So ye may set your heart at rest 'bout him. Sam, tired of his discourse, lay back in the clover, with his hands under his head, and went on with his moralizing. It 's one's turn to-day, and another's to-morrow. We never know when our turn 'll come. I guess so! Here you be, Sam Lawson, lyin' flat on your back at eleven o'clock in the morning, and not a potato dug, and not a stick of wood cut to get dinner with; and I won't cut no more if we never have dinner.
It 's no use a humorin' you, — doin' your work for you. The more I do, the more I may do; so come home, won't you? I ain't to blame. I hed to sit up with Mr. Holyoke all night, and help 'em lay him out at four o'clock this mornin'. For my part, I think charity ought to begin at home. You 're everywhere, up and down and round, — over to Shelbun, down to Podunk, up to North Parish; and here Abram and Kiah Stebbins have been waitin' all the morning with a horse they brought all the way from Boston to get you to shoe.
I told Kiah that ef they 'd bring that 'ere hoss to me I 'd 'tend to his huffs. That 's one way to do business," said Hepsy. Ef we don't miditate some times on all these 'ere things, it 'll be wus for us by and by.
I 'll help your meditations in a way you won't like, if you don't look out. So now you come home, and stop your meditatin', and go to doin' somethin'. I told 'em to come back this afternoon, and I 'd have you on the spot if 't was a possible thing," said the very practical Hepsy, laying firm hold of Sam's unresisting arm, and leading him away captive. I stole into the darkened, silent room where my father had lain so long.
Its desolate neatness struck a chill to my heart. Not even a bottle remained of the many familiar ones that used to cover the stand and the mantel-piece; but he, lying in his thread-bare Sunday coat, looked to me as I had often seen him in later days, when he had come from school exhausted, and fallen asleep in the bed. I crept to his side and nestled down on the floor as quietly as a dog lies down by the side of his master.
THE next day was the funeral, and I have little remembrance in it of anything but what was dreary. Our Puritan ancestors, in the decision of their reaction from a dead formalism, had swept away from the solemn crises of life every symbolic expression; and this severe bareness and rigid restriction were nowhere more striking than in funeral services, as conducted in these early times in Massachusetts.
There was at the house of mourning simply a prayer, nothing more; and then the procession of relatives, friends, and townspeople walked silently to the grave, where, without text, prayer, or hymn, the dust was forever given to its fellow-dust. The heavy thud of the clods on the coffin, the rattling of spades, and the fall of the earth, were the only voices that spoke in that final scene. Yet that austere stillness was not without its majesty, since it might be interpreted, not as the silence of indifference, but as the stillness of those whose thoughts are too mighty for words.
It was the silence of the unutterable. From the grave my mother and her two boys were conducted to my grandfather's house, — the asylum ever ready for the widowed daughter. The next day after was Sunday, and a Sunday full of importance in the view of Aunt Lois, Aunt Keziah, and, in fact, of every one in the family. It was the custom, on the first Sabbath after a bereavement, for the whole family circle to be present together in church, to request, in a formal note, the prayers of the congregation that the recent death might be sanctified to them.
It was a point of honor for all family connections to be present at this service, even though they should not attend the funeral; and my Uncle Bill, a young Sophomore in Cambridge College, had come down duly to be with us on the occasion. He was a joyous, spirited, jolly, rollicking young fellow, not in the slightest degree given to funereal reflections, and his presence in the house always brought a certain busy cheerfulness which I felt to lighten my darkness.
One thing certainly had a tendency in that direction, which was that Aunt Lois was always perceptibly ameliorated by Uncle Bill's presence. Her sharp, spare features wore a relaxed and smiling aspect, her eyes had a softer light, and she belied her own frequent disclaimer, that she never had any beauty, by looking almost handsome. Poor Aunt Lois! I am afraid my reader will not do justice to her worth by the specimens of her ways and words which I have given.
Any one that has ever pricked his fingers in trying to force open a chestnut-burr may perhaps have moralized at the satin lining, so smooth and soft, that lies inside of that sharpness. It is an emblem of a kind of nature very frequent in New England, where the best and kindest and most desirable of traits are enveloped in an outside wrapping of sharp austerity. No person rendered more deeds of kindness in the family and neighborhood than Aunt Lois.
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She indeed bore the cares of the whole family on her heart; she watched and prayed and fretted and scolded for all. Had she cared less, she might perhaps have appeared more amiable. She invested herself, so to speak, in others; and it was vital to her happiness, not only that they should be happy, but that they should he happy precisely on her pattern and in her way. She had drawn out the whole family chart, and if she had only had power to make each one walk tractably in the path she foreordained, her sharp, thin face might have had a few less wrinkles.
It seemed to her so perfectly evident that the ways she fixed upon for each one were ways of pleasantness and paths of peace, that she scarcely could have patience with Providence for allowing things to fall out in a way entirely different from her designs. Aunt Lois was a good Christian, but she made that particular mistake in repeating the Lord's Prayer which so many of us quite unconsciously do, — she always said, My will be done, instead of Thy will.
Not in so many words, of course, — it was the secret inner voice of her essential nature that spoke and said one thing, while her tongue said another. But then who can be sure enough of himself in this matter, to cast the first stone at Aunt Lois? It was the fashion of the Calvinistic preaching of that time to put the doctrine of absolute and unconditional submission to God in the most appalling forms, and to exercise the conscience with most severe supposititious tests. After many struggles and real agonies, Aunt Lois had brought herself to believe that she would be willing to resign her eternal salvation to the Divine glory; that she could consent to the eternal perdition of those on whom her heart was most particularly set, were it God's will; and thus her self-will, as she supposed, had been entirely annihilated, whereas it was only doubled back on itself, and ready to come out with tenfold intensity in the unsuspected little things of this life, where she looked less at Divine agency than human instrumentality.
No law, as she supposed, required her to submit to people's acting foolishly in their worldly matters, particularly when she was able and willing to show them precisely how they ought to act. Failing of a prosperous marriage for my mother, Aunt Lois's heart was next set upon a college education for my Uncle Bill, the youngest and brightest of the family. For this she toiled and economized in family labor, and eked it out by vest-making at the tailor's, and by shoe-binding at the shoemaker's, — all that she might have something to give to Bill for spending-money, to keep up his standing respectably in college.
Her antagonistic attitude toward my brother and myself proceeded less from hardness of heart than from an anxious, worrying fear that we should trench on the funds that at present were so heavily taxed to bring Uncle Bill through college. Especially did she fear that my father had left me the legacy of his own ungratified desire for an education, and that my grandmother's indulgence and bountifulness might lead her to encourage me in some such expectations, and then where was the money to come from? Aunt Lois foresaw contingencies afar off. Not content with the cares of the present day and hour, she dived far into the future, and carried all sorts of imaginary loads that would come in supposititious cases.
As the Christian by the eye of faith sees all sorts of possible good along the path of future duty, so she by the eye of cautiousness saw every possible future evil that could arise in every supposable contingency. Aunt Lois's friends often had particular reason to wish that she cared less for them, for then, perhaps, she might give them some peace. But nothing is so hopeless as your worthy domestic house-dog, every hair of whose fur bristles with watchfulness, and who barks at you incessantly from behind a most terrible intrenchment of faithful labors and loving-kindnesses heaped up on your behalf.
These dear good souls who wear their life out for you, have they not a right to scold you, and dictate to you, and tie up your liberty, and make your life a burden to you? If they have not, who has? If you complain, you break their worthy old hearts. They insist on the privilege of seeking your happiness by thwarting you in everything you want to do, and putting their will instead of yours in every step of your life.
Between Aunt Lois and my father there had been that constant antagonism which is often perceptible between two human beings, each good enough in himself, but of a quality to act destructively upon the other. A satin vest and a nutmeg-grater are both perfectly harmless, and even worthy existences, but their close proximity on a jolting journey is not to be recommended. My father never could bear my Aunt Lois in his house; and her presence had such an instant effect in developing all the combative element in him, that really the poor woman never saw him long enough under an agreeable aspect to enable her even to understand why my mother should regard him with affection; and it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that she was not a deep mourner at his death.
She regarded her sister's love for my father as an unfortunate infatuation, and was more satisfied with the ways of Providence than she usually was, when its object was withdrawn. It was according to all the laws of moral gravitation that, as soon as my father died, my mother became an obedient satellite in Aunt Lois's orbit. She was one of those dear, helpless little women, who, like flowers by the wayside, seem to be at the disposal of the first strong hand that wants to gather them.
She was made to be ruled over; and so we all felt this first Sunday morning that we had come home to be under the dominion of Aunt Lois. She put on my mother's mourning-bonnet and tied it under her meek, unresisting chin, turning her round and round to get views of her from different points, and arranging her ribbons and veil and pins as if she had been a lay figure going to exhibition; and then she tied our collars, and gave a final twitch to our jackets, and warned us not to pull out the pins from the crape bands on our new hats, nor to talk and look round in meeting, strengthening the caution with, "Just so sure as you do, there 's Mr.
Israel Scran, the tithing-man, will come and take you and set you on the pulpit stairs. Israel Scran on week-days was a rather jolly, secular-looking individual, who sat on the top of a barrel in his store, and told good stories; but Israel Scran on Sundays was a tithing-man, whose eyes were supposed to be as a flame of fire to search out little boys that played in meeting, and bring them to awful retribution.
And I must say that I shook in my shoes at the very idea of his entering into judgment with me for any misdemeanor. Going to church on the present occasion was rather a severe and awful ceremony to my childish mind, second only to the dreary horror of the time when we stood so dreadfully still around the grave, and heard those heavy clods thud upon the coffin.
I ventured a timid inquiry of my mother as to what was going to be done there. Aunt Lois took the word out of her mouth. She 's going to put up a note to be prayed for to-day, and we are all going to join; so you be a good boy, and don't talk. The meeting-house to which our steps were tending was one of those huge, shapeless, barn-like structures, which our fathers erected apparently as a part of that well-arranged system by which they avoided all resemblance to those fair, poetic ecclesiastical forms of the Old World, which seemed in their view as "garments spotted by the flesh.
It was a part of the theory of the times never to warm these buildings by a fire; and the legend runs that once in our meeting-house the communion was administered under a temperature which actually froze the sacred elements while they were being distributed. Many a remembrance of winter sessions in that old meeting-house rose to my mind, in which I sat with my poor dangling feet perfectly numb and paralyzed with cold, and blew my finger-ends to keep a little warmth in them, and yet I never thought of complaining; for everybody was there, — mother, aunts, grandmother, and all the town.
We all sat and took our hardships in common, as a plain, necessary fact of existence. Going to meeting, in that state of society into which I was born, was as necessary and inevitable a consequence of waking up on Sunday morning as eating one's breakfast. Nobody thought of staying away, — and, for that matter, nobody wanted to stay away. Our weekly life was simple, monotonous, and laborious; and the chance of seeing the whole neighborhood together in their best clothes on Sunday was a thing which, in the dearth of all other sources of amusement, appealed to the idlest and most unspiritual of loafers.
They who did not care for the sermon or the prayers wanted to see Major Broad's scarlet coat and laced ruffles, and his wife's brocade dress, and the new bonnet which Lady Lothrop had just had sent up from Boston. Whoever had not seen these would be out of society for a week to come, and not be able to converse understandingly on the topics of the day. The meeting on Sunday united in those days, as nearly as possible, the whole population of a town, — men, women, and children. There was then in a village but one fold and one shepherd, and long habit had made the tendency to this one central point so much a necessity to every one, that to stay away from "meetin'" for any reason whatever was always a secret source of uneasiness.
I remember in my early days, sometimes when I had been left at home by reason of some of the transient ailments of childhood, how ghostly and supernatural the stillness of the whole house and village outside the meeting-house used to appear to me, how loudly the clock ticked and the flies buzzed down the window-pane, and how I listened in the breathless stillness to the distant psalm-singing, the solemn tones of the long prayer, and then to the monotone of the sermon, and then again to the closing echoes of the last hymn, and thought sadly, what if some day I should be left out, when all my relations and friends had gone to meeting in the New Jerusalem, and hear afar the music from the crystal walls.
As our Sunday gathering at meeting was a complete picture of the population of our village, I shall, as near as possible, daguerreotype our Sunday audience, as the best means of placing my readers in sympathy with the scene and actors of this history. The arrangement of our house of worship in Oldtown was somewhat peculiar, owing to the fact of its having originally been built as a mission church for the Indians.
The central portion of the house, usually appropriated to the best pews, was in ours devoted to them; and here were arranged benches of the simplest and most primitive form, on which were collected every Sunday the thin and wasted remnants of what once was a numerous and powerful tribe. There were four or five respectable Indian families, who owned comfortable farms in the neighborhood, and came to meeting in their farm-wagons, like any of their white neighbors. Conspicuous among these, on the front bench, facing the pulpit, sat the Indian head-magistrate, Justice Waban, — tall and erect as an old pine-tree, and of a grave and reverend aspect.
Next to him was seated the ecclesiastical superior of that portion of the congregation, Deacon Ephraim. Mild, intelligent, and devout, he was the perfect model of the praying Indian formed in the apostolic traditions of the good Eliot. By his side sat his wife, Keturah, who, though she had received Christian baptism, still retained in most respects the wild instincts and untamed passions of the savage.
Though she attended church and allowed her children to be baptized, yet, in spite of minister, elder, and tithing man, she obstinately held on to the practice of many of her old heathen superstitions. Old Keturah was one of the wonders of my childhood. She was spoken of among the gossips with a degree of awe, as one who possessed more knowledge than was good for her; and in thunder-storms and other convulsions of nature she would sit in her chimney-corner and chant her old Indian incantations, to my mingled terror and delight.
I remember distinctly three syllables that occurred very often, — "ah-mah-ga, ah-mah-ga," — some times pronounced in wild, plaintive tones, and sometimes in tones of menace and denunciation. In fact, a century before, Keturah must have had a hard time of it with her Christian neighbors; but our minister was a gentleman and a scholar, and only smiled benignly when certain elderly ladies brought him terrible stories of Keturah's proceedings. Next to Keturah was seated Deborah Kummacher, an Indian woman, who had wisely forsaken the unprofitable gods of the wild forest, and taken to the Christian occupation of fruit-growing and kept in nice order a fruit farm near my grandfather's, where we children delighted to resort in the season, receiving from her presents of cherries, pears, peaches, or sweet apples, which she informed us she was always ready to give to good children who said their prayers and made their manners when they came into her house.
Next behind her came Betty Poganut, Patty Pegan, and old Sarah Wonsamug, — hard-visaged, high-cheek-boned females, with snaky-black eyes, principally remarkable, in my mind, for the quantity of cider they could drink. I had special reason to remember this, as my grandmother's house was their favorite resort, and drawing cider was always the work of the youngest boy.
Then there was Lem Sudock, a great, coarse, heavy-moulded Indian, with gigantic limbs and a savage face, but much in request for laying stone walls, digging wells, and other tasks for which mere physical strength was the chief requisite. Beside him was Dick Obscue, a dull, leering, lazy, drinking old fellow, always as dry as an empty sponge, but with an endless capacity for imbibing. Dick was of a class which our modern civilization would never see inside of a church, though he was in his seat in our meeting-house as regularly as any of the deacons; but on week-days his principal employment seemed to be to perambulate the country, making stations of all the kitchen firesides, where he would tell stories, drink cider, and moralize, till the patience or cider-pitchers of his hosts ran dry, when he would rise up slowly, adjust his old straw hat, hitch up his dangling nether garments a little tighter, and, with a patronizing nod, say, "Wal, naow, 'f you can spare me I 'll go.
Prominent there was the stately form of old Boston Foodah, an African prince, who had been stolen from the coast of Guinea in early youth, and sold in Boston at some period of antiquity whereto the memory of man runneth not. All the Oldtown people, and their fathers and grandfathers, remembered old Boston just as he then existed, neither older nor younger. He was of a majestic stature, slender and proudly erect, and perfectly graceful in every movement, his woolly hair as white as the driven snow.
He was servant to General Hull in the Revolutionary war, and at its close was presented by his master with a full suit of his military equipments, including three-cornered hat, with plume, epaulets, and sword. Three times a year, — at the spring training, the fall muster, and on Thanksgiving day, — Boston arrayed himself in full panoply, and walked forth a really striking and magnificent object. In the eyes of us boys, on these days, he was a hero, and he patronized us with a condescension which went to our hearts.
His wife, Jinny, was a fat roly-poly little body, delighting in red and yellow bonnets, who duly mustered into meeting a troop of black-eyed, fat, woolly-headed little negroes, whom she cuffed and disciplined during sermon-time with a matronly ferocity designed to show white folks that she was in earnest in their religious training. Near by was old Primus King, a gigantic, retired whaleman, black as a coal, with enormous hands and feet, universally in demand in all the region about as assistant in butchering operations.
There were several other colored families, of less repute, who also found seats in the negro gallery. One of them was that of Aunt Nancy Prime, famous for making election-cake and ginger-pop, and who was sent for at all the great houses on occasions of high festivity, as learned in all mysteries relating to the confection of cakes and pies. A tight, trig, bustling body she, black and polished as ebony, smooth-spoken and respectful, and quite a favorite with everybody. Nancy had treated herself to an expensive luxury in the shape of a husband, — an idle, worthless mulatto man who was owned as a slave in Boston.
Nancy bought him by intense labors in spinning flax, but found him an undesirable acquisition, and was often heard to declare, in the bitterness of her soul, when he returned from his drinking bouts, that she should never buy another nigger, she knew. The only thing she gained by this matrimonial speculation was an abundant crop of noisy children, who, as she often declared, nearly wore the life out of her. I remember once, when I was on a visit to her cottage, while I sat regaling myself with a slice of cake, Nancy lifted the trap-door which went down into the cellar below. Forthwith the whole skirmishing tribe of little darkies, who had been rolling about the floor, seemed suddenly to unite in one coil, and, with a final flop, disappeared in the hole.
Nancy gave a kick to the door, and down it went; when she exclaimed, with a sigh of exhausted patience, "Well, now then, I hope you 'll be still a minute, anyway!
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In the front gallery of the meeting-house, opposite the pulpit, was seated the choir of the church. The leader of our music was old Mump Morse, a giant of a man, in form not unlike a cider-hogshead, with a great round yellow head, and a voice like the rush of mighty winds, who was wont to boast that he could chord with thunder and lightning better than any man in the parish.
Next to him came our friend Sam Lawson, whose distinguishing peculiarity it was, that he could strike into any part where his voice seemed most needed; and he often showed the miscellaneous nature of his accomplishments by appearing as tenor, treble, or counter, successively, during the rendering of one psalm. If we consider that he also pitched the tunes with his pitch-pipe, and played on his bass-viol, we shall see increasing evidence of that versatility of genius for which he was distinguished.
Another principal bass-singer was old Joe Stedman, who asserted his democratic right to do just as he had a mind to by always appearing every Sunday in a clean leather apron of precisely the form he wore about his weekly work. Of course all the well-conducted upper classes were scandalized, and Joe was privately admonished of the impropriety, which greatly increased his satisfaction, and caused him to regard himself as a person of vast importance.
It was reported that the minister had told him that there was more pride in his leather apron than in Captain Browne's scarlet cloak; but Joe settled the matter by declaring that the apron was a matter of conscience with him, and of course after that there was no more to be said. These leading characters, with a train of young men and maidens who practised in the weekly singing-school, used to conduct the musical devout exercises much to their own satisfaction, if not always to that of our higher circle. And now, having taken my readers through the lower classes in our meeting-house, I must, in order of climax, represent to them our higher orders.
Social position was a thing in those days marked by lines whose precision and distinctness had not been blurred by the rough handling of democracy. Massachusetts was, in regard to the aroma and atmosphere of her early days, an aristocratic community. The seeds of democratic social equality lay as yet ungerminated in her soil. The State was a garden laid out with the old formal parallelograms and clipped hedges of princely courts and titled ranks, but sown with seeds of a new and rampant quality, which were destined to overgrow them all.
Even our little town had its court circle, its House of Lords and House of Commons, with all the etiquette and solemn observances thereto appertaining. At the head stood the minister and his wife, whose rank was expressed by the pew next the pulpit. Then came Captain Browne, a retired English merchant and ship-owner, who was reported to have ballasted himself with a substantial weight of worldly substance.
Captain Browne was a tall, upright, florid man, a little on the shady side of life, but carrying his age with a cheerful greenness. His long, powdered locks hung in a well-tended queue down his back, and he wore a scarlet coat, with a white vest and stock, and small-clothes, while long silk stockings with knee and shoe buckles of the best paste, sparkling like real diamonds, completed his attire.
His wife rustled by his side in brocade which might almost stand alone for stiffness, propped upon heels that gave a majestic altitude to her tall, thin figure. Next came the pew of Miss Mehitable Rossiter, who, in right of being the only surviving member of the family of the former minister, was looked upon with reverence in Oldtown, and took rank decidedly in the Upper House, although a very restricted and limited income was expressed in the quality of her attire.
Her Sunday suit in every article spoke of ages past, rather than of the present hours. Her laces were darned, though still they were laces; her satin gown had been turned and made over, till every possible capability of it was exhausted; and her one Sunday bonnet exhibited a power of coming out in fresh forms, with each revolving season, that was quite remarkable, particularly as each change was somewhat odder than the last.
But still, as everybody knew that it was Miss Mehitable Rossiter, and no meaner person, her queer bonnets and dyed gowns were accepted as a part of those inexplicable dispensations of the Providence that watches over the higher classes, which are to be received by faith alone. In the same pew with Miss Mehitable sat Squire Jones, once, in days of colonial rule, rejoicing in the dignity of Sheriff of the County. During the years of the Revolutionary war, he had mysteriously vanished from view, as many good Tories did; but now that the new social status was well established, he suddenly reappeared in the neighborhood, and took his place as an orderly citizen, unchallenged and unquestioned.
It was enough that the Upper House received him. The minister gave him his hand, and Lady Lothrop courtesied to him, and called on his wife, and that, of course, settled the manner in which the parish were to behave; and, like an obedient flock, they all jumped the fence after their shepherd.
Squire Jones, besides, was a well-formed, well-dressed man, who lived in a handsome style, and came to meeting in his own carriage; and these are social virtues not to be disregarded in any well-regulated community. There were certain well-established ranks and orders in social position in Oldtown, which it is important that I should distinctly define.
People who wore ruffles round their hands, and rode in their own coaches, and never performed any manual labor might be said to constitute in Oldtown our House of Lords, — and they might all have been counted on two or three of my fingers. It was, in fact, confined to the personages already enumerated. There were the minister, Captain Browne, and Sheriff Jones. But below these, yet associating with them on terms of strict equality, were a more numerous body of Commons, — men of substance and influence, but who tilled the earth with their own hands, or pursued some other active industrial calling.
Distinguished among these, sitting in the next pew to the Sheriff, was major Broad, a practical farmer, who owned a large and thriving farm of the best New England type, and presented that true blending of the laboring man and the gentleman which is nowhere else found. He had received his military rank for meritorious services in the late Revolutionary war, and he came back to his native village with that indefinable improvement in air and manner which is given by the habits of military life.
With us he owed great prestige to a certain personal resemblance to General Washington which he was asserted to have by one of our townsfolk, who had often seen him and General on the same field, and who sent the word abroad in the town that whoever wanted to know how General Washington looked had only to look upon Major Broad.
The Major was too much of a real man to betray the slightest consciousness of this advantage, but it invested him with an air of indefinable dignity in the eyes of all his neighbors, especially those of the lower ranks. Next came my grandfather's family pew; and in our Oldtown House of Commons I should say that none stood higher than he.
In his Sunday suit my grandfather was quite a well-made, handsome man. His face was marked by grave, shrewd reflection, and a certain gentle cast of humor, which rarely revealed itself even in a positive smile, and yet often made me feel as if he were quietly and interiorly smiling at his own thoughts. His well-brushed Sunday coat and small-clothes, his bright knee and shoe buckles, his long silk stockings, were all arranged with a trim neatness refreshing to behold.
His hair, instead of being concealed by a wig, or powdered and tied in a queue, after the manner of the aristocracy, fell in long curls on his shoulders, and was a not unbecoming silvery frame to the placid picture of his face. He was a man by nature silent and retiring, indisposed to anything like hurry or tumult, rather easy and generously free in his business habits, and quietly sanguine in his expectations. In point of material possessions he was reputed well to do, as he owned a large farm and two mills, and conducted the business thereof with a quiet easiness which was often exceedingly provoking to my grandmother and Aunt Lois.
No man was more popular in the neighborhood, and the confidence of his fellow-townsmen was yearly expressed in town-meeting by his reappointment to every office of trust which he could be induced to accept. He was justice of the peace, deacon of the church, selectman, — in short, enjoyed every spiritual and temporal office by the bestowal of which his fellow-men could express confidence in him. This present year, indeed, he bore the office of tithing-man, in association with Mr. Israel Scran. It had been thought that it would be a good thing, in order to check the increasing thoughtlessness of the rising generation in regard to Sunday-keeping, to enlist in this office an authority so much respected as Deacon Badger; but the manner in which he performed its duties was not edifying to the minds of strictly disposed people.
The Deacon in his official capacity was expected to stalk forth at once as a terror to evil-doers, whereas he seemed to have no capacity for terrifying anybody. When a busy individual informed him that this or that young person was to be seen walking out in the fields, or picking flowers in their gardens of a Sabbath afternoon, the Deacon always placidly answered that he had n't seen them; from which the ill-disposed would infer that he looked another way, of set purpose, and the quiet internal smile that always illuminated the Deacon's face gave but too much color to this idea.
In those days the great war of theology which has always divided New England was rife, and every man was marked and ruled as to his opinions, and the theologic lines passed even through the conjugal relation, which often, like everything else, had its Calvinistic and its Arminian side. My grandfather was an Arminian, while my grandmother was, as I have said, an earnest, ardent Calvinist. Many were the controversies I have overheard between them, in which the texts of Scripture flew thick and fast, until my grandfather at last would shut himself up in that final fortress of calm and smiling silence which is so provoking to feminine ardor.
There intrenched, he would look out upon his assailants with a quiet, imperturbabel good-humor which quite drove them to despair. It was a mystery to my grandmother how a good man, as she knew my grandfather to be, could remain years unmoved in the very hearing of such unanswerable arguments as she had a thousand times brought up, and still, in the very evening of his days, go on laying his serene old head on an Arminian pillow!
My grandfather was a specimen of that class of men who can walk amid the opinions of their day, encircled by a halo of serene and smiling individuality which quarrels with nobody, and, without shocking any one's prejudices, preserves intact the liberty of individual dissent. He silently went on thinking and doing exactly as he pleased, and yet was always spoken of as the good Deacon. His calm, serene, benignant figure was a sort of benediction as he sat in his pew of a Sunday; and if he did not see the little boys that played, or, seeing them, only smilingly brought them to a sense of duty by passing them a head of fennel through the slats of the pews, still Deacon Badger was reckoned about the best man in the world.
By the side of my grandfather sat his eldest born, Uncle Jacob, a hale, thrifty young farmer, who, with his equally hale and thrifty wife, was settled on a well-kept farm at some distance from ours.
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Uncle Jacob was a genuine son of the soil, whose cheeks were ruddy as clover, and teeth as white as new milk. He had grown up on a farm, as quietly as a tree grows, and had never been ten miles from his birthplace. He was silent, contented, and industrious. He was in his place to be prayed for as one of a bereaved family, of course, this morning; but there was scarcely more capability of mourning in his plump, healthy body than there is in that of a well-fed, tranquil steer. But he took his weekly portion of religion kindly.
It was the thing to do on Sunday, as much as making hay or digging potatoes on Monday. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab International shipping and import charges paid to Pitney Bowes Inc. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab Any international shipping and import charges are paid in part to Pitney Bowes Inc.
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Green cloth boards with blindstamp decoration. Condition is GOOD ; corners quite worn, spine cocked with some small tears. Binding strong but some of the signatures stick out a bit. Text unmarked. Log-in or create an account first! Scroll over to zoom Click for full size. Glossary Some terminology that may be used in this description includes: First Edition In collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book.
A book may have more than one first edition in cases The spine usually faces outward when a book is placed on a shelf. The cloth is stretched ove