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CHAPTER XXVIII.

And what's a life? the flourishing array
Of the proud summer-meadow, which to-day
Wears her green plush, and is to-morrow hay.

QUARLES.

Alas he did come, but not as his mother hoped. When the vessel arrived with the remnant of the Essex crew, released upon parole—and published her list; it bore this item

“Abijah Hopper--wounded—died on the passage, one day from port."

“My mind misgave me so,' his mother said, — I had a feeling in my heart I'd had my last look.' And silence more deep and profound settled down upon the household; Rosalie proving herself, as Mrs. Hopper declared between her bursts of sorrow, “a right down comfort.'

Sorrow had its way but partially, however; Mrs. Hopper no more chose to be overcome by that than by anything else; but the composed face and manner with which she presently went about her ordinary duties, was all the more touching that its deep gravity was now and then tinctured with impatience or even pride. Strong feeling would escape in some direction.

• Get right up off the floor and churn, Jerushy,' she would say to her weeping daughter. "What's the use of acting so ? the world aint going to stand still for you and

me.'

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• Make the bread, Martha?—what upon earth for should you spoil a batch of four ? I've got my hands yet-feet too, --if I haven't got every else.'

. And with the pent-up torrent whirling her in its grasp, she would go round the house and do two women's work at once. But if perchance Rosalie came to seek her—or without seeking came in her way; and she met the sweet look that had known its own sorrow, and felt hers,-Mrs. Hopper gave way at once; and dropping whatever she had in her hand would sit down, and as she expressed it have her cry out'-then and there.

"I aint a bit better than a fool when I come across you,' she said on one of these occasions, when the tears were spent for the time, and she had looked up and saw Rosalie still standing by her. . “It isn't best to keep up always,” said Rosalie gently, and sitting down by her on the stairs.

“Oh my!' said Mrs. Hopper, leaning her head back against the wall—and there was a world of expression in the words. “I have to keep up out there, or that child would drive the life out of me. She feels pretty much as Noah did when the flood come and took all away. She aint used to trouble yet, poor thing—and 'twon't do her no good to get used to this sort. There's no more brothers to lose for her.'

Rosalie almost shivered at the words, and for a moment she did not speak. Then her hand was laid softly upon Mrs. Hopper's. - When the flood came and took all away, those that were in the ark were safe,' she said.

The hands, toil-worn and toil-hardened, closed upon that little white messenger of sympathy ; and Mrs. Hopper leaned her face down upon them, the tears again streaming down her cheeks.

Don't you fret yourself,' she said, looking up after a while. “I'll feel better when he's come and I've done all I can for him. And I've got to see to things afore this day goes over my head. Would you mind going too? It sha'n't be anywhere to hurt you.'

Rosalie readily promised her company.

Then I'll come for you when I'm ready,' said Mrs. Hopper, and we'll slip out o’the front door and down the brook, I don't want Jerushy to go.' And hearing a step she started up and went off.

After dinner as Rosalie sat alone in her room, Mrs. Hopper came softly in, with her sunbonnet held down by her side; and the two went out of the front door and were soon hid in the trees that hung over the dell.

'I sent 'em all off into the garden to look for a hen's nest,' said Mrs. Hopper, as they descended towards the brook, so we've got ten minutes clear, and that's enough. Miss Clyde, you aint one of the folks that's easily frighted, be you?

I never was much tried,' said Rosalie, but I think I may say no.

Some is so 'feerd o' death and all that sort o' thing,' said Mrs. Hopper, 'that they'd only ha' plagued me.' And without further explanation she began to follow the brook in its course, with an air of business determination that seemed a relief to her mind,-bestowing no more words upon Rosalie, but never failing to give her a hand in the difficult places.

It was rough going but beautiful. The large mosscovered stones, dripping with the spray of the brook, stood in and athwart its bed; now turning the course of the bright water, and now shining beneath its rush as through a transparent veil. And at every turn almost, the stream broke into little waterfalls, with their mimic roar and tiny eddies or THE BROOK AND THE MEADOW.

269

foam and mock wrecks—twigs and dry leaves and acorns; and in one or two places a fallen tree had thought to stop the brook,—but the brook leaped it and went its way laughing. Rich ferns grew in the moist earth at the brook edge; and lichens crept over the rocks, and maiden-hair spread forth its delicate leaf. Fall flowers were there too,—gentian and the pretty lady's tress, and the purple gerardia. But Mrs. Hopper went past them or over them without a look, and did not draw bridle' until she reached the foot of the dell and met the yellow light that came streaming in from the open meadow. Then she turned and looked at her companion.

*I do believe I've run you well nigh off your feet," she said.

O no—I am not tired.'

Hold on a bit further,' said Mrs. Hopper, ''taint far.' And crossing the brook she took the diagonal of the broad meadow through which it wandered ; its banks gay with autumn's embroidery. The summer crop of grass had long been cut, and over the short after-growth tall cardinal flowers reared their scarlet heads, and rich golden rods bowed and bent over the rippling water; and lady's tresses and gentian had followed it from the dell. A flock of sheep were nibbling about the meadow, and as the two intruders came up went bounding off, taking now one bend of the brook and now another in their way. And straight to the further corner of the meadow Mrs. Hopper pursued her course, and over the rail fence which there went angling about as if to stop her. There was an immediate rise in the ground beyond, into a stony and scantily clad hill; along the base of which ran a little footpath. Slowly taking the first steps on this path, Mrs. Hopper turned again and spoke to Rosalie.

We're all but there-see, yonder's the place, and she pointed to a little stone-built habitation, which crouched

humbly at the foot of the hill as if asking shelter. A few slow paces, and then resuming her former rapid gait Mrs. Hopper soon placed herself in front of the little dwelling.

It was a stone-cutter's, and samples and materials of his work lay all about. Door stones-slightly smoothed from their original roughness,-a pile of unappropriated flags, and most conspicuous of all, several tall grave-stones standing on end in a finished or half finished state, and sundry slabs of different coloured marble set apart for the same use. Mrs. Hopper gave one quick glance about, and then passed the house and went to the little work-shed in the rear, guided by regular blows of a mallet and the sharp clink of the chisel.

Good evening, neighbour Stryker.'

The old greyheaded man looked up, and with a little nod of recognition laid down his mallet and pushed back his hat.

"It's done,' he said with another nod. “Come to see it?'

Mrs. Hopper gave silent assent, while her hands nervously untied and tied again her sunbonnet strings.

Mr. Stryker threw down his chisel, and moving leisurely about among the hard companions that surrounded him, leisurely whistling too, the while ; he lifted one and another in examination. i “Here,' he said at length,—this is it.

Rosalie saw the mother's hands clasp each other tightly for a moment—then the clasp was loosed and she went forward, and her friend followed.

It was a plain, dark, grey stone—square and severely simple, with the name and age in plain black letters at the top. Then came a rudely chiselled ship lifted up on a wave of its petrified ocean; no bad emblem of the young lifecurrent so suddenly stayed; and below were these words : :

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