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It was on a Thanksgiving-Day, fifteen Eight years elapsed from the time of years ago, that the boy Samson, then his flight and supposed crime, when the seventeen years old, was brought home fellow he had thrashed at the tavern drunk and bleeding. He had passed the was arrested, tried, convicted, and senprevious night at a ball at the tavern, tenced to death for a murder committed against the express command of his fa- in a midnight tavern-brawl. In a conther, who would have gone to fetch him fession that he made he exonerated Samaway, but that he could not bear to en- son Newell from any participation in ter upon a scene he thought so wick- or knowledge of the burglary for which ed, and especially upon such an errand. his reputation had so long suffered, statWhen the dance was over, the boy had ing in what manner he had himself comlingered at the bar, drinking glass after mitted the deed. So the memory of the glass, until he got into a fight with the erring son of Jacob Newell was relieved bully of the village, whom he thrashed from the great shadow that had darkened within an inch of his life, and then he had it. Still he was never mentioned by fasat down in a small side-room with a few ther or mother; and seven years more choice spirits, with the avowed purpose rolled wearily on, till they sit, to-day, of getting drunk over his victory. He alone and childless, by the flickering Nohad got drunk, “gloriously drunk” his vember fire. friends at the tavern styled it, and had Sore trouble had fallen on them since been carried in that state home. their youngest son had disappeared. One
Oh, the bitterness of the misery of that by one, the elder children had passed Thanksgiving-Day to Jacob Newell! He away, each winter's snow for five years may live a hundred years and never know covered a fresh grave, till the new afflicsuch another.
tions that were in store for them scarcely The next day Samson awoke from a seemed to affect them otherwise than by wretched stupor to find himself weak, ner- cutting yet deeper into the sunken cheeks vous, and suffering from a blinding head- the deep lines of sorrow and regret. ache. In this condition his father forced Jacob Newell had been known for him to the barn, and there, with a heavy years as a “forehanded man” in the ruraw-hide, flogged him without mercy. That ral neighborhood. His lands were exnight Samson Newell disappeared, and was tensive, and he had pursued a liberal thenceforward seen no more in the village. system of cultivation, putting into the soil
The same night one of the village stores in rich manures more in strength than he was entered, the door of an ancient safe took from it, until his farm became the wrenched open, and something over a model one of the county, and his profits hundred dollars in specie taken there- were large and ever increasing. Particfrom. So that on Samson Newell's head ularly in orchards of choice fruit did he rested the crime of filial disobedience, and excel his neighbors, and his apples, pears, the suspicion, amounting, with nearly all, and quinces always commanded the best to a certainty, that he had added burglary price in the market. So he amassed to his other wrong-doing.
wealth, and prospered. His name was published in the papers But, unfortunately, after death had throughout the county, together with a taken away his children, and the work personal description and the offer of a in the fields was all done by hired bands, reward for his arrest and return. But the old man became impatient of the dulas he was never brought back nor heard ness of life, and a spirit of speculation of more, the matter gradually died away seized him. Just at that time, railroadand was forgotten by most in the village; stock was in high favor throughout the the more so as, from respect and pity for country. Steam-drawn carriages were Jacob Newell, it was scarce ever men- to do away with all other modes of pubtioned, except privately.
lic travel, (as, indeed, they generally have done,) and the fortunate owners of rail- a hundred hard lines furrowing his pale road-stock were to grow rich without face, telling of the work of time and strugtrouble in a short time. In particular, gle and misfortune, he looked the incara certain line of railroad, to run through nation of silent sorrow and hopelessness, the village where he lived, was to make waiting in quiet meekness for the coming Jacob Newell and all his neighbors rich. of Death, — without desire, but without It would bring a market to their doors, dread. and greatly increase the value of all they It was not strange that on this day produced; but above all, those who took there should come into the hearts of both stock in it would be insured a large perma- Jacob and Ruth, his wife, sad and dismal nent income. Better the twenty and thirty memories. Still his gaze wandered siper cent that must accrue from this source lently about the room, and she plied unthan to loan spare cash at six per cent., ceasingly her stiff, bright knitting-needles. or invest their surplus in farm improve. One would have thought her a figure of ments. So said a very fluent and agree- stone, sitting so pale and bolt upright, but able gentleman from Boston, who address- for the activity of the patiently industried the people on the subject at a “ Rail- ous fingers. road Meeting” held in the town-ball; and Presently Jacob spoke. incautious Jacob Newell (hitherto most “Ruth,” he said, “it is a bitter time prudent throughout his life) believed. for us, and we are sore oppressed; but
Only twenty per cent. was to be paid what does the Psalmist say to such poor, down; no more, said the circular issued by worn-out creatures as we are
re? The steps the directors, might be required for years; of a good man are ordered by the Lord, perhaps there would never be any fur- and he delighteth in his way. Though ther call: but that would depend very he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: materially on how generously the farmers for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. through whose lands the road would pass I have been young, and now am old; yet should give up claims for land-damages. have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Jacob Newell needed excitement of some nor his seed begging bread.' Wife, we sort, and it took the form of speculation. are not forsaken of the Lord, although all He believed in the railroad, and subscrib- earthly things seem to go wrong with us.” ed for two hundred shares of the stock, She made no verbal reply; but there for which he paid four thousand dollars was a nervous flutter in the poor, wan down. He also gave the company the fingers, as she still plied the needles, and right of way where the track crossed his two large tears rolled silently down her farm.
cheeks and fell upon the white kerchief In six months he was called upon for two she wore over her shoulders. thousand dollars more; three months af- “We have still a house over our heads," terwards another two thousand was want- continued Jacob, “and wherewithal to ed; and so it ran till he was obliged to keep ourselves fed and clothed and warmmortgage his farm, and finally to sell the ed; we have but a few years more to live; greater part of it, to meet his subscription. let us thank God for what blessings He In vain he begged for mercy, and pleaded has yet vouchsafed us.” the statement that only twenty per cent.
She arose without a word, stiff, anguwould be needed. A new set of directors lar, ungainly, and they knelt together on laughed him, and others like him, to scorn. the floor. He would have sold his stock, but he found Meanwhile the snow fell thicker and it quoted at only twenty-five cents on the faster without, and blew in fierce clouds dollar, and that price he could not prevail against the windows. The wind was risupon himself to take.
ing and gaining power, and it whistled So he sat on this drear Thanksgiving- wrathfully about the house, howling as in Day despondent beside his hearth. With bitter mockery at the scene within. Some
times it swelled into wild laughter, and muscular power was evident at every again dropped into low and plaintive movement. His hair and beard (which wailings. It was very dismal out in the latter he wore full, as was just beginning cold, and hardly more cheerful in the to be the custom) were dark brown in colwarm sitting-room, where those two jad- or, and thick and strong almost to coarseed souls knelt in earnest prayer. ness in texture ; his eye was a clear ha
zel, full, quick, and commanding, someA railway-train was fast in a snow times almost fierce; while an aquiline bank. There it had stuck, unable to nose, full, round forehead, and a complexmove either backward or forward, since ion bronzed by long exposure to all sorts nine o'clock on Wednesday evening; it of weather, gave him an aspect to be notwas now Thursday morning, the snow ed in any throng he might be thrown inwas still falling, and still seemed likely to. There was a constant air of pride to fall, blocking up more and more the and determination about the man, which passage of the unfortunate train. There softened, however, whenever his glance were two locomotives, with a huge snow fell upon wife or children. At such times plough on the forward one, a baggage- and his face was lighted up with a smile of express-car, and four cars filled with pas- peculiar beauty and sweetness. sengers. Two hundred people, all anx The woman was of middle size, with ious, most of them grumbling, were de fair hair, inclining towards auburn, blue tained there prisoners, snow-bound and eyes, and a clear red and white complex. helpless. It was a bard case, for they ion. Her expression was one of habitual were more than two miles distant — with sweetness and good-humor, while a conthree feet depth of snow between — from tinual half-smile played about her rosy the nearest house. The nearest village mouth. She was plump, good-natured, was five miles away at least.
and cozy, — altogether a most lovable It was Thanksgiving-Day, too, and and delicious woman. they had almost all of them “ lotted” up This pair, with their bright-looking chilon a New-England Thanksgiving-dinner dren, occupied two seats near the stove, with old friends, brothers, fathers, moth and were in constant pleasant converse, ers, and grandparents. And there they save when an occasional anxious and imwere, without so much as a ration of patient shadow flitted across the face of crackers and cheese.
the husband and father. On the rack It was noticeable that the women on over their heads reposed a small travelthe train — and there were quite a num ling-bag, which the day before had been ber, and most of them with children in filled with luncheon for the children. Uptheir arms or by their sides — made, as a on its bottom was painted in small white general rule, less disturbance and confu- letters the name, “Samson Newell." sion than the men. The children, how It was, indeed, the long-lost son, returnever, were getting very hungry and noisy ing on this day to answer, so much as in by this Thanksgiving-morning.
him lay, the prayers repeated for fifteen In one of the cars were clustered as
years by his father and mother, -returnfine a family-group as the eye would de- ing to see his former home once more, sire to rest upon. It consisted of a some and here, nearly on the threshold, stopwhat large and florid, but firmly and com- ped by a snow-storm almost unprecedentpactly built man of thirty years or there ed at that season. There was occasional about, a woman, evidently his wife and ap- bitterness in his impatience at the wearyparently some two or three years younger, ing detention, but he controlled it as well and three beautiful children.
as he was able. The man was large in frame, without During the night the passengers bad being coarse, with a chest broad and am been quiet and uncomplaining. Wood ple as a gymnast's, and with arms whose taken from the tenders of the two loco
motives in small quantities, and, when still drifts piled higher and higher about the engineers stopped the supplies in the captive train. The conductor and that quarter, rails torn from neighboring one of the firemen had started off on fences and broken up for firewood, kept foot at early dawn in search of food for them warm; but after the day had dawn- the passengers, and now there arrived, ed, when the little treasures of luncheon ploughing nearly breast-high through the were exhausted, and all began to feel the
snow, a convoy from one of the nearest real pangs of hunger, things assumed a farm-houses carefully guarding a valumore serious aspect. Children in all the able treasure of bread, cheese, bacon, cars were crying for breakfast, and even eggs, and pumpkin - pies; but so many the older passengers began to feel cross were the mouths to fill that it scarceand jaded.
ly gave a bite apiece to the men, after One pleasant fellow, with an appar- the women and children had been cared ently inexhaustible flask of whiskey in for. his pocket, and good-humor oozing from Then the passengers began to grow every pore of his jolly countenance, pass- clamorous. Even the Funny Man had ed from car to car, retailing a hundred his woes, for some rogue entered the jokes to every fresh batch of listeners. saloon where he slept and stole the But presently the passengers began to whiskey-flask from his pocket. When tire of his witticisms, and one after anoth- he awoke and discovered his loss, he reer“poohed” and “pshawed” at him as he marked that he knew where there was approached. Then with infinite good-na- more of the same sort, and turned over ture and philosophy he retired to one of to sleep again. But all were not so the saloons and peacefully fell asleep. philosophical as he. Some cursed the
Almost equally amusing was a wizen- railroad company, some cursed the fate ed, bent, and thin old man, draped from that had placed them there, some cursed head to foot in coarse butternut-colored their folly in leaving comfortable quarhomespun, and called “Old Woollen ” ters in order to fast in the snow on by the funny fellow, who walked from Thanksgiving-Day. car to car bewailing his hard lot.
Presently the impatiently-pulled-out "I 've left the old woman to home,” watches showed ten o'clock, and still it he whined, “ with all the things on her snowed. Then a rumor ran through the hands, an' more 'n fifty of our folks com- train that there were a couple of barrels in' to eat dinner with us to-day; an' of chickens, ready-dressed for market, in I 've got a note of a hundred an' fifty the express-car, and a general rush in dollars to pay,—to-morrow 's the last day that direction followed. One of the first of grace, - an' I've been sixty-five mile to hear of it, and one of the first to be on to get the money to pay it. Now look the spot, was Samson Newell. here !” suddenly and sharply to the Fun- “ Stand back, gentlemen,” he cried to ny Man, “what do you think o' that ?" the foremost of the throng that poured
“Old Woollen,” said the Funny Man, eagerly into the car, —"stand back a mowith a tremulous voice and tears in his ment. This poultry is in charge of the eyes, “it 's a hard case !”
express messenger, and we have no right “ So 't is! That 's a fact! Call an' to take it without his license.” see us, when you come round our way!” As he spoke, he placed himself beside
And the old gentleman, greatly molli- the messenger. There was a determified by the sympathy of his new friend, nation in his eye and manner that held moved on to find fresh auditors for his the crowd back for a short time. tale of woe.
“ The chickens are mine," the messenIt came to be nine o'clock on the morn- ger said; “I bought them on speculaing of Thanksgiving-Day, and still the tion ; they will spoil before I can get snow fell with unabated violence, and anywhere with them, and they are now too late for Thanksgiving. You may the train, who was journeying alone. He have them for what I gave.”
was, therefore, a favorite with all on board. “ I will give five dollars towards pay- His action, enforcing payment for the proing for them”; and Samson Newell drew vision that would very likely, but for him, out his pocket-book.
have been taken by force, caused the pas “ Here 's a dollar !” “I'll give a sengers to defer to him as a leader whose half!” “ Count me in for two dollars!” strength and courage fitted him for the cried the crowd, favorably struck with the post, and so he presided at the distribunotion of paying for their provender. tion of the chickens without dispute.
But one hulking fellow, with a large The fuel in the stoves was replenished, mock diamond in his shirt-front, and and quite a large space was cleared to clumsy rings on his coarse and dirty fin- the leeward of the locomotive, where gers, stepped forward and said that he a fire was built from the neighboring was a hungry man, that he had lost fences, so that in an hour's time from the money by the
company already, finding of the poultry the entire body of waiting a day and a night in that blamed passengers were busy picking the bones snow-bank, and that he was going to of roasted and broiled fowls. It was not have a chicken, - or two chickens, if he so bad a dinner! To be sure, it was rathwanted them, — and he was decidedly of er chilly, now and then, when the openthe opinion that there was no express mes- ing of a car-door, to let in a half-frozen senger on the train who would see the col- gentleman with a half-cooked chicken in or of his money in the transaction. his hand, admitted with him a snow-laden
Samson Newell was evidently a man blast from without; and then the viands of few words in a case of emergency. He were not served à la Soyer, but there paused for only an instant to assure him- was an appetite for sauce and a certain self that the man was in earnest, then gypsy-like feeling of being at a picnic he slid open one of the side-doors of the that served as a relish. And so, in the express-car, and stretched forth a hand year of our Lord 18—, two hundred whose clutch was like the closing of a claw strangers sat down together at a most of steel. He seized the bejewelled stran- extraordinary Thanksgiving-dinner, of ger by the coat-collar, shook him for an which no account has hitherto been instant, and dropped him, — dropped him published, if I except a vote of thanks, into a soft snow-drift whose top was level together with an exceedingly chaste with the car-floor. Whether the unfor- and richly chased silver goblet," (so the tunate worked a subterranean passage to newspaper description read,) which were one of the passenger-cars and there bur- presented to the conductor by “ the suried himself in the privacy of a saloon viving passengers," after he had procured is not known; he certainly was not seen help and rescued them from their peragain till after relief came to the impris- plexing predicament. oned train.
But dinners end. Twelve o'clock There was neither noise nor confusion came, and still the snow was falling in the matter of paying for and dividing thick and fast, and still the white plain the poultry. Samson Newell had already about them mounted slowly and surely made himself prominent among the cap- towards the skies. Then the passengers tive travellers. He had eaten nothing became yet more weary and unhappy. himself, that he might the better provide, Old Woollen, the unfortunate, detailed so far as his limited provision went, for his woes to more and more appreciative his wife and children; he had even gone audiences. Even the Funny Man — through the cars with his scanty luncheon with a fresh flask of whiskey — sighed of cakes and apples, and economically fed almost dismally between frequent uneasy other people's little ones, besides adminis- "cat-naps.” And Samson Newell, first tering to the wants of an invalid lady upon seeing his wife comfortably settled, and