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PAGE 4

Deacon Pitkin’s Farm
by [?]

“Some says she’s going to hev Jim Pitkin, and some says it’s Bill,” said Abner, delighted to be able to add his mite of gossip to the stream while it was flowing.

“She’s sweet on Jim while he’s round, and she’s sweet on Bill when Jim’s up to college, and between um she gets took round to everything that going. She gives one a word over one shoulder, and one over t’other, and if the Lord above knows what’s in that gal’s mind or what she’s up to, he knows more than I do, or she either, else I lose my bet.”

Biah made this admission with a firmness that might have been a model to theologians or philosophers in general. There was a point, it appeared, where he was not omniscient. His universal statistical knowledge had a limit.

CHAPTER III.

THE SHADOW.

There is no moment of life, however festive, that does not involve the near presence of a possible tragedy. When the concert of life is playing the gayest and airiest music, it requires only the change of a little flat or sharp to modulate into the minor key.

There seemed at first glance only the elements of joyousness and gayety in the surroundings at the Pitkin farm. Thanksgiving was come–the family, healthy, rosy, and noisy, were all under the one roof-tree. There was energy, youth, intelligence, beauty, a pair of lovers on the eve of betrothal–just in that misty, golden twilight that precedes the full sunrise of avowed and accepted love–and yet behind it all was walking with stealthy step the shadow of a coming sorrow.

“What in the world ails James?” said Diana as she retreated from the door and surveyed him at a distance from her chamber window. His face was like a landscape over which a thunder-cloud has drifted, and he walked beside his father with a peculiar air of proud displeasure and repression.

At that moment the young man was struggling with the bitterest sorrow that can befall youth–the breaking up of his life-purpose. He had just come to a decision to sacrifice his hopes of education, his man’s ambition, his love, his home and family, and become a wanderer on the face of the earth. How this befell requires a sketch of character.

Deacon Silas Pitkin was a fair specimen of a class of men not uncommon in New England–men too sensitive for the severe physical conditions of New England life, and therefore both suffering and inflicting suffering. He was a man of the finest moral traits, of incorruptible probity, of scrupulous honor, of an exacting conscientiousness, and of a sincere piety. But he had begun life with nothing; his whole standing in the world had been gained inch by inch by the most unremitting economy and self-denial, and he was a man of little capacity for hope, of whom it was said, in popular phraseology, that he “took things hard.” He was never sanguine of good, always expectant of evil, and seemed to view life like a sentinel forbidden to sleep and constantly under arms.

For such a man to be harassed by a mortgage upon his homestead was a steady wear and drain upon his vitality. There were times when a positive horror of darkness came down upon him–when his wife’s untroubled, patient hopefulness seemed to him like recklessness, when the smallest item of expense was an intolerable burden, and the very daily bread of life was full of bitterness; and when these paroxysms were upon him, one of the heaviest of his burdens was the support of his son in college. It was true that he was proud of his son’s talents and sympathized with his love for learning–he had to the full that sense of the value of education which is the very vital force of the New England mind–and in an hour when things looked brighter to him he had given his consent to the scheme of a college education freely.