The English Orphans Part 36

The day following the burial. George and Mary returned to Chicopee, and as the next day was the one appointed for the sale of Mr.

Lincoln's farm and country house, he also accompanied them.

"Suppose you buy it," said he to George as they rode over the premises. "I'd rather you'd own it than to see it in the hands of strangers."

"I intended doing so," answered George, and when at night he was the owner of the farm, house and furniture, he generously offered it to Mr. Lincoln rent free, with the privilege of redeeming it whenever he could.

This was so unexpected, that Mr. Lincoln at first could hardly find words to express his thanks, but when he did he accepted the offer, saying, however, that he could pay the rent, and adding that he hoped two or three years of hard labor in California, whither he intended going, would enable him to purchase it back. On his return to Glenwood, he asked William, who was still there, "how he would like to turn farmer for a while."

Jenny looked up in surprise, while William asked what he meant.

Briefly then Mr. Lincoln told of George's generosity, and stating his own intentions of going to California, said that in his absence somebody must look after the farm, and he knew of no one whom he would as soon trust as William.

"Oh, that'll be nice," said Jenny, whose love for the country was as strong as ever. "And then, Willie, when pa comes back we'll go to Boston again and practise law, you and I!"

William pressed the little fat hand which had slid into his, and replied, that much as he would like to oblige Mr. Lincoln, he could not willingly abandon his profession, in which he was succeeding even beyond his most sanguine hopes. "But," said he, "I think I can find a good subst.i.tute in Mr. Parker, who is anxious to leave the poor-house.

He is an honest, thorough-going man, and his wife, who is an excellent housekeeper, will relieve Mrs. Lincoln entirely from care."

"Mercy!" exclaimed the last-mentioned lady, "I can never endure that vulgar creature round me. First, I'd know she'd want to be eating at the same table, and I couldn't survive that!"

Mr. Lincoln looked sad. Jenny smiled, and William replied, that he presumed Mrs. Parker herself would greatly prefer taking her meals quietly with her husband in the kitchen.

"We can at least try it," said Mr. Lincoln, in a manner so decided that his wife ventured no farther remonstrance, though she cried and fretted all the time, seemingly lamenting their fallen fortune, more than the vacancy which death had so recently made in their midst.

Mr. Parker, who was weary of the poor-house, gladly consented to take charge of Mr. Lincoln's farm, and in the course of a week or two Jenny and her mother went out to their old home, where every thing seemed just as they had left it the autumn before. The furniture was untouched, and in the front parlor stood Rose's piano and Jenny's guitar, which had been forwarded from Boston. Mr. Lincoln urged his mother-in-law to accompany them, but she shook her head, saying, "the old bees never left their hives," and she preferred remaining in Glenwood.

Contrary to Mrs. Lincoln's fears, Sally Ann made no advances whatever towards an intimate acquaintance, and frequently days and even weeks would elapse without her ever seeing her mistress, who spent nearly all her time in her chamber, musing upon her past greatness, and scolding Jenny, because she was not more exclusive. While the family were making arrangements to move from Glenwood to Chicopee. Henry for the first time in his life began to see of how little use he was to himself or any one else. Nothing was expected of him, consequently nothing was asked of him, and as his father made plans for the future, he began to wonder how he himself was henceforth to exist. His father would be in California, and he had too much pride to lounge around the old homestead, which had come to them through George Moreland's generosity.

Suddenly it occurred to him that he too would go with his father,--he would help him repair their fortune,--he would not be in the way of so much temptation as at home,--he would be a man, and when he returned home, hope painted a joyful meeting with his mother and Jenny, who should be proud to acknowledge him as a son and brother. Mr. Lincoln warmly seconded his resolution, which possibly would have never been carried out, had not Henry heard of Miss Herndon's engagement with a rich old bachelor whom he had often heard her ridicule. Cursing the fickleness of the fair lady, and half wishing that he had not broken with Ella, whose fortune, though not what he had expected, was considerable, he bade adieu to his native sky, and two weeks after the family removed to Chicopee, he sailed with his father for the land of gold.

But alas! The tempter was there before him, and in an unguarded moment he fell. The newly-made grave, the narrow coffin, the pale, dead sister, and the solemn vow were all forgotten, and a debauch of three weeks was followed by a violent fever, which in a few days cut short his mortal career. He died alone, with none but his father to witness his wild ravings, in which he talked of his distant home, of Jenny and Rose, Mary Howard, and Ella, the last of whom he seemed now to love with a madness amounting almost to frenzy. Tearing out handfuls of his rich brown hair, he thrust it into his father's hand, bidding him to carry it to Ella, and tell her that the heart she had so earnestly coveted was hers in death. And the father, far more wretched now than when his first-born daughter died, promised every thing, and when his only son was dead, he laid him down to sleep beneath the blue sky of California, where not one of the many bitter tears shed for him in his far off home could fall upon his lonely grave.

CHAPTER x.x.xIII

CONCLUSION.

Great was the excitement in Rice Corner when it was known that on the evening of the tenth of September a grand wedding would take place, at the house of Mrs. Mason. Mary was to be married to the "richest man in Boston," so the story ran, and what was better yet, many of the neighbors were to be invited. Almost every day, whether pleasant or not, Jenny Lincoln came over to discuss the matter, and to ask if it were not time to send for William, who was to be one of the groomsmen, while she, together with Ida, were to officiate as bridesmaids. In this last capacity Ella had been requested to act, but the tears came quickly to her large mournful eyes, and turning away she wondered how Mary could thus mock her grief!

From one fashionable watering place to another Mrs. Campbell had taken her, and finding that nothing there had power to rouse her drooping energies, she had, towards the close of the summer, brought her back to Chicopee, hoping that old scenes and familiar faces would effect what novelty and excitement had failed to do. All unworthy as Henry Lincoln had been, his sad death had cast a dark shadow across Ella's pathway. Hour after hour would she sit, gazing upon the locks of shining hair, which over land and sea had come to her in a letter from the father, who told her of the closing scene, when Henry called for her, to cool the heat of his fevered brow. Every word and look of tenderness was treasured up, and the belief fondly cherished that he had always loved her thus, else why in the last fearful struggle was she alone remembered of all the dear ones in his distant home?

Not even the excitement of her sister's approaching marriage could awaken in her the least interest, and if it were mentioned in her presence she would weep, wondering what she had done that Mary should be so much happier than herself, and Mrs. Campbell remembering the past, could but answer in her heart that it was just. Sometimes Ella accused her sister of neglect, saying she had no thought for any one, except George Moreland, and his elegant house in Boston. It was in vain that Mary strove to convince her of her mistake. She only shook her head, hoping her sister would never know what it was to be wretched and desolate as she was. Mary could have told her of many weary days and sleepless nights, when there shone no star of hope in her dark sky, and when even her only sister turned from her in scorn; but she would not, and wiping away the tears which Ella's unkindness had called forth, she went back to her home, where busy preparations were making for her bridal.

Never before had Mrs. Perkins, or the neighborhood generally, had so much upon their hands at one time. Two dressmakers were sewing for Mary. A colored cook, with a flaming red turban, came up from Worcester to superintend the culinary department, and a week before the wedding Aunt Martha also arrived, bringing with her a quant.i.ty of cut gla.s.s of all sizes and dimensions, the uses of which could not even be guessed, though the widow declared upon her honor, a virtue by which she always swore, that two of them were called "cellar dishes,"

adding that the "Lord only knew what that was!"

With all her quizzing, prying, and peeking, Mrs. Perkins was unable to learn any thing definite with regard to the wedding dress, and as a last resort, she appealed to Jenny, "who of course ought to know, seein' she was goin' to stand up with 'em."

"O, yes, I know," said Jenny, mischievously, and pulling from her pocket a bit of brown and white plaid silk,--Mary's travelling dress,--she pa.s.sed it to the widow, who straightway wondered at Mary's taste in selecting "that gingham-looking thing!"

Occasionally the widow felt some doubt as she heard rumors of pink brocades, India muslins, heavy silks, and embroidered merino morning-gowns; "but law," thought she "them are for the city. Any thing 'll do for the country, though I should s'pose she'd want to look decent before all the Boston top-knots that are comin'."

Three days before the wedding, the widow's heart was made glad with a card of invitation, though she wondered why Mrs. Mason should say she would be "at home." "Of course she'd be to hum,--where else should she be!"

It was amusing to see the airs which Mrs. Perkins took upon herself, when conversing with some of her neighbors, who were not fortunate enough to be invited. "They couldn't ask every body, and 'twas natural for them to select from the best families."

Her pride, however, received a fall when she learned that Sally Furbush had not only been invited, and presented with a black silk dress for the occasion, but that George Moreland, who arrived the day preceding the wedding, had gone for her himself, treating her with all the deference that he would the most distinguished lady. And truly for once Sally acquitted herself with a great deal of credit, and remembering Miss Grundy's parting advice, to "keep her tongue between her teeth," she so far restrained her loquacity, that a stranger would never have thought of her being crazy.

The bridal day was bright, beautiful, and balmy, as the first days of September often are, and when the sun went down, the full silvery moon came softly up, as if to shower her blessings upon the nuptials about to be celebrated. Many and brilliant lights were flashing from the windows of Mrs. Mason's cottage, which seemed to enlarge its dimensions as one after another the guests came in. First and foremost was the widow with her rustling silk of silver gray, and the red ribbons which she had sported at Sally Ann's wedding. After a series of manoeuvres she had succeeded in gaining a view of the supper table, and now in a corner of the room she was detailing the particulars to an attentive group of listeners.

"The queerest things I ever see," said she, "and the queerest names, too. Why, at one end of the table is a _muslin de laine puddin'_--"

"A what?" asked three or four ladies in the same breath, and the widow replied,--"May-be I didn't get the name right,--let me see:--No, come to think, it's a _Charlotte_ somebody puddin' instead of a muslin de laine. And then at t'other end of the table is what I should call a dish of _hash_, but Judith says it's 'chicken Sally,' and it took the white meat of six or seven chickens to make it. Now what in the world they'll ever do with all them legs and backs and things, is more'n I can tell, but, land sake there come some of the _puckers_. Is my cap on straight?" she continued, as Mrs. Campbell entered the room, together with Ella, and a number of Boston ladies.

Being a.s.sured that her cap was all right, she resumed the conversation by directing the attention of those nearest her to Ella, and saying in a whisper, "If she hain't faded in a year, then I don't know; but, poor thing, she's been disappointed, so it's no wonder!"

and thinking of her own experience with Mr. Parker, the widow's heart warmed toward the young girl, who, pale and languid, dropped into the nearest seat, while her eyes moved listlessly about the room. The rich, showy dresses of the city people also, came in for observation, and while the widow marvelled at their taste in wearing "collars as big as capes," she guessed that Mary'd feel flat in her checkered silk, when she came to see every body so dressed up.

And now guest after guest flitted down the narrow staircase and entered the parlor, which with the bedroom adjoining was soon filled.

Erelong Mr. Selden, who seemed to be master of ceremonies appeared, and whispered something to those nearest the door. Immediately the crowd fell back, leaving a vacant s.p.a.ce in front of the mirror. The busy hum of voices died away, and only a few suppressed whispers of, "There!--Look!--See!--Oh, my!" were heard, as the bridal party took their places.

The widow, being in the rear, and rather short, slipped off her shoes, and mounted into a chair, for a better view, and when Mary appeared, she was very nearly guilty of an exclamation of surprise, for in place of the "checkered silk" was an elegant _moire antique_, and an expensive bertha of point lace, while the costly bridal veil, which swept the floor, and fell in soft folds on either side of her head, was confined to the heavy braids of her hair by diamond fastenings. A diamond necklace encircled her slender throat, and bracelets of the same shone upon her round white arms. The whole was the gift of George Moreland, who had claimed the privilege of selecting and presenting the bridal dress, and who felt a pardonable pride when he saw how well it became Mary's graceful and rather queenly form.

At her left stood her bridesmaids, Ida and Jenny, while at George's right, were Mr. Elwood and William Bender the latter of whom looked on calmly while the solemn words were spoken which gave the idol of his boyhood to another and if he felt a momentary pang when he saw how fondly the newly made husband bent over his young bride, it pa.s.sed away as his eye fell upon Jenny, who was now dearer to him, if possible, than Mary had ever been.

Among the first to congratulate "Mrs. Moreland," was Sally Furbush, followed by Mrs. Perkins, who whispered to George that "she kinder had a notion how 'twoud end when she first saw him in the school-house; but I'm glad you've got him," turning to Mary, "for it must be easier livin' in the city than keepin' school. You'll have a hired girl, I s'pose?"

When supper was announced, the widow made herself very useful in waiting upon the table, and asking some of the Boston ladies "if they'd be helped to any thing in them dishes," pointing to the _finger gla.s.ses_, which now for the first time appeared in Rice Corner! The half suppressed mirth of the ladies convinced the widow that she'd made a blunder, and perfectly disgusted with "new-fangled fashions"

she retreated into the kitchen, were she found things more to her taste, and "thanked her stars, she could, if she liked, eat with her fingers, and wipe them on her pocket handkerchief!"

Soon after her engagement, Mary had asked that Sally should go with her to her city home. To this George willingly consented, and it was decided that she should remain with Mrs. Mason until the bridal party returned from the western tour they were intending to take. Sally knew nothing of this arrangement until the morning following the wedding, when she was told that she was not to return to the poor-house again.

"And verily, I have this day met with a great deliverance," said she, and tears, the first shed in many a year mingled with the old creature's thanks for this unexpected happiness. As Mary was leaving, she whispered in her ear "If your travels lead you near Willie's grave, drop a tear on it for my sake. You'll find it under the buckeye tree, where the tall gra.s.s and wild flowers grow."

George had relatives in Chicago, and after spending a short time in that city, Mary, remembering Sally's request, expressed a desire to visit the spot renowned as the burial place of "Willie and Willie's father." Ever ready to gratify her slightest wish, George consented, and towards the close of a mild autumnal day, they stopped at a small public house on the border of a vast prairie. The arrival of so distinguished looking people caused quite a commotion, and after duly inspecting Mary's handsome travelling dress, and calculating its probable cost, the hostess departed to prepare the evening meal, which was soon forthcoming.

When supper was over, and the family had gathered into the pleasant sitting room, George asked if there was ever a man in those parts by the name of "Furbush."

"What! Bill Furbush?" asked the landlord.

George did not know, but thought likely that might have seen his name, as his son was called William.

"Lud, yes," returned the landlord. "I knowed Bill Furbush well,--he came here about the same time I did, he from Ma.s.sachusetts, and I from Varmount; but, poor feller, he was too weakly to bear much, and the first fever he took finished him up. His old woman was as clever a creature as ever was, but she had some high notions."

"Did she die too?" asked George.

Filling his mouth with an enormous quid of tobacco, the landlord continued, "No, but it's a pity she didn't, for when Bill and the boy died, she went ravin' mad, and I never felt so like cryin' as I did when I see her a tearin' her hair an goin' on so. We kept her a spell, and then her old man' brother's girl came for her and took her off; and the last I heard, the girl was dead, and she was in the poor-house somewhere east. She was born there, I b'lieve."

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