are
not so fitted if the Lord keeps us there. There is, perhaps, some
fatal weakness in our character which needs just that routine; we must
learn patience and humility in the world, not out of it. Here is
our school-house. This is our appointed lesson.
"The old, also, who are full of eagerness to go,—they, too, are wrong.
To them, life with its joys and sorrows, its labor and care, is over,
and they look uneasily around them; their occupation is gone. Perhaps
they were busy workers, and it is hard to be idle; perhaps they were
self-reliant, and it is hard to become a care to others; perhaps they
have had powerful intellects, and it is hard to endure the
consciousness that their mental powers are failing, day by day. Still,
there is one duty remaining, and that they must learn. It is this: to
wait. To wait patiently for the Lord in the world in which He has
placed them. And this is, sometimes, the hardest duty of a long life.
"My friends, I cannot too heartily condemn the spirit of scorn for
this world which we sometimes meet among Christians. The world is full
of beauty. God Himself pronounced it very good. The evil, and the
sorrow in it, are owing to man. What can be more fair than this very
summer afternoon? What more beautiful than that lake, with those white
clouds heaped over the horizon? Let us enjoy it, and praise God for
His goodness; it is ungrateful not to admire and love His tender care
for us in every flower by the roadside, in every tree that shades the
heated land. I say, then, love this fair world; notice its beauties;
take pleasure in the gifts it offers to you, its fruits and its
flowers, its spring-time and harvest. Learn to admire them; thank God
for them, and teach your children to appreciate them. The same words
apply here which the beloved disciple used in reference to our love
for our fellow-men: 'For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath
seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?' That is, if we have
never tried to love on earth, if our hearts have never been softened
by unselfish affection for those of our own household, how can we
expect to love in heaven? And, in the same manner, it seems to me that
if we scorn this world, if we neglect the innocent pleasures it offers
us, and never pause to admire and love its beauties, it will be very
hard for us to love the Celestial country. We must learn to love here
on earth if we would love in heaven.
"My friends, the text is a part of our Saviour's last prayer before
he entered the garden of Gethsemane. He was praying for his disciples,
so soon to be left to temptation and danger. Notice the words: 'I pray
not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou
shouldest keep them from the evil.' He did not ask that they should be
taken away from the earth, but that strength should be given them to
fulfil their duty on the earth; they were men, the earth was their
home, and on the earth were their duties.
"And so it is with us now. We have our work to do, and the time is
none too long to accomplish it; every day brings its task and the man
who stays among his fellows, doing his part with energy, actuated by
firm religious principles, is a far better Christian than he who shuts
himself up apart, scorning the fair world, unmindful of the suffering
he might relieve, neglecting his own plain duties, and occupied only
with his own brooding thoughts and gloomy self-analysis.
"No, my friends; we are not to be taken out of the world until our
Lord so wills, we must not think of it, must not pray for it. He knows
best. And, while He leaves us on the earth, let us work with all our
might. Let us see to it that our faith is earnest, and that our
gratitude and praise are expressed in our daily lives.
"I fear we do not think sufficiently of the great part which praise
should hold in our worship; whereas if there is any lesson taught us
by the whole created universe, and by the long testimony of holy men
from the beginning of the world until now, it is this: 'Praise ye the
Lord. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.'"
Such were some of the points in Mr. Leslie's sermon. He spoke in a
direct manner, using all the powers of eloquence which nature and
cultivation had given him, but his ideas were plain and his words
simple, and the charm of the discourse lay in its earnestness. He
spoke as though his heart was in his words; and so it was. Another
great attraction was that his sermons were short; before the attention
of the congregation flagged in the least, the sermon was done. There
was no looking at watches, no stifled yawning, no uneasy change of
position, no watching the clock; strangers visiting the chapel
listened, at first, from real interest, with a feeling that by-and-by
they would relapse into their usual listlessness, but before they had
time to relapse, behold the sermon was done. This afternoon there
was the accustomed attention, and then after the closing hymn, the
congregation streamed out into the late afternoon again to enjoy the
quiet of the Sabbath, the working-man's blessed day of rest.
The party from the old stone house walked homeward by a circuitous
route, taking in the bank of the lake on their way. Here on the grassy
slope they found a religious service going on, under the direction of
the Young Men's Christian Association, and they lingered to hear the
final hymn which sounded sweetly on the evening breeze with the pathos
of open-air music. The lake looked very beautiful, the sinking sun lay
behind a screen of white clouds, and in the distance vessels could be
seen sailing gayly before the wind with all their canvas up, or
beating up against it with the patience that belongs to inland
navigation. Towards the west extended the headland of Stony Point, and
still farther the faint outline of White River beach, looking like an
enchanted island floating in the sky.
"The lake looks very beautiful this evening," said Aunt Faith; "it
makes one think of the sea of glass mingled with fire."
"It is treacherous with all its beauty," said Bessie; "these
fresh-water seas cannot be relied upon for two hours at a time. They
are more dangerous than the ocean."
"You make too much of the little ponds," said Hugh.
"They may be ponds," returned Bessie, "but they are deep enough to
drown men, and cruel enough to tear vessels to pieces. I should feel
safer on the ocean in a storm than on our lake, for there you can run
away from it, or scud before it, but here there is no place to run to,
no offing, and always a lee shore."
"Where did you learn your nautical terms?" said Hugh, laughing, as
they turned towards home.
"You may laugh, Hugh, but I am in earnest. You have not watched the
storms as I have; you do not know how suddenly they come. Even in the
summer, a speck of a cloud will grow into a thunder-storm in a few
minutes, and in the autumn the gales are fearful. I remember last year
in September, two vessels were lost in plain sight from the bank where
we were standing a moment ago. One came driving down the lake at
daylight and went ashore on the spiles of the old pier; the crew were
all lost, we saw them go down before our eyes. The next, a fine
three-master, came in about noon and anchored off the harbor, hoping
that the wind might go down before night; but, as the gale increased,
the captain made an attempt to enter the river. The vessel missed and
ran ashore below; only two of the men were rescued, for the surf was
"Well, Bessie, are there not wrecks at sea, also?"
"Yes; but one expects danger on the great ocean, whereas here on the
Lakes, a stranger would not dream of it."
"As far as that goes," said Hugh, "a fall down-stairs might kill a man
quite as effectually as a fall from Mount Blanc."
"But he would so much prefer the latter," said Bessie.
"Well,—for hair-splitting differences, give me a young lady of
sixteen," said Hugh as they rejoined the others. "Aunt Faith, you have
no idea how romantic Bessie is!"
"Oh yes, I have!" said Aunt Faith smiling. "A girl who plays the harp
as Bessie plays, and who paints such pictures as Bessie paints, must
necessarily be both romantic and poetical; and I use both adjectives
in their best sense."
Bessie colored at Aunt Faith's praise. "I only play snatches, and
paint fragments," she said quickly.
"I know it, my dear," replied her aunt; "that is your great fault, you
do not finish your work. But I hope you will correct this defect, and
give us the pleasure of—"
"Of hearing you play one tune entirely through, and seeing one picture
entirely finished: before old age deafens and blinds our senses,"
interrupted Hugh, laughing. "You don't know the studio as well as I
do, Aunt Faith; there are heads without bodies, and bodies without
heads, but no poor unfortunate is completely finished. Sometimes I
think Bessie is studying the antique. Antiques, you know, are
Bessie had now quite recovered her composure; praise disconcerted her,
but she was accustomed to raillery, and parried Hugh's attack with
her usual spirit. They reached the old stone house before sunset, and
soon assembled in the dining-room for the pleasant meal which might be
called a tea-dinner, or a dinner-tea, although not exactly
corresponding to either designation. Tom and Gem had returned from
Sunday School some time before, and since then they had been absorbed
in reading their library-books, their customary employment at that
hour. After the meal was over, the family went into the sitting-room
and seated themselves near the open windows. They rarely attended
evening service, although they were at liberty to go if they pleased;
the church was at some distance, and Aunt Faith always kept the
children with her on Sunday evening, so that generally they were all
at home, talking quietly, reading, or singing sacred music; this last
occupation giving pleasure to all, as the five cousins were naturally
fond of music, and Aunt Faith had taken care that their taste should
be rightly directed and enlarged.
"I went into the brick church a few Sundays ago," said Hugh, "but I do
not like the choir there at all. They sing nothing but variations."
"What do you mean?" asked Sibyl.
"Why, when I hear a lady playing a long uninteresting piece of music,
it always turns out to be something with variations. That choir is
just the same; everything they sing is long and unintelligible. I
wonder at the patience of the congregation in listening to it. However
they had a doxology after the sermon, sung—to the tune of 'Old
Hundred;' everybody joined in and let off their feelings in that way.
It acted as a sort of safety-valve."
"There is nothing in worship so inspiring as congregational singing,"
said Aunt Faith, "and I always wonder why it is not general in our
"It is difficult to introduce it when the people are not accustomed to
it," said Sibyl; "only a particular kind of music can be sung, broad,
plain tunes with even notes like 'Old Hundred,' or the German Chorals.
Then the organist must understand his duties thoroughly; he has to
supply the harmony and lead the congregation at the same time."
"The music in a church depends greatly upon the pastor," said Bessie.
"If his musical ideas are correct, and his taste good, his choir will
be good also."
"Not always," said Hugh, laughing; "choirs are apt to be despotic. I
remember when I was at Green Island, last summer, I used to go up to
the little fort chapel to attend service on Sunday; I knew the
chaplains quite well. One Sunday I was late; as I went in, the choir
were busy with something in the way of music. I have no idea what it
was, but it went on and on, seemingly a race between the soprano and
tenor, with occasional bursts of hurried sentences from the alto and
bass, until my patience and ears were weary. The next day I met the
chaplain, and, in the course of conversation, I spoke of the music the
previous day. 'Was it an anthem or a motet?' I asked."
"Oh, don't ask me," said the old gentleman, lifting his hands and
shaking his head; "I have not the least idea myself. They had been at
it a long time when you came in!"
"Poor chaplain!" said Bessie, laughing.
As sunset faded into twilight, Sibyl took her seat at the organ, the
cousins gathered around her, and the evening singing began. They all
had their favorites, and sang them in turn, beginning with Gem's, and
ending with Aunt Faith's, which was Wesley's beautiful hymn, "Jesus,
Saviour of my Soul." Hugh selected, "Brightest and Best of the Sons of
the Morning;" Sibyl, "Luther's Judgment Hymn;" and Bessie, "Come ye
Disconsolate," in order that Hugh should sing the solo. Aunt Faith sat
by the window and listened, looking out into the night, and thinking
of her circle of loved ones beyond the stars.
The young voices sang on from hymn to chant, from chant to anthem, and
from anthem back to simple choral. At nine o'clock Tom and Gem went to
bed, and at half-past nine, Sibyl closed the organ and said
"good-night;" Aunt Faith was left with Bessie and Hugh, who joined her
on the broad-cushioned window-seat and looked out with her into the
night. "I like the darkness of a summer night," said Hugh; "how bright
the stars are!"
"We do not know where heaven is," said Aunt Faith, "but it is a
natural thought that our loved and lost are 'beyond the stars.' We too
shall go there some day. How beautiful and happy our life will be,
there! How precious the certainty of our hope!"
"That is what Mr. Leslie said to-day," said Bessie.
"I liked that sermon," said Hugh; "what he said about the beauty of
this world, and the plain duty of taking our faithful, active share in
the work of this world, struck me as sensible and true. Perhaps I am
uncharitable, but I cannot understand the religion that sits apart and
makes life miserable with its gloomy asceticism."
"I liked what he said about love," said Bessie; "that if we do not
love here on earth, it will be very hard to love in heaven. I wonder
if people could love each other better if they tried. That is, whether
one could learn love as one learns patience, by steady trying."
"Oh, no," said Hugh; "love is not to be learned! It comes naturally."
"I think you are mistaken, Hugh," said Aunt Faith. "I think love may
be acquired. At least it may grow from a little seed to a great tree,
with proper care. If we earnestly try to see all the good traits in a
friend, we shall end by loving him at last. And if we earnestly try to
care for some helpless, dependent person, we shall end by loving that
person very dearly. Don't you remember your flying-squirrel, Hugh? You
did not care much for the little thing, when you found it on the
ground, but, as you took care of it and held it in your warm hands,
night after night, to keep it warm, you grew to love it very dearly,
and when it died I remember very well how you cried, although you were
quite a large boy."
"Poor little Frisky!" said Hugh; "when I brought in a branch and put
him on it, how he capered about; and then he was so cunning! Do you
remember, Aunt Faith, how one day I left him in your care, shut up in
his basket, while I went down town. When I came back and asked about
him, you said, 'Oh, he's safe in his basket. I think he must be asleep
he is so quiet.' And all the while you were speaking, the little scamp
was looking at me with his bright eyes out from under your arm as you
sat sewing! I was very fond of Frisky; I have never had a pet since."
"You loved him because you had tended him so carefully," said Aunt
Faith. "It is the same feeling, intensified, that influences and
inspires many of the weary fathers and mothers we see around us. Mr.
Leslie was right. It is better to patiently fulfil our earthly duties,
no matter how dull or how hard, as long as we are on the earth, than
to sit apart nourishing lofty ideas and sighing for release. That
sentence which Mr. Leslie took for his text has always been a favorite
of mine. Do you care to hear some verses I once made upon it?"
"Oh, yes, Aunt Faith!" said Hugh and Bessie eagerly.
Aunt Faith took a little blank-book from her desk and read as
"St. John; 17th Chapter, 15th Verse.
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world."
"Not out of the world, dear Father,
With duties and vows unfulfilled,
With life's earnest labors unfinished,
Ambition and passion unstilled;
Not out of the world, dear Father,
Until we have faithfully tried
To burnish the talent Thou gavest,
And gain other talents beside,
Not out of the world, kind Father,
But rather our lowly life spare,
While those Thou hast lent us from heaven
Are needing our tenderest care;
Not out of the world, kind Father,
While dear ones are trusting our arm
To work for them hourly, and save them
From poverty, terror, and harm.
Not out of the world, good Father,
Until we have suffered the loss
Of self-loving ease and indulgence
In willingly bearing the Cross;
Not out of the world, good Father,
Till bowed with humility down,
The weight of the Cross is forgotten
In the golden light of the Crown.
Not out of the world, our Father,
Until we have fought a good fight,—
Until to the last we have guarded
The lamp of Thy Faith burning bright;
Until the long course is well finished,
Until the hard race has been won,
And we hear, as we rest from our labors,
Well done, faithful servant, well done."
"Monday morning, bright and early, what shall we do to-day?" chanted
Gem, as she entered the dining-room.
"Yes; what shall we do?" repeated Tom; "something out of the common
run, of course, for it's vacation, and besides, it will be so hot
pretty soon that we can't do anything,—and Hugh's going to New York
in the fall,—and Sibyl's going to Saratoga before long, and when I
enter college, of course I shan't care about such things any more; so
I've got to hurry up."
"Bravo, Tom! you've made out a strong case!" said Hugh, laughing,
"Aunt Faith cannot resist such a mountain of arguments!"
"I do not intend to resist anything reasonable," said Aunt Faith,
smiling; "what do you wish to do, Tom?"
"Tableaux!" said Gem, excitedly.
"No; I veto that instanter," said Tom, decidedly. "Girls always want
to dress up in old feathers and things, and call themselves kings and
queens! For my part, I'm tired of being 'Captain John Smith,' and the
'Sleeping Beauty in the Wood.'"
"May I ask when you took the last-named character?" said Hugh.
"He never took it at all," said Gem, indignantly; "Annie Chase was the
Princess, and she looked perfectly beautiful with her sister's satin
dress, and pearls, and—"
"There you go!" interrupted Tom; "fuss and feathers, silks and satins!
I was the 'Prince,' wasn't I? and that's the very same thing! Besides,
I've been 'Cupid' over and over again, because I'm the only one who
can hang head downward from the clothes-line as though I was flying.
You can't deny that, Gem Morris!"
"You got up one tableau which was really astonishing," said Hugh; "I
remember it very well; an inundation, where all the company in
clothes-baskets, were paddling with rulers for their very lives. The
effect was thrilling!"
"I remember a charade, too, which was really unique," said Sibyl. "The
first part was simply little Carrie Fish standing in the middle of the
room; the second and last was audible, but not visible, consisting
merely of a volley of sneezes behind the scenes. The whole was
supposed to be 'Carry-ca-choo,'—or 'Caricature.'"
"It may all be very funny for you people who only have to look on,"
said Tom; "but I am tired of the whole thing, and I vote for a
"Oh, Tom!" said Sibyl in dismay, "if tableaux are old, picnics are
"I have not had my share in wearing them, then!" said Tom; "I never
went to but one picnic in my life, and then I fell in the river, and
had to come home before dinner."
"I have attended a great many," said Sibyl, "and the amount of work I
have done in washing dishes and drawing water, casts anything but a
pleasant reflection. Last year, when we had that mammoth picnic at
Long Point, the gentlemen ordered twelve dozen plates, cups, saucers,
goblets, spoons, and forks, to be sent out from a crockery store, in
order to save trouble; and when I reached the Point in my fresh, white
dress, there they were in crates, covered with straw, just as they
stood in the warehouse. The guests were expected in half an hour. I
was one of the managers, and, after standing a few moments in dismay,
we rolled up our sleeves and began. Two gentlemen and two ladies, in
gala attire, washing seventy-two dozen dishes in a violent hurry, with
a limited supply of water and towels, on an August afternoon with the
thermometer at eighty-eight. That is my idea of a picnic!"
The cousins laughed merrily at Sibyl's description, and Bessie said,
"I have never been to a 'full-grown picnic,' as Gem calls it. My
experience is confined to the days we used to spend out on the lake
shore four or five years ago. We no sooner got there, than all the
boys disappeared as if by magic, and we had to do all the work, make
the fire, draw the water, and cook the dinner, Then the boys would
appear on the scene with dripping hair, eat up everything on the
table-cloth, like young bears, and off down the bank again until it
was time to go home."
"As you are all giving your ideas of a picnic," said Hugh, "I will
give you mine. Ride five miles in a jolting wagon in the hot sun, walk
five more through tangled underbrush, arrive at the scene; pick up
sticks one hour, try to make the fire burn and the kettle boil another
hour; and finally sit down very uncomfortably on the ground, with
burnt fingers and limp collar, to eat buttered pickles and vinegared
bread, and drink muddy coffee; clear everything up, and ruin your
clothes with grease-spots, wristbands hopelessly gone; sit down again
under a tree, to hear the young lady you don't like read poetry,
while the one you do like goes off before your very eyes with your
rival; devoured by mosquitoes, gnats and spiders; ice melted and water
tepid; another fire to make, more bad coffee, more grease spots, and
a silver spoon lost; hunt for the spoon until dark, and then find it
was a mistake; walk back five miles through the underbrush, get into
the wagon, perfectly exhausted with heat and fatigue; force yourself
to sing until you are as hoarse as a frog, and reach home worn out,
wrinkled, haggard, parched with thirst, famished for food, and utterly
ruined as to common clothes. That is my idea of a picnic!"
Everybody laughed at this cynical picture, and Aunt Faith said, "I
remember just after the war, when a number of our Westerton
soldier-boys had returned, it was proposed to celebrate the
home-coming by a grand picnic. The project, however, came to the ears
of the returned volunteers, and I happened to be present when one of
them, Lieutenant John Romer, expressed his opinion. 'See here, Katie,'
said he to his sister, 'I understand that you young ladies are getting
up a picnic to welcome us back from the war. I wish you would gently
extinguish the plan. We have had picnic enough for all our lives; the
very sight of a camp-fire and a kettle takes away any romance we may
have possessed, and as for out-door coffee, it is fairly hateful to
"I remember old Deacon Brown used to say, that when, once in ten
years, he went to New York to visit his relatives, the first thing
they did was to get up a ride into the country for him," said Hugh
laughing. "They did not understand that what he wanted was that very
bustle and crowd that annoyed them."
"In the mean time," said Tom impatiently, "what has become of my
picnic in all this talk?"
"Oh Tom! do you really insist upon it?" said Sibyl with a sigh.
"Of course I do! and the B. B.'s must all be invited, too."
"No, indeed?" said all the family in a chorus, "that is too much."
"I would as soon go into the woods with a set of pirates," said Sibyl.
"They howl so," said Bessie.
"We could never carry enough for them to eat," said Gem.
"I could not take such a responsibility," said Aunt Faith; "something
might happen, they might get into the lake."
"They would be sure to get in; they take to the water like young
ducks," said Hugh.
Before this mass of testimony, Tom was obliged to give way. "Well," he
said, after a pause, "never mind about the B. B.'s so long as you have
"Of course we cannot go to-day," began Sibyl.
"Why not?" interposed Tom; "no time like the present. I'll agree to do
all the running round; I can run like a tiger."
Sibyl sighed, and glanced out into the sun-shine with a foreboding of
heat and freckles.
"Who shall we have?" said Bessie.
"Mr. Leslie will go, I presume," said Aunt Faith; "I know that
clergymen often make a holiday of Monday."
Sibyl's face cleared, and she made no further objection to the plan.
"As I do not like to be hurried," continued Aunt Faith, "I propose
that we do not start until after dinner; we will have a tea instead of
a dinner in the woods, and come home at twilight."
At first Tom objected to this idea, but as the others liked it, he
yielded, and the question of invitations was taken up.
"I propose we leave that to Aunt Faith," said Bessie; "if we once
begin discussing it, we shall sit here all the morning, for we never
"Where shall we go?" said Hugh.
Aunt Faith suggested Oak Grove.
"Oh no!" said Tom, "that is too near town. Let us go somewhere ever so
far away, so that we shall feel like Robinson Crusoe on a desert
Hugh, who had a secret plan for driving a four-in-hand, seconded Tom's
idea, and finally it was decided that they should go to Mossy Pond, a
beautiful glen ten miles from Westerton, in a rocky region on the lake
shore apart from the farming country. Sibyl took the list, and went
out to deliver the invitations which Aunt Faith had wisely confined to
the immediate neighbor-hood. Mr. Leslie was the only one who lived at
some distance, and immediately after the early dinner, Hugh drove over
and brought back, as he said, "vi et armis." "Here is Mr. Leslie,
Aunt Faith," he called, as he opened the dining-room door. "Walk in,
sir, if you please." Having thus safely accomplished his charge, Hugh
disappeared to arrange the means of transportation. Aunt Faith
supposed they were to go in two wagons drawn by their own bays, and
Mr. Marr's blacks. She little knew the truth!
Mr. Leslie thus unceremoniously introduced into the family circle, took
a seat at the table, and watched the proceedings with amused interest.
"Surely we do not need all that coffee, Mrs. Sheldon," he said, as
Aunt Faith filled a tin box with the fragrant mixture,—ground coffee
and egg all prepared for the boiling water.
"My only fear is that it will not be enough," replied Aunt Faith, with
"And those biscuits! Do you keep stores for an army on hand night and
"Oh, no; I sent to a bakery for these. But, with all my efforts, I
have not been able to get enough cold meat."
"You say that in the face of this mountain of cold tongue? Do we,
then, turn into gormandizers by going a few miles into the country?"
"I fear we do, Mr. Leslie," said Bessie, as she packed the loaves of
fresh cake in a long basket. "I, for one, am always ravenous; I do not
remember that I ever had as much as I wanted at a picnic."
At this moment Sibyl entered the dining-room, and the color rose in
her face as she saw the young clergyman at the table. He rose and
offered his hand, as he said, "Good-morning, Miss Warrington, we are,
I trust to be companions for the day; I shall take good care of you in
John Leslie's way of speaking was often a puzzle to Aunt Faith; he
seemed so frank, and yet if he had planned each sentence, he could not
have contrived words so well adapted to carry their point. He always
seemed confident that Sibyl agreed with him, and that their views
coincided on all points. He took the lead, and never seemed to have a
doubt but that she would follow, and, when he was present, Sibyl
generally did follow; it was only when he was absent that the wide
difference in the motives which actuated their lives became clearly
visible, and Aunt Faith saw worldliness on one side, and unworldliness
on the other, with an apparently impassible gulf between. When Mr.
Leslie spoke, therefore, Sibyl smiled, and took a seat by his side
while she occupied herself in wrapping up the cups and saucers ready
for the hamper which Nanny and Bridget were packing on the back
At two o'clock everything was ready, and the family assembled on the
front piazza to wait for the expected guests. "Are they all coming,
Sibyl?" asked Aunt Faith.
"Most of them, aunt. We shall have Edith Chase and Annie, Lida Powers,
Walter Hart, Rose Saxon and Graham Marr, Mr. Gay, Gideon Fish, William
Mount, and one of the B. B.'s,—Jim Morse."
"Oh, General Putnam!" said Bessie: "so much the better. He will give a
military air to the scene."
"Seventeen in all," said Aunt Faith; "the two wagons will be well
Bessie turned away her head, but not before Mr. Leslie had seen the
smile on her face. "Miss Bessie is laughing at the idea of a possible
break down," he said: "but for my part I am quite well able to walk
home, and even help draw the wagon if necessary."
"Aunt Faith, how could you put Gideon Fish on the list?" said Bessie,
as Sibyl and Mr. Leslie strolled off into the garden.
"Because I think you are somewhat unjust to him, Bessie; he has
"Well, aunt, if you like him, will you be so kind as to entertain him
when he comes?" said Bessie impatiently.
"Hey," said Tom, looking up, "Bess is getting mad! What fun!"
"There's Rose Saxon!" said Bessie; "how do you do, Rose? You are the
first and shall have the heartiest welcome."
"What has gone wrong, Bessie? There is a wrinkle between your eyes
that betokens something vexatious, I know," said Rose, taking a seat
on the step.
"It is Gideon Fish," answered Bessie, in a low tone as Aunt Faith went
into the sitting-room for a shawl.
"Is he coming?" exclaimed Rose.
"Yes; he was invited, and of course he will not decline when cake and
coffee are in question."
"And when Miss Darrell is in question," said Rose, laughing.
"Do not tease, Rose. I am vexed in earnest this time."
"What do you say to having a little fun out of him, Bessie?"
"By all means, if you can extract it from such material."
"Well, then, I have thought of something. Come down in the arbor and I
will tell you about it." The two girls walked away, and Aunt Faith was
left alone to welcome the guests as they gradually assembled on the
piazza. Mr. Gay, the Boston bachelor, was the last to arrive.
"Now we are all here," said Aunt Faith; "I will tell Hugh to have the
wagons brought round."
"I will go, Aunt," said Bessie, and running through the house she went
down to the stable-yard where Hugh sat expectant in his car of
triumph. Slowly the equipage came round the house and drew up in front
of the piazza, it was a circus band-wagon, gayly painted, and drawn by
four horses, two bays and two blacks, while Hugh as charioteer sat on
the high front-seat and held the reins with a practised hand.
"Hugh Warrington!" exclaimed Aunt Faith, "Four horses! I shall never
dare to ride after them!"
"Do you suppose we are going to make spectacles of ourselves in that
wagon, Hugh?" asked Sibyl scornfully.
"Yes, I suppose you are," replied Hugh, laughing. "Aunt Faith, I have
driven a four-in-hand over and over again, so you need not feel
alarmed. And, as to the circus-wagon, I consider it the crowning
attraction of the picnic."
"Certainly," said Mr. Gay calmly. "The West is a country of new
sensations. I vote for the circus-wagon, by all means."
The majority of the guests agreed with Hugh, and climbed into the
decorated chariot with great hilarity. Even the fastidious Miss Chase
was pleased to be amused with the idea, and quietly secured the seat
nearest the driver, which gentle manoeuvre having been observed by
Bessie, that wilful young lady took the very last seat at the extreme
end of the wagon, and devoted her entire attention to Mr. Walter Hart.
The provisions had been sent out in a cart some time previously, and
the merry party laughed and talked all the way to Mossy Pond, amused
with the sensation they created on the road, amused with themselves,
amused with everything; the four-in-hand carried them safely in spite
of Aunt Faith's fears, although one of the leaders showed some signs
of restlessness, wishing, Hugh said, to have his share of the fun.
Mossy Pond was a small, deep pool, skirted with moss and shaded with
evergreens; the brook which issued from it ran down the glen, jumping
over the rocks in a series of waterfalls, reaching the lake a quarter
of a mile distant where it disappeared under a sand-bar, after the
manner of the streams that ran into the western lakes. On the shore
the headland was bold, rugged and treeless, commanding a fine view of
the water, but back in the glen the shade was dense, and there was a
faint spicy odor in the air, coming from the cedars, a rare tree on
the fresh-water seas. Altogether it was a wild, secluded spot, and but
few of the company had ever visited it, so that the charm of novelty
was added to the other attractions, and parties of explorers scaled
the rock, penetrated up the glen or down towards the lake shore,
coming back with wild-flowers, vines, cones, and mosses,—treasures of
the forest by whose aid they transformed themselves into nymphs and
woodmen, not even Aunt Faith escaping without a spray of grasses in
There were however some disadvantages in the wildness of the locality;
as there was no shed for the horses. Hugh and Jonas the man-servant
were obliged to unharness them and fasten them as well as they could
to the trees, not without misgivings as to the result; but the blacks
and bays stood quietly eating their dinner, and, at length, leaving
them to the care of Jonas, Hugh went back to the glen to assist in
making the fire.
"Mr. Warrington, you are not to do anything," said Rose Saxon as he
approached; "it is understood that you regard picnics as devices for
extracting severe labor from unwilling young men, and we have resolved
to convince you of your error. This, sir, is a strong-minded picnic;
we are standing upon our rights, and request you to take a back seat
upon that log with the other despots, and see us throw off our
On the log, in a row, sat all the gentlemen of the party,—Mr. Gay,
Mr. Leslie, Graham Marr, Walter Hart, William Mount, Tom, and "General
Putman," Hugh gravely joined the band. "When are you going to throw
off the chains, Miss Saxon?" he asked.
"We are throwing them off now. Don't you hear them clank?"
"Not a clank!" said Hugh.
"That is because you do not choose to hear; you will find, sir, that
we are no longer down-trodden," said Rose, brandishing a
carving-knife which she had just unpacked.
"If there is anything down-trodden here except the grass, I shall like
to know it," said Hugh. "For my part I feel quite sorry for the tender
little blades under the ruthless tread of fourteen French heels."
Here there was a general laugh, and all the pretty little boots
peeping in and out, disappeared as if by magic, all save the sturdy
Balmorals of Gem and her friend Annie Chase, darting hither and
thither in search of sticks.
The ladies were very busy. They were going to make a fire, and such a
fire! They were going to make coffee, and such coffee. The supper was
to be altogether unparalleled in picnic annals, and it was to be
prepared by feminine hands alone.
"See how glorious it burns!" exclaimed Rose, as the first flame shot
up from the pile of sticks.
"See how gloriously it smokes!" said Hugh, as the fickle blaze
vanished, and Rose inhaled a puff of the stinging smoke.
"I can make it burn!" said Bessie, coming to the rescue with
fresh newspapers. A match,—another blaze,—another cry of
exultation,—another failure, and a red burn on Bessie's hand
to mark it.
"Let me try," said Edith Chase, kneeling gracefully beside the
obstinate pile. More newspapers, more flames, more smoke, ending in
another failure, and a grimy mark on Miss Chase's delicate dress.
"Oh ye strong-minded!" said Hugh, jumping up, and lifting the pile of
sticks; "don't you know that you cannot start a fire in the sunshine?
Down under this stump, now, it will burn like a furnace." So saying,
Hugh rearranged the fuel, while Rose coughed, Edith furtively rubbed
her dress, and Bessie bound up her burned hand in her handkerchief. At
this moment Sibyl came into view, carrying a pail of water. Mr. Leslie
got up and took the pail out of her hand in spite of her objections.
"It is too heavy for you," he said decidedly; "don't attempt anything
of the kind again, I beg."
"The kettle must be hung up," said Lida Powers, coming forward with a
tea-kettle in her hand. Will Mount and Walter Hart understood this
duty, while Gideon Fish and Mr. Gay laid the cloth, the former eyeing
the cake with pleasant anticipation.
"It seems to me, young ladies, that the gentlemen are doing the work
after all," said Aunt Faith.
"Of course, aunt," said Hugh, blowing his fire with a scarlet face:
"did I not predict we should have to work like slaves."
"The meat! The meat! Turk has got the meat!" cried Gem from a
neighboring rock, where she and Annie where making wreaths of wild
flowers. There was a general exclamation of dismay as the curly back
of the old depredator was seen through the trees making off with the
booty. "How did Turk get here?" asked Aunt Faith; "Tom, I suspect you
are the culprit!"
"Well, aunt, I just thought I'd let him come out with Jones and the
cart; they might be of use, you know, in case of tramps or gipsies."
"They! You do not mean to say all the dogs are here?"
But doubt was soon dispelled by the appearance of Pete Trone in
person, attracted by the provisions spread out upon the ground. Too
well-bred to snatch,—for, as Tom said, "Pete was a truly gentlemanly
dog,"—Pete sat upon his hind legs with fore paws drooping on his
breast, eying the company gravely as if to call attention to his
polite demeanor. "He certainly is a funny little fellow," said Rose
Saxon, as Hugh gave the terrier a fragment of cake.
"He is the wisest dog I ever saw," said Hugh.
"There is no end to his knowledge. I was fishing one day last summer
down over the dam at Broad River, and caught a large cat-fish. My line
was too slender to haul him up, and I was considering what to do when,
much to my astonishment, Pete jumped over, ran out on the stones, and
caught the struggling fish in his mouth. That was the first time I
ever heard of a dog going fishing."
"The rascal seems to reason, too. Once I belonged to the choir, you
remember, and of course I could not allow Pete to go to rehearsals,
although he was in the habit of following me almost everywhere else.
So, after many futile attempts to send him back, and consequent
annoyance at the church, one Saturday before starting, I shut him up
in the carriage-house and fastened the door. I looked back several
times but saw nothing of Pete, and was congratulating myself upon the
success of my plan, when, just before I reached the church, at the
corner of Huron and South Streets, there he was waiting for me. He had
escaped, gone down town another way, and did not show himself until I
was so far from home that he knew I would not take him back. Then,
what did he do, as soon as he saw me coming, but up on his hind legs
with the most deprecating air, sitting there, a ridiculous little
black image on the pavement, so that everybody laughed to see him."
The meal was a merry one although the meat was gone and the cream
sour; there was an abundance of cake, the coffee was strong, and the
good spirits of the company supplied the rest.
"There is no more sugar for your coffee, Mr. Warrington," said Edith
Chase, as she poured out Hugh's second cup.
"Smile on it, please," said Hugh, gayly.
"Now, Miss Chase, if you neglect my cup any longer," said Walter Hart,
"I shall grow desperate; I shall be obliged to give you—"
"Fitz," interrupted Hugh.
"Bad puns are excluded from this picnic," said Rose Saxon; "and, by
the way, Mr. Warrington, why do you drop the first syllable of your
"Because it is never pronounced rightly," said Hugh; "it is either
called 'Fitz-He-yew,' or 'Fitchew.'"
"Pronunciation is a matter of taste," said Mr. Leslie, laughing. "A
lady once asked me if I did not think Walter Scott's Rock-a-by was a
'sweet thing.' At first I supposed she was alluding to some
cradle-song with which I was not familiar, and it was sometime before
I discovered that she meant Rokeby."
"I have often been puzzled myself with the names of books," said Aunt
Faith. "Years ago there was a book published called Ivar or the
Skujts-boy? I liked it but I never dared to venture on the name."
"And since then," said Mr. Gay, "the names of the heroes and heroines
in magazine-stories are really astonishing. The favorite letter, now
is 'Y.' They have 'y's' in the most unexpected places. Such names as
'Vivian' and 'Willis,' for instance. They spell them 'Vyvyan' and
The meal over, the company dispersed through the woods. Graham Marr
took a book from his pocket. "Miss Warrington," he said, in his slow
way, "I have brought out a new poem; if you care to hear it, there is
a mossy rock which will make an admirable sofa."
Sibyl smiled and accepted this proposal, seating herself on a heap of
shawls, and looking at languid Graham as he read, with much apparent
Mr. Leslie was sitting by Aunt Faith's side under the trees at some
distance. "Mrs. Sheldon, I have a plan for yourself and Miss
Warrington," he said, after a pause. "You have been kind enough to
take an interest in Margaret Brown, and I know you will like to help
her through the summer. The warm weather is telling on her strength;
she has not been able to sew as steadily as usual, and she needs an
entire rest. Do you think you could, between you, advance her a small
sum of money? She will repay you with her work in the fall."
"I shall be glad to help her," said Aunt Faith; "I consider it a
precious opportunity to help a truly deserving woman."
"And Miss Warrington will aid her also," said Mr. Leslie. Aunt Faith
looked towards the rock and caught the smile with which Sibyl received
some remark of the reader's.
"I cannot answer for Sibyl," she said gravely; "she is going soon to
Saratoga, and she is much occupied with her preparations."
"To Saratoga?" repeated Mr. Leslie; "I was not aware of that. Will she
be long away?"
"It is uncertain how long; she may return home for a short visit
before she goes to Washington for the winter," replied Aunt Faith. "I
shall miss her, but I must make up my mind to losing her before long.
Sibyl is very fond of fashionable life and gayety." Aunt Faith spoke
with a purpose; she wished to open the young clergyman's eyes to her
Mr. Leslie did not reply immediately; after a while he rose and stood
leaning against a tree. "Mrs. Sheldon," he said, looking down at her
with a smile, "you will not lose Sibyl."
"What do you mean, Mr. Leslie?"
"Only this; she will not go to Saratoga," replied the clergyman,
walking away towards the ravine.
"Well!" thought Aunt Faith, as she recovered from her astonishment,
"if I did not know Sibyl so well, I should be inclined to think Mr.
Leslie was right. If any one can break through her worldliness, he
can; but I fear it is too strong even for him."
In the meanwhile the rest of the party were loitering in the glen by
the brook. Gideon Fish after gorging himself with jelly-cake, was
inclined to be sportive.
"Oh!" he cried, throwing himself back upon the moss, "I feel like a
child let loose from school! Let us indulge our lighter natures; let
us for once give up deep thought! Mr. Leslie, it will do you good
also. I remember once when some of my college-mates happened to meet
at our house last summer, we were sitting on the piazza talking
together, and all unwittingly we got so deep down among the ponderous
mysteries of psychology; so wrought with the mighty thoughts evolved
from our own brains; so uplifted in grappling with gigantic
reasonings, that, fearful for our very sanity, we rushed out upon the
lawn like children; we rolled upon the grass; we found a ball and
tossed to each other; anything,—anything to keep ourselves down to
"But, Gideon," said Mr. Leslie, smiling, "my reason is in no danger of
any such overthrow. I never climbed to such heights as you describe."
"Probably not; very few, if any, mortal minds have ever ascended as
high as ours did that afternoon," replied Gideon. "Miss Darrell, I see
a delicate little tendril on the other side of the brook. Shall we go
over and pluck it?"
"No," said Bessie, shortly; "I don't care for tendrils."
"I will go with you, Mr. Fish," said Rose Saxon rising, and of course
Gideon was obliged to accompany her, although she was not the
companion he preferred. As Rose turned away, she looked meaningly at
Bessie, who started, and then smiled to herself. After five or ten
minutes when the tendril-hunters had disappeared on the other side of
the glen, Bessie suddenly proposed that they should all cross over,
and, after some persuasion, she succeeded in getting the whole party
across the brook. Then she lured them on slowly, turning here and
there, until she caught the sound of voices. "Hush!" she said, "what
is that?" They all stopped, and distinctly heard Rose Saxon's voice,
somewhat louder than usual, coming from behind some high bushes. "No,
Mr. Fish!" she said, emphatically, "it can never be. I must request
you to say no more; this subject must be set at rest forever." Then
they heard Gideon; "Excuse me Miss Saxon, but—" "Not another word,
Mr. Fish!" interrupted Rose, cutting short his sentence. "I would not
wound you needlessly, but we are not suited to each other. I have long
known your secret,—I have tried to ward off this avowal,—I beg you
to say no more."
"Miss Saxon, I assure you—" began Gideon, in an agitated voice, but
Rose stopped him again; "Mr. Fish, if you will persist in speaking,
I must leave you," she said, pushing aside the bushes and disclosing
the party on the other side to her companion's gaze. "What,
Bessie!—all of you here? How very embarrassing!" Gideon Fish gave one
look at the company and then turned and retreated down the glen; when
he was out of hearing, the two girls ran away into the wood to indulge
in a hearty laugh. They made no confessions to the others, but every
one suspected the truth, and when poor Gideon returned to take them
aside, one by one, and assure them that he had "no idea what Miss
Saxon meant," that he "admired her exceedingly, but as for anything
serious the thought had never occurred to him," that he was "speaking
to her of the tendrils, when suddenly, without any connection, she
began talking in the most singular way," his auditors would laugh
merrily and turn away, leaving Gideon more miserable than ever.
"My good fellow," said Hugh gravely, when his turn came, "let me give
you a piece of advice. Don't try to back out of it now. We all heard
you; and we all feel for you. Miss Saxon is a charming young lady, but
if she does not like you, you must bear it like a man."
"But I never intended,—I never thought of such a thing,—it is all a
mistake!" stammered the unfortunate Gideon.
"Of course it was a mistake," replied Hugh. "You thought she liked you
and she didn't. If I was you I wouldn't say any more about it."
So poor Gideon got but cold comfort in his trouble. He wandered about
looking half-angry, half-perplexed; he almost began to think he had
said something to Rose, after all!
"The mighty thoughts evolved from his brain are in some confusion, I
fear," whispered Bessie to Rose; "he will have no trouble in keeping
himself down to earth this afternoon, I think."
After some hours, the party assembled in the glen to join in a round
game. "It is very dark," said Aunt Faith, looking up through the thick
foliage; "I fear we are going to have a storm."
"Let us run down to the lakeshore and look," said Bessie, and several
of the young people started down the glen, followed by the rest of the
party at a slower pace; all but Sibyl who still remained on the rock
with Graham Marr.
When they reached the beach, a threatening expanse of sky and water
met their gaze; the lake was unusually still, but its blue changed
into a leaden gray, and out in the west a white streak followed by a
black line told of the approaching squall. In the south, and east, the
sky was clear and summer-like, but from the north-west great clouds
came rolling up, looking black and menacing, and the air was
"A thunder-storm!" said Hugh, "and close upon us too!"
"Oh, I am so terribly afraid of thunder!" said Edith Chase, turning
pale. "What shall we do?"
"Why did we not notice the storm before?" said Aunt Faith, in dismay;
"it must have been some time coming up."
"No, Aunt," said Bessie; "probably not more than ten minutes. That is
what I mean when I call the western lakes treacherous; the changes are
"You are right, Miss Darrell," said Mr. Gay, looking over the dark
water with an uneasy expression in his face; "I don't think much of
these fresh water mill-ponds. On the ocean, now, we know what to
"Isn't there some house near by, Hugh?" asked Aunt Faith.
"No, Aunt. I selected this place because it was so solitary, you
remember; there is no house within two miles."
"Could we not get there, by driving rapidly, before the storm reaches
us?" said Mr. Gay, mindful of his rheumatism.
"I am afraid not, sir," replied Hugh: "it would take some time to
harness the horses, and besides, the house is not on the road, but
across the fields towards the south."
"What shall we do?" said Edith Chase, as the sullen water began to
break with a low sound on the beach at her feet.
"The lake is beginning to growl already," said Hugh. "Come, Aunt
Faith, let us go back to the woods; we will make the best shelter we
can for you, all. A summer thunder-storm is not such a terrible
disaster after all."
"We can't trim up the wagon with all the beautiful wreaths we made,"
lamented Gem. "It's too bad!"
"The shower will prevent the show," said Hugh, laughing.
"Why is Hugh like Tennyson's Brook," said Rose Saxon, as the party
made their way back to the glen.
"Because he is idyl," said Bessie.
"Good, but not correct. Because he,—
'Chatters, chatters, as he goes,
Till all our nerves do quiver,—
For we may talk, or we may stop,
But Hugh puns on forever,
Hugh puns on forever.'"
sang Rose, taking up the well-known air as she sprang over the rocks
in advance of the rest.
"We shall have to make an impromptu wigwam under the shelter of those
rocks and beech-trees," said Mr. Leslie, collecting the shawls and
water-proof cloaks; "the foliage of the beech is very thick, and the
rock will protect you from the west, in which direction the storm is
coming. Mr. Marr, please throw down those shawls."
"What is the matter, Mr. Leslie?" said Sibyl, descending from her
"A thunder-storm!" said Hugh, "and close upon us, too!"
"Surely, then, you are not thinking of remaining here under the
trees," said Graham Marr, hastily putting on his water-proof coat.
"The ladies will be in more danger from the drenching rain, than from
the lightning," replied Mr. Leslie, breaking down branches for his
wigwam. "Here, Jonas! Jonas! have you a hatchet there?"
But Jonas did not answer, and Hugh, upon going up to the platform,
discovered that he had started homeward with his cart, having first
harnessed the four-in-hand. The horses were standing tied to the
trees, but they looked uneasy, and one of the leaders pawed the ground
restlessly. "I shall have to stay here with them," thought Hugh, "or
they may break away when the storm strikes them." He ran back and
called over the edge of the cliff. "Jonas has gone home, Mr. Leslie,
and I shall be obliged to stay with the horses; but here is the
"Very well!" said the clergyman, catching the hatchet with the
dexterity of an Indian as Hugh threw it down; "go back to the horses,
Mr. Warrington. We can attend to the ladies."
Under his direction an impromptu wigwam was speedily built of long
boughs, with the high rock as a background; this was thatched with
bushes, and the shawls and cloaks spread over the whole as the first
muttering of thunder was heard. "Oh!" said Edith Chase, "what shall I
do? I cannot stand the lightning!"
"Come inside with me!" said Aunt Faith; "you can hide your head in my
The ladies hurried inside the wigwam, Aunt Faith, Sibyl, Rose Saxon,
Edith Chase, Lida Powers, Bessie, Annie Chase and Gem.
"I see there is room for the gentlemen, too," said Gideon Fish,
"I really think we had better all be together," said Graham Marr,
following his example.
"Tom!" called Aunt Faith, pulling aside a cloak that formed part of
the wall, "come inside directly."
"Oh, Aunt Faith! we've found a splendid cave up here; it holds Jim and
me first-rate," answered a voice from above.
"They've squeezed themselves into a little cranny in the rock, Mrs.
Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie, looking up and laughing to see the
'splendid cave;' "I think they will keep dry by force of compression."
"Aren't you coming inside, Mr. Mount?" said Lida Powers.
"No. I shall go and help Hugh with the horses; you had better come
too, Walter. We may have some trouble with them."
"Mr. Leslie, you will join us, I hope?" said Rose Saxon, peeping out
from between the leaves.
"I think not, Miss Rose. I am hardened, you know; I have camped out in
winter storms too many times to dread a July shower. But I insist upon
Mr. Gay's going inside. The 'Boston man' will now have an opportunity;
he can 'to a wigwam with a squaw go,'" quoted Mr. Leslie, helping the
old bachelor under the overhanging branches.
In a few moments the storm was upon them; first a tornado of wind,
then intense and almost continuous lightning, followed by heavy
rolling thunder. Edith Chase trembled, and buried her face in her
"This war of the elements affects my nerves," whispered Graham to
Sibyl, by whose side he was crouching.
"Does it?" she replied coldly; "I was not aware you were so timid."
Then came the rain, falling in sheets, the drenching torrent of a
summer thunder-shower. In spite of the foliage, the wet began to
penetrate the wigwam; Sibyl, who sat on the outside of the huddled
circle, felt the drops on her shoulder through her light dress.
"Take this coat, Miss Warrington," said Mr. Leslie, stooping down and
parting the branches.
"Oh no!" replied Sibyl; "you need it more than I do."
But the coat was thrown around her, and Mr. Leslie was gone before she
At last, after half an hour, the fury of the storm was over, but the
rain still fell steadily.
"I am afraid it will not clear immediately," said Mr. Leslie, coming
to the wigwam entrance; "I have been down to the lake, and the sky
looks as though we should have a wet night."
"How dark it is!" said Aunt Faith; "What time is it?"
"Half-past seven," said Mr. Leslie, looking at his watch.
"Oh, how shall we ever get home?" sighed Edith Chase.
"We had better start immediately, I think," said Mr. Gay; "it will be
very unpleasant to ride in the darkness as well as in the rain."
"And the horses!" said Lida Powers; "I hope they will be quiet. That
black was inclined to dance a little when we came out."
"Now, ladies!" said Mr. Leslie, coming towards the wigwam again, "I
have been up on the plateau; the horses are ready, and the sooner we
start the better, as more black clouds are gathering in the west. Mrs.
Sheldon, let me help you up the bank."
"Oh, Mr. Leslie, how wet you are!" exclaimed Aunt Faith, as she
emerged from the wigwam. "Where is your coat?"
"Miss Warrington has it," he replied; "I made her take it."
"Here it is, Mr. Leslie," said Sibyl, stepping from under cover.
"Keep it, Sibyl," said the clergyman in a low tone. "It gives me
pleasure to see you protected."
"It is still raining steadily, I perceive," said Graham Marr, peeping
out from the sheltering branches; "don't you think we had better
remain here awhile longer, ladies?"
"The rain won't wash us away, Graham," said his cousin Rose.
"It washes out dyes, however? and shows us all in our true colors,"
whispered Bessie to Lida Powers. "Look at Graham! He looks like a
"He always was a fair-weather piece of goods," answered Lida; "high
color, you know, don't stand soaking."
Reaching the wagon, the company climbed inside, the cushions had been
kept dry, but the floor was wet, and the rain still fell with the
persistence that betokens what farmers call a "steady soaker." Edith
Chase sat with Aunt Faith at the rear end of the wagon, but Bessie in
Edith's old place, felt her spirits rising with every plunge of the
"Do you think you can manage them, Hugh?" she whispered, just before
"I hope so," he replied confidently. But the blacks had had their
nerves tried by the flies, the thunder, and the lightning; besides,
they had never been driven four-in-hand before, and they had their
doubts as to what the bays were doing behind them. For the first mile
or two they kept the road, and then they whirled suddenly round to the
left, and stood still.
"Oh!" cried Edith Chase, "we shall all be killed!"
However, after some persuasion, the blacks started on again as
suddenly as they had stopped, for wonderful are the ways of balky
horses. But the increasing darkness brought new terror; black clouds
settled down over the earth and the narrow, winding road grew
invisible before them. After several more miles a flash of lightning
and a peal of thunder startled the party, the leaders veered round
again, jumping violently, and carrying the wagon perilously near the
gully. William Mount and Walter Hart sprang to the horses' heads,
while the ladies screamed in concert. Aunt Faith was an arrant coward
where riding was concerned. "I would rather get out and walk all the
way home than sit in this wagon a moment longer," she said, earnestly.
"Take me with you, aunt," said Gem, who was crying aloud.
"I will go, too," said Edith Chase, climbing down with alacrity; "it
cannot be very far, now."
"We are still four miles from Westerton," said Hugh. "There is no
danger, Aunt Faith; do get in again. The horses are only a little
balky; they will be quiet soon."
"Do you call that quiet?" said Rose Saxon, as a flash of lightning
revealed the plunging leaders with William Mount and Walter Hart at
"By all means, let us walk," said Graham Marr, getting out quickly.
"Of course if the ladies insist upon walking, it is our duty to
accompany them," said Gideon Fish, following his example.
"Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Gay, "if you will walk, pray take my arm."
"Miss Darrell, I shall be happy to help you down," said Gideon Fish.
"Thank you, but I shall stay where I am; I am not at all afraid,"
After a few moments, the horses started again; and the walking party
plodded along behind; Hugh drove very slowly so as to keep near them,
and, in the darkness, Bessie climbed up on the driver's seat beside
him. "Bravo, little woman! I knew you would not be afraid," said
"Afraid, Hugh! With you!" exclaimed Bessie.
At the other end of the wagon sat Sibyl and Mr. Leslie, who also
preferred the wagon to the road. The rain still fell, and the wind had
grown cold, but although Sibyl still wore the coat, her companion did
not seem to notice his uncovered shoulders. They talked earnestly
together in low tones all the way, and when at last the lights of
Westerton appeared in the darkness ahead, and the pedestrians,
emboldened by these signs of civilization, took their seats in the
wagon again, Sibyl's face was so bright that Aunt Faith noticed it.
"You do not look at all cold, my dear," she said, as the light from
the first street lamps fell across the wagon, "and yet the air is very
"I fear I shall have an attack of dumb-ague," said Graham Marr,
Edith Chase sat on the edge of the seat, ready to spring, watching the
leaders with intent gaze; as they approached the old stone house she
heaved a deep sigh of relief. "I am so glad it is over," she said,
"I hope you will all come in and have a cup of hot coffee after the
exposure," said Aunt Faith, as, one by one, the tired guests climbed
down from the circus-wagon.
"We are all so wet, I think we had better go directly home," said
"Thank you, Mrs. Sheldon," said Edith Chase, "but we really must go
directly home; come, Annie."
"Excuse me, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Gay, "but my seventy years require
hot flannels. Good-night."
Mr. Leslie had accompanied Sibyl up the long walk to the piazza in
order to take back his coat when she was under shelter. All the other
guests made their excuses at the gate, all but Gideon Fish, and when
Bessie saw him lingering, she pretended to be very obtuse. "Well, as
you won't any of you come in, I will say 'good-night' to all of you,"
she said, closing the gate and turning away. "I couldn't help it, Aunt
Faith," she whispered, as they went up the walk; "Gideon wanted some
of your coffee, but we have had enough of him for one day, I think."
Mr. Leslie, however, put on his coat and took his coffee with the
cousins as though unconscious of his wet clothes; Hugh made up a
bright wood fire on the hearth, and they all talked over the incidents
of the day, and laughed over its disasters together. It is always
amusing to look back on discomfort when it is well over.
"Where now is your beautiful 'Monday morning, bright and early,' Tom?"
said Aunt Faith, remembering the conversation at the breakfast-table.
"Sic transit gloria Monday!" said Hugh.
"Incorrigible," said Mr. Leslie, laughing as he said good-night.
RIGHT AT LAST.
"Sibyl," said Aunt Faith, the day after the picnic, "have you
completed all your preparations for Saratoga?"
"You speak as though my going was a matter-of-course, Aunt," said
"Is it not, dear? I supposed your decision was made several weeks
ago," said Aunt Faith, thinking of the written paper which Sibyl had
given her to read.
"I think I shall go," said Sibyl, after a pause. "Everything is ready
but the pearls; I can buy them any time."
"I hope you will enjoy the summer, my dear," said Aunt Faith, taking
her niece's hand affectionately.
"Then you approve of my going, Aunt?"
"You must make your own decision, Sibyl. No one can aid you in such a
question as this," replied Aunt Faith gravely.
Sibyl sat awhile in silence; then she rose and left the room.
An hour or two afterwards, Bridget came upstairs to tell Aunt Faith
that Mr. Leslie wished to see her; she went down, somewhat surprised
at so early a call, and found the young clergyman waiting for her in
"Mrs. Sheldon," he said, after the first words of greeting, "poor
Margaret Brown is in great trouble. You remember our conversation
about her yesterday? Calling in to tell her of it this morning, I
found two of the children stricken down with fever, seriously ill, the
doctor says; and I have come directly to you for aid; to you and Miss
"Sibyl has gone out, Mr. Leslie, but I shall be glad to do anything I
can. Shall I go there at once, or send a nurse?"
"I hardly know yet; I came to talk the matter over with you. I do not
like to ask you to go there, for the fever may be dangerous, and yet
Margaret needs sympathy as much as money. Perhaps if they could all be
moved into a purer air,—into the country, for instance,—away from
that crowded neighborhood, it would be the wisest course."
"But can the sick children bear a journey now?"
"I think they could go a few miles in an easy carriage, but, as they
are growing worse every hour, it must be done at once if done at all.
Do you know of any farm-house where they could be received for a
"Mr. Green might take them," said Aunt Faith; "he would probably
expect ample payment, however. Mr. Leslie, I am sorry I cannot give
you carte blanche; but owing to outside circumstances, I have but a
small sum at my disposal at present."
"We will put our means together, Mrs. Sheldon. I have something laid
by, and perhaps Miss Warrington will assist us."
"Sibyl has other uses for her money, I fear."
"Surely none more worthy than this, Mrs. Sheldon."
Aunt Faith grew somewhat impatient. "Mr. Leslie," she said
emphatically, "you do not understand my niece."
"I think I understand Miss Warrington's character, and I think she
will help Margaret Brown," replied the young clergyman gravely.
At this moment a step on the gravel-walk was heard, and Sibyl herself
crossed the piazza and entered the hall.
"Have you been down town, Sibyl?" asked Aunt Faith.
"Yes, aunt," replied Sibyl, coloring slightly, as she returned Mr.
"Have you made any purchases?" continued Aunt Faith, glancing at an
oblong box in her niece's hand.
Sibyl hesitated; then, as if impelled by a sudden impulse, she took
off the wrapping-paper and opened the case. "I have bought my pearls
at last, Aunt Faith. Are they not beautiful?" she said.
The fair jewels lay on a velvet bed, white and perfect, and looking
from them to Sibyl's blonde beauty, one could not help noticing their
adaptation to each other.
"They are very lovely, my dear," said Aunt Faith, passing the case to
Mr. Leslie. He took the jewels, looked at them a moment, and retaining
the case in his hand, said, "I came here this morning to ask your
assistance in a case of distress, Miss Warrington. Margaret Brown is
in need of instant aid; two of the children are ill, and I wish to
have them removed into the country, if possible, before they grow
worse. I rely upon you to help us."
Sibyl sat with downcast eyes a moment. Then she said in a low voice,
"I am sorry, Mr. Leslie; but I have just spent all my spare money upon
"The jeweller will take them back; I will arrange it for you, if you
wish," said the clergyman, looking at her intently.
The color deepened painfully in Sibyl's cheeks, and the tears came
into her eyes, but she did not speak. Aunt Faith saw the struggle, and
came to her niece's assistance with her usual kindliness. "You must
not expect young ladies to give up their pretty ornaments so easily,"
she said to Mr. Leslie, trying to shield Sibyl's embarrassment.
"I am not speaking to a young lady; I am speaking to a fellow
Christian," said Mr. Leslie, gravely. "Miss Warrington and I have
often spoken of the duty of giving. Only last evening we had a very
serious conversation on that and kindred subjects. Mrs. Sheldon has
said that I do not understand her niece. But I am unwilling to believe
myself mistaken. I still think I understand her better even than her
own aunt does,—better even than she understands herself."
Still Sibyl did not speak. Aunt Faith looked at her in surprise. Could
it be that her worldliness was conquered after all? "Sibyl," she said,
gently, "you must decide, dear. Shall Mr. Leslie take back the
"No," replied Sibyl, rising and struggling to regain her composure, "I
wish the pearls, and there is no justice in asking me to give them up.
I shall keep them, and as I have to write to Mrs. Leighton that I will
meet her next week as she desired, my time is more than occupied, and
I will ask Mr. Leslie to excuse me."
She left the room, taking the pearls with her, and not a word more did
Mr. Leslie say in allusion to her. He turned the conversation back to
Margaret Brown, discussed the various arrangements for removing the
family into the country, and then took his departure.
"I was very sorry about the money, Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, after he
had gone, standing at the sitting-room window and watching the tall
figure disappearing in the distance.
"Sincerity first of all, my dear," replied Aunt Faith.
"How will he get the money, aunt?"
"He is going to apply to Mrs. Chase, I believe. Although she has never
attended the chapel-services, he knows her to be generous and
"Rich, too, Aunt Faith. It is very easy to be generous when one is
rich," said Sibyl, with a shade of bitterness in her tone.
"Riches are comparative, Sibyl. Mrs. Chase is rich, but she has very
many depending upon her assistance."
"Mr. Leslie had no right to make such a demand of me," said Sibyl,
after a pause.
"Perhaps he thought you had given him the right to guide you," said
"I have never given him any right," said Sibyl, hastily. "I presume he
thinks I am a selfish, hard-hearted creature," she added in another
"He thinks more highly of you than your own aunt did, Sibyl; he said
so himself. He believes, or has believed, firmly in the purity of your
religious faith and firm principle. I have several times been
surprised to see how sure he was of you."
"He asked too much," said Sibyl; "he is too severe with me."
"Not more severe than he is with himself, my dear. He has taken all
his little savings for Margaret Brown, and I presume those savings
represent comforts, not luxuries like pearls."
"Mr. Leslie should not try me by the same test he uses for himself; I
cannot stand it."
"That is where he made his mistake, my dear. He thought you could."
Sibyl colored angrily. "Mr. Leslie is an enthusiast," she said; "he
expects people to throw down all their treasures at his feet."
"Not at his feet; at the foot of the cross, dear."
"Aunt Faith, do you really believe people can be happy in such a
life?" said Sibyl vehemently.
"Mr. Leslie is happy, my child."
"He is a single man with few cares. I am alluding to married people,
burdened with responsibility and anxiety."
"If they are so burdened, my dear, so much the more reason why they
should seek help from Him who said 'come unto me all ye that are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest.'"
"But in every-day life there are so many petty annoyances, aunt."
"Will they be any the less annoying without His aid, dear?"
"They will be less annoying if people are rich, Aunt Faith."
"Some of the most unhappy women I have ever known, have been rich,
"But I would not be one of those, aunt. I would be rich and happy at
the same time."
"If you could, my dear. But wealth brings with it its own troubles;
sometimes in the shape of the donor; I trust you would not marry for
"Not for money alone, aunt. But I see no reason why a rich man might
not be loved for himself as well as a poor man. It does not follow
that because a man is rich he must therefore be selfish or
"Certainly not, my dear; but we will not discuss it any longer, at
present. You are young, and I wish you to understand yourself
thoroughly. Take no rash steps, and remember that wealth is as nothing
compared to a true heart, and that this world's best treasures are
perishable, while religious faith abides with us through life and
death into eternity."
In the afternoon Mr. Leslie came again to the old stone house, and
inquired for Mrs. Sheldon. "I have come to ask for your horses," he
said, as Aunt Faith entered the parlor; I have secured a large
carriage that will take all the family, and now, if you will send
Jonas down with the horses, we can hope to have Margaret safely
established at Mr. Green's before night."
"Certainly, Mr. Leslie. Is there nothing more I can do?"
"Not to-day, thank you. I shall go out with them myself."
"How are the children?"
"Worse, I fear; but I have large faith in country air."
"I shall be anxious to know how they bear the ride."
"I will stop on my way home as I must come back with the carriage,"
said the young clergyman as he went away.
"Was not that Mr. Leslie?" asked Hugh, coming in from the dining-room
a few moments afterward.
"Yes," replied Aunt Faith; "he came to see me on business."
"Didn't he ask for Sibyl?" said Hugh.
"No," replied Aunt Faith, with a warning look at her nephew, as Sibyl
came in. But Hugh was not to be warned. "Sibyl," he said, "Mr. Leslie
has been here and did not ask for you."
"Is that so very surprising?" said his sister coldly; she had regained
all her composure and her face was calm and quiet.
"Of course it is surprising," said Hugh bluntly. "He has been in the
habit of coming here to see you for months, and, let me tell you,
Sibyl, he is one in a thousand; he is a hero, every inch, and I
heartily respect and like him."
"I have said nothing to the contrary, Hugh."
"Don't be a hypocrite, Sibyl," said Hugh with brotherly frankness. "I
am not good at splitting hairs, but there is no more comparison
between Mr. Leslie and Graham Marr, than there is between an eagle and
a sickly chicken."
"I have never thought of comparing them, Hugh. I do not like
comparisons, and yours is entirely unjust. But even supposing it was
correct, I have no taste for standing on a mountain-peak, in the icy
air of unknown heights, and gazing at the sun all day as an eagle
does," said Sibyl, as she crossed the hall into the parlor. In a few
moments the Spring-Song sounded forth from the piano, and under cover
of the music, Hugh said to Aunt Faith, "There is nothing wrong between
them I hope?"
"There is nothing between them either right or wrong," replied Aunt
Faith with a sigh. "Sibyl is not suited to Mr. Leslie."
"Then it is her fault," said Hugh warmly. "There is no doubt in my
mind that John Leslie is deeply interested in her, and I should be
proud and glad to have him for a brother. He is the truest, most
honest man I know."
"That is because he is such a sincere, earnest Christian."
"I know it, aunt. He works hard, and he thoroughly believes in his
work. He really thinks there is nothing in the city so vitally
important as that little chapel, and those workmen."
"He is right, Hugh. To him there should be nothing so important as
"Yes, I suppose so; that is, if I could look at it with his eyes. But
it is rare to see practice so consistent with theory in every-day
"It is, as you say, rare indeed; but he is a rare man, Hugh."
"He is, truly. That is the reason why I feel Sibyl's manner. Can it be
possible that she really prefers Graham Marr?"
"I do not know, Hugh. Graham will be rich some day."
"That is the worst of it, aunt. Who would have thought Sibyl could be
"Do not judge her harshly, dear. She has none of that impulse which
you admire, but her heart has always been true,—at least so far,"
said Aunt Faith gently. Then, after a pause, she continued in a lower
tone, "Hugh, if you like and admire Mr. Leslie so much, why are you
not willing to follow his example?"
"What! Become a clergyman, Aunt Faith?"
"Not that, unless you feel an inward call towards the blessed
vocation," replied Aunt Faith reverently; "but why do you delay to
come forward and make your open profession of faith? Is it honest, is
it manly, to hang backward?"
"Oh, Aunt Faith, I am not good enough!" said Hugh quickly.
"Goodness is not required of any of us, Hugh; only repentance, and an
earnest endeavor to improve. My dear boy, I never see you come and go,
without an aching desire to have you enrolled under His banner, to
have you a soldier of the Cross, openly, before all men. Have you
thought over our last conversation on this subject?"
"Yes, aunt, many times; but I have such a high idea of a professing
Christian. It seems to me that such an one ought to be like Mr.
Leslie, working with all his might for the salvation of souls."
"It is not required that all professing Christians should be ministers
of the word, Hugh. There are many other spheres of action, and many
qualifications, varied according to our varied temperaments and
positions. The Bible makes that point very clear. You read it, I
"Yes; but I always read the same part, the Gospel of St, John. I like
it best of all. There are so many beautiful verses in it which are
found nowhere else, so much love and warm faith! For instance; 'Let
not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' And 'I will not
leave you comfortless, I will come unto you.' And, 'woman, behold thy
son; behold thy mother;' to me one of the most touching incidents in
the Gospel. Then there is the story of Lazarus, and the verse 'Jesus
wept.' He sorrowed for the mourners, too! Oh, I cannot understand
how true Christians can mourn so bitterly for their dead, when they
believe that this loving Saviour cares for them."
"It is not always so much for their lost ones as for themselves, Hugh;
their own loneliness, their crushed hopes, and perhaps their remorse
that in the lifetime of those they mourn they did not do more for
"You have lost many dear ones, Aunt Faith," said Hugh thoughtfully.
"Yes; my husband, my parents, and among my intimate friends, all my
"Do you often think of them, aunt?"
"Yes, Hugh, very often. At first with tears and sadness, but gradually
with hope, and a certain looking forward instead of backward. At first
I kept all my anniversaries sacred, the many days hallowed by
associations with my dear ones; but gradually I tried to break up the
habit, and now I only think of their heavenly birthdays,—the days
when they left the earth,—and even these have come to be pleasant. I
have always been fond of autumn. There is something that charms me in
the hazy air and colored foliage. It is not sadness,—it is not
joy,—but a sweet peace. Then, my dead always seem near to me. If you
like, I will give you something I once wrote on the subject,
expressing this feeling."
"Do, aunt!" said Hugh, earnestly: for so seldom did Aunt Faith allude
to her past life and its sorrows, that all the cousins held it in
reverent respect, and although they often spoke of it among
themselves, they never broke through the bounds of Aunt Faith's
silence. In her own room hung the portrait of her husband, Lester
Sheldon, a young man's face, with blue eyes, and thick golden hair,
tossed carelessly back from the white forehead, while below, the firm
mouth told of decision and self-control beyond his years. Once, when
Bessie was a child, she sat looking at this portrait for some time in
silence. Then she said, "Aunt Faith, if that is your husband, what
makes him so young when you are so old?"
"He died when he was a young man, little Bessie."
"But he won't know you when you go to heaven, I'm afraid," continued
the child, looking anxiously at her aunt's gray hair.
"Oh, I shall be young then, too, Bessie. Here is a picture of me when
I was eighteen," said Aunt Faith, taking a box from her drawer, and
drawing out a miniature. It was one of those lovely, old-fashioned
ivory pictures, showing a fresh young face with dimples, and a sunny
"Oh, auntie, that isn't you!" Bessie had exclaimed, and the other
children having come into the room, the picture was shown to them
also. Since that day they had never seen it, but Hugh retained a vivid
remembrance of the picture, and, as Aunt Faith looked through her desk
to find the paper, something in her face recalled it to his mind, and
there came across him, like a revelation, a vision of what she was at
eighteen. Faith Warrington at eighteen! Faith Warrington, who had long
been Mrs. Sheldon with her gray hair and pale face. Going up to his
room, Hugh seated himself by the window, and opening the paper, read
the following lines:—
"Far back within the cycles of the past,
A train of centuries rolls,
From out whose cloudy borders came the day
Of memory for all souls.
How long it seems, a thousand years ago!
How dark and weary, if we did not know
A thousand years are but as yesterday within His
Seeing that it is past like one brief watch within the
Could they have known, those men of childlike faith,
Half ignorant, half sublime,
The fitness of the souls' memorial day
Falling within the time
Of Nature's holy calm, her blest repose,—
When all the land with loving fervor glows,
And from the naked woods, the empty fields, through
the soft haze,
Her work well done, her garners full, she offers up
A stillness fills the consecrated air,—
The blustering winds that swept
The red and yellow leaves in giddy rounds,
By mighty hands are kept
In their four corners, while the liquid gold
And purple tints over the earth unrolled,
And full of mystery and heavenly peace, as though
Had opened, and let out the atmosphere of Paradise.
Departed souls! Their memory may come
With grief in Spring's soft hours,—
With weary, lonely sadness when our hands
Are gathering summer flowers,—
With wild despair in winter: when the graves
Are white with drifted snow, and wildly raves
The wind among the stones and monuments, in
Calling in vain the sculptured names of our beloved
But in this golden dream-time of the year,
Our bitter murmurs cease;—
We seem to feel the presence of the dead,
Their shadowy touch of peace;
We seem to see their faces as we gaze
Longingly forth into the purple haze,
And hear the distant chorus of the happy souls at
And catch the well-known accents of the voice we
loved the best."
All Souls' Day, November 2nd.
In the evening, as Aunt Faith was sitting on the piazza with Bessie,
Mr. Leslie came up the walk; Sibyl was in the parlor playing soft
chords on the piano, but she could hear his words as he spoke. Mr.
Leslie's voice was deep, but clear, and his pronunciation perfectly
distinct without any apparent effort. He did not obtrude the alphabet
unpleasantly upon his hearers; he was not so anxious to show his
correct pronunciation of "Been" as to force it to rhyme with "Seen;"
he was not so much concerned with "Institute," as to te-u-ute the last
syllable into undue importance; neither did he bombard his hearers
with the arrogance of rolling rr's. Although his voice was not loud,
any one occupying even the last seat in the chapel could not only hear
him, but was absolutely invited to listen by the pleasant distinctness
of the words.
"I am pleased to be able to tell you that Margaret and the children
are safe in the farm-house, Mrs. Sheldon," he said, taking a seat on
the piazza. "Poor girl, how glad she was to get there! She sent her
grateful thanks to you."
"How did the children bear the ride?" asked Aunt Faith.
"Better than I expected. Indeed, the novelty, and perhaps the pleasant
country air, seemed to revive them, and lessen the fever. They even
walked about the garden when we arrived there, and began to make
bouquets of flowers, but before I left, the reaction had come and they
looked very tired."
"You look tired, also, Mr. Leslie," said Aunt Faith; the light from
the hall-lamp shone on the young clergyman's face and showed its pale
"I am tired," he replied, "but a night's rest is all I need." Then he
leaned back in his chair and sat talking pleasantly with Bessie and
Aunt Faith. "This is a charming old house," he said, "it must have
been built a long time ago."
"Yes," replied Aunt Faith; "for a western town it is quite venerable.
The main portion was built in 1822, and the wings were added as the
family increased, without much regard for architectural regularity.
The stairs were originally out-doors on the back piazza, but father
finally had them enclosed. You may have noticed that the west side has
only two windows, and that those are singularly placed. It is amusing
to think that so implicit was grandfather's belief in the growth of
Westerton, then hardly more than a pioneer village, that he built up
that side without any windows so as not to interfere with the blocks
of dwellings which he was sure would press up against this house as
the town grew into a city. It was only after many years that father
was allowed to pierce the thick wall and with great difficulty insert
those two windows."
"That is something like my old home, a little village in the interior
of New York," said Mr. Leslie. "One old man was so impressed by the
growth of the town, that meeting my father he shook him by the hand
and exclaimed, 'how it do grow, Judge! Please heaven, we'll make a
seaport of it yet!'"
They all laughed at this story. Then Aunt Faith said, "I should like
to think that some of the children would occupy this old house after I
am gone. But in America, and especially in the Western States that is
"I will live here, if I can, Aunt Faith," said Bessie warmly. "I love
every stone in the old house, and every old flower in the old garden."
"Are flowers ever old, Miss Darrell?" said Mr. Leslie, smiling.
"Oh, yes. Flowers grow old-fashioned and out of date just like people.
We have a genuine old-fashioned garden here, and all the neighbors
laugh at it in comparison with their smooth lawns and choice plants.
We have bachelor's-buttons, lady-slippers, tiger-lilies,
flower-de-luce, hollyhocks, and pinks, besides bushes of lilac and
matrimony; then we have old cedars clipped into shape, and ever so
many little paths and garden-beds edged with box. Oh, we are entirely
behind the times! But for all that, I love the old garden better than
the smoothest trimmed lawn, and I can pick you a bunch of violets
which you cannot match in Westerton; real violets, too, not flaring
"I too am fond of old-fashioned gardens, Miss Darrell," said Mr.
Leslie. "My mother had one, not so large as this, but resembling it in
general arrangement. I remember we had a little patch of trailing
arbutus; it grew wild, and I can distinctly recall its perfume as the
snow melted. I have never seen it in the West."
"No, it does not grow here," replied Aunt Faith; "our climate is too
warm for it."
"There is a great difference between the climate of the lake country
and that of New England," said Mr. Leslie; "there is so little snow
"Snow!" exclaimed Bessie. "I scarcely know what snow is; and as for
stories of drifts over the fences, and tunnels cut through them, I can
scarcely believe anything of the kind. They are as much like legends
to me as the fairy tale of little Kay and the Robber Maiden. Once at
Featherton Hall the eastern girls were talking about sleigh-riding,
and I told them that snow was so scarce in Westerton that when a few
snow-flakes actually fell, they were immediately fenced in and guarded
by the police, and then the whole population assembled in sleighs,
cutters, and pungs, to ride over them in alphabetical order. Of
course, as aunt's name began with S, there was not much left of the
snow-flakes when our turn came."
"You ridiculous child!" said Aunt Faith, laughing, "how can you invent
"Oh, Bessie can invent anything!" said Hugh, coming out from the
sitting-room; "if she had charge of even the Patent-Office Reports,
she would gild them into veritable romances."
Later in the evening, Graham Marr came up the garden walk.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Sheldon!" he said; "is Miss Warrington at home?"
"Yes; she is in the parlor," said Aunt Faith. "Will you go in, Mr.
"Thank you, yes. I came especially to see her," replied Graham, taking
off his straw hat, and passing through the group on the piazza.
"Excuse me, Miss Darrell. Is that you, Hugh? Ah!—Mr. Leslie, I
believe. I did not observe you in the darkness. I hope you experienced
no ill feeling after your exposure yesterday?"
"None at all, Mr. Marr. And you?"
"I took cold, as I expected; but, so far, my head has given me no
severe pain," said Graham, passing on into the parlor.
"Is Mr. Marr subject to pain in his head?" inquired Mr. Leslie, as
"Chronic inflammation of the brain, produced by intense study and
seething, poetical thoughts," said Hugh, in a dramatic whisper.
Soon afterwards, Mr. Leslie rose to take leave. "I feel very tired, so
I will say good-night," he said. "I will let you know the condition of
the children some time to-morrow, Mrs. Sheldon."
"Thank you. If it is quite convenient I shall be glad to know,"
replied Aunt Faith.
Graham Marr stayed until a late hour, so late that Bessie and Hugh had
gone upstairs when he took leave, and Sibyl, coming in to the
sitting-room, found Aunt Faith alone.
"You look tired, my dear," said the elder lady kindly.
"I am tired, aunt. Graham talked a long time. He had something to tell
me. His uncle is dead, and he has come into the fortune."
"Ah!—" said Aunt Faith. She made no other comment, but waited for her
niece to speak.
"Graham is going to Saratoga next week," continued Sibyl slowly. "He
thinks of removing to New York for a permanent home; he likes city
life, you know."
"Yes," said Aunt Faith again; but she said no more.
Sibyl closed the windows, replaced the chairs, and fastened the
front-door; then, as she carelessly turned the leaves of a book on the
table, she said at last, "Mr. Leslie was here, I believe?"
"Yes: he came to tell me that Margaret Brown and the children were
safely established in the farm-house."
"Did he ask for me?" said Sibyl, as she extinguished the hall lamps.
"No, my dear," answered Aunt Faith, and Sibyl went to her room without
Two days came and went, and Mr. Leslie did not appear.
"I say, you people!" said Tom, bursting into the dining-room at
tea-time. "Did you know that Mr. Leslie was sick? Dangerously sick,
Jim Morse says; not expected to live, I believe."
"Thomas!" said Aunt Faith with unusual severity, "what do you mean?
Tell the truth."
"Well, he's sick, any way; and Jim heard his mother say it was a
dangerous fever. Hallo, Sibyl! what's the matter? How pale you are!"
"No more pale than the rest of us," interrupted Bessie, with a quick
glance at Sibyl; "we all like Mr. Leslie, don't we?"
"Of course we do. He's the best man in the world," said Gem fervently.
"I shall go and see him immediately," said Hugh, rising.
"Oh, Hugh, it is probably the same fever the Brown children have!"
said Aunt Faith anxiously. "You must not expose yourself needlessly."
"In this call I consider it necessary, Aunt Faith," said Hugh. "Mr.
Leslie has no near relatives, and although he is loved by his
congregation, dread of the fever will keep most of them away; besides,
they cannot leave their work. He will be left to hired nurses and you
know what Westerton nurses are!"
"Go, then, my boy, and may God be with you," said Aunt Faith, with
tears in her eyes.
The tea-table was soon deserted. Sibyl went to her room, Tom and Gem
took refuge in the back garden with the three dogs to bear them
company, but Aunt Faith and Bessie sat on the piazza waiting for
"After all," said Bessie, "we need not feel so anxious. The report has
passed through several mouths; no doubt it is exaggerated."
"I hope so," replied Aunt Faith; "and still I have a strong
presentiment that Mr. Leslie is very ill. His face looked strangely
worn and pallid as he sat there that last evening, and when fever
attacks a man as strong and full of life as he is, the contest is far
more severe than with a more feeble patient."
Eight o'clock struck, but still Hugh did not return. A step sounded up
the walk in the dusky twilight, but it was not his; Graham Marr
appeared, and again asked for Miss Warrington.
"Go and tell Sibyl, my dear," said Aunt Faith to Bessie with an inward
sigh. Then, as Bessie went into the house, she said, "Have you heard
of Mr. Leslie's illness, Mr. Marr?"
"No," replied Graham, as he stood in the doorway carelessly twirling
his hat in his hand; "is he very ill?"
"We do not know; we have heard only a rumor. Hugh has gone to find out
the exact truth."
"Ah—yes. If it is fever, no doubt he caught it in that unpleasant
locality where his chapel stands," said Graham. "I have often wondered
how he could endure the life he leads, but I suppose he is not
fastidious. His nature is not so finely wrought, or his nerves so
delicately strung as those of some other organizations."
"His nature is strong and manly," replied Aunt Faith, with a shade of
indignation in her voice.
"Ah, yes, exactly. A man in his position has need of strength," said
Graham loftily. Then, after a pause, "You have heard of my good
fortune, Mrs. Sheldon?"
"I have heard that your uncle was dead, Mr. Marr."
"Ah—yes. Poor old gentleman! I never knew him well; we were not at
all sympathetic. My grandfather's singular will has now been
fulfilled, and the estate, which has rolled up to double its original
value, will now be divided between my two Southern cousins and
"I congratulate you, Mr. Marr."
"Thank you. I think I shall not discredit my fortune; I have long
endeavored to cultivate the tastes which belong to wealth," said
Graham with languid pride.
At this moment Bessie returned. "Sibyl is in the parlor, Mr. Marr,"
she said; "will you walk in?"
"Thanks, kind messenger," said Graham, bowing gracefully as he passed
her; "Hebe could not be fairer!"
"How ridiculous he is, Aunt Faith," she said, as the young man
disappeared. "How can Sibyl like him? I do not really think she does
like him, but I cannot make her out. When I went to her room she was
as pale as a ghost, but while she was smoothing her hair, the color
rose, and she began to laugh and talk as gayly as possible. Listen,
now; hear her laugh. How can she be so heartless!"
"Do not be too severe, Bessie. I suspect Sibyl is putting a great
strain on herself to-night. She has so many good traits," said Aunt
Faith with a sigh. "She has so much energy! She only needs to have the
right direction given to it and she will accomplish a wonderful amount
of good work if her life is spared."
"But that right direction, Aunt Faith; is Graham Marr to give it?"
asked Bessie with a tinge of scorn in her voice.
"I do not know, dear. But Sibyl has a true heart at bottom."
"I do believe you are made of charity, aunt. Your name ought to be
Faith, Hope, and Charity, instead of Faith alone," said Bessie warmly.
"I have learned one lesson by the experience of a long life," replied
Aunt Faith, smiling; "the lesson of patience."
"How else could you have brought up such a troublesome set of nephews
and nieces?" exclaimed Bessie. "We must have tried your patience
severely, Aunt Faith. But we do love you dearly, every one of us." And
the impulsive girl threw her arms around her aunt and kissed her
About half-past nine they heard the sound of the gate, and recognized
Hugh's step on the gravel walk.
"How is he, Hugh?" said Bessie, before he came in sight.
"He is a very sick man," replied Hugh gravely, as he came up the
steps. "The doctors are perplexed, for the case is not like ordinary
fever. They think he will either be much better or much worse before
"Oh, Hugh; you do not mean that he is in any danger?"
"Yes; so the doctors say. There is trouble with the brain,
threatenings of congestion, I believe. As I said before, he will
probably be out of danger before morning, or,—or, gone where he is
fully prepared to go," said Hugh with emotion.
"Then I shall go to see him now,—directly," said a strange, muffled
voice behind them.
"Sibyl!" exclaimed Aunt Faith.
"Yes, aunt," said Sibyl, stepping forward and speaking in the same
muffled voice. "I heard what Hugh said, and I wish to go directly to
see Mr. Leslie; you must go with me."
They all looked at her as she stood in the lighted hall; her face was
deadly pale, and her eyes had a far-off look as though she saw
something terrible in the distance. Behind her was Graham Marr looking
perplexed and angry; he did not know what to do or say, and his usual
graceful manner had given place to confused irritation. As Sibyl spoke
he made an effort to regain his composure.
"Ah!" he said, with studied carelessness, "so Leslie is sick, is he? I
must really send a nurse to take care of him. I will do what I can for
him, poor fellow!"
"I shall be his nurse," said Sibyl, in the same strange, still voice.
"You are joking, Miss Warrington. Of course you would not expose
yourself so foolishly," said Graham angrily.
"I shall be his nurse. I shall go to-night," repeated Sibyl, without
changing her attitude.
Graham looked at her a moment as if about to continue the argument,
but something in the set expression of her face convinced him of the
hopelessness of the attempt. Curbing his annoyance under an appearance
of amusement, he smiled and turned to Aunt Faith. "There is no use in
combating a young lady, I suppose, Mrs. Sheldon. Really,—I had no
idea it was so late. I must go. I will bid you good-night, ladies, and
at the same time good-bye, as I shall soon leave Westerton for the
summer." Then he turned again to Sibyl; "I shall meet you in Saratoga
next week, I trust, Miss Warrington?"
"No," said Sibyl, with the same far-off look in her eyes. "Aunt Faith,
are you ready to go with me?"
"Ah!" said Graham lightly; "you ladies change your minds so rapidly
that it is difficult to follow you. But it is your privilege, I know,
Farewell, then, Miss Warrington. Life is long,—we may meet again."
"Good-bye, Mr. Marr," said Sibyl, hardly noticing his departure.
As the young man disappeared, Aunt Faith spoke; "Are you in earnest,
Sibyl? Do you really wish to visit Mr. Leslie to-night?"
"I am in earnest, and I must go, Aunt Faith. Do not try to prevent
"But there may be danger for you, dear."
"Hugh has seen him, and am I to be kept back?" cried Sibyl
passionately. "I must go! I will go! Aunt Faith, do not desert me
"I am not deserting you, poor child," said Aunt Faith, rising and
putting her arms around her niece with motherly affection. "If you
wish to see Mr. Leslie to-night, I will go with you. You approve of
your sister's wish, Hugh?"
"Yes," said Hugh decidedly. "Sibyl, you are right at last."
They found Mr. Leslie unconscious and breathing heavily; two
physicians were in attendance, and a nurse sat by the bedside.
"He does not know me," whispered Sibyl, clinging convulsively to Aunt
Faith, as the sufferer opened his eyes and looked blankly at them.
"No, dear, he is unconscious," replied Aunt Faith, herself much moved
at the sight of one whom she had so lately seen full of young life,
stricken down almost to death.
The doctors were watching their patient closely; they expected a
crisis before morning.
"I shall stay," said Sibyl, quietly taking off her hat and sitting
down on the sofa.
Aunt Faith spoke a few words of objection, but the mute appeal of
Sibyl's eyes silenced her; she said no more, but sitting down by her
niece, took her cold hand and held it in both her own. She had felt
sorrow herself, and she could feel for others; she knew that in
Sibyl's heart the depths were broken up.
Hugh went back to the old stone house and returned about midnight;
from that time on, there was silence in the sick-chamber, and anxious
eyes watched the unconscious face with painful interest. The night
seemed endless; only those who have watched by a sick bed can know how
minutes can lengthen themselves! As the gray twilight of dawn came
into the room the sick man moved restlessly upon his pillow and
moaned. Sibyl's heart throbbed; any change seemed for the better. But
one of the physicians after bending over the patient, shook his head
"Let us pray," said Aunt Faith in a low tone, and, falling upon her
knees, she bowed her head in silent prayer. Sibyl knelt beside her,
and, after a moment, Hugh too joined them, and throwing his arm around
his sister, drew her to his side.
"Oh, Hugh, I cannot bear it!" she murmured; "he will die,—he will
never know,—and I—" here her voice was broken by stifled sobs and
low moans of anguish, strangely touching in the proud, self-reliant
Hugh held his sister in his arms, and soothed her as one would soothe
a child. From that hour Sibyl's coldness left her never to return.
As the first sunbeams brightened the sky, Mr. Leslie again opened his
eyes, the doctors bent over him, and it seemed to Aunt Faith as if she
could hear all the hearts in the room throbbing aloud in the intense
anxiety of the moment.
"The worst is over," whispered Doctor Gregory, stepping back and
shaking hands with Aunt Faith; "we shall bring him through, now, I
Sibyl sat with her head hidden on Hugh's shoulder; she heard the
doctor's words, but a sudden timidity had come over her. "Let us go,"
she whispered, turning towards the door.
But Hugh had been watching the sick man.
"He is conscious; he knows us!" he said suddenly, and leading his
sister forward, he left her at the bedside, pale and trembling with
"Sibyl," said Mr. Leslie in a faint voice, "is it you? Have you come
to me at last, dear?"
"Yes, John," said Sibyl, bending over him with tears in her eyes. "I
have brought myself and my life to you,—if you care for them."
"If?" said Mr. Leslie, with the ghost of a smile on his pale face; "as
if there was any doubt—" but here the doctors interfered, and the
rest of the sentence was postponed.
THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER
Mr. Leslie improved slowly; when he was able to leave his room most of
his days of enforced idleness were spent in the shaded parlor of the
old stone house, or riding through the narrow country lanes, sometimes
with all the cousins, sometimes with Sibyl alone. A friend had come
from the interior of the State to take charge of the chapel during
July and August, for the physicians had forbidden any active work
during that time; but, although Mr. Vinton preached and attended to
the duties of the position, Mr. Leslie retained all his interest in
the congregation, and his people felt, that he was with them in
spirit, hour by hour, and day by day. They came to him also,—came in
greater numbers and with more open affection than ever before; they
showed their interest in many different ways,—and the young pastor's
heart was filled with joy at these evidences of love from the flock
for which he had labored.
"It takes sickness or affliction to bring hidden love and sympathy to
the surface," he said, one afternoon, as he sat in the parlor with
Aunt Faith, Hugh, Bessie, and Sibyl. "We do not see the rainbow until
the storm comes; and so people may live on for years in prosperity,
and never know, save by intuition, the deep affection in each other's
hearts. But when sorrow strikes them, then love comes to the surface,
doubly precious and comforting in the hour of trial."
"But, Mr. Leslie," said Hugh, "would it not be far better for the
world if people were taught to express their love and sympathy at
other times as well as in the house of affliction and sickness? Is
there any reason why we should all go on through life in cold silence,
living in the same house with those we love the best, and taking
everything 'for granted,' and leaving it 'for granted' also? Why!
people may live and die without ever knowing the great joy of
expressing how much they love, or of hearing in return how much they
are loved, so hard is it to break down these barriers of reserve."
"We are tongue-tied, here, Hugh. We do not know how to speak the
language of the heavenly country, and our best efforts are but
stammering, half-expressed utterances. It is a great mercy, however,
that the touch of sickness, or affliction, seems for the moment to
loosen the bonds, and allow us a few sentences of the heavenly love."
"It is indeed," said Aunt Faith. "I remember in the darkest hours of
my affliction, people with whom I had but slight acquaintance came to
me with tender sympathy, and kind messages were sent from many whom I
had always thought cold, and even disagreeable."
"Still," said Hugh, "I think it would be better if people tried to
express their love more freely, without waiting until the household is
clouded with grief."
"It would certainly be better, but it may not be possible," said Mr.
Leslie; the world has gone on in the same old way for many centuries,
and I am inclined to think, Hugh, that this free expression of love
will only be given to us in another life. It will form one of the
blessings of heaven."
"What is heaven?" said Hugh abruptly.
"It is perfect peace," said Aunt Faith.
"It is wonderful new life and hope," said Bessie.
"It is love," said Sibyl.
"It is all this and more," said Mr. Leslie reverently. "Speculations
are useless, and our time should be too full of earnest labor to allow
us to indulge in them. We should be content to leave it to our Maker,
who has made even this world so beautiful, and this life, rightly
used, so glorious."
July gave place to August, and the family of cousins, into whose
circle Mr. Leslie had been received, lived a happy life in the old
stone house. The heat of the dog-days was tempered by the lake breeze.
At ten in the morning it came sweeping over the water from Canada, and
men walking through the hot streets, felt its gentle coolness on their
foreheads, and took off their straw hats with a sigh of relief. In the
evening it came again, rustling through the trees with a refreshing
sound as though the leaves were reviving from their parched stillness;
people came out to meet it, the piazzas and door-steps were crowded,
and all the closed blinds were thrown wide open to catch the blessed
coolness which promised refreshing sleep.
"You dwellers by the lake-shore know nothing of the real August heat
in the lowlands," said Mr. Vinton, one evening as he sat among a group
of visitors on the piazza of the old stone house. "Here the lake
breeze is invariable, but a hundred miles south, days and nights pass
with alternate blazing heat and close, lifeless darkness, the latter
even more trying than the former. The country where I live is the
richest agricultural land in the State; it is a valley with a broad,
slow river rolling through it, the very water dark and sluggish with
the fertility of the soil. As long as the grain is growing, there is
some vitality in the air in spite of the heat, but when the harvest
comes, and field after field is shorn, it seems as though the
superfluous richness rose from the earth into the air, and filled it
with heavy rankness. The sun shines through a haze in the daytime, and
the moon through a mist at night; everybody and everything is languid.
One goes to bed oppressed with fatigue, sleeps heavily, and rises
without refreshment; there is no fresh morning air, nothing but a
weary looking forward to the next twelve hours of heat."
"What a forlorn description!" said Mr. Gay, laughing. "Is this all you
can say for the great, rich state of Ohio?"
"It's very richness brings about what I am describing," said Mr.
Vinton. "But perhaps some of your eastern farmers would endure the
Ohio dog-days for the sake of the miles of level grain-fields without
a stone, without a break of any kind, which extend through the midland
counties. When I first came West, I was overpowered with homesickness
for the hills of New England; the endless plains were hateful to me,
and I fairly pined to see a rock, or a narrow, winding road. While in
this mood, I happened to be riding in a stage-coach through one of the
midland counties in company with two New England farmers. They had
never been West before, and they were lost in astonishment and
admiration at the sight of the level fields on either side of the
broad, straight road, stretching away to the right and the left,
unbroken by the slightest elevation. 'This country is worth farming
in,' said number one; 'Ethan would admire to see it, but he'd hardly
believe it, I guess, without seeing.'
"'Not a stone nor a rock nowhere; none of them plaguey hills neither,'
said number two. 'Well, now! this is what I call a be-a-utiful
country! Western farmers must have an easy life of it.' You can
imagine with what feelings I listened to these men. There I was,
longing for the sight of a hill with the longing of a homesick child
for its mother."
"I am afraid you are prejudiced, George," said Mr. Leslie, with a
smile. "You dwell upon the heat of August in Ohio, but you say nothing
about the other eleven months of the year."
"The other eleven months are beautiful, I must acknowledge," replied
Mr. Vinton. "As soon as the frosts come, nothing can surpass the
climate; colored October, hazy November, and bright, open December are
all perfect. Any New Englander,—even you, Mr. Gay,—would be obliged
to yield the palm to the West in respect of winter climate."
"No sir," replied the Boston bachelor emphatically; "I would yield no
palm under any circumstances. I even prefer a Boston east wind to the
mildest western zephyr."
"Oh, you are prejudiced!" said Bessie, laughing.
"Of course I am, Miss Darrell. It is a characteristic of Massachusetts
Bay. We do not deny it,—on the contrary we are rather proud of it."
Thus, in many conversations, the dog-days passed along.
"It seems to me we do nothing but talk," said Bessie, after a long
evening on the piazza with several visitors.
"The dog-days were intended for conversation," said Hugh. "Our hands
and our brains are busily employed all the rest of the year, but when
the thermometer gets up into the nineties, the tongue talks its share
and gives the other members a rest."
"I hope you don't mean to insinuate that our brains are not employed
in our conversation," said Bessie.
"Not much brain in dog-day conversation," said Hugh, laughing. "I know
that I have been talking nonsense this evening, and from what I have
overheard, I suspect the others have not done much better."
"Oh, you slanderer!" cried Bessie.
"But nonsense is appropriate to the season, Queen Bess. We don't eat
much solid food now; then how can we hear much solid talk! Aunt
Faith's 'trifle' is the chief of our diet, and the result is,
naturally, trifling conversation."
August was a happy month to Aunt Faith. She rejoiced in Sibyl's
happiness, and she rejoiced in the triumph of unselfish love and
Christian humility over the worldliness and ambition which had sullied
her niece's good qualities. Sibyl was not impulsive; it was not an
impulse which had led her to renounce a life of fashionable gayety and
wealth for Mr. Leslie. It was a sudden realization of the truth, a
sudden conviction of the strength of her own feelings, a sudden horror
of the wickedness of falsifying them, and a sudden appreciation of the
hollowness of worldly ambition when brought face to face with death.
There was no hesitating vacillation in Sibyl's character. She had been
self-deceived, but, as soon as she felt the truth, she threw aside
errors with all her might, and gave herself up boldly, wholly and
heartily to her new life. Aunt Faith understood her niece thoroughly,
and she knew there would be no danger of a relapse into the mistakes
of the past; other faults, other temptations would assail her, but
these were harmless. Having once seen and realized the falsity of
worldliness when compared with religion, the worthlessness of mere
money, when compared with true affection, Sibyl could never forget the
lesson, for firm reason and resolve were parts of her nature.
Aunt Faith saw, also, that Sibyl was very happy. She was calm as
usual, but there was a new light in her eyes, and a new glow on her
cheeks. She found a new pleasure in instructing the children of the
Chapel Sunday School, and her scholars loved her dearly; she went
about among the poor, and devoted much of her time and means to their
service. She assisted in the household work; not the light graceful
labors which generally fall to the daughters, but the real burden of
the day, lifting it from Aunt Faith's patient shoulders with cordial
good will; and in all she did there was a new charm,—the charm of a
rare humility, the most difficult of all Christian graces to a proud,
One afternoon, towards the end of August, Aunt Faith found Sibyl
resting on the lounge in the sitting-room. The house was still, the
children were in the garden, and Bessie and Hugh had gone up to the
studio; Sibyl had been out visiting the sick all the morning, and,
wearied with the walk, she had thrown herself down on the lounge for
a rest before tea-time.
"Do I disturb you, dear?" said Aunt Faith, as she entered.
"Oh, no, aunt. I am not sleeping, only resting."
"I fear you are doing too much, Sibyl."
"I think not, aunt. I know how much I can bear, and I would not be so
foolish as to overwork myself. It would be a poor preparation for the
life to which I look forward with so much hope."
"It will be a pleasant life, I hope, my dear child."
"Oh aunt! pleasant seems too cold a word to express it! I never knew
what life was before; I was blind and deaf to real beauty and real
happiness. I thought of nothing but money, ease and social fame. I
shudder to think how near I came to bartering my life for what I
supposed would give me the most happiness; whereas, now I know how
great would have been my misery, and how surely and quickly I should
have discovered it. I was entirely blinded, but now I see plainly; it
is as though a great ray of light had come into my heart to show me
life as it really is, and myself as I really am."
"God be thanked for this—mercy, my child."
"I thank Him daily and hourly, Aunt Faith. It was a narrow escape, and
no one can appreciate how great was the danger but myself. If I had
gone astray I might, indeed, have come back to Him at last, but
through what trials, what bitter suffering! Now, I feel that my feet
are upon a firm rock, and although trouble and temptation will of
course come to me, I know that if I cry for help, it will not be
refused." Sibyl's face glowed as she spoke, and Aunt Faith offered up
a silent thanksgiving that one of her little band had found the safe
abiding place, that one of the souls given into her charge had entered
the only safe pathway in the many roads leading across this troubled
"How is Margaret Brown to-day, Sibyl?" she asked, after a pause.
"Much better, aunt. I sat with her for an hour or two, and she asked
me to read to her."
"The children are well now, I believe?"
"Yes; we are going to keep them in the country until cold weather;
Margaret must not be allowed to work at present."
"Mr. Leslie has not asked for the remainder of the sum I promised to
give him," said Aunt Faith; "I suppose Mrs. Chase must have given more
than he expected."
Sibyl blushed deeply. "No, aunt," she said in a low tone, "I gave him
my pearls as a thank-offering, perhaps I ought to say a sin-offering."
Aunt Faith bent over and kissed the suffused cheek; then the two had
a long conversation about the future, and gradually and surely a more
joyous tone crept into their words, as is apt to be the case when the
talkers hear in the distance the sound of future wedding-bells. The
marriage was to take place before December, and Mr. Leslie had already
selected the little house which was to be their home; Aunt Faith, with
true housewifely interest, was already making plans for the furniture
and stores of fair linen, which her old-fashioned ideas deemed a
necessary part of the household outfit, and even Bessie had set her
unskilful fingers to the work of manufacturing various little
ornaments to brighten the simple rooms. But her chief present was to
be a picture representing the piazza of the old stone house with Aunt
Faith, Hugh, Tom, and herself sitting or standing in their accustomed
attitudes, while Sibyl going down the garden-walk with Mr. Leslie,
turned her head for a farewell smile, and Gem threw a bunch of roses
after her. Bessie prided herself upon this picture; the likenesses
were all completed save Hugh's, for the first object was to finish his
portrait before he went East, and from that she could fill in the
other face at her leisure.
"You are all so kind to me, Aunt Faith," said Sibyl, as the long
conversation came to a close; "I am so happy in your love, and so
happy in the future opening before me; it is almost too much
Aunt Faith possessed a fund of native humor which neither age nor care
had been able to subdue. As her niece rose to go to her room, she said
with a merry glance, "By the way, Sibyl, how about the smell of the
flannels from the kitchen on washing-days?"
"I will have them washed at the extreme end of the back garden,"
replied Sibyl, echoing Aunt Faith's laugh, as she escaped from the
The thirty-first of August came,—Hugh's last day at home. His
departure was hastened by his wish to return to Sibyl's wedding; he
hoped to get initiated into the duties of his new position, conquer
the first difficulties, and gain a few days of leisure for a short
visit home before the busy winter season commenced. Mr. Hastings, the
second-cousin who had offered Hugh a place in his counting-room, was a
New York merchant, a stern, practical man, who expected full measure
of work from all his subordinates. Yet, with all his rigor, he had a
kind heart in his breast, and was inclined to treat his young relative
with favor: he had seen him but once, when, during school-life, Hugh
had spent a vacation at his house; but the old man had been more
pleased than he would acknowledge, with the boy's overflowing spirits
and bright intellect. He had no sons; his daughters were married, and
the next year he had written to Aunt Faith proposing to take Hugh into
his business on the completion of his education, promising, if the
young man stood the test well, that he would give him a small share of
the profits after a certain period, and intimating that there would be
no bar to his becoming a partner eventually, if he showed the proper
qualifications. The business men among Aunt Faith's acquaintances told
her that this was a fine opening for Hugh, that the house of J. B.
Hastings & Co. stood well in New York, and that they would gladly
accept such an opportunity for their sons. Hugh himself was pleased
with the idea, and, when it was finally decided that he should go, he
wrote a letter full of enthusiastic thanks and hopes to Mr. Hastings,
and finished his remaining two years at college with many pleasant
visions of his future life floating in his brain.
"'Tis the last day of summer, left blooming alone," chanted Tom, as he
entered the dining-room where the rest of the family were at
breakfast. "To-morrow Hugh will be gone,—to-morrow Estella Camilla
Wales must pine in vain for her mistress, who will be engrossed in
decimal fractions, and to-morrow I must take down from the dusty shelf
that dismal old Latin Prose. I wonder who cares for Romulus and
Remus? I don't!"
"Don't talk about it beforehand," said Gem; "let's pretend it's the
very first day of vacation."
"Oh, what dismal faces!" said Aunt Faith, laughing. "School is not
such a trial after all. I should be sorry to hear you spell
deficiency, 'd-e-f-i-s-h-u-n-s-y,' as Annie Chase did, Gem."
"Or to say, 'il est la plus mauvais garcon que je sais de,' as
Jennie Fish did," added Gem, laughing at the remembrance.
"Or like Ed. Willis in the Bible class, last term," said Tom. "Mr.
Stone was talking about the Jews and Gentiles. 'I'm not a Gentile,'
said Ed. getting real mad; 'I'm a Presbyterian.'"
Everybody laughed at this story, and Aunt Faith said "You are as
liable to make mistakes as the rest, children, so do not complain
about your lessons, but rather try to make them a pleasure.
School-days will be soon over," and she looked at Hugh with a half
"Come along, Gem," said Tom, when he had finished his breakfast.
"Let's have all the fun we can to-day; let's crowd it in, and pack it
down tight. We'll get all the B. B.'s and have a regular training day
in the back yard."
The children vanished, and their merry voices came back through the
open windows where the others still sat at the table.
"The boat leaves at seven," said Hugh, pushing away his plate, and
leaning back in his chair. "I am something like Tom; I feel like
'crowding' my last day with pleasant things, and 'packing them in
tight.' I hardly know where to begin."
"I will tell you; begin with the morning and give it to me in the
studio," said Bessie.
"Oh no," said Sibyl; "Hugh is going to finish that bracket for me."
"Hugh will not go away without keeping his promise to me; there is
some unfinished reading for him in my room," said Aunt Faith with a
"My face, my hands, and my tongue are all in demand, it seems," said
Hugh, laughing. "We never know how much we are valued until it is too
late to fix our price, as the Irishman said, when he lost both arms
and could no longer saw wood for his family. I cannot subdivide
myself, so I had better subdivide the time."
"Well then, Hugh, I spoke first. Walk right upstairs," said Bessie,
leading the way.
"Will you walk into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," sang Hugh,
as he followed her. "I go, Bessie, from sheer compassion for my nose;
you have made it Grecian, and I am sure it is Roman!"
"How gay they seem," said Sibyl, as they disappeared, "and yet Bessie
will miss Hugh sadly. They have been devoted companions since
childhood, and through our school-days Bessie was always looking
forward to vacation, and spending her spare time in writing letters to
Hugh. They have, of course, been parted for months together, but this
parting is different. Hugh will be back again soon, and he may make us
many visits, but still his home will now be in New York, and, absorbed
in his new duties, and in the new interests and attractions of a great
city, he will no longer be the same."
"Yes; I too feel this, Sibyl," said Aunt Faith; "I feel it very
deeply. My child, my little boy, will go from me forever, when I say
good-bye to Hugh to-night. The young man, the kind nephew, the
successful merchant may all come back at different times, but the
little boy, never! Hugh is very dear to me. It is hard to let him go.
God grant that in the dangers of his new life, he may be preserved. We
can only pray for him, Sibyl."
Two tears rolled down Aunt Faith's cheeks, but she hastily wiped them
away as Sibyl kissed her affectionately. "Dear Aunt Faith," she said,
"do not be down-hearted. Hugh has the seeds in his heart planted by
your faithful hand, and although they have not blossomed yet, I feel
sure they are growing."
"Yes, dear; I cannot help feeling as you do," replied Aunt Faith,
trying to smile. But her heart was heavy.
Upstairs in the studio Bessie was painting rapidly, while Hugh in the
old arm-chair sat gazing out through the open window, much as he had
done on that bright June morning three months before, when Bessie had
confessed the secret of the unpaid bill.
"How does the picture progress, Queen Bess?" he asked.
"Very well, excepting the eyes; I cannot get the right expression, I
have tried over and over again. They are never the same two minutes at
a time; I almost wish they were made of glass," said Bessie
"Then I would be the bully boy with a glass eye," said Hugh, laughing.
"And a wax nose," said Bessie.
"And a tin ear," continued Hugh.
"And a cork leg," added Bessie.
"And a brass arm, finis," said Hugh; "the weather is too warm for
further studies in anatomy."
"What does it all mean, anyway, Hugh? I have heard Tom and his friends
say the whole string over and over again with the greatest apparent
satisfaction; but to me they convey not a shadow of an idea."
"Nor to any one else, I imagine," said Hugh. "If the phrases ever had
any meaning, it has long ago vanished into obscurity. I have seen
explanations given of many popular terms but never of these. After I
am gone, though, Bessie, you had better give up slang. It is all very
well with me, and to tell the truth, I have taught you all you know,
but it would not do with any one else."
"Just as though I should ever speak a word of it to any one else,"
said Bessie indignantly. "With you, it is different; you are like
"Alter ego," said Hugh.
"I don't know anything about alter ego, but I know I shall miss you
dreadfully," said Bessie, throwing down her brush as the thought of
Hugh's departure came into her mind with vivid distinctness.
"I shall be back again in November, Bessie."
"Yes; but only for a day or two."
"Perhaps I shall come home in the spring, also."
"But it won't be the same. You will change,—I know you will,"
murmured Bessie, with a half sob.
"I shall not change towards any of you here at home, but of course I
shall grow older, and I hope I shall improve. You remember all I told
you about my plans for the future?"
"Yes, Hugh. But it is such a long way off."
"It does not seem long to me, Bessie; I have so much to accomplish
that the time will be short. I love to look forward,—I love to think
of all I shall do, of all the beautiful things I shall buy,—of all
the unfortunate people I shall help. I shall succeed,—I know I shall
succeed, because I shall work with all my might and main,—and also
because I shall try to do so much good with my money."
"Yes; but all this time where shall we be? Where shall I be?" said
"You shall come down to visit me with Aunt Faith: you have only one
more year of school-life, and then you can spend a part of every
winter in New York."
"That will be nice," said Bessie, slowly, taking up her brush again;
but, child-like, the present seemed more to her than the future. Hugh
was silent, gazing out through the window 'over the summer
landscape,—the pasture, the grove, and the distant lake. "Aunt Faith
will miss you," said Bessie, after a pause.
"Dear Aunt Faith," replied Hugh, "she does not know how much I love
her! She will miss me, but I shall miss her still more. All my life
she has been my guardian angel. And to think how I have deceived her!"
"Oh, Hugh, such little things!"
"The principle is the same. I think, before I go, I will tell her
all,—all the numerous escapades we have been engaged in; then I shall
have a clear conscience to start with. After I am gone, Bessie, you
will not be tempted to transgress in that way, and who knows but that
we shall turn out quite well-behaved people in our old age."
"I have tempted you, not you me, Hugh."
"Call it even, then. Why! what are you crying about, Brownie?"
"You are going away,—you are going away!" was all that Bessie could
Hugh's eyes softened as he saw his cousin's grief. "Don't cry, dear,"
he said gently. "We shall not be parted long. And while we are parted,
I want to think that you are happy, that you, too, are trying to
improve as I am trying. I want to think that my little Bessie is
growing into a stately, beautiful Elizabeth. You are part of my
future, dear, and you can help me to succeed."
"How, Hugh?" said Bessie, wiping away her tears.
"By being happy, trying to improve yourself, and writing me all you
are doing. Such letters will be very pleasant to me when I am working
hard in the great city. We have never, either of us, taken a serious
view of life, but for once, to-day, I feel very serious, Bessie; I am
going to try to be good,—I am going to try to be a good man. And I
want you to try and be good too."
"I will try, Hugh," whispered Bessie, affected by his serious tone.
"That is right. And now let us have no more sadness to spoil my last
day at home. Whatever the future may bring to me,—and I have full
confidence in the future, you know,—all of you here at home will have
the first place in my heart. I have a great many plans, and all of
them are bright; I have a great many hopes, and all of them are
certain; life seems very beautiful to me, and I thank my Creator for
my health and strength. I ask nothing better than what lies before me,
and I am willing to take the labor for the pleasures it will bring."
Hugh paused, and an expression of glowing hope lit up his face and
shone in his blue eyes. Bessie seized her brush, and, filled with a
sudden inspiration, worked intently at her portrait for some time in
"There is the first dinner-bell, Queen Bess," said Hugh; "I have idled
away the whole morning up here. Good-bye, little studio," he
continued, rising as he spoke; "I hope one day to see you altered into
a beautiful, luxurious abode of art, filled with striking pictures,
the work of America's greatest artist, Elizabeth Darrell!"
"If I should paint the best pictures in the world, you would not allow
my name to be connected with them in public, Hugh. You are so
"Prejudiced, is it? Well, perhaps it is. I own I do not think that
types adorn a woman's name. A woman ought not to appear 'in the
papers' but twice; when she marries, and when she dies."
"So if she don't marry, she never has a chance of being anybody until
she is dead; I don't call that fair, Hugh."
"Surely, Elizabeth Darrell, you are not shrieking for suffrage!"
"Never!" said Bessie, "I'm only shrieking for my name."
"What's in a name!" replied Hugh, laughing. "Paint away, little
artist; I will buy all your pictures, and pay you so well for them
that you won't care for fame. By the way, am I not to ———
[Transcriber's Note: There is some dialogue missing here, although
there are no pages missing in the images.]
"No," replied Bessie, moving the easel; "but I've got your eyes at
"I'm glad of that; good-bye, Brownie," and Hugh ran off down the
stairs to prepare for dinner.
"And my bracket!" said Sibyl, as he came into the dining-room.
"And my poems!" added Aunt Faith, with a smile.
"All in good time, ladies," replied Hugh. "The first hour after dinner
is to be devoted to packing; the second, to Sibyl and her bracket; the
third, to Aunt Faith and her book; the fourth I give to the family as
a collective whole, and all the rest of the time I reserve for tea,
general farewells, and embarkation."
"Highly systematic! You are practicing business habits already, I
see," said Sibyl.
"The B. B.'s are all coming to see you off, Hugh," said Tom.
"What an honor! I am overwhelmed with the attention of the band! What
time may I expect them?"
"A little after six. They are going to form on both sides of the front
walk, and hurrah like troopers."
"Oh Hugh, I am real sorry you are going," said Gem suddenly, dropping
her knife and fork as though the idea had only just become a reality
to her. "I shall hate to see your empty chair in the morning when I
come down to breakfast; I know I shall."
There was an ominous tremor in Gem's voice as she spoke.
"Come, little girl, no tears," said Hugh, bending to kiss his little
cousin; "everybody must be cheerful or I shall not like it. And as for
the chair, take it out of the room if you like, but be sure and bring
it back in November when I come home again."
"I'll keep it in my room, and bring it down myself the day you come
home," said Gem eagerly.
A little after three, Hugh tapped at Sibyl's door. "Is it you,
brother? Come in," said Sibyl, and entering, Hugh sat down by the
table and began to work on the half-finished bracket. They talked on
many subjects, but principally on Hugh's New York life, and his plans
for the future; then gradually they spoke of November, and the
approaching wedding-day. "Before I go, Sibyl, I want to tell you in so
many words how pleased I am to give you into Mr. Leslie's care. If I
could have chosen from all the world, I know no one to whom I would
more willingly have given my only sister; no one so welcome as a
"How glad I am that you feel so, Hugh," said Sibyl warmly.
"And you yourself Sibyl; you have improved so much. It is not often
that brothers and sisters express the affection they feel for each
other, but you know I do not believe in such reserve, and I want you
to know, dear, how thoroughly I appreciate the change in you. Leaving
you, as I must, it is very pleasant to think that my one sister is
growing into a noble good woman, such as our mother would have wished
to have her."
Sibyl threw her arms around Hugh's neck; she was much moved. In her
new life and new love, her brother had become doubly dear to her, and
perhaps for the first time, she realized how much she loved him.
"No tears, I hope, sister," said Hugh, gently raising her head. "This
is my 'good-bye' to you, dear. You know I do not like formal
leave-taking. Here is your little bracket all done, but I shall bring
you a better present from New York, a set of wedding pearls. You will
have to wear them if I give them to you, although you are a
Aunt Faith was sitting by the window in her room when she heard her
nephew's step outside. "Come in!" she said; and when he entered she
pointed to a chair next her own. "My dear boy, I cannot realize that
you are going to leave me."
"Only for a few weeks, Aunt Faith; I shall be back in November."
"Not to stay, dear. No, I feel that this is our first real separation,
although for years you have been absent at school and college many
months at a time. You are the first to leave the old stone house,—the
first bird to fly away from the nest."
"I am the oldest, aunt, and therefore naturally the first to go."
"That is true, but the old bird feels none the less sad."
"You must not feel sad, Aunt Faith; the future looks very bright to
me. Let me tell you all my plans." Sitting there in the quiet room,
the young spirit full of hope, told to the old spirit full of
resignation, all its bright dreams and plans.
"I hope they will all come true, dear," said Aunt Faith, after they
had talked long on these subjects.
"I hope,—I think they will, if human energy can bring it about. But
now, aunt, to look back on the past, I want to make a confession to
you, I want you to hear and forgive me before I go."
Then Hugh told of all the secret horseback rides, and many other wild
adventures of past years, in which he and Bessie had each borne a
part. "It has been all my fault, Aunt Faith," he said, as he
concluded. "I was the elder and the stronger, and I led Bessie on.
Without me she would have done none of those things. Poor little
Bessie! she is very dear to me. You will be kind to her when I am
"I will, Hugh. I, too, am very fond of Bessie. But do not take all the
blame upon yourself; she is by nature rash and way ward."
"I know she is, aunt. But, at the same time, if it had not been for my
influence, Bessie would have been a very different girl; if she had
thought that I disapproved of any of her actions that would have been
the last of them, whereas instead of this, I have encouraged her.
Whatever the blame may be I take it all upon myself. But Bessie is
changing, I think; you will have no trouble with her hereafter, she
will grow into a noble woman yet. And now, aunt, I will leave no work
undone, but finish that volume, if you wish it."
So saying, Hugh took up the book which Aunt Faith had placed ready for
him, and began reading aloud; he read well, and it was one of her
greatest pleasures to listen to him. She often kept volumes by her
side for weeks with the pages uncut, waiting until he could find time
to read them aloud. "And now I will say good-bye!" said Hugh, as he
finished the little book; "you know I dislike formal leave-takings in
the presence of all the family."
"Good-bye, my dear boy!" said Aunt Faith, with a motherly embrace.
"May God bless you and keep you in all your ways, in danger, sickness,
temptation and perplexity, for the sake of His dear Son, our Saviour
Jesus Christ. Oh, Hugh, can you not gladden my heart by saying those
two sentences before you go,—you know what I mean?"
"I will try to say them soon, aunt. I feel that I have changed lately,
but I want to know that it is not the mere excitement of parting and
anticipation of a new life which has affected me. I am going to try
hard to be a good man,—indeed I am; and if I find that these new
feelings outlast my present excitement, I will write you word.
Sometimes I almost feel as though I could make my public profession of
faith now; but the next two months will show me the exact truth, and
perhaps, Aunt Faith, the time of Sibyl's wedding will also be the time
when I shall come forward to join the church."
"God be thanked," said Aunt Faith, fervently; "the feelings will last,
Hugh, for they are holy and true. Go, my boy; I give you up freely
now, for you are virtually enrolled in the army of the Lord, and He
will aid you in all times of trial if you call upon Him."
A little before six all the family, together with Mr. Leslie,
assembled in the sitting-room; there was an undercurrent of sadness in
their minds, but Hugh would allow no melancholy words or looks.
"First we will have tea, then Bessie shall play 'Bonnie Dundee' for
us, then we will all make a triumphal arch of flowers through which I
shall pass, in token of the grand success which awaits me in the
mercantile world, and then I shall go. No one must accompany me to the
boat; I want to see you all on the piazza as the carriage drives away,
and if there is so much as one tear-drop, I shall know it and be ready
to inflict condign punishment therefor," said Hugh, laying down the
law with a magisterial air.
Tea was soon over, and then Bessie with trembling fingers managed,
with severe self-control, to play 'Bonnie Dundee' to the end without a
tear. Another note, however, she could not play, but replaced the
cover of her harp in silence. Then Tom and Gem brought in from the
garden all the flowers they could find, and a long wreath was made and
twined around and over the two pillars of the front piazza.
"There comes the carriage!" said Tom, "and there come the B. B.'s,
too. Here, boys, form on both sides of the walk; Hugh's going in a
The trunk was carried out, and Hugh took up his coat and valise. "Now
I want you all to come out on the piazza," he said. "Aunt Faith, here
is your chair. Gem, you stand by Aunt Faith's side: Sibyl and John,
please stand opposite to them; and Tom,—where is Tom?"
"Here I am!" answered Tom from the back of the house; "I'm getting the
dogs together for the group."
"That's right, the dogs by all means, for they are an important part
of the family," said Hugh, laughing. "Sit over that side, Tom, and
keep them by you. Bessie, I want you to stand in the centre just under
the arch; there, that is perfect. I shall turn round and look at you
all when I reach the gate." So saying, Hugh bent down and kissed
Bessie's pale cheek, and then passing under the arch, walked rapidly
down the long garden-walk. The B. B.'s in martial array on either
side, gave him three cheers as he passed, and when he reached the gate
he turned and looked back with a smile, waving his hat in token of
farewell. In another moment he was gone, then the carriage rolled down
the street out of sight, and Aunt Faith, rising, said solemnly, "May
God bless our dear Hugh, now and forever."
"Amen," said Mr. Leslie.
Bessie had disappeared.
"A forlorn, gloomy day," said Bessie at the breakfast-table the next
morning, "and I'm glad of it!"
"I don't know that I care," said Tom. "When a fellow has got to go to
school, it don't make much difference."
"It must have rained very hard in the night," said Sibyl, looking out
into the garden where the vine-leaves were strewed all over the
"It rained, but there was not much wind," replied Aunt Faith; "I was
awake part of the night and listened to the storm. There was not wind
enough to make any sea, and Hugh is probably in B——— by this time."
"What a jolly ride he will have on the cars to-day, whirling through
the country and getting nearer to New York every mile, while I am
digging away at these old books," said Tom discontentedly.
"Hurry, children!" said Aunt Faith, looking at the clock; "you must
not be late the very first day of school."
"Here comes Mr. Leslie!" called out Tom, slinging his books over his
"John is very early this morning," said Sibyl, going out to meet him
as he came up the walk.
"That is the way it will be all the time now, I suppose," said Bessie
with some irritation; "Hugh gone, and Sibyl so absorbed that she is
good for nothing as a companion. Aunt Faith, you and I are like the
last roses of summer left blooming alone."
Aunt Faith smiled. She was very gentle with Bessie this morning; she
remembered her promise to Hugh, and she saw also that the young girl
was suffering under her share of the sorrow of parting, a sorrow
always heavier for the one that stays than for the one who goes.
"I shall go upstairs and paint," said Bessie after a pause; "I
succeeded at last in giving the right expression to Hugh's eyes. You
may see the picture, now, Aunt Faith; it is so like him."
At this moment Mr. Leslie came into the sitting-room, but Sibyl was
not with him; his face was pale, he went up to Aunt Faith and took her
hand with tender solemnity.
"What is it?" she asked, sinking into a chair; her voice was quiet,
she had too often endured affliction not to recognize its messenger at
a glance. Mr. Leslie, in his ministration in times of trouble, had
learned never to hide or alter the plain truth.
"The morning boat from B——— has just come in," he said. "The
captain reports that the evening boat of the same line, the America,
which left Westerton last night, collided with a schooner off Shoreton
about midnight, and sank in ten minutes. The night was very dark, but
many of the passengers were picked up by the 'Empire' as she came
along two hours afterward, some clinging to fragments of the wreck,
and some in one of the America's small boats. The other boats are
missing, but there is hope that they are safe, as the storm was not
severe, and the lake is now quite calm. The rescued passengers think
that some may have been picked up by a propeller whose lights they saw
in the distance."
"You have come to tell us that Hugh is among the rescued," said Aunt
Faith in a faint voice, hoping against hope.
"Hugh is drowned!" said Bessie with hard, cold distinctness; then she
sat down by the table and buried her face in her hands.
"Hugh is not among those brought back by the 'Empire,'" said Mr.
Leslie, "but I have strong hope that he is safe. Tugs have already
started for the scene of the accident, the water is still at summer
heat, and besides, among the many vessels and propellers constantly
passing over that very spot, there is every probability that many have
been picked up before this time. Hugh is very strong, and an excellent
"Hugh is drowned!" said Bessie in the same hard voice; "He will never
come back to us alive."
"Bessie, Bessie!" cried Sibyl, rushing into the room, "you shall not,
you dare not say such cruel words!" Sibyl's face was discolored with
violent weeping, and her whole frame shook with agitation; she and her
cousin seemed to have changed places, for Bessie did not shed a tear.
"I say what is true," she answered; "Hugh is drowned! Hugh is dead!"
Mr. Leslie went over to her, and took her cold hand; "Bessie," he said
gently, "why do you give up all hope? There are a great many chances
"Go away!" said Bessie in the same dull monotone; "Hugh is dead, I
tell you! Go put crape on the door!"
"She is ill," said Mr. Leslie in a low tone to Aunt Faith; "you had
better take her upstairs."
Aunt Faith roused herself from her own grief; "come, dear," she said,
"I shall not go," said Bessie; "I shall wait here for Hugh."
At this moment Tom and Gem ran into the room.
"Oh, Aunt Faith! what is it?" began Tom. "We met some boys and they
told us that the America was run into last night."
Gem looked at Bessie and Sibyl, and then without a word, she sat down
in her little chair and began to cry bitterly. Aunt Faith could not
answer Tom, the sound of Gem's violent weeping, and Sibyl's sobs,
seemed to choke the words on her lips.
"I don't believe a word of it!" cried Tom indignantly. "Hugh can swim
better than any one in Westerton, and he's as strong as a lion! I'm
going right down to the dock, and you'll see him coming back with me
"Hugh is dead!" said Bessie again; "Hugh is dead!"
The hours passed slowly in those long minutes of weary waiting in
which young hearts grow into old age in a single day. Friends and
neighbors flocked into the old stone house, and their voices were
hushed as they came and went with kindly but useless sympathy. Mr.
Leslie had gone to the scene of the accident on a fast tug,
accompanied by some of Hugh's young companions, and as, during the
day, different vessels came into port, they were boarded by anxious
friends and the latest reports eagerly sought. The bank of the lake
was thronged, people stood there with glasses, in spite of the steady
rain, scanning the eastern horizon in the hope of discovering the
smoke of approaching propellers. Others had friends on board the
America besides the family at the old stone house. But Hugh was well
known and well liked, and his was the only young life among those
still missing from Westerton; the others were middled-aged or old, and
with that universal sympathy which the death of a bright vigorous
youth always awakens, the whole town mourned for Hugh, and stories of
his generous, manly nature, flew from mouth to mouth, until even
strangers felt that they knew him.
At five o'clock a tug returned bringing a man and wife exhausted with
twelve hours in the water lashed to floating spars; but they soon
revived, and the good news flew through the city, and friends told it
to the family in the old stone house, clustered together around
Bessie, who had not changed her attitude or tasted food since morning.
"If they were saved, why not Hugh?" they said hopefully.
"Hugh is dead!" repeated Bessie; "they will bring him home, poor
drowned Hugh!" Sibyl broke forth into violent weeping, and Aunt Faith
shuddered at Bessie's words. "Can you not persuade Bessie to go
upstairs and lie down?" said a lady friend, looking apprehensively at
the young girl's fixed eyes.
Aunt Faith shook her head. "We must leave her to herself for the
present," she answered sadly; "her grief is beyond expression now."
Later in the day, the tug Mr. Leslie had taken was sighted from the
bank, and a crowd assembled on the dock, with the feeling that
suspense would soon be over.
"They would not have come back so soon unless they had found him,"
said one; "they would have cruised around there for a day or two as
long as there was any hope."
"But they don't hoist any signal," said another; "they must know we
are waiting here."
The little tug came rapidly in, watched by hundreds of eyes, and when
at last she approached the dock, the anxiety grew intense. There came
no shout from those on board, the quiet was ominous, and, chilled by a
sudden awe, the crowd stepped back, and awaited the result in silence.
The boat was made fast, and then, after a short delay, the young men
came forth bearing the shrouded form of their late companion, now
still in death. Hugh was dead, then? Yes, Hugh was dead!
But he had not died in vain, and the story of his death was repeated
from mouth to mouth throughout the city; women heard it and sobbed
aloud, as they held their darlings closer; men heard it and spoke a
few brief words of praise and regret to which their wet eyes gave
About half-past eleven the previous night, the America had been
struck amidships by an unknown schooner driving down unseen in the
intense darkness of the storm. Most of the passengers had gone to
their state-rooms, but Hugh was still in the cabin; rushing out on
deck he saw and heard that the boat would sink, and, accompanied by
the captain, ran back through the cabin, arousing the passengers and
telling them of the danger. In an instant all was confusion, agony,
and despair; some of the men leaped overboard, but the women with
their instinctive shrinking from the dark water, could not be
persuaded to leave the deck. A few passengers and part of the crew got
off in one of the small boats, but the other boats were swamped by the
rush into them; a cry went up that the steamer was sinking, and Hugh
was seen to jump overboard with a little child in his arms, a baby
whose mother had held it imploringly towards him, as he tried to
persuade her to take the dangerous leap. "Take the child," she said;
"I will follow you," and then as they disappeared, with a wild cry the
poor woman flung herself over after them. In the mean time the captain
and some of the hands and passengers had ascended to the hurricane
deck, and when the America sank, the force of the waves separated
the deck from the hull, and it floated off, a frail support for the
little group it carried. The lake was strewn with fragments, spars and
barrels, and to these many persons were clinging. Hugh had managed to
secure a piece of broken mast with spars attached, and with its aid he
supported the mother and child until an iron-bound cask, caught in the
cordage, struck him heavily in the darkness. The mother heard him
groan, and his grasp loosened, "Quick!" he said hoarsely; "I cannot
hold you. I must fasten you with these floating ropes; I am badly
hurt, but I think I can hold the child."
He bound the ropes and rigging about her, and told her how she could
best support herself; then he was silent, but every now and then she
heard him moaning as though in pain. How long they floated in this way
the mother could not tell; it seemed to her many hours,—it was, in
reality, less than four. They saw the lights of the Empire in the
distance, but they could not make themselves heard, although they
shouted with all their strength. At the first glimmering of dawn they
discovered the hurricane deck not far distant, and Hugh said, "shout
with all your might. I cannot hold on much longer, my head is on
fire!" So the mother exerted all her strength in a piercing scream,
and to her joy, an answering cry came back through the rain. Hugh made
an effort to steer the spars towards the floating deck, and those on
board pushed their raft towards him as well as they could. Still it
was slow work, and as the dawn grew brighter, the mother saw her
preserver's haggard face, and the blood matted in his curly hair. He
did not speak, as, holding the baby in one arm, with the other he
tried to guide the broken mast, but his eyes were strangely glazed and
the shadow of death was on his brow. They reached the deck at last,
and kind hands lifted them on board; it was only a raft, but it seemed
a support after the deep, dark water. The mother took her baby, and
Hugh sank down at her feet. Some one had a flask of brandy, and they
succeeded in pouring a little through his clenched teeth; after a
moment or two he revived, sat up, looked about him, and murmured some
incoherent words. Then he tried to take out his little note-book, but
it was wet, and the pencil was gone; the captain gave him his own, and
Hugh had scrawled a few words upon it, spoke to the mother and smiled
when she held up the child. But gradually he relapsed into
unconsciousness, grew more and more death-like, and, after breathing
heavily for an hour, passed away without a struggle. The mother and
her child were safe; all the others on the floating deck were
rescued,—but Hugh, dear Hugh was dead!
Mr. Leslie had preceded the funeral cortege by a few moments; slowly
he alighted from the carriage and passed up the garden-walk towards
the old stone house. His heart was heavy, and words of comfort came
not to his lips; in the presence of so great a sorrow he bowed his
head in silence. The friends who were in the house, came out to meet
him, but no one spoke; they knew by his face that the worst was true.
They did not follow him into the presence of the mourners, but going
down to the gate, they waited there.
Mr. Leslie entered the sitting-room. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath
taken away," he said solemnly. "Blessed be the name of the Lord. Hugh,
our dear Hugh is dead."
Sibyl screamed and fell back fainting, the children burst into tears,
and Aunt Faith knelt down by her chair and hid her face in her hands.
Bessie alone was calm. "Are they bringing him home?" she asked,
lifting her tearless eyes to Mr. Leslie's face.
"Yes Bessie; they will soon be here, now."
Without reply she rose, smoothed her disordered curls and arranged her
dress. "Sibyl," she said, "do not cry; Hugh never could bear to hear
any one cry! Aunt Faith, Hugh is coming. Let us go to meet him."
Her strange composure awed the violent grief of the others into
silence, and they followed her mechanically as she led the way to the
piazza; involuntarily they all took the positions of the previous
evening, and, with Bessie standing alone in the centre, they waited
for their dead.
The young men bore their burden up the walk slowly and solemnly, and
behind followed a train of sorrowing friends, two and two, thus
rendering respect to the youth who had so suddenly been taken from
them in all the flush and vigor of early manhood. On came the sad
procession, and when the bearers reached the piazza, the friends fell
back and stood with uncovered heads, as up the steps, and under the
faded triumphal arch, Hugh Warrington came home for the last time to
the old stone house.
At midnight Aunt Faith went softly into the parlor; a faint light
shone from the chandelier upon the still figure beneath, and Bessie
with her face hidden in her hands, sat by its side. She did not move
as Aunt Faith came to her; she did not answer when Aunt Faith spoke to
her; she seemed almost as cold and rigid as the dead.
"Bessie dear, I have something to show you," said Aunt Faith, in a low
tone; "I have a letter to you from Hugh."
Bessie started and looked up; her face was pinched and colorless, and
her dark eyes wild and despairing.
"I have a letter to you, dear, from Hugh," repeated Aunt Faith; "he
wrote it on board the floating deck just before he died."
"Give it to me," said Bessie hoarsely, holding out her cold hands.
"In a moment, dear. Come upstairs with me and you shall see it,"
answered Aunt Faith, trying to lead her away. But Bessie resisted
wildly. "I will not go!" she said. "I shall stay with Hugh until the
last. Give me my letter! It is mine! You have no right to keep it.
Give it to me, I say!"
Alarmed at the expression of her eyes, Aunt Faith took out the
captain's note-book, opened it, and handed it to her niece. The words
were scrawled across the page in irregular lines; there seemed to be
two paragraphs. The first was this: "Bessie, try to be good, dear; I
love you." The second: "I can say the two sentences, Aunt Faith,—I am
saying them now.—Hugh."
The writing was trembling and indistinct, and the last words barely
legible; the signature was but a blur.
As Bessie deciphered the two messages, a sudden tremor shook her
frame; then she read them over again, speaking the words aloud as if
to give them reality. "Oh Hugh! Hugh!" she cried, "how can I live
With a quick movement, Aunt Faith turned up the gas and threw back the
pall; then she put her arms around the desolate girl and raised her to
her feet. "Look at him, Bessie!" she said earnestly; "look at dear
Hugh, and think how hard it must have been for him to write those
words, how hard he must have tried, how much he must have loved you!"
Hugh's face was calm, the curling, golden hair concealed the cruel
wound on his temple, and there was a beautiful expression about the
mouth, that strange peace which sometimes comes after death, as if
sent to comfort the mourners. His right hand, bruised by the hard
night's work, was covered with vine-leaves, but the left, the hand
that had held the little child, was folded across his breast; he was
dressed as he had been in life, and some one had placed a cross on his
heart,—a little cross of ivy simply twined. "My soldier, true soldier
of the cross," murmured Aunt Faith, stooping to kiss the cold brow.
"In those hours it all became clear to you. 'Lord, I believe, help
Thou mine unbelief;'—'Lord be merciful to me a sinner.' With these
two sentences on your lips, you passed into another country. Farewell,
Hugh! You will not return to us, but we shall go to you."
Bessie had not raised her head from Aunt Faith's shoulder. She had not
looked upon Hugh since they brought him home, and now she stood
holding the note-book in her hands, and trembling convulsively.
"Look at him, Bessie," said Aunt Faith again; "look at dear Hugh. He
is speaking to you now, in that dying message."
At last Bessie raised her head and looked upon the still face long and
earnestly; then, throwing herself down upon her knees, she burst into
a passion of wild grief, calling upon Hugh, beseeching him to speak to
her, and listening for his answer in vain. Aunt Faith did not try to
check her, for these were her first tears; she knew they would relieve
that tension of the head and heart, which, if long continued, must
have ended in physical and mental prostration. After a few moments,
Sibyl came in, and the two watched over Bessie until she sank
exhausted to the floor, when they lifted her slight form and bore her
Then, from the sitting-room, two of Hugh's friends came in, turned
down the light, covered the still face, and went back to keep their
watch in the desolate hours of mourning.
The sun was sinking towards the west in unclouded brightness when a
throng gathered in the old stone house to pay their last tribute of
respect to the dead. "Fitz Hugh Warrington, aged twenty years and ten
months," said the inscription on the coffin-lid, and many tears
dropped upon it, as, one by one, the friends bent over to take a
farewell look at the handsome face with its clustering golden hair.
Then came the voice of the aged pastor, reading the words of the
Gospel of St. John,—Hugh's favorite chapter, the fourteenth. A hymn
followed,—Hugh's favorite hymn, "Brightest and best of the sons of
the morning," and then they all knelt in prayer, the fervent prayer
mingled with tears which ascends from the house where the dearest one
of all is dead.
Mr. Leslie took no part in the services; he stood with Sibyl as one of
the family. Aunt Faith leaned upon the arm of Mr. Hastings, who had
come from New York immediately upon hearing of the accident. Tom and
Gem stood together, but Bessie was alone; she wished no support, she
said; she only wanted to stay by Hugh until the last. So they let her
stand by the head of the coffin alone,—alone with her dead, and with
Then came another hymn, and slowly the bearers lifted all that was
left of their friend, and bore it forth under the same faded
flower-arch, and down the garden-walk, where the throng made way for
them on either side as they passed.
The sun was setting, and, standing on the piazza, the choir sang,—
Abide with me; fast falls the even tide,
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts Bee,
Help of the helpless, Oh abide with me.
I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless,
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death's sting, where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me."
A year had passed, and the colored leaves were dropping for the second
time upon Hugh's grave. Aunt Faith and Bessie were in the sitting-room
of the old stone house, and the voices of Tom and Gem sounded through
the open hall-door from the back garden, where they were sitting under
the oak-tree. Hugh's portrait stood upon an easel, with living ivy
growing around it from the little bracket which he had made that last
day of summer. The afternoon sun struck the picture, and gave it a
vivid realistic expression; Bessie saw it, and laying down her work,
looked lovingly into the bright face. "It is very like Hugh, is it
not, Aunt Faith?" she said at last.
Aunt Faith put on her glasses, and drew nearer the easel. "It is
indeed a wonderful likeness, especially the eyes," she replied. "How
came you to succeed so well?"
"I had been working at it all summer, aunt, but the eyes I could not
copy to my satisfaction, they varied so constantly. It was Hugh's last
day at home; don't you remember how I begged for the morning? He was
sitting in the old arm-chair by the window, looking out towards the
lake, talking about the future; he was so full of life and hope that
morning,—so sure of success,—so happy in the thought of the good he
could accomplish, that his eyes fairly shone. Something came over me;
I took the brush, and, by a sudden inspiration, I succeeded in copying
the expression exactly."
"It is a comfort to have the picture," said Aunt Faith, "and a blessed
thought that we shall see that dear face again, and know it when we
"You believe so, aunt? So do I. I believe that we shall love each
other there as here, only far, far better. To be with those we love,
away from affliction, care, and temptation,—that is heaven."
"I often think of the meetings there, Bessie. Hugh found his father
and his mother there. While we were mourning here, they were rejoicing
"I no longer mourn, Aunt Faith; I have found comfort."
"I know that, my dear, and am thankful for it; but you are sad at
"I feel sad over myself, aunt, over my loneliness, and my faults. I
feel sorry for myself as one feels sorry for a child; I sympathize
with myself as though I was another person. Sometimes it seems as if
my soul sat apart peaceful and quiet, while all the rest of me gave
way to deep despondency. But all the while I know that Hugh is safe;
that I shall go to him, and that through the mercy of our Saviour we
shall find eternal joy. And I always try to remember that Hugh
disliked morbid grief; that he used to say the world was a beautiful
place; that we had no right to despise it; that as long as we were in
it, it was our duty to make others happy and be happy ourselves.
Therefore I try to be cheerful, and when I think of Hugh, I am
cheerful. It is only when I think of myself that despondency comes
back to me."
"You have done well, dear," said Aunt Faith; "I have seen your
struggles, and rejoiced over your victories. I have confidence in you,
Bessie, and if I am called away, I can leave the children in your
charge with an easy heart."
"They are no longer children, Aunt Faith."
"True! Gem is thirteen, but she will need watchful care for many years
yet. And Tom, although tall and strong, is still a thorough boy at
heart, and the next five or six years are full of danger for him."
"Tom is a fine fellow," said Bessie warmly; "he is full of generosity
"Yes, but there are corresponding dangers for his sanguine
temperament. However, although still young, he has an earnest faith;
Hugh's death was a lesson which he will never forget, and all though
he may often go astray, I feel sure he will come back again at the
last. Gem, too, is one of the lambs of the flock; she has improved
greatly the past year. I have had deep cause to be thankful, and I am
thankful," said Aunt Faith, folding her hands reverently. "The
children Thou gavest to me are all Thine; Thou hast cared for them and
brought them to a knowledge of Thy goodness. One hast Thou taken, the
dearest of all; taken him away from trouble to come. Lord, I thank
Thee, for all Thy goodness." As Aunt Faith murmured these words, she
leaned back in her chair and closed her own heart in silence.
After a few moments, Bessie went out on the piazza to welcome Mr.
Leslie and Sibyl as they came up the walk.
"Aunt Faith is resting in her chair," she said, smiling; "we will sit
out here, if you please. How well you look, Sibyl!"
Mrs. Leslie threw off her bonnet, and the light shone in her golden
hair. She looked well, better than she had ever looked as Sibyl
Warrington; for, although her skin had lost something of its extreme
delicacy, her face had gained in animation, and her manners in
cordiality, so that people who could not love her before, loved her
now with sincere affection. Her beautiful hair was coiled gracefully
around her head, and she was dressed with as much care as ever, for
Sibyl was Sibyl still, and could no more change her love for harmony
and taste than the leopard could change his spots. But everything
was simple, inexpensive, and fashioned by her own fingers, so that
although all admired, not even the most censorious could find fault
with the appearance of the pastor's wife.
Mr. Leslie, too, was somewhat altered; he looked well and vigorous,
but his manner was more gentle. The poor said he was more
compassionate, the sick said he was more gentle, his congregation said
he was more eloquent; Hugh's death and Sibyl's sorrow had not been
without their lessons for him, also.
The little chapel was still poor and struggling, but husband and wife
worked together with heart and strength. Sibyl was invaluable; she
threw her system, her energy, and her tact into the week-day work, and
her husband found his Sunday labors doubly successful, because they
were followed up and carried out during the six working days as well
as on the day of rest.
"I have had a letter from Mrs. Stanly, to-day, Bessie," said Mr.
Leslie; "she says little Hugh is beginning to talk, and already can
say 'Aunt Bessie.' He associates you with the Noah's Ark you sent him.
Here is his picture, enclosed in the letter." The photograph
represented a chubby boy with large, wondering eyes and curly hair.
"Brave little man!" said Sibyl, looking over Bessie's shoulder. "What
a wonder he lived through that night!"
"Oh, Hugh held him up out of the water most of the time," said Bessie
quickly; "the mother told me that his little knitted shirt was
scarcely wet at all. I must certainly go East to see the child next
spring, now that his father is dead, I feel more at liberty to assist
Mrs. Stanly, and, between us, we are going to give little Hugh the
best education the country will allow."
"Is that you, Sibyl?" said Aunt Faith's voice within.
"Yes, aunt. Shall we come in?" said Mrs. Leslie, rising.
"No, dear, I will come out;" and Aunt Faith joined the group on the
piazza, taking her seat in an arm-chair.
"What a beautiful afternoon!" she said, "and how brilliant those
maple-leaves are! Have you seen the monument, John?"
"No," answered Mr. Leslie; "is it in place?"
"Yes, the work was all finished this morning, and Bessie and I went
over to look at it. Why not walk over now? We can all go, and these
lovely days cannot last long."
"I should like to go, John, if you have the time," said Sibyl.
"Yes; I can postpone the visit I intended to make. As Aunt Faith says,
these warm, still days cannot last long."
The cemetery was about half a mile distant, a forest glade sloping to
the lake, with a brook in a little ravine running through the centre.
But few graves were there, for the land was but newly consecrated to
its use, but the great forest-trees were old, and in the spring, wild
flowers grew everywhere, and wild birds sang in the foliage. Now, the
trees were dyed in scarlet and gold, and the colored leaves dropped
slowly down upon the ground, for the air was still and hazy with the
purple mists of Indian summer. Hugh's monument stood on a little
eminence overlooking the lake. It was of marble, a slender shaft
broken at the top, with a profusion of roses growing over the broken
place, carved in the marble with life-like fidelity, so that the stone
itself seemed to have blossomed. Below, on one side of the base was
Hugh's name and age, and on the opposite face was the sentence, "I
shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
"I like it;" said Mr. Leslie, standing with uncovered head beside the
grassy mound; "it expresses the idea of the broken young life, and the
roses of hope, faith, and even joy which have grown up to cover the
"It is appropriate that it stands here overlooking the lake," said
Sibyl. "Hugh was so fond of the water, and, on this very lake he lost
his life,—gave it up for the sake of others."
"And I like the monument on account of the sentence," said Bessie,
who sat by the side of the grave arranging a bunch of autumn leaves.
"The monument is only raised to Hugh's earthly memory," said Aunt
Faith. "Hugh is not here; I never feel that I am nearer to him here
than at home. But I like to honor the place where his mortal body
lies, and I like to think when I die, those who love me will likewise
honor my grave."
Bessie completed her wreath and laid it on the mound, and then they
all went back to the old stone house, quiet and thoughtful, but not
sad; the faith within their hearts was too earnest, and the hope too
bright for sadness.
After tea they sat together on the piazza; the night was warm, and the
full-moon shone through the haze, giving the landscape a magical
softness and beauty. Tom and Gem were there also, and at, Tom's feet
were the three dogs, Turk, somewhat sobered, Grip, less hilarious than
formerly, but Pete Trone, Esquire, as vivacious as ever, investigating
every corner of the garden as though he never saw it before, and
coming back after each foray with increased importance, the air of a
philosopher who had discovered all the secrets of the moonlight.
Friends came in and joined the family circle. Rose Saxon, Edith Chase,
who had become one of Bessie's firm friends, and Walter Hart. An hour
or two of pleasant conversation ensued, and Tom delivered some bright
sayings, retiring within the shadow, overcome with boyish
embarrassment when the company applauded him. Finally, when the
visitors had all gone, Aunt Faith rose; "I hope you will stay to
prayers, John," she said; "it is late, but the bright moonlight seems
to postpone the hour of sleeping."
"Yes, Aunt Faith," replied Mr. Leslie; "we will stay, and Sibyl can
play the hymn."
He read a chapter from the Bible, then they all sang a hymn and knelt
a few moments in prayer. With affectionate farewells, they parted for
the night, Sibyl and her husband going home through the moonlight, and
the others separating to their respective rooms.
As Bessie stood before her dressing-table, brushing out her thick
curls, she noticed the lines about her mouth, and the hollows in her
temples. "I am growing old," she thought, with a half-smile, "and yet,
I am only seventeen. How long this year has been; it is like a
lifetime. But yet, it has been a precious year; it has taught me hope
and peace, I shudder when I think how I felt a year ago."
Going across the room, she lifted a little curtain which hung before a
picture; the frame contained only a fragment of paper, and through the
glass the faint pencilled words of Hugh's last message could be seen.
"Bessie, try to be good, dear. I love you." Bessie read the words over
several times, and then, dropping the little curtain, she fell on her
knees by the bedside, and prayed Hugh's prayer. "Lord I believe; help
Thou mine unbelief. Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."
Seasons of despondency came to Bessie Darrell; often her pillow was
wet with tears; often she was obliged to mourn over her shortcomings,
often she prayed in deep contrition for forgiveness of sins,—sins
belonging to her quick impulsive nature, besetting sins with which she
must struggle to the last. But she never lost her faith, she never
ceased to look forward to the other country. Through trouble, through
care, through sickness, through affliction, through life, and through
death she held fast to the hope that abideth forever. Busy and active,
she gave her time first to her Aunt Faith, then to Tom and Gem, and
afterwards to the poor and afflicted. She worked hard, and in the very
labor she found peace at the last; she tried to make others happy,
and, in the end, she found happiness for herself.
Aunt Faith sat by her table, thinking. She was thinking of her loved
ones, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters, her husband,
and last of all, of Hugh. "For the past month my strength has seemed
to fail; it may be that I am nearer home than I know," she thought.
"But all my times are in Thy hand, dear Lord, and whether I go soon,
or whether I must tarry many years longer, Thou knowest. Only grant me
Thy constant aid, for without Thee I can do nothing." She knelt in
prayer, prayed for her children as well as herself. Many tears had she
shed over them, many times of trial and apparent failure had darkened
her way since the five orphans were given into her charge. But the
promise was sure, and although this life may not be long enough for
the harvest, although the laborer may see only the bud here on earth,
that bud will surely blossom and ripen into fruit in heaven.
"He that goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed, shall
doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him."
The faithful laborer toils on
In spite of present sorrow,—
He heeds not toil, he heeds not storm,
But labors for the morrow;
To him the harvest comes in overflowing measure,
To him the fields pour out their overflowing treasure.
He that goeth on his way
Bearing seed, though weeping,—
Shall doubtless come again with joy
Loaded from the reaping,
Loaded with the precious sheaves of faith, and hope,
Bearing them, rejoicing, to his Father's house above.
There is quiet now in the old stone house. One of its inmates has gone
from earth; one has gone to another home, and those who are left under
the roof are all sleeping. The soft moonlight shines on the gray
walls, caressing them as though it loved them. Dear old house! thy
rooms are haunted with memories of happiness, and hallowed with
memories of sorrow. We leave thee regretfully, and turn back again and
again as we go, for a last