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A Whaleman's Wife

Frank Thomas Bullen

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
The speaker was a young man of twenty or thereabouts, whose loosely jointed frame showed, even under the shapely rig of homespun, consisting of just a shirt and pants, a promise to the observant eye that he would presently develop into a man of massive mould. He lay upon the stubbly ground, his head resting on one arm, looking wistfully up into the face of a girl about his own age. His clean-shaven face wore that keenness of outline so characteristic of the true Yankee blend in which the broad Saxon or Frisian features seem to have been modified by the sharp facial angles of the indigenous owners of the soil. But in the softness of his grey eyes a close observer would have foreseen a well of trouble springing up for their owner on behalf of others. It was the face of the typical burden-bearer. In her face, on the other hand, there were evident manifestations of discontent and weariness of restraint. A healthy, pleasant countenance enough, with dark brown eyes and curling hair, well-shaped nose and short upper lip just spotted with freckles. The eyes looked, however, as if they could harden and grow black upon occasion, while the square chin and firm curve of the shut mouth told a plain tale of self-will. There was just a touch of petulance in the quick movement of her head as she replied: ‘You’re so exactin’, Rube. An’ surely you wouldn’t want me to be a hypocrite an’ gush over you when I don’t feel a bit like it. The honest fact is that I like you better than anybody I’ve ever seen, but you know I haven’t seen many people at all; and as for the men folks about here, they’re almost as dull and stupid as the cattle themselves. An’ more than that, Rube, I’m afraid I don’t know what this love is that you seem to be et up with, an’ I’m not going to say I do to please anybody.’ There was silence. Over the wide stretches of newly reaped land not a breath of air was stirring; at evening’s beckoning finger the voices of the day were hushed. It was nearing the gloaming of one of those heavenly days common in Vermont towards the end of harvest, when Nature seems to be contemplating in satisfied peace the result of her summer’s fruitage, and baring her bosom to the mellowing sun for a while, as if to store up warmth against the coming of the fierce blasts of the bitter Northern winter. The smell of the patient earth was sweet, restful in its effect upon the senses, and insensibly moulding impressions upon the mind that would remain through life ineffaceable by any subsequent experiences, and assert themselves in after-years by vivid reproductions of the present scene. Yet the calm beauty of their surroundings had upon each of the two young people an almost entirely opposite effect. He was permeated with a serene sense of satisfaction with life in all its details but one—if only he could be certain that Priscilla loved him! Born and bred upon the typical Green Mountain farm, educated up to the simple standard of the village school, and utterly unacquainted with the seething world beyond his horizon, he was as nearly happy as it is good for man to be in this stage of his existence. His parents, although, like himself, New Englanders born and bred, had somehow escaped from the soul-withering domination of that cruel creed that finds an awful satisfaction in the consignment to eternal fires of all who by one hair’s-breadth should dare to differ from its blindly ignorant conception of theology. Love formed the basis of their faith, and their ideas of an immanent God were mainly derived from the parable of the Prodigal Son.