Saxe Holm's Stories
Helen Hunt Jackson
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Distributed Proofreaders
SAXE HOLM'S STORIES
[by Helen Hunt Jackson]
Draxy Miller's Dowry
The Elder's Wife
Whose Wife Was She?
The One-Legged Dancers
How One Woman Kept Her Husband
Esther Wynn's Love-Letters
Draxy Miller's Dowry.
When Draxy Miller's father was a boy, he read a novel in which the heroine
was a Polish girl, named Darachsa. The name stamped itself indelibly upon
his imagination; and when, at the age of thirty-five, he took his
first-born daughter in his arms, his first words were--"I want her called
"What!" exclaimed the doctor, turning sharply round, and looking out above
his spectacles; "what heathen kind of a name is that?"
"Oh, Reuben!" groaned a feeble voice from the baby's mother; and the nurse
muttered audibly, as she left the room, "There ain't never no luck comes
of them outlandish names."
The whole village was in a state of excitement before night. Poor Reuben
Miller had never before been the object of half so much interest. His
slowly dwindling fortunes, the mysterious succession of his ill-lucks, had
not much stirred the hearts of the people. He was a retice'nt man; he
loved books, and had hungered for them all his life; his townsmen
unconsciously resented what they pretended to despise; and so it had
slowly come about that in the village where his father had lived and died,
and where he himself had grown up, and seemed likely to live and die,
Reuben Miller was a lonely man, and came and went almost as a stranger
might come and go. His wife was simply a shadow and echo of himself; one
of those clinging, tender, unselfish, will-less women, who make pleasant,
and affectionate, and sunny wives enough for rich, prosperous,
unsentimental husbands, but who are millstones about the necks of
sensitive, impressionable, unsuccessful men. If Jane Miller had been a
strong, determined woman, Reuben would not have been a failure. The only
thing he had needed in life had been persistent purpose and courage. The
right sort of wife would have given him both. But when he was discouraged,
baffled, Jane clasped her hands, sat down, and looked into his face with
streaming eyes. If he smiled, she smiled; but that was just when it was of
least consequence that she should smile. So the twelve years of their
married life had gone on slowly, very slowly, but still surely, from bad
to worse; nothing prospered in Reuben's hands. The farm which he had
inherited from his father was large, but not profitable. He tried too long
to work the whole of it, and then he sold the parts which he ought to have
kept. He sunk a great portion of his little capital in a flour-mill, which
promised to be a great success, paid well for a couple of years, and then
burnt down, uninsured. He took a contract for building one section of a
canal, which was to pass through part of his land; sub-contractors cheated
him, and he, in his honesty, almost ruined himself to right their wrong.
Then he opened a little store; here, also, he failed. He was too honest,
too sympathizing, too inert. His day-book was a curiosity; he had a vein
of humor which no amount of misfortune could quench; and he used to enter
under the head of "given" all the purchases which he knew were not likely
to be paid for. It was at sight of this book, one day, that Jane Miller,
for the first and only time in her life, lost her temper with Reuben.
"Well, I must say, Reuben Miller, if I die for it," said she, "I haven't
had so much as a pound of white sugar nor a single lemon in my house for
two years, and I do think it's a burnin' shame for you to go on sellin'
'em to them shiftless Greens, that'll never pay you a cent, and you know
Reuben was sitting on the counter smoking his pipe and reading an old
tattered copy of Dryden's translation of Virgil. He lifted his clear blue
eyes in astonishment, put down his pipe, and, slowly swinging his long
legs over the counter, caught Jane by the waist, put both his arms round
her, and said,--
"Why, mother, what's come over you! You know poor little Eph's dyin' of
that white swellin'. You wouldn't have me refuse his mother anything we've
got, would you?"
Jane Miller walked back to the house with tears in her eyes, but her
homely sallow face was transfigured by love as she went about her work,
thinking to herself,--
"There never was such a man's Reuben, anyhow. I guess he'll get interest
one o' these days for all he's lent the Lord, first and last, without
anybody's knowin' it."
But the Lord has His own system of reckoning compound interest, and His
ways of paying are not our ways. He gave no visible sign of recognition of
indebtedness to Reuben. Things went harder and harder with the Millers,
until they had come to such a pass that when Reuben Miller went after the
doctor, in the early dawn of the day on which little Draxy was born, he
clasped his hands in sorrow and humiliation before he knocked at the
doctor's door; and his only words were hard words for a man of
sensitiveness and pride to speak:--
"Doctor Cobb, will you come over to my wife? I don't dare to be sure I can
ever pay you; but if there's anything in the store "--
"Pshaw, pshaw, Reuben, don't speak of that; you'll be all right in a few
years," said the kind old doctor, who had known Reuben from his boyhood,
and understood him far better than any one else did.
And so little Draxy was born.
"It's a mercy it's a girl at last," said the village gossips. "Mis'
Miller's had a hard time with them four great boys, and Mr. Miller so
"And who but Reuben Miller'd ever think of givin' a Christian child such a
name!" they added.
But what the name was nobody rightly made out; nor even whether it had
been actually given to the baby, or had only been talked of; and between
curiosity and antagonism, the villagers were so drawn to Reuben Miller's
store, that it began to look quite like a run of custom.
"If I hold out a spell on namin' her," said Reuben, as in the twilight of
the third day he sat by his wife's bedside; "if I hold out a spell on
namin' her, I shall get all the folks in the district into the store, and
sell out clean," and he laughed quizzically, and stroked the little
mottled face which lay on the pillow. "There's Squire Williams and Mis'
Conkey both been in this afternoon; and Mis' Conkey took ten pounds of
that old Hyson tea you thought I'd never sell; and Squire Williams, he
took the last of those new-fangled churns, and says he, 'I expect you'll
want to drive trade a little brisker, Reuben, now there's a little girl to
be provided for; and, by the way, what are you going to call her?'
"'Oh, it's quite too soon to settle, that,' said I, as if I hadn't a name
in my head yet. And then Mis' Conkey spoke up and said: 'Well, I did hear
you were going to name her after a heathen goddess that nobody over heard
of, and I do hope you will consider her feelings when she grows up.'
"'I hope I always shall, Mis' Conkey,' said I; and she didn't know what to
say next. So she picked up her bundle of tea, and they stepped off
together quite dignified.
"But I think we'll call her Darachsa, in spite of 'em all, Jane," added
Reuben with a hesitating half laugh.
"Oh, Reuben!" Jane said again. It was the strongest remonstrance on which
she ever ventured. She did not like the name; but she adored Reuben. So
when the baby was three months old, she was carried into the meeting-house
in a faded blue cashmere cloak, and baptized in the name of the Father,
and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, "Darachsa Lawton Miller."
Jane Miller's babies always thrived. The passive acquiescence of her
nature was a blessing to them. The currents of their blood were never
rendered unhealthful by overwrought nerves or disturbed temper in their
mother. Their infancy was as placid and quiet as if they had been kittens.
Not until they were old enough to understand words, and to comprehend
deprivations, did they suffer because of their poverty. Then a serious
look began to settle upon their faces; they learned to watch their father
and mother wistfully, and to wonder what was wrong; their childhood was
Before Draxy was ten years old she had become her father's inseparable
companion, confidant, and helper. He wondered, sometimes almost in terror,
what it meant, that he could say to this little child what he could not
say to her mother; that he often detected himself in a desire to ask of
this babe advice or suggestion which he never dreamed of asking from his
But Draxy was wise. She had the sagacity which comes from great tenderness
and loyalty, combined with a passionate nature. In such a woman's soul
there is sometimes an almost supernatural instinct. She will detect danger
and devise safety with a rapidity and ingenuity which are incredible. But
to such a nature will also come the subtlest and deepest despairs of which
the human heart is capable. The same instinct which foresees and devises
for the loved ones will also recognize their most hidden traits, their
utmost possibilities, their inevitable limitations, with a completeness
and infallibility akin to that of God Himself. Jane Miller, all her life
long, believed in the possibility of Reuben's success; charged his
failures to outside occasions, and hoped always in a better day to come.
Draxy, early in her childhood, instinctively felt, what she was far too
young consciously to know, that her father would never be a happier man;
that "things" would always go against him. She had a deeper reverence for
the uprightness and sweet simplicity of his nature than her mother ever
could have had. She comprehended, Jane believed; Draxy felt, Jane saw.
Without ever having heard of such a thing as fate, little Draxy recognized
that her father was fighting with it, and that fate was the stronger! Her
little arms clasped closer and closer round his neck, and her serene blue
eyes, so like his, and yet so wondrously unlike, by reason of their latent
fire and strength, looked this unseen enemy steadfastly in the face, day
She was a wonderful child. Her physical health was perfect. The first ten
years of her life were spent either out of doors, or in her father's lap.
He would not allow her to attend the district school; all she knew she
learned from him. Reuben Miller had never looked into an English grammar
or a history, but he knew Shakespeare by heart, and much of Homer; a few
odd volumes of Walter Scott's novels, some old voyages, a big family
Bible, and a copy of Byron, were the only other books in his house. As
Draxy grew older, Reuben now and then borrowed from the minister books
which he thought would do her good; but the child and he both loved Homer
and the Bible so much better than any later books, that they soon drifted
back to them. It was a little sad, except that it was so beautiful, to
see the isolated life these two led in the family. The boys were good,
sturdy, noisy boys. They went to school in the winter and worked on the
farm in the summer, like all farmers' boys. Reuben, the oldest, was
eighteen when Draxy was ten; he was hired, by a sort of indenture, for
three years, on a neighboring farm, and came home only on alternate
Sundays. Jamie, and Sam, and Lawton were at home; young as they were, they
did men's service in many ways. Jamie had a rare gift for breaking horses,
and for several years the only ready money which the little farm had
yielded was the price of the colts which Jamie raised and trained so
admirably that they sold well. The other two boys were strong and willing,
but they had none of their father's spirituality, or their mother's
gentleness. Thus, in spite of Reuben Miller's deep love for his children,
he was never at ease in his boys' presence; and, as they grew older,
nothing but the influence of their mother's respect for their father
prevented their having an impatient contempt for his unlikeness to the
busy, active, thrifty farmers of the neighborhood.
It was a strange picture that the little kitchen presented on a winter
evening. Reuben sat always on the left hand of the big fire-place, with a
book on his knees. Draxy was curled up on an old-fashioned cherry-wood
stand close to his chair, but so high that she rested her little dimpled
chin on his head. A tallow candle stood on a high bracket, made from a
fungus which Reuben had found in the woods. When the candle flared and
dripped, Draxy sprang up on the stand, and, poised on one foot, reached
over her father's head to snuff it. She looked like a dainty fairy
half-floating in the air, but nobody knew it. Jane sat in a high-backed
wooden rocking-chair, which had a flag bottom and a ruffled calico
cushion, and could only rock a very few inches back and forth, owing to
the loss of half of one of the rockers. For the first part of the evening,
Jane always knitted; but by eight o'clock the hands relaxed, the needles
dropped, the tired head fell back against the chair, and she was fast
The boys were by themselves in the farther corner of the room, playing
checkers or doing sums, or reading the village newspaper. Reuben and Draxy
were as alone as if the house had been empty. Sometimes he read to her in
a whisper; sometimes he pointed slowly along the lines in silence, and the
wise little eyes from above followed intently. All questions and
explanations were saved till the next morning, when Draxy, still curled up
like a kitten, would sit mounted on the top of the buckwheat barrel in the
store, while her father lay stretched on the counter, smoking. They never
talked to each other, except when no one could hear; that is, they never
spoke in words; there was mysterious and incessant communication between
them whenever they were together, as there is between all true lovers.
At nine o'clock Reuben always shut the book, and said, "Kiss me, little
daughter." Draxy kissed him, and said, "Good-night, father dear," and that
was all. The other children called him "pa," as was the universal custom
in the village. But Draxy even in her babyhood had never once used the
word. Until she was seven or eight years old she called him "Farver;"
after that, always "father dear." Then Reuben would wake Jane up, sighing
usually, "Poor mother, how tired she is!" Sometimes Jane said when she
kissed Draxy, at the door of her little room, "Why don't you kiss your pa
"I kissed father before you waked up, ma," was always Draxy's quiet
And so the years went on. There was much discomfort, much deprivation in
Reuben Miller's house. Food was not scarce; the farm yielded enough, such
as it was, very coarse and without variety; but money was hard to get; the
store seemed to be absolutely unremunerative, though customers were not
wanting; and the store and the farm were all that Reuben Miller had in the
world. But in spite of the poor food; in spite of the lack of most which
money buys; in spite of the loyal, tender, passionate despair of her
devotion to her father, Draxy grew fairer and fairer, stronger and
stronger. At fourteen her physique was that of superb womanhood. She had
inherited her body wholly from her father. For generations back, the
Millers had been marked for their fine frames. The men were all over six
feet tall, and magnificently made; and the women were much above the
average size and strength. On Draxy's fourteenth birthday she weighed one
hundred and fifty pounds, and measured five feet six inches in height. Her
coloring was that of an English girl, and her bright brown hair fell below
her waist in thick masses. To see the face of a simple-hearted child,
eager but serene, determined but lovingly gentle, surrounded and glorified
by such splendid physical womanhood, was a rare sight. Reuben Miller's
eyes filled with tears often as he secretly watched his daughter, and said
to himself, "Oh, what is to be her fate! what man is worthy of the wife
she will be?" But the village people saw only a healthy, handsome girl,
"overgrown," they thought, and "as queer as her father before her," they
said, for Draxy, very early in life, had withdrawn herself somewhat from
the companionship of the young people of the town.
As for Jane, she loved and reverenced Draxy, very much as she did Reuben,
with touching devotion, but without any real comprehension of her nature.
If she sometimes felt a pang in seeing how much more Reuben talked with
Draxy than with her, how much more he sought to be with Draxy than with
her, she stifled it, and, reproaching herself for disloyalty to each, set
herself to work for them harder than before.
In Draxy's sixteenth year the final blow of misfortune fell upon Reuben
A brother of Jane's, for whom, in an hour of foolish generosity, Reuben
had indorsed a note of a considerable amount, failed. Reuben's farm was
already heavily mortgaged. There was nothing to be done but to sell it.
Purchasers were not plenty nor eager; everybody knew that the farm must be
sold for whatever it would bring, and each man who thought of buying hoped
to profit somewhat, in a legitimate and Christian way, by Reuben's
Reuben's courage would have utterly forsaken him now, except for Draxy's
calmness. Jane was utterly unnerved; wept silently from morning till
night, and implored Reuben to see her brother's creditors, and beg them
to release him from his obligation. But Draxy, usually so gentle, grew
almost stern when such suggestions were made.
"You don't understand, ma," she said, with flushing cheeks. "It is a
promise. Father must pay it. He cannot ask to have it given back to him."
But with all Draxy's inflexibility of resolve, she could not help being
disheartened. She could not see how they were to live; the three rooms
over the store could easily be fitted up into an endurable dwelling-place;
but what was to supply the food which the farm had hitherto given them?
There was literally no way open for a man or a woman to earn money in that
little farming village. Each family took care of itself and hired no
service, except in the short season of haying. Draxy was an excellent
seamstress, but she knew very well that the price of all the sewing hired
in the village in a year would not keep them from starving. The Store must
be given up, because her father would have no money with which to buy
goods. In fact, for a long time, most of his purchases had been made by
exchanging the spare produce of his farm at large stores in the
neighboring towns. Still Draxy never wavered, and because she did not
waver Reuben did not die. The farm was sold at auction, with the stock,
the utensils, and all of the house-furniture which was not needed to make
the store chambers habitable. The buyer boasted in the village that he had
not given more than two thirds of the real value of the place. After
Reuben's debts were all paid, there remained just one thousand dollars to
be put into the bank.
"Why, father! That is a fortune," said Draxy, when he told her. "I did
not suppose we should have anything, and it is glorious not to owe any man
It was early in April when the Millers moved into the "store chambers."
The buyer of their farm was a hard-hearted, penurious man, a deacon of the
church in which Draxy had been baptized. He had never been known to give a
penny to any charity excepting Foreign Missions. His wife and children had
never received at his hands the smallest gift. But even his heart was
touched by Draxy's cheerful acquiescence in the hard change, and her
pathetic attempts to make the new home pleasant. The next morning after
Deacon White took possession, he called out over the fence to poor Reuben,
who stood listlessly on the store steps, trying not to look across at the
house which had been his.
"I say, Miller, that gal o' your'n is what I call the right sort o' woman,
up an' down. I hain't said much to her, but I've noticed that she set a
heap by this garding; an' I expect she'll miss the flowers more'n
anything; now my womenfolks they won't have anythin' to do with such
truck; an' if she's a mind to take care on't jest's she used ter, I'm
willin'; I guess we shall be the gainers on't."
"Thank you, Deacon White; Draxy'll be very glad," was all Reuben could
reply. Something in his tone touched the man's flinty heart still more;
and before he half knew what he was going to say, he had added,--
"An' there's the vegetable part on't, too, Miller. I never was no hand to
putter with garden sass. If you'll jest keep that up and go halves, fair
and reg'lar, you're welcome."
This was tangible help. Reuben's face lighted up.
"I thank you with all my heart," he replied. "That'll be a great help to
me; and I reckon you'll like our vegetables, too," he said, half smiling,
for he knew very well that nothing but potatoes and turnips had been seen
on Deacon White's table for years.
Then Reuben went to find Draxy; when he told her, the color came into her
face, and she shut both her hands with a quick, nervous motion, which was
habitual to her under excitement.
"Oh, father, we can almost live off the garden," said she. "I told you we
should not starve."
But still new sorrows, and still greater changes, were in store for the
poor, disheartened family. In June a malignant fever broke out in the
village, and in one short month Reuben and Jane had laid their two
youngest boys in the grave-yard. There was a dogged look, which was not
all sorrow, on Reuben's face as he watched the sexton fill up the last
grave. Sam and Jamie, at any rate, would not know any more of the
discouragement and hardship of life.
Jane, too, mourned her boys not as mothers mourn whose sons have a
birthright of gladness. Jane was very tired of the world.
Draxy was saddened by the strange, solemn presence of death. But her
brothers had not been her companions. She began suddenly to feel a sense
of new and greater relationship to them, now that she thought of them as
angels; she was half terrified and bewildered at the feeling that now, for
the first time, they were near to her.
On the evening after Sam's funeral, as Reuben was sitting on the store
steps, with his head buried in his hands, a neighbor drove up and threw
him a letter.
"It's been lyin' in the office a week or more, Merrill said, and he
reckoned I'd better bring it up to you," he called out, as he drove on.
"It might lie there forever, for all my goin' after it," thought Reuben to
himself, as he picked it up from the dust; "it's no good news, I'll be
But it was good news. The letter was from Jane's oldest sister, who had
married only a few years before, and gone to live in a sea-port town on
the New England coast. Her husband was an old captain, who had retired
from his seafaring life with just money enough to live on, in a very
humble way, in an old house which had belonged to his grandfather. He had
lost two wives; his children were all married or dead, and in his
loneliness and old age he had taken for his third wife the gentle, quiet
elder sister who had brought up Jane Miller. She was a gray-haired,
wrinkled spinster woman when she went into Captain Melville's house; but
their life was by no means without romance. Husband and home cannot come
to any womanly heart too late for sentiment and happiness to put forth
Emma Melville wrote offering the Millers a home; their last misfortune had
but just come to her knowledge, for Jane had been for months too much out
of heart to write to her relatives. Emma wrote:--
"We are very poor, too; we haven't anything but the house, and a little
money each year to buy what we need to eat and wear, the plainest sort.
But the house is large; Captain Melville and me never so much as set foot
up-stairs. If you can manage to live on the upper floor, you're more than
welcome, we both say; and we hope you won't let any pride stand in the way
of your coming. It will do us good to have more folks in the house, and it
ain't as if it cost us anything, for we shouldn't never be willing,
neither me nor Captain Melville, to rent the rooms to strangers, not while
we've got enough to live on without."
There was silence for some minutes between Reuben and Jane and Draxy after
this letter had been read. Jane looked steadily away from Reuben. There
was deep down in the patient woman's heart, a latent pride which was
grievously touched. Reuben turned to Draxy; her lips were parted; her
cheeks were flushed; her eyes glowed. "Oh, father, the sea!" she
exclaimed. This was her first thought; but in a second more she added,
"How kind, how good of Aunt Emma's husband!"
"Would you like to go, my daughter?" said Reuben, earnestly.
"Why, I thought of course we should go!" exclaimed Draxy, turning with a
bewildered look to her mother, who was still silent. "What else is the
letter sent for? It means that we must go."
Her beautiful simplicity was utterly removed from any false sense of
obligation. She accepted help as naturally from a human hand as from the
sunshine; she would give it herself, so far as she had power, just as
naturally and just as unconsciously.
There was very little discussion about the plan. Draxy's instinct overbore
all her father's misgiving, and all her mother's unwillingness.
"Oh, how can you feel so, Ma," she exclaimed more than once. "If I had a
sister I could not. I love Aunt Emma already next to you and father; and
you don't know how much we can do for her after we get there, either. I
can earn money there, I know I can; all we need."
Mrs. Melville had written that there were many strangers in the town in
the summer, and that she presumed Draxy could soon find all the work she
wished as seamstress; also that there were many chances of work for a man
who was accustomed to gardening, as, of course, Reuben must be.
Draxy's sanguine cheerfulness was infectious; even Jane began to look
forward with interest to the new home; and Reuben smiled when Draxy sang.
Lawton and Reuben were to be left behind; that was the only regret; but it
was merely anticipating by a very little the separation which was
inevitable, as the boys had both become engaged to daughters of the
farmers for whom they had been working, and would very soon take their
positions as sons-in-law on these farms.
The store was sold, the furniture packed, and Reuben Miller, with his wife
and child, set his face eastward to begin life anew. The change from the
rich wheat fields and glorious forests of Western New York, to the bare
stony stretches of the Atlantic sea-board, is a severe one. No adult heart
can make it without a struggle. When Reuben looked out of the car windows
upon the low gray barrens through which he was nearing his journey end,
his soul sank within him. It was sunset; the sea glistened like glass, and
was as red as the sky. Draxy could not speak for delight; tears stood in
her eyes, and she took hold of her father's hand. But Reuben and Jane saw
only the desolate rocks, and treeless, shrubless, almost--it seemed to
them--grassless fields, and an unutterable sense of gloom came over them.
It was a hot and stifling day; a long drought had parched and shriveled
every living thing; and the white August dust lay everywhere.
Captain Melville lived in the older part of the town near the water. The
houses were all wooden, weather-beaten, and gray, and had great patches of
yellow lichen on their walls and roofs; thin rims of starved-looking grass
edged the streets, and stray blades stood up here and there among the old
sunken cobble-stones which made the pavements.
The streets seemed deserted; the silence and the sombre color, and the
strange low plashing of the water against the wharves, oppressed even
Draxy's enthusiastic heart. Her face fell, and she exclaimed
involuntarily, "Oh, what a lonesome place!" Checking herself, she added,
"but it's only the twilight makes it look so, I expect."
They had some difficulty in finding the house. The lanes and streets
seemed inextricably tangled; the little party was shy of asking direction,
and they were all disappointed and grieved, more than they owned to
themselves, that they had not been met at the station. At last they found
the house. Timidly Draxy lifted the great brass knocker. It looked to her
like splendor, and made her afraid. It fell more heavily than she supposed
it would, and the clang sounded to her over-wrought nerves as if it filled
the whole street. No one came. They looked at the windows. The curtains
were all down. There was no sign of life about the place. Tears came into
Jane's eyes. She was worn out with the fatigue of the journey.
"Oh dear, oh dear," she said, "I wish we hadn't come."
"Pshaw, mother," said Reuben, with a voice cheerier than his heart, "very
likely they never got our last letter, and don't know we were to be here
to-day," and he knocked again.
Instantly a window opened in the opposite house, and a jolly voice said,
"My gracious," and in the twinkling of an eye the jolly owner of the jolly
voice had opened her front door and run bareheaded across the street, and
was shaking hands with Reuben and Jane and Draxy, all three at once, and
talking so fast that they could hardly understand her.
"My gracious I my gracious! Won't Mrs. Melville be beat! Of course you're
her folks she was expecting from the West, ain't you? I mistrusted it
somehow as soon as I heard the big knock. Now I'll jest let you in the
back door. Oh my, Mis' Melville'll never get over this; to think of her
be'n' away, an' she's been lookin' and looking and worryin' for two weeks,
because she didn't hear from you; and only last night Captain Melville he
said he'd write to-day if they didn't hear.'"
"We wrote," said Draxy, in her sweet, low voice, "we wrote to Aunt Emma
that we'd come to-day."
"Now did you!" said the jolly voice. "Well, that's jest the way. You see
your letter's gone somewhere else, and now Mis' Melville she's gone
to"--the rest of the sentence was lost, for the breathless little woman was
running round the house to the back door.
In a second more the upper half of the big old-fashioned door had swung
open, to Draxy's great delight, who exclaimed, "Oh, father, we read about
such doors as this in that Knickerbocker book, don't you remember?"
But good Mrs. Carr was drawing them into the house, giving them neighborly
welcome, all the while running on in such voluble ejaculatory talk that
the quiet, saddened, recluse-like people were overwhelmed with
embarrassment, and hardly knew which way to turn. Presently she saw their
confusion and interrupted herself with--
"Well, well, you're jest all tired out with your journey, an' a cup o'
tea's the thing you want, an' none o' my talk; but you see Mis' Melville
'n me's so intimate that I feel's if I'd known you always, 'n I'm real
glad to see you here, real glad; 'n I'll bring the tea right over; the
kettle was a boilin' when I run out, 'n I'll send Jim right down town for
Captain Melville; he's sure to be to the library. Oh, but won't Mis'
Melville be beat," she continued, half way down the steps; and from the
middle of the street she called back, "'an she ain't coming home till
Reuben and Jane and Draxy sat down with as bewildered a feeling as, if
they had been transported to another world. The house was utterly unlike
anything they had ever seen; high ceilings, wainscoted walls, wooden
cornices and beams, and wooden mantels with heads carved on the corners.
It seemed to them at first appallingly grand. Presently they observed the
bare wooden floors, the flag-bottomed chairs, and faded chintz cushions,
the row of old tin utensils, and plain, cheap crockery in the glass-doored
cupboard, and felt more at home.
"You know Aunt Emma said they were poor, too," said Draxy, answering her
own unspoken thought as well as her father's and mother's.
Reuben pushed his hair off his warm forehead and sighed.
"I suppose we might go up-stairs, mother," he said; "that's to be our
house, as I understand it"
Draxy bounded at the words. With flying steps she ascended the stairs and
opened the first door. She stood still on the threshold, unable to move
from astonishment. It was still light enough to see the room. Draxy began
to speak, but broke down utterly, and bursting out crying, threw herself
into the arms of her father who had just reached the top of the stairs.
"Oh, father, it's all fixed for a sitting-room! Father dear, I told you!"
This was something they had not dreamed of. They had understood the offer
to be merely of rooms in which they could live rent-free. In fact, that
had been Captain Melville's first intention. But his generous sailor's
heart revolted from the thought of stripping the rooms of furniture for
which he had no use. So Emma had rearranged the plain old-fashioned
things, and adding a few more which could be spared as well as not, had
fitted up a sitting-room and two bed-rooms with all that was needed for
comfort. Reuben and Jane and Draxy were all crying when Mrs. Carr came
back with her pitcher of smoking tea. Reuben tried to explain to her why
they were crying, but she interrupted him with,--
"Well, now, I understand it jest's if 'twas to me it'd all happened; an' I
think it's lucky after all that Mis' Melville wasn't here, for she's
dreadful easy upset if people take on. But now you drink your tea, and get
all settled down's quick's you can, for Captain Melville 'll be here any
minute now I expect, an' he don't like tantrums."
This frightened Draxy, and made a gloomy look come on Reuben's face. But
the fright and the gloom disappeared in one minute and forever when the
door burst open, and a red-faced, white-haired old man, utterly out of
breath, bounced into the room, and seizing Reuben by the hand gasped out,
puffing between the words like a steam-engine:--
"Wreck me, if this isn't a hard way to make port. Why, man, we've been
looking for some hail from you for two weeks, till we began to think you'd
given us the go-by altogether. Welcome to Melville Harbor, I say,
welcome!" and he had shaken Reuben's hand, and kissed Jane and turned to
Draxy all in a breath. At the first full sight of Draxy's face he started
and felt dumb. He had never seen so beautiful a woman. He pulled out a red
silk handkerchief and wiped his face nervously as she said, "Kiss me too,
uncle," but her warm lips were on his cheek before he had time to analyze
his own feelings. Then Reuben began to say something, about gratitude, and
the old sailor swore his favorite oath again: "Now, may I be wrecked if I
have a word o' that. We're glad enough to get you all here; and as for the
few things in the rooms, they're of no account anyhow."
"Few things! Oh, uncle," said Draxy, with a trembling voice, and before he
knew what she was about to do she had snatched his fat, weather-beaten old
hand and kissed it. No woman had ever kissed John Melville's hand before.
From that moment he looked upon Draxy as a princess who had let him once
Captain Melville and Reuben were friends before bed-time. Reuben's gentle
simplicity and unworldliness, and patient demeanor, roused in the rough
sailor a sympathy like that he had always felt for women. And to Reuben
the hearty good cheer, and brisk, bluff sailor ways were infinitely
winning and stimulating.
The next day Mrs. Melville came home. In a short time the little household
had adjusted itself, and settled down into its routine of living. When, in
a few days, the great car-load of the Millers' furniture arrived, Capt.
Melville insisted upon its all going to the auction-rooms excepting the
kitchen furniture, and a few things for which Jane had especial
attachment. It brought two hundred dollars, which, in addition to the
price of the farm, and the store and its stock, gave Reuben just nineteen
hundred dollars to put in the Savings Bank.
"And I am to be counted at least two thousand more, father dear, so you
are not such a very poor man after all," said Draxy, laughing and dancing
Now Draxy Miller's real life began. In after years she used to say, "I
was born first in my native town; second, in the Atlantic Ocean!" The
effect of the strong sea air upon her was something indescribable; joy
seemed to radiate from her whole being. She smiled whenever she saw the
sea. She walked on the beach; she sat on the rocks; she learned to swim in
one lesson, and swam so far out that her uncle dared not follow, and
called to her in imploring terror to return. Her beauty grew more and more
radiant every day. This the sea gave to her body. But there was a far
subtler new life than the physical, a far finer new birth than the birth
of beauty,--which came to Draxy here. This, books gave to her soul. Only a
few years before, a free library had been founded in this town, by a rich
and benevolent man. Every week hundreds of volumes circulated among the
families where books were prized, and could not be owned. When Draxy's
uncle first took her into this library, and explained to her its purpose
and regulations, she stood motionless for a few moments, looking at
him--and at the books: then, with tears in her eyes, and saying, "Don't
follow me, uncle dear; don't mind me, I can't bear it," she ran swiftly
into the street, and never stopped until she had reached home and found
her father. An hour later she entered the library again, leading her
father by the hand. She had told him the story on the way. Reuben's thin
cheeks were flushed. It was almost more than he too could bear. Silently
the father and daughter walked up and down the room, looking into the
alcoves. Then they sat down together, and studied the catalogue. Then
they rose and went out, hand in hand as they had entered, speaking no
word, taking no book. For one day the consciousness of this wealth filled
their hearts beyond the possibility of one added desire. After that, Draxy
and her father were to be seen every night seated at the long table in the
reading-room. They read always together, Draxy's arm being over the back
of her father's chair. Many a man and many a woman stopped and looked long
at the picture. But neither Draxy nor her father knew it.
At the end of two years, Draxy Miller had culture. She was ignorant still,
of course; she was an uneducated girl; she wept sometimes over her own
deficiencies; but her mind was stored with information of all sorts; she
had added Wordsworth to her Shakespeare; she had journeyed over the world
with every traveller whose works she could find; and she had tasted of
Plato and Epictetus. Reuben's unfailing simplicity and purity of taste
saved her from the mischiefs of many of the modern books. She had hardly
read a single novel; but her love of true poetry was a passion.
In the mean time she had become the favorite seamstress of the town. Her
face, and voice, and smile would alone have won way for her; but in
addition to those, she was a most dexterous workwoman. If there had only
been twice as many days in a year, she would have been--glad. Her own
earnings in addition to her father's, and to their little income from the
money in the bank, made them comfortable; but with Draxy's expanded
intellectual life had come new desires: she longed to be taught.
One day she said to her father, "Father dear, what was the name of that
canal contractor who borrowed money of you and never paid it?"
Reuben looked astonished, but told her.
"Is he alive yet?"
"Oh, yes," said Reuben, "and he's rich now. There was a man here only last
week who said he'd built him a grand house this year."
Draxy shut her hands nervously. "Father, I shall go and get that money."
"You, child! Why it's two days' journey; and he'd never pay you a cent. I
tried times enough," replied Reuben.
"But I think perhaps he would be more likely to pay it to a woman; he
would be ashamed," said Draxy, "especially if he is rich now, and I tell
him how much we need it."
"No, no, child; I shouldn't hear to your going; no more would mother; and
it would be money wasted besides," said Reuben, with sternness unusual for
Draxy was silent. The next morning she went to the railway station and
ascertained exactly how much the journey would cost. She was disheartened
at the amount. It would be difficult for her to save so much out of a
whole year's earnings. That day Draxy's face was sad. She was sewing at
the house of one of her warmest friends. All her employers were her
friends, but this one was a woman of rare intelligence and culture, who
had loved Draxy ever since the day she had found her reading a little
volume of Wordsworth, one of the Free Library books, while she was eating
her dinner in the sewing-room.
Draxy looked her gratitude, but said nothing. Not the least of her
charms, to the well-bred people who employed her, was her exquisite
reticence, her gentle and unconscious withdrawal into herself, in spite of
all familiarity with which she might be treated.
A few days later Mrs. White sent a note to Draxy with the thirty dollars
inclosed, and this note to Mr. Miller:--
"MR. MILLER--DEAR SIR:--
"This money has been contributed, by Draxy's friends. You do not know how
much we all prize and esteem your daughter and wish to help her. I hope
you will be willing that she should use this money for the journey on
which her heart is so set. I really advise you as a friend to let her make
the effort to recover that money; I think she will get it.
"Truly, your friend,
This note brought tears of pride to Reuben's eyes. Draxy watched him
closely, and said:--
"Father dear, I should like to go to-morrow."
Her preparations had already been made. She knew beforehand that her cause
was won; that her father's sense of justice would not let him interfere
with her use of the gift for the purpose for which it was made.
It was on a clear cold morning in January that Draxy set out. It was the
second journey of her life, and she was alone for the first time; but she
felt no more fear than if she had been a sparrow winging its way through a
new field. The morning twilight was just fading away; both the east and
the west were clear and glorious; the east was red, and the west pale
blue; high in the west stood the full moon, golden yellow; below it a long
narrow bar of faint rose-color; below that, another bar of fainter purple;
then the low brown line of a long island; then an arm of the sea; the
water was gray and still; the ice rims stretched far out from the coast,
and swayed up and down at the edges, as the waves pulsed in and out.
Flocks of gulls were wheeling, soaring in the air, or lighting and
floating among the ice fragments, as cold and snowy as they. Draxy leaned
her head against the side of the car and looked out on the marvelous
beauty of the scene with eyes as filled with calm delight as if she had
all her life journeyed for pleasure, and had had nothing to do but feed
and develop her artistic sense.
A company of travelling actors sat near her; a dozen tawdry women and
coarse men, whose loud voices and vulgar jests made Draxy shudder. She did
not know what they could be; she had never seen such behavior; the men
took out cards and began to play; the women leaned over, looked on, and
clapped the men on their shoulders. Draxy grew afraid, and the expression
of distress on her face attracted the conductor's notice. He touched her
on the shoulder.
"I'll take you into the next car, Miss, if you don't like to be near these
people. They're only actors; there's no harm in them, but they're a rough
"Actors," said Draxy, as the kind conductor lifted her from one platform
to another. "I never thought they were like that. Do they play
"I don't know, I'm sure," said the conductor, puzzled enough: "but I dare
say they do."
"Then I'm glad I never went to the theatre," thought Draxy, as she
settled herself in her new seat. For a few moments she could not banish
her disturbed and unhappy feeling. She could not stop fancying some of the
grand words which she most loved in Shakespeare, repeated by those
But soon she turned her eyes to the kindling sky, and forgot all else. The
moon was slowly turning from gold to silver; then it would turn from
silver to white cloud, then to film, then vanish away. Draxy knew that day
and the sun would conquer. "Oh, if I only understood it," sighed Draxy.
Then she fell to thinking about the first chapter in Genesis; and while
she looked upon that paling moon, she dreamed of other moons which no
human eyes ever saw. Draxy was a poet; but as yet she had never dared to
show even to her father the little verses she had not been able to help
writing. "Oh, how dare I do this; how dare I?" she said to herself, as
alone in her little room, she wrote line after line. "But if nobody ever
knows, it can do no harm. It is strange I love it, though, when I am so
This morning Draxy had that mysterious feeling as if all things were new,
which so often comes to poetic souls. It is at once the beauty and the
burden, the exhaustion and the redemption of their lives. No wonder that
even common men can sometimes see the transfiguration which often comes to
him before whose eyes death and resurrection are always following each
other, instant, perpetual, glorious. Draxy took out her little diary.
Folded very small, and hid in the pocket of it, was a short poem that she
had written the year before on a Tiarella plant which had blossomed in
her window. Mrs. White had brought it to her with some ferns and mosses
from the mountains; and all winter long it had flowered as if in summer.
Draxy wondered why this golden moon reminded her of the Tiarella. She did
not know the subtle underlying bonds in nature. These were the Tiarella
My little Tiarella,
If thou art my own,
Tell me how thus in winter
Thy shining flowers have blown.
Art thou a fairy smuggler,
Didst take of last year's summer
More than summer saw?
Or hast thou stolen frost-flakes
Secretly at night?
Thy stamens tipped with silver,
Thy petals spotless white,
Are so like those which cover
Wilt thou, like them, turn back at noon
To drops again?
Oh, little Tiarella,
Thy silence speaks;
No more my foolish question
Thy secret seeks.
The sunshine on my window
Lies all the day.
How shouldst thou know that summer
Has passed away?
The frost-flake's icy silver
Is dew at noon for thee.
O winter sun! O winter frost,
Make summer dews for me!
After reading these over several times, Draxy took out her pencil, and
very shyly screening herself from all observation, wrote on the other side
of the paper these lines:
The Morning Moon.
The gold moon turns to white;
The white moon fades to cloud;
It looks so like the gold moon's shroud,
It makes me think about the dead,
And hear the words I have heard read,
By graves for burial rite.
I wonder now how many moons
In just such white have died;
I wonder how the stars divide
Among themselves their share of light;
And if there were great years of night
Before the earth saw noons.
I wonder why each moon, each sun,
Which ever has been or shall be,
In this day's sun and moon I see;
I think perhaps all of the old
Is hidden in each new day's hold;
So the first day is not yet done!
And then I think--our dust is spent
Before the balances are swung;
Shall we be loneliest among
God's living creatures? Shall we dare
To speak in this eternal air
The only discontent?
Then she shut the book resolutely, and sat up straight with a little
laugh, saying to herself, "This is a pretty beginning for a business
Far better than you knew, sweet Draxy! The great successes of life are
never made by the men and women who have no poetic comprehension in their
Draxy's first night was spent at the house of a brother of Captain
Melville's, to whom her uncle had given her a letter. All went smoothly,
and her courage rose. The next day at noon she was to change cars in one
of the great railroad centres; as she drew near the city she began to feel
uneasy. But her directions were explicit, and she stepped bravely out into
the dismal, dark, underground station, bought her ticket, and walked up
and down on the platform with her little valise in her hand, waiting for
In a few moments it thundered in, enveloped in a blinding, stifling smoke.
The crowd of passengers poured out. "Twenty minutes for refreshments," was
shouted at each car, and in a moment more there was a clearing up of the
smoke, and a lull in the trampling of the crowd. Draxy touched the
conductor on the arm.
"Is this the train I am to take, sir?" she said showing him her ticket.
He glanced carelessly at it. "No, no," said he; "this is the express;
don't stop there. You must wait till the afternoon accommodation."
"But what time will that train get there?" said Draxy, turning pale.
"About ten o'clock, if it's on time," said the conductor, walking away. He
had not yet glanced at Draxy, but at her "Oh, what shall I do!" he turned
back; Draxy's face held him spellbound, as it had held many a man before.
He stepped near her, and taking the ticket from her hand, turned it over
and over irresolutely. "I wish I could stop there, Miss," he said. "Is it
any one who is sick?"--for Draxy's evident distress suggested but one
"Oh no," replied Draxy, trying in vain to make her voice steady. "But I am
all alone, and I know no one there, and I am afraid--it is so late at
night. My friends thought I should get there before dark."
"What are you going for, if you don't know anybody?" said the conductor,
in a tone less sympathizing and respectful. He was a man more used to
thinking ill than well of people.
Draxy colored. But her voice became very steady.
"I am Reuben Miller's daughter, sir, and I am going there to get some
money which a bad man owed my father. We need the money, and there was no
one else to go for it."
The conductor had never heard of Una, but the tone of the sentence, "I am
Reuben Miller's daughter," smote upon his heart, and made him as reverent
to the young girl as if she had been a saint.
"I beg your pardon, Miss," he said involuntarily.
Draxy looked at him with a bewildered expression, but made no reply. She
was too childlike to know that for the rough manner which had hurt her he
ought to ask such pardon.
The conductor proceeded, still fingering the ticket:--
"I don't see how I can stop there. It's a great risk for me to take. If
there was only one of the Directors on board now." Draxy looked still more
puzzled. "No," he said, giving her back the ticket: "I can't do it no
how;" and he walked away.
Draxy stood still in despair. In a few minutes he came back. He could not
account for its seeming to him such an utter impossibility to leave that
girl to go on her journey at night.
"What shall you do?" said he.
"I think my father would prefer that I should find some proper place to
spend the night here, and go on in the morning," replied Draxy; "do you
not think that would be better, sir?" she added, with an appealing,
confiding tone which made the conductor feel more like her knight than
"Yes, I think so, and I will give you my card to take to the hotel where I
stay," said he, and he plunged into the crowd again.
Draxy turned to a brakeman who had drawn near.
"Has the conductor the right to stop the train if he chooses?" said she.
"Why yes, Miss, he's right enough, if that's all. Of course he's got to
have power to stop the train any minute. But stoppin' jest to let off a
passenger, that's different."
Draxy closed her lips a little more firmly, and became less pale. When the
conductor came back and gave her his card, with the name of the hotel on
it, she thanked him, took the card, but did not stir. He looked at her
earnestly, said "Good day, Miss," lifted his hat, and disappeared. Draxy
smiled. It yet wanted ten minutes of the time for the train to go. She
stood still, patiently biding her last chance. The first bell rang--the
steam was up--the crowd of passengers poured in; at the last minute but
one came the conductor. As he caught sight of Draxy's erect, dignified
figure, he started; before he could speak, Draxy said, "I waited, sir, for
I thought at the last minute a director might come, or you might change
The conductor laughed out, and seizing Draxy's valise, exclaimed, "By
George, I will stop the train for you, Miss Miller! Hang me if I don't;
jump in!" and in one minute more Draxy was whirling out of the dark
station into the broad sunlight, which dazzled her.
When the conductor first--came through the car he saw that Draxy had been
crying. "Do her good," he thought to himself; "it always does do women
good; but I'll be bound she wouldn't ha' cried if I'd left her."
Half an hour later he found her sound asleep, with her head slipping
uneasily about on the back of the seat. Half ashamed of himself, he
brought a heavy coat and put it under her head for a pillow. Seeing a
supercilious and disagreeable smile on the face of a fashionable young man
in the seat before Draxy, he said sharply: "She's come a long journey, and
was put under my care."
"I guess that's true enough to pass muster," he chuckled to himself as he
walked away. "If ever I'd ha' believed a woman could make me stop this
train for her! An', by George, without askin' me to either!"
Draxy slept on for hours. The winter twilight came earlier than usual, for
the sky was overcast. When she waked, the lamps were lighted, and the
conductor was bending over her, saying: "We're most there, Miss, and I
thought you'd better get steadied on your feet a little before you get
off, for I don't calculate to make a full stop."
Draxy laughed like a little child, and put up both hands to her head as if
to make sure where she was. Then she followed the conductor to the door
and stood looking out into the dim light.
The sharp signal for "down brakes," made experienced passengers spring to
their feet. Windows opened; heads were thrust out. What had happened to
this express train? The unaccustomed sound startled the village also. It
was an aristocratic little place, settled by wealthy men whose business
was in a neighboring city. At many a dinner-table surprised voices said:
"Why, what on earth is the down express stopping here for? Something must
"Some director or other to be put off," said others; "they have it all
their own way on the road."
In the mean time Draxy Miller was walking slowly up the first street she
saw, wondering what she should do next. The conductor had almost lifted
her off the train; had shaken her hand, said "God bless you, Miss," and
the train was gone, before she could be sure he heard her thank him. "Oh,
why did I not thank him more before we stopped," thought Draxy.
"I hope she'll get her money," thought the conductor. "I'd like to see the
man that wouldn't give her what she asked for."
So the benediction and protection of good wishes, from strangers as well
as from friends, floated on the very air through which Draxy walked, all
unconscious of the invisible blessings.
She walked a long way before she met any one of whom she liked to ask
direction. At last she saw an elderly man standing under a lamp-post,
reading a letter. Draxy studied his face, and then stopped quietly by his
side without speaking. He looked up.
"I thought as soon as you had finished your letter, sir, I would ask you
to tell me where Stephen Potter lives."
It was marvelous what an ineffable charm there was in the subtle mixture
of courtesy and simplicity in Draxy's manner.
"I am going directly by his house myself, and will show you," replied the
old gentleman. "Pray let me take your bag, Miss."
"Was it for you," he added, suddenly recollecting the strange stopping of
the express train, "was it for you the express train stopped just now?"
"Yes, sir," said Draxy. "The conductor very kindly put me off."
The old gentleman's curiosity was strongly roused, but he forbore asking
any further questions until he left Draxy on the steps of the house, when
he said: "are they expecting you?"
"Oh no, sir," said Draxy quietly. "I do not know them."
"Most extraordinary thing," muttered the old gentleman as he walked on. He
was a lawyer, and could not escape from the professional habit of looking
upon all uncommon incidents as clews.
Draxy Miller's heart beat faster than usual as she was shown into Stephen
Potter's library. She had said to the servant simply, "Tell Mr. Potter
that Miss Miller would like to see him alone."
The grandeur of the house, the richness of the furniture, would have
embarrassed her, except that it made her stern as she thought of her
father's poverty. "How little a sum it must be to this man," she thought.
The name roused no associations in Stephen Potter; for years the thought
of Reuben Miller had not crossed his mind, and as he looked in the face of
the tall, beautiful girl who rose as he entered the room, he was utterly
confounded to hear her say,--
"I am Reuben Miller's daughter. I have come to see if you will pay me the
money you owe him. We are very poor, and need it more than you probably
Stephen Potter was a bad man, but not a hard-hearted bad man. He had been
dishonest always; but it was the dishonesty of a weak and unscrupulous
nature, not without generosity. At that moment a sharp pang seized him. He
remembered the simple, upright, kindly face of Reuben Miller. He saw the
same look of simple uprightness, kindled by strength, in the beautiful
face of Reuben Miller's daughter. He did not know what to say. Draxy
waited in perfect composure and silence. It seemed to him hours before he
spoke. Then he said, in a miserable, shuffling way,--
"I suppose you think me a rich man."
"I think you must be very rich," said Draxy, gently.
Then, moved by some strange impulse in the presence of this pure,
unworldly girl, Stephen Potter suddenly spoke out, for the first time
since his boyhood, with absolute sincerity.
"Miss Miller, you are your father over again. I reverenced your father. I
have wronged many men without caring, but it troubled me to wrong him. I
would give you that money to-night, if I had it, or could raise it. I am
not a rich man. I have not a dollar in the world. This house is not mine.
It may be sold over my head any day. I am deep in trouble, but not so deep
as I deserve to be," and he buried his face in his hands.
Draxy believed him. And it was true. At that moment Stephen Potter was
really a ruined man, and many others were involved in the ruin which was
Draxy rose, saying gravely, "I am very sorry for you, Mr. Potter. We
heard that you were rich, or I should not have come. We are very poor, but
we are not unhappy, as you are."
"Stay, Miss Miller, sit down; I have a thing which might be of value to
your father;" and Mr. Potter opened his safe and took out a bundle of old
yellow papers. "Here is the title to a lot of land in the northern part of
New Hampshire. I took it on a debt years ago, and never thought it was
worth anything. Very likely it has run out, or the town has taken
possession of the land for the taxes. But I did think the other day, that
if worst came to worst, I might take my wife up there and try to farm it.
But I'd rather your father should have it if it's good for anything. I
took it for three thousand dollars, and it ought to be worth something. I
will have the legal transfer made in the morning, and give it to you
before you leave."
This was not very intelligible to Draxy. The thin and tattered old paper
looked singularly worthless to her. But rising again, she said simply as
before, "I am very sorry for you, Mr. Potter; and I thank you for trying
to pay us! Will you let some one go and show me to the hotel where I ought
Stephen Potter was embarrassed. It cut him to the heart to send this
daughter of Reuben Miller's out of his house to pass the night. But he
feared Mrs. Potter very much. He hesitated only a moment.
"No, Miss Miller. You must sleep here. I will have you shown to your room
at once. I do not ask you to see my wife. It would not be pleasant for you
to do so." And he rang the bell. When the servant came, he said,--
"William, have a fire kindled in the blue room at once; as soon as it is
done, come and let me know."
Then he sat down near Draxy and asked many questions about her family, all
of which she answered with childlike candor. She felt a strange sympathy
for this miserable, stricken, wicked man. When she bade him good-night,
she said again, "I am very sorry for you, Mr. Potter. My father would be
glad if he could help you in any way."
Stephen Potter went into the parlor where his wife sat, reading a novel.
She was a very silly, frivolous woman, and she cared nothing for her
husband, but when she saw his face she exclaimed, in terror, "What was it,
"Only Reuben Miller's daughter, come two days' journey after some money I
owe her father and cannot pay," said Stephen, bitterly.
"Miller? Miller?" said Mrs. Potter, "one of those old canal debts?"
"Yes," said Stephen.
"Well, of course all those are outlawed long ago," said she. "I don't see
why you need worry about that; she can't touch you."
Stephen looked scornfully at her. She had a worse heart than he. At that
moment Draxy's face and voice, "I am very sorry for you, Mr. Potter,"
stood out in the very air before him.
"I suppose not," said he, moodily; "I wish she could! But I shall give her
a deed of a piece of New Hampshire land which they may get some good of.
God knows I hope she may," and he left the room, turning back, however, to
add, "She is to sleep here to-night. I could not have her go to the hotel.
But you need take no trouble about her."
"I should think not, Stephen Potter," exclaimed Mrs. Potter, sitting bolt
upright in her angry astonishment; "I never heard of such impudence as her
"She expected nothing. I obliged her to stay," interrupted Stephen, and
Mrs. Potter's first impulse was to go and order the girl out of her house.
But she thought better of it. She was often afraid of her husband at this
time; she dimly suspected that he was on the verge of ruin. So she sank
back into her chair, buried herself in her novel, and soon forgot the
Draxy's breakfast and dinner were carried to her room, and every
provision made for her comfort. Stephen Potter's servants obeyed him
always. No friend of the family could have been more scrupulously served
than was Draxy Miller. The man-servant carried her bag to the station,
touched his hat to her as she stepped on board the train, and returned to
the house to say in the kitchen: "Well, I don't care what she come for;
she was a real lady, fust to last, an' that's more than Mr. Potter's got
for a wife, I tell you."
When Stephen Potter went into his library after bidding Draxy good-by, he
found on the table a small envelope addressed to him. It held this note:--
"MR. POTTER:--I would not take the paper [the word 'money' had been
scratched out and the word 'paper' substituted] for myself; but I think I
ought to for my father, because it was a true debt, and he is an old man
now, and not strong.
"I am very sorry for you, Mr. Potter, and I hope you will become happy
again. DRAXY MILLER."
Draxy had intended to write, "I hope you will be 'good' again," but her
heart failed her. "Perhaps he will understand that 'happy' means good,"
she said, and so wrote the gentler phrase. Stephen Potter did understand;
and the feeble outreachings which, during the few miserable years more of
his life, he made towards uprightness, were partly the fruit of Draxy
Draxy's journey home was uneventful. She was sad and weary. The first
person she saw on entering the house was her father. He divined in an
instant that she had been unsuccessful. "Never mind, little daughter," he
said, gleefully, "I am not disappointed; I knew you would not get it, but
I thought the journey 'd be a good thing for you, may be."
"But I have got something, father dear," said Draxy; "only I'm afraid it
is not worth much."
"'Taint likely to be if Steve Potter gave it," said Reuben, as Draxy
handed him the paper. He laughed scornfully as soon as he looked at it.
"'Taint worth the paper it's writ on," said he, "and he knew it; if he
hain't looked the land up all these years, of course 'twas sold at vendue
Draxy turned hastily away. Up to this moment she had clung to a little
When the family were all gathered together in the evening, and Draxy had
told the story of her adventures, Reuben and Captain Melville examined the
deed together. It was apparently a good clear title; it was of three
hundred acres of land. Reuben groaned, "Oh, how I should like to see land
by the acre once more." Draxy's face turned scarlet, and she locked and
unlocked her hands, but said nothing. "But it's no use thinking about it,"
he went on; "this paper isn't worth a straw. Most likely there's more than
one man well under way on the land by this time."
They looked the place up on an atlas. It was in the extreme northeast
corner of New Hampshire. A large part of the county was still marked
"ungranted," and the township in which this land lay was bounded on the
north by this uninhabited district. The name of the town was Clairvend.
"What could it have been named for?" said Draxy. "How pleasantly it
"Most likely some Frenchman," said Captain Melville. "They always give
names that 're kind o' musical."
"We might as well burn the deed up. It's nothing but a torment to think of
it a lyin' round with it's three hundred acres of land," said Reuben in an
impulsive tone, very rare for him, and prolonging the "three hundred"
with a scornful emphasis; and he sprang up to throw the paper into the
"No, no, man," said Captain Melville; "don't be so hasty. No need of
burning things up in such a roomy house's this! Something may come of that
deed yet. Give it to Draxy; I'm sure she's earned it, if there's anything
to it. Put it away for your dowry, dear," and he snatched the paper from
Reuben's hands and tossed it into Draxy's lap. He did not believe what he
said, and the attempt at a joke brought but a faint smile to any face. The
paper fell on the floor, and Draxy let it lie there till she thought her
father was looking another way, when she picked it up and put it in her
For several days there were unusual silence and depression in the
household. They had really set far more hope than they knew on this
venture. It was not easy to take up the old routine and forget the air
castle. Draxy's friend, Mrs. White, was almost as disappointed as Draxy
herself. She had not thought of the chance of Mr. Potter's being really
unable to pay. She told her husband, who was a lawyer, the story of the
deed, and he said at once: "Of course it isn't worth a straw. If Potter
didn't pay the taxes, somebody else did, and the land's been sold long
Mrs. White tried to comfort herself by engaging Draxy for one month's
steady sewing, and presenting her with a set of George Eliot's novels. And
Draxy tried steadily and bravely to forget her journey, and the name of
About this time she wrote a hymn, and showed it to her father. It was the
first thing of the kind she had ever let him see, and his surprise and
delight showed her that here was one way more in which she could brighten
his life. She had not thought, in her extreme humility, that by hiding her
verses she was depriving him of pleasure. After this she showed him all
she wrote, but the secret was kept religiously between them.
I cannot think but God must know
About the thing I long for so;
I know He is so good, so kind,
I cannot think but He will find
Some way to help, some way to show
Me to the thing I long for so.
I stretch my hand--it lies so near:
It looks so sweet, it looks so dear.
"Dear Lord," I pray, "Oh, let me know
If it is wrong to want it so?"
He only smiles--He does not speak:
My heart grows weaker and more weak,
With looking at the thing so dear,
Which lies so far, and yet so near.
Now, Lord, I leave at thy loved feet
This thing which looks so near, so sweet;
I will not seek, I will not long--
almost fear I have been wrong.
I'll go, and work the harder, Lord,
And wait till by some loud, clear word
Thou callest me to thy loved feet,
To take this thing so dear, so sweet.
As the spring drew near, a new anxiety began to press upon Draxy. Reuben
drooped. The sea-shore had never suited him. He pined at heart for the
inland air, the green fields, the fragrant woods. This yearning always was
strongest in the spring, when he saw the earth waking up around him; but
now the yearning became more than yearning. It was the home-sickness of
which men have died. Reuben said little, but Draxy divined all. She had
known it from the first, but had tried to hope that he could conquer it.
Draxy spent many wakeful hours at night now. The deed of the New Hampshire
land lay in her upper bureau drawer, wrapped in an old handkerchief. She
read it over, and over, and over. She looked again and again at the faded
pink township on the old atlas. "Who knows," thought she, "but that land
was overlooked and forgotten? It is so near the 'ungranted lands,' which
must be wilderness, I suppose!" Slowly a dim purpose struggled in Draxy's
brain. It would do no harm to find out. But how? No more journeys must be
taken on uncertainties. At last, late one night, the inspiration came.
Who shall say that it is not an unseen power which sometimes suggests to
sorely tried human hearts the one possible escape? Draxy was in bed. She
rose, lighted her candle, and wrote two letters. Then she went back to bed
and slept peacefully. In the morning when she kissed her father good-by,
she looked wistfully in his face. She had never kept any secret from him
before, except the secret of her verses. "But he must not be disappointed
again," said Draxy; "and there is no real hope."
She dropped her letter into the post-office and went to her work.
The letter was addressed--
"To the Postmaster of Clairvend,
It was a very short letter.
"DEAR SIR:--I wish to ask some help from a minister in your town. If there
is more than one minister, will you please give my letter to the kindest
one. Yours truly,
The letter inclosed was addressed--
"To the Minister of Clairvend."
This letter also was short.
"DEAR SIR:--I have asked the Postmaster to give this letter to the kindest
minister in the town.
"I am Reuben Miller's daughter. My father is very poor. He has not known
how to do as other men do to be rich. He is very good, sir. I think you
can hardly have known any one so good. Mr. Stephen Potter, a man who owed
him money, has given us a deed of land in your town. My father thinks the
deed is not good for anything. But I thought perhaps it might be; and I
would try to find out. My father is very sick, but I think he would get
well if he could come and live on a farm. I have written this letter in
the night, as soon as I thought about you; I mean as soon as I thought
that there must be a minister in Clairvend, and he would be willing to
"I have not told my father, because I do not want him to be disappointed
again as he was about the deed.
"I have copied for you the part of the deed which tells where the land is;
and I put in a stamp to pay for your letter to me, and if you will find
out for us if we can get this land, I shall be grateful to you all my
life. DRAXY MILLER."
Inclosed was a slip of paper on which Draxy had copied with great care the
description of the boundaries of the land conveyed by the deed. It was all
that was necessary. The wisest lawyer, the shrewdest diplomatist in the
land never put forth a subtler weapon than this simple girl's simple
It was on the morning of the 3d of April that Draxy dropped her letter in
the office. Three days later it was taken out of the mail-bag in the
post-office of Clairvend. The post-office was in the one store of the
village. Ten or a dozen men were lounging about curiosity about the odd
name was soon swallowed up in curiosity as to the contents of the letter.
The men of Clairvend had not been so stirred and roused by anything since
the fall election. Luckily for Draxy's poor little letter, there was but
one minister in the village, and the only strife which rose was as to who
should carry him the letter. Finally, two of the most persistent set out
with it, both declaring that they had business on that road, and had meant
all along to go in and see the Elder on their way home.
Elder Kinney lived in a small cottage high up on a hill, a mile from the
post-office, and on a road very little travelled. As the men toiled up
this hill, they saw a tall figure coming rapidly towards them.
"By thunder! there's the Elder now! That's too bad," said little Eben
Hill, the greatest gossip in the town.
The Elder was walking at his most rapid rate; and Elder Kinney's most
rapid rate was said to be one with which horses did not easily keep up.
"No, thank you, friend, I haven't time to ride to-day," he often replied
to a parishioner who, jogging along with an old farm-horse, offered to
give him a lift on the road.
"Elder! Elder! here's a letter we was a bringin' up to you!" called out
both of the men at once as he passed them like a flash, saying hurriedly
"Good evening! good evening!" and was many steps down the hill beyond them
before he could stop.
"Oh, thank you!" he said, taking it hastily and dropping it into his
pocket. "Mrs. Williams is dying, they say; I cannot stop a minute," and
he was out of sight while the baffled parishioners stood confounded at
"Now jest as like's not we shan't never know what was in that letter,"
said. Eben Hill, disconsolately. "Ef we'd ha'gone in and set down while he
read it, we sh'd ha' had some chance."
"But then he mightn't ha' read it while we was there," replied Joseph
Bailey resignedly; an' I expect It ain't none o' our business anyhow, one
way or t'other."
"It's the queerest thing's ever happened in this town," persisted Eben;
"what's a girl--that is, if 'tis a girl--got to do writin' to a minister
she don't know? I don't believe it's any good she's after."
"Wal, ef she is, she's come to the right place; and there's no knowin' but
that the Lord's guided her, Eben; for ef ever there was a man sent on this
airth to do the Lord's odd jobs o' looking arter folks, it's Elder
Kinney," said Joseph.
"That's so," answered Eben in a dismal tone, "that's so; but he's dreadful
close-mouthed when he's a mind to be. You can't deny that!"
"Wal, I dunno's I want ter deny it," said Joseph, who was beginning, in
Eben's company, to grow ashamed of curiosity; "I dunno's it's anything
agin him," and so the men parted.
It was late at night when Elder Kinney went home from the bedside of the
dying woman. He had forgotten all about the letter. When he undressed, it
fell from his pocket, and lay on the floor. It was the first thing he saw
in the morning. "I declare!" said the Elder, and reaching out a long arm
from the bed, he picked it up.
The bright winter sun was streaming in on the Elder's face as he read
Draxy's letter. He let it fall on the scarlet and white counterpane, and
lay thinking. The letter touched him unspeakably. Elder Kinney was no
common man; he had a sensitive organization and a magnetic power, which,
if he had had the advantages of education and position, would have made
him a distinguished preacher. As a man, he was tender, chivalrous, and
impulsive; and even the rough, cold, undemonstrative people among whom his
life had been spent had, without suspecting it, almost a romantic
affection for him. He had buried his young wife and her first-born
still-born child together in this little village twelve years before, and
had ever since lived in the same house from which they had been carried to
the grave-yard. "If you ever want any other man to preach to you," he said
to the people, "you've only to say so to the Conference. I don't want to
preach one sermon too many to you. But I shall live and die in this house;
I can't ever go away. I can get a good livin' at farmin'--good as
preachin', any day!"
The sentence, "I am Reuben Miller's daughter," went to his heart as it
had gone to every man's heart who had heard it before from Draxy's
unconscious lips. But it sunk deeper in his heart than in any other.
"If baby had lived she would have loved me like this perhaps," thought the
Elder, as he read the pathetic words over and over. Then he studied the
paragraph copied from the deed. Suddenly a thought flashed into his mind.
He knew something about this land. It must be--yes, it must be on a part
of this land that the sugar-camp lay from which he had been sent for, five
years before, to see a Frenchman who was lying very ill in the little log
sugar-house. The Elder racked his brains. Slowly it all came back to him.
He remembered that at the time some ill-will had been shown in the town
toward this Frenchman; that doubts had been expressed about his right to
the land; and that no one would go out into the clearing to help take care
of him. Occasionally, since that time, the Elder had seen the man hanging
about the town. He had an evil look; this was all the Elder could
At breakfast he said to old Nancy, his housekeeper: "Nancy, did you ever
know anything about that Frenchman who had a sugar-camp out back of the
swamp road? I went to see him when he had the fever a few years ago."
Nancy was an Indian woman with a little white blood in her veins. She
never forgot an injury. This Frenchman had once jeered at her from the
steps of the village store, and the village men had laughed.
"Know anythin' about him? Yes, sir. He's a son o' Satan, an' I reckon he
stays to hum the great part o' the year, for he's never seen round here
except jest sugarin' time."
The Elder laughed in spite of himself. Nancy's tongue was a member of
which he strongly disapproved; but his efforts to enforce charity and
propriety of speech upon her were sometimes rendered null and void by his
lack of control of his features. Nancy loved her master, but she had no
reverence in her composition, and nothing gave her such delight as to make
him laugh out against his will. She went on to say that the Frenchman came
every spring, bringing with him a gang of men, some twelve or more, "all
sons o' the same father, sir; you'd know 'em's far's you see 'em." They
took a large stock of provisions, went out into the maple clearing, and
lived there during the whole sugar season in rough log huts. "They do say
he's jest carried off a good thousand dollar's worth o' sugar this very
week," said Nancy.
The Elder brought his hand down hard on the table and said "Whew!" This
was Elder Kinney's one ejaculation. Nancy seldom heard it, and she knew it
meant tremendous excitement. She grew eager, and lingered, hoping for
further questions; but the Elder wanted his next information from a more
accurate and trustworthy source than old Nancy. Immediately after
breakfast he set out for the village; soon he slackened his pace, and
began to reflect. It was necessary to act cautiously; he felt
instinctively sure that the Frenchman had not purchased the land. His
occupation of it had evidently been acquiesced in by the town for many
years; but the Elder was too well aware of the slack and unbusinesslike
way in which much of the town business was managed, to attach much weight
to this fact. He was perplexed--a rare thing for Elder Kinney. He stopped
and sat down on the top of a stone wall to think. In a few minutes he saw
the steaming heads of a pair of oxen coming up the hill. Slowly the cart
came in sight: it was loaded with sugar-buckets; and there, walking by
its side, was--yes! it was--the very Frenchman himself.
Elder Kinney was too much astonished even to say "Whew!"
"This begins to look like the Lord's own business," was the first
impulsive thought of his devout heart. "There's plainly something to be
done. That little Draxy's father shall get some o' the next year's sugar
out o' that camp, or my name isn't Seth Kinney;" and the Elder sprang from
the wall and walked briskly towards the Frenchman. As he drew near him,
and saw the forbidding look on the fellow's face, he suddenly abandoned
his first intention, which was to speak to him, and, merely bowing, passed
on down the hill.
"He's a villain, if I know the look of one," said honest Elder. "I'll
think a little longer. I wonder where he stores his buckets. Now, there's
a chance," and Elder Kinney turned about and followed the plodding cart up
the hill again. It was a long pull and a tedious one; and for Elder Kinney
to keep behind oxen was a torture like being in a straight waistcoat. One
mile, two miles, three miles! the Elder half repented of his undertaking;
but like all wise and magnetic natures, he had great faith in his first
impulses, and he kept on.
At last the cart turned into a lane on the right-hand side of the road.
"Why, he's goin' to old Ike's," exclaimed the Elder. "Well, I can get at
all old Ike knows, and it's pretty apt to be all there is worth knowin',"
and Elder Kinney began, in his satisfaction, to whistle
"Life is the time to serve the Lord,"
in notes as clear and loud as a bob-o'-link's.
He walked on rapidly, and was very near overtaking the Frenchman, when a
new thought struck him. "Now, if he's uneasy about himself,--and if he
knows he ain't honest, of course he's uneasy,--he'll may be think I'm on
his track, and be off to his 'hum,' as Nancy calls it," and the Elder
chuckled at the memory, "an' I shouldn't have any chance of ketchin' him
here for another year." The Elder stood still again. Presently he jumped a
fence, and walking off to the left, climbed a hill, from the top of which
he could see old Ike's house. Here, in the edge of a spruce grove, he
walked back and forth, watching the proceedings below. "Seems little too
much like bein' a spy," thought the good man, "but I never felt a clearer
call in a thing in my life than I do in this little girl's letter," and he
fell to singing
"Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings,"
till the crows in the wood were frightened by the strange sound, and came
flying out and flapping their great wings above his head.
The Frenchman drove into old Ike's yard. Ike came out of the house and
helped him unload the buckets, and carry them into an old corn-house which
stood behind the barn: As soon as the Frenchman had turned his oxen's head
down the lane, the Elder set out for the house, across the fields. Old Ike
was standing in the barn-door. When he saw the tall figure striding
through the pasture, he ran to let down the bars, and hurried up to the
Elder and grasped both his hands. Not in all Elder Kinney's parish was
there a single heart which beat so warmly for him as did the heart of this
poor lonely old man, who had lived by himself in this solitary valley ever
since the Elder came to Clairvend.
"Oh, Elder, Elder," said he, "it does me reel good to see your face. Be ye
well, sir?" looking closely at him.
"Yes, Ike, thank you, I'm always well," replied the Elder absently. He was
too absorbed in his errand to have precisely his usual manner, and it was
the slight change which Ike's affectionate instinct felt. But Ike saved
him all perplexity as to introducing the object of his visit by saying at
once, picking up one of the sugar-buckets which had rolled off to one
side, "I'm jest pilin' up Ganew's sugar-buckets for him. He pays me well
for storin' 'em, but I kind o' hate to have anythin' to do with him. Don't
you remember him, sir--him that was so awful bad with the fever down'n the
clearin' five years ago this month? You was down to see him, I know."
"Yes, yes, I remember," said the Elder, with a manner so nonchalant that
he was frightened at his own diplomacy. "He was a bad fellow, I thought,"
Ike went on: "Wall, that's everybody's feelin' about him: and there ain't
no great thing to show for 't nuther. But they did say a while back that
he hadn't no reel right to the land. He turned up all of a sudden, and
paid up all there was owin' on the taxes, an' he's paid 'em regular ever
sence. But he hain't never showed how the notes come to be signed by some
other name. Yes, sir, the hull lot--it's nigh on ter three hundred acres,
such's 'tis; a good part on't 's swamp though, that ain't wuth a
copper--the hull lot went to a man down in York State, when the Iron
Company bust up here, and for two or three year the chap he jest sent up
his note for the taxes, and they've a drefful shiftless way o' lettin'
things go in this ere town, 's you know, sir; there wan't nobody that
knowed what a sugar orchard was a lyin' in there, or there'd been plenty
to grab for it; but I don't s'pose there's three men in the town'd ever
been over back o' Birch Hill till this Ganew he come and cut a road in,
and had his sugar-camp agoin' one spring, afore anybody knew what he was
arter. But he's paid all up reg'lar, and well he may, sez everybody, for
he can't get his sugar off, sly's he is, w'thout folks gettin' some kind
o' notion about it, an' they say's he's cleared thousands an' thousands o'
dollars. I expect they ain't overshot the mark nuther, for he's got six
hundred new buckets this spring, and Bill Sims, he's been in with 'em the
last two years, 'n he says there ain't no sugar orchard to compare, except
Squire White's over in Mill Creek, and he's often taken in three thousand
pounds off his'n."
Ike sighed as he paused, breathless. "It's jest my luck, allers knockin'
about 'n them woods 's I am, not to have struck trail on that air orchard.
I could ha' bought it's well's not in the fust on't, if it had been put up
to vendue, 's't oughter ben, an' nobody knowin' what 'twas wuth."
Elder Kinney was almost overcome by this unhoped-for corroboration of his
instincts; clearing up of his difficulties. His voice sounded hoarse in
his own ears as he replied:--
"Well, Ike, the longest lane has a turnin'. It's my belief that God
doesn't often let dishonest people prosper very long. We shall see what
becomes of Ganew. Where does he live? I'd like to see him."
"Well, he don't live nowhere, 's near's anybody can find out. He's in the
camp with the gang about six weeks, sometimes eight; they say's it's a
kind of settlement down there, an' then he's off again till sugarin' comes
round; but he's dreadful sharp and partikler about the taxes, I tell you,
and he's given a good deal too, fust and last, to the town. Folks say he
wants to make 'em satisfied to let him alone. He's coming up here again
to-morrow with two more loads of buckets, sir: if 'twouldn't be too much
trouble for you to come here agin so soon," added poor Ike, grasping at
the chance of seeing the Elder again.
"Well, I think perhaps I'll come," replied the Elder, ashamed again of the
readiness with which he found himself taking to tortuous methods, "if I'm
not too busy. What time will he be here?"
"About this same time," said Ike. "He don't waste no time, mornin' nor
The Elder went away soon, leaving poor Ike half unhappy.
"He's got somethin' on his mind, thet's plain enough," thought the loving
old soul. "I wonder now ef it's a woman; I've allus thought the Elder
war'nt no sort of man to live alone all his days."
"Dear, good little Draxy," thought the Elder, as he walked down the road.
"How shall I ever tell the child of this good luck, and how shall I manage
it all for the best for her?"
Draxy's interests were in good hands. Before night Elder Kinney had
ascertained that there had never been any sale of this land since it was
sold to "the New York chap," and that Ganew's occupation of it was
illegal. After tea the Elder sat down and wrote two letters.
The first one was to Draxy, and ran as follows:--
"MY DEAR CHILD:--
"I received your letter last night, and by the Lord's help I have found
out all about your father's land today. But I shall write to your father
about it, for you could not understand.
"I wish the Lord had seen fit to give me just such a daughter as you are.
The letter to Reuben was very long, giving in substance the facts which
have been told above, and concluding thus:--
"I feel a great call from the Lord to do all I can in this business, and I
hope you won't take it amiss if I make bold to decide what's best to be
done without consulting you. This fellow's got to be dealt with pretty
sharp, and I, being on the ground, can look after him better than you can.
But I'll guarantee that you'll have possession of that land before many
weeks." He then asked Reuben to have an exact copy of the deed made out
and forwarded to him; also any other papers which might throw light on the
transfer of the property, sixteen years back. "Not that I calculate
there'll be any trouble," he added; "we don't deal much in lawyer's tricks
up here, but it's just as well to be provided."
The Elder went to the post-office before breakfast to post this letter.
The address did not escape the eyes of the postmaster. Before noon Eben
Hill knew that the Elder had written right off by the first mail to a
"Miss Draxy Miller."
Meantime the Elder was sitting in the doorway of old Ike's barn waiting
for the Frenchman; ten o'clock came, eleven, twelve--he did not appear.
The Elder's uneasiness grew great, but he talked on and on till poor Ike
was beside himself with delight. At last the distant creak of the wheels
was heard. "There he is," exclaimed Ike. "I'm thinking, sir, that it's a
kind o' providential dispensation thet's hendered him all this time; it's
done me such a sight o' good to hear you talk."
The Elder smiled tenderly on poor old Ike.
"Everything is a dispensation, Ike, accordin' to my way o' thinkin';" and
again he thought involuntarily of "little Draxy."
Ganew assented with a half-surly civility to Elder Kinney's proposition to
ride down with him.
"I've got a matter of business to talk over with you, Mr. Ganew,"--said
the Elder, "and I came up here on purpose to find you."
The man turned his stolid black eyes full on the Elder, but made no reply.
It was indeed an evil face. The Elder was conscious that impulses which
he feared were unchristian were rising rapidly in his breast. He had
wished a few times before in his life that he was not a minister. He
wished it now. He would have liked to open his conversation with Ganew
after the manner of the world's people when they deal with thieves. And
again he thought involuntarily of "little Draxy," and her touching "we are
But when he spoke, he spoke gently and slowly.
"I have some news for you which will be very disagreeable, Mr. Ganew."
Here the Frenchman started, with such a terrified, guilty, malignant look
on his face, that the Elder said to himself: "Good God, I believe the man
knows he's in danger of his life. Stealin's the least of his crimes, I'll
He proceeded still more gently. "The owners of the land which you've been
using as your own in this town, have written to inquire about it, and have
put the business in my hands."
Ganew was silent for a moment. Then trying to speak in an indignant tone,
"Using as my own! I don't know what you mean, Mr. Parson. I have paid my
taxes all regular, and I've got the title-deeds of the land, every acre of
it. I can't help whoever's been writing to you about it; it's all my
But his face twitched with nervous excitement, and the fright and anger in
his serpent-like black eyes were ugly to see.
"No, Mr. Ganew, it is not," said the Elder; "and you know it. Now you jest
listen to me; I know the whole truth about the matter, an' all the time
you spend fightin' off the truth'll be wasted, besides addin' lyin' to
havin' been a thief. The owners of the land'll be here, I expect before
long; but they've put it all in my hands, an' I can let you off if I
"Let me off! What the devil do you mean?" said Ganew.
"Why, you don't suppose there's goin' to be nothin' said about all the
thousands o' dollars' wuth of sugar you've carried off here, do"--
The next thing Elder Kinney knew he was struggling up to his feet in the
middle of the road; he was nearly blinded by blood trickling from a cut on
his forehead, and only saw dimly that Ganew was aiming another blow at him
with his heavy-handled ox-goad.
But the Frenchman had reckoned without his host. Elder Kinney, even half
stunned, was more than a match for him. In a very few minutes Ganew was
lying in the bottom of his own ox-cart, with his hands securely tied
behind him with a bit of his own rope and the Elder was sitting calmly
down on a big boulder, wiping his forehead and recovering his breath; it
had been an ugly tussle, and the Elder was out of practice.
Presently he rose, walked up to the cart, and leaning both his arms on the
wheel, looked down on his enemy.
The Frenchman's murderous little black eyes rolled wildly, but he did not
struggle. He had felt in the first instant that he was but an infant in
the Elder's hands.
"Ye poor, miserable, cowardly French,--sinner ye," said the Elder,
struggling for an epithet not unbecoming his cloth. "Did you think you was
goin' to get me out o' yer way's easy's that, 's I dare say ye have better
folks than me, before now!"
Ganew muttered something in a tongue the Elder did not understand, but the
sound of it kindled his wrath anew.
"Well, call on your Master, if that's what you're doin', 's much's you
like. He don't generally look out for anybody much who's so big a fool's
you must be, to think you was goin' to leave the minister o' this parish
dead in a ditch within stone's throw o' houses and nobody find you out,"
and the Elder sat down again on the boulder. He felt very dizzy and faint;
and the blood still trickled steadily from his forehead. Ganew's face at
this moment was horrible. Rage at his own folly, hate of the Elder, and
terror which was uncontrollable, all contended on his livid features.
At last he spoke. He begged abjectly to be set free. He offered to leave
the town at once and never return if the Elder would only let him go.
"What an' give up all your land ye've got such a fine clear title to?"
said the Elder, sarcastically. "No; we'll give ye a title there won't be
no disputin' about to a good berth in Mill Creek jail for a spell!"
At this the terror mastered every other emotion in the Frenchman's face.
What secret reason he had for it all, no one could know but himself; what
iniquitous schemes already waiting him in other places, what complications
of dangers attendant on his identification and detention. He begged, he
besought, in words so wildly imploring, so full of utter unconditional
surrender, that there could be no question as to their sincerity. The
Elder began, in spite of himself, to pity the wretch; he began also to ask
whether after all it would not be the part of policy to let him go. After
some minutes he said, "I can't say I put much confidence in ye yet, Mr.
Ganew; but I'm inclined to think it's the Lord's way o' smoothin' things
for some o' his children, to let you kind o' slink off," and somehow Elder
Kinney fancied he heard little Draxy say, "Oh, sir, let the poor man go."
There was something marvelous in his under-current of consciousness of
He rose to his feet, picked up the heavy ox-goad, struck the near ox
sharply on the side, and walking on a little ahead of the team, said:
"I'll just take ye down a piece, Mr. Ganew, till we're in sight of Jim
Blair's, before I undo ye. I reckon the presence o' a few folks'll
strengthen your good resolutions." "An' I mistrust I ain't quite equal to
another handlin,'" thought the Elder to himself, as he noted how the sunny
road seemed to go up and down under his feet. He was really far more hurt
than he knew.
When they were in sight of the house, he stopped the oxen, and leaning
again on the wheel, and looking down on Ganew, had one more talk with him,
at the end of which he began cautiously to untie the rope. He held the
ox-goad, however, firmly grasped in his right hand, and it was not without
a little tremor that he loosed the last knots. "Suppose the desperate
critter sh'd have a knife," thought the Elder.
He need not have feared. A more crestfallen, subdued, wretched being than
Paul Ganew, as he crawled out of that cart, was never seen. He had his own
secret terror, and it had conquered him. "It's more'n me he's afraid of,"
said the Elder to himself. "This is the Lord's doin', I reckon. Now, Mr.
Ganew, if you'll jest walk to the heads o' them oxen I'll thank ye," said
he: "an' 's I feel some tired, I'll jump into the cart; an' I'll save ye
carryin' the ox-goad," he added, as he climbed slowly in, still holding
the murderous weapon in his hand. Nothing could extinguish Seth Kinney's
sense of humor.
"If we meet any folks," he proceeded, "we've only to say that I've had a
bad hurt, and that you're very kindly takin' me home."
Ganew walked on like a man in a dream. He was nearly paralyzed with
terror. They met no human being, and very few words passed between them.
When the cart stopped at the Elder's door, Ganew stood still without
turning his head. The Elder went up to him and said, with real kindness of
"Mr. Ganew, I expect you can't believe it, but I don't bear ye the least
A faint flicker of something like grateful surprise passed over the hard
face, but no words came.
"I hope the Lord'll bring ye to himself yet," persisted the good man,
"and forgive me for havin' had anything but pity for ye from the first
on't. Ye won't forget to send me a writing for Bill Sims that the rest of
the buckets in the camp belong to me?"
Ganew nodded sullenly and went on, and the Elder walked slowly into the
After dark, a package was left at the Elder's door. It contained the
order on Bill Sims, and a letter. Some of the information in the letter
proved useful in clearing up the mystery of Ganew's having known of this
tract of land. He had been in Potter's employ, it seemed, and had had
access to his papers. What else the letter told no one ever knew; but the
Elder's face always had a horror-stricken look when the Frenchman's name
was mentioned, and when people sometimes wondered if he would ever be seen
again in Clairvend, the emphasis of the Elder's "Never! ye may rely on
that! Never!" had something solemn in it.
In less than forty-eight hours the whole village knew the story. "The
sooner they know the whole on't the better, and the sooner they'll be
through talkin'," said the Elder, and nobody could have accused him of
being "close-mouthed" now. He even showed "the little gal's letter," as
the townspeople called it, to anybody who asked to see it. It hurt him to
do this, more than he could see reason for, but he felt a strong desire to
have the village heart all ready to welcome "little Draxy" and her father
when they should come. And the village heart was ready! Hardly a man,
woman, or child but knew her name and rejoiced in her good fortune. "Don't
yer remember my tellin' yer that night," said Josiah Bailey to Eben Hill,
"that she'd come to the right place for help when she come to Elder
When Draxy took Elder Kinney's letter out of the post-office, her hands
trembled. She walked rapidly away, and opened the letter as soon as she
reached a quiet street. The Elder had not made it so clear as he thought
he had, in his letter to the "child," which way matters had gone. Draxy
feared. Presently she thought, "He says 'your father's land.' That must
mean that we shall have it." But still she had sad misgivings. She almost
decided to read the inclosed letter which was unsealed; she could not have
her father disappointed again; but her keen sense of honor restrained her.
Reuben had grown really feeble. There were many days now when he could not
work, but sat listlessly on a ledge of rocks near the house, and watched
the restless waves with a sense of misery as restless as they. When Draxy
reached home this night and found that her father was not in the house,
she ran over to the "Black Ledge." There she found him. She sat down by
his side, not knowing how to begin. Presently he said: "I wish I loved
this water, daughter,--it is very beautiful to look at; but I'm thinkin'
it's somethin' like human beings; they may be ever so handsome to look on,
but if you don't love 'em you don't, and that's the end on't, an' it don't
do ye no sort o' good to be where they are."
"The woods and fields used to do you good, father," said Draxy.
Reuben was astonished. Draxy was not wont to allude to the lost and
irrecoverable joys. But he only sighed.
"Read this letter, father dear," said Draxy, hurriedly pushing it into his
hand; "I wrote up to a good old minister to find out, and here's his
Reuben looked bewildered. Draxy's words did not make themselves clear.
But the first words of Elder Kinney's letter did. The paper fell from his
"Oh, daughter! daughter! it can't be true! It can't!" and Reuben Miller
covered his eyes and cried. Draxy did not cry. One of the finest traits in
her nature was her instantaneous calmness of exterior under sudden and
"Yes; father, it is true. It must be. I have believed it from the first!
Oh do, do read the letter," said Draxy, and she forced the letter into his
"No, no, daughter. Read it to me. I can't see the words," replied Reuben,
still weeping. He was utterly unmanned. Then Draxy read the letter aloud
slowly, distinctly, calmly. Her voice did not tremble. She accepted it
all, absolutely, unconditionally, as she had accepted everything which had
ever happened to her. In Draxy's soul the past never confused the present;
her life went on from moment to moment, from step to step as naturally, as
clearly, as irrevocably as plants grow and flower, without hinderance,
without delay. This it was which had kept her serene, strong: this is true
health of nature.
After a time Reuben grew calmer; Draxy's presence always helped him. They
sat on the rocks until twilight fell, and the great red lamp in the
light-house was lighted.
"Father, dear," said Draxy, "I think there are light-houses all along our
lives, and God knows when it is time to light the lamps."
Reuben clasped Draxy's hand tighter, and turned his eyes upon her with a
look whose love was almost reverent.
Lights shone until morning from the windows of Captain Melville's house.
The little family had sat together until long after midnight, discussing
this new and wonderful turn in their affairs. Jane and Reuben were
bewildered and hardly happy yet; Draxy was alert, enthusiastic, ready as
usual; poor Captain Melville and his wife were in sore straits between
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