The First Wedding and the First Funeral Page 2
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All the men, women and children, for many miles around, were there — a tearful group. Four of the strongest men carried the coffin on their broad shoulders, from the cabin to the stream, when it was placed in a canoe and taken across to the other bank, until the little procession was brought over.
Without knowing the direct way, they passed on slowly, over hills and through; ravines and swamps, and patches of wild briars I and thickets, until the mound of dark earth was before them. Then the fathers and brothers took the curious little wonderers from off their shoulders, and the weary mothers, to rest their arms, stood their babes upon their feet, and the stalwart men wiped the great drops from their bronzed faces as they gently placed the coffin among the trampled violets and withered leaves. The flit lid, fastened not by hinge or screw, was removed, and the bereft widow sank on her knees and bent her head on the pulseless breast, while a wail, piteous, as though wrung from a heart broken and hopeless, and weary of life, pierced every sympathizing breast present. Oh! how they sorrowed over that lost one by that first yawning grave in the wilderness! It was the first sorrow of the emigrant band. Little Abe Bond, the baby boy, with but one garment on, a coarse, tow shirt, without hat, coat, pants or shoes, and the blood trickling down his legs, scratched by brush and briars, his little heart filled to bursting, cried: "Oh, if it was my pa!"' and fell fainting through excess of grief.
The lid was nailed down, sadly and tearfully, the brown earth was replaced, the sod carefully laid on, and then they knelt around that hallowed grave, and prayed as does the full heart in the dark hour of chastening affliction.
Time, the unsleeping one, with the mighty hand, has drawn aside one heavy fold of the curtain that hid the mysteries of the years to come, when the warm-hearted band were grouped about the first grave in the wilderness: and we look upon the hidden things made plain. The same arch of blue sky, and the same wild hills that framed the pictures here sketched, shine there still, but, oh! how changed! Look with me upon the scenery of fair Sylvan Dell! Here, around us, is the dense forest now merged into beautiful fields of grain, over which the wind-waves are playing soft and gentle as a whisper of love. There are the cool, breezy woodlands, and away deep in their shades you hear the lazy tinkling of tiny sheep-bells; but this is the country, and it falls very sweetly upon the ear — that pretty tinkle. Yonder, where the stream is sparkling brightest in the sunshine of leafy, laughing June, you see a commodious white cottage nestling upon the exact site of uncle Solomon's cabin, now occupied by good old deacon R., his wife, and two sweet, rosy girls — Cora and Mollie.
Listen and you hear the rumbling of the old mill, with its mossy roof and worn sills, and the foamy water rushing over the old dam.
Willie Morton was right; it was a good millseat, but poor Willie was gathered to his father's long years before the musical rumble of the mill sounded among our hills and homes. Instead of Morton's Mill, it is called "Maple Grove Mill," and Philip, the miller, a tall, handsome fellow, with a complexion peachy as a blooming maiden's, in making the whitest superfine flour, makes himself a favorite in the whole neighborhood of Sylvan Dell.
Judge Coulter did lay out a village as he had designed, but by some freak of the blind goddess it was called Perrysville instead of Coulterville. The good old Judge, by another fancy freak, got to be my second grandfather, (after the death of Captain Lee,) and we children have often climbed on his knees and pulled his wise, old ears, and slept on his broad bosom.
'Twas a bright summer day, when a messenger called in at the village school to tell us Nelly Hill was no more, and would be laid beside her husband and friends in the old burying-ground across the stream. Then I told the scholars of poor Nelly being the first bride in the wilderness; of how, when great trees covered the green and school-houses were not known, that Nelly was young like us, and bright and happy, and had endured more hardships than all the young men and women in the village. And then the next day we all wore white dresses and clean aprons, and the little boys wore their Sunday hats and clean jackets, and we walked over silently to the open grave, and saw the cold form of poor Nelly laid among the graves of the emigrant band.
Captain Lee and his wife Mattie — 'tis long years since they have been sleeping near Uncle Solomon. Every trace of their old cabin is gone — the singing brook that made light music, and was chorussed by the prattle of many little ones, is gone, and its remaining green banks reflect not themselves in the purling waters as in bygone days. Stones and rubbish have tilled the old well, where once swung the iron-bound bucket from the long sweep, and the slow, plodding oxen have often drawn the plough over that now fertile spot.
Among a dim old package of letters, some dated seventy years ago, may be seen Captain Lee's commission. He was my grandfather, and the mill boy, Frank, was my own dear pa.
Passing away! Hundreds are sleeping near Uncle Solomon, but familiar footsteps always linger longest at that one smooth, low mound, with a dim, mossy slab bent quite over it. Now, instead of its being a secluded place where birds sings and build their nests, one will hear the heavy sledge upon the anvil, the woodman's axe, the sound of the gay violin, the shout of merry ones upon the school house green, voices speaking of trade and business, and speculation. Ah! and the singing of hymns in the old church, and the voice of the watchman upon the tower proclaiming God's free gift to all — salvation.
The shrill whistle of the engine, and the rushing of the cars upon the track have broken, too, upon the silence that once shrouded the grave in the wild. The iron steed, "uncurbed by check or rein," goes panting through the quiet vale in the path prepared for him, which seems like the burrowing of some mighty animal; and old men shake their heads ominously at the intruder, while their minds revert to the years of life in the wilderness!
© 2011 Peggy Mershon Contact at email@example.com