Martha Lewis Beckwith Ewell.

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himself "Bonny Doon." I embraced the first opportunity to follow him,
and found him alone in his studio. He seated himself beside me, took one
hand in his and passed an arm around me. I wished he could have been my
lover then, in fact, I often wished it, for he was as good as he was
handsome, both noble hearted and noble looking. He was to me the
embodiment of all that was good and all that went to make the best man
in the world.

"Emily," he began, "you have been a blessed sister to me; I have loved
you always, even though I plagued you so much, and you have been
faithful to me. I entrusted to you the first great secret of my life,
when I sought you under the apple tree."

"Why could you not have told me more?" I said.

"For the sole reason it would have been hard for you to have kept it
from mother, and I wanted to surprise you all at home. Your hand, Emily,
was the one that held the cup of life to my lips; and Louis," he added
in a tender tone, "with his sympathy and the power of his heart and
hand, led me slowly back to strength. Louis is a grand boy. Now, Emily,"
and he drew me still closer, "I have something else to tell you."

"Don't go away, Hal."

"I desire to stay, but, Emily, I love Mary Snow. I want to tell you of
it. I cannot speak positively as to what may happen, but I love her very
dearly. Could you be glad to receive her as a sister?"

Selfish thoughts arose at the thought of losing Hal, but I banished them
at once, and my heart spoke truly when I said:

"Mary Snow is good enough for you, Hal. I have always liked her so much,
but how stupid I am, never to have dreamed of this."

"No?" said he, as if surprised. "Never dreamed of it? Do you think it
strange that I should tell you, Emily? I have seen the time when it
would seem very silly to me, but I have learned to realize how great is
the tie that binds us, and I hope through all the years you and I will
never be apart. I ask of you, too, one promise. Do not tell even Clara,
and if ever you have such a secret, tell me frankly, for we should love
each other, and our joys should be mutual."

I said not a word, but I thought of Louis, and I longed to show him the
chain and locket, which I constantly wore, but I could not, and I have
wished since that I might have been wiser. At this moment Mr. Benton
entered, and our position did not escape him.

"Truly, Hal," he said, "you make a capital picture. Courting, eh?"

"Call it that if you please; we are very near in spirit, thanks to the

The thought of work came over me, and I left them to help about getting
supper. To be in Hal's confidence and to feel the trust he reposed in me
had made me very happy. Precious indeed did this seem to me, and if all
brothers and sisters were as near, how much of evil would be averted.
Young men might find at home the love and society they need, and less
temptation and fewer penalties to pay would be the good result.

Mother's absence was nearly at an end, and father had gone on Saturday
to Aunt Phebe's to spend the Sabbath, and was to bring mother back on

Sabbath evening Hal went over to Deacon Snow's, Clara was in her room
writing to Louis, Ben reading in the kitchen, and I was left with Mr.
Benton in Hal's room. This night was never to be forgotten, for although
from time to time I had been forced to notice the great change in his
manner toward me, I was unprepared for what occurred, and unconscious
that he had so misunderstood and perverted my motives in that fated
talk. I cannot tell you all he said, nor how he said it, but I was
thoroughly confused and startled by his protestations, and could only

"Mr. Benton, I do not desire to hear this; I cannot understand it; you
have been mistaken," etc.

To all of which he replied as if deeply pained, and I believed in his
sorrow and despised myself. I could not and did not tell him of Louis,
for when I thought of it, it seemed too sacred, and he had no right to
this knowledge. I was overwhelmed with strange and unpleasant feelings;
there was no satisfaction in the thought of having heard these
declarations; it was an experience I would fain have avoided. His talk
to Clara, too, came to my aid, and rallying a little, I said:

"It is not long since you felt you could not live without the love of
Clara's heart; how strangely all your feelings must have changed. This
perplexes me, Mr. Benton."

He raised his head from his hands - he had been sitting some moments in a
despairing attitude, evidently struggling with great emotion - and

"It is natural that this should perplex you, and I am prepared for it.
Years of lonely waiting and yearning for the love of a true heart, have,
perhaps, made me seize too readily on any promise of hope and sympathy.
I was certainly fascinated with Mrs. Desmonde, and told her of my
feelings, prematurely as it proved, for the more I knew of her, the more
convinced I grew of her unfitness, I might almost say for earth,
although she still is beautiful to me. But you, Emily, are a woman of
strength and will, of a strength that will grow, for your years do not
yet number twenty-one; these years have already given you maturity and
power, and I respect and admire you, and I believe I could worship you
if you would let me."

This was stranger talk than I could endure, and I broke out

"You need not ever try; I do not want you to, for I shall never love
you, and you are also old enough to be my father." I cannot tell why I
should have made this great mistake for which I immediately reproached

The lines in Mr. Benton's face grew a little sharper, and the gleam of
his eye for a second was like a fierce light, and he answered gravely:

"My years do number more, but in my heart I stand beside you. I would
have waited longer to tell you, but I am going away." I looked
wonderingly. "A friend is ill. I go to him; then to Chicago to see some
of our statuettes, and then if your parents will board me here, shall
return for the summer, unless," and his eyes dropped hopelessly, his
voice trembled, "unless," raising his eyes to mine appealingly, "I shall
be too unwelcome a friend to remain."

Dear Hal and his art rose before me, and pity and love caused me to say:

"Oh, come back, Mr. Benton! Hal needs you."

"We will consider then that we are friends, Emily?"

"Certainly," I said, glad enough to pass out of this door. Would it had
been wider!

Advancing to me he took my hand, and said:

"My friend always, if I may never hope for more. I leave to-morrow
morning, let us say good-bye here."

This was a strange scene for a plain country girl like Emily Minot.
Don't blame me if I was bewildered, and if I failed for a moment to
think of the snake I had dreamed about: neither wonder that in this last
act in Mr. Benton's drama, he seemed to have gained some power over me.
He knew, for I was no adept at concealing, that he had won some vantage
ground, and that I blamed myself and pitied him.

Morning came, and he left us, and Aunt Hildy said: "Gone with his great
eyes that allus remind me that still water runs deep. Can't see how
Halbert and that man can be so thick together."

Matthias, who was there early, ready to go to work, said to himself as
the stage rolled away: "De Lord bless me, if dat man don't mos' allus
set me on de thinkin' groun. Pears like he's got two sides to hisself,
um, um."

I heard this absent talk of Matthias', and also Aunt Hildy's words, and
I marvelled, saying in my heart, "Emily Minot, what will be done next?"



We were all glad to see mother, and she had enjoyed her visit, which had
improved her much.

"Hope you haint done any work?" said Aunt Hildy.

Mother said nothing, but when her trunk was unpacked she brought forth,
in triumph, a specimen of her handiwork.

"Aunt Hildy," I called, "come and give her a scolding."

She came, and with Clara and myself, was soon busy in trying to find out
how the mat - for this was the name of the article - was made.

"How on airth did you do it, and what with?"

"Why don't you find out?" said mother.

"For only one reason, _I can't_," said Aunt Hildy.

"It is made of pieces of old flannel and carpet that Phebe got hold of
somehow. We cut them bias and sewed them on through the middle, the
foundation being a canvas bag, leaving the edges turned up."

"Well, I declare," said Aunt Hildy; "but you had no right to work."

My mind was sorely troubled, and when, in about a week after Mr.
Benton's departure, I received a long letter from him, I felt worse than
before. I blamed myself greatly, and still these wrong steps I had taken
were all only sins of omission. It was for Clara's sake; for Hal's sake;
and last, but not least, I could not say to Mr. Benton, as I would have
wished to, that my love was in Louis' keeping, for you remember I had
met Louis' advances with fear, and he had said, "I will wait one year."
How could I then say positively what I did not know? Louis was growing
older, and my fears might prove all real, and I should only subject
myself to mortification, and at the same time, as I really believed,
cause Mr. Benton sorrow.

"Poor Emily Minot," I said, "you must condole with yourself unless you
tell Halbert," and I resolved to do this at the first opportunity.

Clara was delighted at Mr. Benton's absence. She went singing about our
house all the time, and the roses actually tried to find her cheeks. Our
days seemed to grow more filled and the hearts and hands were well

Hal was busy with his work and hopes, and I had been over with him to
see Mary, and had looked with them at the picture of their coming days.
I enjoyed it greatly. They were not going to be in haste, and Mary's
father was to talk with our people concerning the best mode of beginning
life. I think some people end it just where they hoped to begin. Mary
had a step-mother, who was thrifty, and that was all; her heart had
never warmed to infant caresses, and she would never know the love that
can be felt only for one's own. It was sad for her, and I can see now
how she suffered for this well-spring of joy which had never been found.
To Mary she was kind, but she could not give her the love she needed.
Mary was timid. Hal always called her his "fawn." It was a good name. He
made a beautiful statuette of her little self and christened it Love's
Fawn, and while he never really meant it should go into strange hands,
it crossed the Atlantic before he did, and received high
commendation - beautiful Mary Snow.

Instead of my visit helping to open my secret to Hal, it seemed to close
the door upon it, and only a sigh came to my lips when I essayed to
speak of it. Once he asked me tenderly as we walked home:

"It cannot be our happiness that hurts you, Emily?"

"No - no," I said, "it gives me great joy to see you so happy."

I told mother when he wished, and a talk ensued between her and father,
then a conference of families, and a conclusion that the marriage which
was to occur with the waning of September, should be followed, as the
two desired, by their going to housekeeping.

Father had a plot of thirty acres in trust for Hal, and he proposed to
exchange some territory with him, that his house might be nearer ours.
Hal was named for Grandfather Minot, and was a year old when he died. In
a codicil to the will, grandfather had bequeathed to Hal these thirty
acres, which was more than half woodland. Hal was glad to make an
exchange with father, and get a few acres near home, while he would
still have nice woodland left. Acres of land then did not seem to be
worth so much to us, and it was a poor farmer in our section, who had
not forty or more acres, for our town was not all level plains, and
every land-owner must perforce have more or less of hill and stubble.
These new ideas of building and "fresh housekeeping" as Aunt Hildy said,
gave much to think about, and while Clara and I were talking together
with great earnestness one afternoon in April, we were surprised by a
letter of appeal from Louis. We, I say, for Clara read to me every
letter he sent her, and this began as follows:

"Little mother, bend thy tender ear, and listen to thy 'dear boy' who
desires a great favor; think of it one week, and then write to him thou
hast granted it."

The entire letter ran in this strain, and the whole matter was this: he
felt he could not stay in school his appointed time. He had done in
previous months more than twice the amount of work done by any one
student, and when the vacation came with the coming in of July, he would
stay with the professor through the month, and thus work up to a certain
point in his studies, then he wanted a year of freedom, and at its
close, he would go back and finish any and every branch Clara desired
him to.

"Emily," said Clara, "he will be twenty-one next January, but he will be
my boy still, and he will not say nay, if I ask him to return again. I
have expected this. If Louis Robert had not left so strong a message - "
and she folded her hands, and with her head bent, she sat in deep
thought and motionless for more than half an hour. Then rousing
suddenly, said:

"It will be well for him, I shall send the word to-morrow."

My heart beat gladly for in these days, I longed for Louis. Thoughts of
Mr. Benton vanished at the sight of Louis' picture, and his letter I did
not answer. He wrote again. The third time inclosed one in an envelope
addressed to Hal, who looked squarely at me when he handed it to me, and
afterward said:

"Emily, do you love Will?"

I shook my head, and came so near telling him, but I did not, and again
committed the sin of omission.

While all these earthly plans were being formed about us, the stirring
of thought with the people on religious matters grew greater. Regularly
now several of our people went ten miles to the church where we heard
Mr. Ballou. A donation party for our minister was to be given the last
day of April, and the air was rife with conjectures. Jane North made her
appearance, and her first salutation was:

"Good afternoon, Mis' Minot. Going to donation next Monday night?"

"I think so," was mother's quiet reply.

"Well, I'm glad: s'pose there's a few went last year that wouldn't carry
anything to him now?"

Aunt Hildy stepped briskly in and out of the room, busy at work, and
taking apparently no notice of the talk, when Clara came again to the
front with:

"Oh! come this way, Miss North, I have something to say, these good
people will excuse us."

"Oh! yes," said mother, and they went. I could not follow them for I was
busy. Two hours after, I entered Clara's sitting-room, and Jane sat as
if she had received an important message from some high potentate,
which she was afraid of telling. She sat knitting away on her silk
stockings, and talked as stiffly, saying the merest things. Clara left
the room a few moments, and then she said:

"Ain't she jist a angel; she's give me the beautifullest real lace
collar for myself, and three solid linen shirts for our minister; said
per'aps she should'nt go over; and two or three pieces of money for his
wife, and a real beautiful linen table-cloth; you don't care if I take
'em, do you?"

"Oh, no!" I said, "Mrs. Desmonde is the most blessed of all women."

"_So she is_, but here she comes," and again Jane sat covered with new
dignity. It was rather a heavy covering, but I thought of Clara's
philosophy and said to myself, "Another batch of scandal pushed aside."
This way of Clara's to help people educate themselves to rise above the
conditions which were to them as clinging chains, was to me beautiful.
If all could understand it, it would not be long before our lives would
unfold so differently. "_Emily will help me._" These words came full
often before me, and now if I could only see my way through the
difficulties which entangled me, then my hands would, perhaps, led by
her, touch some strings which might vibrate sweetly. Then, and not till
then, could I be satisfied, and unconscious of any presence, I sang

"How long, oh, Lord! how long?"

"Dat's de berry song I used to sing down thar, an' I dunno as I could
'spected any sooner," said Matthias, who came in unexpectedly.

"Oh, Matthias!" I said, "do you know I believe your people will all go

And his large, honest eyes opened widely, as he said:

"'Way down in yer, I feel sometimes like I see freedom comin' right down
on de wings of a savin' angel, and den I sings down in dat yer grown'
room, Miss; I sings dat ole cabin-meetin' song, 'Jes' lemme get on my
long white robe, and ride in dat golden chariot in de mornin' right
straight to New Je-ru-sa-lem.' 'Pears like I get great notions, Miss

"The Lord will hear you as well as me, Matthias, and some day slavery
will die. What a good time there will be then above there," said I,
pointing upward.

"Yes," said he, "good for de righteous, but dat old Mas'r Sumner, he'll
jes' be down thar 'mong dem red-hot coals."

"Oh, Matthias!" I said, "there are no red-hot coals."

"Sure, Miss, I dunno but dat 'pears like I can't hab hevin' wid dat man

"He will be changed and good."

"Can't think so. Dat man needs dat fire; preachin' could'nt do him no
good, noway."

"We will agree to let each other think as they feel, but our Father must
love all his children."

"Ef dat's so," said he thoughtfully, "I hope he'll hab more'n one room
for us, rather be mos' anywhar dan in sight ob dat man," and he trudged
off with his literal Heaven and Hades before him.

Poor ignorant heart! let him hold to these thoughts; he cannot dream of
a love so liberal as that which delights my heart to think of; he cannot
know that we, being God's children, must inherit some of his eternal
goodness, and that little leaven within will be the salvation of us all
through time that knows no end. Poor Matthias! his eyes will be opened
over there; and tears filled my own at the glorious prospect waiting. He
was living in his ground room truly.

The donation came off happily. Our minister had been many years with us,
and was a good man, to the extent of his light, and worthy of all we
could bestow on him. He owned a small farm, and had also practised a
little in medicine, and had always tried to do his duty. I suppose his
fiery sermons were preached honestly, and that his duty, as Clara said,
led him to hang out a signal lantern. To me it was a glow-worm light,
that only warned me in a different direction, and although my fierce
treatment of that Christmas sermon was past, down deep in my heart
strong truths had been planted. I felt I must have a talk with both my
pastor and my father before I could again partake of the communion.

Clara did not go with us to the donation. We went after supper, meeting
at the house about six P.M., and stayed until nine. Many good
and sensible gifts were brought them, and Clara's was not least among
them. Jane North proudly displayed the four five dollar gold pieces, and
descanted long on "such fine linen," and that beautiful lady who sent

Several said to us: "Why, we didn't know as you would come" - to which I

"Oh, yes! of course we proposed to come;" and for once I was wise enough
not to ask why. I told Clara, she certainly had planted good seed, for
not one word of scandal escaped the lips of Jane that evening, only
praise of the beautiful Mis' Desmonde.

It was only a few days after the donation, that Mr. Davis, our minister,
came over to spend the evening, and we had a long talk, one that ended
better than I anticipated. When he came he inquired particularly for
Clara, who insisted on our going into her sitting-room, and all but Hal
followed her thither, his steps, after supper, turning as usual toward
the house of his "fawn."

Mr. Davis alluded to his donation visit, and he desired especially to
thank Clara for her most welcome offers to his wife and himself, adding,
"And the greatest wonder to me is that the shirts fit me so well."

"You know my dear boy is a man in size," said Clara, "I thought they
would be right, and he has now left four more that are new and like the
ones I sent you, but please do not thank me so much, Miss North did me
full justice in that line."

"She was a willing delegate, then?" said Mr. Davis.

"Oh, very!" said Clara, "and she is a lonely soul in the world."

"So she is, more lonely than she need be if our people could understand
her," he replied; "but I confess my own ignorance there, for I never
seemed to know just what to say to her."

"Clara does," said I, but Clara looked, "Emily don't," and I said no

At last the conversation turned on religious matters, and to my
surprise, Mr. Davis came to explain himself instead of asking
explanations, as I had expected.

"I have understood," said he, "that you, Mr. Minot, think my sermon
alluding to false doctrines, and also the one in which I spoke of
preachers of heresy, were particularly directed to you, and that I
believed you had done very wrong in leaving for one Sabbath your own
church to hear a minister that preaches new and strange things."

"I never have intimated as much, Mr. Davis. I did suppose you intended
some of the remarks in your last sermon should apply directly to myself
and family; but of the first one, I had only one idea. As I have before
said to you, the thought of a burning hell always makes me shudder. I
never could conceive of such torture at the hand of a wise and loving
God. If there is punishment awaiting the unrighteous, it is not of
literal fire. I am well persuaded of this, for if it were a literal
fire, a body would soon be consumed; hence, the punishment could not be
endless as supposed; while upon a spiritual body, it could have no
effect. The fire in the stove burns my finger, but touches not my soul."

"You know the tenets of our belief embrace both eternal comfort and
eternal misery," said Mr. Davis; "it is what we are taught."

"I know," said my father. "I have considered my church obligations
seriously, and am prepared to say, if it is inconsistent for me, in the
eyes of my preacher or of his people, that I, holding these thoughts,
should remain in fellowship with them as before, I can only say I have
grown strong enough now to stand alone, and I should think I ought to
stand aside. I cannot see why we may not agree on all else."

"I believe we do; I respect your opinions, Mr. Minot; we cannot afford
to lose you either. May I ask with what denomination you would propose
to unite?"

"None at all," said my father, "unless the road comes clearer before me.
I love our old meeting-house, Mr. Davis; my good old father played the
violin there for years, and when a youth, I stood with him and played
the bass viol, while my brother, now gone, added the clear tones of the
clarionet, and the voice of my sweet sister Lucy could be heard above
all else, in the grand old hymns 'Silver Street' and 'Mear.'" At these
recollections my father's voice choked with emotion, and strange for
him, tears fell so fast he could say no more.

"Brother Minot," said Mr. Davis, rising to his feet and taking his hand,
his eyes looking upward, "let the God who seeth in secret hold us still
as brothers; keep your pew in the old church. This one difference of
opinion can have no weight against either of us. This is all the church
meeting we need or will have, and if I ever judge you falsely, may I
_be_ thus judged."

Aunt Hildy said: "Amen, Brother Davis, your good sense will lead you out
of the ditch, that's certain."

Clara's eyes were looking as if fixed on a far-off star. She was lost in
gazing, the thin white lids covered her beautiful eyes for a moment or
two, then she turned her pure face toward Mr. Davis, and said:

"It is good for us all to be wise, and it is not easy to obey the
scriptural injunction, 'Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.'
Ever growing, the human mind must reach with the tendrils of its thought
beyond the confines of to-day. The intuition of our souls, this Godlike
attribute which we inherit directly from our Father, is ever seeking to
be our guide. None can be so utterly depraved that they have not
sympathy either in one way or another with its utterances. Prison bars
and dungeon cells may hold souls whose central thoughts are pure as
noon-day; and sometimes hard-visaged men, at the name of home and
mother, are baptized in tears. The small errors of youth lead along the
way to greater crimes, and I sometimes ask myself if it is not true that
living with wants that are not understood, causes men to seek the very

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Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 9 of 20)