The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 108/Farmer Hill's Diary
FARMER HILL'S DIARY.
In looking over the papers of our deceased friend, the following diary was discovered. It being too lengthy to copy in full, we omit many of the incidents, as well as the "Account of the Ohio Prophetess," and some religious discussions, chiefly on doctrinal points.—J. S.
April 13, 18—.—Captain Welles was here this morning, advising daddy to buy a horse-cart. Frederic favors it; but daddy doesn't approve of newfangled contrivances. He says we can do as we always have done, viz., carry the grain to mill on horseback, or, when there's a heavy load, take the oxen.
Captain Welles's kindness to me is wonderful, considering that I can in no way favor him, being poor, and without knowledge, and wellnigh friendless. He talked with me to-day, while I was working on the fences, about my mind and my soul, and also about getting along in the world. He counselled me to keep a diary, mentioning many advantages arising therefrom. As what I write is only for my own eye, I will put down that he warned me against being vain of a comely face.
He was a sailor in the ship that brought over Mr. Murray, the preacher of that belief which daddy says is a sin to speak of. But Captain Welles has told me of many things he said on board the vessel, which sound heavenly; also of sermons he preached to the crew, that seem in no way blasphemous, as Aunt Bethiah says the new doctrines are.
They were shipwrecked on the Jersey coast, and experienced great suffering. Shortly after they gained the shore, a man came along, who cried out, as soon as he saw the preacher: "Why, you are the very man I've waited for so long! I have built a meeting-house on purpose for you!" This is very wonderful, when we think that Mr. Murray was never in our country before, and that the man was never out of it.
May 1.—Twenty years old to-day! Just ten years since daddy took me out of the poor-house! How kind they've all been to me! Frederic and Elinor and mammy, and, for the most part, Aunt Bethiah, though she is very precise. If I could only forget where I came from. Captain Welles says it is false pride; but that doesn't hinder its plaguing me. When a thorn pricks, it pricks, whether of a rose-bush or a bramble.
As long as I went to school the boys called me "Poor'us," "Poor'us," only when Frederic was by they didn't dare, for fear of his thrashing them, he was so stout and tall; and he has been growing ever since. Aunt Bethiah says it is reaching and tiptoeing up to the high shelves after company-cake, that makes him so tall. I heard her telling mammy that she fairly laid awake nights, contriving places where to hide things.
"Poor Freddy," says mammy, "he don't have no great of an appetite to eat."
"News to me," says Aunt Bethiah.
She's always on the look-out for him; but, with the whole house on her shoulders, she can't be everywhere. Last fall, while the shoemaker was here making up our winter shoes, Frederic got him to put squeaking leather into one of hers, and not into the mate of it. Then he could tell her step, for she would go "squeak," "———," "squeak," "———." Mammy knew, for her arm-chair wasn't a great ways off from the shoe-bench; but then Frederic's her idol, and all he does is right. Many's the nice bit she has tucked away for him, when Aunt Bethiah's back was turned; and does yet, for all he's a man grown.
He laughs at his grandmother about her plasters and medicines; but he is as full of feeling as he is of fun. Gets up the coldest nights in winter, when she's taken worse, to run for the neighbors, crying, when he thinks nobody sees. Who would think, to see him in his capers, he could ever shed a tear? Nights, when the chores are done, he sits down close to mammy, till the candles are lit. When he was little, 't would be on a cricket, with his head in her lap, and saying his verses; and she would tell him of his pious mother, who had a lovely countenance, and who died young, being willing to go; or of his father, who mourned himself into the grave, for the loss of his dear young wife.
But now he has grown up, he relates to her whatever has happened through the day, if it is only the finding of a hen's nest. This serves to take up her mind, and gives her something to look forward to. After that he reads, or does odd jobs of mending; and, two nights a week, brushes up and goes a-courting. And he's only a year older than I am! I shall never go a-courting. "Poor'us," "Poor'us." Who would want a "poor'us?"
In a few weeks, Elinor will come home for good. Her father's relations have done well by her, and would be glad to keep her always. People say she has bad great advantages, and Hope she will not be spoiled; but that can't be. She was always good, and always will be.
May 5.—'T was just about such a day as this, ten years ago, that Aunt Bethiah came out into the porch, and found me leaning up against the meal-chest. Daddy had just brought me home. He wasn't blind then, though he wore a green shade. How scared I was at Aunt Bethiah!—she looked so tall, and dark, and—hard, like Greatheart's wife, if he ever had one. It doesn't seem possible that she can be mammy's own sister.
Daddy said, "Mammy, suppose we keep him?" And she made answer, that mebby I might save poor Freddy some steps. Then Aunt Bethiah said, "More men folks, more work," and that Frederic knew how to save his own steps. But I stayed, for daddy's mind was made up beforehand, and daddy always has his will, though it is in a gentle way.
Elinor was a little girl then. She sat down with me in the window-seat, and showed me her new primer, and whispered softly that Aunt Bethiah would like me, if I wiped my feet.
Poor mammy! How long she has been sick! She sits in the same chair and in the same corner that she did the night I was brought. Some women wouldn't think of anybody but themselves; but she has a care over the whole neighborhood. She's always steeping up herbs or spreading plasters for somebody. Should like to know how many weight of Burgundy pitch and Dr. Oliver's salve I've run to the doctor's for. I remember how I coughed that first night.
"What a dreadful cough that poor child's got!" said she. "Elinor, reach me the bellows, and hold the blade o' the knife to the fire, and warm it warm. He must have a plaster between his shoulders."
So she laid the bellows across her lap, and spread a plaster, and told me not to tear it off as soon as it began to tickle me, but to rub my back against the door. And there were doors enough, I thought, set round that big kitchen. Nine poor boys, with dreadful coughs, could have found room.
I remember how we used to climb up to the easterly room door, which had squares of glass set in the top, and look through at the best things that were kept shut up there. And how every Sunday night we used to go into the westerly room, and watch for the sun to go down, before we could step out of doors.
May 8.—Helped Frederic to-day to weed out mammy's herb-garden. He keeps it neat as a pin, but has his fun out of it all the same. It is right under the window, where she can see growing her saffron and sage, peppermint, cumfrey, and all the rest. I don't know the names of half. Frederic calls them "health-root," "lullaby-root," "doctor's defiances," "step-quickeners," or whatever comes into his head.
Besides these, which he calls the regular practics, there are all the wild herbs to be gathered in. Mullein, motherwort, thoroughwort, golden-rod, everlasting, burdock-leaves, may-weed, must all be dried and hung up in the garret. Aunt Bethiah groans, but grabs them up with her long fingers, and has them out of the way in less than no time. Daddy calls it mammy's harvest.
Poor old man! How pitiful it is to see him groping about so, with his white face and silvery hair! Yet, to look at his countenance, nobody would say he was blind; for, though his eyes are closed, he seems to see with his whole face. I don't know how to write it down; but I mean, that the look which most people have only in their eyes seems to be spread over his whole countenance, and lights it up and makes it beautiful. Sometimes I turn my eyes away, for it seems as if I were looking at his soul,—and the soul is so mysterious!
May 12.—Frederic's great-uncle Frederic has died, and left him a little bag of silver dollars. He sat down on the floor, and made me sit down on the other side, and we rolled them to each other, just like little boys. He has given us one apiece, and put one in the drawer for Elinor. Elinor and I always used to keep our money together. When it is full, the box is to be broken open, and we shall buy the best books there are. Daddy has been asking when she will come back. By the 1st of June certainly. We've heard of several poor people finding a silver dollar under their plates. Frederic never can keep anything to himself.
May 20.—Frederic has been to Boston, and bought cloth for a tail-coat, and had it cut out by a Boston tailor. It is blue, and cost ten dollars a yard. Mary Swift has been here all the week, making it up. The buttons are gilt, and cost six dollars a dozen. A good many of the neighbors have been in to see it. Those who live farther off will have a chance to-morrow, when he goes to meeting.
May 22.—Yesterday was the Sabbath, and Frederic wore his coat to meeting. Aunt Bethiah took extra pains with his ruffles, so as to have everything correspond. He had on his new boots, with tassels on the tops, and they shone like glass bottles. He frizzed his front hair himself. But I had to braid his cue, and tie on the bow. Blue becomes him, on account of his fairness and his fresh color. I was never struck before with the resemblance of brother and sister; only she is more delicate looking.
She will be very proud of him. We all are, but try not to let it be seen. Mammy is, for all she counselled him to fix his attention on the discourse, and think only such thoughts as he would like to remember at the day of judgment. As we walked out of the yard, I caught sight of her twinkling black eyes over the window-curtain. Such a piece of work too as she makes getting up out of her chair! How handsome and noble he looked, fit for an emperor! Dreadful red, though, by the time we got sot down in meeting; for our pew is a good way up, and his boots squeaked, and we'd heard that all the singers were going early, to see him come into meeting, and Lucy sits in the seats.
After sundown took a pleasant walk through the woods, over to the schoolmaster's boarding-place, to carry back the two last books he lent me,—the poems of Burns and of Henry Kirke White.
Aunt Bethiah found one of them amongst the hay, when she was hunting for her setting-hen. She declares that reading is a dreadful waste of time, and poetry-books are worse than all, and nothing but sing-song.
May 26.—I wish I knew whether there was any merit in me or not. Most people can tell, by the manners of others towards them. But I had such a mean start! No matter how well people treat me, it all, in my estimation, settles down to one thing,—"Poor'us."
It is either, "I will treat you well because you came out of the poor-house," or, "I will treat you well notwithstanding you came from the poor-house." Captain Welles tells me I can make myself just what I want to be; but Aunt Bethiah says that is dreadful wicked doctrine, and daddy rather agrees with her; but it seems to me there can't be any harm in doing my best.
I am very ignorant, and not only so, but I hardly even know what there is to learn. From the schoolmaster's books I get but scraps of knowledge. Supposing I never saw a flower, and somebody should bring me a leaf of a violet, or a clover-head. What should I know of tulips and pinks, or the smell of roses, or of all the flowers that grow in the fields and gardens? The books speak of music, of pictures, of great authors, of the wonders of the sea, of rocks, of stars. Shall I ever learn about all these?
May 30.—In a week Elinor comes. Mammy thinks she will be all run down, and is steeping up white-oak bark and cherry-tree twigs. Elinor will make up faces, I know; but mammy will make her take it. She didn't see Frederic when he dropped in the red pepper. I wouldn't have him know for anything that I skimmed it out.
Captain Welles has bought a chaise. There are now two in the place. His is green-bottomed. It has a most agreeable leathery smell, and a gentle creak which is very pleasant. The minister's is dark blue. They are set high, and the tops tip forward, serving to keep out both sun and rain. Poor Mrs. Scott was buried to-day.
June 7.—Elinor came yesterday, late in the afternoon. Frederic brought her from the tavern. The horse shied at an old coat thrown over a fence and came nigh throwing them both.
I expected to be very glad when Elinor got home, but I'm feeling many things besides gladness.
The people she's been staying with are fashionable and polite, and she has caught their ways, and I can't say but they hang prettily about her. Her aunt is a minister's wife, and akin to a judge, so she has seen the very best of company, and heard the talk of educated people.
But she was glad enough to get home, and said pretty things to us all. Aunt Bethiah says she looks very genteel. She has had her gowns altered to the new fashion, and had on her neck a handsome handkerchief which she worked at the boarding-school. She has also worked a long white veil, very rich, and has made a cape of silk-weed. Besides this, she has painted a light-stand. It is made of bird's-eye maple, and has a green silk bag hanging from underneath. They don't speak of these in daddy's hearing.
After supper, he took her up on his knee and stroked her hair, and said, "Now let us sing rock-a-by as we used to." So, with her head on his shoulder, he rocked and sang rock-a-by, while she laughed. At last she jumped up and ran off to see the bossy.
When she was gone, daddy heaved a deep sigh; but mammy cheered him up, telling how thankful they ought to be for the safe return of their child. 'T was touching to hear them talk, each telling the other how good she was, and how from a child she had followed their wishes.
And to see how tender mammy was of his feelings! Never praising her pretty face, or saying that she looked like her mother, but only speaking of what he could take comfort in too.
Nobody but we three were in the room. At times they would keep silence. Then something long forgotten would come to mind,—some good thing she did, or said, or prayed, when a child,—and they would begin with, "And don't you remember," and so go on with the whole story. Truly pleasant were these memories of the past. Pleasant and sweet as the fragrance which was brought to us by the evening wind from far-off flowery fields.
A time of greater satisfaction I never experienced. Suddenly came in Aunt Bethiah and began to rattle the chairs, and to gather up whatever was lying about. Mammy asked me to shut down the window, for the wind seemed to have changed to the eastward. Frederic's girl came in the evening with some others,—good-looking girls enough. All flowers can't be roses.
In the night, I lay thinking, and thinking, and wishing for I knew not what, and sighing for I knew not what, and looking forwards and backwards till I was all in a whirl.
Is this, I said to myself, the little girl that used to hear me say my catechism? And then I remembered how we used to sit opposite each other on two crickets, while she put out the questions; and how her little toes peeped out, for it was the spring of the year, and she was wearing off her stockings ready to go barefooted. Her shoes were gone long before.
And I remembered, too, how, ever since we were little children, we had gone of summer mornings after wild roses for Old Becky to still; for mammy never could do without rose-water. She used to start us early, before the dew was off, for they were stronger then.
June 8.—I thought last night that we should never go after roses any more; but this morning, just as I was about to set off with the cows, I heard the house-door shut, and then a light step on the grass. I kept myself hid, and peeped through a knot-hole. She had a basket on her arm, and looked about, and took a few steps softly, this way and that, as if looking for somebody. At last I came out, innocent as a lamb. "Good morning, Elinor," says I. "Have you forgot the roses, Walter?" says she, a little bashful. As if I could forget the roses! The hills were all scattered over with children and young people; for it was a fine morning, and the roses were in their prime.
The sun shone, the children shouted, the birds sang, and the air was cool and fresh. It is good to be with the day at its beginning. Elinor laughed, and chatted, and danced up hill and down hill, and snapped her scissors, and snapped off the roses, and stuck the prettiest in her hair and in her apron-string, till at last I told her she looked like a rose-bush all in bloom.
June 11.—To-day Elinor and Frederic walked to meeting together. He had on his new things, and she had on a white chip hat with blue inside and outside, and blue ribbons tied under her chin, and a white gown, and a white mantle. Everybody in the meeting-house was looking at them, and several times the minister's eyes appeared to be directed that way. I could hardly tell preaching from praying, and once I let the pew-seat slam down in prayer-time. 'T would be better if they couldn't turn up at all, and then there wouldn't be such a rattling and clattering the minute the minister says, "Amen."
'T was a young preacher. I hope our minister won't exchange with him very often. He is too young to give satisfaction,—under thirty, I should judge.
August 10.—The summer is passing. It has brought me plenty of work and but little pleasure. Elinor has had much out-of-town company,—frolicking girls and sometimes their brothers. They often come out to rake hay or ride in the cart.
My diary has been neglected. I don't believe anybody writes down their unhappiest feelings, especially when they don't know justly what they are unhappy about.
Something about Elinor. And what is it about Elinor? Do I want to become to her what Frederic is to Lucy? Do I want to make her "Mrs. Poor'us"? Do I want to drag her down and keep her plodding all her days, clad in a homespun gown, and she fit to be a lady in her silks and satins? What is it I would be at?
September 3.—Our summer company is gone, and Aunt Bethiah is glad. We are having longer evenings. When the candles are lit Frederic bids mammy good night and goes off. Sometimes she sits up and puts on her spectacles, and reads Watts's hymns loud to daddy. Aunt Bethiah pares apples and slices them, and Elinor strings them up with a darning-needle. I am tired and sit in the chimney-corner to rest.
Yesterday Mr. Colman preached again, and to-day he took supper at our house,—rainy, and out of his way too! He was unmannerly enough to address most of his remarks to a young person when her elders were present. So seldom, too, as daddy has a chance to talk with an out-of-town minister! He is not at all good-looking. His hair is yellowish and stands up stiff on his forehead, and his eyes are no color. I don't see how he can be agreeable to any young girl. But being a minister goes a good ways.
I knew mammy would ask him to stay to tea. As soon as anybody comes, no matter if it is only in the middle of the afternoon, she always says, "Now take your things right off. Come, Bethiah, clap on the tea-kettle, and we'll have tea airly." They say she was always just so about liking to have company.
October 18.—Mr. Scott has begun to come here evenings. He owns a house and farm and wood-lot. His wife left him no children, and he lives in a lonely house all alone; and poor enough company he must find himself.
He comes here and sits all the evening, talking with daddy and looking at Elinor. Poor hand at talking, though,—so dull and heavy both in looks and words. I wonder what countryman he is. Very dark and thick-set. That doesn't seem like any country in particular. Captain Welles would know; for his father picked him up among the wharves in London, a little ragged boy, running about.
But then who cares what he is? He needn't trouble himself about remembering the heads of the sermon to tell mammy. I always have done it, and can yet. If he's a mind to scratch his hands getting sarsaparilla and snapwood for her off his wood-lot, he may. Have no objection, either, to his bringing Elinor boxberry plums. I never read yet of any maiden losing her heart on boxberry plums; though, to be sure, he might bewitch them. He looks like that.
November 21.—So Winter is coming in earnest. Well, we are all ready for him. Garret and cellar, both barns and the crib, are full. Candy frolic this evening at Lucy's. Had part of the candy stolen coming home. Elinor said she had a good tell for me. What could it be? Made believe I didn't care; but do wish I knew. She said 't wasn't the first one she'd heard, either. Ever since we were children we've come and gone together; but when I was old enough to offer my arm, I didn't dare. If she hadn't been away so much, out of town to school, why I might have been more forward.
November 28.—Frederic seems rather dull of late. Mammy has tried to discover his ailments, so as to know what to steep up. But daddy, by questioning and guessing, has found out that both he and his girl are ready to be married, but have nowhere to live. Daddy brags now that he can find out more without eyes than we all can with, and asked mammy which of her herbs would suit his case. Mr. Scott is getting very bold in his attention, and goes about with the young people. Last night he walked home on the other side of Elinor.
December 2.—It is all settled. Daddy knows how to manage Aunt Bethiah. Frederic and Lucy are to be published next Sabbath. They are going to housekeeping in our easterly front-room, and have a bedroom and one chamber. Another pair of andirons will be put in the kitchen fireplace, and another crane. Aunt Bethiah is in a great flurry about her dye-pot, and can't tell where to put it. I remember, the night I was brought, how mammy made me sit down on it and heat my feet hot.
Lucy has a few things. Frederic's got a little money laid by, and his folks will see that they have what is comfortable. Daddy is going to send me to buy half a dozen spoked chairs, painted blue, with flowers on the backs. Mammy has ordered me to get also a warming-pan.
Aunt Bethiah called me one side this afternoon and asked me, in a whisper, to buy for them a skillet and a pair of green belluses, with a sprig of flowers painted on them, and a brass nose. Who'd thought of a wedding setting her topsy-turvy!
Frederic is happy as a lord. Ever since he had his new clothes he has stood up at all the weddings, because no other fellow, for miles around, had a tail-coat. Now he will have a chance to stand up at his own.
December 13.—The schoolmaster called again this evening. He and Elinor converse well together. He brought me Thomson's "Seasons." He is a kind, thoughtful man, very entertaining. Told many stories of the different places where he had kept school. Very accommodating, too; for, our district being short for money, he has agreed to take his pay in spinning-wheels.
'T is a pleasure to listen while a man of knowledge talks, but a pain, afterwards, to feel the difference between us.
Aunt Bethiah was the first one that made me think about learning. "What! don't know his catechise?" said she. That was the first night I was brought here.
"Elinor can learn him that," said daddy. And Elinor was much younger than I. I hope the schoolmaster won't think anything of my telling him that I wouldn't put him to the trouble of bringing books to me, when I could just as well go after them.
December 14.—This afternoon, Frederic came running into the barn, and threw himself down upon the hay, laughing, and rolling over.
"What's the matter," says I.
"O dear," says he, "I've been overhearing Aunt Bethiah exalt Mr. Scott. She and Elinor were in the unfinished room, and the partition's thin.
"Says she: 'Elinor, I wonder at your being so offish with Mr. Scott. Now, he's a nice man, and well off, and why don't you like him?'
"'O, he don't bring me nigh boxberries enough,' says Elinor, laughing.
"'Laugh now, and cry by and by,' says Aunt B. 'You'll pick over a peck-measure and get a bitter apple at last. You are old enough to have more consideration. There he has got a house all finished off and furnished, English carpet in the spare room, and yellow chairs up chamber, brass andirons and fire-tongs, great wheel and little wheel, rugs braided, quilts quilted, kiverlids wove and counterpanes worked, sheets and piller-cases all made to your hand. Nothing to do, but step right into Mrs. Scott's shoes. Cow in the barn and pig in the sty, cellar all banked up, and knocker on the front door.'
"Elinor laughed so she couldn't speak. I stuffed my mittens into my mouth, and waited.
"'Besides,' she went on, 'he wouldn't be forever under foot, like most men, running in and out all day tracking the floor, and wanting to be waited upon. He eats his breakfast early, goes off with his men to the woods, and you won't see him from morning to night. Nothing to do but snug up, and sit down and take comfort.'
"At this, I gave a great shout and run. But," said Frederic, growing quite serious, "Scott will get her, for all she laughs at him, because he's in earnest; and I never yet knew a man to be dead set upon having a girl, that he didn't get her."
And then he capered off, and left me to consider of his doctrine, as follows:—
"Because he is in earnest." Well, suppose two are in earnest about the same one. What then? It must depend on the kind, or degree. Captain Welles says Scott is set as the east wind. Let him be the very east wind itself, and welcome; and I'll be the sunshine, or a gentle breeze of May, or the sweet breath of summer. The old fable may come true again. No doubt, a man should be honest, even to his own diary. So I must put down here that these pretty words came out of one of the books the schoolmaster lent me. But the application I made myself.
Afterwards Elinor came out into the barn to find a knitting-core. I mean to make her one, like a beauty I saw Lucy have. 'T was made of light wood, painted white, with a wreath of flowers running round it, and varnished. I shall give it to her on New-Year's Day. What a mean present! I wish I could give her something grand, something gold.
Sunday, December 17.—Mr. Colman preached to-day. I can't deny that his sermon was good. He showed himself very glad to meet Elinor. To-morrow he will be over here. He never comes into the place but what he comes a-visiting at our house.
December 22.—Frederic was married this evening. I was about as happy as he, for Elinor and I stood up. Lucy would have her for bridesmaid; and Frederic made her choose who should be bridesman. 'T was three days ago he told me of it. I was sitting down on the cellar-door, in the sunshine. He came up and clapped me on the shoulder, and said he:—
"Come, Walter, brush up your best clothes, for Elinor has chosen you to stand up, and fuss enough she made about it, too. First, she wouldn't choose anyway. Decided. Then she'd a good deal rather not; then she begged me to pick one out myself; and at last she hung down her head and looked sheepish, and jammed the tongs into the ashes, and said, in a little faint voice, 'I guess I'll have Walter.' Now, you know you're a handsome chap, and I expect you'll look your best."
'T was a great wedding. Everybody was there. Lucy is a little, pale, gentle creature. "The lily and the damask rose," I heard the Squire's wife say to the Squire. Our minister being called away to an ordination, Mr. Colman stayed and performed the ceremony. He hung about long after 't was time for the minister to leave, and let the young folks enjoy themselves.
January 1, 18—.—To-day is New-Year's Day, and I gave Elinor the knitting-core, which I was afterwards sorry I did. She said 't was a beauty, and tucked it in her apron-string.
Mr. Scott sent her a white merino shawl, with a border of red flowers and green leaves. Aunt Bethiah thinks 't wasn't bought new, but was one Mrs. Scott kept laid away, and never wore.
Towards night, the stage-driver brought a small box, very heavy, marked with Elinor's name. It contained beautiful books, with beautiful pictures. She read the note which came with them, then looked at me and blushed.
The box was from Mr. Colman, That present of mine was mean enough.
February 2.—I have been reading in the schoolmaster's books tales setting forth the sentiment of love and its manifestations, by which it appeareth that the modest maiden aimeth to conceal her love, appearing oftentimes cold and unmoved, when the contrary is the case. These are truly most delightful books, and I do esteem the reading of them a great privilege.
As I read, I say, Perhaps so doth Elinor. Just so good, and so sweet, and so fair is Elinor. And at the end I say, And with the same love, I hope will Elinor love me.
But shall I say, My dear love, take me and poverty? When she asks for bread, shall I give her a kiss? or for raiment, looks of tenderness? No. When I speak, it shall be to say, I have everything to make life comfortable; come, let us enjoy it together.
April 4.—Captain Welles talks of going to Ohio, with a few others, to take up land, and wants I should go. This seems a good way to get the money I want so much; though I should, of course, have to wait a few years for it. Daddy is anxious to have me do what is for my advantage. He will have to hire another man to work on the farm; for Frederic can't leave his trade now.
April 10.—It is decided that I shall go to Ohio.
They are all sorry to part with me. Elinor says nothing; but there is a heaviness in her countenance delightful to my soul. This morning she got a scolding from Aunt Bethiah for putting more sand on the floor, when it was on new yesterday, and only wanted to be herring-boned.
I shall leave and say nothing.
April 13.—Last night proved that I have some steadfastness.
After eating dinner at Captain Welles's I took a walk over the hills, thinking to find some Mayflowers. I had found a few, and was scratching away the dry leaves, when I heard a rustling quite near me. Then the bushes parted and showed me a lovely face,—the lovely, rosy face of Elinor, growing lovelier and rosier every minute. She had come to find Mayflowers too.
She wanted some very pink ones, and so we went wandering about, down in deep hollows, where the moss was damp, and by little sheep-paths, and through the woods, until at last I perceived the sun was setting, and we had scarcely any flowers.
Upon climbing a tree to discover whereabouts we were, I saw, a little below us, a scraggly, one-sided cedar-tree, which I knew to be a long way from home. The Beaver Brook road led directly past it.
We gained that road, walking quickly at first, but afterwards, more slowly. Daylight left us, and the stars came out. We walked on and on along the lonely road, walked slow, and scarcely spoke. For my resolution was taken. Elinor should not be bound by any promises or confessions. Only, just as we were stepping over the door-sill, I heard a little sigh, and these few words would blunder out, "When I come back from the West, I shall—want to tell—" But there I left off, and didn't go into the house, but walked about the place till nigh midnight.
Ohio, June 6, 18—.—Two years in the wilderness, and nothing gained. Gloom gathers around me. No little spot of blue sky can I discover. The hurricane has destroyed everything. I am sick, weak. O the deathly chills, the burning fever! O the lonesomeness, the heart-loneliness, of this dreary place! The lake, the sickening, freshwater lake, I can't endure. If I could but set foot on the hillside at the old place, and look out upon the great sea, and draw one long breath! If I could but stand on White Rock, with the spray dashing over me, and the wind, from across the broad Atlantic, rushing past! All night I dream of blue, sparkling waters, where little white-sailed boats are gliding so gently, gently off from the shore, and away into the distance. If I could but lay me down in one of these, and so float on and on, no matter where!
Why do I never dream of Elinor? Are we so utterly separated that even in visions I may not behold her face? What have I done, that God refuses me all joy? I don't know of being so bad. But I suppose this not knowing is the very badness itself.
Captain Welles and the others don't show me their letters now. But haven't we more than five senses? Else how is it I know that in these letters is the neighborhood talk of her connection with Mr. Colman? She never mentions it; neither does Frederic. But that is because they have very kind hearts.
I will drag myself once more over these hills. Better wearisome motion than wearisome rest.
June 7.—Yesterday I wandered very far away among the hills, knowing well where I wanted to go, and where I should probably go; but circling round about as if to hide from myself my own intentions. I knew of people who had been there, but had never felt heart to go myself. I crossed a desolate plain, where a fire had passed. Every bush, stump, and tree was blackened. After this came green hills, with woods and grape-vines.
On the side of a hill there stood a hut, built up against a mass of rocks. This hut was what I came to find.
I walked softly up, and looked in at the open door. A dark-looking, beautiful young girl, with long hair, sat crouching in a corner. Close by her was a great shaggy dog.
I had heard of the Prophetess, but thought to find a wrinkled old woman, and this beautiful girl startled me. Startled, but not pleased me; for there was no young look in her face. Such strange eyes I never saw. 'T was as if an old person's face had been smoothed and rounded out, and the expression left there still. By her dress I saw that she was Indian.
The hut was a damp, gloomy place, extending far back into a cavern among the rocks. She arose and beckoned me to follow her farther in,—farther from the light and sunshine. There, in half darkness, half light, she stood, with her terrible eyes fixed upon mine. I longed to step back into the sunshine, for a chill had half taken hold of me; but some power kept me standing there,—neither could I turn my eyes from hers.
Presently I became conscious of a drowsiness. Her face, her whole figure, faded from my sight. Then, in the midst of the darkness, I perceived a spot of light, which soon took unto itself the semblance of a hand,—a pale hand, which held a damask rose, seemingly just plucked, full of fragrance and wet with dew.
While I gazed upon it, I saw that it faded and drooped, till at last its head hung lifeless upon the stalk. There only remained the pale, crumpled leaves. I wept at the sight, thinking of my own damask rose so far away.
But while I wept, the rose revived. A ray of light streamed in from above. The drooping leaves expanded; their color, even their fragrance, returned; and it sat upright upon its stalk, a perfect flower, wanting nothing save the dew-drops.
The vision passed, and after a pause there came strains of mournful music. O, so mournful, so sad, so hopeless! I seemed to hear in it groans of the dying. Tears streamed from my eyes; I sobbed like a child.
But after a little the chords were swept by a more joyous hand, and gave forth a charming melody,—strains ravishing and delightful beyond description. Again I wept, but now tears of joy. A heavenly rapture pervaded my whole being.
As the last strain melted away, consciousness returned. I was standing alone in the damp, chill cavern. The girl, with that same awful look in her face, was crouching in her corner. I tottered towards the open door, towards the sunshine, and sank, shivering, upon the ground. The girl brought me something in a cup to drink,—something dark and fiery. It put new life in my veins, and strength to my limbs.
August 18.—God be thanked for a sight of the old place once more. I could hug the very trees. The grass seems too good to walk on.
God be thanked, too, for bringing me once more under the same roof with Elinor. Captain Welles was right. I could never have survived another winter at the West.
They were all glad to see me. As I went in, Elinor burst out crying. Daddy sat shelling beans.
"What are you crying for?" said he.
"Walter has come," she sobbed out.
"And what is that to be crying about?" said he.
But I saw, as he grasped my hand, that he too brushed away a tear.
Frederic and his Lucy cannot do enough for me. He tries to laugh, scold, tease, and coax me into health. Mammy is steeping up gin and mustard, which, they say, is a sure cure for the chills. Dearly beloved friends! They little know how soothingly their kindness falls upon the heart of the lonely one.
Elinor looks troubled.
They tell me of a great revival here, the like of which was never known.
I miss Aunt Bethiah. She has gone away to visit another sister of hers.
Lucy tells me that Mr. Scott has gone to England to discover his relatives, and that his going was hastened by a talk he had with Elinor. Poor fellow! No doubt his heart can ache, as well as other people's. Lucy says that Elinor was very tender of his feelings when she refused him.
August 2.—There is to be a four days' meeting here. A great many ministers are expected from abroad. Some mighty influence is sweeping over the place. The proud and haughty are bowed low before it. Little children leave their play, and persuade each other to come to Christ. They meet to pray and sing, likewise, very solemn hymns.
August 29.—This is the second day. The meeting-house was crowded full, way up into the galleries and negro seats. Four ministers in the pulpit, besides others in the front pews, and delegates back of them. It is wonderful to hear them tell of the workings of the Spirit in their own churches. The congregation was deeply moved. Many wept. I too feel my sinfulness. I too would come under this mighty influence, but cannot. My heart is like a stone within me. With life and warmth all around, I remain cold and dead.
Elinor rose for prayers. How she can be made any better is what I cannot understand.
September 2.—The meeting is over; but Mr. Colman remains to assist our minister to gather in the abundant harvest. In a few months, he goes to India as a missionary. I must say that his departure will add to my happiness, or at least take from my uneasiness.
Elinor is in great distress, calling herself a monster of iniquity. Mr. Colman labors with her incessantly. She cannot declare it to be the true feeling of her heart, that, for the glory of God, she is willing all her friends should be forever damned.
September 4.—Last night was spent, nearly the whole of it, in prayer and exhortation. I could plainly hear my dear girl sobbing and crying. Towards morning I heard a shout of joy, and immediately afterwards Elinor's voice, singing, in rapturous tones,
"I know that my Redeemer lives."
Then she broke forth into prayer. Her voice rose high and sweet. 'T was as if she was conversing with the angels around the throne of God. I trembled lest, in its ecstatic rapture, her soul should burst its fleshly bonds and soar away.
This afternoon she talked most earnestly with me. Her face was radiant with the warmth and joy of her heart.
September 21.—Mr. Colman wishes to marry Elinor, and take her with him to India.
O God, I beseech thee to spare me this great affliction! Remove not my only joy!
But will she do this? Has there not been, without words, an understanding between us two?
September 23.—I open my journal on purpose to write down, while I am calm, that I believe Mr. Colman to be a worthy, sincere man, and truly anxious for the spread of the Gospel. I wish to set this down, because I am sensible that at times my jealous feelings have caused me to misjudge him, and may do so again. He knows nothing of my hopes and fears. He is not to blame for wishing to brighten his days of exile with the sweetest face that ever smiled. It is natural, when you see a lovely flower, to wish to gather it and have it for your own. He does not know the flower is mine. I speak boldly, but it is only to myself.
September 25.—The Rev. Mr. D———, agent of the Missionary Society, preached last evening a powerful discourse. What a man he is! His soul is all on fire! And what language! There was deep silence in the congregation. They were with him among the heathen. They saw what he had seen. They heard what he had heard. They felt what he had felt. He closed with an earnest appeal for fresh laborers in the vineyard. From a high key he came suddenly down to a low, solemn tone, which suited well with the agitated state of the audience.
"Beware," said he, "of permitting earthly joys, earthly hopes, earthly loves, to come in the way of services due to Christ. Souls are perishing for want of heavenly food, and you withhold it. Thousands, millions, are on the broad road to destruction, and you refuse to extend a helping hand. And why? Because you would enjoy a few short years of earthly happiness. How mean, how worthless, how dearly bought, will appear these few short years, when, at the judgment-day, the souls of these miserable wretches shall cry out against you,—'We might have been saved! We might have been saved!' And still, as the endless ages of eternity roll on, the cry shall come up to you,—'We might have been saved! We might have been saved!'"
Elinor was greatly agitated, weeping often. Sitting next her, I could not help but take her hand in mine, to show my sympathy for her distress. I fear she will consider it a sacred duty to sacrifice herself. O, if she were a little, only a little less good! May God forgive me such a sinful wish! But I love her with an earthly love, and would not have her an angel, lest she soar away and leave me. Still, if I love her truly, ought I not to wish for her the highest holiness? For what shall I wish? For what shall I pray? My mind is perplexed.
I think I will speak to her. She may not have understood my looks, my actions. Yes, I must speak. My pride is gone. I will say: "Elinor, you are all the world to me. I am very poor. But don't leave me alone."
September 26.—This morning Frederic came up to me and clapped me on the shoulder (just in the way he did when he asked me to stand up with him), and said, in a low voice, "Walter, don't you like Elinor?"
The tears rushed to my eyes; I could not speak.
"Come," said he, "let us walk awhile together." And he took my arm in his.
It was very early. We walked miles into the woods. I told him everything.
When I had finished, he said: "Walter, marry Elinor. You must. She shall not leave us. She loves you better than anybody on earth. I guessed it before you went away; and while you were gone, I knew it. No matter about means. You are the same to me as a brother. All the farm shall be yours. My trade is enough for me. I have some money, too, that you can borrow, and repay at your leisure. I should have spoken of this long ago, if I had only known. Why did you keep so close? Ever since you came back, Lucy and I have watched, and she felt so sure that I ventured to speak. You must speak before it gets fixed in her mind that it is a duty to go. For what she thinks she ought to do she will do, and always would.
"And now," he went on in a lighter tone, for Frederic can never keep serious long, "now that I have offered you my sister, I hope you won't reject her. Lucy and I take so much comfort together, just think what a houseful of happiness there will be when you and Elinor are married!"
"O Frederic," I said, as soon as I could speak, "you are too kind; but I am afraid I am not worthy. Besides being poor, I am not a Christian, and I have had but few advantages. And she—she is pure and lovely, and has a mind that is well informed, and the manners of a lady."
"Well," said he, "you want to be good, don't you? and you want to get learning?"
"And you love her with all your heart?"
"Well. Now, Walter, I tell you what I think. If a man knows his ignorance and seeks for knowledge, if he feels his badness, and longs for goodness, and loves with all his heart, he is fit to marry the king's daughter, and inherit the throne."
September 27.—I went this evening into Lucy's room, and found Elinor there alone. I sat down near her.
She looked up, with a smile on her face, and said: "I have been wanting to see you, Walter, and tell you what a glorious path is opened before me. I believe myself to be a chosen instrument for carrying the Gospel to the heathen. And Mr. Colman" (this lower) "thinks me worthy to labor with him in the vineyard."
"And you will marry him?" I asked in a constrained voice.
"Yes," said she, faintly; "I have promised."
I arose and walked many times across the room. When power of speech came, I said, standing still near her: "Elinor, do you remember, the night before I went away, I wanted so much to tell you something? Let me tell it now. But you know. You must have known—you must have seen—I have been waiting to make myself worth offering. I am almost sure I can make you happy, and—have thought you loved me—a little. If I could only hear you say so!"
"Walter," she replied, "I must not seek for happiness. I have loved you, not a little." Here the bright color spread over her face; for while the woman spoke, the angel blushed. "I have loved you. O God, sustain me in this my trial hour!"
This little prayer dropped softly from her lips. I scarce caught the sound of it. Then she spoke in a firmer tone: "What have I to do with happiness or unhappiness? The path of duty lies straight before me. And therein I must walk, though thorns pierce my feet."
"But," I asked, "is it right to marry without—Elinor, do you love Mr. Colman?"
"With my soul I do. He was with me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death,—spiritual, not bodily death. With his help I obtained my heavenly joy. My soul is bound to his. I have loved you, Walter, more than"—and again came the bright blushes, speaking more sweetly than her lips—"more than you can ever know. But the greater the love, the greater the glory of crushing it out. The heavier the cross, the brighter will be the crown, and with the greater rapture shall I wake the music of my golden harp through the countless years of eternity. What is this life? A puff, a breath of air. In it we must prepare for the real life, which lies beyond. When the heavens are rolled up like a scroll, what will it avail me that I passed with one whom I loved with an earthly love this brief existence?"
I prayed for calmness to reason with her, but it was not given me. I sat down, and bowed my face upon my hands. Elinor knelt, and offered up a most touching prayer,—beseeching strength for us both. As she finished, Lucy entered, and I went out without speaking.
It is now past midnight. Frederic has been up to see me. Lucy had a long talk with Elinor. It is a comfort, and still it is not a comfort, to know that she spends long solitary hours in self-communion, during which she strives to crush out the love for me, which, as she tells Lucy, fills all her heart. She had loved me almost from a child. She pined for me in my absence, and wept tears of joy at my return.
What a dear comforter is Frederic! He persuades me that before the time arrives she will grow more calm, and will view all these things differently. He advises me to be constantly near her, that my hold on her affections may not be loosened. Did ever man retire to sleep upon sweeter counsel?
October 5.—How shall I write? What words will express the anguish of my heart? O, how much of misery one short week may bring! My pen moves unguided, burning tears blind my eyes. And one week ago it had not happened. One week ago that pleasant face was still among us. But I cannot write.
October 6.—Since I cannot sleep, let me spend the dragging hours in writing the sad account. Let me sit face to face with my own misery, since only misery can I know.
Just one week ago yesterday it was that a man came hurrying through the place, telling that a ship of war was off Rocky Point Village, and that the British were expected to land in the night, to burn, steal, and may be kill. Help was wanted. Every able man prepared himself to hasten to the spot. Frederic and I got our guns and ammunition ready with all speed.
Lucy put up for us great stores of provisions. She was pale as ashes, but said no discouraging word. I rejoiced in the occasion; for, at the prospect of my life being in peril, Elinor could not hide her tenderness. "O Walter!" she whispered, as I stooped to say good by, "may God keep you safe!"
Just as we were stepping out of the house, mammy, all wrapped up in blankets, came out into the porch,—a thing she had not done before for years. Laying her hand on Frederic's arm, she said, in a trembling voice, "Now, Frederic, be sure and not go into any danger."
He laughed, as young folks do always at the fears of their elders, and then helped her back to her arm-chair.
Rocky Point Village was ten miles off. We were going by water,—that way being the shortest,—about twenty of us in a little pinky. We kept quite close to the land, and arrived there about midnight. The moon was just rising. People were collected from all the villages about. All were watching out for boats from the ship, but none came, and in the morning no ship was to be seen, even from the tall steeple. So it proved a false alarm.
After breakfast, some of the young men proposed going to Pine Island to eat up our good things, and to fill our baskets with beach-plums. This took up all the day.
We had to wait for the tide, so that, by the time we hoisted sail, it was late in the evening. The wind blew fresh, and was dead ahead; and when we had been an hour or two on our course, there was not one aboard but would have been glad to feel the solid land beneath his feet. The little pinky, her sails close reefed, tossed up and down, like an egg-shell. Black clouds spread over the sky, threatening rain and tempest.
Then it was that this terrible calamity took place. I was holding by the rail, comparing in my mind things outward with things internal. The soul, too, encountered storms and darkness.
All at once I perceived that the boom was swinging over, and sprang to get out of the way. As I sprang, I heard a cry, and caught sight of a man pitching headlong into the water.
"Walter! Walter!" That was the cry, and then I knew it to be Frederic, and took a great leap into the darkness.
I strove to shout, but the water rushed into my mouth and ears, and I could make no sound. Once more I heard that cry,—"Walter! Walter!"—but fainter this time, and by it I knew I should never reach him. Still, when the next wave lifted me high, I gathered all my strength, and shouted, "Frederic, wait!"
The boat had been lowered, and that shout saved my own worthless life. But Frederic's was gone forever. O the dreadful words!
They dragged me into the boat, with scarce the breath of life left in me. The vessel lay to, and boats were kept out till morning. But our Frederic was seen no more. And he was the very best of us all.
O what a night! I was watched. They would not let me come near the rail. No doubt there was reason.
I shall never forget the morning. The wind had gone down; the sun rose bright, and burned into my brain; the waves were to me like live creatures, dancing and laughing around us. They seemed to say, "We've had our victim, and are now at peace with mankind. Pass on. Pass on."
As we neared the shore, I made great efforts to be calm; for at home were those to whom I must say, "Here I am safe, but Frederic is drowned."
What would they want of me?
It was still early when we landed. I could only creep along the path, holding on by the fence; for my feet were like leaden weights. My form bowed itself like an old man's. The fields, the trees, were not green, but ghastly.
The sumachs prevented my being seen from the house. As I drew near, I saw Lucy standing at the back door, looking down at the vessel.
Frederic had never left home before, since their marriage. Such a happy look as there was on her face!
I crept off to a clump of willows, and from there ran down the hill and across the Little Swamp to the minister's.
They were in the midst of family prayers. All of them started to their feet, asking what had happened. I had just strength enough to gasp out, "You must tell them. I can't. Frederic is drowned,"—and then fell down in a faint.
O what a desolate home is ours! Poor Lucy! Poor heart-broken young thing!
On that same night a strange thing happened here at home. Mammy could not be got off to bed. She was anxious, and would sit up. At length, (this was about midnight,) she leaned her head back, and seemed to fall into a sleep, so quiet that they could scarce hear her breath. Then a beautiful smile spread over her face. Her lips moved, and spoke, as they thought, Frederic's name. She awoke soon after, but has never since that hour been quite herself,—never seemed conscious of Frederic's loss. She speaks of him as of one gone a journey. Some talk of her exertions the night before, of her anxiety, or of a partial stroke. But I think, and shall always think, that Frederic's angel appeared to her, and, in some way, deadened her mind to the dreadful suffering his loss would occasion.
We have sent for Aunt Bethiah. We need her firmness now.
October 20.—Elinor is in a strange way. I have never seen her either weep, or smile, or work, or read, since that terrible day. I must take back part of that. She does smile, as she sits idle, playing with her fingers,—smiles and moves her lips like—But I cannot bear to write what she is like. I will never believe it. She was in a state of excitement, and this blow has staggered her. But she will recover. God will not deal with us so hardly.
Mr. Colman is away, making his preparations. He surely will not take with him this poor, helpless girl.
November 7.—O, he was so good, so lovely!—noble-looking, and in his very best days. Always was something cheering or lively dropping from his lips. And to think that the last words he uttered were those cries of agony from the dark waters,—"Walter! Walter!"
All night I toss among the dreadful waves, with that cry ringing in my ears; or I strive to clutch at a man's form, as it pitches headlong; or take again that fearful leap, and, at the shock, wake in horror.
Such a dear friend as he was to me! I remember that last night he came to my chamber, so kind, so comforting. And what did I ever do for him? O, if I could only think of anything I ever did for him!
December 12.—The minister talked with me soothingly to-day of the love of God for his children. I feel to-night willing to trust all to Him.
Let the worst happen that can happen, I will bow my head in submission. What matters the few years' sadness of an obscure being? Nothing in the universe stands affected by my grief. Can I not bear what is mine own? Still, even Jesus prayed that the cup might pass.
January 9.—Mr. Colman is in the place. I am sorry. Let me try my best, I have to hate that man—a little. In my secret thoughts I call him my enemy. Did he think, because he was a preacher, that he could pick and choose,—that nothing was too good for him?
I must write down my bad thoughts sometimes. No doubt he is a good man, after all. But he must not meet Elinor now, not if he were a seraph.
January 10.—He came this afternoon, and I met him at the gate. He inquired for Elinor. I asked if he would like to see her, and drew him towards the window of the east room, Lucy's room (Lucy is with her mother). The shutters of this window were partly open. All the others were closed.
Elinor was at the farther end of the room. A little light came in from the window over the kitchen door, or we could hardly have seen her. She was sitting on a low stool, bending forward a little, her head drooping, her hands loosely clasped, and oh! so thin, so white, so lifeless, so like a blighted, wilted flower! What semblance was there of the rosy, smiling face that had so long brightened the old home?
Once she smiled, and then her lips moved as they do often. He shuddered at the sight. "She mourns for her brother," said he. "I will go in and speak to her some words of consolation."
"No, sir," said I. "What you see is not grief, but almost insanity. Shall I tell you the cause?"
Then I drew him from the house to a wide field near by, and as we walked talked to him mildly, but with some boldness.
I made known my love for her, and her own confession to Lucy. I made it plain to him that, in striving against nature, her mind had become unsettled, and so unable to bear that terrible shock. And, finally, I implored him not to take away so frail a being to perish among strangers.
I was surprised that he made no answer. He left me abruptly and walked towards the minister's. Was he offended?
January 11.—This morning a boy brought a note from Mr. Colman, requesting me to come and see him. I went as soon as I could leave home.
He came down to the door and asked me up into his chamber. After handing me a chair, he seated himself at the table, where he remained for some minutes with his head bowed. When he looked up, I was startled at the pale and sorrow-stricken look of his face.
"Young man," said he, "I have passed the night in self-examination, and now I wish to confess that I have deceived myself, injured you, and destroyed the peace of one precious to us both. In gaining a laborer for Christ, I hoped also to gain comfort for my own heart. Still," he added, earnestly, "I was not wholly selfish. I really believed that, under God, she might become a mighty instrument for good. Who so fitted to teach the Gospel as the pure-hearted? I hoped to gain her love. She seemed—there was something in her manner that—but let it pass. I was walking in a dream. 'T was surely a dream, or I should have known that such happiness was not for me.
"Love met me once. It was in early youth. As fair, as lovely a being as God ever made yielded up to me her young heart, and then drooped and died. Years passed. I never thought to meet love again.
"It was while preaching here that I first saw Elinor. I was struck with the resemblance to her who once bloomed in just such loveliness. There was the same purity, the same sweetness, the same dewy freshness. Even the dress was similar,—the lovely blue and white, harmonizing so well with that fair beauty.
"My agitation was so great I could scarcely go on with the services. From that day my dead heart became alive again. Fountains of feeling, which I had deemed sealed forever, burst forth afresh. I dreamed I should walk in light, and not in darkness.
"But it is all past. False hopes shall mislead me no more. I will live solely for the glory of God, since such is His will. Was not that will made plain to me in my early youth? I have asked His forgiveness, and now," he added, extending his hand, "I ask yours. She will recover. With her your life will be blest.
"I will not even bid her farewell. But when health and strength return, when she is yours and you are hers, will you not sometimes speak together of me? Shall you be unwilling to cast for a moment a shadow across the brightness of life, by remembering a lonely man passing his days in exile, without one flower of love to cheer him?"
He was deeply agitated, and from the first had grown more and more earnest. I stood like one confounded. A minister of the Gospel was asking my forgiveness. He whom I had thought proud and haughty was shedding tears. The moment he humbled himself, I seemed to sink below him, O so far!
I told him this, and every feeling I had ever had against him. And, sitting there together, we had a long and friendly talk about Elinor and Frederic and the old people. Before I left, he handed me a letter addressed to Elinor, which he requested me, when she should recover, to give to her.
February 27.—To-day, upon going suddenly into Frederic's room, I found Elinor there, weeping. This was a welcome sight. She had found in the drawer a pair of his mittens,—gray, spotted with red; also a little box which he had given her, and a picture, with "To my sister" written on the back.
She was crouched upon the floor, with these spread out before her, weeping bitterly. I raised her up, speaking soothing words, and drew her towards the window, where the sun shone in, bright and warm.
It was long before she grew calm. I judged it best to say but little. But O the joy of knowing she is saved!
March 17.—To-day Elinor did many little things for mammy, who is now very feeble, and requires constant attention. It is long since she has risen from her bed, and she is for the greater part of the time in a sleep or stupor. Sometimes she revives a little, and seeing, perhaps, some neighbors or friends in the room, will say, "Now you must all stay to tea," or, "Is anybody sick in your neighborhood?" and then drop off again.
I watched Elinor, as she bent over the bed, with tears in my eyes, but joy in my heart. When I left the room, she followed me out, and sat down near me, and whispered, "Let us talk about him."
And then we spoke freely of our dear Frederic,—spoke of his noble heart, of his goodness, of all his pleasant ways. Many little incidents of his life were remembered.
"Frederic is in heaven," I whispered.
"I know he is," she answered calmly, and as if she knew with a knowledge not of earth.
April 15.—Elinor has been growing more like herself ever since the day I found her crying in Frederic's room. She busies herself about the house, talks cheerfully with her grandfather, and does much for his comfort. Good old man! He said to me, the other day: "Walter, I am very wicked. I do not mourn for Frederic. My days here are but few; and I rejoice to think that, when I pass over the river, he will welcome me to the other shore. I strive against this happy thought, but it will come. I wanted to tell somebody of my wicked feelings."
"O, don't talk to me so!" I said, "don't call yourself wicked."
I shall always love Aunt Bethiah, she is so kind to him and to us all. She loved Frederic dearly, in her way. I have noticed that she never sets on the table, at meal-times, the things he used to like best.
June 9.—All my anxiety about Elinor is gone. The color and the smiles are coming back to her face, and the light to her eye. She is almost her old self again. Only, when people have suffered a great deal, some sign of it will always remain.
June 12.—Yesterday, I brought in to her a bunch of wild-roses. She put them in a tumbler, and carried them into mammy's room. This morning she came out with her basket. "Let us be children again," she said. "Let us go for some roses."
So we went over the hills; and, as we passed along the pasture-road, we found ourselves walking hand in hand.
Every day I think I will ask her to be my wife, and every day I put it off till another time. The reason is, that I fear to disturb this pleasant season. I don't know what she thinks about Mr. Colman. She has never mentioned his name.
There are more ways of telling things than by word of mouth. I set my love before her in a thousand ways, and she never throws it back upon me. I shall give her the letter to-morrow.
June 16.—Yesterday, after tea, we sat all together, in mammy's room, till almost dark. She was in an uneasy way, and daddy calmed her down by saying hymns to her,—the very ones she used to read to him. Elinor was making a wreath of oak-leaves for a young girl in the next house, who was going to have a party. I was picking out for her the fairest leaves, equal in size. Daddy said his verses in a sing-song way, so that mammy at last fell quietly asleep, and we spoke to each other softly, so as not to disturb her.
All at once daddy spoke out; and says he, in a slow, quiet way: "Blind folks, you know, hear very quick. I do myself, and sometimes even more than is spoken. For instance, to-night, when Walter says, 'Here is a beautiful leaf for you,' I can hear, 'I love you with all my heart.' And when Elinor says, 'And it will just match this one,' I can hear, 'You can't love me any more than I do you.' Now, children, what are you waiting for?"
Dear old man! I felt like throwing my arms right about his neck, and started up for that purpose. But Elinor came first, and so—
"Never mind me," says daddy, "I'm blind, you know."
Whereupon, I explained that Elinor had taken what was meant for him.
And when we grew a little calm he began to plan plans.
And after that we two took a long walk; and neither of us knew whither we went, or how long we stayed. But during the walk she confessed to me her belief, that God made the heart, as well as the soul, and would never require one to be crushed for the sake of the other. She gave me Mr. Colman's letter. It was as follows:—
About one o'clock, I should think it was, that night, something happened, and, when daylight came, I hardly knew whether it had happened or not.
I had been lying awake some hours, recalling all my past life,—thinking over and over again how a poor, friendless boy had reached a great happiness; and every time I came to the happiness, tears of joy would fill my eyes, and I could not sleep, and did not wish to.
And while I lay in this blissful state, there came floating upon the air strains of the most heavenly music. The whole room was filled with melody. And with the music came the consciousness of its being familiar to me. Where had I heard those sweet strains before? They grew fainter. Raising my head, that no note might escape me, I awoke myself from a sort of trance into which I did not know of having fallen; for I was sure my eyes had not once been closed.
The last, faint sounds died away. Instantly there flashed upon my mind the remembrance of that strange music in the Western wilderness.