A Thanksgiving Story of the Peabody Family
by Cornelius Mathews
THE LANDSCAPE OF
ARRIVAL OF THE
MERCHANT AND HIS
FROM THE WEST.
THE FORTUNES OF
LADY AND HER
Shall the glorions festival of Thanksgiving, now yearly celebrated
all over the American Union, (said the author to himself one day,) be
ushered in with no other trumpet than the proclammation of
State-Governors? May we not have a little holiday-book of our own, in
harmony with that cherished Anniversary, which, while it pleases your
fellow-countrymen, should it have that good fortune, may acquaint
distant strangers with the observance of that happy custom of our
country? With the hope that it may be so received, and as a kindly
word spoken to all classes and sections of his fellow citizens,
awakening a feeling of union and fraternal friendship at this genial
season, the writer presents this little volume of home characters and
CHAPTER FIRST. THE LANDSCAPE OF THE
I SEE old Sylvester Peabody—the head of the Peabody
family—seated in the porch of his country dwelling, like an ancient
patriarch, in the calm of the morning. His broad-brimmed hat lies on
the bench at his side, and his venerable white locks flow down his
shoulders, which time in one hundred seasons of battle and sorrow, of
harvest and drouth, of toil and death, in all his hardy wrestlings
with old Sylvester, has not been able to bend. The old man's form is
erect and tall, and lifting up his head to its height, he looks afar,
down the country road which leads from his rural door, towards the
city. He has kept his gaze in that direction for better than an hour,
and a mist has gradually crept upon his vision; objects begin to lose
their distinctness; they grow dim or soften away like ghosts or
spirits; the whole landscape melts gently into a pictured dew before
him. Is old Sylvester, who has kept it clear and bright so long,
losing his sight at last, or is our common world, already changing
under the old patriarch's pure regard, into that better, heavenly land?
It seemed indeed, on this very calm morning in November, as if
angels were busy about the Old Homestead, (which lies on the map, in
the heart of one of the early states of our dear American Union,)
transforming all the old familiar things into something better and
purer, and touching them gently with a music and radiance caught from
the very sky itself. As in the innocence of beauty, shrouded in
sleep, dreams come to the eyelids which are the realities of the day,
with a strange loveliness—the fair country lay as it were in a
delicious dreamy slumber. The trees did not stand forth boldly with
every branch and leaf, but rather seemed gentle pictures of trees;
the sheep-bells from the hills tinkled softly and as if whispering a
secret to the wind; the birds sailed slowly to and fro on the air;
there was no harshness in the low of the herds, no anger in the heat
of the sun, not a sight nor a sound, near by nor far off, which did
not partake of the holy beauty of the morning, nor sing, nor be
silent, nor stand still, nor move, with any other than a gliding
sweetness and repose, or an under-tone which might have been the echo
here on earth, of a better sphere. There was a tender sadness and
wonder in the face of old Sylvester, when a voice came stealing in
upon the silence. It did not in a single tone disturb the heavenly
harmony of the hour, for it was the voice of the orphan dependent of
the house, Miriam Haven, whose dark-bright eye and graceful form
glimmered, as though she were the spirit of all the softened beauty
of the scene, from amid the broom-corn, where she was busy in one of
the duties of the season. Well might she sing the song of lament, for
her people had gone down far away in the sea, and her lover—where
Far away—far away are they, And I in all the world alone—
Brightly, too brightly, shines the day— Dark is the land where they
are gone! I have a friend that's far away, Unknown the clime that
bears his tread; Perchance he walks in light to-day, He may be dead!
he may be dead!
Like every other condition of the time, the voice of Miriam too,
had a change in it.
"What wonder is this?" said old Sylvester, "I neither hear nor see
as I used—are all my senses going?"
He turned, as he spoke, to a woman of small stature, in whose
features dignity and tenderness mingled, as she now regarded him, with
reverence for the ancient head of the house. She came forward as he
addressed her, and laying her hand gently on his arm, said—
"You forget, father; this is the Indian summer, which is the first
summer softened and soberer, and often comes at thanksgiving-time. It
always changes the country, as you see it now."
"Child, child, you are right. I should have known it, for always at
this season, often as it has come to me, do I think of the absent and
the dead—of times and hours, and friends long, long passed away. Of
these whom I have known," he continued eagerly, "who have fallen in
battle, in the toil of the field, on the highway, on the waters, in
silent chambers, by sickness, by swords: I thank God they have all,
all of my kith and kin and people, died with their names untouched
with crime; all," he added with energy, planting his feet firmly on
the ground and rising as he spoke sternly, "all, save one alone, and
He turned toward the female at his side, and when he looked in her
face and saw the mournful expression which came upon it, he dropped
back into his chair and stayed his speech.
At this moment a little fellow, who, with his flaxen locks and blue
eyes, was a very cherub in plumpness and the clearness of his brow,
came toddling out of the door of the house, struggling with a basin of
yellow corn, which, shifting about in his arms, he just managed to
keep possession of till he reached old Sylvester's knee. This was
little Sam Peabody, the youngest of the Peabodys, and as he looked up
into his grandfather's face you could not fail to see, though they
grew so wide apart, the same story of passion and character in each.
The little fellow began throwing the bright grain from the basin to a
great strutting turkey which went marching and gobbling up and down
the door-yard, swelling his feathers, spreading his tail, and shaking
his red neck-tie with a boundless pretence and restlessness; like many
a hero he was proud of his uniform, although the fatal hour which was
to lay him low was not far off. It was the thanksgiving turkey,
himself, in process of fattening under charge of Master Sam Peabody.
Busy in the act, he was regarded with smiling fondness by his mother,
the widow Margaret Peabody, and his old grandfather, when he suddenly
turned, and said—
"Grand-pa, where's brother Elbridge?"
The old man changed his countenance and struggled a moment with
"He had better know all," he said, after a pause of thought, in
which he looked, or seemed to look afar off from the scene about him.
"Margaret, painful though it be to you and to me, let the truth be
spoken. God knows I love your son, Elbridge, and would have laid down
my life that this thing had not chanced, but the child asks of his
brother so often, and is so often evaded that he will be presently
snared in a net of falsehoods and deceptions if we speak not more
plainly to him."
An inexpressible anguish overspread the countenance of the widowed
woman, and she turned aside to breathe a brief prayer of trust and
hope of strength in the hour of trial.
The thanksgiving turkey, full of his banquet of corn, strutted away
to a slope in the sun by the roadside, and little Sam Peabody renewed
"Can't I see brother Elbridge, grand-pa?"
"Never again, I fear, my child."
"Why not, grandfather?"
"Answer gently, father," the widow interposed. "Make not the case
too harsh against my boy."
"Margaret," said the old man, lifting his countenance upon her with
dignity of look, "I shall speak the truth. I would have the name of my
race pure of all stains and detractions, as it has been for an hundred
years, but I would not bear hardly against your son, Margaret. This
child, innocent and unswayed as he is, shall hear it, and shall be the
Rising, old Sylvester with Margaret's help, lifted the boy to the
deep window-seat; and, standing on either hand, the widow and the old
man each at his side, Sylvester taking one hand of the child in his,
"My child, you are the youngest of this name and household, to you
God may have entrusted the continuance of our race and name, therefore
thus early would I have you learn the lesson your brother's errors
"That should come last," the widow interposed gently. "The story
itself should teach it, if the story be true."
"Perhaps it should, Margaret," old Sylvester rejoined. "I will let
the story speak for itself. It is, my child, a year ago this day, that
an excellent man, Mr. Barbary, the preacher of this neighborhood,
disappeared from among living men. He was blameless in his life, he
had no enemy on the face of the earth. He was a simple, frugal, worthy
man—the last time alive, he was seen in company with your brother
Elbridge, by the Locust-wood, near the pond where you go to gather
huckleberries in the summer, and hazels in the autumn. He was seen
with him and seen no more."
"But no man saw Elbridge, father, lift hand against him, or utter
an angry word. On the contrary, they were seen entering the wood in
close companionship, and smiling on each other."
"Even so, Margaret," said Sylvester, looking at the child steadily,
and waving his hand in silence toward the widow. "But what answer gave
the young man when questioned of the whereabout of his friend? Not a
word, Margaret—not a word, my child."
"Is Mr. Barbary dead, grandfather?" the child inquired, leaning
"How else? He is not to be found in pulpit or field. No man seeth
his steps any more in their ancient haunts. No man hearkens to his
"But the body, father, was never found. He may be still living in
some other quarter."
"It was near the rock called High Point, you will remember, and one
plunge might have sent him to the bottom. The under currents of the
lake are strong, and may have easily swept him away. There is but one
belief through all this neighborhood. Ethan Barbary fell by the
hand—Almighty God, that I should have to say it to you, my own
grandson— of Elbridge Peabody."
The child sat for a moment in dumb astonishment, glancing, with
distended eyes and sweat upon his brow, fearfully from the stern face
of the old man to the downcast features of the widow, when recovering
speech he asked:—
"Why should my brother kill Mr. Barbary, if he was his friend? Was
not Elbridge always kind, mother? I'm sure he was to me, and used to
let me ride old Sorrel before him to the mill!"
"Ever kind? He was. There was not a day he did not make glad his
poor mother's heart, with some generous act of devotion to her. No sun
set on the day which did not cheer her lonely hearth with a new light
of gladness and peace from his young eyes."
"Margaret, you forget. He was soft of heart, but proud of spirit,
and haughty beyond his age; you may not remember, even I could not
always look down his anger, or silence his loudness of speech. Why
should he kill Mr. Barbary? I will tell you, child: the preacher, too,
had discerned well your brother's besetting sin, and, being fearless
in duty, from the Sabbath pulpit he spake of it plainly and with such
point that it could not fail to come home directly to the bosom of the
young man. This was on the very Lord's day before Mr. Barbary
disappeared from amongst us. It rankled in your brother's bosom like
poison; his passions were wild and ungoverned, and this was cause
enough. If he had been innocent, why did Elbridge Peabody flee this
neighborhood, like a thief in the night?"
"Why did my brother Elbridge leave us, mother?" said the child,
bending eagerly towards the widow, who wrung her hands and was silent.
"He may come back," said the child, shaking his flaxen locks, and
not abashed in the least by her silence. "He may come back yet and
explain all to us."
At that very moment a red rooster, who stood with his burnished
wings on the garden wall, near enough to have heard all that had
passed, lifted up his throat, and poured forth a clear cry, which rang
through the placid air far and wide.
"He will—I know he will," said little Sam Peabody, leaping down
from his judgment-seat in the window. "Chanticleer knows he will, or
he would not speak in that way. He hasn't crowed once before, you
know, grandfather, since Elbridge went away; we'll hear from brother
soon, I know we shall— I know we shall!"
The little fellow, in his glee, clapped his hands and crowed too.
The grandfather, looking on his gambols, smiled, but was presently sad
"Would to Heaven he may," he said. "If they come who should,
to-day, we may learn of him—for to-day my children should come up
from all the quarters of the land where they are scattered—the
East, the West, the North, the South—to join with me in the
Festival of Thanksgiving which now draws near. My head is whitened
with many winters, and I shall see them for the last time." Sylvester
continued: "If they come—in this calm season, which, so soft and
sweet, seems the gentle dawn of the coming world—we shall have, I
feel, our last re-gathering on earth! But they come not; my eyes are
weary with watching afar off, and I cannot yet discern that my
children bear me in remembrance, in this grateful season of the year.
Why do they not come?"
The aged patriarch of the family bowed his head and was silent.
From the broom-corn the gentle voice stole again:
Why sings the robin in the wood? For him her music is not shed: Why
blind-brook sparkle through the field? He may be dead! he may be dead!
The murmur of Miriam's musical lamenting had scarcely died away on
the dreamy air, when there came hurrying forward from the
garden—where she had been tending the great thanksgiving pumpkin,
which was her special charge—the black servant of the household,
Mopsey by name, who, with her broadfringed cap flying all abroad, and
her great eyes rolling, spoke out as she approached—
"Do hear dat, massa?"
"I hear nothing, Mopsey."
"Dere, don't you hear't now? Dey're coming!"
With faces of curiosity, and ears erect, they listened. There was a
peculiar sound in the air, and on closer attention they discerned, in
the stillness of the morning, the jingling traces of the stage-coach,
on the cross-road, through the fields.
"They are not coming," said old Sylvester, when the sound had died
away in the distance; "the stage has taken the other road."
"Dat may be, grandfather," Mopsey spoke up, "but for all dey may
come. Ugly Davis, when he drive, don't always turn out of his
way to come up here. Dey may be on de corner."
As Mopsey spoke, two figures appeared on foot on the brow of the
road, which sloped down toward the Homestead, through a feathery range
of graceful locusts. They were too far off to be distinctly made out,
but it was to be inferred that they were travellers from a distance,
for one of them held against the light some sort of travelling bag or
portmanteau; one of them was in female dress, but this was all they
could as yet distinguish. Various conjectures were ventured as to
their special character. They were unquestionably making for the
Homestead, and it was to be reasonably supposed they were Peabodys,
for strangers were rare upon that road, which was a by-way, off the
The family gathered on the extreme out-look of the balcony, and
watched with eager curiosity their approach, which was slow and
somewhat irregular— the man did not aid the woman in her progress,
but straggled on apart, nor did he seem to address her as they came
CHAPTER SECOND. ARRIVAL OF THE
MERCHANT AND HIS PEOPLE.
"It is William and Hannah," said the Patriarch, towering above the
household grouped about him, and gaining an advantage in observation
from his commanding height, "I am glad the oldest is the first to
When the two comers reached the door-yard gate the man entered in
without rendering the least assistance or paying the slightest heed to
his companion, who followed humbly in his track. He was some sixty
years of age, large-featured and inclining to tallness; his dress was
oldmanish and plain, consisting of a long-furred beaver hat, a loose
made coat, and other apparel corresponding, with low cut shoes. He
smiled as he came upon the balcony, greeting old Sylvester with a
shake of the hand, but taking no notice whatever either of the widow,
little Sam, or Mopsey. His wife, on the contrary, spoke to all, but
quietly and submissively, which was in truth, her whole manner. She
was spare and withered, with a pinched, colorless face, constrained in
a scared and apprehensive look as though in constant dread of an
impending violence or injury. Over one eye she wore a green patch,
which greatly heightened the pallor and strangeness of her features.
"Where's the Captain and Henrietta?" old Sylvester asked when the
greetings were over.
"They started from the city in a chay," he was answered by William
Peabody, "some hours before us,—the captain,—seaman—way of
driving irreg'lar. Nobody can tell what road he may have got into.
Should'nt be surprised if did'nt arrive till to-morrow morning. Will
always have high-actioned horse."
William Peabody had scarcely spoken when there arose in the
distance down the road, a violent cloud of dust, from which there
emerged a two-wheeled vehicle at a thundering pace, and which, in less
than a minute's time, went whirling past the Homestead. It was
supposed to contain Captain Saltonstall and wife; but what with the
speed and dust, no eye could have guessed with any accuracy who or
what they were. In less than a minute more it came sweeping back with
the great white horse, passing the house again like an apparition, or
the ghost of a horse and gig. With another sally down the road and
return, with a long curve in the road before the Homestead, it at last
came to at the gate, and disclosed in a high sweat and glowing all
over his huge person, the jovial Captain, and at his side his pretty
little cherry-faced girl of a wife, Henrietta Peabody, daughter of
William Peabody, who, be it known, is old Sylvester's oldest son.
There also emerged from the one-horse gig, after the captain had made
ground, and jumped his little wife to the same landing in his arms, a
red-faced boy, who must have been closely stowed somewhere, for he
came out of the vehicle highly colored, and looking very much as if he
had been sat upon for a couple of hours or more. The Captain having
freed his horse from the traces, and at old Sylvester's suggestion,
set him loose in the door-yard to graze at his leisure, rushed forward
upon the balcony very much in the character of a good natured
tornado, saluted the widow Margaret with a whirlwind kiss, threw
little Sam high in the air and caught him as he came within half an
inch of the ground, shook the old grandfather's readily extended hand
with a sturdy grasp, and wound up, for a moment, with a great cuff on
the side of the head with a roll of stuff for a new gown for Mopsey,
saying as he delivered it, "Dere, what d'ye say to dat, Darkey!"
Darkey brightened into a sort of nocturnal illumination, and
shuffling away, in the loose shoes, to the keeping of which on her
feet the better half of the best energies of her life were directed,
gave out that she must be looking after dinner.
It was but for a moment only that the Captain paused, and in less
than five minutes he had said and done so many good-natured things,
had shown himself so free of heart withal, and so little considerate
of self or the figure he cut, that in spite of his great clumsy
person, and the gash in his face, and the somewhat exorbitant
character of his dress, his coat being a bob as long and straight in
the line across the back, as the edge of a table, you could not help
regarding him as a decidedly well made, well dressed, and quite
handsome person; in fact the Captain passed with the whole family for
a fine-looking man.
"Where's my little girl Miriam?" asked the jovial Captain, after a
moment's rest in a seat by the side of old Sylvester. "I must see my
Dolphin, or she'll think I'm growing old."
Being advised that the young lady in question was somewhere within,
the Captain rushed into the house, pursued by all the family in a
body, save William Peabody, who remained with old Sylvester, seated
and in silence.
"How go matters in the city, William?" he said, removing his hand
from his brow, where it had rested in contemplation for several
"After the old fashion, father," William Peabody answered, smiling
with a fox-like glance at his father; "added three new houses to my
property since last year."
"Three new houses?"
Three, all of brick,—good streets—built in the latest style.
The city grows and I grow!"
"Three new houses, and all in the latest style— and how does
Margaret's little property pay?"
"Poorly, father, poorly. Elbridge made a bad choice when he bought
it—greatly out of repair— rents come slowly."
"In a word, the old story, the widow gets nothing again from the
city. I had hopes you would be able to bring her some returns this
time, for she needs it sadly."
"I do the best I can, but money's not to be got out of stone walls."
"And you have three new houses which pay well," old Sylvester
continued, turning his calm blue eye steadily upon his son.
"Capital—best in the city! Already worth twice I gave for 'em.
The city grows and I grow!"
"My son, do you never think of that other house reserved for us
William Peabody was about to answer, it was nonsense for a man only
sixty and in sound condition of body and mind to think too much of
that, when his eye, ranging across the fields, espied in shadow as it
were, through the dim atmosphere, the mist clearing away a little in
that direction, an old sorrel horse—a long settler with the family
and well-known to all its members—staggering about feebly in a
distant orchard, and in her wanderings stumbling against the
trees.—"Is old Sorrel blind?" he asked, shading his own eyes from
"She is, William," old Sylvester replied; "her sight went from her
last New-Year's day."
"My birth-day," said the merchant, a sudden pallor coming upon his
"Yes, you and old Sorrel are birth-mates, my son."
"We are; she was foaled the day I was born," said William Peabody,
and added, as to himself, musingly, "Old Sorrel is blind! So we
pass—so we pass— young to-day—to-morrow old—limbs fail
us—sight is gone."
They sat silently, contemplating the still morning scene before
them, and meditating, each in his own particular way, on the history
of the past.
To William, the merchant, it brought chiefly a recollection how in
his early manhood he had set out from those quiet fields for a hard
struggle with the world, with a bare dollar in his pocket, and when
that was gone the whole world seemed to combine in a desperate league
against him to prevent his achieving another. How at last, on the very
edge of starvation and despair, he had wrung from it the means of
beginning his fortunes; and how he had gone on step by step,
forgetting all the pleasant ties of his youth, all recollections of
nature and cheerful faces of friends and kinsfolk, adding thousand to
thousand, house to house; building, unlike Jacob, a ladder, that
descended to the lower world, up which all harsh and dark spirits
perpetually thronged and joined to drag him down; and yet he smiled
grimly at the thought of the power he possessed, and how many of his
early companions trembled before him because he was grown to be a
Old Sylvester, on the other hand, in all his memory had no thought
of himself. His recollection ran back to the old times when his
neighbors sat down under a king's sceptre in these colonies, how that
chain had been freed, the gloomy Indian had withdrawn his face from
their fields, how the darkness of the woods had retired before the
cheering sun of peace and plenty; and how from a little people, his
dear country, for whose welfare his sword had been stained, had grown
into a great nation. Scattered up and down the long line of memory
were faces of friends and kindred, which had passed long ago from the
earth. He called to mind many a pleasant fire-side chat; many a
funeral scene, and burying in sun-light and in the cold rain; the
young Elbridge too was in his thoughts last of all; could he return to
them with a name untainted, the old man would cheerfully lie down in
his grave and be at peace with all the world.
In the meanwhile, within the house the Captain in high favor was
seated in a great cushioned arm-chair with little Sam Peabody on his
knee, and the women of the house gathered about him, looking on as he
narrated the courses and adventures of his last voyage. The widow
listened with a sad interest. Mopsey rolled her eyes and was mirthful
in the most serious and stormiest passages; while little Sam and the
Captain's wife rivalled each other in regarding the Captain with
innocent wonder and astonishment, as though he were the most
extraordinary man that ever sailed the sea, or sat in a chair telling
about it, in the whole habitable globe. Miriam Haven alone was
distant from the scene, gliding to and fro past the door, busied in
household duties in a neighboring apartment, and catching a word here
and there as she glanced by.
It was a wonderful story, certainly, the Captain was telling, and
it seemed beyond all belief that it could be true that one man could
have seen the whales, the icebergs, the floating islands, the ships in
the air, the sea-dogs, and grampuses, the flying-fish, the pirates,
and the thousand other wonders the Captain reported to have crossed
his path in a single trip across the simple Atlantic and back. He also
averred to have distinctly seen the sea-serpent, and what was more,
to have had a conversation with a ship in the very middle of the
ocean. Was there anything wonderful in that? it occurs every day—but
listen to the jovial Captain!—a ship—and he had news to tell them
of one they would like to hear about. They pressed close to the
Captain and listened breathlessly; Miriam Haven pausing in her task,
and stopping stone-still like a statue, in the door, while her very
heart stayed its beating.
Go on—Captain—go on—go on!
"Well, what do you think; we were in latitude— no matter, you
don't care about that—we had just come out of a great gale, which
made the sea pitchdark about us; when the first beam of the sun
opened the clouds, we found ourselves along side a ship with the old
stars and stripes flying like a bird at the mast-head. There was a
sight, my hearties. We hailed her, she hailed us, we threw her papers,
she threw us, and we parted forever."
"Is that all?"
"Not half. One of these was a list of passengers; I run my eye up,
and I run my eye down, and there, shining out like a star amongst them
all, I find, whose d'ye think—Elbridge Peabody—as large as life."
Miriam Haven staggered against the door-post, the widow fell upon
her knees, "Thank God, my boy is heard from."
Little Sam Peabody darted from the Captain's knee and rushed upon
the balcony, crying at the top of his lungs, "Grandfather, brother
Elbridge is heard from."
"I don't believe it," said William Peabody; the poor old blind
sorrel had disappeared from sight into a piece of woods near the
orchard, and the merchant had quite recovered his usual way of
speaking. "Never will believe it. You hav'nt heard of that
youngster,—never will. Always knew he would run away some
day—never come back again."
The Captain's story was rapidly explained by the different members
of the family, who had followed little Sam, to repeat it to old
Sylvester, each in her own way. Miriam and Hannah Peabody, who at
sound of the commotion had come forth from an inner chamber, whither
she had been retired by herself, joined the company of lookers on.
"What all amount to," he continued, in his peculiar clipped style
of speech, "Expect to see him again, do you. Mighty fine
chance—where going to?"
The Captain couldn't tell.
"One of the Captain's fine stories—no—no—if that boy ever
comes back again, I'll—"
There was a deep silence to hear what the hard old merchant
"I'll hand over to him the management of his late father's
property, he was always hankering after, and thought he could make so
much more of than his hard-fisted old uncle."
This was a comfortable proposition, and little Sam Peabody, as
though it were a great pear or red pippin that was spoken of, running
to his mother, said,
"Mother, I'd take it."
"I do," said the widow, "and call you all to witness."
William Peabody smiled grimly on Margaret; his countenance darkened
suddenly, and he was, no doubt, on the point of retracting his
confident offer, when his wife uttered in an under tone, half
entreaty, half authority, "William," at the same time turning on her
husband the side of the countenance which wore the green shade. He
stifled what he intended to utter, and shifting uneasily in his seat,
he looked toward the city and was silent. Whatever the reason, it was
clear that when they were seated at the table, partaking of the meal,
it was Captain Saltonstall that had the best attention from every
member of the household, (and the best of the dish,) from all save
old Sylvester, who held himself erect, as usual, and impartial in the
"The ways of Providence are strange," said old Sylvester, "Out of
darkness he brings marvellous light, and from the frivolous acorn he
spreads the branches wide in the air, which are a shelter, and a
solace, and a shadowy play-ground to our youth and old age. We must
wait the issue, and whatever comes, to Him must we give thanks."
With this sentiment for a benediction, the patriarch dismissed his
family to their slumbers, which to each one of the household brought
its peculiar train of speculation; to two, at least, Miriam and the
widow Margaret, they brought dreams which only the strong light of
day could disprove to be realities.
CHAPTER THIRD. THE FARMER-FOLKS
FROM THE WEST.
With the following day, (which was calm, gentle, and serene as its
predecessor,) a little after the dispatch of dinner, the attention of
the household was summoned to the clatter of a hurrying wagon, which,
unseen, resounded in the distant country. Old Sylvester was the first
to hear it—faintly at first, then it rose on the wind far off, died
away in the woods and the windings of the roads, then again was
entirely lost for several minutes, and at last growing into a
portentous rattle, brought to at the door of the homestead, and
landed from its ricketty and bespattered bosom Mr. Oliver Peabody, of
Ohio; Jane his wife, a buxom lady of fair complexion, in a Quaker
bonnet; and Robert, their eldest son, a tall, flat-featured boy, some
thirteen years of age.
The countryman in a working shirt, who had the control of the
wagon, and who had been beguiled by Oliver some five miles out of his
road home, (to which he was returning from the market town,) under
pretence of a wish to have his opinion of the crops—the poor fellow
being withal a hired laborer and never having owned, or entertained
the remotest speculation of owning, a rood of ground of his
own,—with a commendation from Oliver, delivered with a cheerful
smile, that "his observations on timothy were very much to the
purpose," drove clattering away again. Mr. Oliver Peabody, farmer, who
had come all the way from Ohio to spend thanksgiving with his old
father—of a ruddy, youthful and twinkling countenance— who wore
his hair at length and unshorn, and the chief peculiarity of whose
dress was a grey cloth coat, with a row of great horn-buttons on
either breast, with enormous woollen mittens, brought his buxom wife
forward under one arm with diligence, drawing his tall youth of a son
after him by the other hand—threw himself into the bosom of the
Peabody family, and was heartily welcomed all round. He didn't say a
word of half-horses and half-alligators, nor of greased lightning,
although he was from the West, but he did complain most bitterly of
the uncommon smoothness of the roads in these parts, the short grass,
and the 'bominable want of elbow-room all over the neighborhood. It
was with difficulty he could be kept on the straitened stage of the
balcony long enough to answer a few plain questions of children and
other matters at home; and immediately expressed an ardent desire to
take a look at the garden.
"We got somefin' to show thar, Mas'r Oliver," said Mopsey, who had
stood by listening, with open mouth and eyes, to the strong statements
of the western farmer, "we haint to be beat right-away no how!"
Old Sylvester rose with his staff, which he carried more for
pleasure than necessity, and led the way. As they approached there was
visible through all the plants, shrubs and other growths of the place,
whatever they might be—a great yellow sphere or ball, so disposed,
on a little slope by itself, as to catch the eye from a distance,
shining out in its golden hue from the garden, a sort of rival to the
sun himself, rolling overhead.
"Dere, what d'ye tink of dat, Oliver," Mopsey asked, forgetting in
the grandeur of the moment all distinctions of class or color, "I
guess dat's somefin."
"That's a pumpkin," said Mr. Oliver Peabody, calmly.
"Yes, I guess it is—de tanksgivin punkin!"
She looked into the western farmer's face, no doubt expecting a
spasm or convulsion, but it was calm— calm as night. Mopsey
condescended not another word, but walking or rather shuffling
disdainfully away, muttered to herself, "Dat is de very meanest man,
for a white man, I ever did see; he looked at dat 'ere punkin which
has cost me so many anxious days and sleepless nights—which I have
watched over as thoughf it had been my own child—which I planted
wid dis here hand of my own, and fought for agin the June bugs and the
white frost, and dat mouse dat's been tryin to eat it up for dis tree
weeks and better—just as if it had been a small green cowcumber. I
don't believe dat Oliver Peabody knows it is tanksgivin'. He's a great
"I see you still keep some of the old red breed, father," said
Oliver when they were left alone in the quiet of the garden, pointing
to the red rooster, who stood on the wall in the sun.
"Yes," old Sylvester answered, "for old times' sake. We have had
them with us now on the farm for better than a hundred years. I
remember the day the great grandfather of this bird was brought among
us. It was the day we got news that good David Brainard, the Indian
missionary, died—that was some while before the revolutionary war.
He died in the arms of the great Jonathan Edwards, at Northampton;
their souls are at peace."
"I recollect this fellow," Oliver continued, referring to the red
rooster, "When I was here last he was called Elbridge's bird, that was
the year before last."
"There is no Elbridge now," said the old grandfather.
"I know all," said Oliver, "I had a letter from Margaret, telling
me the story and begging me to keep a watch for her boy."
"A wide watch to keep and little to be got by it, I fear," old
"Not altogether idle, perhaps; we have sharp eyes in the West and
see many strange things. Jane is confident she saw our Elbridge,
making through Ohio, but two months after he left here; he was riding
swiftly, and in her surprise and suddenness she could neither call
nor send after him."
"You did not tell us of that," said the old man.
"No, I waited some further discovery."
"Be silent now, you may easily waken hopes to be darkened and
dashed to the ground. Which way made the boy?"
During this discourse, as though he distinguished the sound of his
young master's name and knew to what it related, Chanticleer walked
slowly, and as if by accident or at leisure, up and down the
garden-wall, keeping as near to the speakers as was at all seemly.
When they stopped speaking he leaped gently to the ground and softly
clapped his wings.
A moment after there came hurrying into the garden, in a wild
excitement, and all struggling to speak first, little Sam Peabody in
the lead, Robert, the flat-featured youth of thirteen, and Peabody
Junior, (who, it should be mentioned, having found his way into a
pantry a couple of minutes after his arrival with the Captain, and
appropriated to his own personal use an entire bottle of cherry
brandy, had been straightway put to bed, from which he had now been
released not more than a couple of hours), and to announce as
clamorously as they respectively could, that Brundage's Bull had just
got into "our big meadow."
"Nobody hurt?" asked old Sylvester.
"Nobody hurt, grandfather, but he's ploughing up the meadow at a
dreadful rate," said little Sam Peabody.
"Like wild," Peabody Junior added.
This statement, strongly as it was made, seemed to have no
particular effect on old Sylvester. Oliver Peabody, on the other hand,
was exceedingly indignant, and was for proceeding to extremities
immediately, the expulsion of the Brundage bull, and the demanding of
damages for allowing his cattle to cross the boundary line of the two
Old Sylvester listened to his violence with a blank countenance;
nor did he seem to comprehend that any special outrage had been
committed, for it must be acknowledged that the only indication that
the grandfather had come to his second childhood was, that, with his
advancing years, and as he approached the shadow of the other world,
he seemed to have lost all idea of the customary distinctions of rank
and property, and that very much like an old apostle, he was disposed
to regard all men as brethren, and boundary lines as of very little
He therefore promptly checked his son Oliver in his heat, and
discountenanced any further proceedings in the matter.
"Brundage," he said, "would, if he cared about him, come and take
his bull away when he was ready; we are all brethren, and have a
common country, Oliver," he added, "I hope you feel that in the West,
as well as we do here."
"Thank God, we have," Oliver rejoined with emphasis, "and we love
"I thank God for that too," old Sylvester replied, striking his
staff firmly on the ground, "I remember well, my son, when your great
state was a wilderness of woods and savage men, and now this common
sky—look at it, Oliver—which shines so clearly above us, is yours
as well as ours."
"I fear me, father, one day, bright, beautiful, and wide-arched as
it is, the glorious Union may fall," said Oliver, laying his hand upon
an aged tree which stood near them, "may fall, and the states drop,
one by one away, even as the fruit I shake to the ground."
As though he had been a tower standing on an elevation, old
Sylvester Peabody rose aloft to his full height, as if he would
clearly contemplate the far past, the distant, and the broad-coming
"The Union fall!" he cried. "Look above, my son! The Union fall! as
long as the constellations of evening live together in yonder sky;
look down, as long as the great rivers of our land flow eastward and
westward, north and south, the Union shall stand up, and stand
majestical and bright, beheld by ages, as these shall be, an orb and
living stream of glory unsurpassable."
The children were gathered about, and watched with eager eyes and
glowing cheeks, the countenance of the grandfather as he spoke.
"No, no, my son," he added, "there's many a true heart in brave
Ohio, as in every state of ours, or they could not be the noble powers
While old Sylvester spoke, Oliver Peabody wrenched with some
violence, from the tree near which they stood, a stout limb, on the
end of which he employed himself with a knife in shaping a substantial
"What weapon is that you are busy with, Oliver?" old Sylvester
"It's for that nasty bull," Oliver replied. "I would break every
bone in his body rather than let him remain for a single minute on my
land; the furtherance of law and order demands the instant enforcement
of one's rights."
"You are a friend of law and order, my son."
"I think I am," Oliver answered, standing erect and planting his
club, in the manner of Hercules in the pictures, head down on the
"I hope you are, Oliver; but I fear you forget the story I used to
tell of my old friend Bulkley, of Danbury, who, being written to by
some neighboring Christians who were in sore dissension, for
advisement, gave them back word:—Every man to look after his own
fence, that it be built high and strong, and to have a special care of
the old Black Bull; meaning thereby no doubt, our own wicked
passions;— that is the true Christian way of securing peace and
Oliver threw his great trespass-club upon the ground, and was on
the point of asking after an old sycamore, the largest growth of all
that country, which, standing in a remote field had, in the perilous
times sheltered many of the Peabody family in its bosom—when he was
interrupted by the sudden appearance of Mopsey in a flutter of
cap-strings, shuffling shoes, and a flying color in her looks of at
least double the usual depth of darkness. It was just discovered that
the poultry-house had been broken into over night, and four of the
fattest hens taken off by the throat and legs, besides sundry of the
inferior members of the domicile; as wicked a theft, Mopsey said, as
ever was, and she hadn't the slightest hesitation in charging it on
them niggers in the Hills, (a neighboring settlement of colored
people, who lived from hand to mouth, and seemed to be fed, like the
ravens by some mystery of providence.)
Oliver Peabody watched closely the countenance of the patriarch,
not a little curious to learn what effect this announcement would have
upon his temper.
"This is all our own fault," said old Sylvester, promptly. "We
should have remembered this was thanksgiving time, and sent them
something to stay their stomachs. Poor creatures, I always wondered
how they got along! Send 'em some bread, Mopsey, for they never can
do anything with fowls without bread!"
"Send 'em some bread!" Mopsey rejoined, growing blacker and more
ugly of look as she spoke: "Send 'em whips, and an osifer of the
law!—the four fattest of the coop."
"Never mind," said old Sylvester.
"Six of the ten'drest young'uns!"
"Never mind that," said old Sylvester.
"I'd have them all in the county jail before sundown," urged Mopsey.
"Oliver, we will go in to tea," continued the patriarch. "We have
enough for tea, Mopsey?"
"Yes, quite enough, Mas'r."
"Then," cried the old man, striking his staff on the ground with
great violence, rising to his full height, and glowing like a furnace,
upon Mopsey, "then, I say, send 'em some bread!"
This speech, delivered in a voice of authority, sent Mopsey,
shuffling and cowering, away, without a word, and brought the sweat of
horror to the brow of Oliver, which he proceeded to remove with a
great cotton pocket-handkerchief, produced from his coat behind, on
which was displayed in glowing colors, by some cunning artist, the
imposing scene of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
getting ready to affix their names. Mr. Oliver Peabody was the
politician of the family, and always had the immortal Declaration of
Independence at his tongue's end, or in hand.
CHAPTER FOURTH. THE FORTUNES OF THE
When Oliver and old Sylvester entered the house they found all of
the family gathered within, save the children, who loitered about the
doors and windows, looking in, anxious-eyed, on the preparations for
tea going forward under the direction of the widow Margaret, and
Mopsey. The other women of the household were busy with a discussion
of the merits of Mrs. Carrack, of Boston, the fashionable lady of the
"I should like to see Mrs. Carrack above all things," said the
Captain's pretty little wife, "she must be a fine woman from all I
have heard of her."
"Thee will have small chance, I fear, child," said Mrs. Jane
Peabody, sitting buxomly in an easy arm chair, which she had quietly
assumed, "she is too fine for the company of us plain folks in every
point of view."
"It's five years since she was here," the widow suggested as she
adjusted the chairs around the table, "she said she never would come
inside the house again, because the best bed-chamber was not given to
her—I am sorry to say it."
"She's a heathen and wicked woman," Mopsey said, shuffling at the
door, and turning back on her way to the kitchen—"your poor boy was
lying low of a fever and how could she expect it."
"In one point of view she may come; her husband was living then,"
continued Mrs. Jane Peabody, "she has become a rich woman since, and
may honor us with a visit—to show us how great a person she has got
to be—let her come—it need'nt trouble thee, nor me, I'm sure."
Mrs. Jane Peabody smoothed her Quaker vandyke, and sat stiffly in her
Old Sylvester entering at that moment, laid aside his staff and
broad-brimmed hat, which little Sam Peabody ran in to take charge of,
and took his seat at the head of the table; the Captain, who was busy
at the back-door scouring an old rusty fowling-piece for some
enterprise he had in view in the morning, was called in by his little
wife; the others were seated in their places about the board.
"Where's William?" old Sylvester asked.
He was at a window in the front room, where he had sat for several
hours, with spectacles on his brow, poring over an old faded parchment
deed, which related to some neighboring land he thought belonged to
the Peabodys, (although in possession of others,) and which he had
always made a close study of on his visits to the homestead. There was
a dark passage, under which he made their title, which had been
submitted to various men learned in the law; it was too dark and
doubtful, in their opinion, to build a contest on, and yet William
Peabody gave it every year a new examination, with the hope, perhaps,
that the wisdom of advancing age might enable him to fathom and
expound it, although it had been drawn up by the greatest lawyer of
his day in all that country. His wife Hannah, grieving in spirit that
her husband should be toiling forever in the quest of gain, sat near
him, pale, calm and disheartened, but speaking not a word. He could
not look at her with that fearful green shade on her face, but kept
his eyes always fixed on the old parchment. When his aged father had
taken his seat, and began his thanks to God for the bounties before
them, as though the old Patriarch had brought a better spirit from
the calm day without, he thrust the paper into his bosom and glided to
his place at the table. It would have done you good to hear that old
man's prayer. He neither solicited forgiveness for his enemies nor
favors for his friends; for schools, churches, presidents or
governments; neither for health, wealth, worldly welfare, nor for any
single other thing; all he said, bowing his white old head, was this:
"May we all be Christian people the day we die— God bless us."
That was all; and his kinsfolk lost no appetite in listening to
it—for it was no sooner uttered than they all fell to—and not a
word more was spoken for five minutes at least, nor then perhaps, had
not little Sam Peabody cried out, with breathless animation, and
delight of feature,
"The pigeons, grandfather!" at the same time pointing from the door
to the evening sky, along which they were winging their calm and
silent flight in a countless train—streaming on westward as though
there was no end to them; which put old Sylvester upon recalling the
cheerful sports of his younger days.
"I have taken a couple of hundred in a net on the Hill before
breakfast, many a time," he said. "You used to help me, William."
"Yes, I and old Ethan Barbary," said the merchant, "used to spring
the net; you gave the word."
"Old Ethan has been dead many a day. Ethan," continued old
Sylvester, in explanation, "was the father of our Mr. Barbary. He was
a preacher too, and carried a gun in the revolution. I remember he
was accounted a peculiar man. I never knew why. To be sure he used to
spend the time he did not employ in prayers, preaching and tending the
sick, in working on the farms about, for he had no wages for
preaching. When there was none of that to be had, he took his basket,
and sallying through the fields, gathered berries, which he bestowed
on the needy families of the neighborhood. In winter he collected
branches in the woods about, as fire-wood for the poor."
"That was a capital idea," said Oliver the politician. "It must
have made him very popular."
"Wasn't he always thought to be a little out of his head?" asked
the merchant. "He might have sold the wood for a good price in the
"I remember as if it were yesterday," old Sylvester went on in his
own way, not heeding in the slightest the suggestions of his sons, "he
and black Burling, who is buried in the woods by the Great Walnut
tree, near the pond, both fought in the American ranks, and had but
one gun between them, which they used turn about."
"You saw rough times in those days, grandfather," said the Captain.
"I did, Charley," old Sylvester answered, looking kindly on the
Captain, who had always been something of a favorite of his from the
day he had married into the family; "and there are but few left to
talk with me of them now. I am one of the living survivors of an
almost extinguished race. The grave will soon be our only habitation.
I am one of the few stalks that still remain in the field where the
tempest passed. I have fought against the foreign foe for your sake;
they have disappeared from the land, and you are free; the strength of
my arm delays, and my feet fail me in the way; the hand which fought
for your liberties is now open to bless you. In my youth I bled in
battle that you might be independent— let not my heart, in my old
age, bleed because you abandon the path I would have you follow."
The old patriarch leaned his head upon his hand, and the company
was silent as though they had listened to a voice from the grave. He
presently looked up and smiled—"Old Ethan, I call to mind now," he
renewed, "had a quality which our poor Barbary inherited, and for
which," he added, looking toward his son William, "and for which I
greatly honor his memory. He counted the money of this world but as
dross. From his manhood to the very moment of his entering on the
ministry, he never would touch silver nor gold, partly, I think,
because it was the true Scripture course, and partly because a
dreadful murder had once happened in the Barbary family, growing out
of a quarrel for the possession of a paltry sum of money."
The bread she was raising to her lips fell from the widow's hand,
for she could not help but think of the history of her absent son; and
the voice of Miriam, who did not present herself at the table, was
heard from a distant chamber, not distinctly, but in that tone of
chanting lament which had become habitual to her whether in house,
garden, or field. It was an inexpressibly mournful cadence, and for
the time stilled all other sounds. They were only drawn away from it
by descrying Mopsey, the black servant, at a turn of the road,
hurrying with great animation towards the homestead, but with a
singularity in her progress which could not fail to be observed. She
rushed along at great speed, for several paces, and suddenly came to
a halt, during which her head disappeared, and then renewed her pace,
repeating the peculiar manoeuvre once at least in every ten yards. In
a word, she was shuffling on in her loose shoes, (which were on or
off, one or the other of them every other minute,) at as rapid a rate
as that peculiar species of locomotion allowed. Bursting with
impatience and the importance of her communication, her cap flaunting
from her head, she stood in the doorway and announced, "We've beat
Brundage—we've beat Brundage!"
"What's this, Mopsey?" old Sylvester inquired.
"I've tried it and I've spanned it. I can't span ours!"
On further questioning it appeared that Mopsey had been on a
pilgrimage to the next neighbor's, the Brundages, to inspect their
thanksgiving pumpkin, and institute a comparison with the Peabody
growth of that kind, with a highly satisfactory and complacent result
as regarded the home production. Nobody was otherwise than pleased at
Mopsey's innocent rejoicing, and when she had been duly complimented
on her success, she went away with a broad black guffaw to set a trap
in the garden for the brown mouse, the sole surviving enemy of the
great Peabody thanksgiving pumpkin which must be plucked next day for
With the dispatch of the evening meal, old Sylvester withdrew to
the other room, with a little hand lamp, to read a chapter by himself.
The others remaining seated about the apartment; the Captain and
Oliver presently fell into a violent discussion on the true sources of
national wealth, the Captain giving it as his opinion that it solely
depended on having a great number of ships at sea, as carriers between
different countries. Oliver was equally clear and resolute that the
real wealth of a nation lay in its wheat crops. When wheat was at ten
shillings the bushel, all went well; let it fall a quarter, and you
had general bankruptey staring you in the face. Mr. William Peabody
was'nt at the pains to deliver his opinion, but he was satisfied, in
his secret soul, that it lay in the increase of new houses, or the
proper supply of calicoes—he had'nt made up his mind which.
Presently Oliver was troubled again in reference to the supply of gold
in the world—whether there was enough to do business with; he also
had some things to say (which he had out of a great speech in
Congress) about bullion and rates of exchange, but nobody understood
"By the way," he added, "Mrs. Carrack's son Tiffany is gone to the
Gold Region. From what he writes to me I think he'll cut a very great
figure in that country."
"An exceedingly fine, talented young man," said the merchant, who
had, then, sundry sums on loan from his mother.
"In any point of view, in which you regard it," continued Oliver,
"the gold country is an important acquisition."
"You hav'nt the letter Tiffany wrote, with you?" interrupted the
"I think I have," was the answer. "I brought it, supposing you
might like to look at it. Shall I read it?"
There was no objection—the letter was read—in which Mr. Tiffany
Carrack professed his weariness of civilized life—spoke keenly of
misspent hours—a determination to rally and do something important,
intimating that that was a great country for enterprising young men,
and, in a familiar phrase, closed with a settled resolution to do or
"I have a letter to the same effect," said the Captain.
"And so have I," said William Peabody, "word for word."
"He means to do something very grand," said the Captain. Something
very grand — the women all agreed—for Mr. Tiffany Carrack was a
nice young man, and had a prospect of inheriting a hundred thousand
dollars, to say nothing of the large sums he was to bring from the
Gold Regions. It was evident to all that he was going into the
business with a rush. They, of course, would'nt see Mr. Tiffany
Carrack at this Thanksgiving gathering—he had better business on
hand—Mr. Tiffany Carrack was clearly the promising young man of the
family, and was carrying the fortunes of the Peabodys into the
remotest quarters of the land.
"In a word," said Mr. Oliver Peabody, developing the Declaration of
Independence on his pocket-handkerchief. "He is going to do wonders in
every point of view. He'll carry the principles of Free Government
The consideration of the extraordinary talents and enterprise of
the son imparted a new interest to the question of the coming of Mrs.
Carrack; which was rediscussed in all its bearings; and it was almost
unanimously concluded—that, one day now only intervening to
Thanksgiving—it was too late to look for her. There had been a
general disposition, secretly opposed only by Mrs. Jane Peabody, to
yield to that fashionable person the best bed-chamber, which was
always accounted a great prize and distinguished honor among the
family. But now there was scarcely any need of reserving it
longer—and who was to have it? Alas! that is a question often raised
in rural households, often shakes them to the very base, and spreads
through whole families a bitterness and strength and length of
strife, which frequently ends only with life itself.
To bring the matter to an issue, various whispered conversations
were held in the small room, lying next to the sitting-room, at first
between Mrs. Margaret Peabody and Mopsey, to which one by one were
summoned, Mrs. Jane Peabody, the Captain's wife, and Mrs. Hannah
Peabody. The more it was discussed the farther off seemed any
reasonable conclusion. When one arrangement was proposed, various
faces of the group grew dark and sour; when another, other faces
blackened and elongated; tongues, too, wagged faster every minute, and
at length grew to such a hubbub as to call old Sylvester away from his
Bible and bring him to the door to learn what turmoil it was that at
this quiet hour disturbed the peace of the Peabodys. He was not long
in discovering the ground of battle, and even as in old pictures Adam
is shown walking calmly in Eden among the raging beasts of all degrees
and kinds, the old patriarch came forward among the women of the
Peabody family—"My children," he said, "should dwell in peace for
the short stay allotted them on earth. Why make a difference about so
small a matter as a lodging-place— they are all good and healthful
rooms. I have seen the day when camping on the wet grounds and
morasses I would have held any one of them to be a palace-chamber. The
back chamber, my child," he continued, addressing the Captain's wife,
"looks out on the orchard, where you always love to walk; the white
room, Hannah, towards your father's house; and Jane, you cannot object
to the front chamber which is large, well-furnished, and has the best
of the sunrise. The Son of Man, my children, had not where to lay his
head, and shall we who are but snails and worms, compared with his
glory and goodness, presume to exalt ourselves, where he was abased."
The old patriarch wished them a good night, and with the departure
of his white locks gleaming as he walked away, as though it had been
the gentle radiance of the moon stilling the tumult of the waters,
they each quietly retired, and without a further murmur, to the
chambers assigned them.
CHAPTER FIFTH. THE CHILDREN.
There was no question where the children were to lodge, for there
had been allotted to them from time immemorial, ever since children
were known in the Peabody family, a great rambling upper chamber,
with beds in the corners, where they were always bestowed as soon
after dark as they could be convoyed thither under direction of Mopsey
and the mistress of the household. This was not always—in truth it
was rarely—easy of achievement, and cost the shuffling black
servant at least half an hour of diligent search and struggling
persuasion to bring them in from the various strayings, escapes, and
lurking-places, where they shirked to gain an extra half-hour of
To the children, however darker humors might work and sadden among
the grown people, (for whatever hue rose-favored writers may choose to
throw over scenes and times of festivity, the passions of character
are always busy, in holiday and hall, as well as in the strifes of
the world,) to the Peabody children this was thanksgiving time
indeed—it was thanksgiving in the house, it was thanksgiving in the
orchard, climbing trees; it was thanksgiving in the barn, tumbling in
the hay, in the lane. It was thanksgiving, too, with the jovial
Captain, a grown-up boy, heading their sports and allowing the country
as he did, little rest or peace of mind wherever he lead the revel;
it was not four-and-twenty hours that he had been at the quiet
homestead before the mill was set a-running, the chestnut-trees
shaken, the pigeons fired into, a new bell of greater compass put upon
the brindle cow, the blacksmith's anvil at the corner of the road set
a-dinging, fresh weather-cocks clapped upon the barn, corn-crib,
stable, and out-house, the sheep let out of the little barn, all the
boats of the neighborhood launched upon the pond. With night,
darkness closed upon wild frolic; bed-time came, and thanksgiving had
a pause; a pause only, for Mopsey's dark head, with its broad-bordered
white cap, was no sooner withdrawn and the door firmly shut, than
thanksgiving began afresh, as though there had been no such thing all
day long, and they were now just setting out. For half a minute after
Mopsey's disappearance they were all nicely tucked in as she had left
them—straight out—with their heads each square on its pillow;
then, as if by a silent understanding, all heads popped up like so
many frisking fish. They darted from bed and commenced in the middle
of the chamber, a great pillow-fight amicable and hurtless, but
furiously waged, till the approach of a broad foot-step sent them
scampering back to their couches, mum as mice. Mopsey, well aware of
these frisks, tarried till they were blown over, in her own chamber
hard by, a dark room, mysterious to the fancy of the children, with
spinning wheels, dried gourd-shells hung against the wall, a lady's
riding-saddle, now out of use this many a day, and all the odds and
ends of an ancient farm-house stored in heaps and strings about.
It was only at last by going aloft and moving a trap in the
ceiling, which was connected in tradition with the appearance of a
ghost, that they were at length fairly sobered down and kept in bed,
when Mopsey, looking in for the last time, knew that it was safe to
go below. They had something left even then, and kept up a talk from
bed to bed, for a good long hour more, at least.
"What do you think of the turkey, Bill?" began Master Robert
Peabody, the flat-featured, rising from his pillow like a homely
"I don't know," Peabody Junior answered, "I don't care for turkeys."
Little Sam Peabody, the master of the turkey, took this very much
"I think he's a very fine one," continued Master Robert, "twice as
big as last year's."
"I'm very glad to hear you say that, Cousin Robert," said little
Sam Peabody, turning over toward the quarter whence the voice of
"As fine a turkey as I've ever seen," Robert went on. "When do they
Little Sam struggled a little with himself, and answered feebly,
There was silence for several minutes, broken presently by Peabody
Junior, fixing his pillow, and saying "Boys, I'm going to sleep."
Allowing some few minutes for this to take effect, Master Robert
called across the chamber to little Sam, "I wonder why Aunt Hannah
wears that old green shade on her face?"
"Pray don't say anything about that," little Sam answered, "Cousin
don't like to hear about that!"
Master Robert—rather a blunt young gentleman— is not to be
baffled so easily.
"I say, Bill, why does your mother wear that green patch over her
eye?" he called out.
There was no answer; he called again in a louder key.
"Hush!" whispered Peabody Junior, who was not asleep, but only
thinking of it, in a tone of fear, "I don't know."
"Is the eye gone?" Robert asked again, bent on satisfaction of some
"I don't know," was the whispered answer again. "Don't ask me
anything about it."
"I'm afraid Aunt Hannah's not happy," suggested little Sam, timidly.
"Pr'aps she is'nt, Sam," Peabody Junior answered.
"What is the reason," continued little Sam, "I always liked her."
"Don't know," was all Peabody Junior had to reply.
"Did you ever see that other eye? Bill," asked the blunt young
gentleman, whose head was still running on the green shade.
"Oh, go to sleep, will you, Nosey," cried Peabody Junior. "If you
don't leave me alone I'll get up and wollop you."
The flat-featured disappeared with his porpoise face under the
bed-clothes and breathed hard, but kept close; and when he fell asleep
he dreamed of dragons and green umbrellas all night, at a fearful
"I would'nt be angry, Cousin," said little Sam, when the porpoise
gave token that he was hard-bound in slumber. "He don't mean to hurt
your feelings, I don't believe."
"Pr'aps he don't," Peabody Junior rejoined. "What could I tell him,
if I wanted to; all I know is, mother has worn the shade ever since I
can recollect anything. I think sometimes I can remember she used to
have it on as far back as when I was at the breast, a very little
child, and that I used to try and snatch it away—which always made
her very sad."
"Don't she ever take it away?" asked little Sam.
"I never saw it off in all my life; nor can I tell you whether my
dear mother has one eye or two. I know she never likes to have any one
look at it. It makes her melancholy at once; nurse used to tell me
there was a mystery about it—but she would never tell me any more.
It always scares father when she turns that side of her face on him,
that I've noticed; and he always at home sits on the other side of the
table from it."
"I would'nt think any more about it to-night, Cousin," said little
Sam. "I know it makes you unhappy from your voice. Don't you miss some
one to-night that used to keep us awake with telling pleasant
"I do," answered Peabody Junior. "I'm thinking of him now. I wish
Cousin Elbridge was back again."
"You know why he is'nt?"
"Father says it's because he's a bad young man."
"And do you believe it, William?"
"I'm afraid he is—for father always says so."
A gentle figure had quietly opened the chamber-door, and stood
listening with breathless attention to the discourse of the two
"You wait and see," continued little Sam firmly, "I'm sure he'll
come back—and before long."
"What makes you think so?" William asked. "I'm sure I hope he will."
"Because the red rooster," answered little Sam, "crowed yesterday
morning for the first time since he went away, and the red rooster
knows more than anybody about this farm except old grandfather."
Thinking how that could be, Peabody Junior fell asleep; and little
Sam, sure to dream of his absent brother, shortly followed after. The
gentle figure of Miriam Haven glided into the chamber, to the bed-side
of little Sam, and watching his calm, innocent features— which were
held to greatly resemble those of the absent Elbridge—with tears in
her eyes, she breathed a blessing from her very heart on the dear
child who had faith in the absent one. "A blessing!" such was her
humble wish as she returned to her chamber and laid her fair head on
the pillow, "a blessing on such as believe in us when we are in
trouble and poverty, out of favor with the world, when our good name
is doubted, and when the current running sharply against, might
overwhelm us, were not one or two kind hands put forth to save us
from utter ruin and abandonment!"
CHAPTER SIXTH. THE FASHIONABLE LADY
AND HER SON.
All the next day, being the Wednesday before thanksgiving, was
alive and busy with the various preparations for the great festival,
now held to be a sacred holiday throughout this wide-spread union.
The lark had no sooner called morning in the meadow than Mopsey, who
seemed to regard herself as having the entire weight of the occasion
on her single shoulders, slipped from bed, hurried to the garden, and
taking a last look at the great pumpkin as it lay in all its golden
glory, severed the vine at a stroke and trundled it with her own arms,
(she saw with a smile of pity the poor brown mouse skulking off, like
a little pirate as he was, disappointed of his prize,) in at the
back-door. The Peabodys were gathering for breakfast, and coming
forward, stood at either side of the entrance regarding the pumpkin
with profound interest. It fairly shook the house as it rolled in upon
the kitchen floor.
When little Sam, who had lingered in bed beyond the others, with
pleasant dreams, came down stairs, he was met by young William Peabody.
"What do you think, Sam?" said Peabody Junior, smiling.
"I suppose Aunt Carrack has come," Sam answered. "It's nothing to
me if she has."
"No, that isn't it.—Turkey's dead!"
Little Sam dropped a tear, and went away by himself to walk in the
garden. Little Sam took no breakfast that morning.
Every window in the house was thrown wide open to begin with; every
chair walked out of its place; the new broom which Miriam had gathered
with a song, was used for the first time freely on every floor, in
every nook and corner; then the new broom was carried away, and locked
in a closet like a conjuror who had wrought his spell and need not
appear again till some other magic was to be performed. All the
chairs were set soberly and steadily against the wall, the windows
were closed, and a sacred shade thrown over the house against the
approaching festival. The key was turned in the lock of the old
parlor, which was to have no company (save the tall old clock talking
all alone in the corner to himself) till to-morrow.
And so the day sailed on, like a dainty boat with silent oar on a
calm-flowing stream, to evening, when, as though it had been a
new-born meteor or great will-o'-the-wisp, there appeared on the edge
of the twilight, along the distant horizon, a silvery glitter, which,
drawing nearer and nearer, presently disclosed a servant in a shining
band mounted on a great coach, with horses in burnished harness; with
champing speed, which it seemed must have borne it far beyond, it
came to in a moment at the very gate of the homestead, as at the
striking of a clock. A gentleman in bearded lip, in high polish of
hat, chains and boots, emerged, (the door being opened by a stripling
also in a banded hat, who leaped from behind,) followed by a lady in a
gown of glossy silk and a yellow feather, waving in the partial
darkness from her hat. Such wonder and astonishment as seized on the
Peabodys, who looked on it from the balcony, no man can describe.
Angles have descended before now and walked upon the earth—giants
have been at some time or other seen strutting about—ghosts appear
occasionally in the neighborhood of old farm-houses, but neither
ghost, giant, nor angel had such a welcome of uplifted hands and
staring eyes as encountered Mrs. Carrack and her son Tiffany, when
they, in the body entered in at the gate of the old Peabody mansion at
that time. There was but one person in the company, old Sylvester
perhaps excepted, who seemed to have his wits about him, and that was
the red rooster who, sitting on the wall near the gate when Mr.
Tiffany Carrack pushed it open, cocked his eye smartly on him, and
darted sharply at his white hand, with its glittering jewel as he laid
it on the gate.
"Nancy," said old Sylvester, addressing her with extended grasp,
and a pleasant smile of welcome on his brow, "we had given up looking
Was there ever such a rash old man! "Nancy!" as though she had been
a common person he was speaking to.
Mrs. Carrack, who was a short woman, stiff and stern, tossing her
feather, gave the tips of her fingers to the patriarch, and ordering
in a huge leathern trunk all over brass nails and capital C's,
condescended to enter into the house. In spite of all resolutions and
persuasions to the contrary the door of the best parlor unlocked
before her grandeur of demeanor, and she took possession as though she
had not the slightest connection with the other members of the Peabody
family, nor the remotest interest in the common sitting-room without.
Mr. Tiffany Carrack, with patent shanks to his boots which sprang him
into the air as he walked, corsets to brace his body in, new-fangled
straps to keep him down, a patent collar of a peculiar invention, to
hold his head aloft, moving as it were under the convoy of a company
of invisible influences, deriving all his motions from the shoe-maker,
stay-maker, tailor and linen-draper, who originally wound him up and
set him a-going, for whose sole convenience he lives, having withal,
by way of paint to his ashy countenance, a couple of little
conch-shell tufts, tawny-yellow, (that being the latest to be had at
the perfumer's,) on his upper lip; the representative and embodiment
of all the latest new improvements, patents, and contrivances in
apparel, Mr. Tiffany Carrack followed his excellent mother.
"Why, Tiffany," said old Sylvester, who notwithstanding the
immensity of these people, calmly pursued his old course, "we all
thought you were in California."
The family were gathered around and awaited Mr. Tiffany Carrack's
answer with a good deal of curiosity.
"That was all a delusion, sir," he replied, plucking at his little
crop of yellow tufts,—"a horrible delusion. I had some thought of
that kind in my mind, in fact I had got as far south as New Orleans,
when I met a seedy fellow who told me that the natives had rebelled
and wouldn't work any more; so I found if I would get any of the
precious, I must dig with a shovel with my own dear digits; of course
I turned back in disgust, and here I am as good as new—Jehoshaphat!"
It was well that Mr. Tiffany had a fashion of emphasizing his
discourse with a reference to this ancient person, whom he supposed to
have been an excuisite of the first water, which happily furnished a
cover under which the entire Peabody family exploded with laughter at
Mr. Carrack's announcement of the sudden termination of his grand
expedition to the Gold Region. Without an exception they all went off
in an enormous burst, the Captain, little Sam, and Mopsey leading.
"Every word true, 'pon my honor," repeated Mr. Carrack.
The great burst was renewed.
"It was a capital idea, wasn't it?" he said again, supposing he had
made a great hit.
The explosion for the third time, but softened a little by pity in
the female section of the chorus.
Mrs. Carrack had sat stately and aloof, with an inkling in her
brain that all this mirthful tumult was not entirely in the nature of
a complimentary tribute to her son.
"I think," she said, with haughty severity of aspect, "my son was
perfectly right. It was a sinful and a wicked adventure at the best,
as the Reverend Strawbery Hyson clearly showed from the fourth
Revelations, in his last annual discourse to the young ladies of the
"He did, so he did," said Mr. Tiffany, stroking his chin, "I
remember perfectly: it was very prettily stated by Hyson."
"The Reverend Strawbery Hyson," said Mrs. Carrack. "Always give
that excellent man his full title. What would you say, my son, if he
should appear in the streets without his black coat and white cravat?
Would you have any confidence in his preaching after that?"
"Next to myself," answered Mr. Tiffany, "I think our parson's the
best-dressed man in Boston."
"He should be, as an example," said Mrs. Carrack. "He has a very
Old Sylvester, who had on at that moment an old brown coat and a
frayed black ribbon for a neck-cloth, ordered Mopsey to send the two
best pies in the house immediately to the negroes in the Hills. Mrs.
Carrack smiled loftily, and drew from her pocket an elegant small
silver vial of the pure otto of rose, and applied it to her nostrils
as though something disagreeable had just struck upon the air and
"By the way," said Mr. Tiffany Carrack, adjusting his shirt collar,
"how is my little friend Miriam?"
"Melancholy!" was the only answer any one had to make.
"So I thought," pursued Mr. Carrack, rolling his eyes and heaving
an infant sigh from his bosom. "Poor thing, no wonder, if she thought
I was gone away so far. She shall be comforted."
Mopsey looking in at this moment, gave the summons to tea, which
was answered by Mr. Tiffany Carrack's offering his arm, impressively,
to his excellent mother, and leading the way to the table.
It was observed, that in his progress to the tea-table, Mr. Tiffany
adopted a tottering and uncertain step, indicating a dilapidated old
age, only kept together by the clothes he wore, which was altogether
unintelligible to the Peabody family, seeing that Mr. Carrack was in
the very prime of youth, till Mrs. Carrack remarked, with an
affectionate smile of motherly pride:
"You remind me more and more every day, Tiff, of that dear
delightful old Baden-Baden."
"I wish the glorious old fellow would come over to me for a short
lark," rejoined Mr. Tiffany. "But he couldn't live here long; there's
nothing old here."
"Who's Baden Baden?" asked Sylvester.
"Only a prince of my acquaintance on the other side of the water,
and a devilish clever fellow. But he could'nt stand it here—I'm
afraid—everything's so new."
"I'm rather old," suggested Sylvester, smiling on the young man.
"So you are, by Jove—But that aint the thing I want exactly; I
want an old castle or two, and a donjon-keep, and that sort of
"Something," suggested the grandfather, "in the style of the old
revolutionary fort on Fort Hill?"
"No—no—you don't take exactly. I mean something more in the
antique—something or other, you see"—here he began twirling his
forefinger in the air and sketching an amorphous phantom of some
sort, of an altogether unattainable character, "in a
The moment the eye of Mrs. Carrack fell upon the blue and white
crockery, the pewter plates which had been in use time out of mind in
the family, and the plain knives and forks of steel, she cast on her
son a significant glance of mingled surprise and contempt. "Thomas,"
she said, standing before the place assigned to her, her son doing the
same, "the napkins!"
The napkins were brought from a great basket which had accompanied
the leathern trunk.
"The other things!"
The other things, consisting of china plates, cups and saucers, and
knives and forks of silver for two, were duly laid—Mrs. Carrack and
her son having kept the rest of the family waiting the saying of
grace by old Sylvester, were good enough to be seated at the old
farmer's (Mrs. Carrack's father's) board.
When old Sylvester unclosed his eyes from the delivery of thanks,
he discovered at the back of Mrs. Carrack and her son's chairs, the
two city servants in livery, with their short cut hair and embroidered
coats of the fashion of those worn in English farces on the stage,
standing erect and without the motion of a muscle. There is not a
doubt but that old Sylvester Peabody was a good deal astonished,
although he gave no utterance to his feelings. But when the two young
men in livery began to dive in here and there about the table,
snapping up the dishes in exclusive service on Mrs. Carrack and Mr.
Tiffany Carrack, he could remain silent no longer.
"Boys," he said, addressing himself to the two fine personages in
question, "you will oblige me by going into the yard and chopping wood
till we are done supper. We shall need all you can split in an hour
to bake the pies with."
Thunder struck, as though a bolt had smitten them individually in
the head, this direction, delivered in a quiet voice of command not to
be resisted, sent the two servants forth at the back-door. They were
no sooner out of view than they addressed each other almost at the
same moment, "My eyes! did you ever see such a queer old fellow as
When Mrs. Carrack and her son turned, and found that the two young
gentlemen in livery had actually vanished, the lady smiled a delicate
smile of gentle scorn, and Mr. Tiffany, regarding his aged
grandfather steadily, merely remarked, in a tone of most friendly and
familiar condescension, "Baden-Baden wouldn't have done such a thing!"
The overpowering grandeur of the fashionable lady chilled the
household, and there was little conversation till she addressed the
"Hadn't you a grown up son, Mrs. Peabody?"
The widow was silent. Presently Mr. Carrack renewed the discourse.
"By the by," he said, "I thought I saw that son of yours—wasn't
his name Elbridge, or something of that sort?—in New Orleans."
"Did you speak to him?" asked the Captain, flushing a little in the
"I observed he was a good deal out at elbows," Mr. Carrack
answered, "and it was broad day-light, in one of the fashionable
"Is that all you have to tell us of your cousin?" old Sylvester
"He is my cousin—much obliged for the information. I had almost
forgotten that! Why ye-es—I couldn't help seeing that he went into a
miserable broken-down house in a by-street—but had to get my
moustache oiled for a Creole ball that evening, and couldn't be
reasonably expected to follow him, could I?—Jehoshaphat!"
If the human countenance, by reason of its clouding up in gusts of
pitchy blackness acquired the power, like darkening skies, of
discharging thunder-bolts, it would have been, I am sure, a hot and
heavy one which Mopsey, blackening and blazing, had delivered, as she
departed to the kitchen, lowering upon Mr. Tiffany Carrack,—"`He
thought he saw her son Elbridge!' The vagabone has no more feeling
nor de bottom of a stone jug."
The meal over, the evening wore on in friendly chat of old
Thanksgiving times—of neighbors and early family histories; each one
in turn launching, so to speak, a little boat upon the current,
freighted deep with many precious stores of old-time remembrance;
Mrs. Carrack sitting alone as an iceberg in the very midst of the
waters, melting not once, nor contributing a drop or trickle to the
friendly flow. And when bed-time came again, how clearly was it shown,
that there is nothing certain in this changeful world. By some sudden
and unforeseen interruption, nations lose power, communities are
shattered, households well-constructed fall in pieces at a breath.
Her sudden appearance in their midst, compelled another
consultation to be taken as to the disposal of the great Mrs. Carrack
for the night. It would never answer to put that grand person in any
secondary lodging; so all the old arrangements were of necessity
broken up; the best bed-room allotted to her; and that her gentle
nerves might not be afflicted, the old clock, which adjoined her
sleeping-chamber, and which had occupied his corner and told the time
for the Peabodys for better than a hundred years from the same spot,
was instantly silenced, as impertinent. The Captain's high-actioned
white horse, which had enjoyed the privilege of roaming unmolested
about the house, was led away like an unhappy convict, and stabled in
the barn; and to complete the arrangements, the two servants in livery
were put on guard near her window, to drive off the geese, turkeys,
and other talkative birds of the night, that she might sleep without
the slightest disturbance from that noisy old creature, Nature.
Mr. Tiffany Carrack, while these delicate preparations were in
progress, was evidently agitated with some extraordinary design, in
which Miriam Haven was bearing a part; for, although he did not
address a word to that young maiden, he was as busy as his imitation
of the antiquity of Baden-Baden would allow him, ogling, grimacing,
and plucking his tawny beard at her every minute in the most
astonishing manner, closely watched by Mopsey, the Captain, and old
Sylvester, who strongly suspected the young man of being affected in
It was very clear that it was this same Mr. Tiffany Carrack who had
entered in at the door of the sleeping chamber assigned to that
gentleman, but who would have ventured to assert that the figure,
which, somewhere about the middle of the night, emerged from the
window of the chamber in question, in yellow slippers, red silk cloak
trimmed with gold, fez cap, and white muslin turban, and, with folded
arms, began pacing up and down under the casement of Miriam Haven,
after the manner of singers at the opera, preparatory to beginning,
was the same Tiffany? And yet, when he returned again, and holding his
face up to the moon, which was shining at a convenient angle over the
edge of the house, the tawny tuft clearly identified it as Tiffany and
no one else. And yet, as if to further confuse all recognition, what
sound is that which breaks from his throat, articulating:—
"Dearest, awake—you need not fear; For he—for he—your
Troubadour is here!"
The summons passed for some time unanswered, till Mopsey, from the
little end-window of her lodgement, presented her head in a flaming
red and yellow handkerchief, and rolled her eyes about to discover
the source of the tumult; scowling in the belief that it must be no
other than "one of dem Brundages come to carry off in de dead of night
de Peabody punkin."
A gentle conviction was dawning in the brain of Mr. Carrack that
this was the fair Miriam happily responding to his challenge in the
appropriate character and costume of a Moorish Princess; when, as he
began to roar again, still more violent and furious in his chanting,
the black head opened and demanded, "what you want dere?" followed by
an extraordinary shower of gourd-shells, which, crashing upon his
sconce, with a distinct shatter for each shell, could not, for a
moment, be mistaken for flowers, signet-rings, or any other ordinarily
It immediately occurred to Mr. Carrack, with the suddenness of
inspiration, that he had better return to his chamber and go to bed; a
design which was checked, as he proceeded in that direction, by the
alarming apparition of a great body with a fire-lock thrust out of
the window of the apartment, next to his own, occupied by the Captain,
presented directly at his head, with a cry "Avast, there!" and a
movement on the part of the body, to follow the gun out at the
window. Fearfully harassed in that quarter, Mr. Carrack wheeled
rapidly about, encountering as he turned, the two servants in livery,
still making the circuit of the homestead—who in alarm of their
lives from this singular figure in the red cloak, fled into the
fields and lurked in an old out-house till daylight. As these
scampered away before him, Mr. Tiffany, to relieve himself of the
apparition of the gun, would have turned the corner of the house; when
Mopsey appeared, wildly gesticulating, with a great brush-broom
reared aloft, and threatening instant ruin to his person.
From this double peril, what but the happiest genius could have
suggested to Mr. Tiffany, an instant and straightforward flight from
the house; in which he immediately engaged, making up the road—the
Captain with his musket, and Mopsey with her hearth-broom, close at
his heels. If Mr. Tiffany Carrack had promptly employed his undoubted
resources of youth and activity, his escape from the necessity of
disclosure or surrender had been perhaps easy; but it so happened
that his progress was a good deal baffled by the conflict constantly
kept up in his brain, between the desire to use his legs in the
natural manner, and to preserve that antique pace of tottering
gentility which he had acquired from that devilish fine old fellow,
the Prince of Baden-Baden, so that at one moment he was in the very
hands of the enemy, and at the next, flying like an antelope in the
distance. The gun, constantly following him with a loud threat, from
the Captain, seemed, in the moon-light, like a great finger
perpetually pointing at his head; till at last it became altogether
too dreadful to bear, and making up the road toward Brundage's, which
still further inflamed the pursuit, in sheer exhaustion he rushed
through an open gate into a neighboring tan-yard, and took refuge in
the old bark-mill. There was but a moment's rest allowed him even
here, for Mopsey and the Captain, furiously threatening all sorts of
death and destruction, presently rushed in at the door, and sent him
scampering about the ring like a distracted colt, in his first day's
service; a game of short duration, for the Captain and Mopsey, closing
in upon him from opposite directions compelled him to retreat again
into the open air. How much longer the chase might have continued, it
were hard to tell, for as his pursuers made after him, Mr. Tiffany
Carrack suddenly disappeared, like a melted snow-flake, from the
surface of the earth. In his confused state he had tumbled into a
vat, fortunately without the observation of the inexorable enemy,
although as he clung to the side the Captain discharged his musket
directly over his head.
"I guess that's done his business," said the Captain. "We'll come
and look for the body in the morning."
Now it is strongly suspected that both Mopsey and the Captain knew
well enough all along that this was Mr. Tiffany Carrack they had been
pursuing, and that as they watched him from the distance emerge from
the vat, return to the homestead, and skulk, dripping in, like a rat
of outlandish breed, at his chamber-window, they were amply avenged:
the Captain, for the freedom with which the city-exquisite had
treated the Peabody family, especially the good old grandfather, and
Mopsey, for the slighting manner in which he had referred to absent
young Mas'r Elbridge.
When all was peace again within the homestead, there was one who
still watched the night, and ignorant of the nature of this strange
tumult, trembled as at the approach of a long-wished for happiness. It
was Miriam, the orphan dependent, who now sat by the midnight
casement. Oh, who of living men can tell how that young heart yearned
at the thought—the hope—the thrilling momentary belief—that this
was her absent lover happily returning?
In the wide darkness of the lonesome night, which was it shone
brightest and with purest lustre, in view of the all-seeing Mover of
the Heavens—the stars glittering far away in space, in all their
lofty glory, or the timid eyes of that simple maiden, wet with the
dew of youth, and bright with the pure hope of honest love! When all
was still again, and no Elbridge's voice was heard, no form of absent
Elbridge there to cheer her, oh, who can tell how near to breaking, in
its silent agony, was that young heart, and with what tremblings of
solicitude and fear, the patient Miriam waited for the friendly light
to open the golden-gate of dawn upon another morrow!
CHAPTER SEVENTH. THE THANKSGIVING
The morning of the day of Thanksgiving came calm, clear and
beautiful. A stillness, as of heaven and not of earth, ruled the wide
landscape. The Indian summer, which had been as a gentle mist or veil
upon the beauty of the time, had gone away a little—retired, as it
were, into the hills and back country, to allow the undimmed heaven to
shine down upon the happy festival of families and nations. The
cattle stood still in the fields without a low; the trees were quiet
as in friendly recognition of the spirit of the hour; no reaper's hook
or mower's scythe glanced in the meadow, no rumbling wain was on the
road. The birds alone, as being more nearly akin to the feeling of the
scene, warbled in the boughs.
But out of the silent gloom of the mist there sprang as by magic, a
lovely illumination which lit the country far and wide, as with a
thousand varicolored lamps. As a maiden who has tarried in her
chamber, some hour the least expected appears before us, apparelled
in all the pomp and hue of brilliant beauty, the fair country, flushed
with innumerable tints of the changed autumn-trees, glided forth upon
the Indian summer scene, and taught that when kindly nature seems all
foregone and spent, she can rise from her couch fresher and more
radiant than in her very prime.
What wonder if with the peep of dawn the children leaped from bed,
eager to have on their new clothes reserved for the day, and by times
appeared before old Sylvester in proud array of little hats,
new-brightened shoes and shining locks, span new as though they had
just come from the mint; anxious to have his grandfatherly approval of
their comeliness? Shortly after, the horses caught in the distant
pastures, the Captain and Farmer Oliver having charge of them, were
brought in and tied under the trees in the door-yard.
Then, breakfast being early dispatched, there was a mighty running
to and fro of the grown people through the house, dresses hurried from
old clothes-presses and closets, a loud demand on every hand for
pins, of which there seemed to be (as there always is on such
occasions) a great lack. The horses were put to Mrs. Carrack's coach,
the Captain's gig, the old house-wagon, with breathless expectation on
the part of the children; and in brief, after bustling preparation
and incessant summoning of one member of the family and another from
the different parts of the house, all being at last ready and in their
seats, the Peabodys set forth for the Thanksgiving Sermon at the
country Meeting-house, a couple of miles away.
The Captain took the lead with his wife and Peabody Junior
somewhere and somehow between them, followed by the wagon with old
Sylvester, still proud of his dexterity as a driver, Oliver, much
pleased with the popular character of the conveyance and wife, with
young Robert; William Peabody and wife; little Sam riding between his
grandfather's legs in front, and allowed to hold the end of the reins.
Slowly and in great state, after all rolled Mrs. Carrack's coach with
herself and son within, and footman and coachman without.
Chanticleer, too, clear of eye and bright of wing, walked the
garden wall, carried his head up, and acted as if he had also put on
his thanksgiving suit and expected to take the road presently,
accompany the family, and join his voice with theirs at the little
Although the Captain, with his high-actioned white horse kept out
of eye-shot ahead, it was Mrs. Carrack's fine carriage that had the
triumph of the road to itself, for as it rolled glittering on, the
simple country people, belated in their own preparations, or tarrying
at home to provide the dinner, ran to the windows in wonder and
admiration. The plain wagons, bent in the same direction, turned out
of the path and gave the great coach the better half of the way,
staring a broadside as it passed.
And when the party reached the little meeting-house, what a peace
hung about it! The air seemed softer, the sunshine brighter, there, as
it stood in humble silence among the tall trees which waved with a
gentle murmur before its windows. The people, as they arrived, glided
noiselessly in, in their neat dresses and looks of decent devotion;
others as they came made fast their horses under the sheds and trees
about—most of them in wagons and plain chaises, brightened into all
of beauty they were capable of, by a severe attention to the harness
and mountings; others—these were a few bachelors and
striplings—trotted in quietly on horseback. Before service a few of
the old farmers lingered outside discussing the late crops or
inquiring after each other's families, who presently went within,
summoning from the grassy churchyard—which lay next to the meeting
house—the children who were loitering there reading the
When the Captain arrived with his gig, under such extraordinary
headway that he was near driving across the grave-yard into the next
county—the country people scampered aside, like scared fowl; Mrs.
Carrack's great coach, with its liveried outriders, set them staring
as if they did not or could not believe their own eyes. With the
arrival of old Sylvester they re-gathered, and, almost in a body,
proffered their aid to hold the horses—to help the old Patriarch to
the ground—in a word, to show their regard and affection in every
way in their power. He tarried but a moment at the door, to speak a
word with one or two of the oldest of his neighbors, and passed in,
followed by all of his family save Mrs. Carrack and her son, who under
color of hunting up the grave of some old relation, delay in order to
make their appearance in the meeting-house by themselves, and
independently of the Peabody connection.
Will you pardon me, reader, if I fail to tell you whether this
house of worship was of the Methodist, Episcopal, or Baptist creed,
whether it had a chancel or altar, or painted windows? Whether the
pews had doors to them and were cushioned or not? Whether the
minister wore a gown and bands, or plain suit of black, or was
undistinguished in his dress? Will it not suffice if I tell you, as
the very belief of my soul, that it was a christian house, that there
were seats for all, that things were well intended and decently
ordered, and that with a hymn sung with such purity of heart that its
praises naturally joined in with the chiming of the trees and the
carols of the birds without and floated on without a stop to Heaven,
when a meek man rose up:
Some two hundred years ago, our ancestors (he said,) finding
themselves more comfortable in the wilderness of the new world, than
they could have reasonably looked for, set apart a day of Thanksgiving
to Almighty God for his manifold mercies. That day, God be praised,
has been steadily observed throughout this happy land, by cheerful
gatherings of families, and other festive and devotional observances,
down to the present time. Our fathers covenanted, in the love of
Christ, to cleave together, as brethren, however hard the brunt of
fortune might be. That bond still continues. We may not live (he went
on, in the very spirit and letter of the first Thanksgiving discourse
ever delivered amongst us,) as retired hermits, each in our cell
apart, nor inquire, like David, how liveth such a man? How is he clad?
How is he fed? He is my brother, we are in league together, we must
stand and fall by one another. Is his labor harder than mine? Surely I
will ease him. Hath he no bed to lie on? I have two—I will lend him
one. Hath he no apparel? I have two suits— I will give him one of
them. Eats he coarse food, bread and water, and have I better? Surely
we will part stakes. He is as good a man as I, and we are bound each
to other; so that his wants must be my wants; his sorrows, my sorrows;
his sickness my sickness; and his welfare my welfare; for I am as he
is; such a sweet sympathy were excellent, comfortable, nay, heavenly,
and is the only maker and conserver of churches and commonwealths."
To such as looked upon old Sylvester there seemed a glow and halo
about his aged brow and whitened locks, for this was the very spirit
of his life.
As though he knew the very secrets of their souls, and touched
their very heart-strings with a gentle hand, the preacher glanced from
one member of the Peabody household to another, as he proceeded,
something in this manner. (For William Peabody:) do I find on this
holy day that I love God in all his glorious universe, more than the
image even of Liberty, which hath ensnared and enslaved the soul of
many a man on the coin of this world? (For buxom Mrs. Jane, in her
vandyke:) Do I stifle the vanity of good looks and comfortable
circumstances under a plain garb? (For the jovial Captain:) Am I not
over hasty in pursuit of carnal enjoyment? (For Mr. Oliver: who was
wiping his brow with the Declaration of Independence,) and eager over
much for the good opinion of men, when I should be quietly serving
them without report? (For Mrs. Carrack and her son:) And what are
pomp and fashion, but the painted signs of good living where there is
no life? These (he continued,) are all outward, mere pretences to put
off our duty, and the care of our souls. Yea, we may have churches,
schools, hospitals abounding—but these are mere lath and mortar, if
we have not also within our own hearts, a church where the pure
worship ever goeth on, a school where the true knowledge is taught, a
hospital, the door whereof standeth constantly open, into which our
fellow-creatures are welcomed and where their infirmities are first
cared for with all kindness and tenderness. If these be our
inclinings this day, let us be reasonably thankful on this
Thanksgiving morning. Let such as are in health be thankful for their
good case; and such as are out of health be thankful that they are no
worse. Let such as are rich be thankful for their wealth, (if it hath
been honestly come by;) and let such as are poor be thankful that they
have no such charge upon their souls. Let old folks be thankful for
their wisdom in knowing that young folks are fools; and let young
ones be thankful that they may live to see the time when they may use
the same privilege. Let lean folks be thankful for their spare ribs,
which are not a burthen in the harvest-field; fat folks may laugh at
lean ones, and grow fatter every day. Let married folks be thankful
for blessings both little and great; let bachelors and old maids be
thankful for the privilege of kissing other folks' babies, and great
good may it do them.
With what a glow of mutual friendship the quaint preacher was
warming the plain old meeting-house on that thanksgiving day!
Finally, and to conclude, (he went on in the language of a
chronicle of the time:)—Let no man look upon a turkey to-day, and
say, `This also is vanity.' What is the life of man without
creature-comforts, and the stomach of the son of man with no aid from
the tin kitchen? Despise not the day of small things, while there are
pullets on the spit, and let every fowl have fair play, between the
jaws of thy philosophy. Are not puddings made to be sliced, and
pie-crust to be broken? Go thy ways, then, according to good sense,
good cheer, good appetite, the Governor's proclamation, and every
other good thing under the sun;—render thanks for all the good
things of this life, and good cookery among the rest; eat, drink, and
be merry; make not a lean laudation of the bounties of Providence, but
let a lively gusto follow a long grace. Feast thankfully, and feast
hopingly; feast in good will to all mankind, Grahamites included;
feast in the full and joyous persuasion, that while the earth
remaineth, seed-time and harvest, dinner-time, pudding-time, and
supper-time, are not likely to go out of fashion;—feast with
exulting confidence in the continuance of cooks, kitchens, and
orthodox expounders of Scripture and the constitution in our ancient,
blessed, and fat-sided commonwealth—feast, in short, like a good
Christian, proving all things, relishing all things, hoping all
things, expecting all things, and enjoying all things. Let a good
stomach for dinner go hand in hand with a good mind for sound
doctrine. Let us all be thankful that a gracious Providence hath
furnished each and all with a wholesome and bountiful dinner this
day; and, if there be none so furnished, let him now make it known,
and we will instantly contribute thereto of our separate abundance.
There are none who murmur—we all, therefore, have a thanksgiving
dinner waiting for us; let us hie home cheerily, and in a becoming
spirit of mirth and devotion partake thereof.
The windows of the little meeting-house were up to let in the
pleasant sunshine; and the very horses who were within hearing of his
voice, seemed by the pricking up of their brown ears to relish and
approve of his discourse. The Captain's city nag, as wide awake as
any, seemed to address himself to an acquaintance of a heavy bay
plougher, who stood at the same post, and laying their heads together
for the better part of the sermon, they appeared to regard it, as far
as they caught its meaning, as sound doctrine, particularly
acknowledging that this was as fine a thanksgiving morning as they
(who had been old friends and had spent their youth together, being
in some way related, in a farm-house in that neighborhood) had ever
known; and when they had said as much as this, they laughed out in
very merriness of spirit, with a great winnow, as the happy audience
came streaming forth at the meeting-house door. There were no cold,
haughty, or distrustful faces now, as when they had entered in an hour
ago; the genial air of the little meeting-house had melted away all
frosts of that kind; and as they mingled under the sober autumn-trees,
loitering for conversation, inquiring after neighbors, old folks whose
infirmities kept them at home, the young children; they seemed
indeed, much more a company of brethren, embarked (as sailors say) on
a common bottom for happiness and enjoyment. The children were the
first to set out for home through the fields on foot; Peabody the
younger, little Sam and Robert being attended by the footman in
livery, whom Mrs. Carrack relieved from attendance at the rear of the
If the quaint preacher had urged the rational enjoyment of the
Thanksgiving cheer from the pulpit, Mopsey labored with equal zeal at
home to have it worthy of enjoyment. At an early hour she had cleared
decks, and taken possession of the kitchen: kindling, with dawn, a
great fire in the oven for the pies, and another on the hearth for the
turkey. But it was from the oven, heaping it to the top with fresh
relays of dry wood, that she expected the Thanksgiving angel to walk
in all his beauty and majesty. In performance of her duty, and from a
sense only that there could be no thanksgiving without a turkey, she
planted the tin oven on the hearth, spitted the gobbler, and from time
to time, merely as a matter of absolute necessity, gave it a turn; but
about the mouth of the great oven she hovered constantly, like a
spirit—had her head in and out at the opening every other minute;
and, when at last the pies were slided in upon the warm bottom, she
lingered there regarding the change they were undergoing with the
fond admiration with which a connoisseur in sunsets hangs upon the
changing colors of the evening sky. The leisure this double duty
allowed her was employed by Mopsey in scaring away the poultry and
idle young chickens which rushed in at the back entrance of the
kitchen in swarms, and hopped with yellow legs about the floor with
the racket of constant falling showers of corn. Upon the half door
opening on the front the red rooster had mounted, and with his head
on one side observed with a knowing eye all that went forward;
showing perhaps most interest in the turning of the spit, the
impalement of the turkey thereon having been with him an object of
The highly colored picture of Warren at Bunker-Hill, writhing in
his death-agony on one wall of the kitchen, and General Marion
feasting from a potato, in his tent, on the other, did not in the
least attract the attention of Mopsey. She saw nothing on the whole
horizon of the glowing apartment but the pies and the turkey, and even
for the moment neglected to puzzle herself, as she was accustomed to
in the pauses of her daily labors, with the wonders and mysteries of
an ancient dog-eared spelling-book which lay upon the smoky mantel.
Meanwhile, in obedience to the spirit of the day, the widow
Margaret and Miriam, having each diligently disposed of their separate
charge in the preparations, making a church of the homestead,
conducted a worship in their own simple way. Opposite to each other
in the little sitting-room, Miriam opened the old Family Bible, and at
the widow Margaret's request read from that chapter which gives the
story of the prodigal son. It was with a clear and pensive voice that
she read, but not without a struggle with herself. Where the story
told that the young man had gone into a far country; that he had
wasted his substance in riotous living; that he was abased to the
feeding of swine; that he craved in his hunger the very husks; that
he lamented the plenty of his father's house—a cloud came upon her
countenance, and the simplest eye could have interpreted the thoughts
that troubled her. And how the fair young face brightened, when she
read that the young man resolved to arise and return to the house of
his father; the dear encounter; the rejoicing over his return, and
the glad proclamation, "This, my son, was dead and is alive again; he
was lost and is found."
"If he would come back even so," said the widow when the book was
closed, "in sorrow, in poverty, in crime even, I would thank God and
"He is not guilty, mother," Miriam pleaded, casting her head upon
the widow's bosom and clinging close about her neck.
"I will not think that he is," Margaret answered, lifting up her
head. "Guilty or innocent, he is my son—my son." Clasping the young
orphan's hand, after a pause of tender silence, she gave utterance to
her feelings in a Thanksgiving hymn. These were the words:—
Father! protect the wanderer on his way; Bright be for him thy stars
and calm thy seas— Thanksgiving live upon his lips to-day, And in
his heart the good man's summer ease. Almighty! Thou canst bring the
pilgrim back, With a clear brow to this his childish home; Guide him,
dear Father, o'er a blameless track, No more to stray from us, no more
At this moment a tumult of children's voices was heard in the
door-yard, and as the widow turned, young William Peabody was seen
struggling with Robert and little Sam, who were holding him back with
all their force. As he dragged them forward, being their elder and
superior in strength, Peabody Junior stretched his throat and called
towards the house—"I've seen him—I've seen him!"
"Who have you seen?" asked the widow, rising and approaching the
"Mr. Barbary." When Peabody Junior made this answer the widow
advanced with a gleam on her countenance, and gently releasing him,
said, "Come, William, and tell us all about it."
"Aunt Margaret," said Robert, thrusting himself between, "don't
listen to a word he has to say. I'll tell you all about it. You see we
were coming home from meeting, and little Sam got tired, and William
and I made a cradle of our hands and were carrying him along very
"Not so very nice, either," Peabody Junior interrupted, "for I was
"That's what I was going to tell you, Aunt Margaret. Bill did get
tired, and as we came through the Locust Wood, he made believe to see
something, and run away to get clear of carrying little Sam any
"I did see him!" said Peabody Junior, firmly.
"Where was he?" the widow asked.
"Behind the hazel-bush, with his head just looking out at the top,
all turned white as dead folks do."
Mopsey was in immediately with her dark head, crying out, "Don't
belief a word of it."
"I guess you saw nothing but the hazel-bush, William," said the
"That was it, Aunt; it was the hazel-bush with a great mop of moss
on it," Robert added.
Miriam sat looking on and listening, pale and trembling.
"If your cousin Elbridge and Mr. Barbary should ever come back,"
said the widow, addressing Peabody Junior, "you would be sorry for
what you have said, William."
"So he would, Aunt," echoed Robert.
Mopsey was in again from the kitchen; this time she advanced
several steps from the door-sill into the room, lifted up both her
arms and addressed the assembled company.
"One ting I know," said Mopsey, "dere's a big pie baking in dat ere
oven, and if Mas'r Elbridge don't eat that pie it'll haf to sour, dat
"What is it, Mopsey," asked Margaret, "that gives you such a faith
in my son?"
"I tell you what it is, Missus," Mopsey answered promptly, "dast
tanksgivin when I tumbled down on dis ere sef-same floor bringin' in
de turkey, every body laugh but Mas'r Elbridge, and he come from his
place and pick me up. He murder any body! I'll eat de whole
tanksgivin dinner myself if he touch a hair of de old preacher's head
to hurt it." Suddenly changing her tone, she added, "Dey're comin'
from meetin', I hear de old wagon."
CHAPTER EIGHTH. THE DINNER.
As the Peabodys approached the homestead, the smoke of the kitchen
chimney was visible, circling upward and winding about in the sunshine
as though it had been a delicate corkscrew uncorking a great bottle
or square old flask of a delicious vintage. The Captain averred a
quarter of a mile away, the moment they had come upon the brow of the
hill, that he had a distinct savor of the fragrance of the turkey,
and that it was quite as refreshing as the first odor of the land
breeze coming in from sea, and he snuffed it up with a zeal and relish
which gave the gig an eager appetite for dinner. The Captain's
conjecture was strongly confirmed in the appearance of Mopsey,
darting, with a dark face of dewy radiance at the wood-pile and
shuffling back with bustling speed to the kitchen with a handful of
delicate splinters. "She's giving him the last turn," said the Captain.
The shadow of the little meeting-house was still over the Captain,
even so far away, for he conducted the procession homeward at a pace
much less furious than that with which he had advanced in the morning;
and Mrs. Carrack too, observed now, with a strange pleasure, what she
had given no heed to before when the fine coach was rolling in triumph
along the road,—birds twittering in the sunny air by the wayside,
and cattle roving like figures in a beautiful picture, upon the slopes
of the distant hills. Oliver, the politician, more than once had out
the great cotton pocket-handkerchief, and holding it spread before
him contemplating the fatherly signers, was evidently acquiring some
new lights on the subject of independence.
A change, in fine, of some sort or other, had passed over every
member of the Peabody family save old Sylvester, returning as going,
calm, plain-spoken, straightforward and patriarchal. When they reached
the gate of the homestead, William Peabody gave his hand to his wife
and helped her, with some show of attention, to alight; and then there
could be no doubt that it was in very truth Thanksgiving day, for the
glory of the door-yard itself had paled and disappeared in the
gorgeous festal light. There was no majestic gobbler in the door-yard
now, with his great outspread tail, which in the proud moments of his
life he would have expanded as if to shut the very light of the sun
from all meaner creatures of the mansion.
Within doors there was that bustling preparation, with brief lulls
of ominous silence which precede and usher a great event. The widow
Margaret, with noiseless step, glided to and fro, Miriam daintily
hovering in the suburbs of the sitting-room, which is evidently the
grand centre of interest, and Mopsey toils like a swart goblin in her
laboratory of the kitchen in a high glow, scowling fearfully if
addressed with a word which calls her attention for a moment away
from her critical labors.
As the family entered the homestead on their return, the combined
forces were just at the point of pitching their tent on the ground of
the forthcoming engagement, in the shape of the ancient four-legged
and wide-leaved table, with a cover of snowy whiteness, ornamented as
with shields and weapons of quaint device, in the old plates of pewter
and the horn-handled knives and forks burnished to such a polish as
to make the little room fairly glitter. Dishes streamed in one after
the other in a long and rapid procession, piles of home-made bread,
basins of apple-sauce, pickles, potatoes of vast proportion and mealy
beauty. When the ancient and lordly pitcher of blue and white (whether
freighted with new cider or old cold water need not be told) crowned
the board, the first stage of preparation was complete, and another
portentous pause ensued. The whole Peabody connection arranged in
stately silence in the front parlor, looked on through the open door
in wonder and expectation of what was to follow. The children
loitered about the door-ways with watering eyes and open mouths, like
so many innocent little dragons lying in wait to rush in at an
opportune moment and bear off their prey.
And now, all at once there comes a deeper hush— a still more
portentous pause—all eyes are in the direction of the kitchen; the
children are hanging forward with their bodies and outstretched necks
half way in at the door; Miriam and the widow stand breathless and
statue-like at either side of the room; when, as if rising out of some
mysterious cave in the very ground, a dark figure is discerned in the
distance, about the centre of the kitchen, (into which Mopsey has
made, to secure an impressive effect, a grand circuit,) head erect,
and bearing before it a huge platter; all their eyes tell them, every
sense vividly reports what it is the platter supports; she advances
with slow and solemn step; she has crossed the sill; she has entered
the sitting-room; and, with a full sense of her awful responsibility,
Mopsey delivers on the table, in a cleared place left for its careful
deposit, the Thanksgiving turkey.
There is no need now to sound a gong, or to ring an alarm-bell to
make known to that household that dinner is ready; the brown turkey
speaks a summons as with the voice of a thousand living gobblers, and
Sylvester rising, the whole Peabody family flock in. To every one his
place is considerately assigned, the Captain in the centre directly
opposite the turkey, Mrs. Carrack on the other side, the widow at one
end, old Sylvester at the head. The children too, a special exception
being made in their favor to-day, are allowed seats with the grown
folks, little Sam disposing himself in great comfort in his old
Another hush—for everything to-day moves on through these
constantly shut and opened gates of silence, in which they all sit
tranquil and speechless, when the old patriarch lifts up his aged
hands over the board and repeats his customary grace:
"May we all be Christian people the day we die— God bless us."
The Captain, the great knife and fork in hand, was ready to advance.
"Stop a moment, Charley," old Sylvester spoke up, "give us a moment
to contemplate the turkey."
"I would there were just such a dish, grandfather," the Captain
rejoined, "on every table in the land this day, and if I had my way
there would be."
"No, no, Charley," the grandfather answered, "if there should be,
there would be. There is One who is wiser than you or I."
"It would make the man who would do it," Oliver suggested,
"immensely popular: he might get to be elected President of the United
"It would cost a large sum," remarked William Peabody, the merchant.
"Let us leave off considering imaginary turkeys, and discuss the
one before us," said old Sylvester, "but I must first put a question,
and if it's answered with satisfaction, we'll proceed. Now tell me,"
he said, addressing himself to Mr. Carrack, who sat in a sort of
dream, as if he had lost his identity, as he had ever since the
night-adventure in the fez-cap and red silk cloak: "Now tell me,
Tiffany, although you have doubtless seen a great many grand things,
such as the Alps, and St. Peter's church at Rome, has your eye fallen
in with anything wherever you travelled over the world, grander than
that Thanksgiving turkey?"
Mr. Carrack, either from excessive modesty or total abstraction,
hesitated, looked about him hastily, and not till the Captain called
across the table, "Why don't you speak, my boy?" and then, as if
suddenly coming to, and realizing where he was, answered at last,
with great deliberation, "It is a fine bird."
"Enough said," spoke up old Sylvester cheerfully; "you were the
last Peabody I expected to acknowledge the merits of the turkey;" and,
looking towards the Captain with encouragement, added, "now, knife
and fork, do your duty."
It was short work the jovial Captain made with the prize turkey; in
rapid succession plates were forwarded, heaped, sent around; and with
a keen relish of the Thanksgiving dinner, every head was busy.
Straight on, as people who have an allotted task before them, the
Peabodys moved through the dinner,— a powerful, steady-going caravan
of cheerful travellers, over hill, over dale, up the valleys, along
the stream-side, cropping their way like a nimble-toothed flock of
grazing sheep, keenly enjoying herbage and beverage by the way.
What though, while they were at the height of its enjoyment a
sudden storm, at that changeful season, arose without, and dashed its
heavy drops against the doors and window-panes; that only, by the
contrast of security and fire-side comfort, heightened the zest
within, while they were engaged with the many good dishes at least,
but when another pause came, did not the pelting shower and the
chiding wind talk with them, each one in turn, of the absent, and oh!
some there will not believe it—the lost? It was no doubt some
thought of this kind that prompted old Sylvester to speak:
"My children," said the patriarch, glancing with a calm eye around
the circle of glowing faces at the table "you are bound together with
good cheer and in comfortable circumstances; and even as you, who are
here from east and west, from the north and the south, by each one
yielding a little of his individual whim or inclination, can thus sit
together prosperously and in peace at one board, so can our glorious
family of friendly States, on this and every other day, join hands,
and like happy children in the fields, lead a far-lengthening dance of
festive peace among the mountains and among the vales, from the
soft-glimmering east far on to the bright and ruddy west. If others
still seek to join in—"
"Ay, father," said Oliver, "there is a great danger."
"Even as by making a little way," answered the patriarch, "we could
find room at this table for one or two or three more, so may another
State and still another join us, if it will, and even as our natural
progeny increaseth to the third, fourth, tenth generation, let us
trust for centuries to come this happy Union still shall live to lead
her sons to peace, prosperity, and rightful glory."
"But," interposed Oliver, the politician, again, with a double
reference in his thoughts, it would almost seem, to an erring State or
an absent child, "one may break away in wilfulness or crime—what
"Let us lure it back," was old Sylvester's reply, "with gentle
appeals. Remember we are all brethren, and that our alliance is one
not merely of worldly interest, but also of family affection. Let us,
on this hallowed day," he added, "cherish none but kindly thoughts
toward all our kindred, and if him we have least esteemed offer the
hand, let us take it in brotherly regard."
There was a pause of silence once again, which was broken by a
knock at the door. Old Sylvester, having spoken his mind, had fallen
into a reverie, and the Peabodys glancing one to the other, the
question arose, shall the strangers (Mopsey reported them to be two)
whoever they may be, be admitted?
"This is strictly a family festival," it was suggested, "where no
strangers can be rightly allowed."
"May be thieves!" the merchant added.
"Vagabonds, perhaps!" Mrs. Carrack suggested.
"Strangers, anyhow!" said Mrs. Jane Peabody.
The widow Margaret and Miriam were silent and gave utterance to no
In the midst of the discussion old Sylvester suddenly awakening,
and rearing his white locks aloft, in the voice of a trumpet of silver
sound, cried out:— "If they be human, let 'em in!"
As he delivered this emphatic order there was a deep moan at the
door, as of one in great pain, or suffering keenly from anguish of
spirit, and when it was opened to admit the new-comers, the voice of
Chanticleer, raised for the second time, broke in, clear and shrilly,
from the outer darkness.
CHAPTER NINTH. THE NEW-COMERS.
It was old Sylvester himself who opened the door and admitted the
strangers; one of them, the younger, wore a slouched hat which did not
allow his features to be distinctly observed, further than that his
eyes were bright with a strange lustre, and that his face was deadly
pale. He was partly supported by the elder man, whose person was clad
in a long coat, reaching nearly to the ground. They were invited to
the table, but refusing, asked permission to sit at the fire, which
being granted, they took their station on either side of the hearth;
the younger staggered feebly to his seat, and kept his gaze closely
fixed on the other.
"He had better take something," said old Sylvester, looking toward
the young man and addressing the other. "Is your young friend ill?"
"With an ailment food cannot relieve, I fear," the elder man
"Will you not remove your hats?" old Sylvester asked again.
Turning slowly at this question, the young man answered, "We may
not prove fit company for such as you, and if so the event shall
prove, we will pass on and trouble you no further. If every thread
were dry as summer flax," he added, in a tone of deep feeling, "I for
one, am not fit to sit among honest people."
"You should not say so, my son," said old Sylvester; "let us hope
that all men may on a day like this sit together; that, remembering
God's many mercies to us all, in the preservation of our lives, in his
blessed change of seasons, in hours of holy meditation allowed to us,
every man in very gratitude to the Giver of all Good, for this one day
in the year at least, may suspend all evil thoughts and be at peace
with all his fellow-creatures."
The young man turned toward the company at the table, but not so
far that his whole face could be seen.
"Have all who sit about you at that table," he asked, glancing
slowly around, "performed the duty to which you refer, and purged
their bosoms of unkindness toward their fellow-men? Is there none who
grasps the widow's substance? who cherishes scorn and hatred of
kindred? Who judges harshly of the absent?"
There was a movement in different members of the company, but old
Sylvester hushed them with a look, and took upon himself the business
"It may be," said old Sylvester, "that some of us are disquieted,
for be it known to you that one of the children of this household is
absent from among us for causes which may well disturb our thoughts."
"I have heard the story," the young man continued, "and if I know
it aright, these are the truths of that history: There were two men,
friends, once in this neighborhood, Mr. Barbary the preacher, and
your grandson Elbridge Peabody. Something like a year ago the
preacher suddenly disappeared from this region, and the report arose
and constantly spread that he had fallen by the hand of his friend,
that grandchild of yours. It began in a cloudy whisper, afar off, but
swelled from day to day, from hour to hour, till it overshadowed this
whole region, and not the least of the darkness it caused was on this
spot, where this ancient homestead stands, and where the young man
had grown and lived from the hour of his birth. He saw coldness and
avoidance on the highway; he was shrunk from on sabbath-mornings, and
by children; but this was little and could be borne—the world was
against him: but when he saw an aged face averted," he looked at old
Sylvester steadily, "and a mother's countenance sad and hostile—"
"Sad—but not hostile," the widow murmured.
"Sorrowful and troubled, at least," the young man rejoined, "his
life, for all of happiness, was at an end. He must cease to live or he
must restore the ancient sunshine which had lighted the windows of
the home of his boyhood. He knew that his friend had not
fallen by his hand; that he still lived, but in a far distant place
which none but a long and weary journey could reach."
"He should have declared as much," interposed the old patriarch.
"No, sir; his word would have been but as the frail leaf blown idly
from the autumn-bough; nothing but the living presence of his friend
could silence the voice of the accuser. He rose up and departed,
without counsel of any, trusting only in God and his own strength; he
bore with him neither bag nor baggage, scrip nor scrippage—not even
a change of raiment; but with a handful of fruit and the humble
provision which his good mother had furnished for the harvest-field,
he set forth; day and night he journeyed on the track he knew his
friend had taken to that far country, toiling in the fields to secure
food and lodging for the night, and some scant aids to carry him from
place to place. Pushing on fast and far through the western country,
in hunger and distress, passing by the very door of prosperous
kinsfolk, but not tarrying a moment to seek relief."
At this point Mrs. Jane Peabody glanced at her husband.
"And so by one stage and another, hastening on, he reached that
great city in the south, the metropolis of New Orleans; often, as he
hoped, on the very steps of his friend, but never overtaking him, with
fortune at so low an ebb that there he was well-nigh wasted in
strength, hunger-stricken, and tattered in dress; driven to live in
hovels till some chance restored him the little means to advance; so
mean of person that his dearest friend, his nearest kinsman, even his
old playfellow there," pointing to Mr. Tiffany Carrack, "who had
wrestled with him in the hayfield, who had sat with him in childish
talk often and many a time by summer stream-sides, would have passed
him by as one unknown."
The glance which, in speaking this, he directed at Mr. Carrack,
kindled on that young gentleman's countenance a ruby glow, so intense
and fiery that it would seem as if it must have burned up the tawny
tufts before their very eyes, like so much dry stubble. There was a
glow of another kind in the Captain's broad face, which shone like
another sun as he contemplated the two young men, glancing from one
to the other.
"The young man, bent on that one purpose as on life itself," he
continued, silencing his companion, who seemed eager to speak, with a
motion of his finger, "through towns, over waters, upon deserts, still
pursued his way; and, to be brief in a weary history, there, in the
very heart of that great region of gold, among diggers and searchers,
and men distracted in a thousand ways in that perilous hunt, to find
his simple-hearted friend, the preacher, in an out-of-the-way
wilderness among the mountains, exhorting the living, comforting the
sick, consoling the dying—and then, for the first time he learned,
what his friend had carefully concealed before, the motive of his
self-banishment to this distant country."
His companion would have spoken, but the young man hurrying on,
allowed him not a word.
"You who know his history," he continued, addressing the company at
the table—"know what calamity had once come upon the household of
Mr. Barbary, by the unlawful thirst for gold; that he held its love as
the curse of curses; he thought if he could but once throw himself in
its midst, where that passion raged the most, he would be doing his
Master's service most faithfully, more than in this quiet
country-place of peaceful households, but when he learned the peril
and the sore distress of his young friend, he tarried not a moment.
`To restore peace to one injured mind,' he said; `to bring back
harmony to one household is a clear and certain duty which will
out-weigh the vague chances of the good I may do here.' The young man
cherished but one wish; through storm and trial and distress of every
name and hue, if he could but reach home on the day of Thanksgiving,
and stand up there before his assembled kindred a vindicated man, he
would be requited fully for all his toil. He took ship; in tempest,
and with many risks of perishing far away unvindicated, in the middle
of the wild sea—"
The widowed mother could restrain herself no longer, but rushing
forward, she removed the young man's hat from his brow, parted his
locks, and casting herself upon his neck, gave utterance to her
feelings in the affecting language of Scripture, which she had
listened to in the morning: "My son was dead and is alive again—he
was lost and is found!"
Miriam timidly grasped his offered hand and was silent. The company
had risen from the table and gathered around.
"Now," said William Peabody, "I could believe,— be glad to
believe all this, if he had but brought Mr. Barbary with him."
The elder stranger cast back his coat, removed his hat, and
standing forth, said, "I am here, and testify to the truth, in every
word, of all my young friend has declared to you."
On this declaration the Peabodys, without an exception, hastened to
welcome and address the returned Elbridge, and closed upon him in a
solid group of affectionate acknowledgment. Old Sylvester stood
looking loftily down over all from the outer edge of the circle, and
while they were busiest in congratulations and well-wishes, he went
"Stand back!" cried the old man, waving the company aside with
outspread arms, and advancing with extended hand toward his grandson.
"I have an atonement to render here, which I call you all to witness."
"I take your hand, grandfather," Elbridge interposed, "but not in
acknowledgment of any wrong on your part. You have lived an hundred
blameless years, and I am not the one this day to breathe a reproach
for the first time on your spotless age."
Tears filled the old patriarch's eyes, and with a gentle hand he
led his grandson silently to the table, to which the whole company
returned, there being room for Mr. Barbary as well.
At this crisis of triumphant explanation, Mopsey, who had under one
pretext and another, evaded the bringing in of the pie to the last
moment, appeared at the kitchen-door bearing before her, with that air
of extraordinary importance peculiar to the negro countenance on
eventful occasions, a huge brown dish with which she advanced to the
head of the table, and with an emphatic bump, answering to the pithy
speeches of warriors and statesmen at critical moments, deposited the
great Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Looking proudly around, she simply
It was the blossom and crown of Mopsey's life, the setting down and
full delivery to the family of that, the greatest pumpkin-pie ever
baked in that house from the greatest pumpkin ever reared among the
Peabodys in all her long backward recollection of past Thanksgivings,
and her manner of setting it down, was, in its most defiant form, a
clincher and a challenge to all makers and bakers of pumpkin-pies, to
all cutters and carvers, to all diners and eaters, to all friends and
enemies of pumpkin-pie, in the thirty or forty United States. The
Brundages too, might come and look at it if they had a mind to!
The Peabody family, familiar with the pie from earliest infancy,
were struck dumb, and sat silent for the space of a minute,
contemplating its vastness and beauty. Old Sylvester even, with his
hundred years of pumpkin-pie experience, was staggered, and little
Sam jumped up and clapped his hands in his old grandfather's arms,
and struggled to stretch himself across as if he would appropriate it,
by actual possession, to himself. The joy of the Peabodys was
complete, for the lost grandson had returned, and the
Thanksgiving-pie was a glorious one, and if it was the largest share
that was allotted to the returned Elbridge, will any one complain? And
yet at times a cloud came upon the young man's brow,—when dinner
was passed with pleasant family talk, questionings and experiences, as
they sat about the old homestead hearth,—which even the playful
gambols of the children who sported about him like so many friendly
spirits, could not drive away. The heart of cousin Elbridge was not
in their childish freaks and fancies as it had been in other days. The
shining solitude looking in at the windows seemed to call him without.
As though it had caught something of the genial spirit that glowed
within the house, the wind was laid without, and the night softened
with the beauty of the rising moon. With a sadness on his brow which
neither the old homestead nor the pure heavens cast there, Elbridge
went forth into the calm night, and sitting for a while by the road
beneath an ancient locust-tree, where he had often read his book in
the summer-times of boyhood, he communed with himself. He was
happy—what mortal man could be happier?—in all his wishes come to
pass; his very dreams had taken life and proved to be realities and
friends, and yet a sadness he could not drive away followed his
steps. Why was this? That moment, if his voice or any honorable and
sinless motion of his hand could have ordained it, he would have
dismissed himself from life and ceased to be a living partaker in the
scenes about him. Even then—for happy as he was, he dreaded in
prophetic fear, the chances which beset our mortal path. The weight of
mortality was heavy upon the young man's spirit.
Thinking over all the way he had passed, oh, who could answer that
he, with the thronging company of busy passions and desires, could
ever hope to reach an old age and never go astray? Oh, blessed is he
(he thought) who can lie down in death, can close his account with
this world, having safely escaped the temptations, the crimes, the
trials, which make of good men even, in moments of weakness and
misjudgment, the false speaker, the evil-doer, the slanderer, the
coward, the hasty assailant, and, (oh, dreadful perchance,) the
seeming-guilty-murderer himself. Strange thoughts for a prosperous
lover's night, but earth is not heaven. With the sweat of anguish on
his brow he bowed his head as one whose trouble is heavy to be borne.
Yet even then the thought of the sweet heaven over him, with all its
glorious promises, came upon him, and as he lifted up his eyes from
the earth, the moon sailing forth from the clouds, and flooding the
region with silver light, disclosed a figure so gentle and delicate,
and in its features so pure of all our common passions, it seemed as
if his troubled thoughts had summoned a spirit before him from the
better world. As he stood regarding it in melancholy calmness, it
extended towards him a hand.
"No, no," he said, declining the gentle salutation and retiring a
pace, "touch me not, Miriam, I am not worthy of your pure
companionship. If you knew what passed and is passing in my breast,
you would loathe me as a leper."
She was silent and dropped her eyes before him.
"Think not, my gentle mistress," he added presently, "my heart is
changed towards you. The glow is only too bright and warm."
"If you love me not, Elbridge," she interposed quickly, "fear not
to say so, even now. I will bear the pang as best I can."
"You have suffered too much already," he rejoined, touched to the
heart. "My long silence must have been as death to one so kind and
"I have suffered," was all she said. "One word from you in your
long absence would have made me happy."
"It would, I know it would, and yet I could not speak it," Elbridge
replied. "When, with a blight upon my name I left those halls,"
pointing to the old homestead standing in shadow of the autumn trees,
"I vowed to know them no more, that my step should never cross their
threshold, that my voice should never be heard again in those ancient
chambers, that no being of all that household should have a word from
these lips or hands till I could come back a vindicated man; that I
would perish in distant lands, find a silent grave among strangers,
far from mother and her I loved, or that I would come back with my
lost friend, in his living form, to avouch and testify my truth and
"And had you no thought of me in that cruel absence, dear
Elbridge?" asked Miriam.
"Of you!" he echoed, now taking her hand, "of you! When in all
these my wanderings, in weary nights, in lonely days, on seas and
deserts far away, sore of foot and sick at heart, making my couch
beneath the stars, in the tents of savage men, in the shadow of
steeples that know not our holy faith, was it not my religion and my
only solace, that one like you thought of me as I of her, and though
all the world abandoned and distrusted the wanderer, there was one
star in the distant horizon which yet shone true, and trembled with a
hopeful light upon my path."
"Are we not each other's now?" she whispered softly as she lay her
gentle head upon his bosom; "and if we have erred, and repent but
truly, will not He forgive us?"
As she lifted up her innocent face to heaven, did not those gentle
tears which fell unheard by mortal ear, from those fair eyes, drop in
hearing of Him who hears and acknowledges the faintest sound of true
affection, through all the boundless universe, musically as the chime
of holy Sabbath-bells?
"You are my dear wife," he answered, folding her close to his
heart, "and if you forgive and still cherish me, happiness may still
be ours; and although no formal voice has yet called us one, by all
that's sacred in the stillness of the night, and by every honest
beating of this heart, dear Miriam, you are mine, to watch, to tend,
to love, to reverence, in sickness, in sorrow, in care, in joy; by all
that belongs of gaiety to youth, in manhood and in age, we will have
one home, one couch, one fireside, one grave, one God, and one
An old familiar instrument, swept as he well knew by his mother's
fingers, sounded at that moment from the homestead, and hand in hand,
blending their steps, they returned to the Thanksgiving household
CHAPTER TENTH. THE CONCLUSION.
When Elbridge and Miriam re-entered the homestead they found the
best parlor, which they had left in humble dependence on the light of
a single home-made wick, now in full glow, and wide awake in every
corner, with a perfect illumination of lamps and candles; and every
thing in the room had waked up with them. The old brass andirons stood
shining like a couple of bare-headed little grandfathers by the
hearth; the letters in the sampler over the mantel, narrating the
ages of the family, had renewed their color; the tall old clock,
allowed to speak again, stood like an overgrown schoolboy with his
face newly washed, stretching himself up in a corner; the painted
robins and partridges on the wall, now in full feather, strutting and
flying about in all the glory of an unfading plumage; and at the rear
of all the huge back-log on the hearth glowed and rolled in his place
as happy as an alderman at a city feast. The Peabodys too, partook of
the new illumination, and were there in their best looks, scattered
about the room in cheerful groups, while in the midst of all the
widow Margaret, her face lighted with a smile which came there from
far-off years, holding in her hand as we see an angel in the sunny
clouds in old pictures, the ancient harpsichord, which till now had
been laid away and out of use for many a long day of sadness.
While Elbridge and Miriam stood still in wonder at the sudden
change of this living pageant, old Sylvester, his white head carried
proudly aloft, appeared from the sitting-room with Mr. Barbary, a
quaint figure, freed now of his long coat, and bearing no trace of
travel on his neat apparel and face of cheerful gravity. Leaving the
preacher in the centre of the apartment, the patriarch advanced
quietly toward the young couple, and, addressing himself to Elbridge,
said, "My children, I have a favor to ask of you."
"Anything, grandfather!" Elbridge answered promptly.
"You are sure?" Old Sylvester's eyes twinkled as he spoke.
"It would be the pleasure and glory of my young days," Elbridge
answered again, "to crown your noble old age, grandfather, with any
worthy wreath these hands could fashion, and not call it a favor
Old Sylvester, smiling from one to the other, said, "You are to be
The young couple fell back and dropped each the other's hand, which
they had been holding. Miriam trembled and shrunk the farthest away.
"You will not deny me?" the grandfather said again. "You are the
youngest and the last whom I can hope to see joined in that bond which
is to continue our name and race; it is my last request on earth."
At these simple words, turning, and with a fond regard which spoke
all their thoughts, Miriam and Elbridge took again each the other's
hand, and drew close side to side. The company rose, and Mr. Barbary
was on the point of speaking when there emerged upon the family
scene, from an inner chamber, as though he had been a foreigner
entering a fashionable drawing-room, Mr. Tiffany Carrack, in the very
blossom of full dress; his hair in glossy curl, with white neckcloth
and waistcoat of the latest cut and tie, coat and pants of the purest
model, pumps and silk stockings; bearing in his hand a gossamer
pocket-handkerchief, which he shook daintily as he advanced, and
filled the room with a strange fragrance. With mincing step, just
dotting the ground, his whole body shaking like a delicate structure
in danger every moment of tumbling to the ground, he advanced to
where Miriam and Elbridge stood before Mr. Barbary.
"Why really, 'pon my life and honor, Miriam, you are looking quite
charming this evening!"
"She should look so now if ever, Tiffany," said old Sylvester, "for
she is just about to be married to your cousin Elbridge."
"Now you don't mean that?" said Mr. Tiffany, touching the tawny
tufts tenderly with his perfumed pocket-handkerchief, "Oh, woman!
woman! what is your name?" He hesitated for a reply.
"Perfidy?" suggested Mr. Oliver Peabody.
"Yes, that's it. Have I lived to look on this," Mr. Tiffany
continued; "to have my young hopes blighted, the rose of my existence
cropped, and all that. Is it for this," addressing Miriam directly: he
had been talking before to the air: "Is it for this I went
blackberrying with you in my tender infancy! Is it for this that in
the heyday of youth I walked with you to the school-house down the
road! Was it for this that in the prime of manhood I breathed soft
music in your ear at the witching time of night!"
As he arrived at this last question, Mopsey, in her new gown of
gorgeous pattern, and, having laid aside her customary broad-bordered
cap, with a high crowned turban of red, and yellow cotton handkerchief
on her head, appeared at the parlor door. Mr. Tiffany paused: he saw
the Moorish princess before him; rallying, however, he was proceeding
to describe himself as a friendly troubadour, whose affection had
been responded to, when the Captain placing his mouth to his ear, as
in confidence, uttered in a portentous whisper, "THE VAT!"
Mr. Tiffany immediately lost all joint and strength, subsided into
a chair at a distance, and from that moment looked upon the scene like
one in a trance.
"After all," said Mr. Oliver, glancing at him, "I don't see just
now that, in any point of view, this young gentleman is
destined to carry the principles of free government—anywhere."
The family being now all gathered, Mr. Barbary proceeded, employing
a simple and impressive form in use in that family from its earliest
"You, the Bridegroom and the Bride, who now present yourselves
candidates of the covenant of God and of your marriage before him, in
token of your consenting affections and united hearts, please to give
your hands to one another.
"Mr. Bridegroom, the person whom you now take by the hand, you
receive to be your married wife: you promise to love her, to honor
her, to support her, and in all things to treat her as you are now, or
shall hereafter be convinced is by the laws of Christ made your
duty,—a tender husband, with unspotted fidelity till death shall
"Mrs. Bride, the person whom you now hold by the hand you accept to
be your married husband; you promise to love him, to honor him, to
submit to him, and in all things to treat him as you are now or shall
hereafter be convinced, is by the laws of Christ made your duty,—an
affectionate wife, with inviolable loyalty till death shall separate
"This solemn covenant you make, and in this sacred oath bind your
souls in the presence of the Great God, and before these witnesses.
"I then declare you to be husband and wife regularly married
according to the laws of God and the Commonwealth: therefore what God
hath thus joined together let no man put asunder."
When these words had been solemnly spoken the widow Margaret struck
her ancient harpsichord in an old familiar tune of plaintive
tenderness, and the young bridegroom holding Miriam's hand in an
affectionate clasp, answered the music with a little hymn or carol,
often used before among the Peabodys on a like occasion:
Entreat me not—I ne'er will leave thee, Ne'er loose this hand in
bower or hall; This heart, this heart shall ne'er deceive thee, This
voice shall answer ever to thy call.
To which Miriam, after a brief pause of hesitation, in that tone of
chanting lament familiar to her, answered—
Thy God is mine, where'er thou rovest, Where'er thou dwellest there
too will I dwell; In the same grave shall she thou lovest Lie down
with him she loves so well.
Like a cheerful voice answering to these, and wishing, out of the
mysterious darkness of night, all happiness and prosperity to the
young couple, the silver call of Chanticleer arose without, renewed
and renewed again, as if he could never tire of announcing the happy
union to all the country round.
And now enjoyment was at its height among the Peabodys, helped by
Plenty, who, with Mopsey for chief assistant, hurried in, with plates
of shining pippins, baskets of nuts, brown jugs of new cider of
home-made vintage; Mrs. Carrack, who had selected the simplest
garment in her wardrobe, moving about in aid of black Mopsey,
tendering refreshment to her old father first, and Mrs. Jane Peabody
insisting on being allowed to distribute the walnuts with her own
The children, never at rest for a moment, frisked to and fro, like
so many merry dolphins, disporting in the unaccustomed candle-light,
to which they were commonly strangers. They were listened to in all
their childish prattle kindly, by every one, indulged in all their
little foolish ways, as if the grown-up Peabodys for this night at
least, believed that they were indeed little citizens of the kingdom
of heaven, straying about this wicked world on parole. Uncle Oliver,
once, spreading his great Declaration-of-Independence
pocket-handkerchief on his knees, attempted to put them to the
question as to their learning. They all recognised Dr. Franklin, with
his spectacles thrown up on his brow, among the signers, but denying
all knowledge of anything more, ran away to the Captain, who was busy
building, a dozen at a time, paper packet ships, and launching them
upon the table for a sea.
In the very midst of the mirthful hubbub old Sylvester called
Robert and William to his side, and was heard to whisper, "Bring 'em
in." William and Robert were gone a moment and returned, bearing under
heavy head-way, tumbling and pitching on one side constantly, two
ancient spinning wheels, Mopsey following with snowy flocks of wool
and spinning sticks. Old Sylvester arose, and delivering a stick and
flock to Mrs. Carrack and Mrs. Jane Peabody, requested them, in a mild
voice and as a matter of course already settled, "to begin." A
"Yes, anything you choose to-night, father."
Rolling back their sleeves, adjusting their gowns, the wheels being
planted on either side of the fire-place, Mrs. Jane and Mrs. Carrack,
stick in hand, seized each on her allotment of wool, and sent the
wheels whirling. It was a cheerful sight to see the two matrons
closing in upon the wheel, retiring, closing in again—whose wheel is
swiftest, whose thread truest? Now Mrs. Jane—now Mrs. Carrack. If
either, Mrs. Carrack puts the most heart in her work.
"Now she looks like my Nancy," said old Sylvester in a glow,
"as when she used to spin and sing, in the old upper chamber."
Away they go—whose thread is swiftest, whose thread the truest
While swift and free the contest wages, the parlor-door standing
open, and beyond that the door of the sitting-room, look down the long
perspective! Do you not see in the twilight of the kitchen fire a
dark head, lighting up, as in flashes, with a glittering row of
teeth, with a violent agitation of the body, with gusty ha-ha's, and
fragments of an uproarious chant flying through the door something to
Oh, de fine ladies, how dey do spin—spin—spin, Like de gals long
ago—long ago! I bet to'der one don't win—win—win, Kase de
diamond-flowers on her fingers grow. Lay down your white gloves, take
up de wool, Round about de whirly wheel go; Back'ard and for'ard
nimble feet pull, Like de nice gals long—long ago!
Silence follows, in which nothing is observable from that quarter
more than a great pair of white eyes rolling about in the partial
darkness. Who was other than pleased that in spite of Mopsey's
decision, old Sylvester determined that if either, Mrs. Carrack's
work was done a little the soonest, and that her thread was a little
During the contest the old merchant and his wife had conversed
closely, apart; the green shade had lost its terrors, and he could
look on it steadily, now; and at the close William Peabody approaching
the fire-place, drew from his bosom the old parchment deed, which in
his hunger for money had so often disquieted his visits to the
homestead, and thrust it into the very heart of the flame, which soon
shrivelled it up, and, conveying it out at the chimney, before the
night was past spread it in peaceful ashes over the very grounds
which it had so long disturbed.
"So much for that!" said the old merchant, as the last flake
vanished; "and now, nephew," he addressed himself to Elbridge,
"fulfilling an engagement connected with your return, I resign to you
all charge of your father's property."
"Did you bring anything with you from the Gold Region?" Mrs.
"Not one cent, Aunt," Elbridge answered promptly.
"You may add, William," pursued Mrs. Carrack, "the sums of mine you
have in hand."
William Peabody was pausing on this proposition, the sums in
question being at that very moment embarked in a most profitable
Upon the very height of the festivity, when it glowed the brightest
and was most musical with mirthful voices, there had come to the
casement a moaning sound as if borne upon the wind from a distance, a
wailing of anguish, at the same time like and unlike that of human
suffering. By slow advances it approached nearer and nearer to the
homestead, and whenever it arose it brought the family enjoyment to a
momentary pause. It had drawn so near that it sounded now again, as if
in mournful lamentation, at the very door, when Mopsey, her dark face
almost white, and her brow wrinkled with anxiety, rushed in.
"Grandfather," she said, addressing old Sylvester, "blind Sorrel's
dying in the door-yard."
There was not one in all that company whom the announcement did not
cause to start; led by old Sylvester, they hastily rose, and conducted
by Mopsey, followed to the scene. Blind Sorrel was lying by the
moss-grown horse-trough, at the gate.
"I noticed her through the day," said Oliver, "wandering up the
lane as if she was seeking the house."
"The death-agony must have been upon her then," said William
Peabody, shading his eyes with his hand.
"She remembered, perhaps, her young days," old Sylvester added,
"when she used to crop the door-yard grass."
Mopsey, in her solicitude to have the death-bed of poor blind
Sorrel properly attended, had brought with her, in the event of the
paling or obscuration of the moon, a dark lantern, which she held
tenderly aside as though the poor old creature still possessed her
sight; immoveable herself as though she had been a swarthy image in
stone, while, on the other side, William Peabody, near her head, stood
gazing upon the animal with a fixed intensity, breathing hard and
watching her dying struggle with a rigid steadiness of feature almost
painful to behold.
"Has carried me to mill many a day," he said; "some pleasantest
hours of my life spent upon her back, sauntering along at early day."
"Your mother rode her to meeting," Sylvester addressed his second
son, "on your wedding-day, Oliver. Sorrel was of a long-lived race."
"She was the gentlest horse-creature you ever owned, father," added
Mrs. Carrack, turning affectionately toward old Sylvester, "and
humored us girls when we rode her as though she had been a
"I'm not so sure of that," Mr. Tiffany Carrack rejoined, "for she
has dumped me in a ditch more than once."
"That was your own careless riding, Tiffany," said the Captain, "I
don't believe she had the least ill-will towards any living creature,
man or beast."
It was observed that whenever William Peabody spoke, blind Sorrel
turned her feeble head in that direction, as if she recognised and
singled out his voice from all the others.
"She knows your voice, father, even in her darkness," said the
Captain, "as the sailor tells his old captain's step on deck at night."
"Well she may, Charles," the merchant replied, "for she was foaled
the same day I was born."
The old creature moaned and heaved her side fainter and fainter.
"Speak to her, William," said the old grandfather.
William Peabody bent down, and in a tremulous voice said, "Sorrel,
do you know me?"
The poor blind creature lifted up her aged head feebly towards him,
heaved her weary side, gasped once and was gone. The moon, which had
been shining with a clear and level light upon the group of faces,
dipped at that moment behind the orchard-trees, and at the same
instant the light in the lantern flickering feebly, was extinguished.
"What do you mean by putting the light out, Mopsey," old Sylvester
"I knew de old lamp would be goin' out, Massa, soon as ever blind
Sorrel die; I tremble so I do' no what I'm saying." It was poor
Mopsey's agitation which had shaken out the light.
"Never shall we know a more faithful servant, a truer friend, than
poor blind Sorrel," they all agreed; and bound still closer together
by so simple a bond as common sympathy in the death of the poor old
blind family horse, they returned within the homestead.
They were scarcely seated again when William Peabody, turning to
Mrs. Carrack, said, "Certainly!" referring to the transfer of the
money of hers in his hands on loan, to Elbridge, "he will need some
ready money to begin the world with."
All was cheerful friendship now; the family, reconciled in all its
members, sitting about their aged father's hearth on this glorious
Thanksgiving night; the gayer mood subsiding, a sudden stillness fell
upon the whole house, such as precedes some new turn in the discourse.
Old Sylvester Peabody sat in the centre of the family, moving his
body to and fro gently, and lifting his white head up and down upon
his breast; his whole look and manner strongly arresting the attention
of all; of the children not the least. After a while the old man
paused, and looking mildly about, addressed the household.
"This is a happy day, my children," he said, "but the seeds of it
were sown, you must allow an old man to say, long, long ago. If one
good Being had not died in a far country and a very distant time, we
could not have this comfort now."
The children watched the old grandfather more closely.
"I am an old man, and shall be with you, I feel, but for a little
while yet; as one who stands at the gate of the world to come, looking
through, and through which he is soon to pass, will you not allow me
to believe that I thought of the hopes of your immortal spirits in
As being the eldest, and answering for the rest, William Peabody
replied, "We will."
"Did I not teach you then, or strive my best to teach, that there
was but one Holy God?"
"You did, father—you did!" the widow Margaret answered.
"That his only Son died for us?"
"Often—often!" said Mrs. Carrack.
"That we must love one another as brethren?"
"At morning and night, in winter and summer; by the hearth and in
the field, you did," Oliver rejoined.
"That there is but one path to happiness and peace here and
hereafter," he continued, "through the performance of our duty towards
our Maker, and our fellow men of every name, and tongue, and clime,
and color? to love your dear Native Land, as she sits happy among the
nations, but to remember this, our natural home, is but the
ground-nest and cradle from which we spread our wings to fly through
all the earth with hope and kindly wishes for all men. If the air is
cheerful here, and the sun-light pleasant, let no barrier or wall shut
it in, but pray God, with reverent hope, it spread hence to the
farthest lands and seas, till all the people of the earth are lighted
up and made glad in the common fellowship of our blessed Saviour, who
is, was, and will be evermore— to all men guide, protector, and
ensample. May He be so to us and ours, to our beloved home and happy
Fatherland, in all the time to come!"
The old man bowed his head in presence of his reconciled household,
and fell into a sweet slumber; not one of all that company but echoed
the old man's prayer—"May he be so to us and ours, to our beloved
Home and happy Fatherland in all the time to come!"
On this, on every day of Thanksgiving and Praise, be that old man's
blessed prayer in all quarters, among all classes and kindred,
everywhere repeated: "May He be so to us and ours, to our beloved Home
and happy Fatherland in all the time to come!"
And when, like that good old man, we come to bow our heads at the
close of a long, long life, may we, like him, fall into a gentle
sleep, conscious that we have done the work of charity, and spread
about our path, wherever it lead, peace and good-will among men!