University of Virginia Library




1. I.

OLD lady Dracutt, bent with years and trouble, in
black cloak and hood, walked home from meeting,
with slow steps, leaning on her cane. Old man Dracutt
followed her from the porch, took the opposite side of the
street, passed her on the way, opened the gate before her,
and let it slam back, almost in her face, as she came up.

This little scene, or something like it, happened nearly
every Sunday in their lives, and the observant world
was getting used to it. Elderly people, watching it now
for twenty years or more, had learned to look on and make
no other comment than, “Well, it 's just like old man
Dracutt” (or old lady Dracutt, as the case might be);
“they 're crotchety, and what 's the use of talking?”

Not so the younger portion of the community, represented
on this occasion by Miss Emma Welford, who, passing
with her little flock of brothers and sisters, — just as the
old ploughshare, sagging on its short chain fastened to a
stake, jerked the gate violently together again, — said compassionately,
“Why could n't he have had the kindness to
hold it open till she had gone through?” While even the
hard-featured ploughshare seemed, in her pure eyes, to look
ashamed of its part in the transaction.

Old man Dracutt, not bent at all by his troubles (he appeared


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to bear the burden of life on his head, and to have
been crushed together by it considerably in the jaws and
shoulders, getting thereby that stubborn build of body
and set expression of face), — old man Dracutt trudged on,
and disappeared in the lonely old house, while his wife was
still feebly fumbling with the gate. Ah me! how little we
know what the effect of a casual kind look or word of ours
may be sometimes? Old lady Dracutt took hold of the
post instead of the gate, and tried to pull it open that
way, — very absurdly, to be sure, but you would hardly
have laughed at her if you had seen the cause. The poor
old creature was blind with tears. The great sorrow of
her life had never given her a moist eye; she was proud,
and strong, and obstinate to endure misery and wrong;
that tough, dry stock unkindness could bend and wither,
but not soften or break; and yet a compassionating glance
out of a young girl's eyes, the pitying tones of a sweet
voice, could melt her in an instant.

She got the gate open soon, with Emma's help, (“Thank
you, dear child,” said she,) and entered the house, where
she found her husband settling down in his low, square,
straight-backed, old oak arm-chair, by the kitchen stove.
A newspaper rustled on his trembling knees, while he
took from a black leathern case a pair of steel-bowed spectacles,
and set them astride his nose, which also appeared
to have been crushed a little, and pushed well down over
his broad mouth and chin by the aforesaid burden.

She put away her cloak and hood in a dark closet (from
which they seldom emerged, except for Sundays and funerals,
when they came out saturated with gloom, and almost
conscious, it seemed, of the solemn use they served), and
presently sat down in her chair (neither had ever, probably,
for years, sat in the other's chair), with an ancient, sallow-leaved,
well-worn Bible on her lap. Both clad in rusty


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black; he so compressed and grim, and she so crooked
and withered; he with bald crown shining in the light,
over shaggy gray ear-locks; she with iron-gray hair (once
black tresses) hidden under her cap of yellow lace, —
there they sat, and warmed their bodies, if not their
hearts, by the stove between them; neither ever looking
at the other, nor ever speaking more than if each had
been alone.

And each was alone; for what is bodily presence where
souls are estranged? This was the anniversary of their
marriage; did they think of it? For half a century they
had lived together, and to-day they might have celebrated
their golden wedding.

Fifty years ago this December evening, full of youth
and hope and love, they joined their hands, with trust and
solemn vows, and began the journey of life, which looked
so beautiful before them. The storm and rainbow of a
real little romance had given interest to their courtship
and marriage. Jonathan had been off teaching school
somewhere, and on his return had found his darling little
Jane engaged to be married. They had always been
attached to each other from their early childhood, when
they played little husband and wife, and kept house together,
with clam-shells for dishes, and acorns for cups and
saucers, under a board, laid across a corner of the garden
fence, for a house. Growing bashful as they grew older,
that sweet play ceased; but at school they dressed and
behaved each for the eyes of the other, and were always
the best of friends, except that their frequent causeless
quarrels showed that there was something warmer, perhaps,
than friendship in their attachment. He was stern,
exacting, and reticent; she was pert and wayward and
pouting; and so it happened that they never came to a
perfect understanding about the future, until he returned


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home, and found her just going to marry her big cousin
Jim. Ah! then what a time they had of it! what sleepless
nights, what haggard days, what torments of passion
and despair! He learned, when about to lose her forever,
that he could not possibly live without her; that the
sight of the sky and the earth would not be endurable to
him for a day, when all hope of her was gone. And being
a fellow of tremendous will when aroused, you may be
sure he did not sit down and sulk over his sorrow. Becoming
suddenly convinced that it was a terrible sin for
cousins to intermarry, — though he had seen cousins do so
before, and had not thought of the sin at all (a personal
interest in such questions sometimes makes a man awfully
moral in his feelings all at once), — he determined to save
her from its commission, and himself, at the same time,
from life-long misery; and set to work, in that matter of
life and death, with characteristic energy. And she —
why, she had never discovered he cared so much for her;
why had n't he told her so before it was too late? or why
did he make her wretched by telling her now? In short,
the more selfish lover swept everything before him; and
the more generous one said, “If you really prefer him
to me, Jane, I don't wish to hold you; I give you up.”
Even having the good grace to be present, a cheerful
guest, at that famous wedding.

The old man's newspaper slipped from his hand, the old
lady's dim eyes wandered from the broad Bible page to the
stove-hearth, and there they sat and mused, while the dull
December evening darkened around them. One could
almost hope, out of pity for them, that they did not think
of those earlier days. How could they bear to think of
them? Dear child, whose bright eyes are now following
these lines, when the summer of your life has burned out,
and hope after hope has faded on the cold hearth of old


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age, can you bear, think you, to sit, in the long winter
twilight, looking at the ashes? O the ashes, the ashes!
What a story of bounding sap, and green leaves, and
boughs waving in sun and breeze, they might tell, if they
had language! This is the tragedy of life, with the slow,
black, silent curtain descending upon the scene.

It is all the more a tragedy when the actors feel, as these
two must have felt, that they are the authors of their own
unhappiness. If Jonathan and Jane had been as humble
as they were proud, if they had treated each other tenderly,
using love and forbearance toward each other, all
their days, this desolation could never have come upon them.
Destiny is a tree that grows from seeds in our own hearts.

The first few years of their married life had been happy;
but family cares increased, while their patience under
them did not increase. What trifles they allowed to vex
them! — trifles, surely, when compared with the greatness
and glory of love. They could better have afforded to lose
everything else than to lose this, if they had only known
it! They had the New England vice of excessive industry.
Happiness they buried in hard work. They saved the
pennies of life, and lost its jewel. The bitter and cruel
things they could say to each other, after a while, must
have amazed and shamed even themselves when they
paused to reflect. I don't know which was most to blame,
but it was she who said to him, in the midst of a violent
altercation (this was when they had children grown up
and married), “Jonathan Dracutt, I wish you would never
speak to me again as long as you live!”

He started back, looked at her for a moment in silence,
then turned away.

“Tell her I take her at her word,” said he to their
daughter Elizabeth; “but she must never speak to


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“I never will,” said Jane.

That was twelve years ago, and they had not spoken to
each other since.

Nobody, not even themselves, though they were quite
in earnest at the time, could have expected that their
unnatural silence would last so long. Children and friends
remonstrated, but in vain.

“She has told me never to speak to her, and, unless
she takes back that word, I shall abide by it,” said Jonathan.

“I 'll take it back when he asks my forgiveness for what
provoked me to it, — he was so unjust!” said Jane; which,
of course, he would never do.

He ask forgiveness! Not even if he knew he was

“Then it is just as well,” said she.

“Yes,” he replied, through an interpreter, “there is
more peace in the house, now her tongue is quiet.”

And this was he who had once believed that life would
not be, in any degree, tolerable to him without her.

Pride and resentment kept both from speaking at first,
and this reserve became, in the course of time, a settled
habit. It gave rise, necessarily, to many inconveniences,
and sometimes to a ludicrous situation. If a pedler
called and found them alone, he was sure to be amazed
and puzzled to hear them communicate with each other
through himself: “Ask him for some money,” “Tell her
to git ye some dinner”; and to go away, perhaps, imagining
he had been dealing with insane people. Yet the habit
grew at length to fit them so easily that visitors were
known to stop at the house, converse pleasantly with
them, in the presence of their children, and afterward
depart without discovering the peculiarity of the old
couple. They did not even make direct signs to each


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other, like dumb persons; though, perhaps, if she wanted
sugar from the grocery, she would set out the empty
bucket where he would see it, and he, if he wished his
coat mended, would lay it, rags uppermost, across a chair.

One comprehends more easily how he could continue to
live so, than how she could, with her woman's heart. But
she knew him to be implacable as fate, and had, I suppose,
no notion of humbling herself to plead for a reconciliation
which he might not grant. Or, perhaps, when her heart
swelled with the memories of happier days, and yearned
again for the love it had lost, the recollection of his harshness
and injustice rolled back the stone upon it; for she,
too, was one who found it hard to forget a wrong.

The wonder was that they should continue to live together.
But children, as children so often do, prevented a
separation at first; and when the last of these married and
removed to the far West, they had an idol of a grandchild
left, the only son of their only son, who was dead. The
boy had lost his mother, too, so that his grandparents now
stood to him in the place of parents also. In him all
their affections centred, and toward him even the old
grandfather, who had always been stern enough with his
own children, was sometimes (as is sometimes the way with
grandfathers) foolishly weak and indulgent.

2. II.

While the two sat there musing in the twilight, the
door opened, and a young man, or rather a big boy, burst
in, with a loud and abrupt manner, slamming the door


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behind him, and tossing his cap at a hat-peg, without
much apparent expectation of hitting it.

“Clinton, my dear,” said the old lady, in the tremulous
accents of fond but querulous age, “why can't you hang
up your things, when you come in? 'T would be so little
trouble to you, and 't would save me a sight. You 're
such a harum-scarum, tearin' boy! Now, Clinton!”

“O, don't bother! I 'm tired,” said Clinton, flinging
his overcoat on one chair, while he jerked another about,
and sat down on it, between the old folks, perching his
feet on the top of the stove.

“Clinton, you 'll burn yer boots,” said the old man, in a
tone of mild warning.

“No, I won't; there a'n't heat enough to burn a —
Thunder and lightning!” said Clinton, flirting his finger,
after indiscreetly touching the stove with it, “what do
you keep such a big fire for?”

He pulled off his boots, and hurled them into the corner,
and sat in his stockings, with his feet on the stove-hearth,
looking hugely dissatisfied, and glowering at his
grandparents. For this was he, this was the idol, — being,
as a matter of course, like most idols, unworthy of the
worship he received.

“Clinton, what 's the matter with ye to-night?” said
the old man, with some impatience.

“Nothing, of course! I 've never anything to complain
of! O, of course not!”

“Wal, wal! what have ye to complain of?”

“It 's nothing, of course, that you both begin to scold
me, soon as ever I set foot into the house. It 's first
my cap, then my boots, then something else. But I 'm
sick of it; and sometimes I think I never will come into
this house again. It 's like coming into a tomb.”

“Wal, I suppose it is,” said the old man; “I can't


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blame ye much; but don't say I scold ye when I don't.
Tell her I 'm waiting for my supper.”

“Tell him I 'm waiting for a pail of water,” said the old
lady, who had, in fact, been waiting for it during the past
half-hour, having no interpreter through whom to ask for
it, being too infirm to go herself to the well.

“Why can't you draw a pail of water, Clinton?” said
the old man.

“I 've just got my boots off,” said Clinton, with a snarl
and a frown.

The old man got up, and went out for the water. The
old lady got up, and, without a word of reproach, took
care of the young fellow's cap and coat. He saw her
stoop painfully to the floor, bending her poor old back,
and then reach painfully to the pegs, which it was no
effort at all for him to reach; he heard the involuntary
groans that escaped her; and there he still sat, not once
offering to help her, nor seeming to care. And yet he was
not a bad-hearted boy, this Clinton. In the village, he
enjoyed the reputation of being a “first-rate fellow.” His
generous and jovial traits made him a favorite with many,
who never suspected what a thunder-cloud he sometimes
was at home. There, the agreeable companion became at
once a grouty grandson. This was not simply because his
home was gloomy, although this circumstance no doubt
aggravated his fault. But the dark spirit was within himself;
it had been fostered by indulgence and confirmed
by habit, until, though his pride and his ambition to
please enabled him to conceal it in society, at home it
would have been scarcely possible for him to be anything
else than a blusterer and an ingrate.

“Where have you been, to get so tired?” asked the old
lady. “You ought to have gone to meetin' this arternoon,
Clinton; you ha'n't been for a month.”


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“There! I knew I should get scolded for something
else in a minute! I could n't go to meeting; Phil Kermer
wanted me. I 'm in the ice this year. We 've been boring.
We 've bored in a dozen different places all over
both ponds. Phil said he did n't know what he should do
without me,” said Clinton, brightening, for now he had a
chance to brag.

“You and Phil are great friends, a'n't ye?” said the old
lady; and that flattered him.

“I bet we are! He is the smartest fellow and the best
fellow there is in this town. He is six years older than I
am; but that don't make any difference, — we 're just
like brothers. He calls me Clint and I call him Phil.
He is the Ice Company's foreman this year; they trust
him with everything; he 'll have three or four hundred
men under him soon as we begin to cut. Won't it be

“What have you been boring for?”

“To see how much ice has made since yesterday, and to
see if it 'll do to put our horses on to-morrow, in case it
snows to-night. Phil is dead-sure it 's going to snow. If
we get three or four inches, it 'll have to be scraped off.
I 'm to be Phil's right-hand man; did you know it?”

“Why, are you, Clinton? What are you going to do?”
said the old lady, proceeding to fill the teakettle, now that
the pail of water was brought in.

“I 'm to be the marker. When we have so many men
and horses at work, somebody must keep count of 'em, you
know. I 'm to have all their names in a list, and then go
round among 'em every day and see who 's at work and
who a'n't, who does his duty and who shirks, and mark
'em. Then I 'm to look after things in general,” said Clint,
pompously tossing his head and pursing his lips, — “give
orders, and report, you know.”


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“I hope you won't git into the pond, my dear!” said
the old lady with a shudder.

“O, pshaw, now! don't be silly! Of course I sha' n't
get into the pond. We do business on scientific principles.
We know to a pound just how much weight ice of a certain
thickness will bear, — so many inches, so many hundred
pounds, you know; it must be so thick for men, and
so thick for horses. Phil and I have got the figgers, — we

“Don't accidents ever happen?”

“Yes, sometimes. Fellows get careless, and men and
horses get in.”

“O Clinton!” said the old lady, in a trembling voice,
“what should I do, if you —”

“Bah! you make me sick,” said Clint, with manly disgust,
turning his back upon her, to manifest his disapprobation
of such womanly weakness, and sitting there in her
way, never once offering to move out of it, all the while
she was getting supper.

“Clinton,” said the old man, resuming his seat, “I am
afraid to have you so intimate with that Phil Kermer.”

Clint gave a scornful snort. “What next, I wonder!
You talk to me just as if I was a child!” And the young
gentleman took care to show very plainly that his dignity
was hurt.

“He 's a man of bad habits, and I 'm afraid you 'll fall
into 'em,” the old man continued.

“He? Oh!” Clint sneered.

“He 's a capable fellow, but he drinks; and for my part,
I wonder the company should ever have put him in the
position where he is. I 'm sorry you 've got in with him;
he 'll flatter ye to yer ruin.”

The young gentleman was mightily offended at this; and
as he could think of no more effective way of resenting the


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insult to himself and his friend, he snatched his boots out
of the corner, pulled them on, and stalked out of the
house; thus implying that, tired as he was, he could
endure anything better than the unreasonableness of
these old people, and, to do him justice, really believing
himself an abused young man.

He had stayed out in the cold about long enough, and
was growing quite angry at the thought that he was, after
all, punishing himself more than he was them, when the
lamp was lighted, showing that supper was ready; and he
had a good excuse for going in. He was determined, however,
not to relax for an instant the awful severity of his
wrathful countenance; but, on the contrary, to convey,
by every means in his power, the terrible impression that
it was not probable he could ever bring himself to overlook
what had passed.

The old lady was wise enough to let him eat his supper
in silence. But the old man, laying down his knife and fork,
and sitting back in his chair, looked sternly at the youth,
and said, “Clinton, it grieves me to the heart to see you act
so.” (Nothing could have pleased Clinton more.) “But, let
me tell you now, that if you don't change for the better in
this respect, you and I 'll have to part.” (He did n't like
that quite so well, for the old man seemed to be in earnest.)
“I 've borne with your surly temper long enough.
You can be pleasant in society; why, then, can't you learn
to behave yourself at home? You know I would do anything
in the world for you, that was for your good; but the
more I indulge you, the more ungrateful and insolent and
sullen you are. You must reform, if you stay under this
roof; do you hear me?”

“Yes, sir,” said Clinton, lowering, but respectful, for he
knew better than to trifle with the old man when his jaws
had that expression. He took early occasion, however, to


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manifest his sovereign displeasure, and to fill the grand-parental
bosoms with remorse, by putting on his cap and
coat immediately after supper, and once more departing
from the house.

“O dear! O dear! O dear!” sighed the old lady, as
she slowly and with shaking hands cleared away the
dishes. But the old man sat silent and stern in his corner,
thinking how he should do his duty by that young

3. III.

Clinton, out of doors, was at the same time thinking
how he should wring drops of repentance out of the old
man's heart.

It was beginning to snow. He was glad of that, for
two reasons: in the first place, he was eager to commence
work on the pond, and assume authority under Phil; and,
in the next place, he longed for an occasion to show his
independence of the old folks.

“I won't be home till long after they 're abed to-night,”
he muttered to himself; “and I 'll be off in the
morning before they 're up. I 'll take a pie in my hand,
and go to dinner with Phil, and they sha' n't see me for
three days, if I can help it. Glory! how it snows!”

Another thought struck him. He was in business now;
why not get married, and have a home of his own? “That
would kill the old folks!” he chuckled. “I 'll let 'em see
whether I 'm a boy, to be forever dictated to!” But
whom should he marry? Emma Welford, of course; he
would not deign to look at anybody else now he was “in


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the ice,” and had got to be Phil's “right-hand man.” He
had been in love with her from the day when he helped
untangle her fragrant veil from a blissful rosebush, and
she gave him a look that had rankled with a sweet pang
in his heart ever since. He would have proposed to her
before now, if he could have shown that he had any means
of supporting a family. “I wonder what salary Phil will
give me”; and he proceeded to count a very large brood
of chickens, without waiting for the important process of

He went to see Emma that very evening; shook and
stamped off the snow in the entry, and held her dear
little hand in his until she withdrew it, saying, for an
excuse, “Why, how damp you are, Clinton!”

Then he went in, and sat down, and cracked jokes, and
played with the children, and was altogether so kind-hearted
and lively, that any one who had seen him an
hour before, seeing him again now, would have conjectured
there must be two Clintons, — one stamped in the mint
of the morning, the other cast in the dark mould of
night. Were you ever in your life, my experienced friend,
aware of such a phenomenon? And do you, sweet miss (I
am looking straight into your eyes at this moment), do
you imagine that, when you shall have given your hand
to the brave John or Thomas, whose brightness beams
upon you now on set evenings of the week, and he shall
have taken you to his home, — do you, I say, imagine it
possible that he may there introduce you, in some unhappy
hour, to his counterpart, the dark John or Thomas, whose
existence you have never yet suspected? And you, blithe
lover, do you know that you invariably leave one self behind
you, and that, perhaps, your real self, when you go
to meet your Mary? Well, and perhaps she puts her real
self carefully away out of your sight too.


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Of course, Emma's folks liked Clinton, and were always
delighted to have him come in. And here I must say a
word about the family, which consisted of, first, old Uncle
Jim, her grandfather, — the same Cousin Jim, by the way,
who once came so near marrying Clinton's grandmother.
He had not broken his heart over that unhappy affair, but
had transferred it, in a tolerably sound and healthy condition,
to another young woman, whom he had married, and
with whom he had lived happily upwards of forty years.
It was the loss greater than all other losses when this
aged companion went from them. “But, bless you, sir!”
he used to say, “she left the gate open, and I 've seen the
light through it ever since.” A still darker sorrow he
had known: a promising young man had won their
daughter, their only child. He seemed to have but one
fault, yet that one fault had broken her heart, and sent
him early to a drunkard's grave. All this and much more
(for no life is free from trials) the cheerful spirit of the
man survived; and now he lived here with his orphaned
grandchildren, their best friend and companion, and still
himself a child of threescore years and ten.

Emma was the little housewife and matron, and a
charming little matron she was. “Her very mother's self
over again,” Uncle Jim would sometimes murmur aloud,
watching her with eyes brimful of tears and blessings, as
she moved about the house. Not that she was the perfect
pattern of neatness and order which we sometimes read
about in good books; how could she be, with four younger
brothers and sisters to look after, besides the housework?
She believed that little ones were to be amused and made
happy; and how was that possible unless they were sometimes
allowed to litter the floor with their playthings?

“I can't be always following them up, and tormenting
them about such trifles,” she said to Mrs. Jones, a good


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friend and neighbor, and the queen of housekeepers, who,
looking in to see how the little family of orphans were
getting along, had exclaimed, “Why, Emma! how can you
stand it?”

“O, I stand it very well!” laughed Emma. “If I
believed that immaculate housekeeping was the great end
and aim of a woman's life, as some people seem to think, I
suppose I should be troubled in my mind. But I tried,
and I found I could n't have perfect order and merry
children in the house at the same time; and I must say
I prefer the merry children.”

So it is to be feared we should have found many things
out of place in Emma's little domain had we visited it
with good Mrs. Jones; but two little things we should
always have found in place, namely, a cheerful countenance
and a loving heart.

Emma was “so glad” Clinton had come in; he always
made such fun for the children; “though you must n't be
so funny as you are sometimes, you know,” she whispered,
“because it 's Sunday.”

“It 's after sundown, and gran'pa always lets us play
then, if 't is Sunday; don't you, gran'pa?” young Tommy

“We keep Saturday nights, or pretend to,” said the old
man. “Dear me!” he went on, with tender seriousness,
“what 's more interesting, what is there prettier, than the
sight of children at play? I believe Heaven itself is pleased
at it.”

“There! he said we might,” cried Tommy. “Come,
Clint, make a wheelbarrow of me, and let Sissy ride, as
we did the other night.”

So Clint made a wheelbarrow of him, using his legs for
handles, and running him on his hands, which worked
quite well in place of a wheel; and Lucy and Jimmy set


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little Sissy on and held her, while Clint trundled her
about the room, crying, “Po-ta-toes! Anybody want to
buy a bag of po-ta-toes!” Sissy thought it the funniest
thing in the world to be a bag of potatoes, and to have
somebody buy her; and, of course, everybody laughed.
Tommy himself laughed so that he broke down, and had to
be taken to the blacksmith's shop to be mended. Grandfather's
knees were the shop, and grandfather's arm was
the handle of the bellows; and Clint blew and hammered,
and hammered and blew, imitating with his lips the
wheeze of the blast, until Tommy declared, amid convulsions
of laughter, that he was “tickled to death,” and
begged not to be mended any more.

“Well, I 'll just put your tire on,” said Clint; but
Tommy said he did n't wear tires, — Jimmy and Sissy
did, — he was a big boy, and had outgrown them;
which blunder of his created great merriment among
the older ones, for Clint meant the tire of the imaginary

Clint was peddling potatoes again when a second caller
came in. This was no other than the Ice Company's
foreman, Phil Kermer. The arrival of no other person
could have created a livelier interest in the little circle
just then. Emma blushed as she had not blushed when
Clinton came; and the younger children, with whom Phil
also was a great favorite, rushed to meet him.

“The old woman is picking her geese! the old woman
is picking her geese!” said Lucy and Jimmy, as he shook
the feathery snow from his garments, while the wheelbarrow
jumped up and ran away on its handles to the
entry, greatly to the disappointment of the bag of potatoes.

“I wanted you to thell me to him,” lisped the little
commodity, regarding the new-comer as a customer.


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“Well, I 'll buy you,” said Phil, entering into the joke
when it was explained to him. “What are you, — Irish
potatoes?” tossing the bag up lightly on his shoulder.

“No, I 'm thweet potatoeth,” said the bag. At which
unconsciously apt reply (for was n't she sweet, though?)
everybody was delighted.

“Now, I 'll put you in the cellar,” said Phil, setting her
up in the corner behind his chair. “Which will you be,
— boiled or roasted?”

“Woathted, with thalt on me; but the watth (rats)
will nibble me here!” And out ran sweet potatoes, flying
about the room, and keeping up her play till that season
so dreaded by fun-loving children arrived, — bedtime.

“Not a word!” said Emma; and the gentle authority
she exercised over the little pouters was beautiful to
behold. “Come, I have let you sit up a good deal longer
than usual to-night, to see the company; and now you
must n't complain. If you do, I shall have to send you
off to bed the first thing, the next time they come. Why,
Sissy! I need n't hang your clothes upon the hook to-night,
need I? I can hang them on your lip!”

That funny notion set Sissy to laughing, so that she
quite forgot the grievance of having to go to bed.

“Come, then,” said Emma, and she led the three younger
ones (Lucy was going to sit up a little longer) to their
grandpapa's knee, around which they knelt, and with
sweetly composed faces and little hands folded repeated
the Lord's Prayer in unison, very reverently; Sissy's
lisped syllables, “Lead uth not into temptathon,” chiming
in so softly and so suggestively (dear child! what did she
know of temptation?) that Phil Kermer (who did know
something of it, and knew, too, that there was need enough
of his making that prayer) felt his eyes, as he listened,
suddenly grow dim with an unaccountable and very extraordinary


Page 214
moisture. Young Clint might also have breathed
that prayer to advantage; but somehow the scene did not
touch him in the same way.

Then the old grandfather, in accents affectingly tremulous
with the earnestness of his love, gave the little ones
his blessing; then they kissed everybody good night, and
Emma went to see them safely tucked up in bed.

Presently a rap was heard on the stove-pipe which went up
from the sitting-room into the chamber above. “Mithter
Phil! Mithter Phil!” called Sissy, “when you going to
woatht and eat me?” Then the ringing laugh that followed!
— did ever silver bells equal its music?

“What should we do without the children?” said
Uncle Jim. “What would the old folks do without you,
Clinton?” he added, thinking immediately of his aged
friends in the other house. “It 's fortunate you have
such a loving disposition. You 're their sunbeam, I 'm

Clint looked a trifle disconcerted at this. “It 's being a
sunbeam under difficulties, where they are,” he said.

“Well, I suppose it may be. Poor Jane! she was such
a bright girl when — I — I 'm sincerely sorry for them,”
said the old man, with emotion. He had never treasured
up resentment against them for the wrong they had done
him, and consequently had never felt a thrill of triumph,
nor anything else but pity, for the cloud that darkened
their lives.

“It would be easy enough to be a sunbeam in this
house,” thought Clint; and he drew an enchanting picture
of himself marrying into the family, having such fun with
the young ones every night, and receiving a call from Phil
as often as that gentleman would have the condescension
to come in. With Emma for a wife and Phil for a friend,
he believed he would be the most fortunate and enviable


Page 215
fellow in the world; and, indeed, one could hardly blame
him for that fancy.

Where was there another man like Phil? Strong, self-reliant,
magnetic, kindly, with broad and genial manners,
and a smile that broke like sunrise through the cloud of
his ruddy-brown beard, you would have set him down at
once as a powerful and attractive person with the young of
both sexes.

Clint thought they were intimate friends, whereas the
relation he bore to Phil was that of a faithful spaniel to
an indulgent master. Phil liked him, of course, as good
masters like their dogs. The one walked, gravely complacent,
his own road, while the other followed and played
about him. Clint opened his heart and confided everything
to Phil, but Phil kept his own counsel. Clint had
even, on one or two occasions, whispered to him his secret
hopes with regard to Emma Welford, — a confession which
Phil had received with a very curious smile.

While they were waiting for Emma to return to the
room, Clint longed to walk up to his friend and give him
a hint of his present matrimonial purpose; but something
in Phil's face or manner prevented him. This evening, in
fact, the hound happened to be in the master's way, and
so received cold looks in place of the expected encouragement.

Emma stayed out of the room as long as she decently
could, dreading to return to it for reasons which may as well
be told. She was afraid of Phil Kermer, — afraid, because
he was at once the dearest man to her in all the world, and
the most dangerous. He had won her heart almost before
she knew it; and only when he came to speak to her of
marriage had she awakened to the peril of her position.

Her father had died a drunkard, and her mother, on her
dying bed, had made her promise that she would never


Page 216
marry a “drinking man.” After the ruin she had seen
wrought in her own family by that one fatal habit of self-indulgence,
it seeemed hardly necessary that such a promise
should be exacted from her; but now she was glad she
had given it, for it seemed her only safety. She might, in
some joy-intoxicated moment, forget the two untimely
graves in the churchyard, and their silent warning; but
that sacred pledge she could never forget, — it would prove
a barrier against temptation when everything else had failed.

Phil Kermer did not merely take a little wine for the
stomach's sake, nor was he, on the other hand, a drunkard
any more than her father had been at his age; but that he
took, now and then, something stronger than wine, and
took a trifle too much, could not be denied. He had at
first laughed at Emma for asking him to forego the practice;
and when he found how serious she was in requiring
it of him, he was vexed. He thought it absurd and injurious
for any person to suppose that he, Phil Kermer,
was capable of ever becoming a sot, and for her to think
so was especially grievous. They had quarrelled on that
theme when last they parted, and he had kept away from
her as long as he could. She had been made very miserable
by his absence, and now she was at once overjoyed
and alarmed to see him again.

With nervous hands she smoothed her hair and arranged
her collar, after hugging the little ones in bed, and finally
went down stairs. Lucy and Uncle Jim soon retired, and
left her alone with the visitors. There was an awkward
silence of some moments, during which she read in Phil's
face two things, — that he had come, full of passion and
persuasion, to convince her that she, not he, was wrong;
and that he was quietly waiting for Clint to go. She at
once determined that Clint should not go, little thinking
what he himself had come for.


Page 217

A damp had fallen upon the boy's spirits, which he
vainly endeavored to shake off. At length, he went to
the door and looked out at the snow-storm. On his
return, Emma moved to make room for him on the sofa
beside her.

“I tell you, this will make lively work for us to-morrow;
won't it, Phil?” said he.

Phil merely wagged his beard with a slow, lazy nod, and
neither smiled nor spoke. This reserve was killing to
poor Clint, but Emma came to his rescue.

“What have you to do with the snow?” she asked, to
call him out, although she had already heard him brag
that he was “in the ice” this year, along with Phil.
That set him going again. They had the conversation all
to themselves, however, Mr. Kermer only now and then
giving a word or a nod when appealed to, as he sat placidly
pulling his beard, and waiting for Clint to go.

At last a confused glimmering of the truth broke upon
the young man's mind. It was when she reproved them
for what they had been doing that afternoon, namely,
boring the ice.

“You should n't bore on Sundays,” she said.

“Nor on Sunday evenings, either,” Phil added, so dryly
that nobody could tell just what he meant by the joke.

Clint, however, took the application home to himself,
and felt terribly cut up by it. He began to explain to
her that boring on the Sabbath was sometimes a deed of
necessity, but quite broke down before he had ended, and
wound up with, “Well, I guess I had better be going.”

“No, don't go yet,” said Emma, so smilingly that he
felt soothed and flattered, and remained. Phil gave his
beard a harder pull than usual, but kept an imperturbable

Still Clint could not feel easy; and although Emma


Page 218
was never so charming, her excitement giving vivacity to
her manners and brilliancy to her looks, and she did her
best to entertain him, it was not long before he whispered
to her, with a dark glance at Phil, that he really ought to
go. But she shook her head, with a look in the same direction,
as much as to say, “Don't mind him,” and whispered
back, “Stay a little longer, — to please me.”

Phil pretended to be looking over an album of photographs,
but saw and heard everything. He no longer believed
that the objection she had made to his habit of
drinking was her real motive for slighting him, but became
suddenly fired with jealousy of the boy. Full of ire,
which, however, he had the tact not to betray, he quietly
closed the book, stroked his beard again, suppressed a
yawn, and lazily got up.

“Well, good evening,” he said, and, of course, noticed
that she did not urge him to stay.

Clint made a feeble motion to accompany him, vacillated,
and finally remained.

Emma rose immediately, said, “Must you go, Mr.
Kermer?” and stood by the entry door, waiting for him
to put on his coat. He paused as he buttoned it, and
looked down at her; she looked up at him, her cheeks
flushed, her feet and hands like ice, her lips forcing a

“Is this our good-by?” he said, in a low tone, penetrating
her with an indescribable look.

“It is good night, not good by, — at least I hope so,”
she said. “I should be sorry to lose your friendship.”

“Indeed!” He took her cold little hand, but dropped
it again, smiled in his turn gloomily and bitterly, and
said, “Good by.

He gave her a long, searching, farewell glance, and went
out into the storm.


Page 219

She watched him from the door till his form vanished in
the dim, white, falling cloud of snow. There were melting
flakes on her eyelashes when she went back into the room,
and she seemed quite chilled. Her spirits had forsaken
her, and she had only vacant looks and the very ghost of
a smile for poor Clint, whom we will now leave to his

4. IV.

Mr. Phil Kermer boarded at the very worst place in
the world for a man of his tastes and temperament, namely,
the village hotel. When he returned home that evening,
he was not in a mood to go quietly to bed and think
of his sins, which would have been by far the most wholesome
thing for him to do. On the contrary, he took the
very course which led him still further from the happiness
which he (like so many of us) wished to clutch and make
his own, without first earning it by honest endeavor.

He felt blue, in short, and thought he would assert his
independence and warm his heart a little by taking a
dram. Finding half a dozen good fellows in the bar-room,
he invited them to drink with him. Then, as your good
fellows can never bear to be outdone in generosity, each
felt under obligations to treat in return. So it happened
that Phil asserted his independence a good many times,
for it is good fellows' etiquette to drink again with the
man who has drank with you. Considerable confusion
seemed to arise at last with regard to whose turn it was to
treat, as well as with regard to things in general, and Phil
somehow found himself doing the honorable thing again,


Page 220
and still again. The result was that he, for the first time,
went to bed that night decidedly and unmistakably —

Clint, in the mean while, went home sober enough, — a
little more so, in fact, than he had expected to be on that
occasion. What he had said to Emma, and what she had
said to him, I could never learn; but this I know, that
lovers have returned from their wooing with lighter hearts
under their jackets than Clint carried that night into the
gloomy old house, and up stairs to his sad bed. He lay
awake a long time, thinking what a fool he had been, and
wishing himself where neither grandparents, nor Emma,
nor Phil might ever hear from him again, until they should
some day learn, with bitter remorse and envy, what a
noble, great, renowned, rich man he had got to be.

Waking early, and looking out on the still, white morning
(the storm was over, but the earth was covered, and
the laden trees drooped with their beautiful burden of
snow), and remembering that he was “in the ice,” he
jumped up, and felt his interest in life revive as he thought
of the exciting day's work before him.

“Never mind,” thought he; “Phil 's a good fellow. I
don't blame him. I won't be in his way another time. I 'm
his right-hand man this year, and that 's enough for me.”

So he forgave Phil, who was necessary to him; but was
quite far from forgiving his grandparents, of whose happiness
he was himself so necessary a part.

He ate his pie secretly in the pantry, and went out into
the snow, — the first to make tracks through its calm
and unsullied purity that memorable morning. Arrived
at the tavern, he found Phil in bed, sick.

“A cold, — an awful headache, — that 's all.” And the
haggard foreman fixed his eyes steadily as he could on his
right-hand man. “Has it stopped snowing?”


Page 221

“Yes; the sky is clear as a bell.”

“That 's deused unlucky, with this headache on me!
How much snow fell?”

“About five inches.”

“The wooden scrapers will do. Take the key, Clint, —
it 's hanging on that nail there; go and open the tool-house,
and start the men when they come. I 'll be there

“All right,” said Clint, and hurried away, proud of the
importance of his duties.

The men had had warning that, if it snowed, they must
be on hand with their teams as soon as the storm was
over; and when the sun rose on the dazzling scene, not
fewer than a hundred laborers and sixty horses were
already on the pond.

Clint went around among them, pompously giving orders,
only to get laughed at. When they learned that Phil was
sick, they went to work in their own way, choosing the way
that would most annoy Clint, in preference to any other.

“I cut ice 'fore ever you was out o' your baby-clo'es; an'
think I 'm goin' to be gee-hawed about by you?” said old
Farmer Corbett, whose contempt for Phil's “right-hand
man” seemed to be pretty generally shared by the rest.

Clint was enraged at their conduct, as well as alarmed.
Phil had told him the day before, that, as the ice was, it
would not do to put many teams on it together, but that
they must be scattered over the pond. The men, however,
would not believe but that the ice was twice as thick
as it was; and, for want of specific orders from Kermer,
they all went to scraping on one side. In vain Clint
shrieked his commands to them to scatter. To and fro
and athwart the icy field went the men and horses and
scrapers, sometimes almost huddling together, just the
same as if he had not interfered.


Page 222

“Stop your clack, and go and git some more hammers,
or mallets, or suthin', to knock off the balls with” (for the
snow was damp, and the horses' feet “balled” badly), “if
you want to do anything,” said the old farmer; and went
off with his loaded scraper to the bank.

The hammers were needed; and Clint, disgusted,
tramped back to the tool-house to get them. To his great
relief, he there found Phil, who had just arrived in a sleigh.

“Phil, you ought to be out there!” said Clint.

Kermer, who was feeling dreadfully shaky and remorseful
and cross, took offence at what seemed to him impertinent
dictation. For the very reason that he was conscious
of a guilty neglect of duty, he was the more sensitive to
being told so by a boy.

“I know my own business,” he answered sharply.

“Yes; but,” persisted Clint, “if you can't be out there
yourself, do just come and enforce my authority. They
won't mind a word I say. The men and horses all get
into a heap; and they 'll be through the ice as sure as you
live. Old Corbett says I don't know anything.”

“And so you don't!” broke forth Phil, furiously, perhaps
remembering last night, and thinking that, but for
Clint, who was then in his way, he should not have made
a beast of himself, as he had done, and lost his self-respect,
and all hope of Emma, whose scruples regarding his one
bad habit he had so quickly and so shamefully justified.
“Your authority?” he went on, with quite savage contempt.
“You have no authority! If old Corbett is there,
it 's all right. What do you want?”

Clint, quite stunned by this violence, stammered out
something about hammers. Phil gave him four, and told
him to be gone. The young man, white with suppressed
anger, thrust two or three of them — one a small sledge,
or stone-hammer, weighing several pounds — into his


Page 223
overcoat pockets, and went out of the building very much
as he was accustomed, in his bad moods, to walk out of the
house at home. This was the last the foreman remembered
of that unfortunate transaction.

He felt at once that he had done wrong, and that he
ought to call the boy back and speak kindly to him.
“I 'm a brute!” he muttered, clasping one hand convulsively
to his forehead, and steadying himself with the
other, as he staggered back against a work-bench.

There, half sitting, half leaning, with his head bowed and
his face covered, he remained, feeling himself still too weak
and shaky to appear among the men, and thinking no very
happy thoughts, be sure, when he was roused from his
stupor by a wild cry, or rather a tumult of cries. It came
from the pond. He was on his feet in an instant; he
knew that something terrible was happening. He rushed
out of the tool-house just in time to see a thronged field of
the frozen surface undulate and break up, and a reeling
and plunging mass of utterly helpless men and horses go
down in the ice.

5. V.

Old man Dracutt was sweeping snow from the dooryard
path when Uncle Jim stopped at the gate.

“Good mornin', Jonathan.”

“Good mornin', good mornin', James!” said Jonathan,
resting on his broom. “What 's the good word this mornin',

“No good word, Jonathan,” said Uncle Jim, in a constrained
and awkward manner, pulling the gate open and
coming in.


Page 224

“Hey! what 's the matter? — folks sick?”

“My folks are all well; children are chipper, thank
Heaven!” Uncle Jim cleared his throat. “All well here?”

“Toler'ble, all that 's to home. Clinton 's off to-day.”

“Ah! Where 's Clint?”

“To work on the ice, I s'pose.”

“Sorry to hear that!” said Uncle Jim. “There 's been
an accident, did you know it?”

“On the ice?” cried old man Dracutt, with an anxious

“So I hear. A good many men got in; and it 's feared
they ha'n't all got out again.” And Uncle Jim fixed his
tender blue eyes compassionately on old man Dracutt's

“Not — Clinton?”

“Some of the wet men have come to my house for
clothing. I — I hope for the best, Jonathan. There 's no
knowing yet; but I thought you ought to be prepared.
Dear boy! he was in to see us last night, — so lively, as he
always is! No, no, Jonathan! I can't believe he is
drownded!” But Uncle Jim turned away with a look
that told a different story.

“I understand; you 've come to break it to me.” Jonathan
spoke calmly, though his voice was deep and husky,
and he leaned heavily on the broom. “Tell me the truth
James; is he drownded?”

“So the men say; but they — ” James set out to
explain, but Jonathan cut him short.


“Over by the white ice-houses.”

“Go in and tell her,” said Jonathan.

He himself did not go in (and we will not), but started
at once to walk to the scene of the disaster.

“Drownded! and my last word to him was a harsh


Page 225
one!” he murmured, as he went out at the gate; and
again, ever and anon, as he tramped with difficulty through
the snow, — “Drownded! and my last word was unkind!”

It was a mile to the spot, and the old man was more
infirm than he appeared. He soon came in sight of the
pond, however, and could see, far off, groups of men moving
excitedly about the broken field. Some were clearing
the water of the floating fragments of ice; others, in boats,
or standing on the unbroken edge, were thrusting down
poles, which he knew to be the long-handled, ponderous
pond-rakes, with which the bottom was in summer cleared
of weeds. Up and down, and to and fro, the poles were
pushed and dragged, and he was sure they were searching
for his boy.

With this terrible knowledge, and with this scene full in
view, the old man walked the last half-mile of his toilsome
tramp. He kept the bank of the pond until he was quite
near, then went down upon the ice. Crossing an unbroken
corner, he soon came to the men with the poles. They
continued at work, while others standing by made way
for him with ominous respect, — the respect which even
the rudest persons instinctively show to one in affliction.
There was a hush of voices as he appeared; then
old Farmer Corbett turned to him and said bluntly,
“It 's a bad business, Neighbor Dracutt. If the boys
had only heerd to me, 't would n't 'a' happened. I kep'
tellin' on 'em they worked too clust together; though I 'd
no idee myself but that the ice was thicker. Lucky for
me, I 'd jest drove off when it give way. Your boy wa'n't
alone. We had thirty men and eighteen hosses in to once.
But I flew round, pulled off the ropes from t'other hosses,
and throwed 'em to the fellers we could n't reach. Wooden
scrapers was lucky, — I vow, I believe the boys would have
hitched on to the iron ones, if 't had n't been for me;


Page 226
they helped keep 'em afloat, the wooden scrapers did. We
broke the ice to the shore, and hild the hosses' heads above
water till they could tech bottom, an' in ten minutes we
had 'em all out.”

“All!” said the old man, with a sudden gleam of hope.

“All the animals, an' all the fellers but your grandson;
at least, he 's the only one missin', fur 's we know.
There wa'n't no need o' his bein' drownded at all; but
he 'd been to git some hammers to knock off the balls from
the hosses' hoofs with, an' 'pears the foolish feller tucked
'em in his pockets. They took him right to the bottom,
of course. An' what I 'm feared on now is, we sha' n't find
him at all. This here shore slants right down steep, to
about seventy or eighty feet deep, off here; an' with them
hammers in his pockets, with every struggle he made, he 'd
be liable, don't ye see? to work his way furder an' furder
down that pitch. That 's what I tell 'em; but they don't
seem inclined to believe a word I say. If they 'd believed
me when I telled 'em they ought to scatter more, an' not
crowd together so on sech young ice, 't would 'a' been
better for all on us, I vow.”

Mr. Dracutt watched the men raking the pond for some
time, without speaking, though his lips moved now and
then inaudibly. At last he asked for Kermer.

“That 's him with the pole, in the bow of that furder
boat there,” said Farmer Corbett. “He 's done his duty
sence he 's been here; but if he 'd been here afore, 't would
'a' saved all this. Nobody knowed how to go to work.
Nobody would hear to me, though I telled 'em —” and so
forth; the worthy farmer appearing by this time to have
convinced even himself that he had foreseen the danger,
and to find a dismal satisfaction in uttering prophecies
after the fact.

“Don't handle your rake that way!” said the old man,


Page 227
as Farmer Corbett thrust down the implement in a fresh
spot beneath the ice. “Be more careful; be more tender!
You may hurt the boy!”

“He 's past hurtin' by this time, I guess likely,” said
Farmer Corbett. “The main thing now is to fish him out.”

“Wal, wal! be gentle! I would n't have ye mar his
featur's, nor any part of him, more 'n I 'd have ye tear my
own flesh. If he 's drownded, he 's drownded; but don't
mangle him. Whereabouts was he when he went down?”

“That nobody knows. It 's as much as a chap wants
to do, sech a time, to keep the run of himself, with an
acre of ice slumpin' down under him, and the water
spurtin' up about his legs; he can't keep many eyes on
to his neighbors, nor do much else but mind his own business
for a spell. Two or three o' them that got the duckin',
— they 've gone off now for dry shirts and breeches, —
they said they seen Clint a standin' on the ice not more 'n
a few seconds 'fore it split up, though, of course, they
can't tell jest where. A sudden casouse over neck an'
heels into ice-water makes a feller feel curis, I tell ye, for
about a minute, an' forgit things. I tried it once myself.”

“How long 'fore you missed him?” the old man asked.

“I vow, I don't know as we sh'd 'a' missed him till this
time,” said Farmer Corbett, getting down on his knees, and
feeling with his rake to the utmost depth it would fathom;
“but Kermer missed him. He asked for Clint Dracutt,
a'most the fust thing, 'fore ever we 'd got half the men
out. He knowed about the hammers in his pockets, ye
see. No use!” (Drawing up the rake.) “The bottom 's
gittin' down out o' my reach, and I go about two-an'-twenty
foot. We shall have to lash poles to the rake-handles;
an' then, if we don't find him, cut holes in the ice here
behind us, an' fish for him through them.”

“Don't git discouraged,” cried the old man, seeing that


Page 228
others were at the same time beginning to relax their
efforts. “Let me take the rake.”

Farmer Corbett was quite willing to give it up; and the
old man found a temporary relief to his distress of mind
in the physical exertion of searching for the body. It was
hard work, however, and his strength was soon exhausted.
He was feebly hauling up the weed-entangled rake from
under the verge of the ice, when some one came and took
him by the arm. It was Phil Kermer, sober enough by
this time.

“This is no work for you, Mr. Dracutt. Come away;
let me send you home.”

“No, no! I can't go till he is found,” said the old man.

“I will see that everything is done that can be done,”
said Phil. “Come; my sleigh is here.”

Still the old man refused to go. And now the foreman
was called away from him by the arrival of the president
of the Ice Company, driving down in a cutter to the edge
of the pond, where two of the directors, who were already
on the spot, went to meet him.

6. VI.

Kermer, on coming up, found the three in consultation.

“How is this, Kermer?” said the president, from under
his rich sleigh-robes.

“Gentlemen,” said Phil, “I 'll tell you just how it is,”
the haggard face and earnest manner of the man commanding
at once their sympathy and respect. “I suppose
I am to blame in this matter.” He hesitated, dropped his
head upon his breast, clinching his hands and his teeth

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Page 229
tightly for a moment, then went on. “The truth is, I was
drunk last night, and I was n't myself this morning.
There 's no use disguising the fact; I don't wish to disguise
it; I don't wish to shirk the consequences. Do
your worst with me, gentlemen. I 'm prepared.”

“But what can we do, Kermer?”

“One thing, certainly. You can discharge a foreman
who has been guilty of such gross neglect of duty. You
can't do less than that. You can do as much more as you

“But we don't know how to spare you; we don't want to
spare you, Kermer,” said the president. “You have been
a very useful man to us. And this being the first offence
of the kind, which I am sure you will never repeat —”

“It 's no use, sir!” answered the foreman, in a voice
shaken to its depths by strong emotion. “You don't see
your own interests as I see them. You will stand better
with the community if you discharge me. That 's the only
atonement you can make to the boy's friends. They will
feel better. And as an example, gentlemen, you ought to
do it, if for no other reason.”

“How so, Kermer?”

“Because,” said Phil, who seemed to have lived and
thought more in the past two hours than in years before,
and to have come to great conclusions, — “because young
men ought not to be able to say that a foreman in an important
place like mine can keep that place after he has
caused the death of one man, and endangered the lives of
fifty, by getting drunk.”

The president and his two associates on the spot, being
kind-hearted and just men, were greatly embarrassed to
know what to do in the case. If Kermer had approached
them with falsehood and excuse, endeavoring to cast the
blame of the accident upon others, their duty would have


Page 230
been comparatively clear; such a foreman would certainly
have deserved to be dismissed. But nothing disarms censure
like self-accusation; and the deep remorse he evinced,
yet more by his manner than by his words, seemed the
best guaranty he could give of sober and faithful behavior
in the future.

“There is force in what you say, Kermer,” said one of
the directors. “But the very fact that you say it convinces
me that you are, after all, a man to be trusted.
You have shown great ability and fidelity to our interests
hitherto, and I don't think one such indiscretion ought to
ruin a man. What 's your opinion, gentlemen?”

The other two agreed with him, and proposed that the
decision of the question should be postponed until the next
regular meeting of the board. The truth was, Phil was
too valuable a man to lose.

The foreman was deeply affected, but by no means
persuaded, by this unexpected kindness. He struggled a
moment with his emotions, then said, “Gentlemen, I
thank you, this is so much more than I deserve, but
it can't be as you wish. If you won't discharge me
for the reasons I have given, then discharge me for
my own sake. I can't go on as if nothing had happened.
If I could exchange places with that dead boy
under the ice, I should be contented, I should be quite
happy. Since that can't be, it seems to me that the only
relief I can have will be in punishment. If I don't have
some outward punishment, my inward punishment will be
too great to bear. Let me go to work by the day under
some other foreman, if you still want to keep me.”

“Very well, Kermer,” said the president. “We don't
discharge you, mind, but we accept your resignation, since
you insist upon it, and we hire you by the day.”

“Like any other laborer,” Kermer stipulated.


Page 231

“Like any other experienced laborer. You won't object
to having charge of a gang of men, under me, will you,
till we can find another foreman? I shall stay and look
after the work myself for the present.”

“I am at your service, gentlemen; drive me,” said

And he looked as if he would like to be driven hard.

7. VII.

The horses and scrapers were going again busily and
cheerfully, as if nothing had happened, only half a dozen
men remaining with the late foreman to search for the
drowned body. It was a toilsome and discouraging task,
and at last old man Dracutt, chilled and exhausted, consented
to be taken home.

“I telled 'em so, I telled 'em so!” Farmer Corbett
repeated every half-hour, as he watched the ineffectual rakes,
lengthened out by the addition of poles lashed to the
handles, working their way into deeper and deeper water.
And it really began to appear that he was right in his conjecture
that Clint had gone down the steep slope beneath
the unbroken ice. “They won't get him now, at all, —
mark my word, boys, — not without he rises to the surface
an' freezes into the ice, where we may come acrost him
when we come to cut.”

As that day passed, and the next, and the third and
fourth likewise, and the body was not found, the old man
became triumphant, and offered to make large bets in
support of his theory. He would, no doubt, have been


Page 232
deeply disappointed and chagrined if the body had turned
up at last and proved him to be no true prophet. But
that was not to be. On the fifth day the search was abandoned,
and he again had the satisfaction of reminding
people, with his usual sagacious smirk and arrogant head-shake,
that he “telled 'em so.”

The catastrophe soon ceased to be talked about. As
the frozen surface of the pond was suffered to close over
the spot, so the ice of oblivion seemed soon to form over
the memory of poor Clint. The groups of skaters, once
his daily companions, flying, on swift, ringing irons, along
that shore, and sometimes pausing to observe, one to another,
“I wonder whereabouts under us Clint Dracutt
is!” then speeding on again joyous as ever, were types of
the world out of whose busy and careless life he had disappeared.
Will more be said of you and me, think you,
O my friend! when the universal icy tablet is laid over
our heads also?

There were three or four hearts, however (may we hope
for as many such, and be grateful), that did not forget the
unlucky youth so readily. Upon his grandparents, left
now to their dumb and wretched loneliness, the loss had
of course fallen most heavily. Yet there was one other to
whom it occasioned even greater suffering, though in a
different way. This was Phil Kermer. He had been
really attached to Clint, and would have missed him under
any circumstances that might have separated them; but
the sting lay deeper than that, — he felt that he was responsible
for the boy's death. With him, therefore, mere
regret was consumed in burning remorse.

It was a terrible thing to Phil to be obliged to give up
all hope of recovering the body. He regretted now that
he had consented to remain upon the pond at all. Every
day, and every hour of the day, he was reminded of the


Page 233
death which his conscience told him his own negligence
and unkindness had caused. It seemed to him that he
was constantly walking over the grave of his murdered
friend. Pass where he would on the ice, there the dead
face seemed to rise beneath it, and with upturned eyes and
still, livid lips reproach him for his crime. And he was
now helping to make merchandise of that ice. The
thought of it became intolerable to him; the very sight
of the pond, which had before been his delight, filled him
with loathing.

Everybody noticed the change that had come over the
late foreman, and he had the sympathy and respect of the
entire community. Emma Welford heard of it, and she
longed inexpressibly to see him once more and speak to
him one little word of comfort; all the interest she had
ever felt in him, all the tenderness he had ever inspired,
returning with tenfold force upon her heart, now that she
knew he was unhappy.

It was generally believed that Kermer was working his
way back gradually and surely to the place which he had
felt obliged temporarily to resign. A week, two weeks,
passed; no other foreman was engaged, and the ice was
at last thick enough to cut. It was Saturday evening, and
on Monday morning, if no more snow should fall in the interim,
the harvesting of the crystal crop was to begin. As
Phil was leaving the pond at dusk, the president stopped
him and put a letter into his hand.

“Think of it till Monday,” said he, “then give us your

Phil went into the tool-house, struck a light, and read
the letter. It was a formal proposition for him to resume
his former duties as foreman, with an increased salary.

He put the letter into his pocket, extinguished the light,
locked up the tool-house, and went home. He did not


Page 234
wait till Monday, however, before coming to a decision.
Before he slept that night his mind was made up. He
determined to decline the offer and to leave the pond.

In leaving the pond, he would, of course, leave the
town; for what would then be left to hold him there but
those painful associations from which he was growing morbidly
anxious to be free? But, before going, he felt he
had a duty to fulfil. He had never yet had the courage to
visit Clint's grandparents since the accident; he would do
so now. And Emma, — ought he not to see her once more
and acknowledge to her that she had always been right
with regard to his one dangerous habit, and then bid her a
final adieu?

The next day he wrote his letter, formally and positively
declining the company's proposition, and in the evening set
out to make his farewell calls. “Emma first,” thought
Phil, with a strange swelling of the heart.

It was a clear January night; beautiful, still moonlight
on the beautiful, still snow. Phil's shadow glided beside him
as he walked, and a darker shadow than that dogged his
every step, — the memory of Clint. It was only two weeks
since they had met together in that house, and then the
boy had been in the man's way. What would not the man
have given to have the boy in his way again to-night!

It is true, a horrible temptation beset Kermer as he
approached and saw the light in the windows, and all his
old feelings toward Emma surged up again. He believed
that she would have married Clint, if he had lived. Now
that Clint was gone, perhaps he, Phil — But he would
not allow the thought to shape itself in his mind. To
profit in any way by the boy's death would, he felt, make
him a murderer indeed. “No, no!” thought he, crushing
down his heart as it rose rebelliously; “this very thing
makes a union with her utterly and forever impossible; I


Page 235
should always feel that I had gained her by getting rid of
Clint. I won't forget this now when I come to see her.”
And he did not forget it.

They met almost in silence at the door, so much were
they overcome by the emotions the occasion called up in
each. The children ran to him, as of old; and Sissy,
remembering the fun she had the last time he was there,
asked for Clint. “What have you done with Clint? Did
you put him down under the ithe? Won't the fitheth bite
him there?”

“Hush, hush,” said Emma; while poor Phil was unable
to speak a word.

But the little chatterbox ran on. She wished to know
how Clint could get up to heaven, now that the ice was
thick and hard all over him, and would Phil cut a hole to
let him pass through?

“I with he would n't go to heaven,” she said; “for I
want him to come and make a wheelbarrow of Tommy, and
let me be a bag of potatoeth, and thell me like he did lath
time. Will you let me be a bag of potatoeth, Mithta Phil?”

But Phil, cut to the heart by the innocent prattle, said
he did n't believe he could make a wheelbarrow; besides,
the blacksmith's shop (namely, the old grandfather) had
gone to call on a sick neighbor; then what would they
do if the wheelbarrow should break down? So Sissy
was put off, and the children were soon sent out of the

Then Phil told Emma of his determination to leave
town, probably never to return. She had not expected
that. She had hoped that he had come to say something
very, very different. Why did he go? she asked. And
he told her something of what he had suffered.

“But we all know it was an accident; then why do you
blame yourself so?”


Page 236

“Because I am to blame,” answered Kermer, with solemn
self-condemnation. “And that brings me to speak of
what I have come to say to you to-night.”

What could that be, if he had not said it already?
Emma could not conceal her agitation. Never before had
she felt so powerfully attracted toward this man. Suffering
had softened him; his old self-complacency had vanished,
and in its place humility, and charity, and sweetness
of spirit surrounded him with their warm and living atmosphere.
This change in himself, together with a similar
change in her, perhaps (for she too had suffered), rendered
him more than ever susceptible to the charm of her presence,
and he felt compelled to keep a fast hold in his mind
upon his strong resolution, to avoid yielding to that influence.

After a pause, holding her hand and looking into her
eyes, he said to her: “I thought I ought to acknowledge
to you, before I go, that you were altogether right in what
you required of me, and that I was altogether wrong. It
may seem a mere mockery for me to make that confession
now; it is too late for it to do anybody any good. Yet I
felt I ought to make it.”

Why was it too late? Why did he go, now that the only
obstacle that had before separated them seemed to be removed?
for he declared that he had forsworn his habit of
dissipation forever. The real cause of his leaving her was
too painful a subject for him to talk about, and he could
only say that he went “because he must.” Then the conclusion
was forced upon her that he did not care for her
any more; that he had, perhaps, never really cared for
her, and her womanly pride was roused, giving her unnatural
strength for the separation. She was wonderfully
dignified and cold till he had reached the door; then
he opened his arms, and she fell sobbing upon his breast.
He kissed her once and again, and breathed forth I know


Page 237
not what passionate parting words with his farewell, then
hurriedly departed from the house, like a strong man fleeing
from a great temptation.

In the street, he did not know what to do with himself.
He felt more utterly forlorn and desolate than he had ever
believed it possible for a man to be and live. “Go back
to her!” whispered one passion in his breast. “Go to the
bar-room!” whispered another and darker passion. He
resisted both.

He could not go at once and make his farewell call on
the old couple, and so he wandered down a lane that led to
the pond. Why he should choose to revisit at that time a
scene which he could not behold without a pang, it is not
easy to say. But sometimes pain itself, especially when
associated with some object of affection or respect, has a
fascination for us.

He went down to the shore, and stood by a high board
fence that served as a shelter to a farmer's hot-beds, — the
wintry sky above him cloudless and pure; before him the
cold, shining silence of the moonlit ice. There were no
skaters on the pond that night, and its stillness was
broken only by its own wild and solitary noises.

As Phil was gazing in the direction of the spot where
the catastrophe had occurred, he became all at once aware
of what seemed a human figure walking on that part of the
pond. In a little while, it appeared to be approaching him.
Nearer and nearer it came, until he thought he ought to
catch the sound of footsteps, but not a sound was heard.
Silently as a ghost, out of the ghostly silence it came, gliding
along the ice. Now it stood still, and now it threw out
its arms wildly and beat its breast. And now it assumed
to the eyes of the amazed spectator a mien and shape that
made his blood run cold, — the mien and shape of the
drowned youth, Clinton Dracutt!


Page 238

8. VIII.

Again that Sunday evening old man Dracutt and his
wife sat together by their lonely kitchen fire, but with no
Clinton now to come in and break the awful silence and
monotony of their lives. The lamp had not been lighted;
only the moonlight lay upon the floor, and the still whiteness
of the winter's night filled the room with its pallid

The old man sat in his chair erect, but looking more
crushed together in the neck and jaws than ever, while his
wife appeared bent by an added load of trouble. There
was utter silence, except that now and then a soft, low sob
was heard; the old lady was thinking of that night two
weeks ago, and weeping. Then, ever and anon, from without
came a deep, muffled, reverberating roar or groan, as
if Nature herself sympathized with their woe. If it had
been summer, you would have said it thundered. But it
was the pond complaining, the thick-ribbed ice shuddering
and moaning under the cold, starry night. Every sudden,
prolonged peal reached the ears of the lonely old
couple in the bereaved house, reminding them of their

They had not spoken to each other yet, nor had there
been much need that they should speak, so well had they
learned in all those years to understand each other without
words. But they had shown in many ways that they
felt more kindly toward each other since this great affliction
came upon them. And now, old lady Dracutt sitting
there, weeping, in the gloom, longed to speak once more
to her husband, and to hear his voice.


Page 239

She was ready to say, “Forgive me, Jonathan,” but was
afraid to utter the words. How strangely they would sound,
breaking the unnatural silence that had kept them dumb to
each other for twelve years! Again and again she tried
to speak, but could not bring her tongue to shape the
syllables; it seemed paralyzed; she began to feel a strange,
benumbing fear that she would never have power to break
that silence, that it had been taken from her as a punishment
for her long sin of wilfulness and hard-heartedness
toward him.

While she was thus struggling ineffectually with herself,
suddenly another voice broke the spell which she could
not, — to her terror and joy, her husband's voice.

“I have been thinking, Jane —” said he, and stopped.

“O Jonathan! you have spoken!” she cried out, with
a wild sob. “God bless you, God bless you, Jonathan!”

“Jane, I thought I had better speak,” said the old man
in a trembling voice. “I have been wantin' to for many
days. I think I have been wrong, Jane.”

“Don't say it, don't say it, Jonathan,” said the old lady,
sinking to the floor, and throwing her clasped hands across
his knees. “I should have asked your forgiveness. I have
tried to. I was trying to now, when you spoke. O Jonathan,

“God forgive us! I think we have both been wrong, but
I have been most in the wrong,” said the old man. Then
a long silence followed, broken by sighs and sobs, and the
moaning peals of the pond.

“I 've been thinkin',” resumed the old man, — she was
at last seated by his side once more, and her hand was in
his, — “that I can't, somehow, bear to have Clinton's memory
passed over in this way. I think we ought to have
funeral sarvices for him, even without —”


Page 240

“Yes,” said she, “I have felt so, too. It will be some
satisfaction. I said as much to Cousin James.”

“He told me you did. He told me, too, what you said
about my blaming myself so much on account of the boy.
And it touched me, it touched me; I did n't desarve that
you should feel and speak so kindly.”

“But, Jonathan,” replied Jane, wiping her eyes, “you
said nothin' to him that night that it was n't your duty to
say. I felt that, though I hated to have him hurt.”

“I don't know, I don't know. If I had been different,
he might have been different. No wonder he was cross
sometimes. It 's the hardest thing for me to reconcile myself
to the fact that my last word to him was unkind.
He would n't have gone off on the pond so the next mornin'
without speakin' to us, if it had n't been for that. I thought
't was my duty to reprimand him, and maybe it was. But
my first duty was to set him an example of cheerfulness
and good temper. What could we expect of him as long
as we two were at enmity?” And the old man ended with
a groan.

While they were talking, there came a rap at the door.
The old man said, “Walk in,” while the old lady made
haste to light a lamp.

“It 's nobody but me; don't light up for me,” said a
familiar voice, as the tall form of a hale old man appeared
in the doorway.

“Cousin James!” said the old lady, still opening the
wick with the lighted match.

“At this time o' night, and with a knock!” said old
man Dracutt, pushing a chair toward the visitor.

“I knocked because I — I rather thought ye had company,”
said James, glancing his eye about the room as he
sat down.

“You heard talkin', I s'pose,” said old man Dracutt.


Page 241
“Ye need n't be surprised at it. 'T was nobody but Jane
and me.”

“Praise the Lord!” exclaimed Uncle Jim (for we like
best the name the young folks called him by). “Bless ye,
Jonathan; bless ye, Jane. I hoped this sorrow would bring
you closer together, and I see it has.”

“It has, it has!” said Jane.

“God's ways are not our ways,” said Uncle Jim, with
deep emotion. “He has done it. He meant it all for your

“I believe so,” replied Jane. “We have had comfort in
each other to-night, such as we have n't had for twenty
year. But, O James! at what a cost! I 've been thinkin'
the sunshine could n't melt us, and so God sent his lightnin'.
If we had n't been so hard-hearted, then our boy
might have been spared to us.”

“But you will soon become reconciled to his loss,” said
Unlce Jim, philosophically — so very philosophically, indeed,
that old man Dracutt looked at him with reproachful

“That can never be, James. There 's only one thing now
that can be any satisfaction to us. This week the ice will
be cut over all that part of the pond. He may be found,
froze into it. If not, then we must have funeral sarvices,
jest the same as if he was. What ails ye, James? Ye
don't listen to me. I thought ye approved of the idee of a

“So I do — that is, so I should — hem!” coughed Uncle
Jim, using his handkerchief, fidgeting in his chair, and
behaving strangely in other ways. “But I would n't hurry
about it. There 's no knowin', ye know — he may be found
yet — and — hem! — the fact is, there 's no sartinty — no
positive sartinty — that he 's drownded, ye know, Jonathan.”


Page 242

“I wish I did know it,” said Jonathan, somewhat
startled. “If I could think there was a particle of hope!
James,” he went on, with increasing agitation, “what have
you come here for this time o' the evenin'? You don't act
your nat'ral self. There 's somethin' —”

“Yes, there is somethin',” Uncle Jim replied, “and I
want you to be prepared for 't.”

“For Heaven's sake, James!” said the old lady, “what is
it? Have they found the poor boy's body?”

“Not — not exactly that. I tell ye,” Uncle Jim cleared
his throat again, “there 's no positive sartinty about his
bein' drownded. The men said he was on the ice jest a few
seconds before it broke up; but, don't you see, men can't
have much recollection with regard to time, after such an
accident? What seemed to them a few seconds, when they
thought on 't afterwards, might have been a few minutes;
in fact, might have been five, ten minutes. Have ye
thought of that?”

“Yes, yes. But all the sarcumstances, James, — they
are agin the supposition. Where could the poor boy be,
if not there? He could n't have gone off. He had no
money about him. Then, agin, the hammers, James!”

“The hammers! — hem! — yes, Jonathan,” said Uncle
Jim, in the awkwardest manner, and with the strangest
blending of cheerfulness and anxiety in his kind old face,
“about the hammers. Something has come to light with
regard to them; and that 's one thing I 've come to tell you.
Whatever has become of Clinton, they have n't gone to the
bottom of the pond, that 's a sartin case.”

“How do you know?” cried old man Dracutt, almost

“I was told so, on good authority, this very evenin'. I
know jest where them hammers are. They are lyin' in a
corner of the fence, a few rods beyond the tool-house.

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Page 243
The very hammers, I know it. The snow prevented 'em
from bein' discovered before.”

“Clinton! Clinton! then he may be alive!” broke
forth the old lady, with sudden and wild hope.

“It is more than probable. In fact, a — person — has
been heard from, up in New Hampshire, who answers his
description. A young man come to town this evenin' and
brought the news. He 'll be here in a few minutes. Be
calm, Jane, I — I believe he is comin' now!” (Footsteps in
the creaking snow outside.) “So, do be composed, Jonathan!
You know now who it is!” as the door opened.

“Clinton!” shrieked the old lady, tottering forward,
and falling on the new-comer's neck, with hysterical sobs.

It was Clinton, sure enough, and Phil Kermer with him.

9. IX.

A word now (while the old couple are recovering from
their shock of joy) with regard to the young man's reappearance.

The reader has, of course, divined that the ghost Phil
saw on the ice was no other than Clint himself. He
crossed the pond because it was the nearest way home.
When he stood still, he was hesitating whether to go on to
the lane, or to take a still more direct course over Mr.
Jones's farm. He had on india-rubber shoes, and they
muffled the sound of his footsteps, preventing them from
being heard until he was quite near. When he flung out his
arms and beat his breast, he was simply whipping his sides
to warm his hands. You may be sure that Phil did not


Page 244
long remain in doubt as to the real nature of the apparition;
and that he was thrilled with something besides
fear, when, calling out in a loud voice from the shore, “Is
that you, Clinton Dracutt?” he received the characteristic
response, in gross mortal accents, “I bet ye! That you,
Phil Kermer?”

When the first surprise of their meeting was over, and
Phil had got from Clint a brief account of his disappearance,
and Clint had learned (for the first time) from Phil
that he was supposed to be drowned, they walked up the
lane toward the Dracutt house. But now it occurred to
Phil that the grandson's sudden reappearance unannounced
might be even a more dangerous shock to the old couple
than the report of his death had been. He remembered
that Uncle Jim was close by, spending the evening with
Mr. Jones, a sick neighbor; and he thought it would be
peculiarly appropriate that he who had broken to them
the bad news should now convey to them the antidote.

They met Uncle Jim just as he was coming out of Neighbor
Jones's door. He went back into the house with them,
where he remained to recover a little from his astonishment,
and to hear enough of Clint's story to enable him to unfold
the truth by degrees to the old couple; then set out on
his new mission. Phil waited for him to do his errand,
and for Clint to get warm by Mrs. Jones's fire, and to eat
a leg of cold turkey from Mrs. Jones's larder, then took
him home, entering the house with him, as we have seen.

Clint was looking well, but rather shabby. He was inclined
to swagger a little, and to show a manly distaste
for the fuss made over him. Old man Dracutt scarcely
uttered a word, but appeared fairly dazed by what seemed
to him more a dream of his grandson's return than a
reality, and stood with silent tears coursing down his aged
cheeks. The old lady kissed the boy often enough for


Page 245
both; and repeated again and again the question before
he could get breath between the caresses to answer it,
“Where have you been, Clinton? Clinton, O Clinton!
where have you been?”

“Not to the bottom of the pond, by a long chalk!”
said Clint, getting away from her, and seating himself,
while all sat around him, in the dimly lighted kitchen.
“I never went back on to the ice at all, after I left Phil.
I just went the other way, as fast as ever my legs could
carry me; and pitched those hammers into a corner of the
fence, the first thing. I had no idea where I was going;
but I was so disgusted with everybody and everything,
and myself in particular, that all I thought of was to get
away out of sight, somewhere.

“I had n't gone far when a man came along in a buggy.
`Give me a ride?' says I. `Hop in,' says he. `Rather
hard travelling,' says I. `Yes,' says he; `I got caught by
the snow last night; that comes,' says he, `of travelling
on Sunday.' We got acquainted as we rode along, and I
found out he was a horse-doctor, and that he lived at the
Port. I said I was going there to look for a situation,
and told him I knew a good deal more about horses than I
suppose was exactly consistent with the truth. You see,
as he talked horse, I talked horse out of sympathy. We
made a few stops, and got to his house about noon; then
he asked me to dinner; and after dinner he said he could
give me a job if I would like one. He had a pair of horses
on his hands that he wanted to send up into New Hampshire
to be boarded for the winter; and offered me five dollars
if I would go and take care of them on the way. He paid
me in advance; and the next day I started, went by railroad,
and got to the place the next night. It was a country
tavern; and the landlord said he could n't keep the
team, although he had agreed to, for his hostler had just


Page 246
left him, and he did n't know about hiring another.
`Maybe,' says I, `you 'd like to hire me?' We struck a
bargain in about a minute, and I went to work, thinking
I was going to be in clover.

“I stayed with him till yesterday morning, when I left
in a hurry. I could n't stand it any longer. I tell ye,
't was rough. Big job and small pay. I began to think
of home, and came to the conclusion I 'd been a dunce to
leave it.”

“But why did you leave it, Clint?” asked Phil. “Your
getting angry with me was no good reason.”

“Well, I had got mad with the old folks too.”

“But was there nobody else you cared for?”

“Well — yes — no — fact is,” said Clint, “there was
another thing that disgusted me. You know you left me
the night before with — you know who. Well, I may as
well own it, I stayed and made a fool of myself. She
did n't care that for me,” Clint snapped his fingers. “I
found 't was somebody else she cared for; and that somebody
made me mad as fury, next morning, in the

Phil rose somewhat hurriedly after this, and took his

“Don't go!” cried Clint. “That 's all right now, ye

“Yes; glad you 've forgiven me. But I — I 've a little
matter of business to look after. And as I 've heard the
rest of your story, I 'll see you in the morning, Clint.”

With these words, Phil hastened away, to look after the
“little matter of business” that had so suddenly claimed
his attention, leaving Clint to relate to the old people how
he had that day walked all the way from the Port, and
met the late foreman, after crossing the pond.

“So you thought I was in the ice, this winter, with


Page 247
a vengeance, did ye? Now, if that a'n't the coolest

“Yes,” said Uncle Jim, “and we were talkin' about
havin' a funeral sermon preached for you.”

Whereupon the young man almost went into convulsions
of laughter.

“I wish I 'd known it. I 'd have stayed away, put on
false whiskers and goggles, and come to my own funeral.
Would n't it have been rich? 'T a'n't often a man can do
that. Wonder if the minister would have made me out a
saint? Ho, ho, ho! Why did n't I know of it, and come
to my own funeral? There never was such a rare chance
for sport, and, by George, I 've missed it!”

10. X.

In the mean while, Mr. Phil Kermer walked very fast,
and in a very extraordinary direction for a man of business
at that time of night, namely, to Uncle Jim's door, when
he knew very well that Uncle Jim was n't at home. He
seemed to think it necessary that Emma should be at
once informed of the joyful news of Clint's resurrection. It
was joyful news, indeed, his coming conveyed to her,
when the door opened, and he himself appeared almost
like one raised from the dead, to eyes even then red with
weeping — not for Clint.

When Uncle Jim returned home, and found a happy
couple sitting up for him (of course, they could n't have
been sitting up for anything else at that time of night),
Mr. Phil's little matter of business seemed to have been
quite satisfactorily arranged.


Page 248

One other little matter remained for Phil to attend to,
on reaching his own lodgings; which was, to destroy the
letter he had written to the president of the Ice Company,
and to write another in its place, which consisted of
two words, simply: —

I accept.

The next day Phil entered on his new duties as foreman,
with an energy that augured well for his own future and
for the interests of the company.

The harvest had begun; an army of men and horses
were at work, cutting fields of ice into checkers, and
breaking up these checkers into blocks to be raised by
machinery, and stored in the great ice-houses; when, toward
noon, Farmer Corbett, who had been kept away from
the pond by an attack of rheumatism, came limping along,
with a puckered and suffering countenance, to see what
was going on.

“We 've begun to cut, you see,” said Phil. “And Clint
has been found.”

“You don't say! Where?”

“I discovered him, when taking a look at the ice off
Jones's shore.”

“I telled ye so! I telled ye so!” said the prophet,
although the spot indicated was half a mile from the deep
water which his theory favored. “Exac'ly where I said.
Froze in the ice, was n't he? Ye remember what I telled

“Not precisely frozen into the ice, — he was walking on
the ice,” said Phil.

“Not drownded?” cried the old farmer, with alarm.

“Not a bit of it; but alive and well, Mr. Corbett.”

Whereat the prophet's countenance, which had brightened
wonderfully a moment before, assumed once more its
puckered and suffering expression, and he was observed to


Page 249
limp away more painfully than ever. At first, he professed
an utter disbelief in Clint's return to life, declaring
it to be “agin natur', and agin reason”; but after he had
beheld with his own eyes the miracle of the young man
moving about bodily on the pond (for Clint was “in the
ice” again, with his friend Phil), he consoled himself by
saying that “if the feller had 'a' been drownded, he 'd 'a'
been found exac'ly as he telled 'em.”

Clint got along very well with Phil, and, consequently,
with everybody else on the pond, after this. We must
here do him the justice to add, that he gets along very
well with the old folks too. A fortnight's rough experience
as hostler and man-of-all-work in a country tavern, under
a hard master, had prepared him to appreciate the privileges
and comforts of home; while the great change that
had taken place in his grandparents did much to bring
about a reform of manners in him.

Clint missed the chance of attending his own funeral,
but he had something, perhaps, quite as good in its stead.

“Did you think, Jonathan,” said old lady Dracutt, one
day, “that that was the fiftieth anniversary of our weddin'
the night 'fore Clinton went away.”

“Yes; and I 've thought on 't a good deal sence,” replied
the old man. “I 'm sorry it should have passed so.
Some people have a golden weddin' on that anniversary.
I don't think we desarve a golden weddin' exactly; but if
any old couple ever needed to set the example of bein'
married over agin, in a new sperit, it 's you and me, Jane.
Don't you think so?”

“I do! I do! I wish that anniversary was n't past;
though maybe it a'n't too late to have our golden weddin'
now. Our unnat'ral way of livin' together has been known
to everybody so long, I feel as if I 'd like to make some
public profession of our change of feelin's, — jest have our


Page 250
friends come in and see us married over agin, in a better
sperit, as you say.”

Friends favored the idea, and proffered their assistance;
and so it happened that, instead of a funeral in the old
Dracutt house, there was, before many days, a golden

The peculiar circumstances of the occasion invested it
with extraordinary interest; everybody seemed eager to
witness the second marriage of an aged couple who had
lived separated under the same roof, without speaking to
each other, for so many years. Their first marriage, fifty
years before, had been called a romantic one; but this, all
things considered, was even more romantic — it was certainly
far more significant — than that.

Old and young were present, a houseful of guests, —
those who had lived through the great experience of
wedded life, and those who were just entering upon it,
with youthful passions and rainbow-colored hopes. Nor
were absent little children, yet innocent of the sweet but
awful knowledge of love. All Emma's little flock were
there, even down to little Sissy, whose dancing, golden
curls and cherubic cheeks presented a strange contrast to
the gray hairs and wrinkles of the aged pair. Dear, laughter-loving
child! the world was all before her now, while
they were leaving it fast behind them. Little she thought
that she would ever grow old, and grizzled, and infirm, like
them. Yet that aged bride, so bent, was once a beauteous,
beaming child like her; and who knows what shadowy
cares may come on the wings of the swift years to darken
and trouble that little one's dream of life? For when
seventy birthdays more shall have passed over her, and
her golden wedding-day shall have come, and she looks
back to this day, will the long life between, with all its
joys and disappointments, seem anything else but a


Page 251

All the old people who could be found, that had been
present at Jonathan and Jane's first wedding, were invited
to this; and, strange and sad to say, only four out of all
that happy company could be obtained, — three besides
Cousin Jim! What a solemn commentary was that upon
the fleeting shows of the world! If length of years and
worldly pleasure and gain were all of life, it would not
seem to amount to very much, after all, — do you really
think it would, my octogenarian friend?

It was a sad though happy occasion to the aged bride
and bridegroom; and when, after the wedding ceremony,
friends crowded around to congratulate them, they could
not refrain from tears.

“I feel,” said old man Dracutt, “that we are married
now, not for time, but for etarnity. I don't regret that life
is short, but that so much of our life has been misspent.”

“Don't say your experience of life has not been good
and useful to you,” cried cheery old Uncle Jim. “I 'm
sartin it has.”

“Yes, in one respect it surely has,” said Jane, smiling
through her tears. “The habit of not speaking to each
other, under any provocation, beats everything in the way
of discipline I ever heard of. It has given me a command
of my own temper, which maybe I could never have got
in any other way. Try it, you that need such a discipline,
— but not in the way we did. O, if people would only
learn to do for love what we did for pride and resentment,
and bridle the tongue, what a mortal Paradise married life
might be!”

“Wal, wal!” cried Uncle Jim, determined that the occasion
should pass off joyously; “I don't see but what you
have about as much to be thankful for as any of us. Clint
has come home all the wiser for his little trip up into
New Hampshire, and —”


Page 252

“And we have got out of the ice, too,” said old man
Dracutt, smiling; “for it was us that was froze all the
time, without knowin' it.”

“Yes, yes; but you 're thawed out now, and all our
hearts are softer and better for your experience. Old age
a'n't such a bad thing; I want our young friends here to
learn from us to-night that it a'n't. I believe that I grow
cheerfuller than ever as I grow older; and it will always
be so, if we only learn to regard life, not as a thing to be
prized and clung to for itself alone, but only as a discipline,
as you say, Jane, — only as a discipline and a preparation
for a higher and happier futur'.”

“If I can get to look at it in that way, then I sha' n't feel
that so much of my life has been wasted,” said the bridegroom,
shaking Uncle Jim's hand. “But, O my friends!”
shaking hands with the younger guests, “may you be
saved from the necessity of such a discipline as we have
had! To avoid that, take from me one word of advice,
especially you that are about to marry: never let anything
stand in the way of perfect harmony and trust in
one another; but give up everything, give up everything
for LOVE!”

I don't know how it happened, but the old man looked
very particularly at Emma Welford and Phil Kermer as
he said this.