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The Sabbath
by [?]


The Puritan Sabbath–is there such a thing existing now, or has it gone with the things that were, to be looked at as a curiosity in the museum of the past? Can any one, in memory, take himself back to the unbroken stillness of that day, and recall the sense of religious awe which seemed to brood in the very atmosphere, checking the merry laugh of childhood, and chaining in unwonted stillness the tongue of volatile youth, and imparting even to the sunshine of heaven, and the unconscious notes of animals, a tone of its own gravity and repose? If you cannot remember these things, go back with me to the verge of early boyhood, and live with me one of the Sabbaths that I have spent beneath the roof of my uncle, Phineas Fletcher.

Imagine the long sunny hours of a Saturday afternoon insensibly slipping away, as we youngsters are exploring the length and breadth of a trout stream, or chasing gray squirrels, or building mud milldams in the brook. The sun sinks lower and lower, but we still think it does not want half an hour to sundown. At last, he so evidently is really going down, that there is no room for scepticism or latitude of opinion on the subject; and with many a lingering regret, we began to put away our fish-hooks, and hang our hoops over our arm, preparatory to trudging homeward.

“O Henry, don’t you wish that Saturday afternoons lasted longer?” said little John to me.

“I do,” says Cousin Bill, who was never the boy to mince matters in giving his sentiments; “and I wouldn’t care if Sunday didn’t come but once a year.”

“O Bill, that’s wicked, I’m afraid,” says little conscientious Susan, who, with her doll in hand, was coming home from a Saturday afternoon visit.

“Can’t help it,” says Bill, catching Susan’s bag, and tossing it in the air; “I never did like to sit still, and that’s why I hate Sundays.”

“Hate Sundays! O Bill! Why, Aunt Kezzy says heaven is an eternal Sabbath–only think of that!”

“Well, I know I must be pretty different from what I am now before I could sit still forever,” said Bill, in a lower and somewhat disconcerted tone, as if admitting the force of the consideration.

The rest of us began to look very grave, and to think that we must get to liking Sunday some time or other, or it would be a very bad thing for us. As we drew near the dwelling, the compact and business-like form of Aunt Kezzy was seen emerging from the house to hasten our approach.

“How often have I told you, young ones, not to stay out after sundown on Saturday night? Don’t you know it’s the same as Sunday, you wicked children, you? Come right into the house, every one of you, and never let me hear of such a thing again.”

This was Aunt Kezzy’s regular exordium every Saturday night; for we children, being blinded, as she supposed, by natural depravity, always made strange mistakes in reckoning time on Saturday afternoons. After being duly suppered and scrubbed, we were enjoined to go to bed, and remember that to-morrow was Sunday, and that we must not laugh and play in the morning. With many a sorrowful look did Susan deposit her doll in the chest, and give one lingering glance at the patchwork she was piecing for dolly’s bed, while William, John, and myself emptied our pockets of all superfluous fish-hooks, bits of twine, popguns, slices of potato, marbles, and all the various items of boy property, which, to keep us from temptation, were taken into Aunt Kezzy’s safe keeping over Sunday.

My Uncle Phineas was a man of great exactness, and Sunday was the centre of his whole worldly and religious system. Every thing with regard to his worldly business was so arranged that by Saturday noon it seemed to come to a close of itself. All his accounts were looked over, his work-men paid, all borrowed things returned, and lent things sent after, and every tool and article belonging to the farm was returned to its own place at exactly such an hour every Saturday afternoon, and an hour before sundown every item of preparation, even to the blacking of his Sunday shoes and the brushing of his Sunday coat, was entirely concluded; and at the going down of the sun, the stillness of the Sabbath seemed to settle down over the whole dwelling.