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both front and back doors.

"This is a very comfortable little room," said Aunt Phebe. "Now, what
will be the rent?"

"Well, if you are bent on payin', I don't want to say less than ten
dollars a year."

"I would call it twelve, and that will be one dollar a month, Mrs.
Smith."

"Thank you, mam, it'll be a great help; I have the sideache sometimes,
and can't do nothing for a day or so, not even get the wool rolls off my
wheel, and that is jist play when I'm smart: he may come neat or not
neat, Plint or no Plint," and the bargain was finished, and Matthias
Jones was to appear on, or near, the first of March.

My rehearsal of our visit at the dinner-table provoked great mirth, and
Mr. Benton smiled on me more kindly than ever before, but I could not
but think, whenever I looked at him, that he must die pretty soon,
because Clara could not love him, and he had told her his life was
dependent on her love.

The days of Aunt Phebe's visit drew too quickly to their close, and the
time to go came on a bright sun-shiny morning. Father carried her to the
railway station; we filled a large trunk with the farm products, so
welcome to those who live in cities. Aunt Hildy put in a bundle the
contents of which she did not even want me to guess. She was a firm
friend to Aunt Phebe, and shook her hand when she left, as if loath to
let it go, and said:

"Come again as soon as you can, and if I am in my own little nest, come
and stay with me, and we'll have some more good sensible talk that helps
our wings to grow; we are only covered with pin-feathers so far."

Aunt Phebe appreciated this good old soul, and said, earnestly, "God
bless you, Mrs. Patten," as my father started the horses.

Aunt Hildy watched them until they were out of sight, saying as she came
in, "That woman will have an easier time before she dies. My Bible says,
'He that is faithful over a few things shall be made ruler over many.'
She will have a home of her own, jest as true as preachin' is preachin',
Mrs. Minot."

"She ought to," said mother. "May the day be hastened!" and again that
never-to-be-neglected work claimed our attention.

Since Louis' departure Clara had had several "pale" days, as she called
them. After Aunt Phebe left us, she seemed to grow weak. I felt worried,
and could not refrain from asking her what troubled her. She turned her
beautiful eyes full on me, and putting both her hands in mine, said:

"I know that Louis heard it, and that he told you, and your secret
sympathy has been a strength to me. It will pass over, Emily, but
Professor Benton is not satisfied. He will not be content that I may not
answer his demand for love. Yes, Emily, his words were soft, but a blade
was beneath them and I could feel that it would have cut my
heart-strings. I thank our Father that I do not love him; I should be so
starved. Emily, I can love your brother, - no, no, not with that best
love," she said quickly, noting, I suppose, the look of wonder in my
eyes, "but I can have that love for him that is founded on great respect
and faith in his pure heart. It is only their art draws them together;
they are not alike, and they will not come too near. The days will
sunder them, and it will be better that they should. But, Emily, I must,
I fear, call Louis back to give me strength. He is a great help to me.
On his heart as on his arm I can rest myself, and I need him so much. I
cannot tell you now, but you will know some time when you are no longer
as strong as now, how the spirit feels the darts that are shot from the
mind of another, and bury their poisoned points in the quivering life."

She looked so weak as she spoke, her face was so transparently white,
that I trembled with fear.

That night we slept together - she alone slept, however, for my eyes were
open, their lids refusing to close until after midnight, and it was long
after that hour before I fully lost consciousness. I felt wretched the
next day in both body and mind, and my spirit was roused within me.

"I will avert it," I said to myself - thinking first to ask mother how,
and afterward saying aloud "No, I'll do it myself, Emily will do it,"
and the harder I thought the faster I worked.

I never washed the dishes so quickly; milkpans were despatched speedily
to the buttery shelves, and at last Aunt Hildy, who was kneading bread,
stopped, and looking at me, said:

"What on airth are you going to do? you work as if you was a gettin'
reddy to go to a weddin', or somethin' - Is there doins on hand among the
folks?"

"No, mam," I replied, "but I have been so full of thoughts I could not
help hurrying."

"I hope you're on the right track, Emily; sometimes ideas that stir one
up so aint jest the kind we ought to have."

"I'm on the track of truth, Aunt Hildy, and that is the right track."

"Well, it ought to be, but sometimes truth has to wait for sin to get by
before it can move an inch. I've seen it so many a time," and a sort of
sigh fluttered to her lips, but the look of resolution that followed it
closely gave it no time to linger, and the lines about her mouth grew
firm as she resumed her bread-kneading.

Clara was better during this day, and while she took her after-dinner
nap, I came quickly down into Hal's studio, and seated myself in his
chair with a book.

Hal was in town all day on business, and I expected Mr. Benton to be
there, and he appeared, saying:

"You look very comfortable, Miss Minot; am I an intruder?"

"No, sir, you are the person I wish of all others to talk to." Where was
my guardian angel then?

"In need of advice, are you?"

"No, sir, not at all; I have some to give, however," and his eyes opened
widely, as he seated himself almost directly opposite me on a lounge,
taking a very artistic position, with his head resting on his hand, and
his arm supported by that of the lounge.

"Proceed, Miss Minot, for I assure you I am much in need of comfort, and
if you had been ready before, I might have been thankful to receive it."

I had begun more abruptly than I meant, and already felt I was stepping
on dangerous ground. I thought for an instant I would turn it aside in a
joke, then Clara's pale face rose before, and I said impetuously:

"I came to speak for another, though without her authority or knowledge.
I desire to ask you not to trouble Clara, by persisting in your suit."

He started to his feet as if a hand had struck him, walked a few steps,
and then turned toward me with a blanched face, and eyes that seemed to
be leaping from their sockets; he was struggling between anger and
policy. The latter prevailed, as he said:

"You are much interested in me; you fear that I shall have a friend. Is
that it?"

"I suggested nothing of that kind; I fear my lovely Clara may die." He
smiled derisively.

"Am I then such a monster that I am feared? Really, Miss Minot, your
picture of me is rather different from anything I have before known."

"I ought to have known you would not understand me. It would have been
equal folly for me to try to explain Clara's nature to you, for you do
not and cannot appreciate it."

"We are getting into deep water," he interrupted, but I continued:

"I have never called you a monster and have treated you as well as I
knew how to. You were my brother's friend, I have not doubted your
esteem for Clara, for how can any see her without loving and respecting
her; that is not the point. Your feelings, she has told you, she cannot
reciprocate; why can you not respect her feelings, even at the sacrifice
of your own? If you would do this, Mr. Benton, you would be stronger."

"Miss Minot, you are braver than I imagined. Let me disarm your fear; I
have no intention of intruding myself where I am not desired. How you
came in possession of these interesting facts is a mystery (insinuating,
I felt, that I had been eavesdropping). Nevertheless I admit them all,
and I admire you greatly. You are, however, as impulsive as a changeful
sea, and you made little preparation for this conversation. Allow me to
suggest that in affairs of the heart you should be a little less stormy.
I am your friend, and I say this in kindness."

"I thank you, sir; you have lived longer than I have, and I know by the
expression in your eye to-day that you can, if you choose, govern all
the love in your nature at the will of your intellect; I cannot, and I
never want to; I like to be impulsive, I like to be true, I hate
policy." As I spoke, my eyes were, I know, like dark fires.

He looked like a man of marble as he said, "Your fears are ungrounded;
you might have spared yourself this trouble," and turning, left me.

"There, 'Emily did it,' and didn't do it all," I said to myself. "Now he
will be more determined than ever, Clara will die, Louis will hate me,
and I shall be bereft doubly. Oh! dear, dear! Emily mistakes - my name
should be." Then the tears came and I sat with my face buried in my
hands, and cried like a child. A hand touched me, an arm crept round
me, "Hal," I said, starting.

"No," said Wilmur Benton in his sweeter tone, "It is I."

"Oh!" I screamed almost, making an attempt to rise, but his arm held me
firmly as he said:

"Forgive me, Miss Minot, if I have caused you pain - I spoke harshly, I
fear."

"You are forgiven," I said, "let me go."

"You are my friend still?" he asked.

"Yes, yes," I said quickly, "do let me go," and I fled to my own room,
and endeavored to wash away the stains of tears, to make my appearance
down stairs, for it was already late and mother would be looking for me.

I felt unlike myself and feared all would discern my uneasiness. Mr.
Benton had, I knew, a mistaken idea, and his polite attentions were
torture to me; he evidently thought my tears needed his commiseration,
whereas, I was only sorry I had not delivered a forcible speech in
Clara's behalf, and caused him (as I had intended) to realize the
necessity of a change in his conduct toward her. I expected him to be
vexed with me and was willing he should be, if it would relieve Clara.
Now, however, he seemed to feel I was entitled to his sympathy. There
was one thought, however, that gave relief; while he was occupying
himself with me, Clara would not be annoyed. Mother said she had a
basket to send to Aunt Peg, and I volunteered to take it. Mr. Benton
smilingly said:

"Let me accompany you, Miss Minot, it will be quite dark ere you
return."

"I am not afraid, thank you, and it will be moonlight," then thinking
of Clara I added, "still I might encounter an assassin on the road."

This did not help the matter any, and only furthered the mistaken
thought of Mr. Benton; nevertheless for the sake of that dear friend,
for whom I knew I could have borne anything, I had, after all, a secret
delight, in being misunderstood. I was a willing martyr to a just cause,
and we started together.

"Take my arm, Miss Minot."

"Thank you, walking is second nature to me, and very easy," I replied.

After walking a little further he said, "I am very glad of this
opportunity to talk with you, Miss Minot; I fear, from what I gathered
in our talk of this afternoon, your idea of me is one which I would fain
alter - it is not pleasant to feel that one is misjudged - "

"I know that," I interrupted.

- "And especially when the charge is a serious one. I cannot understand
why I was so feared; rude enough I must have seemed, and your first
words gave me a shock; I hardly know now how to explain it, and what I
desire is light. Pray tell me by what act of mine, you came to such an
unwarrantable conclusion."

"It was no act of yours at all. Common sense, I suppose, told me you
would not be foiled if you could help it. All men are selfish."

"Are not women?"

"No, sir," I replied, "they are foolish."

"Excuse the question, but has Mrs. Desmonde complained to you?"

"No, sir," I said quickly - that was a little story and then again it was
not, I reasoned.

"So I must conclude that you feared for the safety of your friend,
reading, as you thought you did, the terrible selfishness of my heart.

"I guess that is about right," I said.

"You admit this as a fact?"

"Yes; before a judge, if you desire," I said.

"That being the case, let me here say from my heart I am not as much in
love with Mrs. Desmonde as I might be, and one reason is that I find her
more and more enveloped in the strange fancies peculiar, I judge, to
herself alone."

"What am I to understand from this? Strange fancies, indeed! If truth
and love are strange fancies, she is indeed enveloped. My darling Clara!
She is a light leading to the eternal city. I knew you could not
understand her."

"Well, Miss Minot, let me explain. I know she is graceful, and
beautiful, and truly good, but none can know positively there is an
eternal city, and I must say I do not feel interested in the dreamy
talk, which is, after all, only talk."

"Goodness!" I exclaimed, "are you an infidel?"

"I cannot vouch for anything beyond this life."

"If I felt I could not, I'd commit suicide to-morrow."

He laughed heartily at this, and, as we were at Aunt Peggy's door, could
not answer until we turned toward home, when he said:

"Instead of taking my life, I desire to keep it as long as I can, and
get all the enjoyment possible on this side the grave. I hope I have
made myself understood, and disarmed every fear of your friendly heart."

"The days will tell," I replied, and our walk at last was ended.

It had been thoroughly uncomfortable to me, although he had seemed to be
enjoying every step. I went to my room that night, and in my dreams
tried to find the garden of Eden somewhere in our town, while a snake,
with eyes like Wilmur Benton's, seemed to be crawling close behind me,
and with the daybreak, I said:

"That dream means something."

Aunt Peg told me she should go to work and clean up the ground-room, and
if father had any old "chunks of wood he could spare, Plint could come
over and get 'em, and when that new nigger came, there'd be a prospect
awaitin'."

I carried the message, and father thought it would be a good plan to
have Matthias Jones appear, as he had more wood cut in the forest than
he could haul with Ben's help, and doubtless this poor man would be glad
of the job. Mother said the room could be made ready, she thought,
inasmuch as there was an extra high-post bedstead in our attic chamber.
Aunt Hilda added, "I've got a good feather mattress to put on it, and a
straw-bed is easily fixed."

So I wrote a letter to Aunt Phebe, and Plint came over for the chunks of
wood, riding back on a load of things we had gathered. When the
ground-room was ready for occupancy, it was not a cheerless place. A
nicely-made bed in its north-west corner, a deal table at the east side
of the room, two rush-bottomed chairs, and a straight-backed rocker,
two breadths of carpet lying through its centre, the wide-mouthed
fireplace, with well-filled wood-box at its right hand, - all savored of
comfort. To cap the climax, Clara put up to the windows some half
curtains of unbleached cotton, bound with bright French red. It really
looked nice, and Aunt Peg said: "I do hope, mam, he's clean."

The days sped on quickly, and Clara felt better. Mr. Benton had
evidently dropped all thought of her, and his uniformly kind treatment
of us, began, after a little, to make me feel ashamed of the suspicions
which had crossed my mind. Letters from Louis came as usual, and I wish
I could give them now - such beautifully-expressed thoughts, such tender
touches did he give to his word pictures, that I read and re-read them.
Treasures they were, and I have them all yet; not one but is too sacred
to lose. My heart grew strong in its love for him, and his thoughts were
all as hands reaching for my own.




CHAPTER XI.

THE TEACHING OF HOSEA BALLOU.


February first brought Matthias Jones. Father met him at the village,
and our curiosity which was aroused regarding this new comer, was
thoroughly gratified at his appearance. A better specimen of a southern
negro was never seen. He was above the medium size, broad-shouldered;
his hair thick and wooly, sprinkled with grey, and covering a large,
flat surface on the top of his head. His nose was of extra size, mouth
in proportion, and his eyes, which were not dull, expressed considerable
feeling, and you would know when you looked at them he was honest. His
gait was slow, slouchy as I called it, and, as he walked leisurely along
the path, Ben whispered, "My soul, what feet!" Sure enough, they seemed
to stretch back too far, and they were immense.

He took supper with us, and then father and Ben both went over to his
future home with him, and introduced him to Aunt Peg and Plint. He was
to work for father, and would be over in the "mornin'," he said.

"I wonder if he was a slave, Emily?" said Ben.

"I think so," said I. "We will question him to-morrow if we get a
chance," and we did, for the day was stormy, and father did not go to
the woods, but kept Matthias at work in the barn cleaning up, etc. About
four o'clock his work was finished, and we invited him to come in and
sit awhile.

"Now, Ben," I said, and we seated ourselves for a conference.

"Mr. Jones," said I, "you came from the South, did you?"

"'Pears like I did, Miss, an' it's a mighty cool country yere; I'm nigh
froze in de winter, I is sartin."

"Were you a slave?"

"Yes'm," and the old man gave a long sigh.

"Would you mind telling us about it? Ben and I never saw a person before
from the South."

"Never did? There's a heap on 'em, wud 'jes like ter see ye. Long time
awaitin', but de promise ov de Massa mus' be true," and again a
thoughtful look came over his dusky face. "I don't mind tellin' ye a
little if I ken. I was a slave in Carlina, an' I had a good massa, Miss;
a fus-rate man, but he done tuk sick an' died, an' then - wh-e-ew," and
he gave a long, low whistle, "thar cum sich a time thar; de ole woman
she done no nuthin' 'bout de biznis, an' de big son he sell all de
niggers an' get _all_ de money, an' dars whar my trubbel begin. De nex'
massa had de debbil fur his father, sure; nothin' go rite; made me go
an' marry, fus thing, an' to a gal I didn't like, nohow. Little niggers
come along, an' I done bes' I cud by 'em, but what cud I do? Nothin' at
all; an' fus thing I knew - he'd done gone an' sold ebery one ob dat
family, and den he mus' hab me marry agin. Dis secon' marriage was
better'n that; fur I did like de gal mighty well. 'Pears like we's
gwine to take sum comfort, and when we'd had de meetins to our cabin,
oh! how we did jes pray fur dat freedom we hear'm tell 'bout - pray mos'
too loud, for dat old Mas'r Sumner tink we's alltogeder too happy, an'
den, he up and sold dat pretty gal ob ourn, what was jes risin' uv her
fourth year, Miss, an' as pretty as could be. Dis broke my wife's heart,
an' den he sold one more to a trader; and not long fur de wife an' two
last' chilun was gone. Den I jes swore rite up, Miss - rite into dat
Masr's face an' eyes - 'I'm neber gwine to hab no more chilun,' an' he
says to me, 'Matt, you got to do jes as I say,' an' I swear agin, an' he
cuss and swear, an' then, I got sich a floggin' - Miss, but I didn't
keer, an' I would never done as dat man sed, an' I 'spected to die, but
a New Orleans trader cum dat way, an' I was sold, and Mas'r Sumner said,
de las' thing, 'You'll get killed now, Matt.' 'All right, Mas'r,' I sed,
'de Lord is a waitin' an' He's a good fren, too,' an' off I went. Dar we
wur in a pen in New Orleans, waitin' fur we didn't know what, an' on
come a fever an' dat trader know he's got to die. Den, to make peace wid
de Lord at the las't jump he done giv us all freedom, an' money to git
us into dat great city ov New York; an' mine lasted me clean up to Misse
Hungerford's door (Aunt Phebe), an' las' night, when I see dat nice room
over thar an' that good fire, oh! my," and the old man buried his face
in his hands and wept like a child, then looking up, he said, "Ef I cud
only ahad my chilun in thar; 'pears de Lord Himself might ahelped me a
minnit sooner - but dey is gone, all done gone, an' 'taint no use."

"You may meet them again, Mr. Jones; I hope we shall know each other
there in that better country, and if we do you'll surely know and find
them."

"Oh! Miss, that's the bery thing, it takes a load right off yere, when I
think about it," and he laid his hand on his heart, "but I'd better be
shufflin' off home, an' I'll tell you a heap more sometime," and as he
went through the yard, I heard him singing "dat New Je-ru-sa-lem,"
prolonging the last word, as if it was too musical to lose.

I told it all to Clara, and she said:

"Oh! Emily, is he not one of God's children, and is it not true that all
have that within which points to better things? How could the soul of
this poor negro stay within his body if it were not for this hope that
covers his troubles, and, like a lantern-light, throws a gleam into the
path which lies before? I hope he will live now in comfort and die in
peace. He must have been sent to you. Next time let me listen to his
story." And she did, for the next evening we walked together over to his
home, and spent two hours pleasantly enough.

Clara could not rest until sure of just how he could get along there,
and finally made an arrangement with Aunt Peg to give him his meals when
he should be there. The voice of the old man - he looked more than sixty
years, but said his age was fifty, I think he did not know - quivered
with emotion, as he said:

"Thank yer, mam, thank yer kindly, I'll tote a load forty miles for ye
any day, and I kin tote pretty 'harbaneous' loads too."

"Never mind that, Mr. Jones, I like to see you comfortable."

"Strange talk, mam," he said; "these yere ole ears been more used to,
'git up thar, yer lazy nigger, this yere cottin mus be got into de
market.'"

He proved a valuable acquisition to my father, and before this month of
February, whose beginning brought him to us, had passed, father said to
mother:

"I hardly see how I could get on without Matthias. He is so trusty, and
he is smart too. If the poor fellow had been given half a chance, he
would have made a good business man, for he has good ideas as to
bringing things around in season."

"Truth is stranger than fiction," said mother. "Two classes of society
have been perfectly represented in those who have been brought to us
during this last year."

"How strangely things work, and there seem to be ways under them all
that will work out in spite of us," said father.

The Sabbath on which we had expected to go to hear the Reverend Hosea
Ballou preach proved cold and rainy, and a month would elapse ere he
came again. We were impatient waiters, but the time came at last, on the
Sabbath after the arrival of Matthias, and he was to come over and
attend to the early milking, while Hal and Mr. Benton would have supper
ready for us on our return.

That day was to me like a never-to-be-forgotten sunrise. Although gleams
of light had before this crossed my vision, never had so radiant a
morning of perception opened the door of my soul. New yet old, unknown
yet longed for, those words fell like golden sun-rays into the room of
my understanding; they bathed me with light, and baptized me with
tenderness, while I stood at the fount of living inspiration. That grand
old man, then about seventy-two years of age, talked to the assembled
congregation from this text: "For we know that if our earthly house of
this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God; an house not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (Second Corinthians, fifth
chapter and first verse). It was all as natural as a part of himself
could be, and he was a power. Pure and dispassionate, the plea he made
rested on the ground of revealed truth. He told us of what the history
of the past furnished, and carried us clear on into the life beyond.
"The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life; as in Adam all die, so
in Christ shall all be made alive."

It seemed to me then, and still seems, that he spoke with a power that
was divine. The tide of earnest thought and feeling that carried him
with his subject out on the depth, carried also his hearers, and we were
shown the way to the port of eternal life. Oh, how he strengthened me!
His touching invocation reached, as it seemed, the very doors of heaven
and swung them wide open, and when the people joined in singing the good
old hymn, written by Sebastian Streeter, whose first verse runs as
follows:

What glorious tidings do I hear
From my Redeemer's tongue!
I can no longer silence bear,


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