« PreviousContinue »
cure, while no one takes thought for him! I would not quarrel with the first-mentioned parish, if it did assert that it gave its clergyman a support;' since it would doubtless be equally ready to declare that its clergyman gave, in return, his labor and his love-the best of his thought and life. And I feel sure that Mrs. Burcham will do what she can to make Shiloh such a parish.
MRS. BURCHAM (accepting the overture). Of course, I want Mr. Taylor to have everything convenient and comfortable, and I'm willing to do anything in reason to make it so. But I shan't do much toward it, if I stand here talking all the afternoon. Mrs. Shemnar, you and I might as well take that bedroom in hand. I'll go and look up Mr. Taylor, and find out what's to go in it.
and Miss Bryer kitchen to order.
In obedience to which beneficent inspiration, the two ladies walked off. Shortly after, Mrs. Seber, Mrs. Banser, arrived, and undertook to reduce the Another small party set about imparting a look of orderliness to the second floor. Aunt Vin had already installed herself in the pantry, and was scrubbing, polishing, and arranging, con amore. The long summer afternoon wore on. Once I was called to the sitting-room by Mrs. Prescott, to give my voice in some question of arrangement; and as I halted in the kitchen on my return, I was pleased to hear Ruth Winnot babbling away like a meadow-brook to Essie Volger, while, now and then, her laugh gurgled merrily through both rooms. Coming nearer, and seeing her face uplifted and aglow, and her eyes dancing with merriment, I could scarcely rid myself of the impression that the wan and mournful Ruth had somehow been spirited away, and this bright, merry, sparkling creature substituted in her place. I was even a little saddened by the sight; as if I had found a bird singing its song, and building its nest, in a flickering strip of winter sunshine, mistaking it for the dawn of an unending summer.
At six o'clock everything was complete; the old house prepared for the new life which was to be lived in it; which, nevertheless, would not be much unlike many other lives it had known (since it must be woven of the same human warp and woof); yet would be well worth living. through, notwithstanding, with the peaceful light of piety shed over it, and immortal hope shining far on into the dusk.
There is no resisting the natural gravitation of a farmhouse toward the kitchen. It was there that we all assembled, by tacit concurrence, when the work was done; and it was there that I said:
"It seems to me it would be well to sing the Gloria in Excelsis now, by way of pleasant finale to our afterWe will baptize the old house in a stream of harmony, making short work with ghosts and spells, and washing away whatever discordances of feeling, temper, opinion, or faith, may cling to the walls. Lead off, Ruth."
Ruth lifted up her voice with fervor, Essie joined in spiritedly, I took the alto, Mr. Taylor supplied the needed background of a bass, and other voices fell in or stayed out, according to inclination or ability. The glorious old song of praise rolled its rich tide through the rooms, penetrating to the darkest corners of garret and cellar, and leaving everywhere, I hoped, some helpful, healing, reviving influence.
Then, the party scattered. Before Miss Essie took her leave, she invited Alice and myself to tea with her the next afternoon; and managed to include Ruth in the invitation, with so much tact and cordiality, that the would-be recluse promised to go before she knew it, and was left in a state of infinite amazement because she had done so.
When all had gone, save our own little party, Mrs. Prescott drew me aside into the pantry. Loaves of bread, piles of biscuit, a tempting variety of cakes, balls of but
ter, triangles of cheese, brown-paper parcels, and baskets of fruit and vegetables, were marshalled upon its shelves; in sufficient force to ensure to Mrs. Taylor some weeks of easy and inexpensive housekeeping. Mrs. Prescott pointed them out, and named their donors, with a mixture of feelings. Mrs. Danforth had covered herself with glory.
"She said she'd never heard of such a thing in her life," said my guide, "but, as soon as she found out what I wanted, she was ready to send everything she had in the house."
To one small card of gingerbread, however, with a kind of Uriah Heep air about it, she gave a withering glance.
"I would just like to chuck that out of window," she said, spitefully. Would you believe it? that's all Mrs. Burcham brought, and she as well off as anybody in the parish, if not better! The truth is, some give liberally and some don't give at all; and all share the credit. Mr. Taylor sees his pantry well filled, and thinks everybody has had a hand in it, and believes he's in clover. But he won't live here long without finding out who his friends. are,-that's one comfort!"
A comfort that has its reverse of discomfort?
Mr. Taylor was to spend the night at the Divines; not to disturb the newly-created order of his dwelling, before its mistress's arrival. Therefore, windows were shut and doors fastened; and finally, standing on the broad, irregularly-shaped doorstep, he turned the key on the silence within.
"How strange," said Alice, softly, "to have a home full of promise, and not one memory!"
HAT the evening was not dull, after our busy and fatiguing afternoon at the Gwynne Place, was chiefly owing to Leo. The two suppers incident to summer farm life-an early one for the women and guests, and another for the "menfolks" returning at dusk from their labor-being over; Mr. Taylor was formally presented to that black incarnation of canine majesty, as I had been, on the night of my arrival in Shiloh.
"May be you'll think it's almost an impertinence, now; but you won't when you see what comes of it, one of these days," said Mr. Divine, with a good-natured twinkle in his eye. "Leo's friendship's worth more than that of a good many humans in your congregation, Mr. Taylor."
"Indeed! That may be saying a good deal for the dog, Mr. Divine; but it is not saying much for the 'humans.""
"Isn't it?" returned the farmer, with his low, mellow laugh. "When you come to know Leo better, may be you'll change your mind. For my part, I know lots of folks that 'ud be a good deal better members of society, if they'd be only just half as careful to do their duty, as far as they know what 'tis, as Leo is to do his'n. If he hasn't got a soul, he's got a bigger and a cleaner conscience than most men. Why, I don't think he's shirked work or disobeyed an order five times since I've had him; and that's agoin' on seven year, now."
"Indeed!" said Mr. Taylor, beginning to look interested. "Not one sin per year against his conscience -that is a clean record! I wish mine were as fair!' and the clergyman sighed.
By and by, Mrs. Divine brought forth cakes, apples, and other convenient refreshments, for her guests; whereupon Philip, the younger of her sons, conceived the brilliant idea that Leo might be made to act as waiter. Accordingly, the basket of apples was put into the dog's mouth, and he was bidden to "pass it round." Two or three mistakes, at the outset,—such as depositing the basket and its contents in my lap; and then setting it on the floor and daintily presenting an apple to Alice with his teeth,-provoked much mirth; as well as the proud gravity with which he performed the task, when it became clear to him precisely what was wanted:—while his quickness in catching the idea seemed truly wonderful to one not acquainted with his capacity for far better things. Mr. Taylor's admiration, therefore, was extreme and enthusiastic.
"The most intelligent animal I ever saw!" exclaimed he. "I've seen trained dogs, of course, and I know how they become so accomplished-by dint of a long course of whips and starvation. But a great, noble fellow like that, who understands what you say, and takes an idea almost as quick as it is presented to him,-I declare! it's enough to make one believe in the transmigration of souls! What would you sell him for? I suppose he is worth a good deal of money."
"Sell him!" repeated Mr. Divine, laughing quietly,— "Sell him! I'll tell you how near I came to selling him once, and what I was offered for him; and then, perhaps you'll tell me what you'd take for him, if he belonged to you. You see I've got a brother that lives down to Point, Long Island; and he wrote me last fall that there was a gentleman in his neighborhood who wanted to buy a right smart, knowing Newfoundland; and if I was willing to sell