Beechenbrook Part 1

Web Novel Beechenbrook Part 1. If you are looking for Beechenbrook Part 1 you are coming to the right place.
Beechenbrook is a Webnovel created by Margaret Junkin Preston.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

Beechenbrook.

by Margaret J. Preston.

I.

There is sorrow in Beechenbrook Cottage; the day Has been bright with the earliest glory of May; The blue of the sky is as tender a blue As ever the sunshine came shimmering through: The songs of the birds and the hum of the bees, As they merrily dart in and out of the trees,– The blooms of the orchard, as sifting its snows, It mingles its odors with hawthorn and rose,– The voice of the brook, as it lapses unseen,– The laughter of children at play on the green,– Insist on a picture so cheerful, so fair, Who ever would dream that a grief could be there!

The last yellow sunbeam slides down from the wall, The purple of evening is ready to fall; The gladness of daylight is gone, and the gloom Of something like sadness is over the room.

Right bravely all day, with a smile on her brow, Has Alice been true to her duty,–but now Her tasks are all ended,–naught inside or out, For the thoughtfullest love to be busy about; The knapsack well furnished, the canteen all bright, The soldier’s grey dress and his gauntlets in sight, The blanket tight strapped, and the haversack stored, And lying beside them, the cap and the sword; No last, little office,–no further commands,– No service to steady the tremulous hands; All wife-work,–the sweet work that busied her so, Is finished:–the dear one is ready to go.

Not a sob has escaped her all day,–not a moan; But now the tide rushes,–for she is alone.

On the fresh, shining knapsack she pillows her head, And weeps as a mourner might weep for the dead.

She heeds not the three-year old baby at play, As donning the cap, on the carpet he lay; Till she feels on her forehead, his fingers’ soft tips, And on her shut eyelids, the touch of his lips.

“Mamma is _so_ sorry!–Mamma is _so_ sad!

But Archie can make her look up and be glad: I’ve been praying to G.o.d, as you told me to do, That Papa may come back when the battle is thro’:– He says when we pray, that our prayers shall be heard; And Mamma, don’t you _always_ know, G.o.d keeps his word?”

Around the young comforter stealthily press The arms of his father with sudden caress; Then fast to his heart,–love and duty at strife,– He s.n.a.t.c.hes with fondest emotion, his wife.

“My own love! my precious!–I feel I am strong; I know I am brave in opposing the wrong; I could stand where the battle was fiercest, nor feel One quiver of nerve at the flash of the steel; I could gaze on the enemy guiltless of fears, But I quail at the sight of your pa.s.sionate tears: My calmness forsakes me,–my thoughts are a-whirl, And the stout-hearted man is as weak as a girl.

I’ve been proud of your fort.i.tude; never a trace Of yielding, all day, could I read in your face; But a look that was resolute, dauntless and high, As ever flashed forth from a patriot’s eye.

I know how you cling to me,–know that to part Is tearing the tenderest cords of your heart: Through the length and the breadth of our Valley to-day, No hand will a costlier sacrifice lay On the altar of Country; and Alice,–sweet wife!

I never have worshipped you so in my life!

Poor heart,–that has held up so brave in the past,– Poor heart! must it break with its burden at last?”

The arms thrown about him, but tighten their hold, The cheek that he kisses, is ashy and cold, And bowed with the grief she so long has suppressed, She weeps herself quiet and calm on his breast.

At length, in a voice just as steady and clear As if it had never been choked by a tear, She raises her eyes with a softened control, And through them her husband looks into her soul.

“I feel that we each for the other could die; Your heart to my own makes the instant reply: But dear as you are, Love,–my life and my light,– I would not consent to your stay, if I might: No!–arm for the conflict, and on, with the rest; Virginia has need of her bravest and best!

My heart–it must bleed, and my cheek will be wet, Yet never, believe me, with selfish regret: My ardor abates not one jot of its glow, Though the tears of the wife and the woman _will_ flow.

“Our cause is so holy, so just, and so true,– Thank G.o.d! I can give a defender like you!

For home, and for children,–for freedoms–for bread,– For the house of our G.o.d,–for the graves of our dead,– For leave to exist on the soil of our birth,– For everything manhood holds dearest on earth: When _these_ are the things that we fight for–dare I Hold back my best treasure, with plaint or with sigh?

My cheek would blush crimson,–my spirit be galled, If _he_ were not there when the muster was called!

When we pleaded for peace, every right was denied; Every pressing pet.i.tion turned proudly aside; Now G.o.d judge betwixt us!–G.o.d prosper the right!

To brave men there’s nothing remains, but to fight: I grudge you not, Dougla.s.s,–die, rather than yield,– And like the old heroes,–come home on your shield!”

The morning is breaking:–the flush of the dawn Is warning the soldier, ‘tis time to be gone; The children around him expectantly wait,– His horse, all caparisoned, paws at the gate: With face strangely pallid,–no sobbings,–no sighs,– But only a luminous mist in her eyes, His wife is subduing the heart-throbs that swell, And calming herself for a quiet farewell.

There falls a felt silence:–the note of a bird, A tremulous twitter,–is all that is heard; The circle has knelt by the holly-bush there,– And listen,–there comes the low breathing of prayer.

“Father! fold thine arms of pity Round us as we lowly bow; Never have we kneeled before Thee With such burden’d hearts as now!

Joy has been our constant portion, And if ill must now befall, With a filial acquiescence, We would thank thee for it all.

In the path of present duty, With Thy hand to lean upon, Questioning not the hidden future, May we walk serenely on.

For this holy, happy home-love, Purest bliss that crowns my life,– For these tender, trusting children,– For this fondest, faithful wife,–

Here I pour my full thanksgiving; And, when heart is torn from heart, Be our sweetest tryst-word, ‘_Mizpah_,’– Watch betwixt us while we part!

And if never round this altar, We should kneel as heretofore,– If these arms in benediction Fold my precious ones no more,–

Thou, who in her direst anguish, Sooth’dst thy mother’s lonely lot, In thy still unchanged compa.s.sion, Son of Man! forsake them not!”

The little ones each he has caught to his breast, And clasped them, and kissed them with fervent caress; Then wordless and tearless, with hearts running o’er, _They_ part who have never been parted before: He springs to his saddle,–the rein is drawn tight,– And Beechenbrook Cottage is lost to his sight.

II.

The feathery foliage has broadened its leaves, And June, with its beautiful mornings and eves, Its magical atmosphere, breezes and blooms, Its woods all delicious with thousand perfumes,– First-born of the Summer,–spoiled pet of the year,– June, delicate queen of the seasons, is here!

The sadness has pa.s.sed from the dwelling away, And quiet serenity brightens the day: With innocent prattle, her toils to beguile, In the midst of her children, the mother _must_ smile.

With matronly cares,–those relentless demands On the strength of her heart and the skill of her hands,– The hours come tenderly, ceaselessly fraught, And leave her small s.p.a.ce for the broodings of thought.

Thank G.o.d!–busy fingers a solace can find, To lighten the burden of body or mind; And Eden’s old curse proves a blessing instead,– “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou toil for thy bread.”

For the bless’d relief in all labours that lurk, Aye, thank Him, unhappy ones,–thank Him for work!

Thus Alice engages her thoughts and her powers, And industry kindly lends wings to the hours: Poor, petty employments they sometimes appear, And on her bright needle there plashes a tear,– Half shame and half pa.s.sion;–what would she not dare Her fervid compatriots’ struggles to share?

It irks her,–the weakness of womanhood then,– Yet such are the tears that make heroes of men!

She feels the hot blood of the nation beat high; With rapture she catches the rallying cry: From mountain and valley and hamlet they come!

On every side echoes the roll of the drum.

A people as firm, as united, as bold, As ever drew blade for the blessings they hold, Step sternly and solemnly forth in their might, And swear on their altars to die for the right!

The clangor of muskets,–the flashing of steel,– The clatter of spurs on the stout-booted heel,– The waving of banners,–the resonant tramp Of marching battalions,–the fiery stamp Of steeds in their war-harness, newly decked out,– The blast of the bugle,–the hurry, the shout,– The terrible energy, eager and wild, That lights up the face of man, woman and child,– That burns on all lips, that arouses all powers; Did ever we dream that such times would be ours?

One thought is absorbing, with giant control,– With deadliest earnest, the national soul:– “The right of self-government, crown of our pride,– Right, bought with the sacredest blood,–is denied!

Shall we tamely resign what our enemy craves?

No! martyrs we _may_ be!–we _cannot_ be slaves!”

Fair women who naught but indulgence have seen, Who never have learned what denial could mean,–

Who deign not to clipper their own dainty feet, Whose wants swarthy handmaids stand ready to meet, Whose fingers decline the light kerchief to hem,– What aid in this struggle is hoped for from them?

Yet see! how they haste from their bowers of ease, Their dormant capacities fired,–to seize Every feminine weapon their skill can command,– To labor with head, and with heart, and with hand.

They st.i.tch the rough jacket, they shape the coa.r.s.e shirt, Unheeding though delicate fingers be hurt; They bind the strong haversack, knit the grey glove, Nor falter nor pause in their service of love.

When ever were people subdued, overthrown, With women to cheer them on, brave as our own?

With maidens and mothers at work on their knees, When ever were soldiers as fearless as these?

June’s flower-wreathed sceptre is dropped with a sigh, And forth like an empress steps stately July: She sits all unveiled, amidst sunshine and balms, As Zen.o.bia sat in her City of Palms!

Not yet has the martial horizon grown dun, Not yet has the terrible conflict begun: But the tumult of legions,–the rush and the roar, Break over our borders, like waves on the sh.o.r.e.

Along the Potomac, the confident foe Stands marshalled for onset,–prepared, at a blow, To vanquish the daring rebellion, and fling Utter ruin at once on the arrogant thing!

How sovran the silence that broods o’er the sky, And ushers the twenty-first morn of July; –Date, written in fire on history’s scroll,– –Date, drawn in deep blood-lines on many a soul!

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