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held on to the book, hands close together, and cheeks too near neighbours."
"Deacon, Jessie is but a child."
"In her sixteenth, wife—fast coming out of childhood. Notions grow apace at that age. 'Fast bind, fast find.' Would not you like Jessie for a daughter-in-law J"
"Why, if everything is suitable, and Isaac is of a coming disposition towards her—and she is willing—one of these days maybe I should."
The Deacon was of a temper to decree events, and let suitabilities take care of themselves.
"Willing!" he exclaimed, "what has a girl of fifteen to do but obey the will of her elders? I rather think you will find it 'suitable,' when I tell you that after deducting a reasonable sum for the cost of Jessie's board and education," (the actual outlay for her education had been two pounds, one shilling, and threepence,) "she has one hundred pounds at interest."
"Dear me 1 a pretty fortune, Deacon!"
"Well, it is personal property, and will become Isaac's on the day they are married. Wait for Isaac's coming disposition!—Isaac is a dolt—saving your presence, ma'am. He says he 'never so much as thought on't,' the ninny !' But he won't object if father, mother, and Jessie consent.'"
To the astonishment of the congregation, a publishment of " intention of marriage between Isaac Remington and Jessie Blair," appeared on the church-door the next Sabbath. The tears that poor Jessie shed and the reluctance she felt were hidden in the secrecy of her own bosom and the privacy of her dreary home. She never doubted the duty of implicit obedience—she had no friend to authorize the rebellion of her own instincts. She did not suspect that her kind pastor had remonstrated with the Deacon on his consenting to the marriage of a child, too young to know her own mind; and in three weeks she received from him the marriage charge and benediction.
The union proved like many others, not unhappy, but a total waste. The seeds of virtue, of happiness, of progress in Jessie's character were like the seeds in the bosom of the earth, there to lie undeveloped and inactive to an unknown future—in this world it might be—it might be in another.
After six years of wedded life Isaac Remington died, and left Jessie a widow, just past her majority, with a boy five years old, with, as she believed, a property that, to her modest wants, was independence, and with the rational expectation of her son's succession to the Deacon's property. It was not then so much the custom as now for persons to endow charitable societies, and as the Deacon had no near relatives of his own, it was believed that he would
transmit his hoarded gains to the heir of his wife.
The beautiful little widow naturally became at Isaac's death an object of close observation. The Deacon hardly waited for the funeral offices to be over, when he proposed that, as it was difficult for a young widow to be a widow indeed, Jessie should relinquish her independent home, and return to his watch and care. This she declined doing. She lived on a small farm on the borders of a lovely lake a little north of the village of Owasonook. Without probably being able to define why, she enjoyed the companionship of Nature, and grew to love as friends—as vital friends the forms of beauty around her. She declined the Deacon's proposition ;—he urged; she was resolute, and, to her amazement, he was gentle to her. He persisted, but with mildness. He often visited her. He always founcTit convenient, whenever he was in her neighbourhood, to drop in and ask how she was getting on, and often, to her astonishment, he brought her roses from the bushes she had planted at his door, or bunches of pinks from her bed in his garden, such pears as his crabbed trees bore, and early apples for her little Raphe.
"It's something new, your liking flowers, is it not, sir ?" said Jessie to him, as she extended her hand to receive a nosegay he had brought to her. "Maybe so," he replied, detaining her hand for a moment, and pressing it, "but I love everything you love, Jessie." "Tones of voice express the affections," says Swedenborg. True, and bad as well as good ones. There was something in the tone, the manner, the look of Deacon Bay that was like a flash of lightning to a traveller in a dark night. To Jessie they revealed a danger and a terror that she had never dreamed of. The sagacious man read her face; he changed his manners, resumed his sanctimonious aspect and conversation, but still continued to urge Mrs. Remington's removal from the farm.
Jessie had been a widow rather more than a year and a day, when the Deacon, on entering the pathway that led to her dwelling, saw her with her little boy and Archy Henry going down the declivity behind her house to the lake. The just risen full moon lit up the western shore, so that the wave that rippled on the brink was like a silver rim to the lake. Bay followed the happy little company stealthily, like an unclean beast (as he was), watching his prey, and creeping behind a clump of young hemlocks, be continued to watch them there, as full of evil purpose as the evil spirit in Paradise. A paradise of beauty and innocence it was to this happy young pair.
The boat was so placed that it could not be reached dryshod. Henry swung the boy upon
his shoulder and carried him to it; and after a little playful resistance on Jessie's part, he caught her in his arms, and placed her beside her boy. He then took off his overcoat, and put it under and around her feet, with perhaps not quite the grace of Raleigh, but with as respectful chivalry as the young courtier manifested to his royal mistress. The little boat was then pushed from its mooring, and was so gently rowed away, that it was long before the voices from it, in tones of tenderness and happiness, passed beyond Bay's hearing. His senses seemed endowed with preternatural acuteness to torment him. He went away brooding on ripening plans of mischief.
The next day he came again to the farm to - remonstrate with Mrs. Remington on the bad economy of remaining there, when she might live free of cost in his house.
"I never did, sir, live in that way" with you," she said, with a spirit that provoked the Deacon to reply.
"You have some one to back you, Jessie, or you would not dare to speak to me in this wise, and to hold out against the will of your elder, and your spiritual father as it were."
She blushed slightly, but she replied undaunted. "I am not alone, sir. I have that dear child, who will one day be a man—and, I trust, a staff for his mother to lean on."
"Well done! well done! But you had best consider what you are to lean on in the mean time." And then softening his tone to affected kindness, he added, "Perhaps you don't know that this place was bought with my partner's money, which might have been her son Isaac's, if he had survived her. You understand, Jessie? The deed was made out to me. The property is legally mine; she, you understand, being nobody—dead as it were—in the eye of the law; and though I mean it shall come into your boy's hands one day or other, in the mean time, and, following the golden rule, I shall take care of it, as if it were to all intents mine. I might make a pretty penny now, if I would," he added, with an indescribable expression of triumph and cupidity proper to his faoe. "This orchard and upland pasture, together with the joining tillage land, would make a master farm."
"What joining tillage land?" asked Jessie Remington eagerly.
"Why Archy Henry's farm," he answered, fixing his freezing eyes upon her; "I thought everybody knew that farm was mortgaged to me for more than it is worth—perhaps you did not?"
Poor Jessie! a fly caught in a spider's web was a faint type of her conscious misery and helplessness—the spider a fainter symbol of
i triumph over her. She sickened and turned
"And come to my house, dearie?"
"But you will, sweetheart," he said coaxingly, and drew her to him (she was standing near him), and would have kissed her, bat instinctively she struck him on his face, and sprang from him, and her brave little boy catching his mother's feeling, without understanding it, hurled the wooden stool on which he had been sitting at the Deacon's head. The blow blinded and confused him for a moment. But when he rallied, he turned on mother and child such a look of black vengeance, that both instinctively shrank from him, and the mother, dragging the boy with her, escaped to an inner room, and bolted the door.
Wrath mastered every other passion in Bay's breast for the time.
"Unbolt your door," he cried. There was no reply. The poor mother and child were cowering together like frightened doves. "Hear me, you must," he continued. "You cannot help yourself—a pretty widow you—a hopeful professor! I have found out your plans—I have mine too, and we will see which is the strongest. Marry Archy Henry, and you will be ruined in this world—ruined in the next. Look for excommunication now, and poverty for ever. I saw you, you that could not so much as let me touch the ends of your dainty fingers, I saw you in Archy Henry's arms! Good-bye, Widow Remington"—he walked to the outer door, then returned, and added, "If you blab of what has taken place here to-day, no one will believe you—no one—and for every word you speak, I'll take revenge on Archy Henry— remember that! remember that!"
As the sound of his footsteps died away, Jessie Remington yielded to a burst of grief and despair. "Oh, don't cry, mother, dear mother," said her little boy, clasping his arms round her neck, "he is a bad man—I hate him —I always did hate him. When he first came in to-day, when you were up stairs, he asked me if Archy Henry was here last Saturday night. I would not tell him. I wish Archy would come every Saturday night, and every other night, and he, never—never!"
The mother fondly kissed the child, and I doubt not breathed a fervent Amen! amen!
She revolved her miserable case. She now understood why Archy, who, she well knew had loved her from her childhood, long before that time when the Deacon had marked his
the gloating tyrant who now enjoyed his I holding her hymn-book, had not yet since her
freedom said one word of marriage, or by words declared his love to her. It needed no declaration. The current of his life, through all her married days, had flowed on without one beam of joy or hope. From the day of Remington's departure he had been a changed man; the cloud had passed from his brow, the gravity from his lips, and he had manifested, in every fitting way but by words, his reverence and tenderness for her.
"Matters have come to a crisis," was the result of her long reflection; "we must clearly understand each other, the sooner, the better."
The following evening Raphe's wish was fulfilled as it was most like to be, and Archy Henry came in, merely to bring a glass in which Jessie had sent some jelly to his invalid sister. "Why do you look so sad?" he asked Jessie, struck with her paleness and dejection.
"I have heard ill news," she replied, "and you, Archy, must tell me if it be wholly true. Is your farm mortgaged to Deacon Bay?"
"Should I be the last to know it, Archy?"
There was an undisguised tenderness in her voice and lovely face which overcame the resolution Henry had maintained, and mutual confessions and disclosures followed. They were like travellers on a perilous road, on whom the day dawns and the sun rises. The road may be more obstructed and perilous before than behind, but their hearts are strong and at peace. What obstructions, what perils can appal the spirits of young lovers in the first moments of avowed mutual love? A spell of enchantment is over their world—a spell of faith, hope, and joy.
When they descended from these sunny heights to the discussion of temporal affairs, it appeared that Archy's father, embarrassed by sickness and other misfortunes, had left his farm to his son encumbered by a mortgage to Deacon Bay—that the son had supported his aged mother, and met the many wants of a bedridden sister, and year after year paid the interest of the mortgage.
"More," he said, "till the last year I did not care to do, but since—since Raphe lost his father, I have been a stronger man—I have done two days' work in one, and now I see through the woods, and if I am but reasonably blessed for the three coming years, I shall be independent of the world and the Deacon, please God."
"I do not speak profanely, Jessie—my heart is dancing, and I can't stand for p's and q's. As to this farm belonging to the Bays, I don't believe a word on't, nor do I care one stiver about it. I prefer that you should give me nothing that ever had any connexion with Bay
or his household, but the name you bear, and the sooner you give that up to me the better. Oh, excuse me, I forgot little Raphe. Yon know I love him—I see nothing but you in him." Jessie did not resent this. She had no affectation of any sort, and certainly no pretension to sensitiveness on the score of her late husband; but Jessie was considerate in her love, and she meant not to increase Archy's heavy burdens, but patiently to wait till he had cleared off the mortgage. The point, however, was no farther mooted that evening. Our lovers were not "gravelled for lack of matter."
Mrs. Remington did not communicate the Deacon's injuries or threats. She had the grace of discretion, which all women (or all men) have not, and she had a certain feeling of obligation to him as deacon and church member, of which even his unworthiness had not divested her.
She addressed a letter to him, asking what property her late husband left, and how it was conditioned.
The following is a copy of his answer.
"Widow Remington :—Received yours duly. In reply. Your husband held no property in his own name, his father having willed his whole estate, real and personal, to his worthy wife, now my companion. With the personal I purchased the farm on which you live. The deed, as you are apprised, stands in my name. The property will probably go to your son at my decease. You were possessed of one hundred pounds at the time of your marriage; sixty thereof was expended in apparel and in household furniture—twenty drawn by the late Isaac for housekeeping, and spent as you best know how—the remaining twenty I have paid out for the doctor's bill, Isaae's coffin, shroud, and grave-digging. My accounts are ready for exhibition to the Probate Court when called for.
"Yours to command.
Enclosed in this paper was a document of a very different complexion, almost too base to be presented to our readers It concluded with "burn this." "Burn it I indeed I will!" exclaimed Jessie, and, her face and neck mantling with indignation, she threw it into the fire. She kept the indignity to herself, and communicated to Henry only the business letter.
He was indignant at its style; believed there had been fraud, but he perceived it was covered up by legal forms, and he let the whole thing go—he was too happy to care. "I see the man's drift," he said. "He means to bring you back to his own house a dependent. He thinks if he can get possession of your child, he holds you by the heartstrings. The boy will have his spirit broken as your—his father had—you will be oppressed—I shall be tortured —it is not right—it is no way suitable—there is but one course—thank God!" "Dear Archy!"
"Why should not I thank God, Jessie? You must consent to the publishment going up next Sunday."
"Not till I have consulted some one—remember, Archy, I am a church member—you are not. Let me speak to Mr. West."
"No—no—no. He is supersti scrupulous. I am not a member—on your account I wish I were."
"Oh! on your own account, Archy!"
Archy assented. But when he learned that Mrs. Remington thought it more than probable that when the church were apprised of her intention of marrying out of their pale, she should be subjected to discipline, and delay would ensue, he proposed that they should forego the publication, and take advantage of their proximity to the state of New York, where the ceremony could be legally performed without the embarrassing prelude of a publication. This proposition she resisted. She felt in all simplicity of heart a reverence for the authorities of the church. To her it was the type of God's power and justice, and she trembled at the thought of incurring its displeasure. But her lover pleaded, her heart urged, and above all, the horror of being again brought into proximity to Bay terrified her, and she at last consented. The next day she, her little boy, and Archy Henry, drove over to a magistrate's on the border of New York, and the marriage ceremony was there duly performed. Thus the lamb was secured into the fold at the moment the wolf was sure of his prey. The Deacon's rage had none of the ordinary manifestations. To his good, unsuspecting pastor and to the church, he appeared the disappointed father, sorrowing after a godly sort.
A meeting of the church was immediately oalled. But before they met the pastor visited the offending member. He tried in vain to assume the tone of stern rebuke. His gentle heart failed him. Tears actually' streamed from his eyes as he told poor Jessie that her violation of the laws of God and the known rules of the church, to which she had promised submission when she took the solemn vows of membership, rendered her liable to the censure of the church, and excommunication from it.
She made no excuse—she offered no palliation—she said she was conscious she had done wrong.
"Would she," he asked, "confess in the
middle aisle of the meeting-house, before the congregation of the people, that she had sinned, and gone in opposition to God's law, and the law of his holy church, in marrying an unsanotified man, one who lived in daily violation of God's law?"
"Oh no, sir, I cannot say that—that is not my view of my husband—he is not a member —that I am sure I grieve for, but he is better, sir, than some that are."
"That is not to the purpose, child; will you make the confession 1"
"I cannot say, sir, that I am sorry to have Archy Henry for my partner for life; but for the manner of my marriage I am sorry, and I am willing humbly to confess it."
"That is not enough ;—solemn charges are before the church."
"What are they, sir?"
"That you received visits from your spark on Saturday nights."
"I did, sir, and I am not ashamed to own it."
"But, surely you know that Saturday night is held to be, and undoubtedly is, holy time."*
"Yes, sir, I know that Saturday night is a portion of the Sabbath, when we should not think our own thoughts. But, sir, I can truly say there was nothing dishonourable in the sight of man, or unholy in the sight of the Lord, that passed between Archy and me. Is this all?"
"No: it is said your husband habitually breaks the third commandment."
"But not blasphemously; thoughtlessly he does, but he knows it grieves me, and I think he will not again."
The good Doctor said there were other charges which had been confided to him, but as he trusted they would not be presented at the church meeting, he should not trouble her with them. He notified her that a meeting was appointed on a certain day near at hand, and he told her that she was expected to he present.
Poor Jessie! Her soul was disquieted—she reproached herself with not having walked worthy of her profession. The displeasure of the church was to her the sure sign of the displeasure of her Divine Master, and not all the arguments, the soothing, and the love of her husband could comfort her. She had two powerful reasons for making no disclosures in relation to the Deacon. She feared exciting the indignation of her husband, which once thoroughly provoked against the man he already doubted and disliked, could not be allayed; and she felt a religious reluctance to throw on the church the scandal of the Deacon's gross
* The Doctor's own words—still on his records.
conduct. She would not involve the good in the scoffs the bad deserved.
The church met according to appointment. Mrs. Henry was present. Her youth and her docility conciliated many kind hearts in her favour. Her beauty, perhaps, told with some, —a beauty so softened and shaded by modesty, that not the oldest and most rigid thought it a duty to rebuke their instincts in its favour. Deacon Bay was present. He affected to take small part in the case, but he now and then craftily threw in an evil word that he meant to be lead in a wavering scale.
The meeting was divided. Some were for restoring her to full communion on her making the partial public profession she proffered. To this merciful party the pastor inclined. Deacon Bay and his few adherents were for immediate excommunication. Unanimity being unattainable, the meeting adjourned. While the clouds thus darkened over poor Mrs. Henry, she received a notice from Deacon Bay that she must remove from her present dwelling-house, and Henry was warned that the mortgage on his farm was about to be foreclosed, and that he must prepare to surrender it.
Temporal and spiritual ruin were raining down on the young couple, and to poor Mrs. Henry's susceptible conscience and excited imagination they came in the form of judgments for the violation of her church covenant. At this day. when old prestiges have melted away, it is as difficult to sympathize with Mrs. Henry as it would be to feel any serious concern for a child terrified at a shadow on his nursery wall. To her the trouble was a terrible reality. She was certainly more remarkable for tenderness of conscience than strength of mind. The austercst judgment of her brethren of the church was ratified by her own convictions. She seems, in concealing the wrongs of old Bay, to have forgotten the palliation they afforded her. She dared not take counsel or consolation from her husband. He was not a church-member, and therefore not qualified to give it. Still, as her truth was inflexible, she could not say she repented her marriage, and that she could not, to her diseased mind, was a sign of her reprobate state. Her health failed; she sunk into deep dejection; and when Deacon Bay came to notify her of another church meeting on her account, and said to her with a malignity worthy an inquisitor racking his victim, "God has put forth his hand against you"—" He has —he has!" she said,—hypocrisy had achieved its triumph over a pure and susceptible nature.
The pastor seems to have felt the deepest tenderness for the poor bewildered lamb of his flock. He sent his wife to bring her in his own chaise to the church-meeting. Just before she
entered Mrs. Henry's gate, she saw Archy Henry driving out of it with a load of furniture. Deacon Bay was at the moment passing in his wagon. Henry, irritated and confused, did not drive accurately, and his heavy wagon hit the Deacon's in a manner just gently to tip it over, and give the Deacon a somerset. They were both moving slowly at the time, and no great harm was done. The Deacon was exasperated, and no doubt secretly vowed vengeance, and thought with diabolical satisfaction that when Henry arrived at his home with his wife's chattels, he would find a lawyer taking possession of the premises in his, the Deacon's, name.
There was a full meeting of the church—not a member absent. Intimation of the pastor's state of mind were given in the opening prayer. He prayed that though their erring sister passed through the fire, it might not consume her, and through deep waters, they might not overwhelm her.
In the conclusion of his prefatory address to the meeting he said, "It was safer to imitate the Divine Being in mercy than in judgment."
"Who shall presume to stay his judgments?" said the lugubrious Deacon; "' whom the Lord smiteth is smitten.'"
And poor little Mrs. Henry seemed to verify his words. Attenuated, pale, and trembling, she sat beside the dignified and erect figure of the pastor's wife, looking like a condemned and self-condemned culprit, who would fain call upon the rocks and mountains to hide her.
As a minister of the everlasting Gospel, and a member of the Congregational Church of New England, Stephen West, our revered pastor, had the most unqualified reverence for its institutions, and no monk of the thirteenth century was more unquestionably submissive to the rules and requirements of his order. But within this stern, artificial form beat a heart as true to the instincts and offices of love as is the needle to its pole.
"Brethren and sisters," resumed the pastor, "it is known to you that there has not been that unanimity in the case before you that usually attends our deliberations. The division has been perhaps more in feeling than opinion. It is natural," he said, his voice trembling, and the tears of his ever-ready sympathy flowing down his checks, "to feel for one in evident and deep distress of mind, and who, though as far as yet appeareth, she hath not sufficient grace to make the required concessions, hath not resisted the rebukes of conscience. And as her fault has not been of an aggravated nature, but such as one still young was greatly liable to, we may consider how far, without sacrificing duty, we may concede to our distressed sister. She is not, as you see, in a