Eben Holden a Tale of the North Country, Chapter 25

Chapter 25

David Brower had prospered, as I have said before, and now he was chiefly concerned in the welfare of his children. So, that he might give us the advantages of the town, he decided either to lease or sell his farm- by far the handsomest property in the township. I was there when a buyer came, in the last days of that summer. We took him over the smooth acres from Lone Pine to Woody Ledge, from the top of Bowman's Hill to Tinkie Brook in the far valley. He went with us through every tidy room of the house. He looked over the stock and the stables.

'Wall! what's it wuth?' he said, at last, as we stood looking down the fair green acres sloping to the sugar bush.

David picked up a stick, opened his knife, and began to whittle thoughtfully, a familiar squint of reflection in his face. I suppose he thought of all it had cost him - the toil of many years, the strength of his young manhood, the youth and beauty of his wife, a hundred things that were far better than money.

'Fifteen thousan' dollars,' he said slowly - 'not a cent less.' The man parleyed a little over the price.

'Don' care t' take any less t'day,' said David calmly. 'No harm done.'

'How much down?'

David named the sum.

'An' possession?'

'Next week'

'Everything as it stan's?'

'Everything as it stan's 'cept the beds an' bedding.'

'Here's some money on account,' he said. 'We'll close t'morrer?'

'Close t'morrer,' said David, a little sadness in his tone, as he took the money.

It was growing dusk as the man went away. The crickets sang with a loud, accusing, clamour. Slowly we turned and went into the dark house, David whistling under his breath. Elizabeth was resting in her chair. She was humming an old hymn as she rocked.

'Sold the farm, mother,' said David.

She stopped singing but made no answer. In the dusk, as we sat down, I saw her face leaning upon her hand. Over the hills and out of the fields around us came many voices - the low chant in the stubble, the baying of a hound in the far timber, the cry of the tree toad - a tiny drift of odd things (like that one sees at sea) on the deep eternal silence of the heavens. There was no sound in the room save the low creaking of the rocker in which Elizabeth sat. After all the going, and corning, and doing, and saying of many years here was a little spell of silence and beyond lay the untried things of the future. For me it was a time of reckoning.

'Been hard at work here all these years, mother,' said David. 'Oughter be glad t' git away.'

'Yes,' said she sadly, 'it's been hard work. Years ago I thought I never could stan' it. But now I've got kind o' used t' it.'

'Time ye got used t' pleasure 'n comfort,' he said. 'Come kind o' hard, at fast, but ye mus' try t' stan' it. If we're goin' t' hev sech flin in Heaven as Deacon Hospur tells on we oughter begin t' practice er we'll be 'shamed uv ourselves.'

The worst was over. Elizabeth began to laugh.

At length a strain of song came out of the distance.

'Maxwelton's braes are bonnie where early falls the dew.'

'It's Hope and Uncle Eb,' said David while I went for the lantern. 'Wonder what's kep' 'em s' late.'

When the lamps were lit the old house seemed suddenly to have got a sense of what had been done. The familiar creak of the stairway as I went to bed had an appeal and a protest. The rude chromo of the voluptuous lady, with red lips and the name of Spring, that had always hung in my chamber had a mournful, accusing look. The stain upon her cheek that had come one day from a little leak in the roof looked now like the path of a tear drop. And when the wind came up in the night and I heard the creaking of Lone Pine it spoke of the doom of that house and itsown that was not far distant.

We rented a new home in town, that week, and were soon settled in it. Hope went away to resume her studies the same day I began work in college.