Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

'Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in ady wise, and they cry at all unto Me, I will surely hear their cry.' (Exodus 22 : 22, 23.)

There is a tradition that William's son, Richard, and his eldest grand-son, both met their death in that same New Forest, during his lifetime; but be that as it may, there can be no doubt that his darling, William Rufus, was killed by a random shot, while hunting there. As before remarked, a neglect similar to that which attended the Conqueror's death was observable in that of the selfish though beloved son who succeeded to his ill-gotten gains in England; for no sooner was it ascertained that the accident which deprived him of life was really fatal, than his attendants hastily dispersed, because,' says the chronicler, 'all were intent on other matters.' As it occurred about sunset, some laborers who were returning from their daily toil discovered the body ; • and a charcoal-burner named Purkess, whose descendants were said to be still living near the spot when the antiquarian Milner published his ‘History of Winchester,' in 1799, placed it upon his humble vehicle, and conveyed it to that city. Henry had already taken possession of the fine palace which his father had built, and which his brother had so recently occupied ; and the next morning William Rufus was interred in the cathedral, but without any ceremony whatsoever.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

The times continued to get worse and worse. There was an entire slack in the sale of real estate. People were afraid of it after such a depreciation. Debts continued to mature against Carl Almendinger, and his creditors gave him great annoyance. He tells them to come again, and they come, and he sends them away empty. They are getting tired of his procrastinations, and begin to threaten. They even impugn his honesty, and backbite him to his neighbors and friends. At length it becomes the street-talk that Carl is about to fail, and of course every one is running to him to settle his accounts.

The splendid avenue palace is sold under the hammer; other property is shamefully sacrificed, but the cry of stony creditors is still : ‘Give, give.' All that remains to Carl is the Blackberry tract, and that is heavily incumbered. He determines to give up his office at Chicago and remove to Blackberry, partly because there is no use in keeping it open, partly to save the expense, and more particularly to escape the importunate demands of creditors.

In view of this exigency, he reserved funds enough to lay in a stock of winter supplies for his own family, including himself, Sigmund Diehl, and & serv

ant, and also for some of the poorest of his settlers. The supplies were to be forwarded by the rail-road company which he had voluntarily assisted with a switch, a station-house, and ten acres of land. Carl hurried to Blackberry in advance, and sought a safe asylum in the covert retreat of its woods. They waited, but the stores came not. The flour in the barrel was getting low, the servant's linen was going to shreds, and she began to shiver in her thin, summer garments. Still the supplies came not. • What's the matter? What delays the supplies ?' were the all-absorbing questions.

At length the cause was ascertained. The rail-road company had commenced a suit of attachment against Carl Almendinger for arrearages due them in freight on the shipment of lumber to Blackberry, for the benefit of his settlers; and the supplies had been levied on, and were now in the hands of the officers of the law. What was Carl to do?. He was without money, provisions, clothing, credit, or friends in his adversity, but with pride, sensitiveness and despair, all to struggle against The attachment suit might last several months before it would be decided ; and of what use would the supplies be to him then? Ah! may it please your Honor, as you call so glibly the case of the rail-road company against Carl Almendinger, little do you suspect the misery that case has caused! Little do you know of the privations the defendant is undergoing - his larder empty, his family in tatters; and he used to live in as fine a house as you, may it please your Honor.

The winter set in early, and was one of the most intense ever experienced in the Western country. How Carl got along we hardly know. We have heard, however, that occasionally, when a settler happened in at meal-time, Carl would beg him to excuse him, but the fact was, that he was out of flour, and the settler, poor soul, knew it was no better at his own house.

As the rail-road trains passed through the town of Blackberry that winter, more than one passenger noticed a pale, cadaverous-looking face, as it peered out through the window-panes of a small tenement at the cars, looking anxiously, as if it expected something which never came; the whiskers bushy, with the gray predominating. And if you peered out at it, the wo-begone face would dart away, as if it did n't like to be stared at. That was Carl Almendinger, the proprietor of the new town, a man who had seen better times.

And who is that out-doors gathering chips, his bald head catching the snow as it falls, while he steps about like a youth ? That is Sigmund Diehl.

"What a God-forsaken town l' says one passenger to another.
“Yes, Indiana must keep all of her paupers here,' answered a second.

* And she ought to locate the new penitentiary here, which she is talking of building, by fair rights,' chimes in a third.

“They all steal from one another, and equalize the thing, you see,' adds a fourth, while they all laugh at the expense of the town of Blackberry., And so they chatter on. Little reck they, merry-andrews as they are, of the pale face, whose principal crime is too much heart, a failing to which we vouch they will never plead guilty.

In the general financial revulsion, Dr. Posey, Mrs. Almendinger's brother, was set adrift from his secure moorings, and became a mere waif on a tempest

[ocr errors]

tossed sea. Now that his competence was gone — he eked out a precarious living by the practice of his profession. The mental states of men are as diverse as their physical organization. When misfortune fells them to the earth, some fall as heavy as lead, while others, like the fabled Antæus, renew their strength with the blow which prostrates them. In Dr. Posey's nature, there was no rebound. Melancholy began to brood over him with her raven wing, save now and then when he would be affected by the most uncontrollable mirth, resembling hysteria. Then his laughter reminded one of the reverberations of muffled thunder, and was so persisted in that no one could escape the contagion. The expression of his features when composed was heavy and saturnine ; his complexion very florid, his brow protuberant, his hair jet black, roached' on the top of his head like a child's, while each side-whisker fell in a curl as graceful as any lady's, with the appliances of paper and curling-tongs. A large head, a short, thick neck, and a most unwieldy and awkward body, will complete a general outline of his personel. Rendered still more taciturn and unsocial by the loss of his property, he dwindled into a mere office-fixture. Though he sought to justify such self-isolation on the ground of policy, quoting "Poor Richard's' maxim, “Keep your office and your office will keep you,' never was office better kept; seldom has business been less profitable.

People began to say that a change had come over Dr. Posey, but he failed to greet them with his usual cordiality, and seemed lost in a reverie, while his brow boded trouble. They complained of his uncommunicativeness and his affecting so persistently his office ; so gradually his little business dwindled away, and his means of support became more precarious. The Doctor would have it that an unlucky planet ruled the sky when he was of woman born. Ever as he was about to enter on the fruition of some long-cherished hope, he would seem to hear from out the darkness the voice of Nemesis calling to him aloud : “Ho ! there, ho ! there — none of that, Doctor!' The Doctor would stop short, turn pale, and the hope which had just now irradiated his path would be followed by the murky night, without a star, while the winds would howl and the rains descend. We half believe with him, that never did the shadows - dark, well-defined, palpable — so quickly succeed the flickering lights which have now and then shone as beacons to every pilgrim on the sands of time, as along that desolate way which bears the mark of Posey's sandalshoon.

Robert Ferrara and Genevieve Mather. Robert Ferrara has now become a senior. That year in college-life, when an under-graduate has a recognized position among his fellow students, the privilege of bowing to the faculty, and being bowed to by them in return, as they pass down the middle aisle of the college-chapel from morning prayers. He was none of your freshmen, with whom the idea of greenness is inseparably associated ; not a swaggering sophomore, nor a nondescript junior, but a veritable senior, who expected and was expected to enjoy otium cum dignitate. He was a senior whom perhaps a member of the faculty would condescend to talk with if he met him in the street, ask him for his health, and even inquire what he expected to do after his graduation. He was a senior upon whom the ladies in the galleries of the

chapel would look down with evident interest, as if they felt solicitous for his welfare in the noisy world of strife to which he was fast hastening, and would be pleased to cheer, enliven, and perhaps accompany him on the way.

Robert Ferrara in particular was not unworthy such regards; for his tall, erect form; his long, profuse, jet-black locks, as if indicative of hidden strength; bis animated, sallow face, and dignified but kindly demeanor, would be noticed in any crowd, much more by the discerning eye of woman. His name was a talismanic word among the students, and no one was more deservedly popular. Scorning all deception, he never put in the plea of sickness, then so common, unless he was really indisposed. Whenever he offered an excuse, the President did n't look inquisitively into his eyes, as if there to read the truth or falsehood of the statement, as he was wont to do with most other students, but would nod his head and make the appropriate pencil-mark in his class-book. Indeed, that distinguished gentleman having on one occasion heard that Robert was ill, was known to have visited him — an honor seldom paid to a student--and chatted with him as a boon companion. Bold to do his duty, confident of his ability to accomplish whatever he undertook, except as the sequel will show in little matters of love, proud and high-spirited, he was withal modest, and seldom spoke of himself. Beside, he was a genial companion, a steadfast friend, seldom an enemy, but once so, hard to be appeased, and still harder to forget the injury. He had ambition, but shall we blame him for that? He enjoyed the advantage of no family influence, which will often itself lift mediocrity into greatness; but whatever position he might attain, he knew full well would be the result of his own well-directed efforts.

Soon he would leave college. Then would begin the battle of life. There was Carl Almendinger to pay off, a debt which he regarded as sacred, and which dollars and cents could hardly cancel. Moreover, he had to earn for himself a home; and although they who have never passed through the struggles to attain one, may regard it as a trifling task, yet Robert was persuaded of the toilsome sweat and persistent effort that it would cost. It must be a home, too, every way worthy of her whom he would fain have preside in it; at whose threshold he longed to linger in the morning, and whose blazing hearth would invite him thither the long winter nights.

Genevieve Mather, she to whom his heart thus inclined, was well chosen. Though young, she was exceedingly well developed and womanly in appear

Her features were large, symmetrical and expressive. Few could resist her blue eyes, so noticeable for their magnificent pupils, and full of sweet influences, the effect of which was heightened by auburn curls, falling in pro. fusion on well-turned shoulders of alabaster whiteness." But her mental charms far exceeded her physical attractions. She was never embarrassed, never in a trepidation. She was one of those true-born aristocrats of nature who always, feel themselves in their place, and are not in a hurry to get out of it. Though well read, and with a memory which retained every thing in its grasp, she never affected, never displayed her mental resources for the sake of display ; she was always herself, the pure, natural, artless, inimitable Genevieve. She needed no rules of etiquette to teach her what to do, or how to do ; her own

ance.

sense of propriety and chastened judgment were seldom known to be at fault. Had she and other young ladies been required to sit down in a drawing-room and talk their best, Genevieve would not have borne off the palm. It was the absence of all effort, the spontaneous overflowing at the proper time and on the proper occasion of her knowledge, gathered from many sources, and tested in the alembic of a refined judgment, which made her the wonder of one sex and the admiration of the other. She would sit down and talk by the side of some poor old lady, who would be as fidgety as a fish out of water at the honor done her, and could hardly understand why she did n't put on airs and flaunt her finery and toss her head as other fine ladies did; and then her talk would be so sensible and respectful, and she would listen so attentively to the senile gar. rulity of her interlocutor. After she was gone, the old lady would regale her nostrils with a pinch of rappee, adjust her spectacles, and throwing up her head, improvise an eulogy on 'the blessedest cretur that I ever did see.'

With little children, too, she readily assimilated; entered into all their little plans, approving in toto here, or suggesting an amendment there. When going to Sabbath-school, her class would often run out to meet her and escort her in ; each member vying with the others in showing her the most affection and respect. It was pleasant to hear their little voices humming : ‘Dear Miss Genevieve!' She was also distinguished by a quiet pleasantry and humor, occasionally running into banter, which appeared all the more beautiful from the contrast with a nature sincere and truthful beyond suspicion, and a heart that knew no guile. She had no oddities and but few foibles, and already gave promise of belonging to that class of women, barring the fame, of whom Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, and Mary, the mother of Washington, and others from whom have sprung the statesman and the law-giver, are representative types.

Not long after this time, when Genevieve was in the full bloom of beauty, she was taken sick of typhoid fever. Her mind wandered, and at one time her life was despaired of; even her hair partially came out, and the chestnut-colored curls which remained were shorn off by the advice of her physician ; but the naturally recuperative powers of her constitution were such that she survived, though for several months she remained quite an invalid. Her beauty, how ever, did not depart with her sickness, but she looked, if any thing, more interesting as she sat propped up with pillows at the family fire-side; the buoyancy of her spirits somewhat subdued, and her exquisite head, that had so often tossed itself at real or imaginary triumphs, now looking quite demure in a plain muslin cap, filled with lace.

Abraham Mather, her father, about this time received a letter from his brother David, who was living in the city of Baltimore, earnestly requesting that as soon as Genevieve's health would admit of it, she might be permitted to visit his family, and urging as a reason for her so doing, the beneficial effect which a change of scenery and climate would have in hastening her convalescence. His daughter Rosalind inclosed also a note, desiring Genevieve by all means to come, and bring with her the veritable cap in which she played the matron, as it might be desirable to set it for a certain reverend gentleman, who

« AnteriorContinuar »