We stopped to feed the horses and to take a bite of jerked venison, wrapped ourselves warmer, for it was now dunk and chilly, and went on again. The road went mostly downhill, going out of the woods, and we could make good time. It was near midnight when we drove in at our gate. There was a light in the sitting-room and Uncle Eb and I went in with Gerald at once. Elizabeth Brower knelt at the feet of her son, unbuttoned his coat and took off his muffler. Then she put her arms about his neck while neither spoke nor uttered any sound. Both mother and son felt and understood and were silent. The ancient law of God, that rends asunder and makes havoc of our plans, bore heavy on them in that moment, I have no doubt, but neither murmured. Uncle Eb began to pump vigorously at the cistern while David fussed with the fire. We were all quaking inwardly but neither betrayed a sign of it. It is a way the Puritan has of suffering. His emotions are like the deep undercurrents of the sea.
If I were writing a novel merely I should try to fill it with merriment and good cheer. I should thrust no sorrow upon the reader save that he might feel for having wasted his time. We have small need of manufactured sorrow when, truly, there is so much of the real thing on every side of us. But this book is nothing more nor less than a history, and by the same token it cannot be all as I would have wished it. In October following the events of the last chapter, Gerald died of consumption, having borne a lingering illness with great fortitude. I, who had come there a homeless orphan in a basket, and who, with the God-given eloquence of childhood had brought them to take me to their hearts and the old man that was with me as well, was now the only son left to Elizabeth and David Brower. There were those who called it folly at the time they took us in, I have heard, but he who shall read this history to the end shall see how that kind of folly may profit one or even many here in this hard world.
It was a gloomy summer for all of us. The industry and patience with which Hope bore her trial, night and day, is the sweetest recollection of my youth. It brought to her young face a tender soberness of womanhood — a subtle change of expression that made her all the more dear to me. Every day, rain or shine, the old doctor had come to visit his patient, sometimes sitting an hour and gazing thoughtfully in his face, occasionally asking a question, or telling a quaint anecdote. And then came the end.
The sky was cold and grey in the late autumn and the leaves were drifted deep in the edge of the woodlands when Hope and I went away to school together at Hillsborough. Uncle Eb drove us to our boarding place in town. When we bade him goodbye and saw him driving away, alone in the wagon, we hardly dared look at each other for the tears in our eyes.
David Brower had taken board for us at the house of one Solomon Rollin — universally known as ‘Cooky’ Rollin; that was one of the first things I learned at the Academy. It seemed that many years ago he had taken his girl to a dance and offered her, in lieu of supper, cookies that he had thoughtfully brought with him. Thus cheaply he had come to life-long distinction.