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- The Hero of Hill House - 1/26 -


THE HERO OF HILL HOUSE

BY MABEL HALE

CONTENTS

Home and Mother

The Stricken Home

Austin and His Father

Austin Goes to His Father

Humiliation for Austin

To the Country Again

The Runaway

Wayside Friends

The Captain's Guest

With Uncle John Again

Austin Takes Care of Himself

The Revival

The Young Church-Member

Home Again

The Battle of Two Wills

Seeking New Pasture

To the Hay-Fields

Six Weeks of Haying

Indecision and Restlessness

Mother Hilman's Opinion

Like the Troubled Sea

Planning for Themselves

Austin and Amy

A Shopping-Expedition

Harry Hill

Uncle Philip's Children

The Family Circle Narrows

A Stormy Season

Austin's New Home

The Opinions of Parson Hawley and His Wife

THE HERO OF HILL HOUSE

CHAPTER 1

HOME AND MOTHER

It was the evening of a quiet day in late autumn, and the inmates of the little farm home were gathered safely together around the supper-table. I say the family, but they were not all there. Father's place was vacant, for he had gone to town that afternoon and would not be home till late bedtime. His reason for being late was the great shadow over this otherwise happy home. The children, down to baby Doyle, three years old, knew that when he came, he would be in no condition to be seen in the presence of his children, and that money which was needed badly in his home would have been spent for strong drink.

But all the others were there. Mother sat in her place at the foot of the table, and little Doyle sat at her right hand in his high chair. The others were ranged on both sides of the table, leaving the vacant place at the head. There were eight children in all, the eldest a boy of sixteen, and the youngest little Doyle. The three older children were boys, George and Wilbur, sixteen and fifteen years old, respectively, and Austin, aged thirteen. Then were two girls, Amy and Nell. After them came Harry, a fine little fellow of seven, Lila, a tiny girl of five, and last of all the baby.

Every child was robust and rosy, ready for a hearty meal and all the fun that was to be had. Mother sat as queen, a dear, beloved queen, and the children as they talked back and forth in happy freedom turned to her for reference and sanction in all that was said. There was not one but bowed in adoration at the beautiful mother's feet. And her eyes, how lovingly they rested upon them! And how she seemed to be treasuring them in her heart! This was indeed her kingdom, and she was happy. But of course there was a sadness in her happiness, because her husband and the father of her children was choosing a path that took him out of the family circle. But since such was his choice, she was determined to make it up to her lads and lassies to the best of her ability, and throw her teaching and daily instruction against the influence of their father. She was making this evening pleasant that they might forget the shadow that hung over them.

With supper over and the evening chores done, the family gathered about the fireside, some read, the little ones played, and Mother busied with her sewing. An atmosphere of peace rested upon them, in spite of the shadow that hangs over every home into which the demon drink has entered.

"Doyle, Lila, it is time for little people to be in bed. Harry, you have no lessons, you had better go to bed also," said the mother.

"So soon, Mother? May we not play a little longer?"

"Bedtime now, little man, and run along without waiting for more play."

Three little people trooped off to bed to be tucked in a little later after the good-night kisses and evening prayers. Soon the girls went sleepily off to bed with a good-night kiss. Just Mother and her boys were left, and now was the time for a quiet talk with them. A gentle word from her and the conversation was begun.

Softly she led them on till they were telling her of their doings among the boys, and their plans and hopes. It was only a friendly visit, but into it she put wise counsel as well as thoughtful understanding. They wondered, afterward, if she this evening felt the other shadow which at this time was entirely hidden from their eyes, that she should talk to them so. Perhaps she did. We can not know. But deeper than this was her yearning for her sons just entering manhood. She knew that only a little way at best could she go with them, and then they must choose their own path. She wanted the little time left to be filled with those things that would make their pathway light.

The evening passed, and after a time all were in their beds. Only one low light remained, and that was set to guide the father when he should return.

When the father came, if he had been in condition to notice, he would have seen a bare little room now that the mother was out of it, with signs of poverty everywhere. The old table and worn chairs, bare floors scarred with the tread of little feet, the scant cupboard, the worn shoes by the fire, all told how little the queen of the home had to work with. There was nothing of beauty here but herself and her love.

But Henry Hill did not think any of these thoughts. He was already half asleep, and he crawled into his bed without a word or thought for those whom he should have loved and protected. And in the morning each one of the family secretly thanked God that Father had lain down without disturbing them.

The morning brought another day of busy care for Elizabeth Hill. Her hands were full from morning till night helping, lifting the heavy burdens, and directing the work of the children, in all bearing the responsibility of the family.

Was she happy? Yes, in their love, and in the anticipation of the future of her children, especially her boys just entering manhood. Her thoughts were always with them, and her prayers followed them in all that they did. So much was at stake. Three lives to be made or marred. Three men to bless the world or to curse it. And they had the blight upon them which their father was bringing. Every woman who is a real mother knows that Elizabeth Hill's face was often wet with tears as she contemplated what the future might bring. And happy are the sons who are blessed with such a mother. Her value is untold. The wealth of the world has nothing to compare with her. Yet how often it is taken for granted that she will be as good as she is, and her life made unhappy by the ones for whom she works and prays!

If Elizabeth Hall had known, and if her boys had known, what lay just ahead, perhaps the days would have been made fuller yet of loving counsel and happy association. But the veil was before their faces, and they did not know. Possibly that was best. If the veil were lifted and we knew our future, our hearts might faint within us. It is enough that for each day is given grace for its toils. Elizabeth loved her boys and was giving them the best of herself, and that is all she could have done if she had known.

CHAPTER 2

THE STRICKEN HOME

Henry Hill sat before the fire with his head in his hands and his elbows upon his knees, a picture of utter dejection and sorrow. The house was quiet with an unearthly quietness, those who were compelled to speak using the lowest tones, and tiptoeing about. The little ones, Doyle, Lila, and Harry, were not at home. Amy and Nell were silently, tearfully, trying to wash the few dishes that had been used at the almost untouched breakfast. The boys were attending to the morning chores, with faces as solemn and hearts as heavy as each could carry. A neighbor woman, kind, sympathetic, and busy, but with the same sadness pictured upon her face, kept coming and going between the bedroom and the room in which Mr. Hill sat.


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