ON THE THRESHOLD OF SHELTER.
Alas! To-day I would give everything
To see a friend’s face, or hear voice
That had the slightest tone of comfort in it.—Longfellow.
About two miles from the town of Belden, N. H., stands an irregular farm house that looks more like two dwellings forced to pass as one. One part of it is all gables, and tile, and chimney corners, and antiquity, and the other is square, slated, and of the newest cut, outside and in.
The farm is the property of Squire Amasa Bartlett, a good type of the big man of the small place. He was a contented and would have been a happy man—or at least thought he would have been—if the dearest wish of his life could have been realized. It was that his son, Dave, and his wife’s niece, Kate, should marry. Kate was an orphan and the Squire’s ward. She owned the adjoining land, that was farmed with the Squire’s as one. So that Cupid would not have come to them empty handed; but the young people appeared to have little interest in each other apart from that cousinly affection which young people who are brought together would in all probability feel for each other.
Dave was a handsome, dark-eyed young man, whose silence passed with some for sulkiness; but he was not sulky—only deep and thoughtful, and perhaps a little more devoid of levity than becomes a young man of twenty-five. He had great force of character—you might have seen that from his grave brow, and felt it in his simple speech and manner, that was absolutely free from affectation.
Dave was his mother’s idol, but his utter lack of worldliness, his inability to drive a shrewd bargain sometimes annoyed his father, who was a just, but an undeniably hard man, who demanded a hundred cents for his dollar every day in the year.
Kate, whom the family circle hoped would one day be David’s wife, was all blonde hair, blue eyes and high spirits, so that the little blind god, aided by the Squire’s strategy, propinquity and the universal law of the attraction of opposites, should have had no difficulty in making these young people fall in love—but Destiny, apparently, decided to make them exceptions to all rules.
Kate was fond of going to Boston to visit a schoolmate, and the Squire, who looked with small favor on these visits, was disposed to attribute them to Dave’s lack of ardor.
“Confound it, Looizy,” he would say to his wife, “if Dave made it more lively for Kate she would not be fer flying off to Boston every time she got a chance.”
And Mrs. Bartlett had no answer. Having a woman’s doubtful gift of intuition, she was afraid that the wedding would never take place, and also having a woman’s tact she never annoyed her husband by saying so.
Kate, who had been in Boston for two months, was coming home about the middle of July, and a little flutter of preparation went all over the farm.