Thanksgiving was impending in the village of Mapleton on the 20th of
The Governor's proclamation had been duly and truly read from the pulpit
the Sunday before, to the great consternation of Miss Briskett, the
ambulatory dressmaker, who declared confidentially to Deacon Pitkin's
wife that "she didn't see nothin' how she was goin' to get through
things--and there was Saphiry's gown, and Miss Deacon Trowbridge's cloak,
and Lizy Jane's new merino, not a stroke done on't. The Governor ought to
be ashamed of himself for hurrying matters so."
It was a very rash step for Miss Briskett to go to the length of such a
remark about the Governor, but the deacon's wife was one of the few women
who are nonconductors of indiscretion, and so the Governor never heard of
This particular Thanksgiving tide was marked in Mapleton by exceptionally
charming weather. Once in a great while the inclement New England skies
are taken with a remorseful twinge and forget to give their usual snap of
September frost which generally bites off all the pretty flowers in so
heart-breaking a way, and then you can have lovely times quite down
It was so this year at Mapleton. Though the Thanksgiving proclamation had
been read, and it was past the middle of November, yet marigolds and
four-o'clocks were all ablaze in the gardens, and the golden rod and
purple aster were blooming over the fields as if they were expecting to
keep it up all winter.
It really is affecting, the jolly good heart with which these bright
children of the rainbow flaunt and wave and dance and go on budding and
blossoming in the very teeth and snarl of oncoming winter. An autumn
golden rod or aster ought to be the symbol for pluck and courage, and
might serve a New England crest as the broom flower did the old
The trees round Mapleton were looking like gigantic tulip beds, and
breaking every hour into new phantasmagoria of color; and the great elm
that overshadowed the red Pitkin farm-house seemed like a dome of gold,
and sent a yellow radiance through all the doors and windows as the
dreamy autumn sunshine streamed through it.
The Pitkin elm was noted among the great trees of New England. Now and
then Nature asserts herself and does something so astonishing and
overpowering as actually to strike through the crust of human stupidity,
and convince mankind that a tree is something greater than they are. As a
general thing the human race has a stupid hatred of trees. They embrace
every chance to cut them down. They have no idea of their fitness for
anything but firewood or fruit bearing. But a great cathedral elm, with
shadowy aisles of boughs, its choir of whispering winds and chanting
birds, its hush and solemnity and majestic grandeur, actually conquers
the dull human race and asserts its leave to be in a manner to which all
hearts respond; and so the great elms of New England have got to be
regarded with a sort of pride as among her very few crown jewels, and the
Pitkin elm was one of these.
But wasn't it a busy time in Mapleton! Busy is no word for it. Oh, the
choppings, the poundings, the stoning of raisins, the projections of pies
and puddings, the killing of turkeys--who can utter it? The very chip
squirrels in the stone-walls, who have a family custom of making a
market-basket of their mouths, were rushing about with chops incredibly
distended, and their tails had an extra whisk of thanksgiving alertness.
A squirrel's Thanksgiving dinner is an affair of moment, mind you.
In the great roomy, clean kitchen of the deacon's house might be seen the
lithe, comely form of Diana Pitkin presiding over the roaring great oven
which was to engulf the armies of pies and cakes which were in due course
of preparation on the ample tables.
Of course you want to know who Diana Pitkin was. It was a general fact
about this young lady that anybody who gave one look at her, whether at
church or at home, always inquired at once with effusion, "Who is she?"--
particularly if the inquirer was one of the masculine gender.
This was to be accounted for by the fact that Miss Diana presented to the
first view of the gazer a dazzling combination of pink and white, a
flashing pair of black eyes, a ripple of dimples about the prettiest
little rosy mouth in the world, and a frequent somewhat saucy laugh,
which showed a set of teeth like pearls. Add to this a quick wit, a
generous though spicy temper, and a nimble tongue, and you will not
wonder that Miss Diana was a marked character at Mapleton, and that the
inquiry who she was was one of the most interesting facts of statistical
Well, she was Deacon Pitkin's second cousin, and of course just in that
convenient relationship to the Pitkin boys which has all the advantages
of cousinship and none of the disadvantages as may be plain to an
ordinary observer. For if Miss Diana wished to ride or row or dance with
any of the Pitkin boys, why shouldn't she? Were they not her cousins? But
if any of these aforenamed young fellows advanced on the strength of
these intimacies a presumptive claim to nearer relationship, why, then
Diana was astonished--of course she had regarded them as her cousins! and
she was sure she couldn't think what they could be dreaming of--"A cousin
is just like a brother, you know."
This was just what James Pitkin did not believe in, and now as he is
walking over hill and dale from Cambridge College to his father's house
he is gathering up a decided resolution to tell Diana that he is not and
will not be to her as a brother--that she must be to him all or nothing.
James is the brightest, the tallest, and, the Mapleton girls said, the
handsomest of the Pitkin boys. He is a strong-hearted, generous, resolute
fellow as ever undertook to walk thirty-five miles home to eat his
We are not sure that Miss Diana is not thinking of him quite as much as
he of her, as she stands there with the long kitchen shovel in one hand,
and one plump white arm thrust into the oven, and her little head cocked
on one side, her brows bent, and her rosy mouth pursed up with a solemn
sense of the importance of her judgment as she is testing the heat of her
Oh, Di, Di! for all you seem to have nothing on your mind but the
responsibility for all those pumpkin pies and cranberry tarts, we
wouldn't venture a very large wager that you are not thinking about
cousin James under it all at this very minute, and that all this pretty
bustling housewifeliness owes its spice and flavor to the thought that
James is coming to the Thanksgiving dinner.
To be sure if any one had told Di so, she would have flouted the very
idea. Besides, she had privately informed Almira Sisson, her special
particular confidante, that she knew Jim would come home from college
full of conceit, and thinking that everybody must bow down to him, and
for her part she meant to make him know his place. Of course Jim and she
were good friends, etc., etc.
Oh, Di, Di! you silly, naughty girl, was it for this that you stood so
long at your looking-glass last night, arranging how you would do your
hair for the Thanksgiving night dance? Those killing bows which you
deliberately fabricated and lodged like bright butterflies among the dark
waves of your hair--who were you thinking of as you made and posed them?
Lay your hand on your heart and say who to you has ever seemed the best,
the truest, the bravest and kindest of your friends. But Di doesn't
trouble herself with such thoughts--she only cuts out saucy mottoes from
the flaky white paste to lay on the red cranberry tarts, of which she
makes a special one for each cousin. For there is Bill, the second
eldest, who stays at home and helps work the farm. She knows that Bill
worships her very shoe-tie, and obeys all her mandates with the faithful
docility of a good Newfoundland dog, and Di says "she thinks everything
of Bill--she likes Bill." So she does Ed, who comes a year or two behind
Bill, and is trembling out of bashful boyhood. So she does Rob and Ike
and Pete and the whole healthy, ramping train who fill the Pitkin farm-
house with a racket of boots and boys. So she has made every one a tart
with his initial on it and a saucy motto or two, "just to keep them from
being conceited, you know."
All day she keeps busy by the side of the deacon's wife--a delicate,
thin, quiet little woman, with great thoughtful eyes and a step like a
snowflake. New England had of old times, and has still, perhaps, in her
farm-houses, these women who seem from year to year to develop in the
spiritual sphere as the bodily form shrinks and fades. While the cheek
grows thin and the form spare, the will-power grows daily stronger;
though the outer man perish, the inner man is renewed day by day. The
worn hand that seems so weak yet holds every thread and controls every
movement of the most complex family life, and wonders are daily
accomplished by the presence of a woman who seems little more than a
spirit. The New England wife-mother was the one little jeweled pivot on
which all the wheel work of the family moved.
"Well, haven't we done a good day's work, cousin?" says Diana, when
ninety pies of every ilk--quince, apple, cranberry, pumpkin, and mince--
have been all safely delivered from the oven and carried up into the
great vacant chamber, where, ranged in rows and frozen solid, they are to
last over New Year's day! She adds, demonstratively clasping the little
woman round the neck and leaning her bright cheek against her whitening
hair, "Haven't we been smart?" And the calm, thoughtful eyes turn
lovingly upon her as Mary Pitkin puts her arm round her and answers:
"Yes, my daughter, you have done wonderfully. We couldn't do without
And Diana lifts her head and laughs. She likes petting and praising as a
cat likes being stroked; but, for all that, the little puss has her claws
and a sly notion of using them.
It was in the flush and glow of a gorgeous sunset that you might have
seen the dark form of the Pitkin farm-house rising on a green hill
against the orange sky.
The red house, with its overhanging canopy of elm, stood out like an old
missal picture done on a gold ground.
Through the glimmer of the yellow twilight might be seen the stacks of
dry corn-stalks and heaps of golden pumpkins in the neighboring fields,
from which the slow oxen were bringing home a cart well laden with farm
It was the hour before supper time, and Biah Carter, the deacon's hired
man, was leaning against a fence, waiting for his evening meal; indulging
the while in a stream of conversational wisdom which seemed to flow all
the more freely from having been dammed up through the labors of the day.
Biah was, in those far distant times of simplicity a "mute inglorious"
newspaper man. Newspapers in those days were as rare and unheard of as
steam cars or the telegraph, but Biah had within him all the making of a
thriving modern reporter, and no paper to use it on. He was a walking
biographical and statistical dictionary of all the affairs of the good
folks of Mapleton. He knew every piece of furniture in their houses, and
what they gave for it; every foot of land, and what it was worth; every
ox, ass and sheep; every man, woman and child in town. And Biah could
give pretty shrewd character pictures also, and whoever wanted to inform
himself of the status of any person or thing in Mapleton would have done
well to have turned the faucet of Biah's stream of talk, and watched it
respectfully as it came, for it was commonly conceded that what Biah
Carter didn't know about Mapleton was hardly worth knowing.
"Putty piece o' property, this 'ere farm," he said, surveying the scene
around him with the air of a connoisseur. "None o' yer stun pastur land
where the sheep can't get their noses down through the rocks without a
file to sharpen 'em! Deacon Pitkin did a putty fair stroke o' business
when he swapped off his old place for this 'ere. That are old place was
all swamp land and stun pastur; wa'n't good for raisin' nothin' but
juniper bushes and bull frogs. But I tell _yeu_" preceded Biah, with a
shrewd wink, "that are mortgage pinches the deacon; works him like a dose
of aloes and picry, it does. Deacon fairly gets lean on't."
"Why," said Abner Jenks, a stolid plow boy to whom this stream of remark
was addressed; "this 'ere place ain't mortgaged, is it? Du tell, naow!"
"Why, yis; don't ye know that are? Why there's risin' two thousand
dollars due on this 'ere farm, and if the deacon don't scratch for it and
pay up squar to the minit, old Squire Norcross'll foreclose on him. Old
squire hain't no bowels, I tell yeu, and the deacon knows he hain't: and
I tell you it keeps the deacon dancin' lively as corn on a hot shovel."
"The deacon's a master hand to work," said Abner; "so's the boys."
"Wai, yis, the deacon is," said Biah, turning contemplatively to the
farmhouse; "there ain't a crittur in that are house that there ain't the
most work got out of 'em that ken be, down to Jed and Sam, the little
uns. They work like tigers, every soul of 'em, from four o'clock in she
morning' as long as they can see, and Mis' Pitkin she works all the
evening--woman's work ain't never done, they say."
"She's a good woman, Mis' Pitkin is," said Abner, "and she's a smart
In this phrase Abner solemnly expressed his highest ideal of a human
"Smart ain't no word for 't," said Biah, with alertness. "Declar for 't,
the grit o' that are woman beats me. Had eight children right along in a
string 'thout stoppin', done all her own work, never kep' no gal nor
nothin'; allers up and dressed; allers to meetin' Sunday, and to the
prayer-meetin' weekly, and never stops workin': when 'tan't one thing
it's another--cookin', washin', ironin', making butter and cheese, and
'tween spells cuttin' and sewin', and if she ain't doin' that, why, she's
braidin' straw to sell to the store or knitting--she's the perpetual
motion ready found, Mis' Pitkin is."
"Want ter know," said the auditor, as a sort of musical rest in this
monotone of talk. "Ain't she smart, though!"
"Smart! Well, I should think she was. She's over and into everything
that's goin' on in that house. The deacon wouldn't know himself without
her; nor wouldn't none of them boys, they just live out of her; she kind
o' keeps 'em all up."
"Wal, she ain't a hefty woman, naow," said the interlocutor, who seemed
to be possessed by a dim idea that worth must be weighed by the pound.
"Law bless you, no! She's a little crittur; nothin' to look to, but every
bit in her is _live_. She looks pale, kind o' slips round still like
moonshine, but where anything's to be done, there Mis' Pitkin is; and her
hand allers goes to the right spot, and things is done afore ye know it.
That are woman's kind o' still; she'll slip off and be gone to heaven
some day afore folks know it. There comes the deacon and Jim over the
hill. Jim walked home from college day 'fore yesterday, and turned right
in to-day to help get in the taters, workin' right along. Deacon was
"What was the matter o' the deacon?"
"Oh, the mortgage kind o' works him. The time to pay comes round putty
soon, and the deacon's face allers goes down long as yer arm. 'Tis a
putty tight pull havin' Jim in college, losin' his work and havin' term
bills and things to pay. Them are college folks charges _up_, I tell you.
I seen it works the deacon, I heard him a-jawin' Jim 'bout it."
"What made Jim go to college?" said Abner with slow wonder in his heavy
"Oh, he allers was sot on eddication, and Mis' Pitkin she's sot on't,
too, in her softly way, and softly women is them that giner'lly carries
their p'ints, fust or last.
"But _there's_ one that _ain't_ softly!" Biah suddenly continued, as the
vision of a black-haired, bright-eyed girl suddenly stepped forth from
the doorway, and stood shading her face with her hands, looking towards
the sunset. The evening light lit up a jaunty spray of golden rod that
she had wreathed in her wavy hair, and gave a glow to the rounded
outlines of her handsome form. "There's a sparkler for you! And no saint,
neither!" was Biah's comment. "That crittur has got more prances and
capers in her than any three-year-old filly I knows on. He'll be cunning
that ever gets a bridle on her."
"Some says she's going to hev Jim Pitkin, and some says it's Bill," said
Abner, delighted to be able to add his mite of gossip to the stream while
it was flowing.
"She's sweet on Jim while he's round, and she's sweet on Bill when Jim's
up to college, and between um she gets took round to everything that
going. She gives one a word over one shoulder, and one over t'other, and
if the Lord above knows what's in that gal's mind or what she's up to, he
knows more than I do, or she either, else I lose my bet."
Biah made this admission with a firmness that might have been a model to
theologians or philosophers in general. There was a point, it appeared,
where he was not omniscient. His universal statistical knowledge had a
There is no moment of life, however festive, that does not involve the
near presence of a possible tragedy. When the concert of life is playing
the gayest and airiest music, it requires only the change of a little
flat or sharp to modulate into the minor key.
There seemed at first glance only the elements of joyousness and gayety
in the surroundings at the Pitkin farm. Thanksgiving was come--the
family, healthy, rosy, and noisy, were all under the one roof-tree. There
was energy, youth, intelligence, beauty, a pair of lovers on the eve of
betrothal--just in that misty, golden twilight that precedes the full
sunrise of avowed and accepted love--and yet behind it all was walking
with stealthy step the shadow of a coming sorrow.
"What in the world ails James?" said Diana as she retreated from the door
and surveyed him at a distance from her chamber window. His face was like
a landscape over which a thunder-cloud has drifted, and he walked beside
his father with a peculiar air of proud displeasure and repression.
At that moment the young man was struggling with the bitterest sorrow
that can befall youth--the breaking up of his life-purpose. He had just
come to a decision to sacrifice his hopes of education, his man's
ambition, his love, his home and family, and become a wanderer on the
face of the earth. How this befell requires a sketch of character.
Deacon Silas Pitkin was a fair specimen of a class of men not uncommon in
New England--men too sensitive for the severe physical conditions of New
England life, and therefore both suffering and inflicting suffering. He
was a man of the finest moral traits, of incorruptible probity, of
scrupulous honor, of an exacting conscientiousness, and of a sincere
piety. But he had begun life with nothing; his whole standing in the
world had been gained inch by inch by the most unremitting economy and
self-denial, and he was a man of little capacity for hope, of whom it was
said, in popular phraseology, that he "took things hard." He was never
sanguine of good, always expectant of evil, and seemed to view life like
a sentinel forbidden to sleep and constantly under arms.
For such a man to be harassed by a mortgage upon his homestead was a
steady wear and drain upon his vitality. There were times when a positive
horror of darkness came down upon him--when his wife's untroubled,
patient hopefulness seemed to him like recklessness, when the smallest
item of expense was an intolerable burden, and the very daily bread of
life was full of bitterness; and when these paroxysms were upon him, one
of the heaviest of his burdens was the support of his son in college. It
was true that he was proud of his son's talents and sympathized with his
love for learning--he had to the full that sense of the value of
education which is the very vital force of the New England mind--and in
an hour when things looked brighter to him he had given his consent to
the scheme of a college education freely.
James was industrious, frugal, energetic, and had engaged to pay the most
of his own expenses by teaching in the long winter vacations. But
unfortunately this year the Mapleton Academy, which had been promised to
him for the winter term, had been taken away by a little maneuver of
local politics and given to another, thus leaving him without resource.
This disappointment, coming just at the time when the yearly interest
upon the mortgage was due, had brought upon his father one of those
paroxysms of helpless gloom and discouragement in which the very world
itself seemed clothed in sack-cloth.
From the time that he heard the Academy was gone, Deacon Silas lay awake
nights in the blackness of darkness. "We shall all go to the poorhouse
together--that's where it will end," he said, as he tossed restlessly in
"Oh no, no, my dear," said his wife, with those serene eyes that had
looked through so many gloomy hours; "we must cast our care on God."
"It's easy for women to talk. You don't have the interest money to pay,
you are perfectly reckless of expense. Nothing would do but James must go
to college, and now see what it's bringing us to!"
"Why, father, I thought you yourself were in favor of it."
"Well, I did wrong then. You persuaded me into it. I'd no business to
have listened to you and Jim and got all this load on my shoulders."
Yet Mary Pitkin knew in her own calm, clear head that she had not been
reckless of expense. The yearly interest money was ever before her, and
her own incessant toils had wrought no small portion of what was needed
to pay it. Her butter at the store commanded the very highest price, her
straw braiding sold for a little more than that of any other hand, and
she had calculated all the returns so exactly that she felt sure that the
interest money for that year was safe. She had seen her husband pass
through this nervous crisis many times before, and she had learned to be
blamed in silence, for she was a woman out of whom all selfness had long
since died, leaving only the tender pity of the nurse and the consoler.
Her soul rested on her Saviour, the one ever-present, inseparable friend;
and when it did no good to speak to her husband, she spoke to her God for
him, and so was peaceful and peace-giving.
Even her husband himself felt her strengthening, rest-giving power, and
for this reason he bore down on her with the burden of all his tremors and
his cares; for while he disputed, he yet believed her, and rested upon
her with an utter helpless trust, as the good angel of his house. Had
_she_ for a moment given way to apprehension, had _her_ step been a
thought less firm, her eye less peaceful, then indeed the world itself
would have seemed to be sinking under his feet. Meanwhile she was to him
that kind of relief which we derive from a person to whom we may say
everything without a fear of its harming them. He felt quite sure that,
say what he would, Mary would always be hopeful and courageous; and he
felt some secret idea that his own gloomy forebodings were of service in
restricting and sobering what seemed to him her too sanguine nature. He
blindly reverenced, without ability fully to comprehend, her exalted
religious fervor and the quietude of soul that it brought. But he did not
know through how many silent conflicts, how many prayers, how many tears,
how many hopes resigned and sorrows welcomed, she had come into that last
refuge of sorrowful souls, that immovable peace when all life's anguish
ceases and the will of God becomes the final rest.
But, unhappily for this present crisis, there was, as there often is in
family life, just enough of the father's nature in the son to bring them
into collision with each other. James had the same nervously anxious
nature, the same intense feeling of responsibility, the same tendency
towards morbid earnestness; and on that day there had come collision.
His father had poured forth upon him his fears and apprehensions in a
manner which implied a censure on his son, as being willing to accept a
life of scholarly ease while his father and mother were, as he expressed
it, "working their lives away."
"But I tell you, father, as God is my witness, I _mean_ to pay all; you
shall not suffer; interest and principal--all that my work would bring--I
engage to pay back."
"You!--you'll never have anything! You'll be a poor man as long as you
live. Lost the Academy this Fall--that tells the story!"
"But, father, it wasn't my fault that I lost the Academy."
"It's no matter whose fault it was--that's neither here nor there--you
lost it, and here you are with the vacation before you and nothing to do!
There's your mother, she's working herself to death; she never gets any
rest. I expect she'll go off in a consumption one of these days."
"There, there, father! that's enough! Please don't say any more. You'll
see I _will_ find something to do!"
There are words spoken at times in life that do not sound bitter though
they come from a pitiable depth of anguish, and as James turned from his
father he had taken a resolution that convulsed him with pain; his strong
arms quivered with the repressed agony, and he hastily sought a distant
part of the field, and began cutting and stacking corn-stalks with a
"Why, ye work like thunder!" was Biah's comment. "Book l'arnin' hain't
spiled ye yet; your arms are good for suthin'."
"Yes, my arms are good for something, and I'll use them for something,"
There was raging a tempest in his soul. For a young fellow of a Puritan
education in those days to be angry with his father was somewhat that
seemed to him as awful a sacrilege as to be angry with his God, and yet
he felt that his father had been bitterly, cruelly unjust towards him. He
had driven economy to the most stringent extremes; he had avoided the
intimacy of his class fellows, lest he should be drawn into needless
expenses; he had borne with shabby clothing and mean fare among better
dressed and richer associates, and been willing to bear it. He had
studied faithfully, unremittingly, for two years, but at the moment he
turned from his father the throb that wrung his heart was the giving up
of all. He had in his pocket a letter from his townsman and schoolmate,
Sam Allen, mate of an East Indiaman just fitting out at Salem, and it
"We are going to sail with a picked crew, and we want one just such a
fellow as you for third mate. Come along, and you can go right up, and
your college mathematics will be all the better for us. Come right off,
and your berth will be ready, and away for round the world!"
Here, to be sure, was immediate position--wages--employment--freedom from
the intolerable burden of dependence; but it was accepted at the
sacrifice of all his life's hopes. True, that in those days the
experiment of a sea-faring life had often, even in instances which he
recalled, brought forth fortune and an ability to settle down in peaceful
competence in after life. But there was Diana. Would she wait for him?
Encircled on all sides with lovers, would she keep faith with an
adventurer gone for an indefinite quest? The desponding, self-distrusting
side of his nature said, "No. Why should she?" Then, to go was to give
up Diana--to make up his mind to have her belong to some other. Then
there was his mother. An unutterable reverential pathos always to him
encircled the idea of his mother. Her life to him seemed a hard one. From
the outside, as he viewed it, it was all self-sacrifice and renunciation.
Yet he knew that she had set her heart on an education for him, as much
as it could be set on anything earthly. He was her pride, her hope; and
just now that very thought was full of bitterness. There was no help for
it; he must not let her work herself to death for him; he would make the
household vessel lighter by the throwing himself into the sea, to sink or
swim as might happen; and then, perhaps, he might come back with money to
help them all.
All this was what was surging and boiling in his mind when he came in
from his work to the supper that night.
Diana Pitkin was like some of the fruits of her native hills, full of
juices which tend to sweetness in maturity, but which when not quite ripe
have a pretty decided dash of sharpness. There are grapes that require a
frost to ripen them, and Diana was somewhat akin to these.
She was a mettlesome, warm-blooded creature, full of the energy and
audacity of youth, to whom as yet life was only a frolic and a play
spell. Work never tired her. She ate heartily, slept peacefully, went to
bed laughing, and got up in a merry humor in the morning. Diana's laugh
was as early a note as the song of birds. Such a nature is not at first
sympathetic. It has in it some of the unconscious cruelty which belongs
to nature itself, whose sunshine never pales at human trouble. Eyes that
have never wept cannot comprehend sorrow. Moreover, a lively girl of
eighteen, looking at life out of eyes which bewilder others with their
brightness, does not always see the world truly, and is sometimes judged
to be heartless when she is only immature.
Nothing was further from Diana's thoughts than that any grave trouble was
overhanging her lover's mind--for her lover she very well knew that James
was, and she had arranged beforehand to herself very pretty little
comedies of life, to be duly enacted in the long vacation, in which James
was to appear as the suitor, and she, not too soon nor with too much
eagerness, was at last to acknowledge to him how much he was to her. But
meanwhile he was not to be too presumptuous. It was not set down in the
cards that she should be too gracious or make his way too easy. When,
therefore, he brushed by her hastily, on entering the house, with a
flushed cheek and frowning brow, and gave no glance of admiration at the
pretty toilet she had found time to make, she was slightly indignant. She
was as ignorant of the pang which went like an arrow through his heart at
the sight of her as the bobolink which whirrs and chitters and tweedles
over a grave.
She turned away and commenced a kitten-like frolic with Bill, who was
always only too happy to second any of her motions, and readily promised
that after supper she would go with him a walk of half a mile over to a
neighbor's, where was a corn-husking. A great golden lamp of a harvest
moon was already coming up in the fading flush of the evening sky, and
she promised herself much amusement in watching the result of her
maneuver on James.
"He'll see at any rate that I am not waiting his beck and call. Next
time, if he wants my company he can ask for it in season. I'm not going
to indulge him in sulks, not I. These college fellows worry over books
till they hurt their digestion, and then have the blues and look as if
the world was coming to an end." And Diana went to the looking-glass and
rearranged the spray of golden-rod in her hair and nodded at herself
defiantly, and then turned to help get on the supper.
The Pitkin folk that night sat down to an ample feast, over which the
impending Thanksgiving shed its hilarity. There was not only the
inevitable great pewter platter, scoured to silver brightness, in the
center of the table, and piled with solid masses of boiled beef, pork,
cabbage and all sorts of vegetables, and the equally inevitable smoking
loaf of rye and Indian bread, to accompany the pot of baked pork and
beans, but there were specimens of all the newly-made Thanksgiving pies
filling every available space on the table. Diana set special value on
herself as a pie artist, and she had taxed her ingenuity this year to
invent new varieties, which were received with bursts of applause by the
boys. These sat down to the table in democratic equality,--Biah Carter
and Abner with all the sons of the family, old and young, each eager,
hungry and noisy; and over all, with moonlight calmness and steadiness,
Mary Pitkin ruled and presided, dispensing to each his portion in due
season, while Diana, restless and mischievous as a sprite, seemed to be
possessed with an elfin spirit of drollery, venting itself in sundry
little tricks and antics which drew ready laughs from the boys and
reproving glances from the deacon. For the deacon was that night in one
of his severest humors. As Biah Carter afterwards remarked of that night,
"You could feel there was thunder in the air somewhere round. The deacon
had got on about his longest face, and when the deacon's face is about
down to its wust, why, it would stop a robin singin'--there couldn't
nothin' stan' it."
To-night the severely cut lines of his face had even more than usual of
haggard sternness, and the handsome features of James beside him, in
their fixed gravity, presented that singular likeness which often comes
out between father and son in seasons of mental emotion. Diana in vain
sought to draw a laugh from her cousin. In pouring his home-brewed beer
she contrived to spatter him, but he wiped it off without a smile, and
let pass in silence some arrows of raillery that she had directed at his
When they rose from table, however, he followed her into the pantry.
"Diana, will you take a walk with me to-night?" he said, in a voice husky
with repressed feeling.
"To-night! Why, I have just promised Bill to go with him over to the
husking at the Jenks's. Why don't you go with us? We're going to have
lots of fun," she added with an innocent air of not perceiving his
"I can't," he said. "Besides I wanted to walk with you alone. I had
something special I wanted to say."
"Bless me, how you frighten one! You look solemn as a hearse; but I
promised to go with Bill to-night, and I suspect another time will do
just as well. What you have to say will _keep_, I suppose," she said
He turned away quickly.
"I should really like to know what's the matter with you to-night," she
added, but as she spoke he went up-stairs and shut the door.
"He's cross to-night," was Diana's comment. "Well, he'll have to get over
his pet. I sha'n't mind it!"
Up-stairs in his room James began the work of putting up the bundle with
which he was to go forth to seek his fortune. There stood his books,
silent and dear witnesses of the world of hope and culture and refined
enjoyment he had been meaning to enter. He was to know them no more.
Their mute faces seemed to look at him mournfully as parting friends. He
rapidly made his selection, for that night he was to be off in time to
reach the vessel before she sailed, and he felt even glad to avoid the
Thanksgiving festivities for which he had so little relish. Diana's
frolicsome gaiety seemed heart-breaking to him, on the same principle
that the poet sings:
"How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary, fu' o' care?"
To the heart struck through with its first experiences of real suffering
all nature is full of cruelty, and the young and light-hearted are a
large part of nature.
"She has no feeling," he said to himself. "Well, there is one reason the
more for my going. _She_ won't break her heart for me; nobody loves me
but mother, and it's for her sake I must go. She mustn't work herself to
death for me."
And then he sat down in the window to write a note to be given to his
mother after he had sailed, for he could not trust himself to tell her
what he was about to do. He knew that she would try to persuade him to
stay, and he felt faint-hearted when he thought of her. "She would sit
up early and late, and work for me to the last gasp," he thought, "but
father was right. It is selfish of me to take it," and so he sat trying
to fashion his parting note into a tone of cheerfulness.
"My dear mother," he wrote, "this will come to you when I have set off on
a four years' voyage round the world. Father has convinced me that it's
time for me to be doing something for myself; and I couldn't get a school
to keep--and, after all, education is got other ways than at college.
It's hard to go, because I love home, and hard because you will miss me--
though no one else will. But father may rely upon it, I will not be a
burden on him another day. Sink or swim, I shall _never_ come back till I
have enough to do for myself, and you too. So good bye, dear mother. I
know you will always pray for me, and wherever I am I shall try to do
just as I think you would want me to do. I know your prayers will follow
me, and I shall always be your affectionate son.
"P.S.--The boys may have those chestnuts and walnuts in my room--and in
my drawer there is a bit of ribbon with a locket on it I was going to
give cousin Diana. Perhaps she won't care for it, though; but if she
does, she is welcome to it--it may put her in mind of old times."'
And this is all he said, with bitterness in his heart, as he leaned on
the window and looked out at the great yellow moon that was shining so
bright as to show the golden hues of the overhanging elm boughs and the
scarlet of an adjoining maple.
A light ripple of laughter came up from below, and a chestnut thrown up
struck him on the hand, and he saw Diana and Bill step from out the
"There's a chestnut for you, Mr. Owl," she called, gaily, "if you _will_
stay moping up there! Come, now, it's a splendid evening; _won't_ you
"No, thank you. I sha'n't be missed," was the reply.
"That's true enough; the loss is your own. Good bye, Mr. Philosopher."
"Good bye, Diana."
Something in the tone struck strangely through her heart. It was the
voice of what Diana never had felt yet--deep suffering--and she gave a
"What an _awfully_ solemn voice James has sometimes," she said; and then
added, with a laugh, "it would make his fortune as a Methodist minister."
The sound of the light laugh and little snatches and echoes of gay talk
came back like heartless elves to mock Jim's sorrow.
"So much for _her_," he said, and turned to go and look for his mother.
MOTHER AND SON.
He knew where he should find her. There was a little, low work-room
adjoining the kitchen that was his mother's sanctum. There stood her
work-basket--there were always piles and piles of work, begun or
finished; and there also her few books at hand, to be glanced into in
rare snatches of leisure in her busy life.
The old times New England house mother was not a mere unreflective drudge
of domestic toil. She was a reader and a thinker, keenly appreciative in
intellectual regions. The literature of that day in New England was
sparse; but whatever there was, whether in this country or in England,
that was noteworthy, was matter of keen interest, and Mrs. Pitkin's small
library was very dear to her. No nun in a convent under vows of
abstinence ever practiced more rigorous self-denial than she did in the
restraints and government of intellectual tastes and desires. Her son was
dear to her as the fulfillment and expression of her unsatisfied craving
for knowledge, the possessor of those fair fields of thought which duty
forbade her to explore.
James stood and looked in at the window, and saw her sorting and
arranging the family mending, busy over piles of stockings and shirts,
while on the table beside her lay her open Bible, and she was singing to
herself, in a low, sweet undertone, one of the favorite minor-keyed
melodies of those days:
"O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home!"
He opened the door and came in, sat down by her on the floor, and laid
his head in her lap.
"Mother, you never rest; you never stop working."
"Oh, no!" she said gaily, "I'm just going to stop now. I had only a few
last things I wanted to get done."
"Mother, I can't bear to think of you; your life is too hard. We all have
our amusements, our rests, our changes; your work is never done; you are
worn out, and get no time to read, no time for anything but drudgery."
"Don't say drudgery, my boy--work done for those we love _never_ is
drudgery. I'm so happy to have you all around me I never feel it."
"But, mother, you are not strong, and I don't see how you can hold out to
do all you do."
"Well," she said simply, "when my strength is all gone I ask God for
more, and he always gives it. 'They that wait on the Lord shall renew
their strength.'" And her hand involuntarily fell on the open Bible.
"Yes, I know it," he said, following her hand with his eyes--while
"Mother," he said, "I want you to give me your Bible and take mine. I
think yours would do me more good."
There was a little bright flush and a pleased smile on his mother's face--
"Certainly, my boy, I will."
"I see you have marked your favorite places," he added. "It will seem
like hearing you speak to read them."
"With all my heart," she added, taking up the Bible and kissing his
forehead as she put it into his hands.
There was a struggle in his heart how to say farewell without saying it--
without letting her know that he was going to leave her. He clasped her
in his arms and kissed her again and again.
"Mother," he said, "if I ever get into heaven it will be through you."
"Don't say that, my son--it must be through a better Friend than I am--
who loves you more than I do. I have not died for you--He did."
"Oh, that I knew where I might find him, then. You I can see--Him I
His mother looked at him with a face full of radiance, pity, and hope.
"I feel sure you _will_" she said. "You are consecrated," she added, in a
low voice, laying her hand on his head.
"Amen," said James, in a reverential tone. He felt that she was at that
moment--as she often was--silently speaking to One invisible of and for
him, and the sense of it stole over him like a benediction. There was a
pause of tender silence for many minutes.
"Well, I must not keep you up any longer, mother dear--it's time you were
resting. Good-night." And with a long embrace and kiss they separated. He
had yet fifteen miles to walk to reach the midnight stage that was to
convey him to Salem.
As he was starting from the house with his bundle in his hand, the sound
of a gay laugh came through the distant shrubbery. It was Diana and Bill
returning from the husking. Hastily he concealed himself behind a clump
of old lilac bushes till they emerged into the moonlight and passed into
the house. Diana was in one of those paroxysms of young girl frolic which
are the effervescence of young, healthy blood, as natural as the
gyrations of a bobolink on a clover head. James was thinking of dark
nights and stormy seas, years of exile, mother's sorrows, home perhaps
never to be seen more, and the laugh jarred on him like a terrible
discord. He watched her into the house, turned, and was gone.
GONE TO SEA.
A little way on in his moonlight walk James's ears were saluted by the
sound of some one whistling and crackling through the bushes, and soon
Biah Carter, emerged into the moonlight, having been out to the same
husking where Diana and Bill had been enjoying themselves. The sight of
him resolved a doubt which had been agitating James's mind. The note to
his mother which was to explain his absence and the reasons for it was
still in his coat-pocket, and he had designed sending it back by some
messenger at the tavern where he took the midnight stage; but here was a
more trusty party. It involved, to be sure, the necessity of taking Biah
into his confidence. James was well aware that to tell that acute
individual the least particle of a story was like starting a gimlet in a
pine board--there was no stop till it had gone through. So he told him in
brief that a good berth had been offered to him on the _Eastern Star_,
and he meant to take it to relieve his father of the pressure of his
"Wal naow--you don't say so," was Biah's commentary. "Wal, yis, 'tis hard
sleddin' for the deacon--drefful hard sleddin.' Wal, naow, s'pose you're
disapp'inted--shouldn't wonder--jes' so. Eddication's a good thing, but
'taint the only thing naow; folks larns a sight rubbin' round the world--
and then they make money. Jes' see, there's Cap'n Stebbins and Cap'n
Andrews and Cap'n Merryweather--all livin' on good farms, with good, nice
houses, all got goin' to sea. Expect Mis' Pitkin'll take it sort o' hard,
she's so sot on you; but she's allers sayin' things is for the best, and
maybe she'll come to think so 'bout this--folks gen'ally does when they
can't help themselves. Wal, yis, naow--goin' to walk to the cross-road
tavern? better not. Jest wait a minit and I'll hitch up and take ye over.
"Thank you, Biah, but I can't stop, and I'd rather walk, so I won't
"Wal, look here--don't ye want a sort o' nest-egg? I've got fifty silver
dollars laid up: you take it on venture and give me half what it brings."
"Thank you, Biah. If you'll trust me with it I'll hope to do something
for us both."
Biah went into the house, and after some fumbling brought out a canvas
bag, which he put into James's hand.
"Wanted to go to sea confoundedly myself, but there's Mariar Jane--she
won't hear on't, and turns on the water-works if I peep a single word.
Farmin's drefful slow, but when a feller's got a gal he's got a cap'n; he
has to mind orders. So you jest trade and we'll go sheers. I think
consid'able of you, and I expect you'll make it go as fur as anybody."
"I'll try my best, you may believe, Biah," said James, shaking the hard
hand heartily, as he turned on his way towards the cross-roads tavern.
The whole village of Maplewood on Thanksgiving Day morning was possessed
of the fact that James Pitkin had gone off to sea in the _Eastern Star_,
for Biah had felt all the sense of importance which the possession of a
startling piece of intelligence gives to one, and took occasion to call
at the tavern and store on his way up and make the most of his
information, so that by the time the bell rang for service the news might
be said to be everywhere. The minister's general custom on Thanksgiving
Day was to get off a political sermon reviewing the State of New England,
the United States of America, and Europe, Asia, and Africa; but it may be
doubted if all the affairs of all these continents produced as much
sensation among the girls in the singers' seat that day as did the news
that James Pitkin had gone to sea on a four years' voyage. Curious eyes
were cast on Diana Pitkin, and many were the whispers and speculations as
to the part she might have had in the move; and certainly she looked
paler and graver than usual, and some thought they could detect traces of
tears on her cheeks. Some noticed in the tones of her voice that day, as
they rose in the soprano, a tremor and pathos never remarked before--the
unconscious utterance of a new sense of sorrow, awakened in a soul that
up to this time had never known a grief.
For the letter had fallen on the heads of the Pitkin household like a
thunderbolt. Biah came in to breakfast and gave it to Mrs. Pitkin, saying
that James had handed him that last night, on his way over to take the
midnight stage to Salem, where he was going to sail on the _Eastern Star_
to-day--no doubt he's off to sea by this time. A confused sound of
exclamations went up around the table, while Mrs. Pitkin, pale and calm,
read the letter and then passed it to her husband without a word. The
bright, fixed color in Diana's face had meanwhile been slowly ebbing
away, till, with cheeks and lips pale as ashes, she hastily rose and left
the table and went to her room. A strange, new, terrible pain--a
sensation like being choked or smothered--a rush of mixed emotions--a
fearful sense of some inexorable, unalterable crisis having come of her
girlish folly--overwhelmed her. Again she remembered the deep tones of
his good-by, and how she had only mocked at his emotion. She sat down and
leaned her head on her hands in a tearless, confused sorrow.
Deacon' Pitkin was at first more shocked and overwhelmed than his wife.
His yesterday's talk with James had no such serious purpose. It had been
only the escape-valve for his hypochondriac forebodings of the future,
and nothing was farther from his thoughts than having it bear fruit in
any such decisive movement on the part of his son. In fact, he secretly
was proud of his talents and his scholarship, and had set his heart on
his going through college, and had no more serious purpose in what he
said the day before than the general one of making his son feel the
difficulties and straits he was put to for him. Young men were tempted at
college to be too expensive, he thought, and to forget what it cost their
parents at home. In short, the whole thing had been merely the passing
off of a paroxysm of hypochondria, and he had already begun to be
satisfied that he should raise his interest money that year without
material difficulty. The letter showed him too keenly the depth of the
suffering he had inflicted on his son, and when he had read it he cast a
sort of helpless, questioning look on his wife, and said, after an
interval of silence:
There was something quite pathetic in the appealing look and voice.'
"Well, father," she answered in subdued tones; "all we can do now is to
Those were words often in that woman's mouth, and they expressed that
habit of her life which made her victorious over all troubles, that habit
of trust in the Infinite Will that actually could and did _leave_ every
accomplished event in His hand, without murmur and without conflict.
If there was any one thing in her uniformly self-denied life that had
been a personal ambition and a personal desire, it had been that her son
should have a college education. It was the center of her earthly wishes,
hopes and efforts. That wish had been cut off in a moment, that hope had
sunk under her feet, and now only remained to her the task of comforting
the undisciplined soul whose unguided utterances had wrought the
mischief. It was not the first time that, wounded by a loving hand in
this dark struggle of life, she had suppressed the pain of her own hurt
that he that had wounded her might the better forgive himself.
"Dear father," she said to him, when over and over he blamed himself for
his yesterday's harsh words to his son, "don't worry about it now; you
didn't mean it. James is a good boy, and he'll see it right at last; and
he is in God's hands, and we must leave him there. He overrules all."
When Mrs. Pitkin turned from her husband she sought Diana in her room.
"Oh, cousin! cousin!" said the girl, throwing herself into her arms.
"_Is_ this true? Is James _gone_? Can't we do _any_ thing? Can't we get
him back? I've been thinking it over. Oh, if the ship wouldn't sail! and
I'd go to Salem and beg him to come back, on my knees. Oh, if I had only
known yesterday! Oh, cousin, cousin! he wanted to talk with me, and I
wouldn't hear him!--oh, if I only had, I could have persuaded him out of
it! Oh, why didn't I know?"
"There, there, dear child! We must accept it just as it is, now that it
is done. Don't feel so. We must try to look at the good."
"Oh, show me that letter," said Diana; and Mrs. Pitkin, hoping to
tranquilize her, gave her James's note. "He thinks I don't care for him,"
she said, reading it hastily. "Well, I don't wonder! But I _do_ care! I
love him better than anybody or anything under the sun, and I never will
forget him; he's a brave, noble, good man, and I shall love him as long
as I live--I don't care who knows it! Give me that locket, cousin, and
write to him that I shall wear it to my grave."
"Dear child, there is no writing to him."
"Oh, dear! that's the worst. Oh, that horrid, horrid sea! It's like
death--you don't know where they are, and you can't hear from them--and a
four years' voyage! Oh, dear! oh, dear!"
"Don't, dear child, don't; you distress me," said Mrs. Pitkin.
"Yes, that's just like me," said Diana, wiping her eyes. "Here I am
thinking only of myself, and you that have had your heart broken are
trying to comfort me, and trying to comfort Cousin Silas. We have both of
us scolded and flouted him away, and now you, who suffer the most of
either of us, spend your breath to comfort us. It's just like you. But,
cousin, I'll try to be good and comfort you. I'll try to be a daughter to
you. You need somebody to think of you, for you never think of yourself.
Let's go in his room," she said, and taking the mother by the hand they
crossed to the empty room. There was his writing-table, there his
forsaken books, his papers, some of his clothes hanging in his closet.
Mrs. Pitkin, opening a drawer, took out a locket hung upon a bit of blue
ribbon, where there were two locks of hair, one of which Diana recognized
as her own, and one of James's. She hastily hung it about her neck and
concealed it in her bosom, laying her hand hard upon it, as if she would
still the beatings of her heart.
"It seems like a death," she said. "Don't you think the ocean is like
death--wide, dark, stormy, unknown? We cannot speak to or hear from them
that are on it."
"But people can and do come back from the sea," said the mother,
soothingly. "I trust, in God's own time, we shall see James back."
"But what if we never should? Oh, cousin! I can't help thinking of that.
There was Michael Davis,--you know--the ship was never heard from."
"Well," said the mother, after a moment's pause and a choking down of
some rising emotion, and turning to a table on which lay a Bible, she
opened and read: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the
uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy
right hand shall hold me."
The THEE in this psalm was not to her a name, a shadow, a cipher, to
designate the unknowable--it stood for the inseparable Heart-friend--the
Father seeing in secret, on whose bosom all her tears of sorrow had been
shed, the Comforter and Guide forever dwelling in her soul, and giving
peace where the world gave only trouble.
Diana beheld her face as it had been the face of an angel. She kissed
her, and turned away in silence.
Seven years had passed and once more the Thanksgiving tide was in
Mapleton. This year it had come cold and frosty. Chill driving autumn
storms had stripped the painted glories from the trees, and remorseless
frosts had chased the hardy ranks of the asters and golden-rods back and
back till scarce a blossom could be found in the deepest and most
sequestered spots. The great elm over the Pitkin farm-house had been
stripped of its golden glory, and now rose against the yellow evening
sky, with its infinite delicacies of net work and tracery, in their way
quite as beautiful as the full pomp of summer foliage. The air without
was keen and frosty, and the knotted twigs of the branches knocked
against the roof and rattled and ticked against the upper window panes as
the chill evening wind swept through them.
Seven long years had passed since James sailed. Years of watching, of
waiting, of cheerful patience, at first, and at last of resigned sorrow.
Once they heard from James, at the first port where the ship stopped. It
was a letter dear to his mother's heart, manly, resigned and Christian;
expressing full purpose to work with God in whatever calling he should
labor, and cheerful hopes of the future. Then came a long, long silence,
and then tidings that the _Eastern Star_ had been wrecked on a reef in
the Indian ocean! The mother had given back her treasure into the same
beloved hands whence she first received him. "I gave him to God, and God
took him," she said. "I shall have him again in God's time." This was how
she settled the whole matter with herself. Diana had mourned with all the
vehement intensity of her being, but out of the deep baptism of sorrow
she had emerged with a new and nobler nature. The vain, trifling,
laughing Undine had received a soul and was a true woman. She devoted
herself to James's mother with an utter self-sacrificing devotion,
resolved as far as in her lay to be both son and daughter to her. She
read, and studied, and fitted herself as a teacher in a neighboring
academy, and persisted in claiming the right of a daughter to place all
the amount of her earnings in the family purse.
And this year there was special need. With all his care, with all his
hard work and that of his family, Deacon Silas never had been able to
raise money to annihilate the debt upon the farm.
There seemed to be a perfect fatality about it. Let them all make what
exertions they might, just as they were hoping for a sum that should
exceed the interest and begin the work of settling the principal would
come some loss that would throw them all back. One year their barn was
burned just as they had housed their hay. On another a valuable horse
died, and then there were fits of sickness among the children, and poor
crops in the field, and low prices in the market; in short, as Biah
remarked, "The deacon's luck did seem to be a sort o' streaky, for do
what you might there's always suthin' to put him back." As the younger
boys grew up the deacon had ceased to hire help, and Biah had transferred
his services to Squire Jones, a rich landholder in the neighborhood, who
wanted some one to overlook his place. The increased wages had enabled
him to give a home to Maria Jane and a start in life to two or three
sturdy little American citizens who played around his house door.
Nevertheless, Biah never lost sight of the "deacon's folks" in his
multifarious cares, and never missed an opportunity either of doing them
a good turn or of picking up any stray item of domestic news as to how
matters were going on in that interior. He had privately broached the
theory to Miss Briskett, "that arter all it was James that Diany (he
always pronounced all names as if they ended in y) was sot on, and that
she took it so hard, his goin' off, that it did beat all! Seemed to make
another gal of her; he shouldn't wonder if she'd come out and jine the
church." And Diana not long after unconsciously fulfilled Biah's
Of late Biah's good offices had been in special requisition, as the
deacon had been for nearly a month on a sick bed with one of those
interminable attacks of typhus fever which used to prevail in old times,
when the doctor did everything he could to make it certain that a man
once brought down with sickness never should rise again.
But Silas Pitkin had a constitution derived through an indefinite
distance from a temperate, hard-working, godly ancestry, and so withstood
both death and the doctor, and was alive and in a convalescent state,
which gave hope of his being able to carve the turkey at his Thanksgiving
The evening sunlight was just fading out of the little "keeping-room,"
adjoining the bed-room, where the convalescent now was able to sit up
most of the day. A cot bed had been placed there, designed for him to lie
down upon in intervals of fatigue. At present, however, he was sitting in
his arm-chair, complacently watching the blaze of the hickory fire, or
following placidly the motions of his wife's knitting-needles.
There was an air of calmness and repose on his thin, worn features that
never was there in days of old: the haggard, anxious lines had been
smoothed away, and that spiritual expression which sickness and sorrow
sometimes develops on the human face reigned in its place. It was the
"clear shining after rain."
"Wife," he said, "read me something I can't quite remember out of the
Bible. It's in the eighth of Deuteronomy, the second verse."
Mrs. Pitkin opened the big family Bible on the stand, and read, "And thou
shalt remember all the way in which the Lord thy God hath led thee these
forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to prove thee and to
know what is in thy heart, and whether thou wouldst keep his commandments
or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee
with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that he
might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every
word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."
"There, that's it," interrupted the deacon. "That's what I've been
thinking of as I've lain here sick and helpless. I've fought hard to keep
things straight and clear the farm, but it's pleased the Lord to bring me
low. I've had to lie still and leave all in his hands."
"And where better could you leave all?" said his wife, with a radiant
"Well, just so. I've been saying, 'Here I am, Lord; do with me as seemeth
to thee good,' and I feel a great quiet now. I think it's doubtful if we
make up the interest this year. I don't know what Bill may get for the
hay: but I don't see much prospect of raisin' on't; and yet I don't
worry. Even if it's the Lord's will to have the place sold up and we be
turned out in our old age, I don't seem to worry about it. His will be
There was a sound of rattling wheels at this moment, and anon there came
a brush and flutter of garments, and Diana rushed in, all breezy with the
freshness of out-door air, and caught Mrs. Pitkin in her arms and kissed
her first and then the deacon with effusion.
"Here I come for Thanksgiving," she said, in a rich, clear tone, "and
here," she added, drawing a roll of bills from her bosom, and putting it
into the deacon's hand, "here's the interest money for this year. I got
it all myself, because I wanted to show you I could be good for
"Thank you, dear daughter," said Mrs. Pitkin. "I felt sure some way would
be found and now I see _what_." She added, kissing Diana and patting her
rosy cheek, "a very pleasant, pretty way it is, too."
"I was afraid that Uncle Silas would worry and put himself back again
about the interest money," said Diana.
"Well, daughter," said the Deacon, "it's a pity we should go through all
we do in this world and not learn anything by it. I hope the Lord has
taught me not to worry, but just do my best and leave myself and
everything else in his hands. We can't help ourselves--we can't make one
hair white or black. Why should we wear our lives out fretting? If I'd a
known _that_ years ago it would a been better for us all."
"Never mind, father, you know it now," said his wife, with a face serene
as a star. In this last gift of quietude of soul to her husband she
recognized the answer to her prayers of years.
"Well now," said Diana, running to the window, "I should like to know
what Biah Carter is coming here about."
"Oh, Biah's been very kind to us in this sickness," said Mrs. Pitkin, as
Biah's feet resounded on the scraper.
"Good evenin', Deacon," said Biah, entering, "Good evenin', Mrs. Pitkin.
Sarvant, ma'am," to Diana--"how ye all gettin' on?"
"Nicely, Biah--well as can be," said Mrs. Pitkin.
"Wal, you see I was up to the store with some o' Squire Jones's bell
flowers. Sim Coan he said he wanted some to sell, and so I took up a
couple o' barrels, and I see the darndest big letter there for the
Deacon. Miss Briskett she was in, lookin' at it, and so was Deacon
Simson's wife; she come in arter some cinnamon sticks. Wal, and they all
looked at it and talked it over, and couldn't none o' 'em for their lives
think what it's all about, it was sich an almighty thick letter," said
Biah, drawing out a long, legal-looking envelope and putting it in the
"I hope there isn't bad news in it," said Silas Pitkin, the color
flushing apprehensively in his pale cheeks as he felt for his spectacles.
There was an agitated, silent pause while he broke the seals and took out
two documents. One was the mortgage on his farm and the other a receipt
in full for the money owed on it! The Deacon turned the papers to and
fro, gazed on them with a dazed, uncertain air and then said:
"Why, mother, do look! _Is_ this so? Do I read it right?"
"Certainly, you do," said Diana, reading over his shoulder. "Somebody's
paid that debt, uncle!"
"Thank God!" said Mrs. Pitkin, softly; "He has done it."
"Wal, I swow!" said Biah, after having turned the paper in his hands, "if
this 'ere don't beat all! There's old Squire Norcross's name on't. It's
the receipt, full and square. What's come over the old crittur? He must
a' got religion in his old' age; but if grace made him do _that_, grace
has done a tough job, that's all; but it's done anyhow! and that's all
you need to care about. Wal, wal, I must git along hum--Mariar Jane'll be
wonderin' where I be. Good night, all on ye!" and Biah's retreating wagon
wheels were off in the distance, rattling furiously, for, notwithstanding
Maria Jane's wondering, Biah was resolved not to let an hour slip by
without declaring the wonderful tidings at the store.
The Pitkin family were seated at supper in the big kitchen, all jubilant
over the recent news. The father, radiant with the pleasantest
excitement, had for the first time come out to take his place at the
family board. In the seven years since the beginning of our story the
Pitkin boys had been growing apace, and now surrounded the table quite an
army of rosy-cheeked, jolly young fellows, who to-night were in a perfect
tumult of animal gaiety. Diana twinkled and dimpled and flung her
sparkles round among them, and there was unbounded jollity.
"Who's that looking in at the window?" called out Sam, aged ten, who sat
opposite the house door. At that moment the door opened, and a dark
stranger, bronzed with travel and dressed in foreign-looking garments,
He stood one moment, all looking curiously at him, then crossing the
floor, he kneeled down by Mrs. Pitkin's chair, and throwing off his cap,
looked her close in the eyes.
"Mother, don't you know me?"
She looked at him one moment with that still earnestness peculiar to
herself, and then fell into his arms. "O my son, my son!"
There were a few moments of indescribable confusion, during which Diana
retreated, pale and breathless, to a neighboring window, and stood with
her hand over the locket which she had always worn upon her heart.
After a few moments he came, and she felt him by her.
"What, cousin!" he said; "no welcome from you?" She gave one look, and he
took her in his arms. She felt the beating of his heart, and he felt
hers. Neither spoke, yet each felt at that moment sure of the other.
"I say, boys," said James, "who'll help bring in my sea chest?"
Never was sea chest more triumphantly ushered; it was a contest who
should get near enough to take some part in it's introduction, and soon
it was open, and James began distributing its contents.
"There, mother," said he, undoing a heavy black India satin and shaking
out its folds, "I'm determined you shall have a dress fit for you; and
here's a real India shawl to go with it. Get those on and you'll look as
much like a queen among women as you ought to."
Then followed something for every member of the family, received with
frantic demonstrations of applause and appreciation by the more juvenile.
"Oh, what's that?" said Sam, as a package done up in silk paper and tied
with silver cord was disclosed.
"That's--oh--that's my wife's wedding-dress," said James, unfolding and
shaking out a rich satin; "and here's her shawl," drawing out an
embroidered box, scented with sandal-wood.
The boys all looked at Diana, and Diana laughed and grew pale and red all
in the same breath, as James, folding back the silk and shawl in their
boxes, handed them to her.
Mrs. Pitkin laughed and kissed her, and said, gaily, "All right, my
What an evening that was, to be sure! What a confusion of joy and
gladness! What a half-telling of a hundred things that it would take
weeks to tell.
James had paid the mortgage and had money to spare; and how he got it
all, and how he was saved at sea, and where he went, and what befell him
here and there, he promised to be telling them for six months to come.
"Well, your father mustn't be kept up too late," said Mrs. Pitkin. "Let's
have prayers now, and then to-morrow we'll be fresh to talk more."
So they gathered around the wide kitchen fire and the family Bible was
"Father," said James, drawing out of his pocket the Bible his mother had
given him at parting, "let me read my Psalm; it has been my Psalm ever
since I left you." There was a solemn thrill in the little circle as
James read the verses:
"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. For he
commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves
thereof. They mount up to the heaven; they go down again to the depths:
their soul is melted because of trouble. Then they cry unto the Lord in
their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh
the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad
because they be quiet, so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh
that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful
works to the children of men!"
* * * * *
"And now," said James, "it's seven years since I left you, and to-morrow
is the seventh Thanksgiving, and I've always set my heart on getting home
to be married Thanksgiving evening."
"But, dear me, Jim, we can't. There isn't time."
"Why not?--we've got all the time there is!"
"But the wedding-dress can't be made, possibly."
"Oh, that can wait till the week after. You are pretty enough without
"But what will they all say?"
"Who cares what they say? I don't," said James. "The fact is, I've set my
heart on it, and you owe me something for the way you treated me the last
Thanksgiving I was here, seven years ago. Now don't you?"
"Well, yes, I do, so have it just as you will." And so it was accomplished
the next evening.
And among the wonders of Mapleton Miss Briskett announced it as chief,
that it was the first time she ever heard of a bride that was married
first and had her wedding-dress made the week after! She never had heard
of such a thing.
Yet, strange to say, for years after neither of the parties concerned
found themselves a bit the worse for it.