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The ReUnion, Thanksgiving Story by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

     “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness, but thou hast in love to
     my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast
     all my sins behind thy back.”—Isaiah.

A portly elderly gentleman, with one hand in his breeches pocket, and the fingers of the other drumming a disconsolate rub-a-dub upon the window glass of an elegant mansion near Boston Common, is the personage I wish to call your attention to, friend reader, for the space of a few moments. The facts of my story are commonplace, and thereby the more probable. The names of the dramatis personæ I shall introduce, will be the only part of my subject imaginary. Therefore, the above-described old gentleman, whom we found and left drumming his rub-a-dub upon the window panes, we shall call Mr. Joel Newschool. To elucidate the matter more clearly, I would beg leave to say, that Mr. Joel Newschool, though now a wealthy and retired merchant, with all the “pomp and circumstance” of fortune around him, could—if he chose—well recollect the day when his little feet were shoeless, red and frost-bitten, as he plodded through the wheat and rye stubble of a Massachusetts farmer, for whom he acted in early life the trifling character of a “cow boy.”

Yes, Joel could remember this if he chose; but to the vain heart of a proud millionaire, such reflections seldom come to the surface. Like hundreds of other instances in the history of our countrymen, by a prolonged life of enterprise and good luck, Joel Newschool found himself, at the age of four-and-sixty, a very wealthy, if not a happy man. With his growing wealth, grew up around him a large family. Having served an apprenticeship to farming, he allowed but a brief space to elapse between his freedom suit and portion, and his wedding-day. Joel and his young and fresh country spouse, with light hearts and lighter purses, came to Boston, settled, and thus we find them old and wealthy. In the heart and manners of Mrs. Newschool, fortune made but slight alteration; but the accumulation of dollars and exalted privileges that follow wealth, had wrought many changes in the heart and feelings of her husband.

The wear of time, which is supposed to dim the eye, seemed to improve the ocular views of Joel Newschool amazingly, for he had been enabled in his late years to see that a vast difference of caste existed between those that tilled the soil, wielded the sledge hammer, or drove the jack-plane, and those that were merely the idle spectators of such operations. He no longer groped in the darkness of men who believed in such fallacies as that wealth gave man no superiority over honest poverty! In short, Mr. Newschool had kept pace with all the fine notions and ostentatious feelings so peculiar to the mushroom aristocracy of the nineteenth century. He gloried in his pride, and yet felt little or none of that happiness that the bare-footed, merry cow boy enjoyed in the stubble field. But such is man.

With all his comfortable appurtenances wealth could buy and station claim, the retired merchant was not a happy man. Though his expensive carriage and liveried driver were seen to roll him regularly to the majestic church upon the Sabbath: though he was a patient listener to the massive organ's spiritual strains and the surpliced minister's devout incantations: though he defrauded no man, defamed not his neighbor, was seeming virtuous and happy, there was at his heart a pang that turned to lees the essence of his life.

Joel Newschool had seen his two sons and three daughters, men and women around him; they all married and left his roof for their own. One, a favorite child, a daughter, a fine, well-grown girl, upon whom the father's heart had set its fondest seal—she it was that the hand of Providence ordained to humble the proud heart of the sordid millionaire. Cecelia Newschool, actuated by the noblest impulses of nature, had for her husband sought “a man, not a money chest,” and this circumstance had made Cecelia a severed member of the Newschool family, who could not, in the refined delicacy of their senses, tolerate such palpable condescension as to acknowledge a tie that bound them to the wife of a poor artizan, whatever might be his talents or integrity as a man.

Francis Fairway had made honorable appeal to the heart of Cecelia, and she repaid his pains with the full gift of a happy wife. She counted not his worldly prospects, but yielded all to his constancy. She wished for nothing but his love, and with that blessed beacon of life before her, she looked but with joy and hope to the bright side of the sunny future.

The home of the artizan was a plain, but a happy one. Loving and beloved, Cecelia scarce felt the loss of her sumptuous home and ties of kindred. But not so the proud father and the patient mother, the haughty sisters and brothers; they felt all; they attempted to conceal all, that bitterness of soul, the canker that gnaws upon the heart when we will strive to stifle the better parts of our natures.

Time passed on; one, two, or three years, are quickly passed and gone. Though this little space of time made little or no change in the families of the proud and indolent relatives, it brought many changes in the eventful life of the young artizan and his wife. Two sweet little babes nestled in the mother's arms, and a new and splendid invention of the poor mechanic was reaping the wonder and admiration of all Europe and America.

This was salt cast upon the affected wounds of the haughty relatives. Now ashamed of their petty, poor, contemptible arrogance, they could not in their hearts find space to welcome or partake of the proud dignity with which honorable industry had crowned the labors of the young mechanic.

It was a cold day in November; the wind was twirling and whistling through the trees on the Common; the dead leaves were dropping seared and yellow to the earth, admonishing the old gentleman whom we left drumming upon the window, that—

    “Such was life!

The old gentleman thumped and thumped the window pane with a dreary sotto voce accompaniment for some minutes, when he was interrupted by an aged, pious-looking matron, who dropped her spectacles across the book in her lap, as she sat in her chair by the fireside, and said—

“Joel.”

“Umph?” responded the old gentleman.

“The Lord has spared us to see another Thanksgiving day, should we live to see to-morrow.”

“He has,” responded Mr. Newschool.

“I've been thinking, Joel, that how ungrateful to God we are, for the blessings, and prosperity, and long life vouchsafed to us, by a good and benevolent Almighty.”

“Rebecca,” said the faltering voice of the rich man, “I know, I feel all this as sensitive as you can possibly feel it.”

“I was thinking, Joel,” continued the good woman, “to-morrow we shall, God permitting, be with our children and friends once again, together.”

“I hope so, I trust we shall,” answered the husband.

“And I was thinking, Joel,” resumed the wife, “that the exclusion of our own child, Cecelia, from the family re-unions, from joining us in returning thanks to God for his mercy and preservation of us, is cruel and offensive to Him we deign to render up our prayers.”

“Rebecca,” said the old gentleman, “I but agree with you in this, you have but anticipated my feelings in the matter. I have long fought against my better feelings and offended a discriminating God, I know. Ashamed to confess my stubbornness and frailty before, I now freely confess an altered feeling and better determination.”

“Then, Joel, let our daughter Cecelia and her husband join with us to-morrow in rendering our thanks to a just God and kind Providence.”

“Be it so, Rebecca. God truly knows it will be a millstone relieved from my heart. I wish it done.”

Three family re-unions, three days of Thanksgiving had been held in the paternal mansion of the Newschools, since Cecelia had left it for the humble home of the poor artizan. But their several re-unions were clouded, gloomy, unsocial affairs; there was a gap in the social circle of the Newschool family, as they met on Thanksgiving day, which all felt, but none hinted at. It was hard for a parent to invoke blessings on a portion, but not all, of his own flesh and blood; it was hard to return thanks for those dear ones present, and wonder whether the absent and equally dear had aught to be thankful for, whether instead of health and comfort, they might not be sorrowing in disease, poverty, and despair! Such things as these, when they obtrude upon the mind, the soul, are not likely to make merry meetings. And such was the position and nature of the re-union upon the late Thanksgiving days, at the Newschool mansion. But better feelings were at work, and a happy change was at hand.

Several carriages had already drove up to the door of Mr. Newschool, Sen., and let down the different branches of the Newschool family. A brighter appearance seemed gathering over the household than was usual of late on Thanksgiving day, in the old family mansion. As each party came, the good old mother duly informed them of the invitation given, and the hope indulged in, that Cecelia and her husband would join the family circle that day, in their re-union.

The proud sisters seemed willing, at last, to cast away their pride, and greet their sister as became Christian and sensible women. The brothers, chagrined at the unmanliness of their conduct, now gladly joined their approval of what betokened, in fact, a happy family meeting. As the clock on old South Church tower pealed out eleven, a pretty, smiling young mother, in plain, but unexceptionable, neat attire, ascended the large stone steps of the Newschool mansion, with a light and graceful step, bearing a sleeping child in her arms.

Another moment, and Cecelia Fairway was in the arms of her old mother; the smiles, kisses and tears of the whole family party were bountifully showered upon poor Cecelia, and her sweet little daughter. Imagination may always better paint such a scene, than could the feeble pen describe it. The deep and gushing eloquence of human nature, when thus long pent, bursts forth, sweeping the meagre devises of the pen before it, like snow-flakes before the mighty mountain avalanche.

Oh! it was a happy sight, to see that party at their Thanksgiving dinner.

Old Mr. Newschool, in his long and fervent prayer to the throne of grace, expressed the day the happiest one of his long life. Quickly flew the hours by, and as the shades of evening gathered around, Francis Fairway was announced with a carriage for his wife's return home. Francis Fairway, the artizan, was a proud, high-minded man, conscious of his own position and merits, and scorned any base means to conciliate the favor and patronage of his superiors in rank, birth, or education. His deportment to the Newschool family was frank and manly; and they met it with a sense of just appreciation and dignity, that did them honor. Francis met a generous welcome, and the evening of Thanksgiving day was spent in a happy re-union indeed. Upon Cecelia's and her husband's return home, she found a small note thrust in the bosom of her child, bearing this inscription—

    “Grandfather's Re-union gift to little Cecelia; Boston, Nov., 184-.”

The note contained five $1000 bills on the old Granite Bank of Boston, and which were duly placed in the old Bank fire-proof, to the account of the little heir, the enterprise of the artizan having placed him above the necessity of otherwise disposing of Joel Newschool's gift to the grandchild.

 
 
 

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