Imágenes de página


"Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,

From wand'ring on a foreign strand !" In one of those fine grazing towns in the Granite State, where all live well and most work hard, there then resided a grave and solemn personage, a farmer and tanner, by the name of Zechariah Gilman. He was of staid manners and inflexible muscle. He had read the Scriptures with assiduity, and also many of Cotton Mather's sermons. His library consisted of a few commentaries on the Bible, Flavel's Works, Pilgrim's Progress, and a Geography, with Fox's Lives of the Martyrs, and probably Bailey's Dictionary. His method of reasoning was to commence with doubting every thing, but his own expla. nation of God's secret will, together with his own exposi. tion of predestination and foreknowledge. The benevolence of Deity was a subject he never touched on, but delighted to dwell upon the hatred of God to sinners. When some bigot made close calculations of the number that would be saved, and sifted them to a very small portion of the human race, it was refreshing to his soul to find a preacher of such doctrine. He astonished many by his apparent deep metaphysical reasoning; but when his argu

ments were fairly examined, it was discovered that he rea. soned in a vicious circle, and, like a horse in a cider-mill, followed blindly in his own track. His morals were legally correct, for he did nothing that the law could reach; but his heart was harder than the nether mill-stone, and charity was not in his catalogue of virtues. He had trained his dogs to keep off vagrants. He was sometimes induced to let out small sums to poor laborers in the winter season, taking a due-bill for work when the days were long in the summer; and wo betide the delinquent who did not come at his bidding; on a day's delay he would find a sheriff in possession of his body. In this way he became a wealthy man, for a farmer, and was promoted in the church to a deaconcy, and was said to have read the psalm in a blessed tone. In the neighborhood, which always extends a mile or two in a thinly settled place, there was an old sea captain, who had become sick of the billows, and changed them to furrows. His hand was always open to the needy, and he protected the oppressed with unflinching bravery. These men were magistrates. If a young trespasser on a plumb garden, or a water-mellon bed, was brought before Justice Gilman, he was sure to be punished to the extent of the law; but if brought before Justice Newman, the affair was, nine times out of ten, settled without a judgment, in an amicable way, and the culprit dismissed with good advice, and he was seldom troubled with a second offence. Both these men had sons, who for a while were at the same town-school ; and when Capt. Newman's sons went to college or to the seas, he treated the young

Gilman's with great kindness, and furnished them with books from a good library which he had collected in his seafaring days, and assisted the second son to obtain a little knowledge of surveying and navigation. This was a fine, tall lad, athletic, and full of life, and took the lead, in school and out of it, of all the boys of his age.

In the month of June, 1805, on a Saturday night, there came up a tremendous thunder storm; the whole heavens were in a constant blaze for several hours; many people were sadly alarmed. The lightning struck in several places in the town. Many cattle and sheep were killed; and a house, belonging to a widow, was burnt to the ground. On the following Sunday, after the evening ser. vices had closed, several parishioners met, and agreed at once to assist the widow in rebuilding her house. Some were ready to give their labor ; others, materials for building. Some had timber, others had lime, bricks, or nails; and strange as it may seem to those who know nothing of the spontaneous benevolence of a primitive people, before the next Monday's sun had gone down, a comfortable house was ready for the reception of the sufferers. The workmen and contributors were in high spirits at their rapid progress, when it was made known to them that one of the widow's children was nearly struck blind by the flash of lightning that destroyed the house. A competent sum was instantly raised, to send the child to an eminent oculist, about twenty miles off. William Hutchins Gilman had subscribed his day's work; this he had a right to do, by the customs of farmers, having gained about ten days to

himself by over-work, and of course his father could not have any thing to say against it. When the sum was to be made up for the child, he had a half dollar in his pocket; he unhesitatingly gave all he had about him. By some one who had come home earlier than William, his father had been made acquainted with this act of generosity, and began to lecture him as soon as he got into the housė; telling him that he would and ought to be a beggar, if he went on in this course. The boy defended his conduct in very mild terms, but in the true spirit of that indepen . dence which is born with that people. “What advantage,” said he to his father, " is it to me to earn money in hours stolen from sleep, if I cannot use it in an honest way, as I please. If I had wasted my money in a tavern, or gambling room, you would have had a right to complain; but as I have given it in charity, I do not concede your right to complain.” The old churl found he had no rea. son to offer, and, as most men do in such cases, flew into a violent passion, and seizing a horse-whip which hung behind the door, made a blow at his son, who catching the handle of the whip, instantly drew it from the assailant, and breaking it across his knee, was making his way to the door, with the lash in his hand on a small piece of the handle, when his father attempted to strike him with his clenched fist; but he parried the blow, and darted from his presence like a deer. The incensed father, seizing the kitchen tongs, attempted in vain to reach him. Every in. mate of the house fled at once, and the pious officer of the church was left alone in his glory. Tho boy at once made

his way to his friend Newman's, who was in bed, but instantly arose and opened his hospitable door, for the relief of his young friend, -that door which never turned on its hinges to shut out those who came for succor or kindness. The story was soon told; and the young man's determination to leave the state, if not approved of, was not strenuously opposed. He was furnished with some short letters of introduction to several master mariners on the sea. board, and with some money to bear his expenses; and as they were considering the difficulty about clothes, William's elder brother, John, came to the house with a bundle of clothes. When all was in readiness, the old gentleman called up one of his men, ordered him to put a horse in the wagon, and take William across the country to meet the mail route. They shook hands-breathed a farewell,and before the sun had gilded his native hills, he was on his way to seek his fortune. His father preserved a dogged silence on the subject, and but few dared even allude to the event. Many a year rolled on, and no tidings from William ever came to the people of the neighborhood, or none that could be relied upon. Sometimes it was rumored that he had enlisted as a soldier, and had gone to the western country, and there had been killed by the Indians; and some went so far as to give a minute account of his tortures and sufferings, as they roasted him alive; then there was another rumor, that he had turned pirate, and being taken, was hanged in the West Indies. Captain Newman seemed always to turn a deaf ear to these stories;

« AnteriorContinuar »