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- Self-Raised - 10/128 -
The gratified parents smiled, for they were proud of Ishmael, and what he would become. But Walter Middleton grinned and said:
"Heaven may know that, Uncle Merlin; but I know one thing!"
"What is that, Jackanapes?"
"I know they may thank Bee for their son-in-law, for she did all the courting!"
The panic-stricken party remained silent for a moment, and then Judge Merlin said:
"Well, sir! I know another thing!"
"And what is that, uncle?"
"That it will be a long time before you find a young lady to do you such an honor!"
Everybody laughed, not at the brilliancy of the joke, for the joke was not brilliant, but because they were happy; and when people are happy they do honor to very indifferent jests.
But Bee turned a ludicrously appalled look upon her lover and whispered:
"Oh, Ishmael! suppose he had known about that little bit of white cambric. He would have said that I had 'thrown the handkerchief' to you! And so I did! it is a dreadful reflection!"
"That handkerchief was a plank thrown to the drowning, Bee. It saved me from being whelmed in the waves of ruin. Oh, dearest, under heaven, you were my salvation!" said Ishmael, with emotion.
"Your comfort, Ishmael--only your comfort. Your own right- mindedness, 'under heaven,' would have saved you."
This was the last and the happiest evening they all spent at the city home together. Early in the morning they separated.
Judge Merlin and his servants started for Tanglewood, and Mr. and Mrs. Middleton and their family for The Beacon, where Ishmael promised as soon as possible to join them. Walter Middleton left for Saratoga. And, last of all, Ishmael locked up the empty house, took charge of the key, and departed to take possession of his new lodgings--alone, but blessed and happy.
Who can describe the sweets of country life But those blest men that do enjoy and taste them? Plain husbandmen, though far below our pitch Of fortune placed, enjoy a wealth above us: They breathe a fresh and uncorrupted air, And in sweet homes enjoy untroubled sleep. Their state is fearless and secure, enriched With several blessings such as greatest kings Might in true justice envy, and themselves Would count too happy if they truly knew them. --_May._
Ishmael was settled in his new apartments on the first floor of a comfortable house on Louisiana Avenue. The front room opening upon the street, and having his name and profession engraved upon a silver plate attached to the door, was his public office; the middle room was his private office; and the back room, which opened upon a pleasant porch leading into the garden, was his bed-chamber.
The house was kept by two sisters, maiden ladies of venerable age, who took no other boarders or lodgers.
So, upon the whole, Ishmael's quarters were very comfortable.
The rapid increase of his business justified him in taking a clerk; and then in a week or two, as he saw this clerk over-tasked, he took a second; both young men who had not been very successful barristers, but who were very good office lawyers.
And Ishmael's affairs went on "swimmingly."
Of course there were hours when he sadly missed the companionship of the congenial family circle with whom he had been so long connected; but Ishmael was not one to murmur over the ordinary troubles of life. He rather made the best of his position and steadily looked on the bright side.
Besides, he maintained a regular correspondence with his friends. That correspondence was the only recreation and solace he allowed himself.
Almost every day he wrote to Bee, and he received answers to every one of his letters--answers full of affection, encouragement, and cheerfulness.
And at least once a week he got letters from Judge Merlin, Mr. Middleton, and Mr. Brudenell, all of whom continued to urge him to pay them visits as soon as his business would permit. Only one more letter he got from Reuben Gray; for letter writing was to poor Reuben a most difficult and dreaded task; and this one was merely to say that they should expect Ishmael down soon.
From Judge Merlin's letters it appeared that Lord and Lady Vincent had extended their tour into Canada East, and were now in the neighborhood of the "Thousand Isles," but that they expected to visit the judge at Tanglewood some time during the autumn; after which they intended to sail for Europe.
Ishmael continued to push his business for six or seven weeks, so that it was near the first of September before he found leisure to take a holiday and pay his promised visits.
Two weeks was the utmost length of time he could allow himself. And there were four places that seemed to have equal claims upon his society. Where should he go first? Truly Ishmael was embarrassed with the riches of his friendships.
At Woodside were Hannah and Reuben, who had cared for him in his orphaned infancy, and who really seemed to have the first right to him.
And at Tanglewood Judge Merlin was alone, moping for the want of his lost daughter and needing the consolation of a visit from Ishmael.
At the Beacon was his betrothed bride, who was also anxious to see him.
And finally, at Brudenell Hall was Herman Brudenell; and Herman Brudenell was--his father!
After a little reflection Ishmael's right-mindedness decided in favor of Woodside. Hannah had stood in his mother's place towards him, and to Hannah he would go first.
So, to get there by the shortest route, Ishmael took passage in the little steamer "Errand Boy," that left Georgetown every week for the mouth of the river, stopping at all the intervening landing-places.
Ishmael started on Friday morning and on Saturday afternoon was set ashore at Shelton, whence a pleasant walk of three miles through the forest that bordered the river brought him to Woodside.
Clean and cheerful was the cottage, gleaming whitely forth here and there from its shadowy green foliage and clustering red roses. The cottage and the fence had been repainted, and the gravel walk that led from the wicket-gate to the front door had been trimmed and rolled. And very dainty looked the white, fringed curtains and the green paper blinds at the front windows.
Evidently everything had been brightened up and put into holiday attire to welcome Ishmael.
While his hand was on the latch of the gate he was perceived from within, and the front door flew open and all the family rushed out to receive him--Reuben and Hannah, and the two children and Sally and the dog--the latter was as noisy and sincere in his welcome as any of the human friends, barking round and round the group to express his sympathy and joy and congratulations.
"I telled Hannah how you'd come to us fust; I did! Didn't I, Hannah, my dear?" said Reuben triumphantly, as he shook both Ishmael's hands with an energy worthy of a blacksmith.
"Well, I knew he would too! It didn't need a prophet nor one to rise from the dead to tell us that Ishmael would be true to his old friends," said Hannah, pushing Reuben away and embracing Ishmael with a--
"How do you do, my boy? You look better than I expected to see you after your hard year's work."
"Oh, I am all right, thank you, Aunt Hannah. Coming to see you has set me up!" laughed Ishmael, cordially returning her embrace.
"You, Sally! what are you doing there? grinning like a monkey? Go directly and make the kettle boil, and set the table. And tell that Jim, that's always loafing around you, to make himself useful as well as ornamental, and open them oysters that were brought from Cove Banks to-day. Why don't you go? what are you waiting for?"
"Please 'm, I hav'n't shook hands long o' Marse Ishmael yet," said Sally, showing all her fine ivories.
Ishmael stepped forward and held out his hand, saying, as he kindly shook the girl's fat paw:
"How do you do, Sally? You grow better looking every day! And I have got a pretty coral breastpin in my trunk for you, to make up for that one the shanghai swallowed."
"Oh, Marse Ishmael, you needn't have taken no trouble, not on my account, sir, I am sure; dough I'm thousand times obleege to you,
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