Part 3 (1/2)

Every meddlesome old woman in the church must put her finger in the reverend gentleman's love pie, and would speak her mind plainly enough, especially if she had daughters of her own. To use the poor man's own language, he found himself spiked on all sides; and all for love, a thing which has brought no end of mischief on the world. In short, from being an idol he found himself between fires that threatened to consume him, so fiercely did they burn.

The gentleman's position was indeed becoming perilous, when an unforeseen circ.u.mstance afforded him the means of relief. There arrived in Nyack late one Sat.u.r.day night, a man of tall, slender figure, dressed in a suit of plain black, and having the appearance of a young clergyman just from the country. He put up at t.i.tus Bright's inn, gave out that he was from Dogtown, Ma.s.sachusetts, and after partaking of supper, enquired of the landlord where he could find the Reverend, so to speak, Warren Holbrook. There was something serious in the man's manner, like one who had been grievously wronged. Being told where he could find the object of his search, he paced the room thoughtfully for a few minutes, then muttered to himself, ”I must see him to-night. The sooner settled the better. It will not do to wait until morning.”

Half an hour later, and the two reverend gentlemen (the stranger and Holbrook) might have been seen seated at a table in a room of Chapman's house. Their conversation had evidently not been of a very pleasant nature, for the stranger, rising to take his departure, said: ”You have only to do her justice, and show to the world that you are an honorable man. She is my sister; and unless you keep your promise, solemnly made to her, I will follow you to the end of the earth, and make you the scorned of men. Mark this well: it is the haunted soul of the hypocrite that burns him through life; that makes him a very torment to himself.”

The stranger returned to the inn, where he paced the room for nearly an hour, and then retired for the night.

The bells rang on the following morning, and the good women of Nyack wended their way to and had nearly filled every pew in the church of great progressive ideas. The choir sung one hymn, and then sung another.

But no pastor came. There was something wrong, evidently. Hope and faith were enjoined by a few. Some watched the door, others the pulpit.

Whispers succeeded wonder, and murmurs took the place of curiosity. The church was clearly without a pastor; and what was a church to do under such circ.u.mstances? At length the whole congregation got into a state of profound agitation. What was the matter? where was the pastor? would'nt somebody speak? These and similar questions were on every tongue. It was suddenly discovered that the Chapmans were also absent.

An indignant female got up and proposed that some one ”go for” the Chapmans, and make them explain what it all meant. Another, equally indignant, took a more sensible view of things. ”If there's to be no service,” said she, ”I'm going home to read my Bible in quiet.” And she left the church, followed by the rest of the congregation. And as n.o.body explained, of course every one had his or her own reason for this singular turn in the spiritual affairs of the new church. There was no getting over the fact that the new church had been brought to a stand still. To be plain about the matter, the Reverend Warren Holbrook had put his great progressive ideas into practice during the night by leaving the town, and also by taking with him the young woman to whom he had been paying such marked attentions. The Tappan Zee had never been more troubled in a storm than was the moral sensibilities of Nyack at this news. The very atmosphere was rank with scandal. The men laughed and jeered, and the women shook their heads and talked of nothing else.

”After that,” said the women, ”who can we trust.”

”Served you right,” replied the men, ”for making much of such a fellow.

Women never take such men into their confidence without bringing dirty water to their own doors.” It was fortunate for Holbrook that he left during the night, for, seeing the temper Nyack was in during that day, there would have been some stones thrown had he remained.

The Chapmans took the matter very cool, however, counted the profits, and put up the church shutters. Such things had happened before, Chapman said. It was a weakness that had marked the history of the world; and it had been a failing with the greatest of intellects. They would yet show to the people of Nyack what could be done with the right sort of enterprise. The honest old Dutchmen were in high glee over the turn affairs at the new church had taken. They got together in Hanz Toodleburg's veranda, drank their beer, and smoked their pipes, and wished the devil might get the new preacher, ”what comes t'down to raise t'tevil mit de peoples, and raises t'tevil mit he self.”

The stranger, of whom mention has been made, was more seriously troubled. He heard the news of Holbrook's departure with a sad heart, for he was the kind brother of a young woman to whom the delinquent had made a solemn vow to marry. But that solemn vow he had recently broken in the most heartless manner, and left her hopes blighted and her heart sad. He declared, however, that he would follow Holbrook if he went to the end of the earth, and bring him to justice before G.o.d and man.

CHAPTER IX.

t.i.tE TAKES HIS DEPARTURE FOR THE SOUTH SEA.

High above all this hypocrisy, this intrigue, this selfishness and dissimulation, there was something more pure and good. It was love, pure and simple, binding the thoughts and hearts of Mattie Chapman and young t.i.te. That love which forgets everything else in its truth and purity, had been gently binding their young affections together. And now nothing could separate them.

What sweet joys and touching sorrows are mingled with the wonderful history of love. How surely it marks its objects. It seeks its most precious captive in the strongest and bravest of hearts. Love has dethroned kings, built up empires, set great nations at war, and made statesmen weep with sorrow. Yea, it has made the mightiest to unbend, and brought them bowing before its altar. It holds its capricious empire in every heart, prompts our ambition, guides and governs our actions, makes us heroes or cowards, and carries us hoping through the world.

It was love, then, that was holding its court on the occasion I am about to describe. It was one of those bright and breezy spring mornings, when Nature seems to have decked herself in her brightest colors, giving such a charm to the banks of the Hudson. The young, fresh leaves were out, and looking so green and crisp. The leak and the moss were creeping afresh over the rocks; wild flowers were budding and blossoming, and giving their sweet odors to the wind; birds were singing their touching songs; brooks rippled and murmured their mysterious music; and all Nature was indeed putting forth her beauties in one grand, sweet, soul-stirring harmony.

How I envy the being who, free from the cares of the world, can elevate his soul by holding sweet communion with nature, at spring time. Earth has nothing so pure as the thoughts inspired by such sweet communion with the buds, the blossoms, and the flowers of spring.

It was one of these soft, breezy mornings in early spring, I have said, that Mattie and t.i.te sat together in a little clump of woods, where the branches formed a sort of bower overhead, and overlooking the Tappan Zee. Every few minutes t.i.te would get up, advance to a point commanding a view of the river above, and gaze intently in that direction, as if expecting some object of interest.

”She is not in sight yet, Mattie,” he said, as he returned after one of these intervals. ”But she will be down to-day, I know she will, and then we must part. Think of me when I am away, and I will think of you. Yes, Mattie, I am only a sailor now, but I shall see the world, and that's what I want, because it will make me something better. It will be three years before we meet again; three long, long years. But I will think of you and dream of you through all that time. And I will be so happy when the day of our meeting comes. Be good to my mother and father while I am gone. Be good to them for my sake. You will, won't you, Mattie?”

Mattie's blue eyes filled with tears, the wind tossed her golden curls over her fair neck and shoulders, and there was something so tender and touching in the picture of these young lovers. ”I have made you a solemn promise, t.i.te,” she replied, in broken accents. ”That promise shall be kept sacred. I shall think of you, and pray for you. Your parents shall be my parents. I will count the days until you return.”

She paused for a moment and wiped her eyes. ”Neither storm nor tempest shall trouble you, t.i.te, for I will follow you with my prayers that G.o.d may carry you safe through all dangers, and bring you safe back to us.

But, t.i.te, take this advice from me. Do all you can for yourself. Rise as high as you can; make all the money you can; and don't forget what we may come to be. People who get money, and take care of it, are sure to rise in the world. People that don't get money never do. But, G.o.d bless you, t.i.te; think of me and I'll think of you.” This advice to the young sailor to make all the money he could, and given on the eve of departure, may seem out of place to some of my romantic readers; but it was, perhaps, the best Mattie could have given him. She was a girl of strong affections, and it was only natural that she should have something of the propensity so strong in both her parents. But beyond and above this there was something frank and generous, something of real good in her nature. Young as she was, she saw in t.i.te's courage and ambition traits of character that promised well for the future. This made her forget that which was so objectionable to her mother--that he was only the son of common Dutch people.

t.i.te had been looking for the object of his anxiety several minutes, when, turning toward Mattie, he exclaimed: ”Here she comes! here she comes!” and they kissed and took an affectionate farewell, each hastening to their homes. The object he had watched for so intently was the s.h.i.+p Pacific, belonging to the Hudson Company's fleet of whale s.h.i.+ps, and bound on a voyage to the South Sea, as it was called in those days. There was something grand and imposing about this fine old s.h.i.+p as she moved majestically down the stream, her starboard tacks aboard, the breeze filling her sails so nicely, for she had her royals set. Then her new, white canvas contrasted so strikingly with the green hills that yet shut her hull from view. Who could tell what might befall her in the eventful voyage she was bound on?

A few minutes more and she braced her yards sharp and rounded the point, and stood on her way down the Tappan Zee. Every outline of her hull now came clearer and clearer. There were her heavy quarter-davits, her hoisting gear, and whale-killing gear; her long, sharp boats, lashed so carefully, some to her davits, others athwart her quarter-deck frames; and about all of which there was a mysterious interest. These whale s.h.i.+ps were at that day an object of distrust in the minds of the honest Dutchmen along the banks of the Hudson, who never saw them go to sea without shaking their heads and predicting all sorts of disasters, such as would be sure to bring ruin on the men unwise enough to risk their money in such enterprises.

As the s.h.i.+p neared Nyack a group of ten or a dozen persons were seen near the landing, with a boat and two men to take t.i.te off. There was Hanz, old and grey; and Angeline, her eyes filled with tears, but her face as full of sweetness and tenderness as it was twenty years ago.