"Well, father, how does thee do?" was his quiet greeting, as they shook hands.
"How's mother, by this time?" asked Eli.
"Oh, thee needn't have been concerned," said the son. "There she is. Go in: I'll tend to the horse."
Abigail and her daughter appeared on the piazza. The mother was a woman of fifty, thin and delicate in frame, but with a smooth, placid beauty of countenance which had survived her youth. She was dressed in a simple dove-colored gown, with book-muslin cap and handkerchief, so scrupulously arranged that one might have associated with her for six months without ever discovering a spot on the former, or an uneven fold in the latter. Asenath, who followed, was almost as plainly attired, her dress being a dark- blue calico, while a white pasteboard sun-bonnet, with broad cape, covered her head.
"Well, Abigail, how art thou?" said Eli, quietly giving his hand to his wife.
"I'm glad to see thee back," was her simple welcome.
No doubt they had kissed each other as lovers, but Asenath had witnessed this manifestation of affection but once in her life-- after the burial of a younger sister. The fact impressed her with a peculiar sense of sanctity and solemnity: it was a caress wrung forth by a season of tribulation, and therefore was too earnest to be profaned to the uses of joy. So far, therefore, from expecting a paternal embrace, she would have felt, had it been given, like the doomed daughter of the Gileadite, consecrated to sacrifice.
Both she and her mother were anxious to hear the proceedings of the meeting, and to receive personal news of the many friends whom Eli had seen; but they asked few questions until the supper-table was ready and Moses had come in from the barn. The old man enjoyed talking, but it must be in his own way and at his own good time. They must wait until the communicative spirit should move him. With the first cup of coffee the inspiration came. Hovering at first over indifferent details, he gradually approached those of more importance,--told of the addresses which had been made, the points of discipline discussed, the testimony borne, and the appearance and genealogy of any new Friends who had taken a prominent part therein. Finally, at the close of his relation, he said--
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