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Hesper, the Home-Spirit

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Hesper, the Home-Spirit
Lizzie Doten

Elizabeth Doten

Hesper, the Home-Spirit / A simple story of household labor and love


In pursuance of one leading idea, has this little work been written: – that of giving to true merit its due. The world is ever ready to celebrate the achievements of its conquering heroes, who, according to the conceptions of mankind, are noble and great, but the patient, persevering heroism of those in humble life, who struggle hard and suffer long, is passed by unnoticed. Many such there are who bear their cross of suffering in silence, and go down to the grave with their hard fought battles and moral victories unhonored and unsung. God and his angels alone take cognizance of such, or it may be, some soul who has known a life experience, sends out a warmly gushing fount of sympathy, to cheer these lone wanderers upon their way. It is not the great and overwhelming sorrows of existence, but the petty, inglorious vexations of daily life, that most severely test the soul’s energies. They who can meet such trials with patience and firmness, gradually obtain the mastery, not only over circumstances, but also over themselves and others. It is one of the eternal laws of God that thus it shall be, and sure it is in its fulfilment, as the promise of his word. One thing only is needful for a complete and glorious victory, and that is “the love that never faileth,” “that seeketh not its own, but another’s good.” The working of especial wonders and miracles, the dazzling manifestations of genius, and the great intellectual attainments which cause the world to wonder and admire, belong only to the few, but the power to love is a gift for all, from the highest to the lowest, and the one thing needful is what all may obtain. Mankind, however, are not content with what is so common, but are continually gazing upward for some more glorious manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but not till the “Angels in the House” and “The Home Spirits” are fully known and appreciated, will the celestial beings unveil their lovely countenances and walk with man as of old. When human hearts have learned to live and love aright, then will “the kingdom come.” By love alone shall the world become regenerate and redeemed. God speed the day then, when its reign shall be universal and all the nations of the earth shall acknowledge its sway!

    E. D.
    Plymouth, December, 1858.

“Grant me, O God, a high soft star to be
Calm, still, and bright, to trace my way in heaven,
And shed my light o’er life’s tempestuous sea,
While human hearts, like fragile barks are driven
‘Mid rocks and hidden shoals.
A soul ‘mid glorious souls —
A small, pure star within the glittering band
That high above the clouds, undimmed and grand,
In placid beauty rolls,
To herald on the weary to the land
Where all is rest and peace; to guide the way
To Heaven’s unclouded day!”

    S. C. E. M.



It was a cool, clear, autumn evening, and the full harvest-moon was pouring down a flood of mellow light upon the hills and vallies, when the worthy Mr. Byers emerged from the village post-office, and made his way as fast as his age and corpulence would permit, in the direction of “Locust Cottage.” This was a small, low, red farmhouse, situated in a green nook of the hills, and at present, owned and occupied solely by an excellent quaker lady, widely known as Aunt Nyna. Mr. Byers was evidently in haste, but his progress though labored, was not rapid. His short, thick legs, did not allow of very extended strides, and he went puffing and blowing at every few steps, like a locomotive. The way was, however, in reality, long, and it was with no small satisfaction, after some fifteen or twenty minutes toilsome walk, that he saw a bright light glimmering through the branches of the locusts, from the cottage windows. Pausing one moment to take breath, before entering the green lane which led directly to the cottage, he drew a letter from his pocket, and scrutinized it closely in the moonlight.

“That is certainly from over sea,” he muttered to himself, “and just the one she wanted. Lord bless her! how glad she will be!”

Returning it to his pocket again with a smile of the greatest satisfaction, he continued on his way. Instead of entering the cottage at once, as might have been expected after such a hasty walk, he lingered a few moments without. Stealing cautiously beneath one of the low front windows, he drew aside the sweet-brier that shaded it, and looked into the room.

Aunt Nyna sat by her cheerful fire, reading from a large, old-fashioned book, which lay open on the stand before her. The house dog dozed in the chimney corner, the tea kettle was singing on the crane, and the little canary was fast asleep with his head beneath his wing. No sound broke the silence save the monotonous tick of the old clock, faithfully numbering the moments, which to one heart at least were full of blessing. Unconscious that any save the All-seeing Eye was upon her, the good lady read on, until the white muslin handkerchief folded so neatly on her bosom was stirred with emotion, and raising her spectacles upon her forehead, she wiped the tears from her eyes.

“Shedding tears,” muttered Mr. Byers. “Right fortunate is it that I’m not there, for it makes a complete simpleton of me to see a woman weep. May be though she is thinking about him, and wonders why he doesn’t write. I declare it is a shame to keep her in suspense another moment,” and he entered without further delay.

“Good evening, Mrs. Dorothy;” he said with a friendly familiarity.

“Good evening Mr. Byers. I am right glad to see thee, for it is a long time since I beheld the light of thy countenance. Where hast thee been so long?”

“O, all about in spots, and nowhere in particular,” replied the old gentleman, as he took his seat in the capacious armchair which was placed for him, and removing his hat wiped the perspiration from his shining crown. “I just thought, Mrs. Dorothy, as it was so pleasant to-night, that I would call over and inquire if you had heard anything from Harry since he left? Let’s see – its full three months now, I believe.”

“Not one word as yet, Mr. Byers,” replied the good lady sorrowfully, “and verily I had no right to expect it before now. I had surely hoped though that thee hadst brought me somewhat. Yet I see I must wait a little longer.”

“Yes, Mrs. Dorothy, a little longer.” There was a merry twinkle in the old man’s eye as he spoke, and his hand moved nervously in his coat-pocket, but he looked up quickly at the row of crooked-necked squashes hanging along the wall, and at the bright pewter platters upon the dresser, and composed himself. “I declare, Mrs. Dorothy,” he continued, “how snug and comfortable you look here! I like to see a home that is a home, though I haven’t lived in one for many a year. When my Hannah was alive I knew what true enjoyment was – but,” he added, with solemn earnestness – “as the poet says, ‘Now she’s dead, and that’s all over.’” “Ah me,” replied the good lady with a sigh, “what a difference it makes to the whole of life when one we love is taken from us! There’s a shadow on everything ever afterwards. I remember when my poor dear husband died I felt – “ Here she hesitated, and drew her handkerchief from the black silk bag which lay on the table.

“Mrs. Dorothy,” said Mr. Byers, hastily, as he reached for his hat, “are you about to shed tears?”

“Nay, friend, nay,” she replied, calmly, and wiping her nose leisurely, she returned the handkerchief to its place. “I was only about to say, that after Mr. Nyna died, I felt that although I would gladly have laid down in the grave with him, that I must live for Harry’s sake, and so I lived.”

“A very wise conclusion, Mrs. Dorothy, yet one that cannot be successfully carried out under all circumstances.”

“Ay, verily, friend; one must needs die at some time. As I was saying, I have lived from that day to this, and I have done all in my power to train up that dear child in the way in which he should go.”

“And I have no doubt but what he will ‘go it,’ Mrs. Dorothy,” replied the old gentleman, with the merry twinkle in his eye again. “That is to say, I have no doubt he will continue in the way which you have pointed out to him.”

“Verily, I am of that mind myself, Mr. Byers, for he is a good child, and it was no slight trial to part with him.” Here her voice became choked.

“He was very helpful to me, and the only company I had.” She stretched out her hand again for her handkerchief, and Mr. Byers made a simultaneous movement for his hat. Then, as if by mutual and silent understanding, they both withdrew their hands, and the good lady resumed her knitting.

“I only hope and pray,” she continued, “that he may not fall into bad company and evil ways. Verily, it would be much better, Mr. Byers, to hear that he was dead.”

“Very much, Mrs. Dorothy.”

“But O! to think of such a dreadful thing as hearing of his death!” and there was an obvious tremor in her voice, highly suggestive of tears. She winked and swallowed hard, however, and continued —

“I read my Bible often, Mr. Byers, and – “ Here she made a significant pause.

“Yes, yes,” said the old gentleman nervously, as he seized the open volume from the stand; “I have no doubt you do. Let’s see, where is it, and what is it about?” He drew his time-worn spectacle case from his pocket, and taking out the big, clumsily-bowed glasses, placed them upon his nose.

“It’s what the Apostle says about charity, Mr. Byers, and I should think by the way it reads that it was a very good thing.”

“Excellent! Excellent, Mrs. Dorothy, when taken in its right sense; for look you, my good woman – ” Here Mr. Byers extended his right hand, with the fore finger up, and regarded his auditor over his spectacles with a look of profound wisdom – “it’s love the apostle means – love of the first quality. A kind of love, Mrs. Dorothy, that won’t give up, not break down, nor back out, however much it gets – gets snubbed – excuse the word – or pestered, or imposed upon; but like gutta percha, can be crowded into a very small space, or drawn out to any extent without snapping asunder. It’s the very cream of life, Mrs. Dorothy, mingled in with honey and the otto of roses, and we should all be brute beasts without it.”

“Yea, verily,” responded the good lady, with great earnestness.

“And I can truly say, Mrs. Dorothy, that if these words were all that my Bible contained, I would not part with it for the wealth of the Indies; for is it not a comfort, in this crooked and cross-grained world, to find something that will not fail us? We can’t all be Daniels or Isaiahs, or have the wisdom of Solomon or Paul, but the simplest one among us knows how to love. Prophecies shall fail, and knowledge vanish away, but charity never faileth. Mrs. Dorothy, I’ll thank you for a glass of water.” No sooner had the good lady arisen to comply with her visitor’s request, than Mr. Byers drew the letter from his pocket, slipped it between the leaves of the Bible at his favorite chapter, and closing the volume, laid it upon the table.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dorothy. It is not often that I preach a sermon, but when I do, it is because the spirit moves me, as your people say, and this portion of Scripture in particular, always loosens my tongue and puts words into my mouth, whenever I am reminded of it. I would not like to intrude anything more upon your notice at present, but I do wish, my good woman, that after I am gone, you would look at the preceding chapter, and see what an excellent preface it forms to the Apostle’s remarks on charity.” Mrs. Dorothy reached immediately for the volume, but Mr. Byers laid his hand upon it.

“Not now, if you please. The Apostle first goes on at some length to speak of the supernatural powers and miraculous gifts of the times, which caused the whole world to wonder, and exalted those who were thus favored, almost to the rank of gods. Yet, even while confessing that such things were by all means desirable, and to be sought after most diligently, he says, ‘Covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.’ Then he goes on at once to his unequalled discourse on charity – a simple thing in itself, which you, and I, and the smallest child among us can possess if we will, and which shall make us of more worth in the eyes of God and his angels, than all the professors and doctors, and wonder-workers, that the world ever knew. It is beautiful, Mrs. Dorothy! beautiful!” and the enthusiastic old man rubbed his hands together, with an expression of great inward satisfaction, as he rose to depart.

“I must go now,” he continued, glancing at the clock, “for it is about eight, and I have several more calls to make. Doubtless you will hear from Harry before long, so don’t be discouraged. Meanwhile, read your Bible and trust in the Lord, and above all things, don’t forget to look this very night at the chapter which I mentioned. You will find something there worth thinking about, and excellent to sleep upon.”

“Yea, verily, I will, friend,” replied the good lady, “and I thank thee much, also, for thy pleasant discourse, although my disappointment at not hearing from Harry has somewhat troubled and confused me.”

“And what would you have done, Mrs. Dorothy, if, upon my entrance, I had taken a big letter at once from my pocket, directed in Harry’s own hand, with a foreign post-mark upon it?”

“Done, Mr. Byers! I should have shed tears of gratitude and joy over it.”

“Very likely; and this is exactly the reason why I should not like to be such a messenger. Good night, Mrs. Dorothy.” After the door closed behind him, Mr. Byers did not proceed directly on his way. Once more he stopped beneath the window, and looked through the overshadowing vines into the room. He saw the good lady re-seat herself by the stand, open the sacred volume, and then heard her quick, joyful exclamation of surprise. It was quite enough for him. Smiling; and rubbing his hands with heartfelt satisfaction, he bent his steps down the lane, in search of some other place and opportunity for the exercise of his active benevolence and ready sympathies.

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