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2: The Frontier-Line—Woman's Work in Floods and Storms

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The American Frontier has for more than two centuries been a vague and variable term. In 1620-21 it was a line of forest which bounded the infant colony at Plymouth, a few scattered settlements on the James River, in Virginia, and the stockade on Manhattan Island, where Holland had established a trading-post destined to become one day the great commercial city of the continent.

Seventy years later, in 1690, the frontier-line had become greatly extended. In New England it was the forest which still hemmed in the coast and river settlements: far to the north stretched the wilderness covering that tract of country which now comprises the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In New York the frontier was just beyond the posts on the Hudson River; and in Virginia life outside of the oldest settlements was strictly "life on the border." The James, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac Rivers made the Virginia frontier a series of long lines approaching to a parallel. But the European settlements were still sparse, as compared with the area of uninhabited country. The villages, hamlets, and single homesteads were like little islands in a wild green waste: mere specks in a vast expanse of wilderness. Every line beyond musket shot was a frontier-line. Every settlement, small or large, was surrounded by a dark circle, outside of which lurked starvation, fear, and danger. The sea and the great rivers were perilous avenues of escape for those who dwelt thereby, but the interior settlements were almost completely isolated and girt around as if with a wall built by hostile forces to forbid access or egress.

The grand exodus of European emigrants from their native land to these shores, had vastly diminished by the year 1690, but the westward movement from the sea and the rivers in America still went forward with scarcely diminished impetus: and as the pioneers advanced and established their outposts farther and farther to the west, woman was, as she had been from the landing, their companion on the march, their ally in the presence of danger, and their efficient co-worker in establishing homes in the wilderness.

The heroic enterprises recorded in the history of man have generally been remarkable in proportion to their apparent original weakness. This is true in an eminent degree of the settlement of European colonies on the western continent. The sway which woman's influence exercised in these colonial enterprises is all the more wonderful when we contemplate them from this point of view. Three feeble bands of men and women;—the first at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609-1612; the second at Plymouth, in 1620; the third on the Island of Manhattan, in 1624;—these were the dim nuclei from which radiated those long lines of light which stretch to-day across a continent and strike the Pacific ocean. This is a simile borrowed from astronomy. To adopt the language of the naturalist, those three little colonies were the puny germs which bore within themselves a vital force vastly more potent and wonderful than that which dwells in the heart of the gourd seed, and the acorn whose nascent swelling energies will lift huge boulders and split the living rock asunder: vastly more potent because it was not the blind motions of nature merely, but a force at once physical, moral, and intellectual.

These feeble bands of men and women took foothold and held themselves firmly like a hard-pressed garrison waiting for re-enforcements. Re-enforcements came, and then they went out from their works, and setting their faces westward moved slowly forward. The vanguard were men with pikes and musketoons and axes; the rearguard were women who kept watch and ward over the household treasures. Sometimes in trying hours the rearguard ranged itself and fought in the front ranks, falling back to its old position when the crisis was past.

In order to appreciate the actual value of woman as a component part of that mighty impulse which set in motion, and still impels the pioneers of our country, we must remember that she is really the cohesive power which cements society together; that when the outward pressure is greatest, the cohesive power is strongest; that in times of sore trial woman's native traits of character are intensified; that she has greater tact, quicker perceptions, more enduring patience, and greater capacity for suffering than man; that motherly, and wifely, and sisterly love are strongest and brightest when trials, labors, and dangers impend over the loved ones.

We must bear in mind too, that woman and man were possessed of the same convictions and impulses in their heroic enterprise—the sense of duty, the spirit of liberty, the desire to worship God after their own ideas of truth, the desire to possess, though in a wilderness, homes where no one could intrude or call them vassals; and deep down below all this, the instincts, the gifts, and motive power of the most energetic race the world has ever seen—the Anglo-Saxon; thus we come to see how in each band of pioneers and in each household were centered that solid and constant moving force which made each man a hero and each woman a heroine in the struggle with hostile nature, with savage man more cruel than the storm or the wild beasts, with solitude which makes a desert in the soul; with famine, with pestilence, that "wasteth at noon-day,"—a struggle which has finally been victorious over all antagonisms, and has made us what we are in this centennial year of our existence as an independent republic.

Another powerful influence exercised by woman as a pioneer was the influence of religion. The whole nature certainly of the Puritan woman was transfused with a deep, glowing, unwavering religious faith. We picture those wives, mothers, and daughters of the New England pioneers as the saints described by the poet,

"Their eyes are homes of silent prayer."

How the prayers of these good and honorable women were answered events have proved.

Hardly had the Plymouth Colony landed before they were called upon to battle with their first foes—the cold, the wind, and the storms on the bleak New England coast. Famine came next, and finally pestilence. The blast from the sea shook their frail cabins; the frost sealed the earth, and the snow drifted on the pillow of the sick and dying. Five kernels of corn a day were doled out to such as were in health, by those appointed to this duty. Woman's heart was full then, but it kept strong though it swelled to bursting.

Within five months from the landing on the Rock, forty-six men, women, and children, or nearly one-half of the Mayflower's passengers had perished of disease and hardships, and the survivors saw the vessel that brought them sail away to the land of their birth. To the surviving women of that devoted Pilgrim band this departure of the Mayflower must have added a new pang to the grief that was already rending their hearts after the loss of so many dear ones during that fearful winter. As the vessel dropped down Plymouth harbor, they watched it with tearful eyes, and when they could see it no more, they turned calmly back to their heroic labors.

Mrs. Bradford, Rose Standish, and their companions were the original types of women on our American frontier. Nobly, too, were they seconded by the matrons and daughters in the other infant colonies. Who can read the letters of Margaret Winthrop, of the Massachusetts Colony, without recognizing the loving, devoted woman sharing with her noble husband the toils and privations of the wilderness, in order that God's promise might be justified and an empire built on this Western Continent.

In her we have a noble type of the Puritan woman of the seventeenth century, representing, as she did, a numerous class of her sex in the same condition. Reared in luxury, and surrounded by the allurements of the superior social circle in which she moved in her native England, she nevertheless preferred a life of self-denial with her husband on the bleak shores where the Puritans were struggling for existence. She had fully prepared her mind for the heroic undertaking. She did not overlook the trials, discouragements, and difficulties of the course she was about to take. For years she had been habituated to look forward to it as one of the eventualities of her life. She was now beyond the age of romance, and cherished no golden dreams of earthly happiness to be realized in that far-off western clime.

Two traits are most prominent in her letters: her religious faith, and her love for and trust in her husband. She placed a high estimate on the wisdom, the energy, and the talents of her husband, and felt that he could best serve God and man by helping to lay broad and deep the foundations of a new State, and to secure the present and future prosperity, both temporal and spiritual, of the colony. With admiration and esteem she blended the ardent but balanced fondness of the loving wife and the sedate matron. In no less degree do her letters show the power and attractiveness of genuine religion. The sanctity of conjugal affection tallies with and is hallowed by the Spirit of Grace. The sense of duty is harmoniously mingled with the impulses of the heart. That religion was the dominant principle of thought and action with Margaret Winthrop, no one can doubt who reflects how severely it was tested in the trying enterprise of her life. A sincere, deep, and healthful piety formed in her a spring of energy to great and noble actions.

There are glimpses in the correspondence between her and her husband of a kind of prophetic vision, that the planting of that colony was the laying of one of the foundation-stones of a great empire. May we not suppose that by the contemplation of such a vision she was buoyed up and soothed amid the many trials and privations, perils and uncertainties that surrounded her in that rugged colonial life.

The influence of Puritanism to inspire with unconquerable principle, to infuse public spirit, to purify the character from frivolity and feebleness, to lift the soul to an all-enduring heroism and to exalt it to a lofty standard of Christian excellence, is grandly illustrated by the life of Margaret Winthrop, one of the pioneer-matrons of the Massachusetts colony.

The narrations which we set forth in this book must of course be largely concerning families and individuals. The outposts of the advancing army of settlement were most exposed to the dangers and hardships of frontier life. Every town or village, as soon as it was settled, became a garrison against attack and a mutual Benefit-Aid-Society, leagued together against every enemy that threatened the infant settlement; it was also a place of refuge for the bolder pioneers who had pushed farther out into the forest.

But as time rolled on many of these more adventurous settlers found themselves isolated from the villages and stockades. Every hostile influence they had to meet alone and unaided. Cold and storm, fire and flood, hunger and sickness, savage man and savage beast, these were the foes with which they had to contend. The battle was going on all the time while the pioneer and his wife were subjugating the forest, breaking the soil, and gaining shelter and food for themselves and their children.

It is easy to see what were the added pains, privations, and hardships of such a situation to the mind and heart of woman, craving, as she does, companionship and sympathy from her own sex. It is a consoling reflection to us who are reaping the fruits of her self-sacrifice that the very multiplicity of her toils and cares gave her less time for brooding over her hard and lonely lot, and that she found in her religious faith and hope a constant fountain of comfort and joy.

One of the greatest hardships endured by the first settlers in New England was the rigorous and changeable climate, which bore most severely, of course, on the weaker sex. This makes the fortitude of Mrs. Shute all the more admirable. Her story is only one of innumerable instances in early colonial life where wives were the preservers of their husbands.

In the spring of 1676, James Shute, with his wife and two small children, set out from Dorchester for the purpose of settling themselves on a tract of land in the southern part of what is now New Hampshire, but which then was an unbroken forest. The tract where they purposed making their home was a meadow on a small affluent of the Connecticut.

Taking their household goods and farming tools in an ox-cart drawn by four oxen and driving two cows before them, they reached their destination after a toilsome journey of ten days. The summer was spent in building their cabin, and outhouses, planting and tending the crop of Indian corn which was to be their winter's food, and in cutting the coarse meadow-grass for hay.

Late in October they found themselves destitute of many articles which even in those days of primitive housewifery and husbandry, were considered of prime necessity. Accordingly, the husband started on foot for a small trading-post on the Connecticut River, about ten miles distant, at which point he expected to find some trading shallop or skiff to take him to Springfield, thirty-eight miles further south. The weather was fine and at nightfall Shute had reached the river, and before sunrise the next morning was floating down the stream on an Indian trader's skiff.

Within two days he made his purchases, and hiring a skiff rowed slowly up the river against the sluggish current on his return. In twelve hours he reached the trading-post. It was now late in the evening. The sky had been lowering all day, and by dusk it began to snow. Disregarding the admonitions of the traders, he left his goods under their care and struck out boldly through the forest over the trail by which he came, trusting to be able to find his way, as the moon had risen, and the clouds seemed to be breaking. The trail lay along the stream on which his farm was situated, and four hours at an easy gait would, he thought, bring him home.

The snow when he started from the river was already nearly a foot deep, and before he had proceeded a mile on his way the storm redoubled in violence, and the snow fell faster and faster. At midnight he had only made five miles, and the snow was two feet deep. After trying in vain to kindle a fire by the aid of flint and steel, he prayed fervently to God, and resuming his journey struggled slowly on through the storm. It had been agreed between his wife and himself that on the evening of this day on which he told her he should return, he would kindle a fire on a knoll about two miles from his cabin as a beacon to assure his wife of his safety and announce his approach.

Suddenly he saw a glare in the sky.

During his absence his wife had tended the cattle, milked the cows, cut the firewood, and fed the children. When night came she barricaded the door, and saying a prayer, folded her little ones in her arms and lay down to rest. Three suns had risen and set since she saw her husband with gun on his shoulder disappear through the clearing into the dense undergrowth which fringed the bank of the stream, and when the appointed evening came, she seated herself at the narrow window, or, more properly, opening in the logs of which the cabin was built, and watched for the beacon which her husband was to kindle. She looked through the falling snow but could see no light. Little drifts sifted through the chinks in the roof upon the bed where her children lay asleep; the night grew darker, and now and then the howling of the wolves could be heard from the woods to the north.

Seven o'clock struck—eight—nine—by the old Dutch clock which ticked in the corner. Then her woman's instinct told her that her husband must have started and been overtaken by the storm. If she could reach the knoll and kindle the fire it would light him on his way. She quickly collected a small bundle of dry wood in her apron and taking flint, steel, and tinder, started for the knoll. In an hour, after a toilsome march, floundering through the snow, she reached the spot. A large pile of dry wood had already been collected by her husband and was ready for lighting, and in a few moments the heroic woman was warming her shivering limbs before a fire which blazed far up through the crackling branches and lighted the forest around it.

For more than two hours the devoted woman watched beside the fire, straining her eyes into the gloom and catching every sound. Wading through the snow she brought branches and logs to replenish the flames. At last her patience was rewarded: she heard a cry, to which she responded. It was the voice of her husband which she heard, shouting. In a few moments he came up staggering through the drifts, and fell exhausted before the fire. The snow soon ceased to fall, and after resting till morning, the rescued pioneer and his brave wife returned in safety to their cabin.

[Illustration: LOST IN A SNOW STORM]

Mrs. Frank Noble, in 1664, proved herself worthy of her surname. She and her husband, with four small children, had established themselves in a log-cabin eight miles from a settlement in New Hampshire, and now known as the town of Dover.

Their crops having turned out poorly that autumn, they were constrained to put themselves on short allowance, owing to the depth of the snow and the distance from the settlement. As long as Mr. Noble was well, he was able to procure game and kept their larder tolerably well stocked. But in mid-winter, being naturally of a delicate habit of body, he sickened, and in two weeks, in spite of the nursing and tireless care of his devoted wife, he died. The snow was six feet deep, and only a peck of musty corn and a bushel of potatoes were left as their winter supply. The fuel also was short, and most of the time Mrs. Noble could only keep herself and her children warm by huddling in the bedclothes on bundles of straw, in the loft which served them for a sleeping room. Below lay the corpse of Mr. Noble, frozen stiff. Famine and death stared them in the face. Two weeks passed and the supply of provisions was half gone. The heroic woman had tried to eke out her slender store, but the cries of her children were so piteous with hunger that while she denied herself, she gave her own portion to her babes, lulled them to sleep, and then sent up her petitions to Him who keeps the widow and the fatherless. She prayed, we may suppose, from her heart, for deliverance from her sore straits for food, for warmth, for the spring to come and the snow to melt, so that she might lay away the remains of her husband beneath the sod of the little clearing.

Every morning when she awoke, she looked out from the window of the loft. Nothing was to be seen but the white surface of the snow stretching away into the forest. One day the sun shone down warmly on the snow and melted its surface, and the next morning there was a crust which would bear her weight. She stepped out upon it and looked around her. She would then have walked eight miles to the settlement but she was worn out with anxiety and watching, and was weak from want of food. As she gazed wistfully toward the east, her ears caught the sound of a crashing among the boughs of the forest. She looked toward the spot from which it came and saw a dark object floundering in the snow. Looking more closely she saw it was a moose, with its horns entangled in the branches of a hemlock and buried to its flanks in the snow.

Hastening back to the cabin she seized her husband's gun, and loading it with buckshot, hurried out and killed the monstrous brute. Skilled in woodcraft, like most pioneer women, she skinned the animal and cutting it up bore the pieces to the cabin. Her first thought then was of her children, and after she had given them a hearty meal of the tender moose-flesh she partook of it herself, and then, refreshed and strengthened, she took the axe and cut a fresh supply of fuel. During the day a party came out from the settlement and supplied the wants of the stricken household. The body of the dead husband was borne to the settlement and laid in the graveyard beneath the snow.

Nothing daunted by this terrible experience, this heroic woman kept her frontier cabin and, with friendly aid from the settlers, continued to till her farm. In ten years, when her oldest boy had become a man, he and his brothers tilled two hundred acres of meadow land, most of it redeemed from the wilderness by the skill, strength, and industry of their noble mother.

The spring season must have been to the early settlers, particularly to the women, even more trying than the winter. In the latter season, except after extraordinary falls of snow, transit from place to place was made by means of sledges over the snow or on ox-carts over the frozen ground. Traveling could also be done across or up and down rivers on the ice, and as bridges were rare in those days the crossing of rivers on the ice was much to be preferred to fording them in other seasons of the year. Fuel too was more easily obtained in the winter than in the spring, and as roads were generally little more than passage-ways or cow-paths through the meadows or the woods, the depth of the mud was often such as to form a barrier to the locomotion of the heavy vehicles of the period or even to prevent travel on horseback or on foot.

Other dangers and hardships in the spring of the year were the freshets and floods to which the river dwellers were exposed. Woman, be it remembered, is naturally as alien to water as a mountain-fowl, which flies over a stream for fear of wetting its feet. We can imagine the discomfort to which a family of women and children were exposed who lived, for example, on the banks of the Connecticut in the olden time. In some seasons families were, as they now are, driven to the upper stories of their houses by the overflow of the river. But it should be remembered that the houses of those days were not the firm, well-built structures of modern times. Sometimes the settler found himself and family floating slowly down stream, cabin and all, borne along by the freshet caused by a sudden thaw: as long as his cabin held together, the family had always hopes of grounding as the flood subsided and saving their lives though with much loss of property, besides the discomfort if not positive danger to which they had been exposed.

But sometimes the flood was so sudden and violent that the cabin would be submerged or break to pieces, and float away, drowning some or all of the family. It might be supposed that the married portion of the pioneers would select other sites than on the borders of a large river subject every year to overflow, but the richness of the alluvial soil on the banks of the Connecticut was so tempting that other considerations were overlooked, and to no part of New England was the tide of emigration turned so strongly as to the Connecticut Valley.

In the year 1643, an adventurous family of eight persons embarked on a shallop from Hartford (to which place they had come shortly before from Watertown, Mass), and sailing or rowing up the river made a landing on a beautiful meadow near the modern town of Hatfield.

The family consisted of Peter Nash and Hannah his wife, David, their son, a youth of seventeen, Deborah and Mehitabel, their two daughters, aged respectively nineteen and fourteen, Mrs. Elizabeth Nash, the mother of Peter, aged sixty-four, and Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Nash. They found the land all ready for ploughing, and after building a spacious cabin and barns, they had nothing to do but to plant and harvest their crops and stock their farm with cattle which they brought from Springfield, driving them up along the river. For four years everything went on prosperously. They harvested large crops, added to their barns, and had a great increase in stock. Although the wolves and wild cats had made an occasional foray in their stock and poultry yard and the spring freshets had made inroads into their finest meadow, their general course had been only one of prosperity.

Their house and barns were built upon a tongue of land where the river made a bend, and were on higher ground than the surrounding meadow, which every spring was submerged by the freshets. Year after year the force of the waters had washed an angle into this tongue of land and threatened some time to break through and leave the houses and barns of the pioneers upon an island. But the inroads of the waters were gradual, and the Nashes flattered themselves that it would be at least two generations before the river would break through.

Mrs. Peter Nash and her daughter were women of almost masculine courage and firmness. They all handled axe and gun as skillfully as the men of the household; they could row a boat, ride horseback, swim, and drag a seine for shad; and Mehitabel, the younger daughter, though only fourteen years old, was already a woman of more than ordinary size and strength. These three women accompanied the men on their hunting and fishing excursions and assisted them in hoeing corn, in felling trees, and dragging home fuel and timber.

The winter of 1647-8 was memorable for the amount of snow that fell, and the spring for its lateness. The sun made some impression on the snow in March, but it was not till early in April that a decided change came in the temperature. One morning the wind shifted to the southwest, the sun was as hot as in June; before night it came on to rain, and, before the following night, nearly the whole vast body of snow had been dissolved into water which had swelled all the streams to an unprecedented height. The streams poured down into the great river, which rose with fearful rapidity, converting all the alluvial meadows into a vast lake.

All this took place so suddenly that the Nash family had scarcely a warning till they found themselves in the midst of perils. When the rain ceased, on the evening of the second day, the water had flooded the surrounding meadows and risen high up into the first story of the house. The force of the current had already torn a channel across the tongue of land on which the house stood and had washed away the barns and live-stock. One of their two boats had been floated off but had struck broadside against a clump of bushes and was kept in its place by the force of the current. The other boat had been fastened by a short rope to a stout sapling, but this latter boat was ten feet under water, held down by the rope.

The water had now risen to the upper story, and the family were driven to the roof. If the house would stand they might yet be saved. It was firmly built but it shook with the force and weight of the waters. If either of the boats could be secured they might reach dry land by rowing out of the current and over the meadows where the water was stiller. The oars of the submerged boat had been floated away, but in the other boat they could be seen from the roof of the house lying safely on the bottom.

It was decided that Jacob Nash should swim out and row the boat up to the house. He was a strong swimmer, and though the water was icy cold it was thought the swift current would soon enable him to reach the skiff which lay only a few rods below the house. Accordingly, he struck boldly out, and in a moment had reached the boat, when he suddenly threw up his hands and sank, the current whirling him out of sight in an instant, amid the shrieks of his young wife, who was then a nursing mother and holding her babe in her arms as her husband went down. Mrs. Nash, the elder, gazed for a moment speechless at the spot where her son had sunk, and then fell upon her knees, the whole family following her example, and prayed fervently to Almighty God for deliverance from their awful danger. Then rising from her kneeling posture, she bade her other son make one more trial to reach the boat.

Peter Nash and his son Daniel then plunged into the water, reached the boat, and took the oars, but the force of the current was such that they could make, by rowing, but little headway against it. The two daughters then leaped into the flood, and in a few strokes reached and entered the boat. By their united force it was brought up and safely moored to the chimney of the cabin. In two trips the family were conveyed to the hillside. Then the brave girls returned and brought away a boat-load of household gear. Not content with that they rowed to the submerged boat, and diving down, cut the rope, baled out the water, and in company with their mother, father, and brother, brought away all the moveables in the upper stories of the house. Their courage appeared to have been rewarded in another way, since the house stood through the flood, and in ten days they were assisting to tear down the house and build another on a hill where the floods never came.

As soldiers fall in battle, so in the struggles and hardships of border life, the delicate frame of woman often succumbs, leaving the partner of her toils to mourn her loss and meet the onset of life alone. Such a loss necessarily implies more than when it occurs in the comfortable homes of refined life, since it removes at once a loving wife, a companion in solitude, and an efficient co-worker in the severe tasks incident to life in frontier settlements. Sometimes the husband's career is broken off when he loses his wife under such circumstances, and he gives up both hope and effort.

About sixty years since, and while the rich prairies of Indiana began to be viewed as the promised land of the adventurous pioneer, among the emigrants who were attracted thither by the golden dreams of happiness and fortune, was a Mr. H., a young man from an eastern city, who came accompanied by his newly married wife, a dark-eyed girl of nineteen. Leaving his bride at one of the westernmost frontier-settlements, he pushed on in search of a favorable location for their new home. Near the present town of LaFayette he found a tract which pleased his eye and promised abundant harvests, and after his wife had been brought to view it and expressed her satisfaction and delight at the happy choice he had made, the site was selected and the house was built.

They moved into their prairie-home in the first flush of summer. Their cabin was built upon a knoll and faced the south. Sitting at the door at eventide they contemplated a prospect of unrivaled beauty. The sun-bright soil remained still in its primeval greatness and magnificence, unchecked by human hands, covered with flowers, protected and watched by the eye of the sun. The days were glorious; the sky of the brightest blue, the sun of the purest gold, and the air full of vitality, but calm; and there, in that brilliant light, stretched itself far, far out into the infinite, as far as the eye could discern, an ocean-like extent, the waves of which were sunflowers, asters, and gentians, nodding and beckoning in the wind, as if inviting millions of beings to the festival set out on the rich table of the earth. Mrs. H. was an impressible woman with poetic tastes, and a strong admiration for the beautiful in nature; and as she gazed upon the glorious expanse her whole face lighted up and glowed with pleasure. Here she thought was the paradise of which she had long dreamed.

As the summer advanced a plenteous harvest promised to reward the labors of her husband. Nature was bounteous and smiling in all her aspects, and the young wife toiled faithfully and patiently to make her rough house a pleasant home for her husband. She had been reared like him amid the luxuries of an eastern city, and her hands had never been trained to work. But the influences of nature around her, and the almost idolatrous love which she cherished for her husband, cheered and sweetened the homely toils of her prairie life.

Eight months sped happily and prosperously away; the winter had been mild, and open, and spring had come with its temperate breezes, telling of another summer of brightness and beauty.

Soon after the middle of April in that year, commenced an extraordinary series of storms. They occurred daily, and sometimes twice a day, accompanied by the most vivid lightning, and awful peals of thunder; the rain poured down in a deluge until it seemed as if another flood was coming to purify the earth. For more than sixty days those terrible scenes recurred, and blighted the whole face of the country for miles around the lonely cabin. The prairies, saturated with moisture, refused any longer to drink up the showers. Every hollow and even the slightest depression became a stagnant pool, and when the rains ceased and the sun came out with the heat of the summer solstice, it engendered pestilence, which rose from the green plain that smiled beneath him, and stalked resistless among the dwellers throughout that vast expanse.

Of all the widely isolated and remote cabins which sent their smoke curling into the dank morning air of the region thereabouts, there was not one in which disease was not already raging with fearful malignity. Doctors or hired nurses there were none; each stricken household was forced to battle single-handed with the destroyer who dealt his blows stealthily, suddenly, and alas! too often, effectually. The news of the dreadful visitation soon reached the family of Mr. H.—and for a period they were in a fearful suspense. They were surrounded by the same malarial influences that had made such havoc among their neighbors, and why should they escape? They were living directly over a noisome cess-pool; their cellar was filled with water which could not be drained away, nor would the saturated earth drink it up. Centuries of vegetable accumulations forming the rich mould in which the cellar was dug, gave out their emanations to the water, and the fiery rays of the sun made the mixture a decoction whose steams were laden with death.

There was no escape unless they abandoned their house, and this they were reluctant to do, hoping that the disease would pass by them. But this was a vain hope; in a few days Mr. H. was prostrated by the fever. Mrs. H. had preserved her courage and energy till now, but her impressible nature began to yield before the onset of this new danger. Her life had been sunny and care-free from a child; her new home had till recently been the realization of her dreams of happiness; but the loss of her husband would destroy at once every fair prospect for the future. All that a loving wife could do as a nurse or watcher or doctress, was done by her, but long before her husband had turned the sharp corner between death and life, Mrs. H. was attacked and both lay helpless, dependent upon the care of their only hired man. Neighbors whose hearts had been made tender and sympathetic by their own bereavements, came from their far-off cabins and for several weeks watched beside their bedside. The attack of the wife commenced with a fever which continued till after the birth of her child. For three days longer she lingered in pain, sinking slowly till the last great change came, and Mr. H., now convalescent, saw her eyes closed for ever.

The first time he left the house was to follow the remains of his wife and child to their last resting place, beneath an arbor of boughs which her own hands had tended. We cannot describe the grief of that bereaved husband. His very appearance was that of one who had emerged from the tomb. Sickness had blanched his dark face to a ghastly hue, and drawn great furrows in his cheeks, which were immovable, and as if chiseled in granite. During his sickness he had seen little of her before she was stricken down, for his mind was clouded. When the light of reason dawned he was faintly conscious that she lay near him suffering, first from the fever, and then from woman's greatest pain and trial, but that he was unable to soothe and comfort her; and finally that her last hours were hours of intense agony, which he could not alleviate. He was as one in a trance; a confused consciousness of his terrible loss slowly took possession of him. When at length his weakened intellect comprehended the truth with all its sad surrounding, a great cloud of desolation settled down over his whole life.

That cloud, sad to say, never lifted. As he stood by the open grave, he lifted the lid, gazed long and intently on that sweet pale face, bent and kissed the marble brow, and as the mother and child were lowered into the grave, he turned away a broken-hearted man.

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