Family Pride (Chapter I - The Farmhouse at Silverton, page 1 of 10)


 
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Uncle Ephraim Barlow, deacon of the orthodox church in Silverton, Massachusetts, was an old-fashioned man, clinging to the old-time customs of his fathers, and looking with but little toleration upon what he termed the "new-fangled notions" of the present generation. Born and reared amid the rocks and hills of the Bay State, his nature partook largely of the nature of his surroundings, and he grew into manhood with many a rough point adhering to his character, which, nevertheless, taken as a whole, was, like the wild New England scenery, beautiful and grand. None knew Uncle Ephraim Barlow but to respect him, and at the church where he was a worshiper few would have been missed more than the tall, muscular man, with the long, white hair, who Sunday after Sunday walked slowly up the middle aisle to his accustomed seat before the altar, and who regularly passed the contribution box, bowing involuntarily in token of approbation when a neighbor's gift was larger than its wont, and gravely dropping in his own ten cents--never more, never less--always ten cents--his weekly offering, which he knew amounted in a year to just five dollars and twenty cents. And still Uncle Ephraim was not stingy, as the Silverton poor could testify, for many a load of wood and bag of meal found entrance to the doors where cold and hunger would have otherwise been, while to his minister he was literally a holder up of the weary hands, and a comforter in the time of trouble.

His helpmeet, Aunt Hannah, like that virtuous woman mentioned in the Bible, was one "who seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands, who riseth while yet it is night, and giveth meat to her household." Indeed, for this last stirring trait Aunt Hannah was rather famous, especially on Monday mornings, when her washing was invariably swinging on the line ready to greet the rising sun.

Miss Betsy Barlow, too, the deacon's maiden sister, was a character in her way, and was surely not one of those vain, frivolous females to whom the Apostle Paul had reference when he condemned the plaiting of hair and the wearing of gold and jewels. Quaint, queer and simple-hearted, she had but little idea of any world this side of heaven, except the one bounded by the "huckleberry" hills and the crystal waters of Fairy Pond, which from the back door of the farmhouse were plainly seen, both in the summer sunshine and when the intervening fields were covered with the winter snow.

The home of such a trio was, like themselves, ancient and unpretentious, nearly one hundred years having elapsed since the solid foundation was laid to a portion of the building. Unquestionably, it was the oldest house in Silverton, for on the heavy, oaken door of what was called the back room was still to be seen the mark of a bullet, left there by some marauders who, during the Revolution, had encamped in that neighborhood. George Washington, too, it was said, had once spent a night beneath its roof, the deacon's mother pouring for him her Bohea tea and breaking her home-made bread. Since that time several attempts had been made to modernize the house. Lath and plaster had been put upon the rafters and paper upon the walls, wooden latches had given place to iron, while in the parlor, where Washington had slept, there was the extravagance of a knob, a genuine porcelain knob, such, as Uncle Ephraim said, was only fit for the gentry who could afford to be grand. For himself, he was content to live as his father did; but young folks, he supposed, must in some things have their way, and so when his pretty niece, who had lived with him from childhood to the day of her marriage, came back to him a widow, bringing her two fatherless children and a host of new ideas, he good-humoredly suffered her to tear down some of his household idols and replace them with her own. And thus it was that the farmhouse gradually changed its appearance both outwardly and in, for young womanhood which had but one glimpse of the outer world will not settle down quietly amid fashions a century old. And Lucy Lennox, when she returned to the farmhouse, was not quite the same as when she went away. Indeed, Aunt Betsy in her guileless heart feared that she had actually fallen from grace, imputing the fall wholly to Lucy's predilection for a certain little book on whose back was written "Common Prayer," and at which Aunt Betsy scarcely dared to look, lest she should be guilty of the enormities practiced by the Romanists themselves. Clearer headed than his sister, the deacon read the black-bound book, finding therein much that was good, but wondering why, when folks promised to renounce the pomps and vanities, they did not do so, instead of acting more stuck up than ever. Inconsistency was the underlying strata of the whole Episcopal Church, he said, and as Lucy, without taking any public step, had still declared her preference for that church, he, too, in a measure, charged her propensity for repairs to the same source with Aunt Betsy; but, as he could really see no sin in what she did, he suffered her in most things to have her way. But when she contemplated an attack upon the huge chimney occupying the center of the building, he interfered; for there was nothing he liked better than the bright fire on the hearth when the evenings grew chilly and long, and the autumn rain was falling upon the roof. The chimney should stand, he said; and as no amount of coaxing could prevail on him to revoke his decision, the chimney stood, and with it the three fireplaces, where, in the fall and spring, were burned the twisted knots too bulky for the kitchen stove. This was fourteen years ago, and in that lapse of time Lucy Lennox had gradually fallen in with the family ways of living, and ceased to talk of her cottage in Western New York, where her husband had died and where were born her daughters, one of whom she was expecting home on the warm July day when our story opens.

 
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