To those residents of Mason’s Corner whose names have been given, whose homes have been described and some whose personal peculiarities have been portrayed, must be added a late arrival. The new-comer whose advent in town during Christmas week had caused so much discussion at the rehearsal in the old red schoolhouse, and whose liberality in providing a hot supper with all the fixings for the sleighing party from Mason’s Corner, when it arrived at the Eagle Hotel at Eastborough Centre, had won, at a bound, the hearts of the majority of the younger residents of Mason’s Corner. The village gossips wondered who he was, what he was, what he came for, and how long he intended to stay. If these questions had been asked of him personally, he might have returned answers to the first three questions, but it would have been beyond his power to have answered the fourth inquiry at that time. But the sayings and doings of certain individuals, and a chain of circumstances not of his own creation and beyond his personal control, conspired to keep him there for a period of nearly four months. During that time certain things were said and done, certain people were met and certain events took place which changed the entire current of this young man’s future life, which shows plainly that we are all creatures of circumstance and that a man’s success or failure in life may often depend as much or even more upon his environment than upon himself.
The concert in the town hall.
It was the evening of New Year’s day, 186—. The leading people, in fact nearly all the people of the three villages forming the town of Eastborough, were assembled in the Town Hall at Eastborough Centre. The evening was pleasant and this fact had contributed to draw together the largest audience ever assembled in that hall. Not only was every seat taken, but the aisles were also crowded, while many of the younger citizens had been lifted up to eligible positions in the wide window seats of the dozen great windows on three sides of the large hall.
The large attendance was also due in part to the fact that a new and original musical composition by Mr. Strout, the singing-master, would be sung for the first time in public. Again, it had been whispered up at Hill’s grocery at Mason’s Corner that the young city fellow who was boarding at Deacon Mason’s was going to be present, and this rumor led to a greatly increased attendance from that village.
The audience was a typical one of such communities at that period; horny-handed farmers with long shaggy beards and unkempt hair, dressed in ill-fitting black suits; matronly looking farmers’ wives in their Sunday best; rosy-cheeked daughters full of fun and vivacity and chattering like magpies; tall, lank, awkward, bashful sons, and red-haired, black-haired, and tow-headed urchins of both sexes, the latter awaiting the events of the evening with the wild anticipations that are usually called forth only by the advent of a circus.