Martha Lewis Beckwith Ewell.

The Harvest of Years online

. (page 10 of 20)
Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 10 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

things their souls do not desire, and they are thus led into deep
waters. If Mr. Minot's soul reaches for a God of compassion and mercy,
is it not because that soul whispers its need of this great love; and if
it asks for this, will it not be found; for can it be possible with this
spark of God within us, the living soul can desire that which is not
naturally designed for it?

"Why, my dear friends," she continued, "this is the great lesson we need
to make us, on this earth, all that we might and should be. It is not
true that the thought of eternal love will warrant us in making mistakes
here; on the contrary, it will help us to see all the beauty of our
world, and to link our lives as one in the chain which binds the present
to the enduring year of life to come. Duty would be absolute pleasure,
and all they who see now no light beyond the grave, would by this
unerring hand be led to the mountain top of truth's divine and eternal
habitation. In your soul, Mr. Davis, you ask and long for this.
Doctrinal points confuse you when you think upon them, and you have lain
aside these thoughts and said, 'the mysteries of godliness may not be
understood;' but my dear sir, if this be true, why are we told to be
perfect even as our 'Father in Heaven is perfect;' for would not that
state be godly, and could there be mysteries or fear connected with it?"

"_Never, never_," said Aunt Hildy.

Then, with her hands stretched appealingly toward him, Clara said:

"Oh, sir, do not thrust this knowledge from the door of your heart! Let
it enter there. It will warm your thoughts with the glow of its
unabating love, and you will be the instrument in God's hand of doing
great good to his children."

She dropped her hands, the tender lids covered again those wondrous
eyes, and we sat as if spell-bound, wrapt in holy thought.

"Let us pray," said Mr. Davis, and we knelt together.

Never had I heard him pray like this, and I shall ever remember the last
sentences he uttered; "Father, if what thy handmaid says be true, give
me, oh, I pray thee, of this bread to eat, that my whole duty may be
performed, and when thou shall call him hither, may thy servant depart
in peace."

Mr. Davis shook hands with us all just as the clock tolled nine, and to
Clara he said:

"Sister, angels have anointed thee; do thy work."

This was a visit such as might never occur again. Truly and strangely
our life was a panorama all these days. I dreamed all night of Clara and
her thoughts, and through her eyes that were bent on me in that realm of
dreams, I read chapters of the life to come.



It would be now only a few days to Mr. Benton's return, and I dreaded
it, never thinking of him without a shudder passing over me; Aunt Hildy
would have called it "nervous creepin'." I felt that this was wrong, and
especially so since I knew I was thus hindered in the well-doing for
which I so longed.

"Happiness comes from the inner room," said Aunt Hildy; "silver and gold
and acres of land couldn't make a blind man see."

Her comparisons were apt, and her ideas pebbles of wisdom, clear and
white, gathered from experience and polished by suffering. Both she and
Clara were books which I read daily. How differently they were written!
and then how different from both was the wisdom of a mother whose light
seemed daily to grow more beautiful. It seemed when I thought of it as
if no one had ever such good teachers. And now if I could only break
these knots which had been tangled through Mr. Benton's misunderstanding
of me, there seemed no reasonable excuse for not progressing. Church
affairs had been happily regulated, so far as Mr. Davis and our few
nearer friends were concerned, and the sermon on good deeds which he
preached the Sabbath after his visit to us was more than worthy of him.

Clara said, "He talked of things he really knew; facts are more
beautiful than fancies."

"And stand by longer," added Aunt Hildy.

Louis was to come on the first of July, his mother not deeming it
advisable for him to study through that month; but Mr. Benton preceded
him and came the first day of June. It was a royal day, and he entered
the door while the purplish tinge of sunset covered the hills and lay
athwart the doorway.

"Home again," was his first salutation.

"Very welcome," said Hal and father; mother met him cordially, and I
came after them with Clara at my side, and only said:

"How do you do, Mr. Benton?"

He grasped my hand and held it for an instant in a vice-like grasp. I
darted a look of reproof at him, and the abused look he wore at our last
talk came back and settled on his features.

It seemed to me the more I tried to keep out of his way the more fate
would compel me to go near him. Hal was very busy, and it seemed as if
Clara had never spent so much time in her own room as now, when I needed
her so much. Mother was not well, and every afternoon took a long nap,
so I was left down stairs, and no matter which side of the house I was
in he was sure to find me. The third day after his arrival he renewed
his pleading, trying first to compliment me, saying:

"What a royal woman you are, and how queenly you look with your massive
braids of midnight hair fastened with such an exquisite comb!" (Louis'

"Midnight hair," I said. "I've seen many a midnight when I could read in
its moonlight; black as a crow would be nearer the truth," and I

The next sentence was addressed to my teeth. He liked to see me laugh
and show my teeth; they looked like pearls.

"I wish they were," I said, "I'd sell them and buy a nice little house
for poor Matthias to live in."

"Ugh!" he said, and looked perfectly disgusted; but he was not, for he
said more foolish things, and at last launched out into his sober
sentiment. Oh, dear, if I could have escaped all this!

"Have you not missed me? You have not said it."

"I have not missed you at all," I said, "and I do wish you would believe

"You have no welcome, then, no particular words of welcome?"

"Mr. Benton, you know I am a country girl."

"Yes, but you remind me of a city belle in one way. You gather hearts
and throw them away as recklessly as they do, throwing smiles and using
your regal beauty as a fatal charm. I must feel, Miss Minot, that it
would have saved me pain had we never met."

This touched a tender spot. "Mr. Benton," I cried, "cease your foolish
talk, you know that I never tried to captivate you, that I take no
pleasure in an experience like this. You say that I am untrue to myself,
false to my highest perception of right and justice. If you claim for me
what you have said, you do not believe it, Wilmur Benton; you know in
your soul you speak falsely."

"Why, Emily," he said, "you are imputing to me what you are unwilling
to bear yourself; do you realize it?"

"I think I do," I replied, "and further proof is not needed to convince

"Really, this is a strange state of affairs, but (in a conciliatory
tone), perhaps I spoke too impulsively, I cannot bear your anger;
forgive me, Emily."

"Well," I answered merely.

"Can you forget it all?" he said.

"I will see," I replied, and just then I saw Halbert coming over the
hill, and I was relieved from further annoyance. I cannot say just how
this affected me. I felt in one sense free, but still a sense of
heaviness oppressed me and all was not clear. My mental horizon was
clouded, and I could see no signs of the clouds drifting entirely away,
but on one point I was determined. I would give no signs of even pity
for Mr. Benton, even should I feel it as through days I looked over my
words and thoughts. He should not have even this to hold in his hand as
a weapon against me. I would say nothing to Hal, for Louis would come,
and in the fall, the year of his waiting would be at an end. He would
tell me again of his great love, and I would yield to him that which was
his. Oh, Louis, my confidence in your blessed heart grows daily

While these thoughts were running through my mind, Matthias' voice was
heard, a moment more and he was saying:

"Guess he's done gone sure dis time; he drink an fiddle, an fiddle an'
drink; and nex' ting I knowed he's done dar at the feet of dem stars all
in a heap by hisself."

"Who's that?" I cried.

"Plint, Miss. He's done gone, sure, an' I came roun' to get some help
'bout totin' him up stars. Can't do nothin', an' Mis' Smith she's jes
gone scart into somebody else. She don't 'pear to know nuthin', an' when
I say help me, she jest stan' an' holler like mad."

"I'll go over," said Aunt Hildy, wiping her hands, and turning for sun
bonnet and cape.

"I'll go," said Hal.

"Me, too," cried Ben, and off they started.

Poor Plint was gone, surely enough; dead, "a victim to strong drink and
fiddlin'," Aunt Hildy said. His funeral was from the church, for we all
respected Aunt Peg and pitied Plint, and Mr. Davis only spoke of God's
great mercy and his tenderness to all his flock; never putting a word of
endless torment in it.

Poor Aunt Peg had great misgivings concerning Plint, and groaned audibly
throughout the entire service. Matthias was a great comfort to her
through her trouble, and she told Clara and me when we called on her,
that he was not as clean as she wished, but he was a mighty comfort to
her, and the greatest blessing Aunt could have sent. Plint's fiddle hung
against the wall in her little room with whitened floor and
straight-back chairs, and I could not keep back the tears when I noticed
that she had a bunch of wild violets tied to the old bow. She noticed it
and burst into tears herself, crying:

"That there fiddle was no use no way, but seems now I kinder reckon on
't." She was true to these intuitions of the soul, these thoughts that
cover tenderly even the remembrance of a wasted life, and we could not
but think that if Plint had not loved cider so well, he might perhaps
have developed rare musical talent.

I had been true to myself as far as Mr. Benton was concerned, and since
our last stormy interview, treated him with respectful indifference. He
had two or three times attempted to bring about a better state of
affairs, but I could not and did not give him any encouragement. I felt
wronged and also justified in the establishment of myself where I should
be safe from greater trouble at his hands.

The first day of July, the day for Louis' coming, dawned auspiciously,
and I was as happy as a bird. It seemed to me my trouble was nearly
over, and Louis, when he came in at our door that night, looked
admiringly at me, and after supper he said:

"Emily, you are growing beautiful, do you know it?"

"I hope so," I said honestly, "you know how homely I have always been."

"No, no, I do not, you have been to me my royal Emily ever since I first
met you."

"I must have compared strangely with your city friends and their
bewildering costumes."

"It was more strange than you know; you made the picture and they were
the background," he said, and I thought, perhaps, he was going to cut
short the year of waiting and say more. Instead, he looked off over the
hills, and held my hand tighter. We were in Hal's room, and Mr. Benton
entered, saying with great joy in his tones:

"Louis, I have made a success, take a little walk with me and I will
tell you about it."

Louis looked at me a moment, as if to tell me it is the picture, and
with a tender light in his eyes, went out under the sky, which was
beautiful with the last tinge of sunset clinging to it, as if loath to
leave its wondrous blue to the rising moon and stars.

As they passed out, I thought I saw Matthias coming, but must have been
mistaken, as he did not appear. An hour passed and Louis and Mr. Benton
returned, the latter looking wonderfully satisfied and happy, Louis
thoughtful, and I should have thought him sad had I not known of Clara's

The days passed happily, but through them all I was not as happy as I
had expected. Louis must be sick, I thought; he was so quiet, and almost
sad. Perhaps he had met with less, and I longed to ask him but could
not. I was annoyed also by Mr. Benton, who would not fail to embrace
every opportunity that offered, to talk with me alone, holding me in
some way, for moments at a time. If I was dusting in Hal's studio, and
this was a part of my daily duties, he was sure to be there, and several
times Louis came in when we were talking together, I busy at work and
Mr. Benton standing near.

Clear through the months that led us up to the door of October, these
almost daily annoyances troubled me. It was not love-making, for since
the day of my righteous indignation he had not ventured to approach me
on that ground; but any thought which came over him, sometimes regarding
his pictures and sometimes a saying of Aunt Hildy's, - anything which
could be found to talk upon, it seemed to me, he made a pretext to
detain me, and since he did this in a gentlemanly manner, how could I
avoid it! It was a perfect bore to me, and yet I thought it too foolish
a trouble to complain of. That was not the summer full of joy to which I
had been looking, but it was full of work and care, and over all the
mist of uncertainty.

Hal's house had been built; it was a charming little nest, just enough
room for themselves and with one spare chamber for company.

"Don't git too many rooms nor too big ones," said Aunt Hildy. "If six
chairs are enough, twenty-five are a bother. One loaf of bread at a time
is all we want to eat. I tell you, Halbert, you can't enjoy more'n you
use; don't get grand idees that'll put your wife into bondage. There are
all kinds of slavery in this world," and between every few words a
milk-pan went on the buttery shelf. She always worked and preached

Hal had a nice room for his work; then they had a sitting-room, kitchen
and bedroom down stairs, and two chambers. It was a cottage worth
owning, and Clara, as usual, did something to help.

"Allus putting her foot down where it makes a mark," said Aunt Hildy.

She furnished Hal's room entirely, and gave Mary so many nice and
necessary things that they were filled with thanksgiving. The marriage
ceremony was performed at Deacon Snow's, and I cried every moment. I sat
between Louis and Clara, notwithstanding Mr. Benton urged a seat upon me
next himself; and on our return home he appeared to think I needed his
special care, but I held close to Clara, and Louis, whose arm was his
little mother's support, walked between us. He was sadly thoughtful,
saying little.

The wedded pair left our town next morning for a brief visit with Mary's
friends, and returned in a few days to their little house, which was all
ready for occupancy. Aunt Hildy and mother had put a "baking of
victuals," according to Aunt Hildy, into the closet, and the evening of
their return their own supper table was ready, with mother, Clara, Louis
and me in waiting. Louis remarked on Mr. Benton's coming over, and I
forgot myself and said, in the old way:

"Can't we have one meal in peace?"

Mother said:

"Why, Emily, you are losing your mind; what would Hal think if Mr.
Benton were left alone?"

Father and Ben came over, but not till after supper, and Aunt Hildy
persisted in staying at home and doing her duty.

"Let him come, and stay, too," I added, still feeling vexed; and how
strangely Louis looked as Mr. Benton came in. "Fairy land," he said.

Mother made some reply, but I sat mute as my thought could make me.

The stage came. Our first supper was pleasant both as a reality and as a
type of their future. Hal and Mary were truly married, and through the
ensuing years their lives ran on together merged as one. When we stopped
to think over the years since his boyhood, to remember the comparatively
few advantages he had enjoyed, the ill luck of my father in his early
years, and his tired, discouraged way which followed, - it was hard to
realize the facts as they were. Grandma Northrop often prophesied of
Hal, saying to mother:

"That boy's star will rise. I know his good luck will more than balance
his father's misfortune, and in your old age you will see him handsomely
settled in life."

It seemed as if the impulse of his youth had all tended to bring him
where the light could shine on his art, and from the time he entered Mr.
Hanson's employ his good fortune was before him. There is another
thought runs by the side of this, and that is one induced by the
knowledge of the great power of gold. Mr. Hanson was a man of wealth and
good business relations. Liking Hal for himself, and interested in his
art, it was easy for him to open many doors for the entrance of his
work. Mr. Benton was a help to Hal in his art, and his reward was
immediate almost, for Hal had told me Will's pieces had never been
appreciated as now. It was astonishing, too, how many people had money
to buy these expensive treasures, - but the sea was smooth.

"Every shingle on the house paid for," said Aunt Hildy; "aint that the
beginning that ought to end well?"

And now the road of the future lay, as a fair meadowland, whose flowers
and grasses should be gathered through the years. Truly life is
strangely mixed.

The look of perplexing anxiety had vanished from my father's face, for
with Hal's prospects his own had grown bright, and you cannot know how
Clara lifted him along, as it were; paying well and promptly and saving
in so many ways, was a wondrous help to a farmer's family. There was
also the prospect of a new street being opened through the centre of the
town, and if my father wished he could sell building lots on one side of
it, for it would run along the edge of his land.

"Trouble don't never come single-handed, neither does prosperity, Mr.
Minot," said Aunt Hildy.

"Love's Fawn" was a famous little housekeeper, everything was in good
order, and I certainly found a well-spring of joy in the society of
these two. If Mary needed any extra help, Hal said, "Emily will do it."
This was a very welcome change from the old saying.

Ben was a daily visitor, and spoke of sister Mary with great pride. He
was a good boy and willing. Hal felt anxious to help him, if he desired
it, by giving him more schooling, but he was a farmer born, and his
greatest ambition was to own a farm and have a saw mill. He went to the
village school, and had as good an education as that could give, for he
was not dull. I was glad for his sake he liked farming; it seemed to me
a true farmer ought to be happy. Golden and crimson leaves were
fluttering down from the forest trees, for October had come upon us and
nearly gone, and while all prospects for living were full of cheer, I
felt a great wonder creeping over me, and with it, fear. Louis had said
no word to me as yet, and could it be he had forgotten the year was at
an end? Surely not. Could his mind have changed? Oh, how this fear
troubled me! He was as kind as ever, but he said much less to me, and
seemed like one pre-occupied. One chance remark of Clara's brought the
color to my cheeks, as we sit together.

"Louis, my dear boy, what is it? A shadow crossed your face just then."

He looked surprised, and only half answered:

"The shadow of yourself. I was thinking about you."

Mr. Benton did not talk of leaving us; he had some unfinished pieces,
and my father had said:

"Remain as long as you please, if my wife is willing."

After Hal left, I felt his studio marred by Mr. Benton's presence, for
he had become a perfect torture to me, and I began to believe he
delighted in it, secretly. Then again, I had the room to attend to, and
I must in consequence be annoyed. Of this I was tired, and when day
after day passed and brought no word from Louis, save in common with the
rest, I said, hopelessly:

"Let it go. I will try to love no one but father and mother and Clara
and Hal, and oh, dear! when shall I ever be ready to say, 'Now Clara,
let me help you'?"

She said to me through these days I was not happy. "Wild flower, what
troubles thee?" one day, and again, "Emily, my royal Emily, art thou
sighing for wings?"

November came and passed, and the gates of the new year were opening,
still all the way lay dark before me. Night after night my tear-stained
pillow told my sorrow mutely, and day after day I sighed. Mother was not
well, and I felt that everything was wrong. I was worrying myself sick,
I knew, and could not help it.

It was a cold, bitter day, and in my heart lay bitter thoughts when
Matthias came over to tell us, that "Peg was right sick, 'pears like
she's done took sick all in a minit, onions and onions, mustard and
mustard, an nothin' don't do no good. Here's a piece of paper I foun' in
de road, 'pears like you mus' want it," and he handed it to me.

I put it in my pocket and went to ask Aunt Hildy what to do for Aunt
Peg. She proposed to go over, and Ben went with her.

While they were gone I read the paper, which proved to be a letter,
evidently written to Mr. Benton, and the signature was plainly, "your
heart-broken Mary," I could only pick out half sentences, but read
enough to show me the treachery and sorrow, aye, more, a life cursed
with shame, and at the hands of Wilmur Benton.

"Thank God," I cried aloud - I was in the sitting-room alone - and then
tears fell hot and fast, and I sobbed and cried as if I had found a wide
white path that led from the night of my discontent, out into the
morning of the day called peace. I could not stay there and cry, I must
pass Clara's door to go to my room, and throwing a shawl over my
shoulders I rushed out, and fairly flew over the frozen ground to that
dear old apple tree. What a strange place to go to, standing under those
bare limbs, or rather walking to and fro, but I could not help it! This
same old tree had heard my cries and seen my tears for years. I covered
my face with both hands, and wept aloud. I could not have been there
long, when I felt a presence, and Louis was beside me.

Putting an arm around me, he said tenderly, "Come in, Emily."

"Oh, Louis!" I cried, "I cannot, they will see my face, what shall I do?
how came you here?" and I still kept crying and sobbing as if my heart
would break.

"Why Emily, my royal Emily, come into little mother's room, - she has
lain down, - and tell me why you weep."

I yielded gratefully, not gracefully, and we were seated alone, all
alone, and he was saying to me:

"Emily, tell me what it is, you have troubled me so long, your eyes have
grown so sad. Oh! Emily, my darling, may I not know your secret sorrow?
I can wait longer, my year has flown, and three months more, and still
my heart is waiting; tell me your sorrow, and then let me say to you
what I have waited in patience to repeat."

It was not a dream, my heart beat like a bird, and I could tell him,
only too gladly. "Emily will do it."



As soon as I could control my voice I said, "I cannot tell you why I cry
so bitterly. I felt so strangely when I read this terrible letter, which
Matthias had picked up in the road and given to me. Instead of sorrow
covering me, as would seem natural, sorrow for another, not myself, I
said, 'thank God,' for it seemed as if I had looked at something that
would lead me from darkness to light. I have been so miserable, Louis;
Mr. Benton has tormented me so long, that I have been filled with
despair, and I begin to believe I shall never be worth anything again;
oh! I am grieving so, and yet feel such a strange joy;" and I shook as
if with ague.

Louis looked as if wonder-struck, and holding both my hands in one of
his, drew my head to his shoulder, and with his arm still round me, put
his hand on my forehead.

"Your head is like fire, Emily; the first thing is for you to get quiet;
a terrible mistake has been made, and we may give thanks for the help
that has strangely come."

I knew it would appear but did not know how. I still grieved and sighed
and was trying hard to control myself.

"Emily," said Louis, in a tone of gentle authority, "do not try to hold
on to yourself so; just place more confidence in my strength and I will
help your nerves to help themselves, for you see these nerves you are
trying to force into quiet, are only disturbed by your will. Let the
rein fall loosely, it will soon be gathered up, for when you are quiet
you will be strong, and the harder you pull the more troubled you will
be. You must lean on me, Emily, from this day on as far as our earthly
lives shall go - you are mine. It is blessed to claim you."

I tried to do as he said, and after a little, the strength he gave crept

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 10 of 20)