MISS JOHNS meets the new-comer with as large a share of kindness as she can force into her manner; but her welcome lacks, somehow, the sympathetic glow to which Adèle has been used ; it has not even the spontaneity and heartiness which had belonged to the greeting of that worldly woman, Mrs. Brindlock. And as the wondering little stranger passes up the path, and into the door of the parsonage, with her hand in that of the spinster, she cannot help contrasting the one cold kiss of the tall lady in black with the shower of warm ones which her old godmother had bestowed at parting. Yet in the eye of the Doctor sister Eliza had hardly ever worn a more beaming look, and he was duly grateful for the strong interest which she evidently showed in the child of his poor friend. She had equipped herself indeed in her best silk and with her most elaborate toilet, and had exhausted all her strategy, — whether in respect of dress, of decorations for the chamber, or of the profuse supper which was in course of preparation, — to make a profound and favorable impression upon the heart of the stranger.
The spinster was not a little mortified at her evident want of success, most notably in respect to the elaborate arrangements of the chamber of the young guest, who seemed to regard the dainty hangings of the little bed, and the scattered ornaments, as matters of course ; but making her way to the window which commanded a view of both garden and orchard, Adèle clapped her hands with glee at sight of the flaming hollyhocks and the trees laden with golden pippins. It was, indeed, a pretty scene : silvery traces of the brook sparkled in the green meadow below the orchard, and the hills beyond were checkered by the fields of buckwheat in broad patches of white bloom, and these again were skirted by masses of luxuriant wood that crowned all the heights. To the eye of Adèle, used only to the bare hill-sides and scanty olive-orchards of Marseilles, the view was marvellously fair.
“ Tiens ! there are chickens and doves,” said she, still gazing eagerly out ; “oh, I am sure I shall love this new home ! ”
And thus saying, she tripped back from the window to where Miss Eliza was admiringly intent upon the unpacking and arranging of the little wardrobe of her guest. Adèle, in the flush of her joyful expectations from the scene that had burst upon her out of doors, now prattled more freely with the spinster,—tossing out the folds of her dresses, as they successively came to light, with her dainty fingers, and giving some quick, girlish judgment upon each.
“ This godmother gave me, dear, good soul! — and she sewed this bow upon it; is n't it coquette ? And there is the white muslin,—oh, how crushed ! — that was for my church-dress, first communion, you know; but papa said, ‘Better wait,’ — so I never wore it.”
Thus woman and child grew into easy acquaintance over the great trunk of Adèle : the latter plunging her little hands among the silken folds of dress after dress with the careless air of one whose every wish had been petted ; and the spinster forecasting the pride she would herself take in accompanying this little sprite, in these French robes, to the house of her good friends, the Hapgoods, or in exciting the wonderment of those most excellent people, the Tourtelots.
Meantime Reuben, with a resolute show of boyish indifference, has been straying off with Phil Elderkin, although he has caught a glimpse of the carriage at the door. Later he makes his way into the study, where the Doctor, after giving him kindly reproof for not being at home to welcome them, urges upon him the duty of kindness to the young stranger who has come to make her home with them, and trusts that Providence may overrule her presence there to the improvement and blessing of both. It is, in fact, a little lecture which the good, but prosy Doctor pronounces to the boy ; from which he slipping away, so soon as a good gap occurs in the discourse, strolls with a jaunty affectation of carelessness into the parlor. His Aunt Eliza is there now seated at the table, and Adèle standing by the hearth, on which a little fire has just been kindled. She gives a quick, eager look at him, under which his assumed carelessness vanishes in an instant.
“This is Adèle, our little French guest, Reuben.”
The lad throws a quick, searching glance upon her, but is abashed by the look of half-confidence and half-merriment that he sees twinkling in her eye. The boy’s awkwardness seems to infect her, too, for a moment.
“ I should think, Reuben, you would welcome Adèle to the parsonage,” said the spinster.
And Reuben, glancing again from under his brow, sidles along the table, with far less of ease than he had worn when he came whistling through the hall,— sidles nearer and nearer, till she, with a coy approach that seems to be full of doubt, meets him with a little furtive hand-shake. Then he, retiring a step, leans with one elbow on the friendly table, eying her curiously, and more boldly when he discovers that her look is downcast, and that she seems to be warming her feet at the blaze.
Miss Johns has watched narrowly this approach of her two protégés, with an interest quite uncommon to her ; and now, with a policy that would have honored a more adroit tactician, she slips quietly from the room.
Reuben feels freer at this, knowing that the gray eye is not upon the watch ; Adèle too, perhaps ; at any rate, she lifts her face with a look that invites Reuben to speech.
" You came in a ship, did n't you ? ”
“ Oh, yes ! a big, big ship ! ” “ I should like to sail in a ship,” said Reuben ; “ did you like it ? ”
“ Not very much,” said Adèle, “ the deck was so slippery, and the waves were so high, oh, so high ! ” — and the little maid makes an explanatory gesture with her two hands, the like of which for grace and expressiveness Reuben had certainly never seen in any girl of Ashfield. His eyes twinkled at it.
“ Were you afraid ? ” said he.
“ Oh, not much.”
“ Because you know,” said Reuben, consolingly, "if the ship had sunk, you could have come on shore in the small boats.” He saw a merry laugh of wonderment threatening in her face, and continued authoritatively, “Nat Boody has been in a sloop, and he says they always carry small boats to pick up people when the big ships go down.”
Adèle laughed outright. “But how would they carry the bread, and the stove, and the water, and the anchor, and all the things ? Besides, the great waves would knock a small boat in pieces.”
Reuben felt a humiliating sense of being no match for the little stranger on sea topics, so he changed the theme.
“Are you going to Miss Onthank's ? ”
“ That's a funny name,” says Adèle ; “ that’s the school, is n’t it ? Yes, I suppose I ’ll go there: you go, don't you ? ”
“Yes,” says Reuben, “but I don’t think I 'll go very long.”
“ Why not ? ” says Adèle.
“ I’m getting too big to go to a girls’ school,” said Reuben.
“ Oh! ” — and there was a little playful malice in the girl’s observation that piqued the boy.
“ Do the scholars like her ? ” continued Adèle.
“Pretty well,” said Reuben; “but she hung up a little girl about as big as you, once, upon a nail in a corner of the school-room.”
“ Quelle bête !” exclaimed Adèle.
“That’s French, is n’t it?”
“Yes, and it means she 's a bad woman to do such things.”
In this way they prattled on, and grew into a certain familiarity : the boy entertaining an immense respect for her French, and for her knowledge of the sea and ships ; but stubbornly determined to maintain the superiority which he thought justly to belong to his superior age and sex.
That evening, after the little people were asleep, the spinster and the Doctor conferred together in regard to Adèle. It was agreed between them that she should enter at once upon her school duties, and that particular inquiry concerning her religious beliefs, or particular instruction on that score,
— further than what belonged to the judicious system of Miss Onthank,— should be deferred for the present. At the same time the Doctor enjoined upon his sister the propriety of commencing upon the next Saturday evening the usual instructions in the Shorter Catechism, and of insisting upon punctual attendance upon the family devotions. The good Doctor hoped by these appointed means gradually to ripen the religious sensibilities of the little stranger, so that she might be prepared for that stern denunciation of those follies of the Romish Church amid which she had been educated, and that it would be his duty at no distant day to declare to her.
The spinster had been so captivated by a certain air of modish elegance in Adèle as to lead her almost to forget the weightier obligations of her Christian duty toward her. She conceived that she would find in her a means of recovering some influence over Reuben, — never doubting that the boy would be attracted by her frolicsome humor, and would be eager for her companionship. It was possible, moreover, that there might be some appeal to the boy's jealousies, when he found the favors which he had spurned were lavished upon Adèle. It was therefore in the best of temper and with the airiest of hopes (though not altogether spiritual ones) that Miss Eliza conducted the discussion with the Doctor. In two things only they had differed, and in this each had gained and each lost a point. The Doctor utterly refused to conform his pronunciation to the rigors which Miss Eliza prescribed ; for him Adèle should be always and only Adaly. On the other hand, the parson’s exactions in regard to sundry modifications of the little girl’s dress miscarried: the spinster insisted upon all the furbelows as they had come from the hands of the French modiste ; and in this she left the field with flying colors.
The next day Doctor Johns wrote to his friend Maverick, announcing the safe arrival of his child at Ashfield, and spoke in terms which were warm for him, of the interest which both his sister and himself felt in her welfare. “ He was pained,” he said, “to perceive that she spoke almost with gayety of serious things, and feared greatly that her keen relish for the beauties and delights of this sinful world, and her exuberant enjoyment of mere temporal blessings, would make it hard to wean her from them and to centre her desires upon the eternal world. But, my friend, all things are possible with God: and I shall diligently pray that she may return to you, in a few years, sobered in mind, and a self-denying missionary of the true faith.”
No such event could take place in Ashfield as the arrival of this young stranger at the parsonage, without exciting a world of talk up and down the street. There were stories that she came of a vile Popish family, and there were those who gravely believed that the poor little creature had made only a hair-breadth escape from the thongs of the Inquisition. There were few even of those who knew that she was the daughter of a wealthy gentleman, now domiciled in France, and an old friend of the Doctor’s, who did not look upon her with a tender interest, as one miraculously snatched by the hands of the good Doctor from the snares of perdition. The gay trappings of silks and ribbons in which she paced up the aisle of the meeting-house upon her first Sunday, under the patronizing eye of the stern spinster, were looked upon by the more elderly worshippers — most of all by the mothers of young daughters — as the badges of the Woman of Babylon, and as fit belongings to those accustomed to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Even Dame Tourtelot. in whose pew the face of Miss Almira waxes yellow between two great saffron bows, commiserates the poor heathen child who has been decked like a lamb for the sacrifice. “I wonder Miss Eliza don’t pull off them ribbons from the little minx,” said she, as she marched home in the “ intermission,” locked commandingly to the arm of the Deacon.
“Waäl, I s’pose they ’re paid for,” returns the Deacon.
“ What’s that to do with it, Tourtelot ? ”
“ Waäl, Huldy, we do pootty much all we can for Almiry in that line : this ’ere Maverick, I guess, doos the same. What’s the odds, arter all ?”
“Odds enough, Tourtelot,” as the poor man found before bedtime : he had no flip.
The Elderkins, however, were more considerate. Very early after her arrival. Adèle had found her way to their homestead, under the guidance of Miss Eliza, and by her frank, demonstrative manner had established herself at once in the affections of the whole family. The Squire, indeed, had rallied the parson not a little, in his boisterous, hearty fashion, upon his introduction of such a dangerous young Jesuit into so orthodox a parish.
At all which, so seriously uttered as to take the Doctor fairly aback, good Mrs. Elderkin shook her finger warningly at the head of the Squire, and said, “Now, for shame, Giles!”
Good Mrs. Elderkin was, indeed, the pattern woman of the parish in all charitable deeds, — not only outside, (where so many charitable natures find their limits,) but indoors. With gentle speech and gentle manner, she gave, may-be, her occasional closet-counsel to the Squire; but most times her efforts to win him to a more serious habit of thought are covered under the shape of some charming plea for a kindness to herself or the “ dear girls,” which she knows that he will not have the hardihood to resist. And even this method she does not push too far, — making it a cardinal point in her womanly strategy that his home shall be always grateful to the Squire, — that he shall never be driven from it by any thought or suspicion of her exactions. Thus, if Grace — who is her oldest daughter, and almost woman grown — has some evening appointment at Bible class, or other such gathering, and, the boys being out, appeals timidly to the father, good Mrs. Elderkin says, —
"I am afraid your papa is too tired, Grace ; do let him enjoy himself.”
At which the Squire, shaking off his lethargy, says, —
“ Get your things, child ! ”
And as he goes out with Grace, he is rewarded by one of those tender smiles upon the lip of the mother which captivated him twenty years before, and which still make his fireside the most cherished spot in the town.
No wonder that the little half-orphaned creature, Adèle, with her explosive warmth of heart, is kindly received among the Elderkins. Phil was some three years her senior, a ruddy-faced, open-hearted fellow, who had been wellnurtured, like his two elder brothers, but in whom a certain waywardness just now appearing was attributed very much, by the closely observing mother, to the influence of that interesting, but mischievous boy, Reuben. Phil was the superior in age, indeed, and in muscle, (as we may find proof,) but in nerve-power the more delicate-featured boy of the parson outranked him.
Rose Elderkin was a year younger than the French stranger, and a marvellously fair type of New England girlbeauty: light brown hair in unwieldy masses ; skin wonderfully clear and transparent, and that flushed at a rebuke, or a run down the village street, till her cheeks blazed with scarlet; a lip delicately thin, but blood-red, and exquisitely cut; a great hazel eye, that in her moments of glee, or any occasional excitement, fairly danced and sparkled with a kind of insane merriment, and at other times took on a demure and pensive look, which to future wooers might possibly prove the more dangerous of the two. The features named make up a captivating girlish beauty, but one which, under a New England atmosphere, is rarely carried forward into womanhood. The lips grow pinched and bloodless ; the skin blanched against all proof of blushes ; the eyes sunken, and the blithe sparkle that was so full of infectious joy is lost forever in that exhausting blaze of girlhood. But we make no prophecy in regard to the future of our little friend Rose. Adèle thinks her very charming; Reuben is disposed to rank her—whatever Phil may think or say — far above Suke Boody. And in his reading of the delightful “ Children of the Abbey,” which he has stolen, (by favor of Phil, who owns the book.) he has thought of Rose when Amanda first appeared ; and when the divine Amanda is in tears, he has thought of Rose ; and when Amanda smiles, with Mortimer kneeling at her feet, he has still thought of Rose.
These four, Adèle, Phil, Rose, and Reuben are fellow-attendants at the school of the excellent Miss Betsey Onthank. The schoolhouse itself is a modest one, and stands upon a crossroad leading from the main street of the village, and is upon the side of the little brook which courses through the valley lying to the westward. A halfdozen or more of sugar-maples stand near it, and throw over it a grateful shade in August. In March these trees are exposed to a series of tappings on the part of the more mechanically inclined of the pupils, — Phil Elderkin being chiefest,—and gimlets, quills, and dinner-pails are brought into requisition with prodigious results. In the heats of summer, and when the brook is low, adventurous ones, of whom Reuben is chiefest, undertake to dam its current; and it being traditional in the school that one day a strange fisherman once took out two trout, half as long as Miss Onthank’s ruler, from under the bridge by which the high road crosses the brook, Reuben plies every artifice, whether of bent pins, or hooks purchased from the Tew partners, (unknown to Aunt Eliza, who is prejudiced against fish-hooks as dangerous,) to catch a third ; and finding other resources vain, he punches two or three holes through the bottom of his little dinner-pail, to make a scoop-net of it, and manfully wades under the bridge to explore all the hollows of that unknown region. While in this precarious position, he is reported by some timid child to the mistress, who straightway sallies out, ferule in hand and cap-strings flying, and orders him to land ; which Reuben, taking warning by the threatening tone of the old lady, refuses, unless she promises not to flog him ; and the kind-hearted mistress, fearing too long exposure of the lad to the chilly water, gives the promise. But with the tell-tale pail dangling at his belt, he does not escape so easily the inquisitive Aunt Eliza.
The excellent Miss Onthank—for by this title the parson always compliments her—is a type of a schoolmistress which is found no longer: grave, stately, with two great moppets of hair on either side her brow, (as in the old engravings of Louis Philippe’s good queen Amelia,) very resolute, very learned in the boundaries of all Christian and heathen countries, patient to a fault, with a marvellous capacity for pointing out with her bodkin every letter to some wee thing at its first stage of spelling, and yet keeping an eye upon all the school-room ; reading a chapter from the Bible, and saying a prayer each morning upon her bended knees,—the little ones all kneeling in concert, — with an air that would have adorned the most stately prioress of a convent; using her red ferule betimes on little, mischievous, smarting hands, yet not over-severe, and kind beneath all her gravity. She regards Adèle with a peculiar tenderness, and hopes to make herself the humble and unworthy instrument of redeeming her from the wicked estate in which she has been reared. And Adèle, though not comprehending the excess of her zeal, and opening her eyes in great wonderment when the good woman talks about her “ providential deliverance from the artful snares of the adversary,” is as free in her talk with the grave mistress as if she were her mother confessor.
Phil and Reuben, being the oldest boys of the school, resent the indignity of being still subject to woman rule by a concerted series of rebellious outbreaks. Some six or eight months after the arrival of Adèle upon the scene, this rebel attitude culminates in an incident that occasions a change of programme. The rebels on their way to school espy a few clam-shells before some huckster’s door, and, putting two or three in their pockets, seize the opportunity when the good lady’s eyes are closed in the morning prayer to send two or three scaling about the room, which fall with a clatter among the startled little ones. One, aimed more justly by Reuben, strikes the grave mistress full upon the forehead, and leaves a red cut from which one or two beads of blood trickle down.
Adèle, who has not learned yet that obstinate closing of the eyes which most of the scholars have been taught, and to whom the sight recalls the painted heads of martyrs in an old church at Marseilles, gives a little hysteric scream. But the mistress, with face unchanged and voice uplifted and unmoved, completes her religious duty.
The whole school is horrified, on rising from their knees, at sight of the old lady’s bleeding head. The mistress wipes her forehead calmly, and, picking up the shell at her feet, says, “Who threw this ? ”
There is silence in the room.
“Adèle,” she continues, “ I heard you scream, child; do you know who threw this ? ”
Adèle gives a quick, inquiring glance at Reuben, whose face is imperturbable, rallies her courage for a struggle against the will of the mistress, and then bursts into tears.
Reuben cannot stand this.
“I threw it. Marm,” says he, with a great tremor in his voice.
The mistress beckons him to her, and, as he walks thither, motions to a bench near her, and says gravely, —
“ Sit by me, Reuben.”
There he keeps till school-hours are over, wondering what shape the punishment will take. At last, when all are gone, the mistress leads him into her private closet, and says solemnly, —
“ Reuben, this is a crime against God. I forgive you; I hope He may”; and she bids him kneel beside her, while she prays in a way that makes the tears start to the eyes of the boy.
Then, home,—she walking by his side, and leading him straight into the study of the grave Doctor, to whom she unfolds the story, begging him not to punish the lad, believing that he is penitent. And the meekness and kindliness of the good woman make a Christian picture for the mind of Reuben, in sad contrast with the prim austerity of Aunt Eliza, — a picture that he never loses, — that keeps him meekly obedient for the rest of the quarter ; after which, by the advice of Miss Onthank, both Phil and Reuben are transferred to the boys’ academy upon the Common.
MEANTIME, Adèle is making friends in Ashfield and in the parsonage. The irrepressible buoyancy of her character cannot be kept under even by the severity of conduct which belongs to the home of the Doctor. If she yields rigid obedience to all the laws of the household, as she is taught to do, her vivacity sparkles all the more in those short intervals of time when the laws are silent There is something in this beaming mirth of hers which the Doctor loves, though he struggles against the love. He shuts his door fast, that the snatches of some profane song from her little lips (with him all French songs are profane) may not come in to disturb him ; but as her voice rises cheerily, higher and higher, in the summer dusk, he catches himself lending a profane ear; the blitheness, the sweetness, the mellowness of her tones win upon his dreary solitude ; there is something softer in them than in the measured vocables of sister Eliza ; it brings a souvenir of the girlish Rachel, and his memory floats back upon the strains of the new singer, to the days when that dear voice filled his heart; and he thinks — thanking Adaly for the thought — she is singing with the angels now!
But the spinster, who has no ear for music, in the midst of such a carol, will cry out in sharp tones from her chamber, “Adèle, Adèle, not so loud, child! you will disturb the Doctor ! ”
Even then Adèle has her resource in the garden and the orchard, where she never tires of wandering up and down, — and never wandering there but some fragment of a song breaks from her lips.
From time to time the Doctor summons her to his study to have serious talk with her. She has, indeed, shared the Saturday-night instruction in the Catechism, in company with Reuben, and being quick at words, no matter how long they may be, she has learned it all; and Reuben and she dash through “what is required” and “what is forbidden” and “the reasons annexed " like a pair of prancing horses, kept diligently in hand by that excellent whip, Miss Johns. But the study has not wrought that gravity in the mind of the child which the good parson had hoped for; the seed, he fears, has fallen upon stony places. He therefore, as we have said, summons her from time to time to his study.
And Adèle comes, always at the first summons, with a tripping step, and, with a little coquettish adjustment of her dress and hair, flings herself into the big chair before him,—
“Now, New Papa, here I am!”
“ Ah, Adaly ! I wish, child, that you could be more serious than you are.”
“ Serious ! ha ! ha ! ”—(she sees a look of pain on the face of the Doctor.) “but I will be, — I am ” ; and with great effort she throws a most unnatural expression of repose into her face.
“You are a good girl, Adaly; but this is not the seriousness I want to find in you. I want you to feel, my child, that you are walking on the brink of a precipice, — that your heart is desperately wicked.”
“ Oh, no. New Papa ! you don’t think I ’m desperately wicked?” — and she says it with a charming eagerness of manner.
“Yes, desperately wicked, Adaly,— leaning to the things of this world, and not fastening your affections on things above, on the realities beyond the grave.”
But all that is so far away, New Papa! ”
“ Not so far as you think, child ; they may come to-day.”
Adèle is sobered in earnest now. and tosses her little feet back and forth, in an agony of apprehension.
The Doctor continues,—
“ To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts ”; and the sentiment and utterance are so like to the usual ones of the pulpit, that Adèle takes courage again.
The little girl has a profound respect for the Doctor ; his calmness, his equanimity, his persistent zeal in his work, would alone provoke it. But she sees, furthermore, — what she does not see always in “Aunt Eliza,” — a dignity of character that is proof against all irritating humors ; then, too, he has appeared to Adèle a very pattern of justice. She had taken exceptions, indeed, when, on one or two rare occasions, he had reached down the birch rod which lay upon the same hooks with the sword of Major Johns, in the study, and had called in Reuben for extraordinary discipline ; but the boy’s manifest acquiescence in the affair when his cool moments came next morning, and the melancholy air of kindness with which the Doctor went in to kiss him a goodnight, after such regimen, kept alive her faith in the unvarying justice of the parson. Therefore she tried hard to torture her poor little heart into a feeling of its own blackness, (for that it was very black she had the good man’s averment.) she listened gravely to all he had to urge, and when he had fairly overburdened her with the enumeration of her wicked, worldly appetites, she could only say, with a burst of emotion, —
“ Well, but, New Papa, the good God will forgive me.”
“ Yes, Adaly, yes, — I trust so, if forgiveness be sought in fear and trembling. But remember, ‘ When God created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience.’ ”
This brings back to poor Adèle the drudgery of the Saturday’s Catechism, associated with the sharp correctives of Aunt Eliza ; and she can only offer a pleading kiss to the Doctor, and ask plaintively, —
“ May I go now ? ”
“One moment, Adaly,” — and he makes her kneel beside him, while he prays, fervently, passionately, drawing her frail little figure to himself, even as he prays, as if he would carry her with him in his arms into the celestial presence.
The boy Reuben, too, has had his seasons of this closet struggle ; but they are rarer now; the lad has shrewdly learned to adjust himself to all the requirements of such occasions. He has put on a leaden acquiescence in the Doctor’s theories, whether with regard to sanctification or redemption, that is most disheartening to the parson. Does any question of the Doctor’s, by any catch-word, suggest an answer from the “ Shorter Catechism ” as applicable, Reuben is ready with it on the instant. Does the Doctor ask, —
" Do you know, my son. the sinfulness of the estate in which you are living ? ” “Sinfulness of the estate whereunto man fell ? ” says Reuben, briskly. “Know it like a book : — 'Consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin the want of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature which is commonly called original sin together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.’ There’s a wasp on your shoulder, father, — there’s two of ’em: I ’ll kill em.”
No wonder the good Doctor is disheartened, and trusts more and more, in respect to his boy, to the silent influences of the Spirit.
Adèle has no open quarrels with Miss Johns ; she is obedient ; she, too, has fallen under the influence of that magnetic voice, and accepts the orders and the commendations conveyed by it as if they were utterances of Fate. Yet, with her childish instincts, she has formed a very fair estimate of the character of Miss Eliza ; it is doubtful even if she has not fathomed it in certain directions more correctly and profoundly than the grave Doctor. She sees clearly that the spinster’s unvarying solicitude in regard to the dress and appearance of “ dear Adèle ” is due more to that hard pride of character which she nurses every day of her life than to any tenderness for the little stranger. For at the hands of her old godmother and of her father Adèle has known what real tenderness was. It is a lesson children never unlearn.
“ Adèle, my dear, you look charmingly to-day, with that pink bow in your hair. Do you know, I think pink is becoming to you, my child ?”
And Adèle listens with a composed smile, not unwilling to be admired. What girl of — any age is ? But the admiration of Miss Johns does not touch her ; it never calls a tear to her eye.
In the bright belt-buckle, in the big leg-of-mutton sleeves, in the glittering brooch containing coils of the Johns’ hair, in the jaunty walk and authoritative air of the spinster, the quick, keen eye of Adèle sees something more than the meek Christian teacher and friend. It is a sin in her to see it, perhaps ; but she cannot help it.
Miss Johns has not succeeded in exciting the jealousy of Reuben, — at least, not in the manner she had hoped. Her influence over him is clearly on the wane. He sees, indeed, her exaggerated devotion to the little stranger,—which serves in her presence, at least, to call out all his indifference. Yet even this, Adèle, with her girlish instinct, seems to understand, too, and bears the boy no grudge in consequence of it. Nay, when he has received some special administration of the parson’s discipline, she allows her sympathy to find play in a tender word or two that touch Reuben more than he dares to show.
And when they meet down the orchard, away from the lynx eye of Aunt Eliza, there are rare apples far out upon overhanging limbs that he can pluck, by dint of venturous climbing, for her ; and as he sees through the boughs her delicate figure tripping through the grass, and lingers to watch it, there comes a thought that she must be the Amanda of the story, and not Rose,— and he, perched in the appletree, a glowing Mortimer.
IN the year 183-, Mr, Maverick writes to his friend Johns that the disturbed condition of public affairs in France will compel him to postpone his intended visit to America, and may possibly detain him for a long time to come. He further says, — “In order to prevent all possible hazards which may grow out of our revolutionary fervor on this side of the water, I have invested in United States securities, for the benefit of my dear little Adèle, a sum of money which will yield some seven hundred dollars a year. Of this I propose to make you trustee, and desire that you should draw so much of the yearly interest as you may determine to be for her best good, denying her no reasonable requests, and making your household reckoning clear of all possible deficit on her account.
“ I am charmed with the improved tone of her letters, and am delighted to see by them that even under your grave regimen she has not lost her old buoyancy of spirits. My dear Johns, I owe you a debt in this matter which I shall never be able to repay. Kiss the little witch for me ; tell her that ' Papa ’ always thinks ot her, as he sits solitary upon the green bench under the arbor, God bless the dear one, and keep all trouble from her ! ”
She, gaining in height now month by month, wins more and more upon the grave Doctor, — wins upon Rose, who loves her as she loves her sisters,—wins upon Phil, whose liking for her is becoming demonstrative to a degree that prompts a little jealousy in the warmblooded Reuben, and that drives out all thought of the pink cheeks and fat arms of Suke Boody. Miss Johns still regards her with admiring eyes, and shows all her old assiduity in looking after her comforts and silken trappings. Day after day, in summer weather, Rose and she idle together along the embowered paths of the village ; the Tew partners greet the pair with smiles ; good Mistress Elderkin has always a cordial welcome ; the stout Squire stoops to kiss the little Jesuit, who blushes at the tender affront through all the brownness of her cheek, like a rose. Day after day the rumble of the mill breaks on the country quietude ; and as autumn comes in, burning with all its forest fires, the farmer’s flails beat time together, as they did ten years before.
At the academy, Phil and Reuben plot mischief, and they cement their friendship with not a few boyish quarrels.
Thus, Reuben, in the way of the boyish pomologists of those days, has buried at midsummer in the orchard a dozen or more of the finest windfalls from the early apple-trees, that they may mellow, away from the air, into good eating condition, and he has marked the spot in his boyish way with a little pyramid of stones. Strolling down the orchard a few days later, he sees Phil coming away from that locality, with his pockets bulging out ominously, and munching a great apple with extraordinary relish. Perhaps there is a thought that he may design a gift out of the stolen stores for Adèle ; at any rate. Reuben flies at him.
“ I say, Phil, that ’s doosed mean now. to be stealing my apples ! ”
“ Who ’s stole your apples ? ” says Phil, with a great roar of voice.
“You have,” says Reuben ; and having now come near enough to find his pyramid of stones all laid low, he says more angrily, — “You ’re a thief! and you 've got ’em in your pocket ! ”
"Thief!” says Phil, looking threateningly, and throwing away his apple half-eaten, “ if you call me a thief, I say you ’re a — you know what.”
“ Well, blast you,” says Reuben, boiling with rage, “ say it ! Call me a liar, if you dare ! ”
“ I do dare,” says Phil, “ if you accuse me of stealing your apples ; and I say you 're a liar, and be darned to you ! ”
At this, Reuben, though he is the shorter by two or three inches, and no match for his foe at fisticuffs, plants a blow straight in Philip’s face. (He said afterward, when all was settled, that he was ten times more mortified to think that he had done such a thing in his father’s orchard.)
But Phil closed upon him, and kneading him with his knuckles in the back, and with a trip, threw him heavily, falling prone upon him. Reuben, in a frenzy, and with a torrent of much worse language than he was in the habit of using, was struggling to turn him, when a sharp, loud voice, which they both knew only too well, came down the wind, — “ Boys ! boys ! ” and presently the Doctor comes up panting,
“ What does this mean ? Philip, I’m ashamed of you ! ” he continues ; and Philip rises.
Reuben, rising, too, the instant after, and with his fury unchecked, dashes at Phil again ; when the Doctor seizes him by the collar and drags him aside.
“ He struck me,” says Phil.
"And he stole my apples and called me a liar,” says Reuben, with the tears starting, though he tries desperately to keep them back, seeing that Phil shows no such evidence of emotion.
“Tut! tut!” says the Doctor,—“you are both too angry for a straight story. Come with me.”
And taking each by the hand, he led them through the garden and house, directly into his study. There he opens a closet-door, with the sharp order, “ Step in here, Reuben, until I bear Philip’s story.” This Phil tells straightforwardly,—how he was passing through the orchard with a pocketful of apples, which a neighbor’s boy had given, and how Reuben came upon him with swift accusation, and then the fight. “ But he hurt me more than I hurt him,” says Phil, wiping his nose, which showed a little ooze of blood.”
“ Good! ” says the Doctor,—“ I think you tell the truth.”
“Thank you,” says Phil, — “I know I do, Doctor.”
Next Reuben is called out.
“ Do you know he took the apples ? ” asks the Doctor.
“ Don't know,” says Reuben, — “but he was by the place, and the stones thrown down.”
“ And is that sufficient cause, Reuben, for accusing your friend ? ”
At which, Reuben, shifting his position uneasily from one foot to the other, says, —
“ I believe be did, though.”
“ Stop, Sir ! ” says the Doctor in a voice that makes Reuben sidle away.
“ Here,” says Phil, commiserating him in a grand way, and beginning to discharge his pockets on the Doctor’s table, “he may have them, if he wants them.”
Reuben stares at them a moment in astonishment, then breaks out with a great tremor in his voice, but roundly enough, —
“ By George ! they ’re not the same apples at all. I’m sorry I told you that, Phil.”
“ Don’t say ‘ By George ’ before me, or anywhere else,” says the Doctor, sharply. “It ’s but a sneaking oath, Sir ; yet” (more gently) “ I ’m glad of your honesty, Reuben.”
At the instigation of the parson they shake hands ; after which he leads them both into his closet, beckoning them to kneel on either side of him, as he commends them in his stately way to Heaven, trusting that they may live in good-fellowship henceforth, and keep His counsel, who was the great Peacemaker, always in their hearts.
Next morning, when Reuben goes to reconnoitre the place of his buried treasure, he finds all safe, and taking the better half of the fruit, he marches away with a proud step to the Elderkin house. The basket is for Phil. But Phil is not at home ; so he leaves the gift, and a message, with a short story of it all, with the tender Rose, whose eyes dance with girlish admiration at this stammered tale of his, and her fingers tremble when they touch the boy's in the transfer of his little burden.
Reuben walks away prouder yet; is not this sweet-faced girl, after all, Amanda ?
There come quarrels, however, with the academy teacher not so easily smoothed over. The Doctor and the master hold long consultations. Reuben, it is to be feared, has bad associates. The boy makes interest, through Nat Boody, with the stage-driver; and one day the old ladies are horrified at seeing the parson’s son mounted on the box of the coach beside the driver, and putting his boyish fingers to the test of four-in-hand. Of course he is a truant that day from school, and toiling back footsore and weary, after tea, he can give but a lame account of himself. He brings, another time, a horrid fighting cur, (as Miss Eliza terms it in her disgust,) for which he has bartered away the new muffler that the spinster has knit. He thinks it a splendid bargain. Miss Johns and the Doctor do not.
He is reported by credible witnesses as loitering about the tavern in the summer nights, long after prayers are over at the parsonage, and the lights are out: thus it is discovered, to the great horror of the household, that by connivance with Phil he makes his way over the roof of the kitchen from his chamber-window to join in these night forays. After long consideration, in which Grandfather Handby is brought into consultation, it is decided to place the boy for a while under the charge of the latter for discipline, and with the hope that removal from his town associates may work good. But within a fortnight after the change is made, Grandfather Handby drives across the country in his wagon, with Reuben seated beside him with a comic gravity on his face ; and the old gentleman, pleading the infirmities of age, and giving the boy a farewell tap on the cheek, (for he loves him, though he has whipped him almost daily.) restores him to the paternal roof.
At this crisis, Squire Elderkin — who, to tell truth, has a little fear of the wayward propensities of the parson’s son in misleading Phil — recommends trial of the discipline of a certain Parson Brummem, who fills the parish-pulpit upon Bolton Hill. This dignitary was a tall, lank, leathern-faced man, of incorruptible zeal and stately gravity, who held under his stern dominion a little flock of two hundred souls, and who, eking out a narrow parochial stipend by the week-day office of teaching, had gained large repute for his subjugation of refractory boys.
A feeble little invalid wife cringed beside him along the journey of life ; and it would be pitiful to think that she had not long ago entered, in way of remuneration, upon paths of pleasantness beyond the grave.
Parson Brummem received Brother Johns, when he drove with Reuben to the parsonage-door, on that wild waste of Bolton Hill, with all the unction of manner that belonged to him ; but it was so grave an unction as to chill poor Reuben to the marrow of his bones. A week’s experience only dispersed the chill when the tingle of the parson’s big rod wrought a glow in him that was almost madness. Yet Reuben chafed not so much at the whippings — to which he was well used — as at the dreariness of the new home, the melancholy waste of common over which March winds blew all the year, the pinched faces that met him without other recognition than, “ One o’ Parson Brummem’s b'ys.” Nor indoors was the aspect more inviting: a big red table, around which sat six fellow-martyrs with their slates and geographies; a tall desk, at which Brummem indited his sermons ; and from time to time a little side-door opening timidly, through which came a weary woman’s voice, "Ezekiel, dear, one minute ! ” at which the great man strides thither, and lends his great ear to the family council.
Ah, the long, weary mornings, when the sun, pouring through the curtainless south windows a great blaze upon the oaken floor, lights up for Reuben only the cobwebbed corners, the faded roundabouts of fellow-martyrs, the dismal figures of Daboll, the shining tail-coat of Master Brummem, as he stalks up and down from hour to hour, collecting in this way his scattered thoughts for some new argumentative thrust of the quill into the sixthly or the seventhly of his next week’s sermon ! And the long and weary afternoons, when the sun with a mocking bounty pours through the dusty and curtainless windows to the west, lighting only again the gray and speckled roundabouts of the fagging boys, the maps of MalteBrun, and the shining forehead of the Brummem !
There is a dismal, graceless, bald air about town and house and master, which is utterly revolting to the lad, whose childish feet had pattered beside the tender Rachel along the embowered paths of Ashfield. The lack of congeniality affronts his whole nature. In the keenness of his martyrdom, (none the less real because fancied,) the leathern-faced, gaunt Brummem takes the shape of some Giant Despair with bloody maw and mace, — and he, the child of some Christiana, for whose guiding hand he gropes vainly: she has gone before to the Celestial City !
The rod of the master does not cure the chronic state of moody rebellion into which Reuben lapses, with these fancies on him. It drives him at last to an act of desperation. The lesson in Daboll that day was a hard one ; but it was not the lesson, or his short-comings in it, — it was not the hand of the master, which had been heavy on him, — but it was a vague, dismal sense of the dreariness of his surroundings, of the starched looks that met him, of the weary monotony, of the lack of sympathy, which goaded him to the final overt act of rebellion, — which made him dash his leathern-bound arithmetic full into the face of the master, and then sit down, burying his face in his hands.
The stern doctrines of Parson Brummem had taught him, at least, a rigid self-command. He did not strike the lad. But recovering from his amazement, he says, “Very well, very well, Master Reuben, we will sleep upon this ” ; and then, tapping at the inner door, “ Keziah, make ready the little chamber over the hall for Master Johns : he must be by himself to-night: give him a glass of water and a slice of dry bread: nothing else, Sir,” (turning to Reuben now,) “ until you come to me to-morrow at nine, in this place, and ask my pardon ” ; and he motions him to the door.
Reuben staggers out, — staggers up the stairs into the dismal chamber. It looks out only upon a bald waste of common. Shortly after, a slatternly maid brings his prison fare, and, with a little kindly discretion, has added secretly a roll of gingerbread. Reuben thanks her, and says, “ You 're a good woman, Keziah ; and I say, won't you fetch me my cap, there ’s a good un ; it 's cold here.” The maid, with great show of caution, complies ; a few minutes after, the parson comes, and, looking in warningly, closes and locks the door outside.
A weary evening follows, in which thoughts of Adèle, of nights at the Elderkins’, of Phil, of Rose, flash upon him, and spend their richness, leaving him more madly disconsolate. Then come thoughts of the morning humiliation, of the boys pointing their fingers at him after school.
“ No, they sha’n’t, by George ! ”
And with this decision he dropped asleep ; with this decision ripened in him, he woke at three in the morning, — waited for the hall clock to strike, that he might be sure of his hour,—tied together the two sheets of Mistress Brummem’s bed, opened the window gently, dropped out his improvised cable, slid upon it safely to the ground, and before day had broken or any of the townsfolk were astir, had crossed all the more open portion of the village, and by sunrise had plunged into the wooded swamp-land which lay three miles westward toward the river.