Cannel half rose from his seat, and whispered hoarsely, "Strike up a tune, Paul." All the congregation saw him. Paul made no movement, but sat perfectly still, not even looking towards Mr. Cannel. Deacon Hardhack saw what Mr. Cannel was up to, and resolved to head him off. He rose from his seat, and said aloud, "Brother Quaver, will you pitch a tune?" Again, as in other days, Mr.
But now oh, hope! here were three young men, good-looking, rich, and if the other two were fit companions for the well-born and bred Nathan all safe custodians for tender hearts. Few girls were there in Hardhack who did not determine, in their innermost hearts, to strive as hard as Yankee wit and maiden modesty would allow for one of those tempting prizes. Nor were they unaided.
"After what has happened, it is expedient that you should leave the choir till your innocence is established," said Deacon Hardhack, who was chairman of the singing committee, a good, well-meaning man, who was very zealous for maintaining what he considered to be the faith once delivered to the saints. He carried on an iron foundery, and people sometimes called him a cast-iron man.
But all this excitement was as nothing compared with the tumult which agitated the tender hearts of the maidens at Hardhack.
Surplice in his prayer gave thanks that the peace and harmony of the congregation was restored, and that the wicked one had not been permitted to rule. When he said that, Mr. Cannel wondered if he had reference to Deacon Hardhack. Everybody rejoiced that the matter was settled, even Miss Dobb, who did not care to have all the old things brought up.
One afternoon, when the pious matrons of Hardhack were gathering at the pastor's residence to take part in the regular weekly mothers' prayer-meeting, the mail-coach rolled into town, and Mrs. Leekins, who was sitting by the window, as she always did, exclaimed: "He's come back there he is on the seat with the driver!" Every one hurried to the window, and saw that Mrs.
Beyond the pine woods, in the patch of sunny road bordered by dust-covered hardhack and elder, she paused for a moment, to dash the tears from her eyes. There in the open day she felt as if some prying glance might read her grief. The woods were kinder to it. Sabrina's house was at the first turning, a gray, weather-beaten dwelling of mellow tones, set within a generous sweep of green.
"It would be a desecration of the sanctuary, and we should be the aiders and abettors of sin and iniquity, if we allowed a fellow who has been accused of stealing to lead the singing," said Deacon Hardhack to Mr. Cannel. "Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone," was Mr. Cannel's reply, and he felt that he had given the Deacon a good hit.
The venerable Deacon Twinkham, the oldest inhabitant, said there had not been such an excitement at Hardhack since the meeting-house steeple blew down in a terrible equinoctial, forty-seven years before. And who could wonder?
But when they did talk they slipped into the naive intimacy of college days. Once they drew their canoe up to the bank of Sunasquam Water, a stream walled in by the dense green of the hardhack. The sun roared on the green jungle but in the shade was sleepy peace, and the water was golden and rippling.