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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChanticleer: A Thanksgiving Story Of The Peabody Family - Chapter 10. THE CONCLUSION
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Chanticleer: A Thanksgiving Story Of The Peabody Family - Chapter 10. THE CONCLUSION Post by :twahsb Category :Long Stories Author :Cornelius Mathews Date :April 2012 Read :1393

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Chanticleer: A Thanksgiving Story Of The Peabody Family - Chapter 10. THE CONCLUSION


When Elbridge and Miriam re-entered the homestead they found the best parlor, which they had left in humble dependence on the light of a single home-made wick, now in full glow, and wide awake in every corner, with a perfect illumination of lamps and candles; and every thing in the room had waked up with them. The old brass andirons stood shining like a couple of bald-headed little grandfathers by the hearth; the letters in the sampler over the mantel, narrating the ages of the family, had renewed their color; the tall old clock, allowed to speak again, stood like an overgrown schoolboy with his face newly washed, stretching himself up in a corner; the painted robins and partridges on the wall, now in full feather, strutting and flying about in all the glory of an unfading plumage; and at the rear of all the huge back-log on the hearth glowed and rolled in his place as happy as an alderman at a city feast. The Peabodys too, partook of the new illumination, and were there in their best looks, scattered about the room in cheerful groups, while in the midst of all the widow Margaret, her face lighted with a smile which came there from far-off years, holding in her hand as we see an angel in the sunny clouds in old pictures, the ancient harpsichord, which till now had been laid away and out of use for many a long day of sadness.

While Elbridge and Miriam stood still in wonder at the sudden change of this living pageant, old Sylvester, his white head carried proudly aloft, appeared from the sitting-room with Mr. Barbary, a quaint figure, freed now of his long coat, and bearing no trace of travel on his neat apparel and face of cheerful gravity. Leaving the preacher in the centre of the apartment, the patriarch advanced quietly toward the young couple, and, addressing himself to Elbridge, said, "My children, I have a favor to ask of you."

"Anything, grandfather!" Elbridge answered promptly.

"You are sure?" Old Sylvester's eyes twinkled as he spoke.

"It would be the pleasure and glory of my young days," Elbridge answered again, "to crown your noble old age, grandfather, with any worthy wreath these hands could fashion, and not call it a favor either."

Old Sylvester, smiling from one to the other, said, "You are to be married immediately."

The young couple fell back and dropped each the other's hand, which they had been holding. Miriam trembled and shrunk the farthest away.

"You will not deny me?" the grandfather said again. "You are the youngest and the last whom I can hope to see joined in that bond which is to continue our name and race; it is my last request on earth."

At these simple words, turning, and with a fond regard which spoke all their thoughts, Miriam and Elbridge took again each the other's hand, and drew close side to side. The company rose, and Mr. Barbary was on the point of speaking when there emerged upon the family scene, from an inner chamber, as though he had been a foreigner entering a fashionable drawing-room, Mr. Tiffany Carrack, in the very blossom of full dress; his hair in glossy curl, with white neckcloth and waistcoat of the latest cut and tie, coat and pants of the purest model, pumps and silk stockings; bearing in his hand a gossamer pocket-handkerchief, which he shook daintily as he advanced, and filled the room with a strange fragrance. With mincing step, just dotting the ground, his whole body shaking like a delicate structure in danger every moment of tumbling to the ground, he advanced to where Miriam and Elbridge stood before Mr. Barbary.

"Why really, 'pon my life and honor, Miriam, you are looking quite charming this evening!"

"She should look so now if ever, Tiffany," said old Sylvester, "for she is just about to be married to your cousin Elbridge."

"Now you don't mean that?" said Mr. Tiffany, touching the tawny tufts tenderly with his perfumed pocket-handkerchief, "Oh, woman! woman! what is your name?" He hesitated for a reply.

"Perfidy?" suggested Mr. Oliver Peabody.

"Yes, that's it. Have I lived to look on this," Mr. Tiffany continued; "to have my young hopes blighted, the rose of my existence cropped, and all that. Is it for this," addressing Miriam directly: he had been talking before to the air: "Is it for this I went blackberrying with you in my tender infancy! Is it for this that in the heyday of youth I walked with you to the school-house down the road! Was it for this that in the prime of manhood I breathed soft music in your ear at the witching time of night!"

As he arrived at this last question, Mopsey, in her new gown of gorgeous pattern, and, having laid aside her customary broad-bordered cap, with a high crowned turban of red, and yellow cotton handkerchief on her head, appeared at the parlor door. Mr. Tiffany paused: he saw the Moorish princess before him; rallying, however, he was proceeding to describe himself as a friendly troubadour, whose affection had been responded to, when the Captain placing his mouth to his ear, as in confidence, uttered in a portentous whisper, "THE VAT!"

Mr. Tiffany immediately lost all joint and strength, subsided into a chair at a distance, and from that moment looked upon the scene like one in a trance.

"After all," said Mr. Oliver, glancing at him, "I don't see just now that, in any point of view, this young gentleman _is destined to carry the principles of free government--anywhere."

The family being now all gathered, Mr. Barbary proceeded, employing a simple and impressive form in use in that family from its earliest history:

"You, the Bridegroom and the Bride, who now present yourselves candidates of the covenant of God and of your marriage before him, in token of your consenting affections and united hearts, please to give your hands to one another.

"Mr. Bridegroom, the person whom you now take by the hand, you receive to be your married wife: you promise to love her, to honor her, to support her, and in all things to treat her as you are now, or shall hereafter be convinced is by the laws of Christ made your duty,--a tender husband, with unspotted fidelity till death shall separate you.

"Mrs. Bride, the person whom you now hold by the hand you accept to be your married husband; you promise to love him, to honor him, to submit to him, and in all things to treat him as you are now or shall hereafter be convinced, is by the laws of Christ made your duty,--an affectionate wife, with inviolable loyalty till death shall separate you.

"This solemn covenant you make, and in this sacred oath bind your souls in the presence of the Great God, and before these witnesses.

"I then declare you to be husband and wife regularly married according to the laws of God and the Commonwealth: therefore what God hath thus joined together let no man put asunder."

When these words had been solemnly spoken the widow Margaret struck her ancient harpsichord in an old familiar tune of plaintive tenderness, and the young bridegroom holding Miriam's hand in an affectionate clasp, answered the music with a little hymn or carol, often used before among the Peabodys on a like occasion:

Entreat me not--I ne'er will leave thee,
Ne'er loose this hand in bower or hall;
This heart, this heart shall ne'er deceive thee,
This voice shall answer ever to thy call.

To which Miriam, after a brief pause of hesitation, in that tone of chanting lament familiar to her, answered--

Thy God is mine, where'er thou rovest,
Where'er thou dwellest there too will I dwell;
In the same grave shall she thou lovest
Lie down with him she loves so well.

Like a cheerful voice answering to these, and wishing, out of the mysterious darkness of night, all happiness and prosperity to the young couple, the silver call of Chanticleer arose without, renewed and renewed again, as if he could never tire of announcing the happy union to all the country round.

And now enjoyment was at its height among the Peabodys, helped by Plenty, who, with Mopsey for chief assistant, hurried in, with plates of shining pippins, baskets of nuts, brown jugs of new cider of home-made vintage; Mrs. Carrack, who had selected the simplest garment in her wardrobe, moving about in aid of black Mopsey, tendering refreshment to her old father first, and Mrs. Jane Peabody insisting on being allowed to distribute the walnuts with her own hand.

The children, never at rest for a moment, frisked to and fro, like so many merry dolphins, disporting in the unaccustomed candle-light, to which they were commonly strangers. They were listened to in all their childish prattle kindly, by every one, indulged in all their little foolish ways, as if the grown-up Peabodys for this night at least, believed that they were indeed little citizens of the kingdom of heaven, straying about this wicked world on parole. Uncle Oliver, once, spreading his great Declaration-of-Independence pocket-handkerchief on his knees, attempted to put them to the question as to their learning. They all recognised Dr. Franklin, with his spectacles thrown up on his brow, among the signers, but denying all knowledge of anything more, ran away to the Captain, who was busy building, a dozen at a time, paper packet ships, and launching them upon the table for a sea.

In the very midst of the mirthful hubbub old Sylvester called Robert and William to his side, and was heard to whisper, "Bring 'em in." William and Robert were gone a moment and returned, bearing under heavy head-way, tumbling and pitching on one side constantly, two ancient spinning wheels, Mopsey following with snowy flocks of wool and spinning sticks. Old Sylvester arose, and delivering a stick and flock to Mrs. Carrack and Mrs. Jane Peabody, requested them, in a mild voice and as a matter of course already settled, "to begin." A spinning-match!

"Yes, anything you choose to-night, father."

Rolling back their sleeves, adjusting their gowns, the wheels being planted on either side of the fireplace, Mrs. Jane and Mrs. Carrack, stick in hand, seized each on her allotment of wool, and sent the wheels whirling. It was a cheerful sight to see the two matrons closing in upon the wheel, retiring, closing in again--whose wheel is swiftest, whose thread truest? Now Mrs. Jane--now Mrs. Carrack. If either, Mrs. Carrack puts the most heart in her work.

"_Now she looks like my Nancy," said old Sylvester in a glow, "as when she used to spin and sing, in the old upper chamber."

Away they go--whose wheel is swiftest, whose thread the truest now?

While swift and free the contest wages, the parlor-door standing open, and beyond that the door of the sitting-room, look down the long perspective! Do you not see in the twilight of the kitchen fire a dark head, lighting up, as in flashes, with a glittering row of teeth, with a violent agitation of the body, with gusty ha-ha's, and fragments of an uproarious chant flying through the door something to this effect--

Oh, de fine ladies, how dey do spin--spin--spin,
Like de gals long ago--long ago!
I bet to'der one don't win--win--win,
Kase de diamond-flowers on her fingers grow.
Lay down your white gloves, take up de wool,
Round about de whirly wheel go;
Back'ard and for'ard nimble feet pull,
Like de nice gals long--long ago!

Silence follows, in which nothing is observable from that quarter more than a great pair of white eyes rolling about in the partial darkness. Who was other than pleased that in spite of Mopsey's decision, old Sylvester determined that if either, Mrs. Carrack's work was done a little the soonest, and that her thread was a little the truest?

During the contest the old merchant and his wife had conversed closely, apart; the green shade had lost its terrors, and he could look on it steadily, now; and at the close William Peabody approaching the fireplace, drew from his bosom the old parchment deed, which in his hunger for money had so often disquieted his visits to the homestead, and thrust it into the very heart of the flame, which soon shrivelled it up, and, conveying it out at the chimney, before the night was past spread it in peaceful ashes over the very grounds which it had so long disturbed.

"So much for that!" said the old merchant, as the last flake vanished; "and now, nephew," he addressed himself to Elbridge, "fulfilling an engagement connected with your return, I resign to you all charge of your father's property."

"Did you bring anything with you from the Gold Region?" Mrs. Carrack interposed.

"Not one cent, Aunt," Elbridge answered promptly.

"You may add, William," pursued Mrs. Carrack, "the sums of mine you have in hand."

William Peabody was pausing on this proposition, the sums in question being at that very moment embarked in a most profitable speculation.

Upon the very height of the festivity, when it glowed the brightest and was most musical with mirthful voices, there had come to the casement a moaning sound as if borne upon the wind from a distance, a wailing of anguish, at the same time like and unlike that of human suffering. By slow advances it approached nearer and nearer to the homestead, and whenever it arose it brought the family enjoyment to a momentary pause. It had drawn so near that it sounded now again, as if in mournful lamentation, at the very door, when Mopsey, her dark face almost white, and her brow wrinkled with anxiety, rushed in. "Grandfather," she said, addressing old Sylvester, "blind Sorrel's dying in the door-yard."

There was not one in all that company whom the announcement did not cause to start; led by old Sylvester, they hastily rose, and conducted by Mopsey, followed to the scene. Blind Sorrel was lying by the moss-grown horse-trough, at the gate.

"I noticed her through the day," said Oliver, "wandering up the lane as if she was seeking the house."

"The death-agony must have been upon her then," said William Peabody, shading his eyes with his hand.

"She remembered, perhaps, her young days," old Sylvester added, "when she used to crop the door-yard grass."

Mopsey, in her solicitude to have the death-bed of poor blind Sorrel properly attended, had brought with her, in the event of the paling or obscuration of the moon, a dark lantern, which she held tenderly aside as though the poor old creature still possessed her sight; immoveable herself as though she had been a swarthy image in stone, while, on the other side, William Peabody, near her head, stood gazing upon the animal with a fixed intensity, breathing hard and watching her dying struggle with a rigid steadiness of feature almost painful to behold.

"Has carried me to mill many a day," he said; "some pleasantest hours of my life spent upon her back, sauntering along at early day."

"Your mother rode her to meeting," Sylvester addressed his second son, "on your wedding-day, Oliver. Sorrel was of a long-lived race."

"She was the gentlest horse-creature you ever owned, father," added Mrs. Carrack, turning affectionately toward old Sylvester, "and humored us girls when we rode her as though she had been a blood-relation."

"I'm not so sure of that," Mr. Tiffany Carrack rejoined, "for she has dumped me in a ditch more than once."

"That was your own careless riding, Tiffany," said the Captain, "I don't believe she had the least ill-will towards any living creature, man or beast."

It was observed that whenever William Peabody spoke, blind Sorrel turned her feeble head in that direction, as if she recognised and singled out his voice from all the others.

"She knows your voice, father, even in her darkness," said the Captain, "as the sailor tells his old captain's step on deck at night."

"Well she may, Charles," the merchant replied, "for she was foaled the same day I was born."

The old creature moaned and heaved her side fainter and fainter.

"Speak to her, William," said the old grandfather.

William Peabody bent down, and in a tremulous voice said, "Sorrel, do you know me?"

The poor blind creature lifted up her aged head feebly towards him, heaved her weary side, gasped once and was gone. The moon, which had been shining with a clear and level light upon the group of faces, dipped at that moment behind the orchard-trees, and at the same instant the light in the lantern flickering feebly, was extinguished.

"What do you mean by putting the light out, Mopsey," old Sylvester asked.

"I knew de old lamp would be goin' out, Massa, soon as ever blind Sorrel die; I tremble so I do' no what I'm saying." It was poor Mopsey's agitation which had shaken out the light.

"Never shall we know a more faithful servant, a truer friend, than poor blind Sorrel," they all agreed; and bound still closer together by so simple a bond as common sympathy in the death of the poor old blind family horse, they returned within the homestead.

They were scarcely seated again when William Peabody, turning to Mrs. Carrack, said, "Certainly!" referring to the transfer of the money of hers in his hands on loan, to Elbridge, "he will need some ready money to begin the world with."

All was cheerful friendship now; the family, reconciled in all its members, sitting about their aged father's hearth on this glorious Thanksgiving night; the gayer mood subsiding, a sudden stillness fell upon the whole house, such as precedes some new turn in the discourse.

Old Sylvester Peabody sat in the centre of the family, moving his body to and fro gently, and lifting his white head up and down upon his breast; his whole look and manner strongly arresting the attention of all; of the children not the least. After a while the old man paused, and looking mildly about, addressed the household.

"This is a happy day, my children," he said, "but the seeds of it were sown, you must allow an old man to say, long, long ago. If one good Being had not died in a far country and a very distant time, we could not have this comfort now."

The children watched the old grandfather more closely.

"I am an old man, and shall be with you, I feel, but for a little while yet; as one who stands at the gate of the world to come, looking through, and through which he is soon to pass, will you not allow me to believe that I thought of the hopes of your immortal spirits in your youth?"

As being the eldest, and answering for the rest, William Peabody replied, "We will."

"Did I not teach you then, or strive my best to teach, that there was but one Holy God?"

"You did, father--you did!" the widow Margaret answered.

"That his only Son died for us?"

"Often--often!" said Mrs. Carrack.

"That we must love one another as brethren?"

"At morning and night, in winter and summer; by the hearth and in the field, you did," Oliver rejoined.

"That there is but one path to happiness and peace here and hereafter," he continued, "through the performance of our duty towards our Maker, and our fellow men of every name, and tongue, and clime, and color? to love your dear Native Land, as she sits happy among the nations, but to remember this, our natural home, is but the ground-nest and cradle from which we spread our wings to fly through all the earth with hope and kindly wishes for all men. If the air is cheerful here, and the sun-light pleasant, let no barrier or wall shut it in, but pray God, with reverent hope, it spread hence to the farthest lands and seas, till all the people of the earth are lighted up and made glad in the common fellowship of our blessed Saviour, who is, was, and will be evermore--to all men guide, protector, and ensample. May He be so to us and ours, to our beloved home and happy Fatherland, in all the time to come!"

The old man bowed his head in presence of his reconciled household, and fell into a sweet slumber; not one of all that company but echoed the old man's prayer--"May he be so to us and ours, to our beloved Home and happy Fatherland in all the time to come!"

On this, on every day of Thanksgiving and Praise, be that old man's blessed prayer in all quarters, among all classes and kindred, everywhere repeated: "May He be so to us and ours, to our beloved Home and happy Fatherland in all the time to come!"

And when, like that good old man, we come to bow our heads at the close of a long, long life, may we, like him, fall into a gentle sleep, conscious that we have done the work of charity, and spread about our path, wherever it lead, peace and good-will among men!

(The end)
Cornelius Mathews's fiction book: Chanticleer: A Thanksgiving Story of the Peabody Family

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