Saxe Holm's Stories
Helen Hunt Jackson
Part 2 out of 5
their joy in the Millers' good fortune, and their pain at the prospect of
the breaking up of the family. Their life together had been so beautiful,
"Oh, Draxy," said the Captain, "how shall we ever live without you?"
"Oh! but you will come up there, uncle." said Draxy; "and we shall keep
you after we once get you."
Captain Melville shook his head. He could never leave the sea. But full
well he knew that the very salt of it would have lost its best savor to
him when this sweet, fair girl had gone out from his house.
The "good-nights" were sadly and solemnly said. "Oh!" thought Draxy, "does
joy always bring pain in this world?" and she fell asleep with tears on
Reuben sat up until near dawn, writing to Elder Kinney. He felt strangely
strong. He was half cured already by the upland air of the fields he had
never seen. The next morning Draxy said, "Do you not think, father, I
ought to write a note too, to thank the kind minister, or will you tell
him how grateful I am?"
"Put a postscript to my letter, daughter. That will be better," said
So Draxy wrote at the bottom of the last page:--
"DEAR MR. KINNEY:--I do not know any words to thank you in; and I think
you will like it better if I do not try. My father seems almost well
already. I am sure it was the Lord that helped you to find out about our
land. I hope we can come very soon.
"Your grateful friend,
When the Elder read this second note of Draxy's, he said aloud, "God bless
her! she's one o' His chosen ones, that child is," and he fell to
wondering how she looked. He found himself picturing her as slight and
fair, with blue eyes, and hair of a pale yellow. "I don't believe she's
more than fourteen at most;" thought he, "she speaks so simple, jest like
a child; an' yet, she goes right to the pint, 's straight's any woman;
though I don't know, come to think on't, 's ever I knew a woman that could
go straight to a pint," reflected the Elder, whose patience was often
sorely tried by the wandering and garrulous female tongues in his parish.
The picture of "Little Draxy" grew strangely distinct in his mind; and his
heart yearned towards her with a yearning akin to that which years before
he had felt over the little silent form of the daughter whose eyes had
never looked into his.
There was no trouble with the town in regard to the land. If there had
been any doubts, Elder Kinney's vigorous championship of the new claimant
would have put them down. But the sympathy of the entire community was
enlisted on Reuben's side. The whole story from first to last appealed to
every man's heart; and there was not a father in town that did not rest
his hand more lovingly on his little girl's head at night, when he sat in
his door-way talking over "them Millers," and telling about Draxy's
"writin' to th' Elder."
Before the first of May all was settled. Elder Kinney had urged Mr. Miller
to come at once to his house, and make it a home until he could look about
and decide where he would establish himself.
"I am a lonely man," he wrote; "I buried my wife and only child many years
ago, and have lived here ever since, with only an old Indian woman to take
care of me. I don't want to press you against your will; and there's a
house in the village that you can hire; but it will go against me sorely
not to have you in my house at the first. I want to see you, and to see
your little daughter; I can't help feeling as if the Lord had laid out for
us to be friends more than common."
Reuben hesitated. The shyness of his nature made him shrink from other
men's houses. But Draxy inclined strongly to the Elder's proposition. "Oh,
think father, how lonely he must be. Suppose you hadn't mother nor me,
father dear!" and Draxy kissed her father's cheek; "and think how glad you
have been that you came to live with uncle," she added.
Reuben looked lovingly at Captain Melville, but said nothing.
"I'll tell ye what I think, Reuben;" said the Captain. "It's my belief
that you'n that parson'll take to each other. His letters sound like your
talk. Somehow, I've got an uncommon respect for that man, considerin' he's
a parson: it's my advice to ye, to take up with his offer."
"And it seems no more than polite, father," persisted Draxy: "after he
has done so much for us. We need not say how long we will stay in his
house, you know."
"Supposin' you go up first, Draxy," said Reuben, hesitatingly, "an' see
how 'tis. I always did hate Injuns."
"Oh!" said Draxy; she had hardly observed the mention of that feature in
the Elder's household, and she laughed outright. Her ideas of the
ancestral savage were too vague to be very alarming. "If she has lived all
these years with this good old minister, she must be civilized and kind,"
said Draxy. "I'm not afraid of her."
"But I think it would be a great deal better for me to go first," she
continued, more and more impressed with the new idea. "Then I can be sure
beforehand about everything, and get things all in order for you; and
there'll be Mr. Kinney to take care of me; I feel as if he was a kind of
father to everybody." And Draxy in her turn began to wonder about the
Elder's appearance as he had wondered about hers. Her mental picture was
quite as unlike the truth as was his. She fancied him not unlike her
father, but much older, with a gentle face, and floating white hair. Dim
purposes of how she might make his lonely old age more cheerful, floated
before her mind. "It must be awful," thought she, "to live years and years
all alone with an Indian."
When Elder Kinney read Reuben's letter, saying that they would send their
daughter up first to decide what would be best for them to do, he brought
his hand down hard on the table and said "Whew!" again.
"Well, I do declare," thought he to himself, "I'm afraid they're dreadful
shiftless folks, to send that girl way up here, all alone by herself; and
how's such a child's that goin' to decide anything, I should like to
He read again the letter Reuben had written. "My daughter is very young,
but we lean upon her as if she was older. She has helped us bear all our
misfortunes, and we have more confidence in her opinions than in our own
about everything." The Elder was displeased.
"Lean on her;' I should think you did! Poor little girl! Well, I can look
out for her; that's one comfort." And the Elder wrote a short note to the
effect that he would meet their "child" at the railway station, which was
six miles from their town; that he would do all he could to help her; and
that he hoped soon to see Mr. and Mrs. Miller under his roof.
The words of the note were most friendly, but there was an indefinable
difference between it and all the others, which Draxy felt without knowing
that she felt it, and her last words to her father as she bade him good-by
from the car window were: "I don't feel so sure as I did about our staying
with Mr. Kinney, father. You leave it all to me, do you, dear, even if I
decide to buy a house?"
"Yes, daughter," said Reuben, heartily; "all! Nothing but good's ever come
yet of your way o' doin' things."
"An' I don't in the least hanker after that Injun," he called out as the
cars began to move. Draxy laughed merrily. Reuben was a new man already.
They were very gay together, and felt wonderfully little fear for people
to whom life had been thus far so hard.
There was not a misgiving in Draxy's heart as she set out again on a two
days' journey to an unknown place. "Oh how different from the day when I
started before," she thought as she looked out on the water sparkling
under the bright May sun. She spent the first night, as before, at the
house of Captain Melville's brother, and set out at eight the following
morning, to ride for ten hours steadily northward. The day was like a day
of June. The spring was opening early; already fruit-trees were white and
pink; banks were green, and birds were noisy.
By noon mountains came in sight. Draxy was spellbound. "They are grander
than the sea," thought she, "and I never dreamed it; and they are loving,
too. I should like to rest my cheek on them."
As she drew nearer and nearer, and saw some tops still white with snow,
her heart beat faster, and with a sudden pang almost of
conscience-stricken remorse, she exclaimed, "Oh, I shall never, never once
miss the sea!"
Elder Kinney had borrowed Eben Hill's horse and wagon to drive over for
Draxy. He was at the station half an hour before the train was due. It had
been years since the steady currents of his life had been so disturbed and
hurried as they were by this little girl.
"Looks like rain, Elder; I 'spect she'll have to go over with me arter
all," said George Thayer, the handsomest, best-natured stage-driver in the
whole State of New Hampshire. The Elder glanced anxiously at the sky.
"No, I guess not, George," he replied. "'Twon't be anything more'n a
shower, an' I've got an umbrella and a buffalo-robe. I can keep her dry."
Everybody at the station knew Draxy's story, and knew that the Elder had
come to meet her. When the train stopped, all eyes eagerly scanned the
passengers who stepped out on the platform. Two men, a boy, and three
women, one after the other; it was but a moment, and the train was off
"She hain't come," exclaimed voice after voice. The Elder said nothing; he
had stood a little apart from the crowd, watching for his ideal Draxy; as
soon as he saw that she was not there, he had fallen into a perplexed
reverie as to the possible causes of her detention. He was sorely anxious
about the child. "Jest's like's not, she never changed cars down at the
Junction," thought he, "an' 's half way to Montreal by this time," and
the Elder felt hot with resentment against Reuben Miller.
Meantime, beautiful, dignified, and unconscious, Draxy stood on the
platform, quietly looking at face after face, seeking for the white hair
and gentle eyes of her trusted friend, the old minister.
George Thayer, with the quick instinct of a stage-driver, was the first to
see that she was a stranger.
"Where d'ye wish to go, ma'am?" said he, stepping towards her.
"Thank you," said Draxy, "I expected some one to meet me," and she looked
uneasy; but reassured by the pleasant face, she went on: "the minister
from Clairvend village was to meet me here."
George Thayer said, two hours afterward, in recounting his share of the
adventure, "I tell ye, boys, when she said that ye might ha' knocked me
down with a feather. I hain't never heard no other woman's voice that's
got jest the sound to't hern has; an' what with that, an' thinkin' how
beat the Elder'd be, an' wonderin' who in thunder she was anyhow, I don't
believe I opened my dum lips for a full minute; but she kind o' smiled,
and sez she, 'Do you know Mr. Kinney?' and that brought me to, and jest
then the Elder he come along, and so I introduced 'em."
It was not exactly an introduction, however. The Elder, entirely absorbed
in conjecture as to poor little Draxy's probable whereabouts, stumbled on
the platform steps and nearly fell at her very feet, and was recalled to
himself only to be plunged into still greater confusion by George Thayer's
loud "Hallo! here he is. Here's Elder Kinney. Here's a lady askin' for
Even yet it did not dawn upon Elder Kinney who this could be; his little
golden-haired girl was too vividly stamped on his brain; he looked gravely
into the face of this tall and fine-looking young woman and said kindly,
"Did you wish to see me, ma'am?"
Draxy smiled. She began to understand. "I am afraid you did not expect to
see me so tall, sir," she said. "I am Reuben Miller's daughter,--Draxy,"
she added, smiling again, but beginning in her turn to look confused.
Could this erect, vigorous man, with a half-stern look on his dark-bearded
face, be the right Mr. Kinney? her minister? It was a moment which neither
Elder Kinney nor Draxy ever forgot. The unsentimental but kindly George
gave the best description of it which could be given.
"I vow, boys, I jest wish ye could ha' seen our Elder; an' yet, I dunno's
I do wish so, nuther. He stood a twistin' his hat, jest like any o' us,
an' he kind o' stammered, an' I don't believe neither on 'em knew a word
he said; an' her cheeks kep' gittin' redder'n redder, an' she looked's ef
she was ready to cry, and yet she couldn't keep from larfin, no how. Ye
see she thought he was an old man and he thought she was a little gal, an'
somehow't first they didn't either of 'em feel like nobody; but when I
passed 'em in the road, jest out to Four Corners, they was talkin' as easy
and nateral as could be; an' the Elder he looked some like himself, and
she--wall, boys, you jest wait till you see her; that's all I've got to
say. Ef she ain't a picter!"
The drive to the village seemed long, however, to both Draxy and the
Elder. Their previous conceptions of each other had been too firmly rooted
to be thus overthrown without a great jar. The Elder felt Draxy's
simplicity and child-like truthfulness more and more with each word she
spoke; but her quiet dignity of manner was something to which he was
unused; to his inexperience she seemed almost a fine lady, in spite of her
sweet and guileless speech. Draxy, on the other hand, was a little
repelled by the Elder's whole appearance. He was a rougher man than she
had known; his pronunciation grated on her ear; and he looked so strong
and dark she felt a sort of fear of him. But the next morning, when Draxy
came down in her neat calico gown and white apron, the Elder's face
"Good morning, my child," he said. "You look as fresh as a pink." The
tears came into Draxy's eyes at the word "child," said as her father said
"I don't look so old then, this morning, do I, sir?" she asked in a
pleading tone which made the Elder laugh. He was more himself this
morning. All was well. Draxy sat down to breakfast with a lighter heart.
When Draxy was sitting she looked very young. Her face was as childlike as
it was beautiful: and her attitudes were all singularly unconscious and
free. It was when she rose that her womanhood revealed itself to the
perpetual surprise of every one. As breakfast went on the Elder gradually
regained his old feeling about her; his nature was as simple, as
spontaneous as hers; he called her "child" again several times in the
course of the meal. But when at the end of it Draxy rose, tall, erect,
almost majestic in her fullness of stature, he felt again singularly
removed from her.
"'Ud puzzle any man to say whether she's a child or a woman," said the
Elder to himself. But his face shone with pleasure as he walked by her
side out into the little front yard. Draxy was speechless with delight. In
the golden east stretched a long range of mountains, purple to the top;
down in the valley, a mile below the Elder's house, lay the village; a
little shining river ran side by side with its main street. To the north
were high hills, some dark green and wooded, some of brown pasture land.
"Oh, sir," said Draxy, "is there any other spot in your mountain land so
beautiful as this?"
"No, not one," said the Elder, "not one;" and he, too, looked out silently
on the scene.
Presently Draxy exclaimed, with a sigh, "Oh, it makes me feel like crying
to think of my father's seeing this!"
"Shall I tell you now about my father, sir?" she continued; "you ought to
know all about us, you have been so good."
Then sitting on the low step of the door, while the Elder sat in an
arm-chair in the porch, Draxy told the story of her father's life, and,
unconsciously, of her own. More than once the Elder wiped his eyes; more
than once he rose and walked up and down before the door, gazing with
undefined but intense emotion at this woman telling her pathetic story
with the simple-hearted humility of a child. Draxy looked younger than
ever curled up in the doorway, with her hands lying idle on her white
apron. The Elder was on the point of stroking her hair. Suddenly she rose,
and said, "But I am taking too much of your time, sir; will you take me
now to see the house you spoke of, which we could hire?" She was again the
majestic young woman. The Elder was again thrown back, and puzzled.
He tried to persuade her to give up all idea of hiring the house: to make
his house their home for the present. But she replied steadfastly, "I must
look at the house, sir, before I decide." They walked down into the
village together. Draxy was utterly unconscious of observation, but the
Elder knew only too well that every eye of Clairvend was at some
window-pane studying his companion's face and figure. All whom they met
stared so undisguisedly that, fearing Draxy would be annoyed, he said,--
"You mustn't mind the folks staring so at you. You see they've been
talkin' the matter all over about the land, an' your comin', for a month,
an' it's no more than natural they should want to know how you look;" and
he, too, looked admiringly at Draxy's face.
"Oh," said Draxy (it was a new idea to her mind), "I never thought of
"I hope they are all glad we are coming, sir," added she, a moment after.
"Oh yes, yes; they're glad enough. 'Taint often anything happens up here,
you know, and they've all thought everything of you since your first
Draxy colored. She had not dreamed of taking a whole village into her
confidence. But she was glad of the friendliness; and she met every
inquisitive gaze after this with an open, responsive look of such beaming
good-will that she made friends of all whom she saw. One or two stopped
and spoke; most were afraid to do so, unconsciously repelled, as the Elder
had been at first, by something in Draxy's dress and bearing which to
their extreme inexperience suggested the fine lady. Nothing could have
been plainer than Draxy's cheap gray gown; but her dress always had
character: the tiniest knot of ribbon at her throat assumed the look of a
decoration; and many a lady for whom she worked had envied her the
expression of her simple clothes.
The house would not answer. Draxy shook her head as soon as she saw it,
and when the Elder told her that in the spring freshets the river washed
into the lower story, she turned instantly away, and said, "Let us go
home, sir; I must think of something else."
At dinner Draxy was preoccupied, and anxious. The expression of perplexity
made her look older, but no less beautiful. Elder Kinney gazed at her
more steadily than he knew; and he did not call her "child" again.
After dinner he took her over the house, explaining to her, at every turn,
how useless most of the rooms were to him. In truth, the house was
admirably adapted for two families, with the exception that there was but
one kitchen. "But that could be built on in a very few days, and would
cost very little," said the Elder eagerly. Already all the energies of his
strong nature were kindled by the resolve to keep Draxy under his roof.
"I suppose it might be so built that it could be easily moved off and
added to our own house when we build for ourselves," said Draxy,
"Oh, yes," said the Elder, "no sort o' trouble about that," and he glowed
with delight. He felt sure that his cause was gained.
But he found Draxy very inflexible. There was but one arrangement of which
she would think for a moment. It was, that the Elder should let to them
one half of his house, and that the two families should be entirely
distinct. Until the new kitchen and out-buildings were finished, if the
Elder would consent to take them as boarders, they would live with him;
"otherwise, sir, I must find some one in the village who will take us,"
said Draxy in a quiet tone, which Elder Kinney knew instinctively was not
to be argued with. It was a novel experience for the Elder in more ways
than one. He was used to having his parishioners, especially the women,
yield implicitly to his advice. This gentle-voiced girl, who said to him,
"Don't you think, sir?" in an appealing tone which made his blood quicken,
but who afterward, when she disagreed with him, stood her ground
immovably even against entreaties, was a phenomenon in his life. He began
to stand in awe of her. When some one said to him on the third day after
Draxy's arrival: "Well, Elder, I don't know what she'd ha' done without
you," he replied emphatically, "Done without me! You'll find out that all
Reuben Miller's daughter wants of anybody is jest to let her know exactly
how things lay. She ain't beholden to anybody for opinions. She's as
trustin' as a baby, while you're tellin' her facts, but I'd like to see
anybody make her change her mind about what's best to be done; and I
reckon she's generally right; what's more, she's one of the Lord's
favorites, an' He ain't above guidin' in small things no mor'n in great."
No wonder Elder Kinney was astonished. In forty-eight hours Draxy had
rented one half of his house, made a contract with a carpenter for the
building of a kitchen and out-buildings on the north side of it, engaged
board at the Elder's table for her parents and herself for a month, and
hired Bill Sims to be her father's head man for one year. All the while
she seemed as modestly grateful to the Elder as if he had done it all for
her. On the afternoon of the second day she said to him:--
"Now, sir, what is the nearest place for me to buy our furniture?"
"Why, ain't you goin' to use mine--at least's far's it goes?" said the
poor Elder. "I thought that was in the bargain."
Draxy looked disturbed. "Oh, how careless of me," she said; "I am afraid
nothing was said about it. But we cannot do that; my father would dislike
it; and as we must have furniture for our new house, we might as well have
it now. I have seven hundred dollars with me, sir; father thought I might
decide to buy a house, and have to pay something down."
"Please don't be angry with me," she added pleadingly, for the Elder
looked vexed. "You know if I am sure my father would prefer a thing, I
must do it."
The Elder was disarmed.
"Well, if you are set on buyin' furniture," he said, "I shouldn't wonder
if you'd have a chance to buy all you'd want cheap down at Squire
Williams's sale in Mill Creek. His wife died the night your first letter
came, an' I heard somebody say he was goin' to sell all out; an' they've
always been well-to-do, the Williamses, an' I reckon you'd fancy some o'
their things better'n anything you'd get at the stores."
Already the Elder began to divine Draxy's tastes; to feel that she had
finer needs than the women he had known. In less than an hour he was at
the door with Eben Hill's horse and wagon to take Draxy to Squire
"Jest more o' the same Providence that follows that girl," thought he when
he saw Draxy's eyes fairly dilate with pleasure as he led her into the
old-fashioned parlor, where the furniture was piled and crowded ready for
"Oh, will they not cost too much for me, dear Mr. Kinney?" whispered
"No, I guess not," he said, "there ain't much biddin' at these sort of
sales up here," and he mentally resolved that nothing Draxy wanted should
cost too much for her.
The sale was to be the next day. Draxy made a careful list of the things
she would like to buy. The Elder was to come over and bid them off for
"Now you just go over 'em again," said the Elder, "and mark off what you'd
like to have if they didn't cost anything, because sometimes things go
for's good 's nothing, if nobody happens to want 'em." So Draxy made a
second list, and laughing a little girlish laugh as she handed the papers
to the Elder, pointed to the words "must haves" at the head of the first
list, and "would-like-to-haves" at the head of the second. The Elder put
them both in his breast-pocket, and he and Draxy drove home.
The next night two great loads of Squire Williams's furniture were carried
into Elder Kinney's house. As article after article was taken in, Draxy
clapped her hands and almost screamed with delight; all her
"would-like-to-haves" were there. "Oh, the clock, the clock! Have I really
got that, too!" she exclaimed, and she turned to the Elder, half crying,
and said, "How shall I ever thank you, sir?"
The Elder was uncomfortable. He was in a dilemma. He had not been able to
resist buying the clock for Draxy. He dared not tell her what he had paid
for it. "She'd never let me give her a cent's worth, I know that well
enough. It would be just like her to make me take it back," thought he.
Luckily Draxy was too absorbed in her new riches, all the next day, to ask
for her accounts, and by the next night the Elder had deliberately
resolved to make false returns on his papers as to the price of several
articles. "I'll tell her all about it one o' these days when she knows me
better," he comforted himself by thinking; "I never did think Ananias was
an out an' out liar. It couldn't be denied that all he did say was true!"
and the Elder resolutely and successfully tried to banish the subject from
his mind by thinking about Draxy.
The furniture was, much of it, valuable old mahogany, dark in color and
quaint in shape. Draxy could hardly contain herself with delight, as she
saw the expression it gave to the rooms; it had cost so little that she
ventured to spend a small sum for muslin curtains, new papers, bright
chintz, and shelves here and there. When all was done, she herself was
astonished at the result. The little home was truly lovely. "Oh, sir, my
father has never had a pretty home like this in all his life," said she to
the Elder, who stood in the doorway of the sitting-room looking with
half-pained wonder at the transformation. He felt, rather than saw, how
lovely the rooms looked; he could not help being glad to see Draxy so
glad; but he felt farther removed from her by this power of hers to create
what he could but dimly comprehend. Already he unconsciously weighed all
things in new balances; already he began to have a strange sense of
humility in the presence of this woman.
Ten days from the day that Draxy arrived in Clairvend she drove over with
the Elder to meet her father and mother at the station. She had arranged
that the Elder should carry her father back in the wagon; she and her
mother would go in the stage. She counted much on the long, pleasant drive
through the woods as an opening to the acquaintance between her father and
the Elder. She had been too busy to write any but the briefest letters
home, and had said very little about him. To her last note she had added a
"I am sure you will like Mr. Kinney, father. He is very kind and very
good. But he is not old as we thought."
To the Elder she said, as they drove over, "I think you will love my
father, sir, and I know you will do him good. But he will not say much at
first; you will have to talk," and Draxy smiled. The Elder and she
understood each other very well.
"I don't think there's much danger o' my not lovin' him," replied the
Elder; "by all you tell he must be uncommon lovable." Draxy turned on him
such a beaming smile that he could not help adding, "an' I should think
his bein' your father was enough."
Draxy looked seriously in his face, and said "Oh, Mr. Kinney, I'm not
anything by the side of father."
The Elder's eyes twinkled.
It was a silent though joyful group which gathered around the Elder's
tea-table that night.
Reuben and Jane were tired, bewildered, but their eyes rested on Draxy
with perpetual smiles. Draxy also smiled more than she spoke. The Elder
felt himself half out of place and wished to go away, but Draxy looked
grieved at his proposal to do so, and he stayed. But nobody could eat, and
old Nancy, who had spent her utmost resources on the supper, was cruelly
disappointed. She bustled in and out on various pretenses, but at last
could keep silence no longer. "Seems to me ye've dreadful slim appetites
for folks that's been travellin' all day. Perhaps ye don't like yer
victuals," she said, glancing sharply at Reuben.
"Oh yes, madame, yes," said poor Reuben, nervously, "everything is very
nice; much nicer than I am used to."
Draxy laughed aloud. "My father never eats when he is tired, Nancy. You'll
see how he'll eat to-morrow."
After Nancy had left the room, Reuben wiped his forehead, and Draxy
laughed again in spite of herself. Old Nancy had been so kind and willing
in helping her, she had grown fond of her, and had quite forgotten her
father's dread. When Reuben bade Draxy good-night, he said under his
breath, "I like your Elder very much, daughter; but I don't know how I'm
ever goin' to stand livin' with that Injun."
"My Elder," said Draxy to herself as she went up-stairs, "he's everybody's
Elder--and the Lord's most of all I think," and she went to sleep thinking
of the solemn words which she had heard him speak on the last Sunday.
It was strange how soon the life of the new household adjusted itself; how
full the days were, and how swift. The summer was close upon them;
Reuben's old farmer instincts and habits revived in full force. Bill Sims
proved a most efficient helper; he had been Draxy's sworn knight, from the
moment of her first interview with him. There would be work on Reuben's
farm for many hands, but Reuben was in no haste. The sugar camp assured
him of an income which was wealth to their simple needs; and he wished to
act advisedly and cautiously in undertaking new enterprises. All the land
was wild land--much of it deep swamps. The maple orchard was the only part
immediately profitable. The village people came at once to see them.
Everybody was touched by Jane's worn face and gentle ways; her silence did
not repel them; everybody liked Draxy too, and admired her, but many were
a little afraid of her. The village men had said that she was "the
smartest woman that had ever set foot in Clairvend village," and human
nature is human nature. It would take a great deal of Draxy's kindly
good-will to make her sister women forgive her for being cleverer than
they. Draxy and Reuben were inseparable. They drove; they walked; even
into the swamps courageous Draxy penetrated with her father and Bill Sims,
as they went about surveying the land; and it was Draxy's keen instinct
which in many cases suggested where improvements could be made.
In the mean time Elder Kinney's existence had become transformed. He dared
not to admit himself how much it meant, this new delight in simply being
alive, for back of his delight lurked a desperate fear; he dared not move.
Day after day he spent more and more time in the company of Draxy and her
father. Reuben and he were fast becoming close friends. Reuben's gentle,
trustful nature found repose in the Elder's firm, sturdy downrightness,
much as it had in Captain Melville's; and the Elder would have loved
Reuben if he had not been Draxy's father. But to Draxy he seemed to draw
no nearer. She was the same frank, affectionate, merry, puzzling
woman-child that she had been at first; yet as he saw more and more how
much she knew of books which he did not know, of people, and of affairs of
which he had never heard--how fluently, graciously, and even wisely she
could talk, he felt himself cut off from her. Her sweet, low tones and
distinct articulation tortured him while they fascinated him; they seemed
to set her so apart. In fact, each separate charm she had, produced in the
poor Elder's humble heart a mixture of delight and pain which could not be
analyzed and could not long be borne.
He exaggerated all his own defects of manner, and speech, and education;
he felt uncomfortable in Draxy's presence, in spite of all the
affectionate reverence with which she treated him; he said to himself
fifty times a day, "It's only my bein' a minister that makes her think
anythin' o' me." The Elder was fast growing wretched.
But Draxy was happy. She was still in some ways more child than woman. Her
peculiar training had left her imagination singularly free from fancies
concerning love and marriage. The Elder was a central interest in her
life; she would have said instantly and cordially that she loved him
dearly. She saw him many times every day; she knew all his outgoings and
incomings; she knew the first step of his foot on the threshold; she felt
that he belonged to them, and they to him. Yet as a woman thinks of the
man whose wife she longs to be, Draxy had never once thought of Elder
But when the new kitchen was finished, and the Millers entered on their
separate housekeeping, a change came. As Reuben and Jane and Draxy sat
down for the first time alone together at their tea-table, Reuben said
"Now this seems like old times. This is nice."
"Yes," replied Jane. Draxy did not speak. Reuben looked at her. She
colored suddenly, deeply, and said with desperate honesty,--
"Yes, father; but I can't help thinking how lonely Mr. Kinney must be."
"Well, I declare," said Reuben, conscience-stricken; "I suppose he must
be; I hate to think on't. But we'll have him in here's often's he'll
Just the other side of the narrow entry sat the Elder, leaning both his
elbows on the table, and looking over at the vacant place where the night
before, and for thirty nights before, Draxy had sat. It was more than he
could bear. He sprang up, and leaving his supper untasted, walked out of
Draxy heard him go. Draxy had passed in that moment into a new world. She
"He hasn't eaten any supper," thought she; and she listened intently to
hear him come in again. The clock struck ten, he had not returned! Draxy
went to bed, but she could not sleep. The little house was still; the warm
white moonlight lay like summer snow all over it; Draxy looked out of her
window; the Elder was slowly coming up the hill; Draxy knelt down like a
little child and said, "God bless him," and crept back to bed. When she
heard him shut his bedroom door she went to sleep.
The next day Draxy's eyes did not look as they had looked the day before.
When Elder Kinney first saw her, she was coming down stairs. He was
standing at the foot of the staircase and waited to say "Good morning."
As he looked up at her, he started back and exclaimed: "Why, Draxy, what's
"Nothing is the matter, sir," said Draxy, as she stepped from the last
stair, and standing close in front of him, lifted the new, sweet, softened
eyes up to his. Draxy was as simple and sincere in this as in all other
emotions and acts of her life. She had no coquetry in her nature. She had
no distinct thought either of a new relation between herself and the
Elder. She simply felt a new oneness with him; and she could not have
understood the suggestion of concealment. If Elder Kinney had been a man
of the world, he would have folded Draxy to his heart that instant. If he
had been even a shade less humble and self-disrustful, he would have done
it, as it was. But he never dreamed that he might. He folded his empty
arms very tight over his faithful, aching, foolish heart, and tried to say
calmly and naturally, "Are you sure? Seems to me you don't look quite
But after that morning he never felt wholly without hope. He could not
tell precisely why. Draxy did not seek him, did not avoid him. She was
perhaps a little less merry; said fewer words; but she looked glad, and
more than glad. "I think it's the eyes," he said to himself again and
again, as he tried to analyze the new look on Draxy's face which gave him
hope. These were sweet days. There are subtle joys for lovers who dwell
side by side in one house, together and yet apart. The very air is loaded
with significance to them--the door, the window, the stairway. Always
there is hope of meeting; always there is consciousness of presence;
everywhere a mysterious sense that the loved one has passed by. More than
once Seth Kinney knelt and laid his cheek on the stairs which Draxy's feet
had just ascended! Often sweet, guileless Draxy thought, as she went up
and down, "Ah, the dear feet that go over these stairs." One day the
Elder, as he passed by the wall of the room where he knew Draxy was
sitting, brushed his great hand and arm against it so heavily that she
started, thinking he had stumbled. But as the firm step went on, without
pausing, she smiled, she hardly knew why. The next time he did it she laid
down her work, locked and unlocked her hands, and looking toward the door,
whispered under her breath, "Dear hands!" Finally this became almost a
habit of his; he did not at first think Draxy would hear it; but he felt,
as he afterwards told her, "like a great affectionate dog going by her
door, and that was all he could do. He would have liked to lie down on the
These were very sweet days; spite of his misgivings, Elder Kinney was
happy; and Draxy, in spite of her unconsciousness, seemed to herself to be
living in a blissful dream. But a sweeter day came.
One Saturday evening Reuben said to Draxy,--
"Daughter, I've done somethin' I'm afraid'll trouble you. I've told th'
Elder about your verses, an' showed him the hymn you wrote when you was
tryin' to give it all up about the land."
"Oh, father, how could you," gasped Draxy; and she looked as if she would
Reuben could not tell just how it happened. It seemed to have come out
before he knew it, and after it had, he could not help showing the hymn.
Draxy was very seriously disturbed; but she tried to conceal it from her
father, and the subject was dropped.
The next morning Elder Kinney preached--it seemed to his people--as he
never preached before. His subject was self-renunciation, and he spoke as
one who saw the waving palms of the martyrs and heard their shouts of joy.
There were few dry eyes in the little meeting-house. Tears rolled down
Draxy's face. But she looked up suddenly, on hearing Elder Kinney say, in
an unsteady voice,--
"My bretherin, I'm goin' to read to you now a hymn which comes nigher to
expressin' my idea of the kind of resignation God likes than any hymn
that's ever been written or printed in any hymn-book;" and then he
"I cannot think but God must know," etc.
Draxy's first feeling was one of resentment; but it was a very short-lived
one. The earnest tone, the solemn stillness of the wondering people, the
peaceful summer air floating in at the open windows,--all lifted her out
of herself, and made her glad to hear her own hymn read by the man she
loved, for the worship of God. But her surprise was still greater when the
choir began to sing the lines to a quaint old Methodist tune. They had
been provided with written copies of the hymn, and had practiced it so
faithfully that they sang it well. Draxy broke down and sobbed for a few
moments, so that Elder Kinney was on the point of forgetting everything,
and springing to her side. He had not supposed that anything in the world
could so overthrow Draxy's composure. He did not know how much less
strong her nerves were now than they had been two months before.
After church, Draxy walked home alone very rapidly. She did not wish to
see any one. She was glad that her father and mother had not been there.
She could not understand the tumult of her feelings.
At twilight, she stole out of the back door of the house, and walked down
to a little brook which ran near by. As she stood leaning against a young
maple tree she heard steps, and without looking up, knew that the Elder
was coming. She did not move nor speak. He waited some minutes in silence.
Then he said "Oh, Draxy! I never once thought o' painin' you! I thought
you'd like it. Hymns are made to be sung, dear; and that one o' yours is
so beautiful!" He spoke as gently as her father might, and in a voice she
hardly knew. Draxy made no reply. The Elder had never seen her like this.
Her lips quivered, and he saw tears in her eyes.
"Oh, Draxy, do look up at me--just once! You don't know how hard it is for
a man to think he's hurt anybody--like you!" stammered the poor Elder,
ending his sentence quite differently from what he had intended.
Draxy smiled through her tears, and looking up, said: "But I am not hurt,
Mr. Kinney; I don't know what I am crying for, sir;" and her eyes fell
The Elder looked down upon her in silence. Moments passed. "Oh, if I could
make her look up at me again!" he thought. His unspoken wish stirred her
veins; slowly she lifted her eyes; they were calm now, and unutterably
loving. They were more than the Elder could bear."
"Oh, Draxy, Draxy!" exclaimed he, stretching out both his arms towards
"My heart grows weaker and more weak
With looking on the thing so dear
Which lies so far, and yet so near!"
Slowly, very slowly, like a little child learning to walk, with her eyes
full of tears, but her mouth smiling, Draxy moved towards the Elder. He
did not stir, partly because he could not, but partly because he would not
lose one instant of the deliciousness of seeing her, feeling her come.
When they went back to the house, Reuben was sitting in the porch. The
Elder took his hand and said:
"Mr. Miller, I meant to have asked you first; but God didn't give me
"You've's good's asked me a good while back, Elder; an' I take it you
haint ever had much doubt what my answer'd be." Then, as Draxy knelt down
by his chair and laid her head on his shoulder, he added more solemnly,--
"But I'd jest like once to say to ye, Elder, that if ever I get to heaven,
I wouldn't ask anythin' more o' the Lord than to let me see Draxy 'n' you
a comin' in together, an' lookin' as you looked jest now when ye come in't
The Elder's Wife.
Sequel to "Draxy Miller's Dowry."
Draxy and the Elder were married in the little village church, on the
first Sunday in September.
"O Draxy! let it be on a communion Sunday," the Elder had said, with an
expression on his face which Draxy could not quite fathom; "I can't tell
you what it 'ud be to me to promise myself over again to the blessed
Saviour, the same hour I promise to you, darling, I'm so afraid of loving
Him less. I don't see how I can remember anything about heaven, after I've
got you, Draxy," and tears stood in the Elder's eyes.
Draxy looked at him wonderingly and with a little pain in her face. To her
serene nature, heaven and earth, this life and all the others which may
follow it, had so long seemed one--love and happiness and duty had become
so blended in one sweet atmosphere of living in daily nearness to God,
that she could not comprehend the Elder's words.
"Why, Mr. Kinney, it's all Christ," she said, slowly and hesitatingly,
slipping her hand into his, and looking up at him so lovingly that his
face flushed, and he threw his arms around her, and only felt a thousand
times more that heaven had come to mean but one thing to him.
"Darling," he whispered, "would you feel so if I were to die and leave you
"Yes, I think so," said Draxy, still more slowly, and turning very pale.
"You never can really leave me, and no human being can be really alone; it
would still be all Christ, and it would be living His life and God's
still;" but tears rolled down her cheeks, and she began to sob.
"Oh, forgive me, Draxy," exclaimed the Elder, wrung to the heart by the
sight of her grief. "I'm nothing but a great brute to say that to you just
now; but, Draxy, you don't know much about a man's heart yet; you're such
a saint yourself, you can't understand how it makes a man feel as if this
earth was enough, and he didn't want any heaven, when he loves a woman as
I love you," and the Elder threw himself on the ground at Draxy's feet,
and laid his face down reverently on the hem of her gown. There were fiery
depths in this man's nature of which he had never dreamed, until this
fair, sweet, strong womanhood crossed his path. His love of Draxy kindled
and transformed his whole consciousness of himself and of life; it was no
wonder that he felt terrors; that he asked himself many times a day what
had become of the simple-minded, earnest, contented worker he used to be.
He was full of vague and restless yearnings; he longed to do, to be, to
become, he knew not what, but something that should be more of kin to this
beautiful nature he worshipped--something that should give her great
joy--something in which she could feel great pride.
"It ain't right, I know it ain't right, to feel so about any mortal," he
would say to himself; "that's the way I used to feel about Jesus. I wanted
to do all for Him, and now I want to do all for Draxy," and the great,
tender, perplexed heart was sorely afraid of its new bliss.
They were sitting in the maple grove behind the house. In the tree under
which they sat was a yellow-hammer's nest. The two birds had been
fluttering back and forth in the branches for some time. Suddenly they
both spread their wings and flew swiftly away in opposite directions.
Draxy looked up, smiling through her tears, and, pointing to the fast
fading specks in the distant air, said,--
"It would be like that. They are both sent on errands. They won't see each
other again till the errands are done."
The Elder looked into her illumined face, and, sighing, said: "I can't
help prayin' that the Lord'll have errands for us that we can do together
as long's we live, Draxy."
"Yes, dear," said Draxy, "I pray for that too," and then they were silent
for some minutes. Draxy spoke first. "But Mr. Kinney, I never heard of
anybody's being married on Sunday--did you?"
"No," said the Elder, "I never did, but I've always thought it was the
only day a man ought to be married on; I mean the most beautiful, the
"Yes," replied Draxy, a solemn and tender light spreading over her whole
face, "it certainly is. I wonder why nobody has ever thought so before.
But perhaps many people have," she added with a merrier smile; "we don't
Presently she looked up anxiously and said:
"But do you think the people would like it? Wouldn't they think it very
The Elder hesitated. He, too, had thought of this.
"Well, I tell you, Draxy, it's just this way: I've tried more than once to
get some of them to come and be married on a Sunday in church, and they
wouldn't, just because they never heard of it before; and I'd like to have
them see that I was in true earnest about it. And they like you so well,
Draxy, and you know they do all love me a great deal more'n I deserve, and
I can't help believing it will do them good all their lives by making them
think more how solemn a thing a marriage ought to be, if they take it as I
think they will; and I do think I know them well enough to be pretty
So it was settled that the marriage should take place after the morning
sermon, immediately before the communion service. When Reuben was told of
this, his face expressed such absolute amazement that Draxy laughed
outright, in spite of the deep solemnity of her feeling in regard to it.
"Why, father," she said, "you couldn't look more surprised if I had told
you I was not to be married at all."
"But Draxy, Draxy," Reuben gasped, "who ever heard of such a thing? What
will folks say?"
"I don't know that anybody ever heard of such a thing, father dear,"
answered Draxy, "but I am not afraid of what the people will say. They
love Mr. Kinney, and he has always told them that Sunday was the day to be
married on. I shouldn't wonder if every young man and young woman in the
parish looked on it in a new and much holier light after this. I know I
began to as soon as the Elder talked about it, and it wouldn't seem right
to me now to be married on any other day," and Draxy stooped and kissed
her father's forehead very tenderly. There was a tenderness in Draxy's
manner now towards every one which can hardly be described in words. It
had a mixture of humility and of gracious bestowal in it, of entreaty and
of benediction, which were ineffably beautiful and winning. It is ever so
when a woman, who is as strong as she is sweet, comes into the fullness of
her womanhood's estate of love. Her joy overflows on all; currents of
infinite compassion set towards those who must miss that by which she is
thrilled; her incredulity of her own bliss is forever questioning humbly;
she feels herself forever in presence of her lover, at once rich and free
and a queen, and poor and chained and a vassal. So her largess is
perpetual, involuntary, unconscious, and her appeal is tender, wistful,
beseeching. In Draxy's large nature,--her pure, steadfast, loving soul,
quickened and exalted by the swift currents of an exquisitely attuned and
absolutely healthful body,--this new life of love and passion wrought a
change which was vivid and palpable to the commonest eyes. Men and women
upon whom she smiled, in passing, felt themselves lifted and drawn, they
knew not how. A sentiment of love, which had almost reverence in it, grew
up towards her in the hearts of the people. A certain touch of sadness, of
misgiving, mingled with it.
"I'm afraid she ain't long for this world; she's got such a look o' heaven
in her face," was said more than once, in grieving tones, when the Elder's
approaching marriage was talked of. But old Ike was farther sighted, in
his simplicity, than the rest. "'Tain't that," he said, "that woman's got
in her face. It's the kind o' heaven that God sends down to stay'n this
world, to help make us fit for the next. Shouldn't wonder ef she outlived
th' Elder a long day," and Ike wiped his old eyes slyly with the back of
The day of the marriage was one of those shining September days which only
mountain regions know. The sky was cloudless and of a transcendent blue.
The air was soft as the air of June. Draxy's young friends had decorated
the church with evergreens and clematis vines; and on each side of the
communion-table were tall sheaves of purple asters and golden-rod. Two
children were to be baptized at noon, and on a little table, at the right
of the pulpit, stood the small silver baptismal font, wreathed with white
asters and the pale feathery green of the clematis seed.
When Draxy walked up the aisle leaning on her father's arm, wearing the
same white dress she had worn on Sundays all summer, it cannot be denied
that there were sighs of disappointment in some of the pews. The people
had hoped for something more. Draxy had kept her own counsel on this point
closely, replying to all inquiries as to what she would wear, "White, of
course," but replying in such a tone that no one had quite dared to ask
more, and there had even been those in the parish who "reckoned" that she
wouldn't "be satisfied with anythin' less than white satin." Her head was
bare, her beautiful brown hair wound tightly round and round in the same
massive knot as usual. Her only ornaments were the creamy white blossoms
of the low cornel; one cluster in the braids of her hair, and one on her
bosom. As she entered the pew and sat down by the side of her mother,
slanting sunbeams from the southern windows fell upon her head, lighting
up the bright hair till it looked like a saintly halo. Elder Kinney sat in
the pulpit, with his best loved friend, Elder Williams, who was to preach
that day and perform the marriage ceremony. When Draxy and her father
entered the door, Elder Kinney rose and remained standing until they
reached their pew. As Draxy sat down and the golden sunbeams flickered
around her, the Elder sank back into his seat and covered his eyes with
his hand. He did not change his posture until the prayers and the hymns
and the sermon were over, and Elder Williams said in a low voice,--
"The ceremony of marriage will now be performed." Then he rose, his
countenance glowing like that of one who had come from some Mount of
Transfiguration. With a dignity and grace of bearing such as royal
ambassadors might envy, he walked slowly down to Reuben Miller's pew, and,
with his head reverently bent, received Draxy from her father's hands.
Passionate love and close contact with Draxy's exquisite nature were
developing, in this comparatively untrained man, a peculiar courteousness
and grace, which added a subtle charm to the simplicity of his manners. As
he walked up the aisle with Draxy clinging to his arm, his tall figure
looked majestic in its strength, but his face was still bent forward,
turned toward her with a look of reverence, of love unspeakable.
The whole congregation rose, moved by one impulse, and the silence was
almost too solemn. When the short and simple ceremony was over, the Elder
led Draxy to his own pew and sat down by her side.
After the little children had been baptized, the usual announcement of the
Lord's Supper was made, and the usual invitation given. Absolute silence
followed it, broken only by the steps of the singers leaving their seats
in the gallery to take places below. Not a person moved to leave the body
of the house. Elder Williams glanced at Elder Kinney in perplexity, and
waited for some moments longer. The silence still remained unbroken; there
was not a man, woman, or child there but felt conscious of a tender and
awed impulse to remain and look on at this ceremony, so newly significant
and solemn to their beloved Elder. Tears came into many eyes as he took
the cup of wine from Deacon Plummer's trembling hands and passed it to
Draxy, and many hearts which had never before longed for the right to
partake of the sacred emblems longed for it then.
After the services, were ended, just as Elder Williams was about to
pronounce the benediction, Elder Kinney rose from his seat, and walking
rapidly to the communion table said,--
"My dear friends, I know you don't look for any words from me to-day; but
there are some of you I never before saw at this blessed feast of our
Lord, and I must say one word to you from Him." Then pausing, he looked
round upon them all, and, with an unutterable yearning in the gesture,
stretched out both his arms and said: "O my people, my people! like as a
hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, He would have gathered you long
ago, but ye would not." Then, still holding out his arms towards them, he
pronounced the benediction.
Silently and solemnly the little congregation dispersed. A few lingered,
and looked longingly at Draxy, as if they would go back and speak to her.
But she stood with her eyes fixed on the Elder's face, utterly unconscious
of the presence of any other human being. Even her father dared not break
the spell of holy beatitude which rested on her countenance.
"No, no, ma," he said to Jane, who proposed that they should go back to
the pew and walk home with her. "This ain't like any other wedding that
was ever seen on this earth, unless, maybe, that one in Cana. And I don't
believe the Lord was any nearer to that bridegroom than He is to this
So Jane and Reuben walked home from church alone, for the first time since
they came to Clairvend, and Draxy and her husband followed slowly behind.
The village people who watched them were bewildered by their manner, and
interpreted it variously according to their own temperaments.
"You'd ha' thought now they'd been married years an' years to look at
'em," said Eben Hill; "they didn't speak a word, nor look at each other
any more 'n old Deacon Plummer 'n his wife, who was joggin' along jest
Old Ike--poor, ignorant, loving old Ike, whose tender instinct was like
the wistful sagacity of a faithful dog--read their faces better. He had
hurried out of church and hid himself in the edge of a little pine grove
which the Elder and Draxy must pass.
"I'd jest like to see 'em a little longer," he said to himself half
apologetically. As they walked silently by, old Ike's face saddened, and
at last became convulsed with grief. Creeping out from beneath the pines,
he slowly followed them up the hill, muttering to himself, in the fashion
which had grown upon him in his solitary life:--
"O Lord! O Lord! No such looks as them is long for this earth. O Lord!
which is it ye're goin' to take? I reckon it's the Elder. I reckon 'tis.
That woman's goin' to have her heart broke. O Lord! O Lordy me! I can't
bear the sight on't!" and he leaped a fence and struck off across the
fields towards his house. He did not shut his eyes that night, but tossed
and groaned aloud. Towards morning he formed a resolution which calmed him
"Ef I kin only be right close to 'em till it comes, p'raps I can be of a
little use. Leastways it 'ud be some comfort to try," he said.
As the Elder and Draxy were sitting at breakfast the next day, they caught
sight of the old man's bent figure walking up and down outside the gate,
and stopping now and then irresolutely, as if he would come in, but dared
"Why, there's old Ike," exclaimed the Elder, "What on earth can he want
at this time of day!"
Draxy looked up with a very tender smile, and said: "I shouldn't wonder if
he wanted just to see how happy you look, Mr. Kinney. Nobody in this world
loves you so well as old Ike does."
"Oh, Draxy!" said the Elder, reproachfully.
"No, dear, not even I. Old Ike never dreams of receiving any love in
return. I have seen his eyes follow you with just such a look as dogs'
eyes have. I wish we could do something for him."
"We will, dear, we will go and see him often. I own it smites me to the
soul sometimes to think how humble he is, and so glad to see me when I
haven't been near him for six months, maybe."
At this moment Hannah put her head into the door and said, in no pleasant
"Here's that Ike Sanborn wantin' to speak to ye sir, but I telled him"--
"Let him come right in here, Hannah," said Draxy. "Mr. Kinney and I will
be very glad to see him this morning." Hannah's face relaxed in spite of
herself, in answer to Draxy's smile, but she could not forgive Ike for
what seemed to her a most unwarrantable intrusion, and she was grimmer
than ever when she returned to him, saying,--
"They'll see ye; but I must say, I sh'd ha' thought ye'd know better'n to
be comin' round here this mornin' of all mornin's. Ain't they to have a
minute's peace to theirselves?"
Ike looked up appealingly at the hard Indian face.
"I wa'n't goin' to keep 'em a minute," he said: "I won't go in now. I'll
come agin, ef you say so, Hannah."
"No, no--go in, now ye're here; ye've interrupted 'em, and ye may's well
take the good on't now," replied the vengeful Hannah, pushing Ike along
towards the sitting-room door.
"Ef there's anythin' I do hate, it's shiftless white folks," grumbled
Hannah as she went back to her work. If poor Ike had known the angry
contempt for him which filled Hannah's heart, he would have felt still
less courage for the proposition he had come to make. As it was, he stood
in the doorway the very picture of irresolution and embarrassment.
"Come in, come in, Ike," said the Elder; "you're the first one of the
parish to pay your respects to Mrs. Kinney." Draxy rose from her seat
smiling, and went towards him and said: "And Mrs. Kinney is very glad to
see you, Ike."
This was too much for the loving old heart. He dropped his hat on the
floor, and began to speak so rapidly and incoherently that both Draxy and
the Elder were almost frightened.
"O Elder! O Miss Kinney!--I've been a thinkin' that p'raps you'd let me
come an' live with you, an' do all yer chores. I'd bring my two cows, an'
my keepin' wouldn't be very much; an'--oh, sir, ef ye'll only let me, I'll
bless ye all the days o' my life," and Ike began to cry.
So did Draxy, for that matter, and the Elder was not very far from it.
Draxy spoke first.
"Why, Ike, do you really want so much to live with us?"
Ike's first answer was a look. Then he said, very simply,--
"I've laid awake all night, ma'am, tryin' to get bold enough to come and
Draxy looked at her husband, and said in a low voice, "You know what I
told you just now, Mr. Kinney?"
The Elder saw that Draxy was on Ike's side.
"Well, well, Ike," he said, "you shall certainly come and try it. Perhaps
you won't like it as well as you think. But don't say anything about it to
any one else till you hear from us. You shall come very soon."
Ike turned to go, but lingered, and finally stammered: "I hope, sir, ye
don't take it that I'm askin' a charity; I make bold to believe I could be
worth to ye's much's my keepin'; I'm considerable handy 'bout a good many
things, an' I can do a day's mowin' yet with any man in the parish, I
don't care who he is. It's only because--because"--Ike's voice broke, and
it was very nearly with a sob that he added, "because I love ye, sir," and
he hurried away. Draxy sprang after him.
"I know that very well, Ike, and so does Mr. Kinney, and you will be a
great help to us. You are making us the most valuable wedding present
we've had yet, Ike," and Draxy held out her hand.
Ike looked at the hand, but he did not touch it.
"Maybe God'll let me thank ye yet, ma'am," he said, and was gone.
As he went through the kitchen a sudden misgiving seized him of terror of
"Supposin' she sh'd take into her head to be agin me," thought he. "They
say the Elder himself's 'fraid on her. I don't s'pose she'd dare to try to
pizen me outright, an' anyhow there's allers eggs an' potatoes. But I'll
bring her round fust or last;" and, made wary by love, Ike began on the
spot to conciliate her, by offering to bring a pail of water from the
This small attention went farther than he could have dreamed. When Draxy
first told Hannah that Ike was to come and live with them, she said
"It will make your work much easier in many ways, Hannah."
"Yes, missus. He'll bring all the water I spose, an that alone's wuth any
man's keep--not that I've ever found any fault with the well's bein' so
far off. It's 's good water's there is in the world, but it's powerful
The arrival of the two cows crowned Hannah's liking of the plan. If she
had a passion in life it was for cream and for butter-making, and it had
been a sore trial to her in her life as the Elder's housekeeper, that she
must use stinted measures of milk, bought from neighbors. So when poor Ike
came in, trembling and nervous, to his first night's lodging under the
Elder's roof, he found in the kitchen, to his utter surprise, instead of a
frowning and dangerous enemy, a warm ally, as friendly in manner and mien
as Indian blood would permit.
Thus the little household settled down for the winter: Draxy and the Elder
happy, serene, exalted more than they knew, by their perfect love for each
other, and their childlike love of God, blending in one earnest purpose
of work for souls; Hannah and Ike anything but serene, and yet happy after
their own odd fashions, and held together much more closely than they knew
by the common bond of their devotion to the Elder and his wife.
In the other side of the house were also two very thankful and contented
hearts. Reuben and Jane were old people now: Reuben's hair was snowy
white, and Jane was sadly bent; but the comfort and peace which had come
so late into their lives had still come early enough to make the sunset a
bright one. It was a sight to do all hearts good to see the two sitting
together on the piazza of the house, in the warm afternoons, and gazing in
delight at the eastern mountain ranges turning rose-pink, and then fading
through shades of purple to dark gray.
"It's a good deal like our life, ma," Reuben said sometimes; "our sun's
pretty low--most down, I reckon; it's all rosy-light, just these days; but
we shall have to lie down in the shadow presently; but it's all beautiful,
Jane did not understand him. She never did. But she loved the sound of his
voice best when he said the things which were too subtle for her.
The two households lived separately as before. The Elder had proposed
their making one family, and Reuben had wistfully seconded it. But Draxy
had firmly said "No."
"I shall be able to do more for you, father dear, if we do not. It will
not seem so at first, but I know I am right," she said, and it was a rare
wisdom in her sweet soul which led to the decision. At first it was very
hard for Reuben to bear, but as the months went on he saw that it was
Draxy's loving, thoughtful care of them never relaxed. The excellent woman
whom she had secured for their servant went for her orders quite as often
to Draxy as to Jane; very few meals were set out for them to which Draxy's
hand had not given the last final touch. She flitted back and forth
between the two homes, equally of both the guardian angel; but the line of
division and separation was just as distinctly drawn as if they had been
under different roofs a mile apart. Two or three times in the week they
dined and took tea together, but the habit never was formed of doing this
on a special day. When Reuben said, "Couldn't ye arrange it so's always to
eat your Sunday dinner with us, Draxy?" she replied:
"Sometimes Sunday dinner; sometimes Thursday; sometimes Saturday, father
dear. If we make it a fixed day, we shall not like it half so well; any of
us. We'll come often enough, you may be sure." And of this, too, Reuben
soon saw the wisdom.
"O Draxy, Draxy, my little girl!" he said one day, when, just after
breakfast, she ran in, exclaiming,--
"Father dear, we're coming to take dinner with you and ma to-day. It's a
surprise party, and the chickens have come first; they're in the kitchen
"O Draxy, Draxy," he exclaimed, "it's a great deal nicer not to know it
beforehand. How could you be so wise, child?"
Draxy put her arms round his neck and did not speak for a moment. Then she
said, "I don't think it is wisdom, dear. Real true love knows by instinct,
just as the bee does, which shaped cell will hold most honey. I'm only a
honey-maker for my darlings."
Jane looked mystified, but Reuben's face quivered with pleasure.
"That you are, you blessed child," he said, and as, hearing the Elder's
step in the hall, she flew out of the room, Reuben covered his eyes with
Happy years leave slender records; but for suffering and sin there would
not be history. The winter came, and the spring came, and the summer and
the autumn, and no face in the quiet little parsonage looked a shade older
for the year that had gone; no incident had taken place which could make a
salient point in a story, and not one of the peaceful hearts could believe
that a twelvemonth had flown. Elder Kinney's pathetic fears lest he might
love his Saviour less by reason of his new happiness, had melted like
frost in early sunlight, in the sweet presence of Draxy's child-like
"O Draxy!" he said again and again, "seems to me I never half loved all
these souls we are working for, before I had you. I don't see how I could
have been so afraid about it before we were married."
"Do I really help you, Mr. Kinney?" Draxy would reply, with a lingering
emphasis on the "really," which made her husband draw her closer to him
and forget to speak: "It seems very strange to me that I can. I feel so
ignorant about souls. It frightens me to answer the smallest question the
people ask me. I never do, in any way except to tell them if I have ever
felt so myself, and how God seemed to help me out."
Blessed Draxy! that was the secret of her influence from first to last:
the magnetic sympathy of a pure and upright soul, to whose rare strength
had been added still rarer simplicity and lovingness. Old and young, men
as well as women, came to her with unhesitating confidence. Before her
marriage, they had all felt a little reserve with her, partly because she
was of finer grain than they, partly because she had, deep down in her
soul, a genuine shyness which showed itself only in quiet reticence. But
now that she was the Elder's wife, they felt that she was in a measure
theirs. There is a very sweet side, as well as an inconvenient and
irritating one, to the old-fashioned rural notion that the parish has
almost as much right to the minister's wife as to the minister. Draxy saw
only the sweet side. With all the loyalty and directness which had made
her, as a little girl, champion and counselor and comfort to her father,
she now set her hand to the work of helping her husband do good to the
people whom he called his children.
"If they are yours, they must be mine, too, Mr. Kinney," she would say,
with a smile half arch, half solemn. "I hope I shan't undo on week-days
what you do on Sundays."
"What I do on Sundays is more'n half your work too, Draxy," the Elder
would make reply; and it was very true. Draxy's quicker brain and finer
sense, and in some ways superior culture, were fast moulding the Elder's
habits of thought and speech to an extent of which she never dreamed.
Reuben's income was now far in advance of their simple wants, and
newspapers, magazines, and new books continually found their way to the
parsonage. Draxy had only to mention anything she desired to see, and
Reuben forthwith ordered it. So that it insensibly came to pass that the
daily life of the little household was really an intellectual one, and
Elder Kinney's original and vigorous mind expanded fast in the congenial
atmosphere. Yet he lost none of his old quaintness and simplicity of
phrase, none of his fervor. The people listened to his sermons with
wondering interest, and were not slow to ascribe some of the credit of the
new unction to Draxy.
"Th' Elder's getting more'n more like Mis' Kinney every day o' his life,"
they said: "there's some o' her sayin's in every sermon he writes.
"And no wonder," would be added by some more enthusiastic worshipper of
Draxy's. "I guess he's got sense enough to know that she's got more real
book-learnin' in her head than he has, twice over. I shouldn't wonder if
she got to writin' some of his sermons for him out'n out, before long."
Dear Draxy's reverent wifehood would have been grieved and dismayed if she
had known that her efforts to second her husband's appeals to his people
were sometimes so eloquent as to make the Elder's words forgotten. But she
never dreamed of such a thing; she was too simple hearted and humble.
In the early days of the second winter came the Angel of the Annunciation,
bearing a white lily to Draxy. Her joy and gratitude were unspeakable, and
the exquisite purity and elevation of her nature shone out transcendent in
the new experience.
"Now I begin to feel surer that God really trusts me," she said, "since he
is going to let me have a child of my own."
"O my dear friends!" she exclaimed more than once to mothers, "I never
dreamed how happy you were. I thought I knew, but I did not."
Draxy's spontaneous and unreserved joy of motherhood, while yet her babe
was unborn, was a novel and startling thing to the women among whom she
lived. The false notions on this point, grown out of ignorant and base
thoughts, are too wide-spread, too firm-rooted, to be overthrown in an
hour or a day, even by the presence of angelic truth incarnate. Some of
Draxy's best friends were annoyed and disquieted by her frankness and
unreserve of delight. But as the weeks went on, the true instinct of
complete motherhood thrilled for the first time in many a mother's heart,
under Draxy's glowing words, and women talked tearfully one with another,
in secret, with lowered voices, about the new revelation which had come to
them through her.
"I've come to see it all quite different, since I've talked with Mis'
Kinney," said one young married woman, holding her baby close to her
breast, and looking down with remorseful tenderness on its placid little
face. "I shan't never feel that I've quite made it up to Benjy, never, for
the thoughts I had about him before he was born. I don't see why nobody
ever told us before, that we was just as much mothers to 'em from the very
first as we ever could be," and tears dropped on Benjy's face; "an' I jest
hope the Lord'll send me's many more's we can manage to feed'n clothe, 'n
I'll see if lovin' 'em right along from the beginnin', with all my heart,
'll make 'em beautiful an' happy an' strong an' well, 's Mis' Kinney sez.
I b'lieve it's much's ef 'twas in the Bible, after all she told me, and
read me out of a Physiology, an' it stands to natur', which's more'n the
old way o' talkin did."
This new, strong current of the divinest of truths, stirred the very veins
of the village. Mothers were more loving and fathers more tender, and
maidens were sweeter and graver--all for the coming of this one little
babe into the bosom of full and inspired motherhood.
On the morning when Draxy's son was born, a stranger passing through the
village would have supposed that some great news of war or of politics had
arrived. Little knots of people stood at gates, on corners, all talking
earnestly; others were walking rapidly to and fro in the street.
Excitement filled the air.
Never was heir to royal house more welcomed than was the first-born son of
this simple-minded, great-hearted woman, by the lowly people among whom
Old Ike's joy was more than he could manage. He had sat on the floor all
night long, with his head buried in his hands.
The instinct of grief to come, which not even all these long peaceful
months had been able to wholly allay in his faithful heart, had sprung
into full life at the first symptom of danger to Draxy.
"P'raps it's this way, arter all, the Lord's goin' to do it. O Lord! O
Lord! It'll kill Mr. Kinney, it'll kill him," he kept repeating over and
over, as he rocked to and fro. Hannah eyed him savagely. Her Indian blood
hated groans and tears, and her affection for her master was angered at
the very thought of his being afflicted.
"I wish it had pleased yer Lord to give ye the sense of a man, Mr.
Sanborn," she said, "while He was a makin' on ye. If ye'd go to bed, now,
instead o' snivelin' round here, you might be good for somethin' in the
mornin', when there'll be plenty to do. Anyhow, I'm not goin' to be
pestered by the sight on ye any longer," and Hannah banged the
kitchen-door violently after her.
When poor Ike timidly peered into the sitting-room, whither she had
betaken herself, he found her, too, sitting on the floor, in an attitude
not unlike the one she had so scorned in him. But he was too meek to taunt
her. He only said,--
"I'm goin' now, Hannah, so ye needn't stay out o' the kitchen for me," and
he climbed slowly up the stairs which led to his room.
As the rosy day dawned in the east, Draxy's infant son drew his first
mortal breath. His first quivering cry, faint almost as a whisper, yet
sharp and piteous, reached old Ike's ears instantly. He fell on his knees
and remained some minutes motionless, then he rose and went slowly
down-stairs. Hannah met him at the door, her dark face flushed with
emotion which she vainly tried to conceal by sharp words.
"Hope ye've rested well, Mr. Sanborn. Another time, mebbe ye'll have more
sense. As fine a boy's ye ever see, and Mis' Kinney she's a smilin' into
its face, as nobody's never seen her smile yet, I tell you."
Ike was gone,--out into the fields, over fences, over brooks, into woods,
trampling down dewy ferns, glistening mosses, scarlet cornels, thickets of
goldenrod and asters,--he knew not where, muttering to himself all the
while, and tossing his arms into the air. At last he returned to the house
saying to himself, "P'raps th' Elder 'll like to have me go down into the
village an' let folks know."
Elder Kinney was standing bareheaded on the door-steps. His face looked
like the face of a man who had come off a battle-field where victory had
been almost as terrible as defeat. As soon as he saw old Ike running
across the field towards him, he divined all.
"Loving old heart!" he thought, "Draxy was right," and he held out both
his hands to the old man as he had never done before, and spoke a few
affectionate words, which made tears run down the wrinkled cheeks. Then he
sent him on the errand he knew he craved.
"You'd better give the news first to Eben Hill, Ike," he called after him.
"It'll be of more use to him than to anybody in the parish."
It was just two years from Draxy's wedding day, when she stood again in
the aisle of the little village church, dressed in pure white, with the
southern sunlight resting on her beautiful hair. Her husband stood by her
side, holding their infant son in his arms. The child had clear, calm blue
eyes like Draxy's, and an expression of serenity and radiant joy on his
tiny face, which made the people wonder.
"Reuben Miller Kinney" was his name; and though the parish had hoped that
the child would be named for his father, when they looked at Reuben
Miller's sweet, patient, noble face, and saw its intense happiness as the
words were spoken, they felt that it was better so.
Again swift months rolled on, and peace and joy brooded over the
parsonage. Draxy's life with her child was something too beautiful to be
told in words; her wifehood was lovely, was intense; but her motherhood
was greater. Day and night her love for her boy protected and guided him,
like pillar of cloud, like pillar of fire. She knew no weariness, no
feebleness; she grew constantly stronger and more beautiful, and the child
grew stronger and more beautiful, with a likeness to her and a oneness
with her which were marvelous. He was a loving and affectionate boy to
all; his father, his grandparents, old Ike, and swarthy Hannah,--all alike
sunned themselves in the delight of his beautiful childhood. But wherever
he was--however amused and delighted--even in his father's arms--his eyes
sought his mother's eyes, and the mute interchange between them was subtle
and constant as between lovers. There was but one drawback on Draxy's
felicity now. She was afraid of her love for her boy.
"O Seth!" she said,--after little Reuben's birth she for the first time
called her husband by this name; before that, although she lavished on him
all words of endearment, she had never found courage to call him Seth,--"O
Seth!" she said, "I feel now as you did about me before we were married. I
can't make myself think about anything but Reuby. O darling! you don't
think God would take him away from you to punish me, do you?" The Elder
could not comfort her when she was in this frame of mind; in fact, he
himself was sometimes afraid, seeing her utter absorption in the child.
Yet it never for one instant warped her firmness or judiciousness of
control. Draxy could not have comprehended that type of love which can
lose sight for one instant of the best good of the loved one. Her control,
however, was the control of a wise and affectionate companion, never that
of the authoritative parent. Little Reuben never heard the words, "You
must not do thus and so." It was always, "You cannot, because it is not
safe, best, or proper," or, "because if you do, such and such things will
"Draxy," said Reuben to her one day, "you never tell Reuby to do anything
without giving him a reason for it. He's the best boy that ever lived, I
do believe, but 'tain't just my idea of obedience for all that."
Draxy smiled. "I never said a word to him about obeying me in his life; I
never shall. I can't explain it, father dear, but you must let me do my
way. I shall tell him all I know about doing right, and he will decide for
himself more and more. I am not afraid."
She need not have been. Before Reuby was seven years old his gentle
manliness of behavior was the marvel of the village. "It beats all how
Mis' Kinney's brought that boy o' hern up," was said in the sewing-circle
one day. "She told me herself that she's never so much's said a sharp word
to him; and as for whipping she thinks it's a deadly sin."
"So do I," spoke up young Mrs. Plummet, the mother of Benjy. "I never did
believe in that; I don't believe in it, even for hosses; it only gets 'em
to go a few rods, and then they're lazier'n ever. My father's broke more
colts than any man in this county, an' he'd never let 'em be struck a
blow. He said one blow spiled 'em, and I guess ye've got more to work on
in a boy than ye have in a colt."
These discussions often ran high and waxed warm. But Draxy's adherents
were a large majority; and she had so patiently and fully gone over these
disputed grounds with them that they were well fortified with the
arguments and facts which supported her positions. Indeed, it was fast
coming to pass that she was the central force of the life of the village.
"Let me make the songs of the community, and I care not who makes its
laws," was well said. It was song which Draxy supplied to these people's
lives. Not often in verse, in sound, in any shape that could be measured,
but in spirit. She vivified their every sense of beauty, moral and
physical. She opened their eyes to joy; she revealed to them the
sacredness and delight of common things; she made their hearts sing.
But she was to do more yet for these men and women. Slowly, noiselessly,
in the procession of these beautiful and peaceful days, was drawing near a
day which should anoint Draxy with a new baptism,--set her apart to a
It came, as the great consecrations of life are apt to come, suddenly,
without warning. While we are patiently and faithfully keeping sheep in
the wilderness, the messenger is journeying towards us with the vial of
sacred oil, to make us kings.
It was on a September morning. Draxy sat at the eastward bay-window of
her sitting-room, reading to Reuby. The child seemed strangely restless,
and slipped from her lap again and again, running to the window to look
out. At last Draxy said, "What is it, Reuby? Don't you want to hear mamma
read any longer?"
"Where is papa?" replied Reuby. "I want to go and find papa."
"Papa has gone way down to the Lower Mills, darling; he won't come home
till dinner," said Draxy, looking perplexedly at Reuby's face. She had
never known him to ask for his father in this way before. Still his
restlessness continued, and finally, clasping his mother's hand, he said
"Come and find papa."
"We can't find him, dear," she replied; "it is too far for Reuby to walk,
but we will go out on the same road papa has gone, and wait for papa to
come;" so saying, she led the child out of the house, and rambled slowly
along the road on which the Elder would return. In a few moments she saw
moving in the distance a large black object she could not define. As it
came nearer she saw that it was several men, walking slowly and apparently
bearing something heavy between them.
Little Reuby pulled her hand and began to run faster. "Come and find
papa," he said again, in a tone which struck terror to Draxy's heart. At
that instant the men halted. She hurried on. Presently she saw one man
leave the rest and run rapidly towards her. It was old Ike. The rest still
remained motionless and gathered closer around what they were carrying.
"O Reuby!" groaned Draxy. "Come quicker; find papa," he replied,
impatiently; but old Ike had reached them, and wringing his hands, burst
into tears. "O my Lord!--O Mis' Kinney, yer must go back; they can't bring
him along, an' you 'n' the boy standin' here. O my Lord! O Mis' Kinney,
come right back!" And Ike took hold of her shoulder and of her gown and
almost turned her around.
"Is Mr. Kinney hurt?" said Draxy in a strange voice, high pitched and
metallic. "I shall not go back. Tell the men to hurry. How dare they lose
time so?" and Draxy tried to run towards them. Old Ike held her by main
force. Sobs choked his voice, but he stammered out: "O Mis' Kinney, ef ye
love Mr. Kinney, go back. He'd tell ye so himself. He won't know ye; the
men won't never move a step till they see you 'n' Reuby goin' first."
Draxy turned instantly and walked toward the house so swiftly that little
Reuby could not keep up with her. He followed her crying aloud, but she
did not heed him. She flew rather than ran into the house, into the
Elder's study, and dragged a lounge to the very threshold of the door.
There she stood, whiter than any marble, and as still, awaiting the slow,
toiling steps of the overburdened men. Little Reuben stumbled on the steps
and she did not help him. As he came close, clutching her dress in his
pain and terror, she said in a low whisper, "Reuby, it will trouble papa
if he sees us cry. Mamma isn't going to cry." The child stopped instantly
and stood by her side, as calm as she for a moment, then bursting out
again into screams, said: "O mamma, I can't help crying, I can't; but
I'll run away. Don't tell papa I cried." And he ran up-stairs. Draxy did
not see which way he went. Her eyes were fixed on the doorway which Ike
had that moment reached; the men bearing the Elder's body were just behind
"O Mis' Kinney! can't yer go away jest while we lay him down?" gasped
Ike. "Seem's ef 'twouldn't be so hard."
Draxy looked past him, as not hearing a word.
"Bring him in here and lay him on this lounge," she said, in tones so
clear and calm they sent both courage and anguish into every heart.
Panting, and with grief-stricken faces, the men staggered in and laid the
tall, majestic figure down. As they lifted the head tenderly and propped
it by pillows, Draxy saw the pale, dead face with the sunken eyes and set
lips, and gave one low cry. Then she clasped both hands tight over her
heart and looked up as if she would pierce the very skies whither her
husband had gone.
"We sent for the doctor right off; he'll be here's soon's he can get
"He never spoke a word arter we lifted him up. He couldn't ha' suffered
any, Mis' Kinney."
"P'raps, Mis' Kinney, it'd be a good plan to ondo his clothes afore the
doctor gits here," came in confused and trembling tones from one after
another of the men who stood almost paralyzed in presence of Draxy's
"O Mis' Kinney, jest speak a word, can't ye? O Lord! O Lord! she'll die if
she don't. Where's Reuby? I'll fetch him," exclaimed Ike, and left the
room; the men followed him irresolutely, looking back at Draxy, who still
stood motionless, gazing down into the Elder's face.
"Do not look for Reuby--he has hid," came in a slow, measured whisper from
her lips. "And leave me alone." "Yes, I know. You need not be afraid. I
understand that Mr. Kinney is dead," she added, as the men hesitated and
looked bewilderedly in her face. "I will stay alone with him till the
doctor comes," and Draxy gently closed the door and locked it. In a short
time the little hall and door-yard were crowded with sobbing men and
women. There was little to be told, but that little was told over and
over. The Elder had walked down to the village store with old Ike, and had
just given him some parcels to carry home, saying, "Tell Mrs.
Kinney,"--when a runaway horse had come dashing furiously down the street,
drawing a wagon in which clung, rather than sat, a woman holding a baby in
her arms. The Elder had sprung into the middle of the road, and caught the
horse by the bridle as he swerved a little to one side; but the horse was
too strong and too much frightened to be held by any man's strength.
Rearing high, he had freed his head, and plunging forward had knocked the
Elder down in such a way that both wagon-wheels had run over his neck,
breaking it instantly.
"He never talked so much like an angel from heaven's he did this mornin',"
sobbed Ike, who looked already decrepit and broken from this sudden blow.
"He was a tellin' me about suthin' new that's jest been discovered in the
sun; I couldn't rightly make it out; but says he, 'Ike, how glorious
'twill be when we can jest fly from one sun to another, all through this
universe o' God's, an' not be a tryin' in these poor little airthly ways
to understand 'bout things.'"
That Draxy should be all this time alone with her husband's body seemed
dreadful to these sympathizing, simple-hearted people. No sound came from
the room, though the windows were all wide open.
"O Mr. Miller! don't ye think some on us had better try to git in to her,"
said the women; "she don't make no noise."
"No." replied Reuben, feebly. He, too, was prostrated like Ike by the
fearful blow, and looked years older within the hour. "No: Draxy knows
what's best for her. She's spoke to me once through the door. She hasn't
"When the doctor came, Reuben called to Draxy,--
"Daughter, the doctor's come."
The door opened instantly, but closed as soon as the doctor had entered.
In a few moments it opened again, and the doctor handed a slip of paper to
Reuben. He unfolded it and read it aloud:--
"Father dear, please thank all the people for me, and ask them to go home
now. There is nothing they can do. Tell them it grieves me to hear them
cry, and Mr. Kinney would not wish it."
Slowly and reluctantly the people went, and a silence sadder than the sobs
and grieving voices settled down on the house. Reuben sat on the stairs,
his head leaning against the study-door. Presently he heard a light step
coming down. It was young Mrs. Plummer, the mother of Benjy. She
whispered, "I've found Reuby. He's asleep on the garret floor. He'd
thrown himself down on some old carpet, way out in the darkest corner,
under the eaves. I've covered him up, an' I'm goin' to sit by him till he
wakes up. The longer he sleeps the better. You tell her where he is."
Reuben nodded; his dulled senses hardly heard the words. When the
study-door next opened, Draxy herself came out, walking with a slow,
measured step which transformed her whole bearing. Her face was perfectly
calm, but colorless as white stone. At sight of her father her lips
quivered, and she stretched out both hands to him; but she only said,
"Where is Reuby?" And as soon as she heard she went quickly up the stairs,
adding, "Do not follow me, father dear; you cannot help me."
Mrs. Plummer sat in the dark garret, leaning her head against the dusty
rafters, as near as she could get to poor little Reuby. Her eyes were
shut, and tears stood on her cheeks. Suddenly she was startled by Draxy's
low voice, saying,--
"Thank you very much, Mrs. Plummer; it was very kind in you to stay here
and not wake him up. I will sit by him now."
Mrs. Plummer poured forth incoherent words of sympathy and sorrow, but
Draxy hardly seemed to hear her. She stood quietly, making no reply,
waiting for her to go.
"O Mis' Kinney, Mis' Kinney, do cry a little, can't ye?" exclaimed the
warm-hearted woman; "it scares us to death to see ye this way."
Draxy smiled. "No, my dear friend. I cannot cry now. I suppose I shall
sometimes, because I am very selfish, and I shall be so lonely; but just
now I am only thinking how happy he is in these first hours in heaven."
The tears stood in her eyes, but her look was as of one who gazed
rapturously inside the pearly gates. Mrs. Plummer stole softly away,
overawed and afraid. As she went out of the house, she said to Reuben:
"Mis' Kinney ain't no mortal woman. She hain't shed a tear yet, and she
jest looks as glorified as the Elder can this minute in sight o' God's
very throne itself. O Mr. Miller, I'm afraid she'll break down. This kind
o' grief is what kills folks."
"No," said Reuben, "you don't know Draxy. She won't break down. She'll
take care on us all jest the same, but ye won't never see again the same
face you used to see. Oh, I can't be reconciled, I can't!" And Reuben
The next morning, when Draxy came out of the study, her hair was white as
snow. As her father first caught sight of her, he stared wildly for a
moment as at some stranger; then crying out, "O Draxy! O my little girl!"
he tottered and would have fallen if she had not caught him and led him to
"O father dear," she exclaimed, "don't feel so! I wouldn't call him back
this minute if I could," and she smiled piteously.
"O Draxy--'tain't that," gasped Reuben. "O daughter! you're dyin' and
never lettin' us know it. Your hair's as white's mine." Draxy gave a
startled glance at the mirror, and said, in a much more natural tone than
she had hitherto spoken in: "I don't think that's strange. It's happened
before to people in great trouble. I've read of it: you'll get used to it
very soon, father dear. I'm glad of it; I'll be all in white now," she
added in a lower tone, speaking dreamily, as if to herself,--"they walk in
white; they walk in white."
Then Reuben noticed that she was dressed in white. He touched her gown,
and looked inquiringly. "Yes, father dear," she said, "always."
On the day of the funeral, when Draxy entered the church leading little
Reuby by the hand, a visible shudder ran through the congregation. The
news had run like wildfire through the parish, on the morning after the
Elder's death, that Mrs. Kinney's hair had all turned gray in the night.
But nobody was in the least prepared for the effect. It was not gray--it
was silver-white; and as it retained all the silken gloss which had made
it so beautiful the shining of it was marvelous. It kindled her beauty
into something superhuman. The color had left her cheeks also, but in its
place was a clear soft tint which had no pallor in it. She was dressed in
pure white, so also was little Reuby; but for this the parish were
prepared. Very well they knew Draxy's deep-rooted belief that to associate
gloom with the memory of the dead was disloyal alike to them and to
Christ; and so warmly had she imbued most of the people with her
sentiment, that the dismal black garb of so-called mourning was rarely
seen in the village.
Bareheaded, Draxy and her little son walked from the church to the grave;
their faces the calmest, their steps the steadiest there. Reuben and Jane
walked behind them, bent over and sobbing, and half the congregation were
weeping uncontrollably; but the widowed woman and the fatherless boy
walked with uplifted glances, as if they saw angel-forms in the air by
"Tain't nateral; 'tain't noways nateral; thet woman hain't got any nateral
feelin' in her," said Eben Hill, leaning against a grave-stone, and idly
chewing a spray of golden-rod. George Thayer turned upon him like a
"Hev ye got any nateral feelin' yourself, Eben Hill, to say that, standin'
here an' lookin' at that woman's white hair an' cheeks, 'n' only last
Sunday she was 's handsome a pictur's ye ever see, her hair a twinklin' in
the sun like a brown beech-tree, an' her cheeks jest like roses? Nateral
feelin's! It's enough to make the Elder rise up afore ye, to hear ye say
sech a thing, Eben Hill; 'n' ef 'twan't jest the funeral that 'tis, I
b'leeve I'd thrash ye right an' left, here'n sight o' yer own mother's
tombstone, ye miserable, sneakin' fool. Ef there was ever a woman that was
carryin' a hull town straight into the Lord's heaven on her own shoulders,
it's Mis' Kinney, an' that blessed boy o' her'n 's goin' to be jest like
her. Look at him now, a workin' his poor little mouth an' lookin' up to
her and tryin' not to cry."
Poor little Reuby! when the first shovelful of earth fell on the coffin,
his child's heart gave way, and he broke into loud crying, which made the
roughest men there hide their eyes. Draxy caught him up in her arms and
whispered something which quieted him instantly. Then she set him down,
and he stood till the end, looking away from the grave with almost a smile
on his face. He told some one, the next day, that he kept saying over to
himself all that time: "Beautiful gates of precious stones and angels
with harps."--"That's the city, you know, where my papa has gone. It's not
half so far off as we think; and papa is so happy there, he don't even
miss us, though he can see us every minute. And mamma and I are going
there pretty soon; next summer perhaps."
For the first few days after the funeral, Draxy seemed to sink; the void
was too terrible; only little Reuby's voice roused her from the apathetic
silence in which she would sit by the hour gazing out of the east
bay-window on the road down which she had last seen her husband walk. She
knew just the spot where he had paused and turned and thrown kisses back
to Reuby watching him from the window.
But her nature was too healthy, too full of energy, and her soul too full
of love to remain in this frame long. She reproached herself bitterly for
the sin of having indulged in it even for a short time.
"I don't believe my darling can be quite happy even in heaven, while he
sees me living this way," she said sternly to herself one morning. Then
she put on her bonnet, and went down into the village to carry out a
resolution she had been meditating for some days. Very great was the
astonishment of house after house that morning, as Draxy walked quietly
in, as had been her wont. She proposed to the mothers to send their
younger children to her, to be taught half of every day.
"I can teach Reuby better if I have other children too," she said. "I
think no child ought to be sent into the district school under ten. The
confinement is too much for them. Let me have all the boys and girls
between six and eight, and I'll carry them along with Reuby for the next
two or three years at any rate," she said.
The parents were delighted and grateful; but their wonder almost swallowed
up all other emotions.
"To think o' her!" they said. "The Elder not three weeks buried, an' she a
goin' round, jest as calm 'n' sweet's a baby, a gettin' up a school!"
"She's too good for this earth, that's what she is," said Angy Plummer. "I
should jest like to know if anybody'd know this village, since she came
into 't. Why we ain't one of us the same we used to be. I know I ain't. I
reckon myself's jest about eight years old, if I have got three boys. That
makes me born the summer before her Reuby, 'an that's jest the time I was
born, when my Benjy was seven months old!"
"You're jest crazy about Mis' Kinney, Angy Plummer," said her mother. "I
b'lieve ye'd go through fire for her quicker 'n ye would for any yer own
flesh an' blood."
Angy went to her mother and kissed the fretful old face very kindly.
"Mother, you can't say I hain't been a better daughter to you sence I've
knowed Mis' Kinney."
"No, I can't," grumbled the old woman, "that's a fact; but she's got a
heap o' new fangled notions I don't believe in."
The school was a triumphant success. From nine until twelve o'clock every
forenoon, twelve happy little children had a sort of frolic of learning
lessons in the Elder's sacred study, which was now Draxy's sitting-room.
Old Ike, who since the Elder's death had never seemed quite clear of
brain, had asked so piteously to come and sit in the room, that Draxy let
him do so. He sat in a big chair by the fire-place, and carved whistles
and ships and fantastic toys for the children, listening all the time
intently to every word which fell from Draxy's lips. He had transferred to
her all the pathetic love he had felt for the Elder; he often followed her
at a distance when she went out, and little Reuby he rarely lost sight of,
from morning till night. He was too feeble now to do much work, but his
presence was a great comfort to Draxy. He seemed a very close link between
her and her husband. Hannah, too, sometimes came into the school at
recess, to the great amusement of the children. She was particularly fond
of looking at the blackboard, when there were chalk-marks on it.
"Make a mark on me with your white pencil," she would say, offering her
dark cheek to Reuby, who would scrawl hieroglyphics all over it from hair
Then she would invite the whole troop out into the kitchen to a feast of
doughnuts or cookies; very long the recesses sometimes were when the
school was watching Hannah fry the fantastic shapes of sweet dough, or
taking each a turn at the jagged wheel with which she cut them out.
Reuben also came often to the school-room, and Jane sometimes sat there
with her knitting. A strange content had settled on their lives, in spite
of the sorrow. They saw Draxy calm; she smiled on them as constantly as
ever; and they were very old people, and believed too easily that she was
But the Lord had more work still for this sweet woman's hand. This, too,
was suddenly set before her. Late one Saturday afternoon, as she was
returning, surrounded by her escort of laughing children, from the woods,
where they had been for May-flowers, old Deacon Plummer overtook her.
"Mis' Kinney, Mis' Kinney," he began several times, but could get no
further. He was evidently in great perplexity how to say the thing he
"Mis' Kinney, would you hev--
"Mis' Kinney, me and Deacon Swift's been a sayin'--
"Mis' Kinney, ain't you got--"
Draxy smiled outright. She often smiled now, with cordial good cheer, when
things pleased her.
"What is it, Deacon? out with it. I can't possibly tell unless you make it
Thus encouraged, good Deacon Plummer went on: "Well, Mis' Kinney, it's
jest this: Elder Williams has jest sent word he can't come an' preach
to-morrer, and there ain't nobody anywhere's round thet we can get; and
De'n Swift 'n me, we was a thinkin' whether you wouldn't be willin' some
of us should read one o' the Elder's old sermons. O Mis' Kinney, ye don't
know how we all hanker to hear some o' his blessed words agin."
Draxy stood still. Her face altered so that the little children crowded
round her in alarm, and Reuby took hold of her hand. Tears came into her
eyes, and she could hardly speak, but she replied,--
"Yes, indeed, Mr. Plummer, I should be very glad to have you. I'll look
out a sermon to-night, and you can come up to the house in the morning and
"O Mis' Kinney, do forgive me for speakin'. You have allers seem so borne
up, I never mistrusted that't'd do any harm to ask yer," stammered the
poor Deacon, utterly disconcerted by Draxy's tears, for she was crying
"It hasn't done any harm, I assure you. I am very glad to do it," said
"Yes, sir, my mamma very often cries when she's glad," spoke up Reuby, his
little face getting very red, and his lips quivering. "She's very glad,
sir, if she says so."
This chivalrous defense calmed poor Draxy, but did not comfort the Deacon,
who hurried away, saying to himself,--
"Don't believe there was ever such a woman nor such a boy in this world
before. She never shed a tear when we brought the Elder home dead, nor
even when she see him let down into the very grave; 'n' I don't believe
she's cried afore anybody till to-day; 'n' that little chap a speakin' up
an' tellin' me his ma often cried when she was glad, an' I was to believe
her spite of her crying! I wish I'd made Job Swift go arter her. I'll make
him go arter that sermon anyhow. I won't go near her agin 'bout this
bisness, that's certain;" and the remorse-stricken, but artful deacon
hastened to his brother deacon's house to tell him that it was "all
settled with Mis' Kinney 'bout the sermon, an' she was quite willin';"
and, "O," he added, as if it were quite a second thought, "ye'd better go
up an' git the sermon, Job, in the mornin,' ye're so much nearer, an'
then, 's ye've to do the readin,' maybe she'll have somethin' to explain
to ye about the way it's to be read; th' Elder's writin' wan't any too
easy to make out, 's fur 's I remember it."
Next morning, just as the first bells were ringing, Deacon Swift knocked
timidly at the door of the Elder's study. Draxy met him with a radiant
face. She had been excited by reading over the sermon she had after long
deliberation selected. The text was,--
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." The sermon had been
written soon after their marriage, and was one of her husband's favorites.
There were many eloquent passages in it, which seemed now to take on a new
significance, as coming from the lips of the Elder, absent from his flock
and present with Christ.
"O Mis' Kinney, I recollect that sermon 's if 'twas only yesterday," said
Deacon Swift. "The hull parish was talkin' on't all the week; ye couldn't
have picked out one they'd be so glad to hear; but dear me! how I'm ever
goin' to read it in any kind o' decent way, I don't know; I never was a
reader, anyhow, 'n' now I've lost my front teeth, some words does pester
me to git out."
This opened the way for Draxy. Nearly all night she had lain awake,
thinking how terrible it would be to her to hear her husband's beloved
words indistinctly and ineffectively read by Deacon Swift's cracked and
feeble voice. Almost she regretted having given her consent. At last the
thought flashed into her mind, "Why should I not read it myself? I know I
could be heard in every corner of that little church." The more she
thought of it, the more she longed to do it, and the less she shrank from
the idea of facing the congregation.
"'It's only just like a big family of children,' Seth always used to say,
'and I'm sure I feel as if they were mine now, as much as ever they were
his. I wish I dared do it. I do believe Seth would like it,' and Draxy
fell asleep comforted by the thought. Before breakfast she consulted her
father, and he approved it warmly.
"I believe your mission isn't done yet, daughter, to these people of your
husband's. The more you speak to 'em the better. It'll be jest like his
voice speaking from heaven to 'em," said Reuben, "an' I shouldn't wonder
if keepin' Elder Williams away was all the Lord's doin', as the blessed
saint used to say."
Reuben's approval was all that Draxy needed to strengthen her impulse, and
before Deacon Swift arrived her only perplexity was as to the best way of
making the proposition to him. All this difficulty he had himself smoothed
away by his first words.
"Yes, I know, Deacon Swift," she said. "I've been thinking that perhaps it
would tire you to read for so long a time in a loud voice; and besides,
Mr. Kinney's handwriting is very hard to read."
Draxy paused and looked sympathizingly in the deacon's face. The mention
of the illegible writing distressed the poor man still more. He took the
sermon from her hand and glanced nervously at the first page.
"Oh my! Mis' Kinney," he exclaimed, "I can't make out half the words."
"Can't you?" said Draxy, gently. "It is all as plain as print to me, I
know it so well. But there are some abbreviations Mr. Kinney always used.
I will explain them to you. Perhaps that will make it easier."
"O Mis' Kinney, Mis' Kinney! I can't never do it in the world," burst out
the poor deacon. "O Mis' Kinney, why can't you read it to the folks?
They'd all like it, I know they would."
"Do you really think so, Mr. Swift?" replied Draxy; and then, with a
little twinge of conscience, added immediately, "I have been thinking of
that very thing myself, that perhaps, if it wouldn't seem strange to the
people, that would be the best way, because I know the handwriting so
well, and it really is very hard for a stranger to read."
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