Hadn't Time for
Trouble by T. S.
MRS. CALDWELL was so unfortunate as to have a rich husband. Not
that the possession of a rich husband is to be declared a misfortune,
per se, but, considering the temperament of Mrs. Caldwell, the
fact was against her happiness, and therefore is to be regarded,
taking the ordinary significance, of the term, as unfortunate.
Wealth gave Mrs. Caldwell leisure for ease and luxurious
self-indulgence, and she accepted the privileges of her condition.
Some minds, when not under the spur, sink naturally into, a state of
inertia, from which, when any touch of the spur reaches them, they
spring up with signs of fretfulness. The wife and mother, no matter
what her condition, who yields to this inertia, cannot escape the
spur. Children and servant, excepting all other causes, will not
spare the pricking heel.
Mrs. Caldwell was, by nature, a kind-hearted woman, and not lacking
in good sense. But for the misfortune of having a rich husband, she
might have spent an active, useful, happy life. It was the
opportunity which abundance gave for idleness and ease that marred
everything. Order in a household, and discipline among children, do
not come spontaneously. They are the result of wise forecast, and
patient, untiring, never-relaxing effort. A mere conviction of duty
is rarely found to be sufficient incentive; there must be the
impelling force of some strong-handed necessity. In the case of Mrs.
Caldwell, this did not exist; and so she failed in the creation of
that order in her family without which permanent tranquillity is
impossible. In all lives are instructive episodes, and interesting as
instructive. Let us take one of them from the life of this lady, whose
chief misfortune was in being rich.
Mrs. Caldwell's brow was clouded. It was never, for a very long
time, free from, clouds, for it seemed as if all sources of worry and
vexation were on the increase; and, to make matters worse, patience
was assuredly on the decline. Little things, once scarcely observed,
now give sharp annoyance, there being rarely any discrimination and
whether they were of accident, neglect, or wilfulness.
"Phoebe!" she called, fretfully.
The voice of her daughter answered, half-indifferently, from the
"Why don't you come when I call you?" Anger now mingled with
The face of a girl in her seventeenth year, on which sat no very
amiable expression, was presented at the door.
"Is that your opera cloak lying across the chair, and partly on the
Phoebe, without answering, crossed the room, and catching up the
garment with as little carefulness as if it had been an old shawl
threw it across her arm, and was retiring, when her mother said,
"Just see how you are rumpling that cloak! What do you mean?"
"I'm not hurting the cloak, mother," answered Phoebe, coolly. Then,
with a shade of reproof, she added, "You fret yourself for nothing."
"Do you call it nothing to abuse an elegant garment like that?"
demanded Mrs. Caldwell. "To throw it upon the floor, and tumble it
about as if it were an old rag?"
"All of which, mother mine, I have not done." And the girl tossed
her head with an air of light indifference.
"Don't talk to me in that way, Phoebe! I'll not suffer it. You are
forgetting yourself." The mother spoke with a sternness of manner
that caused her daughter to remain silent. As they stood looking at
each other, Mrs. Caldwell said, in a changed voice,—
"What is that on your front tooth?"
"A speck of something, I don't know what; I noticed it only
Mrs. Caldwell. crossed the room hastily, with a disturbed manner,
and catching hold of Phoebe's arm, drew her to a window.
"Let me see!" and she looked narrowly at the tooth, "Decay, as I
live!" The last sentence was uttered in a tone of alarm. "You must go
to the dentist immediately. This is dreadful! If your teeth are
beginning to fail now, you'll not have one left in your head by the
time you're twenty-five."
"It's only a speck," said Phoebe, evincing little concern.
"A speck! I And do you know what a speck means?" demanded Mrs.
Caldwell, with no chance in the troubled expression of her face.
"What does it mean?" asked Phoebe.
"Why, it means that the quality of your teeth is not good. One
speck is only the herald of another. Next week a second tooth may show
signs of decay, and a third in the week afterwards. Dear—dear! This
is too bad! The fact is, you are destroying your health. I've talked
and talked about the way you devour candies and sweetmeats; about the
way you sit up at night, and about a hundred other irregularities.
There must be a change in all. This, Phoebe, as I've told you dozens
and dozens of times."
Mrs. Caldwell was growing more and more excited.
"Mother! mother!" replied Phoebe, "don't fret yourself for nothing.
The speck can be removed in an instant."
"But the enamel is destroyed! Don't you see that? Decay will go
"I don't believe that follows at all," answered Phoebe, tossing her
head, indifferently, "And even if I believed in the worst, I'd find
more comfort in laughing than crying." And she ran off to her own
Poor Mrs. Caldwell sat down to brood over this new trouble; and as
she brooded, fancy wrought for her the most unpleasing images.
She saw the beauty of Phoebe, a few years later in life, most sadly
marred by broken or discolored teeth. Looking at that, and that
alone, it magnified itself into a calamity, grew to an evil which
She was still tormenting herself about the prospect of Phoebe's
loss of teeth, when, in passing through her elegantly-furnished
parlors, her eyes fell on a pale acid stain, about the size of a
shilling piece, one of the rich figures in the carpet. The color of
this figure was maroon, and the stain, in consequence, distinct; at
least, it became very distinct to her eye as they dwelt upon it as if
held there by a kind of fascination.
Indeed, for a while, Mrs. Caldwell could see nothing else but this
spot on the carpet; no, not even though she turned her eyes in
various directions, the retina keeping that image to the exclusion of
While yet in the gall of this new bitterness, Mrs. Caldwell heard a
carriage stop in front of the house, and, glancing through the
window, saw that it was on the opposite side of the street. She knew
it to be the carriage of a lady whose rank made her favor a desirable
thing to all who were emulous of social distinction. To be of her set
was a coveted honor. For her friend and neighbor opposite, Mrs.
Caldwell did not feel the highest regard; and it rather hurt her to
see the first call made in that quarter, instead of upon herself. It
was no very agreeable thought, that this lady-queen of fashion, so
much courted and regarded, might really think most highly of her
neighbor opposite. To be second to her, touched the quick of pride,
Only a card was left. Then the lady reentered her carriage. What?
Driving away? Even so. Mrs. Caldwell was not even honored by a call!
This was penetrating the quick. What could it mean? Was she to be
ruled out of this lady's set? The thought was like a wounding arrow
to her soul.
Unhappy Mrs. Caldwell! Her daughter's careless habits; the warning
sign of decay among her pearly teeth; the stain on a beautiful
carpet, and, worse than all as a pain-giver, this slight from a
magnate of fashion;—were not these enough to cast a gloom over the
state of a woman who had everything towards happiness that wealth and
social station could give, but did not know how to extract from them
the blessing they had power to bestow? Slowly, and with oppressed
feelings, she left the parlors, and went up stairs. Half an hour
later, as she sat alone, engaged in the miserable work of weaving out
of the lightest material a very pall of shadows for her soul, a
servant came to the door, and announced a visitor. It was an intimate
friend, whom she could not refuse to see—a lady named Mrs. Bland.
"How are you, Mrs. Caldwell?" said the visitor, as the two ladies
"Miserable," was answered. And not even the ghost of a smile played
over the unhappy face.
"Are you sick?" asked Mrs. Bland, showing some concern.
"No, not exactly sick. But, somehow or other, I'm in a worry about
things all the while. I can't move a step in any direction without
coming against the pricks. It seems as though all things were
conspiring against me."
And then Mrs. Caldwell went, with her friend, through the whole
series of her morning troubles, ending with the sentence,—
"Now, don't you think I am beset? Why, Mrs. Bland, I'm in a
"A purgatory of your own creating, my friend," answered Mrs. Bland
with the plainness of speech warranted by the intimacy of their
friendship; "and my advice is to come out of it as quickly as
"Come out of it! That is easily said. Will you show me the way?"
"At some other time perhaps. But this morning I have something else
on hand. I've called for you to go with me on an errand of mercy."
There was no Christian response in the face of Mrs. Caldwell. She
was too deep amid the gloom of her own, wretched state to have
sympathy for others.
"Mary Brady is in trouble," said Mrs. Bland.
"What has happened?" Mrs. Caldwell was alive with interest in a
"Her husband fell through a hatchway yesterday, and came near being
"The escape was miraculous."
"Is he badly injured?"
"A leg and two ribs broken. Nothing more, I believe. But that is a
very serious thing, especially where the man's labor is his family's
"Poor Mary!" said Mrs. Caldwell, in real sympathy. "In what a
dreadful state she must be! I pity her from the bottom of my heart."
"Put on your things, and let us go and see her at once."
Now, it is never a pleasant thing for persons like Mrs. Caldwell to
look other people's troubles directly in the face. It is bad enough
to dwell among their own pains and annoyances, and they shrink from
meddling with another's griefs. But, in the present case, Mrs.
Caldwell, moved by a sense of duty and a feeling of interest in Mrs.
Brady, who had, years before, been a faithful domestic in her
mother's house, was, constrained to overcome all reluctance, and join
her friend in the proposed visit of mercy.
"Poor Mary! What a state she must be in!"
Three or four times did Mrs. Caldwell repeat this sentence, as they
walked towards that part of the town in which Mrs. Brady resided. "It
makes me sick, at heart to think of it," she added.
At last they stood at the door of a small brick house, in a narrow
street, and knocked. Mrs. Caldwell dreaded to enter, and even shrank
a little behind her friend when she heard a hand on the lock. It was
Mary who opened the door—Mary Brady, with scarcely a sign of change
in her countenance, except that it was a trifle paler.
"O! Come in!" she said, a smile of pleasure brightening over her
face. But Mrs. Caldwell could not smile in return. It seemed to her
as if it would be a mockery of the trouble which had come down upon
that humble dwelling.
"How is your husband, Mary?" she asked with a solemn face, as soon
as they had entered. "I only heard a little while ago of this
"Thank you, ma'am," replied Mrs. Brady, her countenance hardly
falling to a serious tone in its expression. "He's quite comfortable
to-day; and it's such a relief to see him out of pain. He suffered
considerably through the night, but fell asleep just at day dawn, and
slept for several hours. He awoke almost entirely free from pain."
"There are no internal injuries, I believe," said Mrs. Bland.
"None, the doctor says. And I'm so thankful. Broken bones are bad
enough, and it is hard to see as kind and good a husband as I have
suffer,"—Mary's eyes grew wet, "but they will knit and become strong
again. When I think how much worse it might have been, I am condemned
for the slightest murmur that escapes my lips."
"What are you going to do, Mary?" asked Mrs. Caldwell. "Your
husband won't be fit for work in a month, and you have a good many
mouths to fill."
"A woman's wit and a woman's will can do a great deal," answered
Mrs. Brady, cheerfully. "You see"—pointing to a table, on which lay
a bundle—"that I have already been to the tailor's for work. I'm a
quick sewer, and not afraid but what I can earn sufficient to keep
the pot boiling until John is strong enough to go to work again.
'Where there's a will, there's a way,' Mrs. Caldwell. I've found that
true so far, and I reckon it will be true to the end. John will have a
good resting spell, poor man! And, dear knows, he's a right to have
it, for he's worked hard, and with scarcely a holiday, since we were
"Well, well, Mary," said Mrs. Caldwell, in manifest surprise, "you
beat me out! I can't understand it. Here you are, under circumstances
that I should call of a most distressing and disheartening nature,
almost as cheerful as if nothing had happened. I expected to find you
overwhelmed with trouble, but, instead, you are almost as tranquil as
a June day."
"The truth is," replied Mrs. Brady, drawing, almost for shame, a
veil of sobriety over her face, "I've had no time to be troubled. If
I'd given up, and set myself down with folded hands, no doubt I
should have been miserable enough. But that isn't my way, you see.
Thinking about what I shall do, and their doing it, keep me so well
employed, that I don't get opportunity to look on the dark side of
things. And what would be the use? There's always a bright side as
well as a dark side, and I'm sure it's pleasant to be on the bright
side, if we can get there; and always try to manage it, somehow."
"Your secret is worth knowing, Mary," said Mrs. Bland.
"There's no secret about it," answered the poor woman, "unless it
be in always keeping busy. As I said just now, I've no time to be
troubled, and so trouble, after knocking a few times at my door, and
not gaining admittance, passes on to some other that stands ajar—and
there are a great many such. The fact is, trouble don't like to crowd
in among busy people, for they jostle her about, and never give her a
quiet resting place, and so she soon departs, and creeps in among the
idle ones. I can't give any better explanation, Mrs. Bland."
"Nor, may be, could the wisest philosopher that lives," returned
The two friends, after promising to furnish Mrs. Brady with an
abundance of lighter and more profitable sewing than she had obtained
at a clothier's, and saying and doing whatever else they felt to be
best under the circumstances, departed. For the distance of a block
they walked in silence. Mrs. Caldwell spoke first.
"I am rebuked," she said; "rebuked, as well as instructed. Above
all places in the world, I least expected to receive a lesson there."
"Is it not worth remembering?" asked the friend.
"I wish it were engraved in ineffaceable characters on my heart.
Ah, what a miserable self-tormentor I have been! The door of my heart
stand always ajar, as Mary said, and trouble comes gliding in that
all times, without so much as a knock to herald his coming. I must
shut and bar the door!"
"Shut it, and bar it, my friend!" answered Mrs. Bland. "And when
trouble knocks, say to her, that you are too busy with orderly and
useful things—too earnestly at work in discharging dutiful
obligations, in the larger sphere, which, by virtue of larger means,
is yours to work in—to have any leisure for her poor companionship,
and she will not tarry on your threshold. Throw to the winds such
light causes of unhappiness as were suffered to depress you this
morning, and they will be swept away like thistle down."
"Don't speak of them. My cheek burns at the remembrance," said Mrs.
They now stood at Mrs. Caldwell's door.
"You will come in?"
"No. The morning has passed, and I must return home."
"When shall I see you?" Mrs. Caldwell grasped tightly her friends'
"In a day or two."
"Come to-morrow, and help me to learn in this new book that has
been opened. I shall need a wise and a patient teacher. Come, good,
true, kind friend!"
"Give yourself no time for trouble," said Mrs. Bland, with a
tender, encouraging smile. "Let true thoughts and useful deeds fill
all your hours. This is the first lesson. Well in the heart, and all
the rest is easy."
And so, Mrs. Caldwell found it. The new life she strove to lead,
was easy just in the degree she lived in the spirit of this lesson,
and hard just in the degree of her departure.