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"Waal," commenced the widow, settling herself in her chair, and assuming the air of one who has a story to narrate. "You know I have my thirds in the house my poor husband left. It wa'n't sold, as it had ought to ben,-for Samooel (that's his brother) never's ben easy that I should have the rooms I have; but they're what was set off for me, an' so he can't help himself; on'y he's allers a-thornin' when he gits a chance.
“But that a'n't nyther here nor there. What I was a-comin' to was this. Ruther better 'n a year ago, a man come to me and wanted to know ef I used all my rooms. I told him I hadn't no use for the garrit, 'cept to dry my yarbs in (for I think yarbs are drefful good in case o' sickness, Miss Coffin,-don't you?) An' then he said he wanted a place to sleep in, an' his breakfast an' supper, an' wanted to know if I would take him so.
"Waal, I thought about it a spell, an' I concluded I was too old to mind the speech o' people, and I hadn't no other objection, so I said he might come,—an' he did, that very day.
"Waal, at fust he had some kind o' work to do writin', an' he seemed to git along very comf'table,- at least, fur's I know, for I was out tailorin' all day mostly, same as I be now; but last fall the writin' seemed to gin out all to oncet, an' he begun to kerry off his furnitoor an' books to sell, an' finally he paid up all he was owin' of me, an' told me he didn't want no more meals, but would find himself.
“Waal, I told him, that, seein' things wuz as they wuz with him, I shouldn't take no rent for the garrit, an' I could dry my yarbs there jest as well as ef he
warn't there; an' he looked kind o' red, and held his head up a minit, an' then he thanked me, an' said, ' God bless you!' an' said he'd pay me, ef he got any more work.
Waal, he didn't git no more; an' after the furnitoor an' the books, his cloze begun to go.
"Then I begun to be afeard he didn't have nothin' to eat, an' oncet in a while I'd kerry him up a mess o' vittles; but it allers seemed drefful hard for him to take 'em, an' fin'ly he told me not to do so no more, an' said suthin' to himself about devourin' widders. So I didn't darst to go up agin, he looked so kind o' furce an' sharp, till, last night, I reck'n'd the snow would sift in through the old ruff, an' I went up to offer him a comf'table for his bed. I knocked; but he didn't make no answer, so I pushed the door open an' went in. It was a good while sence I'd seen the inside o' the room,- for when he heerd me comin' up, he'd open the door a crack an' peek out while he spoke to me; so when I got inside the room and looked about, I was all took aback an' gawped round like a fool, an' no wunder nyther; for of all the good furnitoor and things he'd brought, there wa'n't the fust thing to be seen, save and 'xcept a kind o' frame covered with cloth stannin' ag'inst the wall, an' an old straw-bed on the floor, with him on it, an' a mis'able old comf'table kivered over him.”
"And this bitter weather, too! Oh, Keziah, what did thee do?" asked Mrs. Coffin, in a tearful voice.
Why, I went up to the bedside, (ef you may call it so,) an' said, sez I, Why, Lor' sakes, Mr. Widdrinton,'- an' then I hild up, for I ketched a sight of his face, an' I thought he wuz gone for sartin. He wuz as cold an' as white as that 'ere snow, an' it warn't till I'd felt of his heart an' foun' that it beat a little that I thought of sich a thing as his comin' to. But as soon as I found he'd got a breath o' life in him, I didn't waste much time till I'd got him wropped up in a hot blanket
with a jug o' water to his feet, an' some hot tea inside on him. Then he come to
a little, an' said he hadn't eat nor drank for two days an' nights."
"Oh, Keziah!" sobbed Mrs. Coffin; while her husband, plunging his hands deep into his breeches-pockets, and elevating his eyebrows till they were lost in his shaggy hair, exclaimed,
"Good Je-hosaphat!" which was the nearest approach to an oath in which he ever indulged.
"An' so," pursued the widow, after enjoying for a moment the consternation of her audience," an' so I thought I had better come an' see ef he couldn't be took in here; not that I wouldn't do for him, an' be glad to, fur as I could, but he a'n't in a state to be left alone, an' you know my trade takes me away consid❜able from home, - an' which, if I don't foller it, why, when I git a little older, I shall have to come here myself, an' be a burden on your hands an' the town's."
"We would take good care of thee, if thee did come, Keziah," said Mrs. Coffin, in whom the habitual equanimity of the "Friend" had conquered the emotion of the woman. "Though I do not deny that it is pleasanter and better for thee to support thyself, as thee always has
"I don't doubt you would be good to me, Miss Coffin, an' thank ye, Ma'am, kindly for a-sayin' of it; but you know innerpendunce is sweet to all on us.”
"Surely, surely, Keziah; and now, Phineas, I suppose thee will see at once about this poor man, won't thee?"
"Yes, Marthy, yes. I'll go right off and see one of the selectmen; and I reckon, by the time you git a bed ready for him, we shall be along.”
Phineas accordingly bustled out of the room; and Mrs. Janes, after lingering a few moments, took her leave and returned to her charge, inwardly congratulating herself on having so new and interesting a piece of intelligence with which to lighten her next day's "tailoring."
Mrs. Coffin, left alone, stood for a moment considering, and then, opening a door, called gently,—
"Yes, mother,” replied a voice whose soft tones seemed the echo of her own. A moment after, a slender, dark-eyed girl, about twenty years of age, entered the room, and said cheerfully,
"What is it, mother?"
"I have somewhat to tell thee, Faith." And the Quakeress repeated, in calm, unemphatic language, the story narrated by Mrs. Janes.
"The poor man will soon be here, Faith," continued she, "and I wanted to ask what thee thinks should be done with him. Thee knows there is no room that can have a fire in it, except the one where Polly and Susan sleep, and they are both too sick to be moved into the cold"
"Yes, mother; and I will sleep here on the couch. I should like it very much indeed; for you know I never have been able to be quite the orderly and regular girl you have tried to make me."
"Thee is a good girl," said the mother, quietly.
"Not half so good a girl as I ought to be, with so good a mother," replied Faith, throwing her arms about her mother's neck and kissing her fondly.
The elder woman returned the caress with an involuntary warmth, which, pure and natural though it might be, was yet at variance with the strict rule of her sect, which had taught her to avoid everything like compliment or caress, as savoring of the manners of the "world's people."
She therefore, after one kiss, gently repelled the girl, saying,
"Nay, Faith, but it sufficeth. Go, then, if thee will, and make ready thy chamber for this sick man, while I prepare him some broth."
An hour later, a pung or box-sleigh drew up at the poor-house door, from which was lifted a long, gaunt figure, carefully enveloped in blankets and cloaks. As he was taken from the sleigh, he feebly murmured a few words, to which Phineas Coffin replied kindly,
"Don't be scart,-it's all safe, and Nathaniel will fetch it right in after us."
"What! this 'ere?" queried the youth called Nathaniel, while he lifted from the sleigh, somewhat contemptuously, a long flat something, carefully enveloped in a
Yes. Fetch it along this way," replied Phineas; and Nathaniel followed the chair, in which the sick man was carried, into the pretty little maiden chamber which Faith had so quietly relinquished to one who she thought needed it more than herself.
Mother and daughter stood ready to receive their new charge, and see him comfortable in the warm, soft bed which they had prepared for him.
"Thee will soon get rested now, friend, and go to sleep,-won't thee?" said Mrs. Coffin, in her gentle voice, as she turned down the sheet a little more evenly.
"Where is it?" panted the exhausted sufferer, trying to look beyond his kind nurse into the room.
"What does thee mean, friend?"
"It is this thing, mother," said Faith, bringing it forward, and leaning it against the wall at the foot of the bed. "He brought it with him," continued she, in a low voice; "and father says, he didn't seem to care half so much about his own comfort as to have that safe."
"Thee shall not be parted from it, friend," said Mrs. Coffin, soothingly. Surely we would not deprive thee of what is thine own, and what thee seems to value so much. Now if thee will try to go to sleep, I will stay with thee the while, and when thee wakes give thee some broth to strengthen thee."
"Let-let her stay.- Go away, - the rest of you," whispered the feeble voice, while the weary eyes rested upon Faith's grave, sweet face.
"Thee means my daughter? Faith, does thee wish to stay? or had thee rather I should?"
Very well, if it is your name, we will. Now you must go to sleep."
"Sit there,-where I can see you."
Faith complied with this request, although uncertain whether it was not prompted by a distrust of her promise. The stranger soon slept, and his young nurse then made a more attentive survey of his features than she had yet done. He seemed not over forty years of age, and would, in health, have been consid
ered a handsome man, although the fine silky hair, thin beard, sensitive nostril, and delicate mouth could never have expressed much of strength or resolution.
The traces of disease and starvation were painfully apparent; but it seemed to the thoughtful Faith that behind these she could perceive in the sorrowful, downward curve of the lips, in the lines of the hollow, throbbing temples, in the gloomy light of the dark eyes, symptoms of a long corroding care, which, though secretly, had done its work of devastation more surely and more ruthlessly than the more apparent foes.
66 How he must have suffered!" murmured she. It seemed as if the tone of gentle pity had penetrated the light slumber, and reached the heart of the sick man,- for, opening his eyes, he smiled upon the girl, a wan, sad smile, which was at once an assent and a benison.
From that moment, until the welcome end of that sad life, Ichabod would patiently endure no tendance but Faith's; and she, with the calm and silent selfabnegation of her order, (for Florence Nightingale is but a type, and there are those all about us who lack but her opportunities,) devoted herself to him.
Her mother sometimes remonstrated, and begged her to yield her place in the sick-chamber to her or to one of the pauper women; but Faith, whose grave sweetness concealed more determination than a stranger would have guessed, would simply say,
“Dear mother, what is a little fatigue to one as well as I am, compared with the pleasure of making this poor stranger's death-bed happy and quiet?—which it certainly would not be, if he was crossed in his fancy for seeing me about him." And the conscientious mind of the mother was forced to yield assent to this simple logic.
A few weeks thus passed, and then the sick man became a dying man. The pauper inmates of the house were all willing and anxious to watch beside him through the long nights, but Ichabod re
ceived all their attentions very ungraciously; nor was it till Faith told him, in her kind, decided way, that she could not stay with him at night, that he consented to allow the others to do so.
At last there came the evening when the physician said to Mrs. Coffin, as he entered the room where she sat with her husband,—
"He won't last till morning,-'tis impossible."
"Then thee had better watch beside him, Phineas. It is not fitting that Faith should do so."
"Certain. I'll go right up, and send her down," replied Phineas, readily.
But when the arrangements for the night were made known to Ichabod, he caught hold of Faith's dress, as she stood at his bedside bidding him good-night, and gasped out,—
"No, no!-you!-I must have — you!-I shall die-die to-night!— And -and I want to tell-to tell you something.-Stay,-stay, Faith!—it's the last -last time, and I—I shall never trouble any one- any more."
"Let me stay, mother; father, do!" pleaded Faith, looking from one to the other. "I should be very unhappy, always, if I was obliged to deny him this last request. I shall not be afraid, mother; and Betty can sleep in the chair by the fire, if you wish it, so as to be at hand, if "
Well, child, if thee feels a call to do so, and it will make thee unhappy to be denied, I will hold my peace. But thee must certainly have Betty here, and promise to send her to call me, if Ichabod should be worse,— won't thee ?”
Faith gave the required promise, and in a short time the chamber was prepared for night. The old woman (whose skill in the last awful rites which man pays to man caused her always to be selected for such occasions) slept soundly beside the glowing fire, the dying man dozed uneasily, and Faith, shading the light from his eyes, opened the largeprint Bible, which her mother, careful both for the well-being of her daughter's
inmortal soul and temporal eyesight, had recommended for her night's perusal.
The hours passed slowly on, unmarked by change, until Faith had counted three solemn strokes from the old clock in the entry, when the sick man suddenly awoke.
As Faith came to his bedside, to offer him the draught for which he always asked on awakening, she was struck with a change in his face. The eyes were at once calmer and brighter, the look of uneasy pain had disappeared, and the thin lips wore almost a smile.
"Dear Faith,” said he, in a gentle voice, which yet was stronger and more unbroken than any she had heard from him before, "how good you have been to me! I am dying; but do not call any one yet. I want to talk to you a little, first. Put another pillow under my head, and raise me, so. Now light your other candle, stir the fire to a brighter blaze, and then uncover-it."
Faith, pale and quiet, did as she was bid, stirred the fire, till its ruddy glow brightened every nook of the little whitewashed chamber, and made the old crone beside it wince and mutter in her sleep. Having shielded her from its fierce light, she then, with trembling fingers, opened a little penknife which lay upon the table, and cut the twine with which the cover was sewed at the back. The last stitch severed, the cloth fell with a solemn rustle at her feet, and disclosed-a picture.
Faith examined it with much attention and some curiosity. It was the full-length figure of a man, dressed in rich robes of office, his powdered hair put back from his forehead, his left hand resting on the pommel of his sword, and his right clasping a roll of parchment. The expression of his face was grave, majestic, and noble; and yet between those handsome features and the attenuated face of the dying pauper Faith soon perceived one of those resemblances, strong, yet indefinable, which are so apparent to some persons, so undiscoverable by oth
“A noble gentleman, Faith,— was he
He went home for a visit to England, and there he had this picture painted by the court-painter of those days, and brought it back with him as a present to his wife.
"He was father of many children, mostly girls; and finally died in a very dignified and respectable manner, full of years and honors, as they say in storybooks.
"His handsome property, being divided so often, made but rather small portions for the children, and several of the daughters died unmarried.
"Then the family began to decay, and each succeeding head of the family found it a harder struggle to keep up the old hospitalities and the traditional style of living. They died out, too. The lateral branches of the family-tree never flourished, and one after another came to an end, till about forty years ago the remnant of the family-blood and the familyname was centred in two cousins, a young man and a girl. They met at the funeral of the girl's mother, and found in a short conversation that they were the sole representatives of the old name, alive.
They married, gloomily helping on the fate which awaited them, by uniting their two threads of life in one, that thus she might sever it more easily. I was their only child, and they named me Ichabod,—the glory has departed.”
"It is a sad proof of how deeply the bitterness of life had entered their souls, that, even in the supreme moment when