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Chapter 13

The love of labour was counted a great virtue there in Faraway. As
for myself I could never put my heart in a hoe handle or in any like
tool of toil. They made a blister upon my spirit as well as upon my
hands. I tried to find in the sweat of my brow that exalted pleasure
of which Mr Greeley had visions in his comfortable retreat on
Printing House Square. But unfortunately I had not his point of
view.

Hanging in my library, where I may see it as I write, is the old
sickle of Uncle Eb. The hard hickory of its handle is worn thin by
the grip of his hand. It becomes a melancholy symbol when I
remember how also the hickory had worn him thin and bent him
low, and how infinitely better than all the harvesting of the sickle
was the strength of that man, diminishing as it wore the wood. I
cannot help smiling when I look at the sickle and thank of the soft
hands and tender amplitude of Mr Greeley.

The great editor had been a playmate of David Brower when they
were boys, and his paper was read with much reverence in our
home.

'How quick ye can plough a ten-acre lot with a pen,' Uncle Eb used
to say when we had gone up to bed after father had been reading
aloud from his Tribune.

Such was the power of the press in that country one had but to say
of any doubtful thing, 'Seen it in print,' to stop all argument. If
there were any further doubt he had only to say that he had read it
either in the Tribune or the Bible, and couldn't remember which.
Then it was a mere question of veracity in the speaker. Books and
other reading were carefully put away for an improbable time of
leisure.

'I might break my leg sometime,' said David Brower, 'then they'll
come handy.' But the Tribune was read carefully every week.

I have seen David Brower stop and look at me while I have been
digging potatoes, with a sober grin such as came to him always
after he had swapped 'hosses' and got the worst of it. Then he
would show me again, with a little impatience in his manner, how
to hold the handle and straddle the row. He would watch me for a
moment, turn to Uncle Eb, laugh hopelessly and say: 'Thet boy'll
hev to be a minister. He can't work.'

But for Elizabeth Brower it might have gone hard with me those
days. My mind was always on my books or my last talk with Jed
Feary, and she shared my confidence and fed my hopes and
shielded me as much as possible from the heavy work. Hope had a
better head for mathematics than I, and had always helped me with
my sums, but I had a better memory and an aptitude in other things
that kept me at the head of most of my classes. Best of all at
school I enjoyed the 'compositions' - I had many thoughts, such as
they were, and some facility of expression, I doubt not, for a child.
Many chronicles of the countryside came off my pen - sketches of
odd events and characters there in Faraway. These were read to the
assembled household. Elizabeth Brower would sit looking gravely
down at me, as I stood by her knees reading, in those days of my
early boyhood. Uncle Eb listened with his head turned curiously,
as if his ear were cocked for coons. Sometimes he and David
Brower would slap their knees and laugh heartily, whereat my
foster mother would give them a quick glance and shake her head.
For she was always fearful of the day when she should see in her
children the birth of vanity, and sought to put it off as far as might
be. Sometimes she would cover her mouth to hide a smile, and,
when I had finished, look warningly at the rest, and say it was
good, for a little boy. Her praise never went further, and indeed all
those people hated flattery as they did the devil and frowned upon
conceit She said that when the love of flattery got hold of one he
would lie to gain it.

I can see this slender, blue-eyed woman as I write. She is walking
up and down beside her spinning-wheel. I can hear the dreary
buz-z-z-z of the spindle as she feeds it with the fleecy ropes. That
loud crescendo echoes in the still house of memory. I can hear her
singing as she steps forward and slows the wheel and swings the
cradle with her foot:

'On the other side of Jordan,
In the sweet fields of Eden,
Where the tree of Life is blooming,
There is rest for you.

She lays her hand to the spokes again and the roar of the spindle
drowns her voice.

All day, from the breakfast hour to supper time, I have heard the
dismal sound of the spinning as she walked the floor, content to
sing of rest but never taking it.

Her home was almost a miracle of neatness. She could work with
no peace of mind until the house had been swept and dusted. A fly
speck on the window was enough to cloud her day. She went to
town with David now and then - not oftener than once a quarter -
and came back ill and exhausted. If she sat in a store waiting for
David, while he went to mill or smithy, her imagination gave her
no rest. That dirt abhorring mind of hers would begin to clean the
windows, and when that was finished it would sweep the floor and
dust the counters. In due course it would lower the big chandelier
and take out all the lamps and wash the chimneys with soap and
water and rub them till they shone. Then, if David had not come, it
would put in the rest of its time on the woodwork. With all her
cleaning I am sure the good woman kept her soul spotless.
Elizabeth Brower believed in goodness and the love of God, and
knew no fear. Uncle Eb used to say that wherever Elizabeth
Brower went hereafter it would have to be clean and comfortable.

Elder Whitmarsh came often to dinner of a Sunday, when he and
Mrs Brower talked volubly about the Scriptures, he taking a
sterner view of God than she would allow. He was an Englishman
by birth, who had settled in Faraway because there he had found
relief for a serious affliction of asthma.

He came over one noon in the early summer, that followed the
event of our last chapter, to tell us of a strawberry party that
evening at the White Church.

'I've had a wonderful experience,' said he as he took a seat on the
piazza, while Mrs Brower came and sat near him. 'I've discovered a
great genius - a wandering fiddler, and I shall try to bring him to
play for us.'

'A fiddler! why, Elder!' said she, 'you astonish me!'

'Nothing but sacred music,' he said, lifting his hand. 'I heard him
play all the grand things today - "Rock of Ages", "Nearer My God,
to Thee", "The Marseillaise" and "Home, Sweet Home". Lifted me
off my feet! I've heard the great masters in New York and London,
but no greater player than this man.'

'Where is he and where did he come from?'

'He's at my house now,' said the good man. 'I found him this
morning. He stood under a tree by the road side, above Nortlrup's.
As I came near I heard the strains of "The Marseillaise". For more
than an hour I sat there listening. It was wonderful, Mrs Brower,
wonderful! The poor fellow is eccentric. He never spoke to me.
His clothes were dusty and worn. But his music went to my heart
like a voice from Heaven. When he had finished I took him home
with me, gave him food and a new coat, and left him sleeping. I
want you to come over, and be sure to bring Hope. She must sing
for us.'

'Mr Brower will be tired out, but perhaps the young people may
go,' she said, looking at Hope and me.

My heart gave a leap as I saw in Hope's eyes a reflection of my
own joy. In a moment she came and gave her mother a sounding
kiss and asked her what she should wear.

'I must look my best, mother,' she said.

'My child,' said the elder, 'it's what you do and not what you wear
that's important.'

'They're both important, Elder,' said my foster mother. You should
teach your people the duty of comeliness. They honour their
Maker when they look their best.'

The spirit of liberalism was abroad in the sons of the Puritans. In
Elizabeth Brower the ardent austerity of her race had been freely
diluted with humour and cheerfulness and human sympathy. It
used to be said of Deacon Hospur, a good but lazy man, that he
was given both to prayer and profanity. Uncle Eb, who had once
heard the deacon swear, when the latter had been bruised by a
kicking cow, said that, so far as he knew, the deacon never swore
except when 'twas necessary. Indeed, most of those men had, I
doubt not, too little of that fear of God in them that characterised
their fathers. And yet, as shall appear, there were in Faraway some
relics of a stern faith.

Hope came out in fine feather, and although I have seen many
grand ladles, gowned for the eyes of kings, I have never seen a
lovelier figure than when, that evening, she came tripping down to
the buggy. It was three miles to the white Church, and riding over
in the twilight I laid the plan of my life before her. She sat a
moment in silence after I had finished.

'I am going away, too,' she remarked, with a sigh.

'Going away!' I said with some surprise, for in all my plans I had
secretly counted on returning in grand style to take her back with
me.

'Going away,' said she decisively.

'It isn't nice for girls to go away from home,' I said.

'It isn't nice for boys, either,' said she.

We had come to the church, its open doors and windows all aglow
with light. I helped her out at the steps, and hitched my horse
under the long shed. We entered together and made our way
through the chattering crowd to the little cloakroom in one corner.
Elder Whitmarsh arrived in a moment and the fiddler, a short,
stout, stupid-looking man, his fiddle in a black box under his arm,
followed him to the platform that had been cleared of its pulpit
The stranger stood staring vacantly at the crowd until the elder
motioned him to a chair, when he obeyed with the hesitating, blind
obedience of a dog. Then the elder made a brief prayer, and after a
few remarks flavoured with puns, sacred and immemorial as the
pulpit itself, started a brief programme of entertainment. A broad
smile marked the beginning of his lighter mood. His manner
seemed to say: 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will give good
heed, you shall see I can be witty on occasion.'

Then a young man came to the platform and recited, after which
Hope went forward and sang 'The Land o' the Leal' with such spirit
that I can feel my blood go faster even now as I thank of it, and of
that girlish figure crowned with a glory of fair curls that fell low
upon her waist and mingled with the wild pink roses at her bosom.
The fiddler sat quietly as if he heard nothing until she began to
sing, when he turned to look at her. The elder announced, after the
ballad, that he had brought with him a wonderful musician who
would favour them with some sacred music. He used the word
'sacred' because he had observed, I suppose, that certain of the
'hardshells' were looking askance at the fiddle. There was an
awkward moment in which the fiddler made no move or sign of
intelligence. The elder stepped near him and whispered. Getting no
response, he returned to the front of the platform and said: 'We
shall first resign ourselves to social intercourse and the good things
the ladies have provided.'

Mountains of frosted cake reared their snowy summits on a long
table, and the strawberries, heaped in saucers around them, were
like red foothills. I remember that while they were serving us Hope
and I were introduced to one Robert Livingstone - a young New
Yorker, stopping at the inn near by, on his way to the big woods.
He was a handsome fellow, with such a fine air of gallantry and so
trig in fashionable clothes that he made me feel awkward and
uncomfortable.

'I have never heard anything more delightful than that ballad,' he
said to Hope. 'You must have your voice trained - you really must.
It will make a great name for you.'

I wondered then why his words hurt me to the soul. The castle of
my dreams had fallen as he spoke. A new light came into her face -
I did not know then what it meant.

'Will you let me call upon you before I leave - may I?' He turned to
me while she stood silent. 'I wish to see your father,' he added.

'Certainly,' she answered, blushing, 'you may come - if you care to
come.

The musician had begun to thrum the strings of his violin. We
turned to look at him. He still sat in his chair, his ear bent to the
echoing chamber of the violin. Soon he laid his bow to the strings
and a great chord hushed every whisper and died into a sweet, low
melody, in which his thought seemed to be feeling its way through
sombre paths of sound. The music brightened, the bow went faster,
and suddenly 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' came rushing off the
strings. A look of amazement gathered on the elder's face and
deepened into horror. It went from one to another as if it had been
a dish of ipecac. Ann Jane Foster went directly for her things, and
with a most unchristian look hurried out into the night. Half a
dozen others followed her, while the unholy music went on, its
merry echoes rioting in that sacred room, hallowed with memories
of the hour of conviction, of the day of mourning, of the coming of
the bride in her beauty.

Deacon Hospur rose and began to drawl a sort of apology, when
the player stopped suddenly and shot an oath at him. The deacon
staggered under the shock of it. His whiskers seemed to lift a bit
like the hair of a cat under provocation. Then he tried to speak, but
only stuttered helplessly a moment as if his tongue were oscillating
between silence and profanity, and was finally pulled down by his
wife, who had laid hold of his coat tails. If it had been any other
man than Deacon Hospur it would have gone badly with the
musician then and there, but we boys saw his discomfiture with
positive gratitude. In a moment all rose, the dishes were gathered
up, and many hurried away with indignant glances at the poor
elder, who was busy taking counsel with some of the brethren.

I have never seen a more pathetic figure than that of poor Nick
Goodall as he sat there thrumming the strings of which he was a
Heaven-born master. I saw him often after that night - a poor,
halfwitted creature, who wandered from inn to inn there in the
north country, trading music for hospitality. A thoroughly
intelligible sentence never passed his lips, but he had a great gift of
eloquence in music. Nobody knew whence he had come or any
particular of his birth or training or family. But for his sullen
temper, that broke into wild, unmeaning profanity at times, Nick
Goodall would have made fame and fortune.

He stared at the thinning crowd as if he had begun dimly to
comprehend the havoc he had wrought. Then he put on his hat,
came down off the platform, and shuffled out of the open door, his
violin in one hand, its box in the other. There were not more than a
dozen of us who followed him into the little churchyard. The moon
was rising, and the shadows of lilac and rose bush, of slab and
monument lay long across the green mounds. Standing there
between the graves of the dead he began to play. I shall never
forget that solemn calling of the silver string:

'Come ye disconsolate where'er ye languish.'

It was a new voice, a revelation, a light where darkness had been,
to Hope and to me. We stood listening far into the night, forgetful
of everything, even the swift flight of the hours.

Loud, impassioned chords rose into the moonlit sky and sank to a
faint whisper of melody, when we could hear the gossip of the
birds in the belfry and under the eaves; trembling tones of
supplication, wailing notes of longing and regret swept through the
silent avenues of the churchyard, thrilling us with their eloquence.
For the first time we heard the music of Handel, of Mendelssohn,
of Paganini, and felt its power, then knowing neither name nor
theme. Hour by hour he played on for the mere joy of it. When we
shook hands with the elder and tiptoed to the buggy he was still
playing. We drove slowly and listened a long way down the road. I
could hear the strains of that ballad, then new to me, but now
familiar, growing fainter in the distance:

O ye'll tak' the high road an' I'll tak' the low road
An' I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me an' me true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

what connection it may have had with the history of poor Nick
Goodall [*1] I have often wondered.

[*1] Poor Nick Coodall died in the almshouse of Jefferson County
some thirty years ago. A better account of this incident was widely
printed at that time.

As the last note died into silence I turned to Hope, and she was
crying.

'Why are you crying?' I asked, in as miserable a moment as I have
ever known.

'It's the music,' she said.

We both sat in silence, then, hearing only the creak of the buggy as
it sped over the sandy road. Well ahead of us I saw a man who
suddenly turned aside, vaulting over the fence and running into the
near woods.

'The night man!' I exclaimed, pulling up a moment to observe him.

Then a buggy came in sight, and presently we heard a loud 'hello'
from David Brower, who, worried by our long stay, had come out
in quest of us.

Irving Bacheller