Family Pride Or, Purified by Suffering
THE FARMHOUSE AT SILVERTON.
Uncle Ephraim Barlow, deacon of the orthodox church in Silverton, Massachusetts, was an old-fashioned man, clinging to the old-time customs of his fathers, and looking with but little toleration upon what he termed the "new-fangled notions" of the present generation. Born and reared amid the rocks and hills of the Bay State, his nature partook largely of the nature of his surroundings, and he grew into manhood with many a rough point adhering to his character, which, nevertheless, taken as a whole, was, like the wild New England scenery, beautiful and grand. None knew Uncle Ephraim Barlow but to respect him, and at the church where he was a worshiper few would have been missed more than the tall, muscular man, with the long, white hair, who Sunday after Sunday walked slowly up the middle aisle to his accustomed seat before the altar, and who regularly passed the contribution box, bowing involuntarily in token of approbation when a neighbor's gift was larger than its wont, and gravely dropping in his own ten cents—never more, never less—always ten cents—his weekly offering, which he knew amounted in a year to just five dollars and twenty cents. And still Uncle Ephraim was not stingy, as the Silverton poor could testify, for many a load of wood and bag of meal found entrance to the doors where cold and hunger would have otherwise been, while to his minister he was literally a holder up of the weary hands, and a comforter in the time of trouble.
His helpmeet, Aunt Hannah, like that virtuous woman mentioned in the Bible, was one "who seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands, who riseth while yet it is night, and giveth meat to her household." Indeed, for this last stirring trait Aunt Hannah was rather famous, especially on Monday mornings, when her washing was invariably swinging on the line ready to greet the rising sun.
Miss Betsy Barlow, too, the deacon's maiden sister, was a character in her way, and was surely not one of those vain, frivolous females to whom the Apostle Paul had reference when he condemned the plaiting of hair and the wearing of gold and jewels. Quaint, queer and simple-hearted, she had but little idea of any world this side of heaven, except the one bounded by the "huckleberry" hills and the crystal waters of Fairy Pond, which from the back door of the farmhouse were plainly seen, both in the summer sunshine and when the intervening fields were covered with the winter snow.
The home of such a trio was, like themselves, ancient and unpretentious, nearly one hundred years having elapsed since the solid foundation was laid to a portion of the building. Unquestionably, it was the oldest house in Silverton, for on the heavy, oaken door of what was called the back room was still to be seen the mark of a bullet, left there by some marauders who, during the Revolution, had encamped in that neighborhood. George Washington, too, it was said, had once spent a night beneath its roof, the deacon's mother pouring for him her Bohea tea and breaking her home-made bread....