All's For the Best
by T. S. Arthur
I. FAITH AND
II. IS HE A
III. "RICH AND
RARE WERE THE
GEMS SHE WORE."
IV. NOT AS A
V. ANGELS IN THE
VI. CAST DOWN,
VII. INTO GOOD
THAT DOTH NOT
IX. WAS IT
X. THE NURSERY
XI. MY FATHER.
I. FAITH AND PATIENCE.
"I HAVE no faith in anything," said a poor doubter, who had
trusted in human prudence, and been disappointed; who had endeavored
to walk by the lumine of self-derived intelligence, instead of by the
light of divine truth, and so lost his way in the world. He was fifty
years old! What a sad confession for a man thus far on the journey of
life. "No faith in anything."
"You have faith in God, Mr. Fanshaw," replied the gentleman to whom
the remark was made.
"In God? I don't know him." And Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, in a
bewildered sort of way. There was no levity in his manner. "People
talk a great deal about God, and their knowledge of him," he added,
but not irreverently. "I think there is often more of pious cant in
all this than of living experience. You speak about faith in God.
What is the ground of your faith?"
"We have internal sight, as well as external sight."
There was no response to this in Mr. Fanshaw's face.
"We can see with the mind, as well as with the eyes."
"An architect sees the building, in all its fine proportions, with
the eyes of his mind, before it exists in space visible to his bodily
"Oh! that is your meaning, friend Wilkins," said Mr. Fanshaw, his
countenance brightening a little.
"In part," was replied. "That he can see the building in his mind,
establishes the fact of internal sight."
"Admitted; and what then?"
"Admitted, and we pass into a new world—the world of spirit."
Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, and closed his lips tightly.
"I don't believe in spirits," he answered.
"You believe in your own spirit."
"I don't know that I have any spirit."
"You think and feel in a region distinct from the body," said Mr.
"I can't say as to that."
"You can think of justice, of equity, of liberty?"
"As abstract rights; as things essential, and out of the region of
simple matter. The body doesn't think; it is the soul."
"Very well. For argument's sake, let all this be granted. I don't
wish to cavil. I am in no mood for that. And now, as to the ground of
your faith in God."
"Convictions," answered Mr. Wilkins, "are real things to a man.
Impressions are one thing; convictions another. The first are like
images on a glass; the others like figures in a textile fabric. The
first are made in an instant of time, and often pass as quickly; the
latter are slowly wrought in the loom of life, through daily
experience and careful thought. Herein lies the ground of my faith in
God;—it is an inwrought conviction. First I had the child's sweet
faith transfused into my soul with a mother's love, and unshadowed by
a single doubt. Then, on growing older, as I read the Bible, which I
believe to be God's word, I saw that its precepts were divine, and so
the child's faith was succeeded by rational sight. Afterwards, as I
floated off into the world, and met with storms that wrecked my
fondest hopes; with baffling winds and adverse currents; with perils
and disappointments, faith wavered sometimes; and sometimes, when the
skies were dark and threatening, my mind gave way to doubts. But,
always after the storm passed, and the sun came out again, have I
found my vessel unharmed, with a freight ready for shipment of value
far beyond what I had lost. I have thrown over, in stress of weather,
to save myself from being engulfed, things that I had held to be very
precious—thrown them over, weeping. But, after awhile, things more
precious took their place—goodly pearls, found in a farther voyage,
which, but for my loss, would not have been ventured.
"Always am I seeing the hand of Providence—always proving the
divine announcement, 'The very hairs of your head are numbered.' Is
there not ground for faith here? If the word of God stand in
agreement with reason and experience, shall I not have faith? If my
convictions are clear, to disbelieve is impossible."
"We started differently," replied Mr. Fanshaw, almost mournfully.
"That sweet faith of childhood, to which you have referred, was never
"The faith of manhood is stronger, because it rests on reason and
experience," said Mr. Wilkins.
"With me, reason and experience give no faith in God, and no hope
in the future. All before me is dark."
"Simply, because you do not use your reason aright, nor read your
experiences correctly. If you were to do this, light would fall upon
your way. You said, a little while ago, that you had no faith in
anything. You spoke without due reflection."
"No; I meant just what I said. Is there stability in anything? In
what can I trust to-morrow? simply in nothing. My house may be in
ruins—burnt to the ground, at daylight. The friend to whom I loaned
my money to-day, to help him in his need, may fail me to-morrow, in
my need. The bank in which I hold stock may break—the ship in which
I have an adventure, go down at sea. But why enumerate? I am sure of
"Not even of the love of your child?"
A warm flush came into the face of Mr. Fanshaw. He had one daughter
twelve years old.
"Dear Alice!" he murmured, in a softer voice. "Yes, I am sure of
that. There is no room for doubt. She loves me."
"One thing in which to have faith," said Mr. Wilkins. "Not in a
house which cannot be made wholly safe from fire; nor in a bank,
which may fail; nor in a friend's promise; nor in a ship at sea—but
in love! Are you afraid to have that love tried? If you were sick or
in misfortune, would it grow dim, or perish? Nay, would it not be
"I think, Mr. Fanshaw," continued his friend, "that you have not
tested your faith by higher and better things—by things real and
"What is more real than a house, or a ship, or a bill of exchange?"
asked Mr. Fanshaw.
"Imperishable love—incorruptible integrity—unflinching honor,"
"Do these exist?" Mr. Fanshaw looked incredulous.
"We know that they exist. You know that they exist. History,
observation, experience, reason, all come to the proof. We doubt but
in the face of conviction. Are these not higher and nobler things
than wealth, or worldly honors; than place or power? And is he not
serenest and happiest whose life rests on these as a house upon its
foundations? You cannot shake such a man. You cannot throw him down.
Wealth may go, and friends drop away like withering autumn leaves,
but he stands fast, with the light of heaven upon his brow. He has
faith in virtue—he has trust in God—he knows that all will come out
right in the end, and that he will be a wiser and better man for the
trial that tested his principles—for the storms that toughened, but
did not break the fibres of his soul."
"You lift me into a new region of thought," said Mr. Fanshaw, "A
dim light is breaking into my mind. I see things in a relation not
"Will you call with me on an old friend?" asked Mr. Wilkins.
"A poor man. Once rich."
"He might feel my visit as an intrusion."
"What reduced him to poverty?"
"A friend, in whom he put unlimited faith, deceived and ruined
"And he has never been able to recover himself."
"What is his state of mind?"
"You shall judge for yourself."
In poor lodgings they found a man far past the prime of life. He
was in feeble health, and for over two months had not been able to go
out and attend to business. His wife was dead, and his children
absent. Of all this Mr. Fanshaw had been told on the way. His
surprise was real, when he saw, instead of a sad-looking,
disappointed and suffering person, a cheerful old man, whose face
warmed up on their entrance, as if sunshine were melting over it.
Conversation turned in the direction Mr. Wilkins desired it to take,
and the question soon came, naturally, from Mr. Fanshaw—
"And pray, sir, how were you sustained amid these losses, and
trials, and sorrows?"
"Through faith and patience," was the smiling answer. "Faith in God
and the right, and patience to wait."
"But all has gone wrong with you, and kept wrong. The friend who
robbed you of an estate holds and enjoys it still; while you are in
poverty. He is eating your children's bread."
"Do you envy his enjoyment?" asked the old man.
Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, and answered with an emphasis—"No!"
"I am happier than he is," said the old man. "And as for his eating
my children's bread, that is a mistake. His bread is bitter, but
theirs is sweet." He reached for a letter that lay on a table near
him, and opening it, said—"This is from my son in the West. He
writes:—'Dear Father—All is going well with me. I enclose you fifty
dollars. In a month I am to be married, and it is all arranged that
dear Alice and I shall go East just to see you, and take you back home
with us. How nice and comfortable we will make you! And you shall
never leave us!'"
The old man's voice broke down on the last sentence, and his eyes
filled with tears. But he soon recovered himself, saying—
"Before I lost my property, this son was an idler, and in such
danger that through fear of his being led astray, I was often in
great distress of mind. Necessity forced him into useful employment;
and you see the result. I lost some money, but saved my son. Am I not
richer in such love as he bears me to-day, than if, without his love,
I possessed a million of dollars? Am I not happier? I knew it would
all come out right. I had faith, and I tried to be patient. It is
coming out right."
"But the wrong that has been done," said Mr. Fanshaw. "The
injustice that exists. Here is a scoundrel, a robber, in the peaceful
enjoyment of your goods, while you are in want."
"We do not envy such peace as his. The robber has no peace. He
never dwells in security; but is always armed, and on the watch. As
for me, it has so turned out that I have never lacked for food and
"Still, there is the abstract wrong, the evil triumphing over the
good," said Mr. Fanshaw.
"How do you reconcile that with your faith in Providence?"
"What I see clearly, as to myself," was replied, "fully justifies
the ways of God to man. Am I the gainer or the loser by misfortune?
Clearly the gainer. That point admits of no argument. So, what came
to me in the guise of evil, I find to be good. God has not mocked my
faith in him. I waited patiently until he revealed himself in tender
mercy; until the hand to which I clung in the dark valley led me up
to the sunny hills. No amount of worldly riches could give me the
deep satisfaction I now possess. As for the false friend who robbed
me, I leave him in the hands of the all-wise Disposer of events. He
will not find, in ill-gotten gain, a blessing. It will not make his
bed soft; nor his food sweet to the taste. A just and righteous God
will trouble his peace, and make another's possessions the burden of
"But that will not benefit you," said Mr. Fanshaw. "His suffering
will not make good your loss."
"My loss is made good already. I have no complaint against
Providence. My compensation is a hundredfold. For dross I have gold.
I and mine needed the discipline of misfortune, and it came through
the perfidy of a friend. That false friend, selfish and
grasping—seeing in money the greatest good—was permitted to
consummate his evil design. That his evil will punish him, I am sure;
and in the pain of his punishment, he may be led to reformation. If he
continue to hide the stolen fox, it will tear his vitals. If he lets
it go, he will scarcely venture upon a second theft. In either event,
the wrong he was permitted to do will be turned into discipline; and
my hardest wish in regard to him is, that the discipline may lead to
repentance and a better life."
"Your faith and patience," said Mr. Fanshaw, as he held the old
man's hand in parting, "rebuke my restless disbelief. I thank you for
having opened to my mind a new region of thought—for having made some
things clear that have always been dark. I am sure that our meeting
to-day is not a simple accident. I have been led here, and for a good
As Mr. Fanshaw and Mr. Wilkins left the poor man's lodgings, the
"I know the false wretch who ruined your friend."
"Yes. And he is a miserable man. The fox is indeed tearing his
vitals. I understand his case now. He must make restitution. I know
how to approach him. This good, patient, trusting old man shall not
suffer wrong to the end."
"Does not all this open a new world of thought to your mind?" asked
Mr Wilkins. "Does it not show you that, amid all human wrong and
disaster, the hand of Providence moves in wise adjustment, and ever
out of evil educes good, ever through loss in some lower degree of
life brings gain to a higher degree? Consider how, in an
unpremeditated way, you are brought into contact with a stranger, and
how his life and experience touching yours, give out a spark that
lights a candle in your soul to illumine chambers where scarcely a ray
had shone before; and this not alone for your benefit. It seems as if
you were to be made an instrument of good not only to the wronged, but
to the wronger. If you can effect restitution in any degree, the
benefit will be mutual."
"I can and I will effect it," replied Mr. Fanshaw. And he did!
II. IS HE A CHRISTIAN?
"IS he a Christian?"
The question reached my ear as I sat conversing with a friend, and
I paused in the sentence I was uttering, to note the answer.
"Oh, yes; he is a Christian," was replied.
"I am rejoiced to hear you say so. I was not aware of it before,"
said the other.
"Yes; he has passed from death unto life. Last week, in the joy of
his new birth, he united himself to the church, and is now in
fellowship with the saints."
"What a blessed change!"
"Blessed, indeed. Another soul saved; another added to the great
company of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb. There is joy in heaven on his account."
"Of whom are they speaking?" I asked, turning to my friend.
"Of Fletcher Gray, I believe," was replied.
"Few men stood more in need of Christian graces," said I. "If he
is, indeed, numbered with the saints, there is cause for rejoicing."
"By their fruits ye shall know them," responded my friend. "I will
believe his claim to the title of Christian, when I see the fruit in
good living. If he have truly passed from death unto life, as they
say, he will work the works of righteousness. A sweet fountain will
not send forth bitter waters."
My friend but expressed my own sentiments in this, and all like
cases. I have learned to put small trust in "profession;" to look
past the Sunday and prayer-meeting piety of people, and to estimate
religious quality by the standard of the Apostle James. There must be
genuine love of the neighbor, before there can be a love of God; for
neighborly love is the ground in which that higher and purer love
takes root. It is all in vain to talk of love as a mere ideal thing.
Love is an active principle, and, according to its quality, works. If
the love be heavenly, it will show itself in good deeds to the
neighbor; but, if infernal, in acts of selfishness that disregard the
"I will observe this Mr. Gray," said I, as I walked homeward from
the company, "and see whether the report touching him be true. If he
is, indeed, a 'Christian,' as they affirm, the Christian graces of
meekness and charity will blossom in his life, and make all the air
around him fragrant."
Opportunity soon came. Fletcher Gray was a store-keeper, and his
life in the world was, consequently, open to the observation of all
men. He was likewise a husband and a father. His relations were,
therefore, of a character to give, daily, a test of his true quality.
It was only the day after, that I happened to meet Mr. Gray under
circumstances favorable to observation. He came into the store of a
merchant with whom I was transacting some business, and asked the
price of certain goods in the market. I moved aside, and watched him
narrowly. There was a marked change in the expression of his
countenance and in the tones of his voice. The former had a sober,
almost solemn expression; the latter was subdued, even to
plaintiveness. But, in a little while, these peculiarities gradually
disappeared, and the aforetime Mr. Gray stood there
unchanged—unchanged, not only in appearance, but in character. There
was nothing of the "yea, yea," and "nay, nay," spirit in his
bargain-making, but an eager, wordy effort to gain an advantage in
trade. I noticed that, in the face of an asservation that only five
per cent. over cost was asked for a certain article, he still
endeavored to procure it at a lower figure than was named by the
seller, and finally crowded him down to the exact cost, knowing as he
did, that the merchant had a large stock on hand, and could not well
afford to hold it over.
"He's a sharper!" said the merchant, turning towards me as Gray
left the store.
"He's a Christian, they say," was my quiet remark.
"Yes; don't you know that he has become religious, and joined the
"Not a word of it. Didn't you observe his subdued, meek aspect,
when he came in?"
"Why, yes; now that you refer to it, I do remember a certain
peculiarity about him. Become pious! Joined the church! Well, I'm
"Sorry for the injury he will do to a good cause. The religion that
makes a man a better husband, father, man of business, lawyer,
doctor, or preacher, I reverence, for it is genuine, as the lives of
those who accept it do testify. But your hypocritical pretenders I
scorn and execrate."
"It is, perhaps, almost too strong language, this, as applied to
Mr. Gray," said I.
"What is a hypocrite?" asked the merchant.
"A man who puts on the semblance of Christian virtues which he does
"And that is what Mr. Gray does when he assumes to be religious. A
true Christian is just. Was he just to me when he crowded me down in
the price of my goods, and robbed me of a living profit, in order
that he might secure a double gain? I think not. There is not even
the live and let live principle in that. No—no, sir. If he has
joined the church, my word for it, there is a black sheep in the
fold; or, I might say, without abuse of language, a wolf therein
disguised in sheep's clothing."
"Give the man time," said I. "Old habits of life are strong, you
know. In a little while, I trust that he will see clearer, and
regulate his life from perceptions of higher truths."
"I thought his heart was changed," answered the merchant, with some
irony in his tones. "That he had been made a new creature."
I did not care to discuss that point with him, and so merely
"The beginnings of spiritual life are as the beginnings of natural
life. The babe is born in feebleness, and we must wait through the
periods of infancy, childhood and youth, before we can have the
strong man ready for the burden and heat of the day, or full-armed
for the battle. If Mr. Gray is in the first effort to lead a
Christian life, that is something. He will grow wiser and better in
time, I hope."
"There is vast room for improvement," said the merchant. "In my
eyes he is, at this time, only a hypocritical pretender. I hope, for
the sake of the world and the church both, that his new associates
will make something better out of him."
I went away, pretty much of the merchant's opinion. My next meeting
with Mr. Gray was in the shop of a mechanic to whom he had sold a
bill of goods some months previously. He had called to collect a
portion of the amount which remained unpaid. The mechanic was not
ready for him.
"I am sorry, Mr. Gray" he began, with some hesitation of manner.
"Sorry for what?" sharply interrupted Mr. Gray.
"Sorry that I have not the money to settle your bill. I have been
"I don't want that old story. You promised to be ready for me
to-day, didn't you?" And Mr. Gray knit his brows, and looked angry
"Yes, I promised. But——"
"Then keep your promise. No man has a right to break his word.
Promises are sacred things, and should be kept religiously."
"If my customers had kept their promises to me there would have
been no failure in mine to you," answered the poor mechanic.
"It is of no use to plead other men's failings in justification of
your own. You said the bill should be settled to-day, and I
calculated upon it. Now, of all things in the world, I hate trifling.
I shall not call again, sir!"
"If you were to call forty times, and I hadn't the money to settle
your account, you would call in vain," said the mechanic, showing
considerable disturbance of mind.
"You needn't add insult to wrong." Mr. Gray's countenance reddened,
and he looked angry.
"If there is insult in the case it is on your part, not mine,"
retorted the mechanic, with more feeling. "I am not a digger of gold
out of the earth, nor a coiner of money. I must be paid for my work
before I can pay the bills I owe. It was not enough that I told you
of the failure of my customers to meet their engagements——"
"You've no business to have such customers," broke in Mr. Gray. "No
right to take my goods and sell them to men who are not honest enough
to pay their bills."
"One of them is your own son," replied the mechanic, goaded beyond
endurance. "His bill is equal to half of yours. I have sent for the
amount a great many times, but still he puts me off with excuses. I
will send it to you next time."
This was thrusting home with a sharp sword, and the vanquished Mr.
Gray retreated from the battle-field, bearing a painful wound.
"That wasn't right in me, I know," said the mechanic, as Gray left
his shop. "I'm sorry, now, that I said it. But he pressed me too
closely. I am but human."
"He is a hard, exacting, money-loving man," was my remark.
"They tell me he has become a Christian," said the mechanic. "Has
got religion—been converted. Is that so?"
"It is commonly reported; but I think common report must be in
error. St. Paul gives patience, forbearance, long-suffering,
meekness, brotherly kindness, and charity as some of the Christian
graces. I do not see them in this man. Therefore, common report must
be in error."
"I have paid him a good many hundreds of dollars since I opened my
shop here," said the mechanic, with the manner of one who felt hurt.
"If I am a poor, hard-working man, I try to be honest. Sometimes I
get a little behind hand, as I am new, because people I work for
don't pay up as they should. It happened twice before when I wasn't
just square with Mr. Gray, and he pressed down very hard upon me, and
talked just as you heard him to-day. He got his money, every dollar of
it; and he will get his money now. I did think, knowing that he had
joined the church and made a profession of religion, that he would
bear a little patiently with me this time. That, as he had obtained
forgiveness, as alleged, of his sins towards heaven, he would be
merciful to his fellow-man. Ah, well! These things make us very
sceptical about the honesty of men who call themselves religious. My
experience with 'professors' has not been very encouraging. As a
general thing I find them quite as greedy for gain as other men. We
outside people of the world get to be very sharp-sighted. When a man
sets himself up to be of better quality than we, and calls himself by
a name significant of heavenly virtue, we judge him, naturally, by his
own standard, and watch him very closely. If he remain as hard, as
selfish, as exacting, and as eager after money as before, we do not
put much faith in his profession, and are very apt to class him with
hypocrites. His praying, and fine talk about faith, and heavenly love,
and being washed from all sin, excite in us contempt rather than
respect. We ask for good works, and are never satisfied with anything
else. By their fruits ye shall know them."
On the next Sunday I saw Mr. Gray in church. My eyes were on him
when he entered. I noticed that all the lines of his face were drawn
down, and that the whole aspect and bearing of the man were solemn
and devotional. He moved to his place with a slow step, his eyes cast
to the floor. On taking his seat, he leaned his head on the pew in
front of him, and continued for nearly a minute in prayer. During the
services I heard his voice in the singing; and through the sermon, he
maintained the most fixed attention. It was communion Sabbath; and he
remained, after the congregation was dismissed, to join in the holiest
act of worship.
"Can this man be indeed self-deceived?" I asked myself, as I walked
homeward. "Can he really believe that heaven is to be gained by pious
acts alone? That every Sabbath evening he can pitch his tent a day's
march nearer heaven, though all the week he have failed in the
commonest offices of neighborly love?"
It so happened, that I had many opportunities for observing Mr.
Gray, who, after joining the church, became an active worker in some
of the public and prominent charities of the day. He contributed
liberally in many cases, and gave a good deal of time to the
prosecution of benevolent enterprises, in which men of some position
were concerned. But, when I saw him dispute with a poor gardener who
had laid the sods in his yard, about fifty cents, take sixpence off
of a weary strawberry woman, or chaffer with his boot-black over an
extra shilling, I could not think that it was genuine love for his
fellow-men that prompted his ostentatious charities.
In no instance did I find any better estimation of him in business
circles; for his religion did not chasten the ardor of his selfish
love of advantage in trade; nor make him more generous, nor more
inclined to help or befriend the weak and the needy. Twice I saw his
action in the case of unhappy debtors, who had not been successful in
business. In each case, his claim was among the smallest; but he said
more unkind things, and was the hardest to satisfy, of any man among
the creditors. He assumed dishonest intention at the outset, and made
that a plea for the most rigid exaction; covering his own hard
selfishness with offensive cant about mercantile honor, Christian
integrity, and religious observance of business contracts. He was the
only man among all the creditors, who made his church membership a
prominent thing—few of them were even church-goers—and the only man
who did not readily make concessions to the poor, down-trodden
"Is he a Christian?" I asked, as I walked home in some depression
of spirits, from the last of these meetings. And I could but answer
No—for to be a Christian is to be Christ-like.
"As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
This is the divine standard. "Ye must be born again," leaves to us no
latitude of interpretation. There must be a death of the old,
natural, selfish loves, and a new birth of spiritual affections. As a
man feels, so will he act. If the affections that rule his heart be
divine affections, he will be a lover of others, and a seeker of their
good. He will not be a hard, harsh, exacting man in natural things,
but kind, forbearing, thoughtful of others, and yielding. In all his
dealings with men, his actions will be governed by the heavenly laws
of justice and judgment. He will regard the good of his neighbor
equally with his own. It is in the world where Christian graces reveal
themselves, if they exist at all. Religion is not a mere Sunday
affair, but the regulator of a man's conduct among his fellow-men.
Unless it does this, it is a false religion, and he who depends upon
it for the enjoyment of heavenly felicities in the next life, will
find himself in miserable error. Heaven cannot be earned by mere acts
of piety, for heaven is the complement of all divine affections in the
human soul; and a man must come into these—must be born into
them—while on earth, or he can never find an eternal home among the
angels of God. Heaven is not gained by doing, but by living.
III. "RICH AND RARE WERE THE GEMS
"HAVE you noticed Miss Harvey's diamonds?" said a friend,
directing my attention, as she spoke, to a young lady who stood at
the lower end of the room. I looked towards Miss Harvey, and as I did
so, my eyes received the sparkle of her gems.
"Brilliant as dew-drops in the morning sunbeams," I remarked.
"Only less brilliant," was my friend's response to this. "Only less
brilliant. Nothing holds the sunlight in its bosom so perfectly as a
drop of dew.—Next, the diamond. I am told that the pin, now flashing
back the light, as it rises and falls with the swell and subsidence of
her bosom, cost just one thousand dollars. The public, you know, are
very apt to find out the money-value of fine jewelry."
"Miss Harvey is beautiful," said I, "and could afford to depend
less on the foreign aid of ornament."
"If she had dazzled us with that splendid pin alone," returned my
friend, "we might never have been tempted to look beneath the jewel,
far down into the wearer's heart. But, diamond earrings, and a
diamond bracelet, added—we know their value to be just twelve
hundred dollars; the public is specially inquisitive—suggest some
weakness or perversion of feeling, and we become eagle-eyed. But for
the blaze of light with which Miss Harvey has surrounded herself, I,
for one, should not have been led to observe her closely. There is no
object in nature which has not its own peculiar signification; which
does not correspond to some quality, affection, or attribute of the
mind. This is true of gems; and it is but natural, that we should look
for those qualities in the wearer of them to which the gems
I admitted the proposition, and my friend went on.
"Gold is the most precious of all metals, and it must, therefore,
correspond to the most precious attribute, or quality of the mind.
What is that attribute?—and what is that quality?"
"Love," said I, after a pause, "Love is the most precious attribute
of the mind—goodness the highest quality."
"Then, it is no mere fancy to say that gold corresponds to love, or
goodness. It is pure, and ductile, and warm in color, like love;
while silver is harder, and white and shining, like truth. Gold and
silver in nature are, then, as goodness and truth in the human soul.
In one we find the riches of this world, in the other divine riches.
And if gold and silver correspond to precious things of the mind, so
must brilliant jewels. The diamond! How wonderful is its affection
for light—taking in the rays eagerly, dissolving them, and sending
them forth again to gladden the eyes in rich prismatic beauty! And to
what mental quality must the diamond correspond? As it loves the sun's
rays, in which are heat and light—must it not correspond to the
affection of things good and true?—heat being of love, and light of
truth or wisdom? The wearer of diamonds, then, should have in her
heart the heavenly affection to which they correspond. She should be
loving and wise."
"It will not do to make an estimate in this way," said I. "The
measure is too exacting."
"I will admit that. But we cannot help thinking of the quality when
we look upon its sign. With a beautiful face, when first seen, do we
not always associate a beautiful soul? And when a lady adorns herself
with the most beautiful and costly things in nature, how can we help
looking, to see whether they correspond to things in her mind! For
one, I cannot; and so, almost involuntarily, I keep turning my eyes
upon Miss Harvey, and looking for signs of her quality."
"And how do you read the lady?" I inquired.
My friend shook his head.
"The observation is not favorable."
"Not favorable," he replied. "No, not favorable. She thinks of her
jewels—she is vain of them."
"The temptation is great," I said.
"The fact of so loading herself with costly jewels, is in itself
indicative of vanity—"
A third party joining us at this moment, we dropped the subject of
Miss Harvey. But, enough had been said to make me observe her closely
during the evening.
The opening line of Moore's charming lyric,
"Rich and rare were the gems she wore,"
kept chiming in my thoughts, whenever I glanced towards her, and
saw the glitter of her diamonds. Yet, past the gems my vision now
went, and I searched the fair girl's countenance for the sparkle of
other and richer jewels. Did I find them? We shall see.
"Helen," I heard a lady say to Miss Harvey, "is not that Mary
"I believe so," was her indifferent answer.
"Have you spoken to her this evening?"
"Mary Gardiner and I were never very congenial. We have not been
thrown together for some time; and now, I do not care to renew the
I obtained a single glance of the young lady's face. It was proud
and haughty in expression, and her eyes had in them a cold glitter
that awoke in me a feeling of repulsion.
"I wish you were congenial," the lady said, speaking partly to
"We are not, aunt," was Miss Harvey's reply; and she assumed the
air of one who felt herself far superior to another with whom she had
been brought into comparison.
"The gems do not correspond, I fear," said I to myself, as I moved
to another part of the room. "But who is Miss Gardiner?"
In the next moment, I was introduced to the young lady whose name
was in my thought. The face into which I looked was of that fine oval
which always pleases the eye, even where the countenance itself does
not light up well with the changes of thought. But, in this case, a
pair of calm, deep, living eyes, and lips of shape most exquisitely
delicate and feminine—giving warrant of a beautiful soul—caused the
face of Miss Gardiner to hold the vision as by a spell. Low and very
musical was her voice, and there was a discrimination in her words,
that lifted whatever she said above the common-place, even though the
subjects were of the hour.
I do not remember how long it was after my introduction to Miss
Gardiner, before I discovered that her only ornament was a small,
exquisitely cut cameo breast-pin, set in a circlet of pearls. There
was no obtrusive glitter about this. It lay more like an emblem than
a jewel against her bosom. It never drew your attention from her
face, nor dimmed, by contrast, the radiance of her soul-lit eyes. I
was charmed, from the beginning, with this young lady. Her thoughts
were real gems, rich and rare, and when she spoke there was the flash
of diamonds in her sentences; not the flash of mere brilliant sayings,
like the gleaming of a polished sword, but of living truths, that lit
up with their own pure radiance every mind that received them.
Two or three times during the evening, Miss Harvey, radiant in her
diamonds—they cost twenty-two hundred dollars—the price would
intrude itself—and Miss Gardiner, almost guiltless of foreign
ornament, were thrown into immediate contact. But Miss Gardiner was
not recognized by the haughty wearer of gems. It was the old farce of
pretence, seeking, by borrowed attractions, to outshine the
imperishable radiance of truth. I looked on, and read the lesson her
conduct gave, and wondered that any were deceived into even a
transient admiration. "Rich and rare were the gems she wore," but
they had in them no significance as applied to the wearer. It was
Miss Gardiner who had the real gems, beautiful as charity, and pure
as eternal truth; and she wore them with a simple grace, that charmed
every beholder who had eyes clear enough from earthy dust and smoke to
I never meet Miss Harvey, that I do not think of the pure and
heavenly things of the mind to which diamonds correspond, nor without
seeing some new evidence that she wears no priceless jewels in her
IV. NOT AS A CHILD.
"I DO not know how that may be," said the mother, lifting
her head, and looking through almost blinding tears, into the face of
her friend. "The poet may be right, and, "Not as a child shall I
again behold him, but the thought brings no comfort. I have lost my
child, and my heart looks eagerly forward to a reunion with him in
heaven; to the blessed hour when I shall again hold him in my arms."
"As a babe?"
"Oh, yes. As a darling babe, pure, and beautiful as a cherub."
"But would you have him linger in babyhood forever?" asked the
The mother did not reply.
"Did you expect him always to remain a child here? Would perpetual
infancy have satisfied your maternal heart? Had you not already begun
to look forward to the period when intellectual manhood would come
with its crowning honors?"
"It is true," sighed the mother.
"As it would have been here, so will it be there. Here, the growth
of his body would have been parallel, if I may so speak, with the
growth of his mind. The natural and the visible would have developed
in harmony with the spiritual and the invisible. Your child would
have grown to manhood intellectually, as well as bodily. And you
would not have had it otherwise. Growth—development—the going on to
perfection, are the laws of life; and more emphatically so as
appertaining to the life of the human soul. That life, in all its
high activities, burns still in the soul of your lost darling, and he
will grow, in the world of angelic spirits to which our Father has
removed him, up to the full stature of an angel, a glorified form of
intelligence and wisdom. He cannot linger in feeble babyhood; in the
innocence of simple ignorance; but must advance with the heavenly
cycles of changing and renewing states."
"And this is all the comfort you bring to my yearning heart?" said
the mother. "My darling, if all you say be true, is lost to me
"He was not yours, but God's." The friend spoke softly, yet with a
"He was mine to love," replied the bereaved one.
"And your love would confer upon its precious object the richest
blessings. Dear friend! Lift your thoughts a little way above the
clouds that sorrow has gathered around your heart, and let perception
come into an atmosphere radiant with light from the Sun of Truth.
Think of your child as destined to become, in the better world to
which God has removed him, a wise and loving angel. Picture to your
imagination the higher happiness, springing from higher capacities and
higher uses, which must crown the angelic life. Doing this, and loving
your lost darling, I know that you cannot ask for him a perpetual
babyhood in heaven."
"I will ask nothing for him but what 'Our Father' pleaseth to
give," said the mother, in calmer tones. "My love is selfish, I know.
I called that babe mine—mine in the broadest sense—yet he was God's,
as every other creature is his—one of the stones in his living
temple—one of the members of his kingdom. It does not comfort me in
my great sorrow to think that, as a child, I shall not again behold
him, but rays of new light are streaming into my mind, and I see
things in new aspects and new relations. Out of this deep affliction
good will arise."
"Just as certainly," added the friend, "as that the Sun shines and
the dew falls. It will be better for you, and better for the child.
To both will come a resurrection into higher and purer life."
V. ANGELS IN THE HEART.
THE heart is full of guest-chambers that are never empty;
and as the heart is the seat of life, these guests are continually
acting upon the life, either for good or evil, according to their
quality. As the guests are, so our states of life—tranquil and happy,
if good; disturbed and miserable, if evil.
We may choose our own guests, if we are wise. None can open the
door and come in, unless we give consent; always provided that we keep
watch and ward. If we leave wide open the doors of our houses, or
neglect to fasten them in the night season, thieves and robbers will
enter and despoil us at will. So if we leave the heart, unguarded,
enemies will come in. But if we open the door only to good
affections—which are guests—then we shall dwell in peace and
safety. We have all opened the door for enemies; or let them enter
through unguarded portals. They are in all the heart's
guest-chambers. They possess the very citadel of life; and the
measure of their possession is the measure of our unhappiness.
Markland was an unhappy man; and yet of this world's goods, after
which he had striven, he had an abundance. Wealth, honor among men,
luxury; these were presented to his mind as things most to be
desired, and he reached after them with an ardor that broke down all
impediments. Success answered to effort, with almost unerring
certainty. So he was full of wealth and honors. But, for all this,
Markland was unhappy. There were enemies in the house of his life;
troublesome guests in the guest-chambers of his heart, who were
forever disturbing, if not wounding him, with their strifes and
discords. Some of these he had admitted, himself holding open the
door; others had come in by stealth while the entrance was all
Envy was one of these guests, and she gave him no peace. He could
not bear that another should stand above him in anything. A certain
pew in the church he attended was regarded as most desirable. He must
have that pew at any cost. So when the annual choice of pews was sold
at auction, he overbid all contestants, and secured its occupancy. For
all the preceding year, he had failed to enjoy the Sabbath services,
because another family had a pew regarded as better situated than his;
and now he enjoyed these services as little, through annoyance at
having given so large a price for the right of choice, that people
smiled when they heard the sum named. He had paid too dear for the
privilege, and this fact took away enjoyment.
Envy tormented him in a hundred different ways. He could not enjoy
his friend's exquisite statuary, or paintings, because of a secret
intimation in his heart that his friend was honored above him in
their possession. Twice he had sold almost palatial residences,
because their architectural attractions were thrown into the shade by
dwellings of later construction. Thousands of dollars each year this
troublesome guest cost him; and yet she would never let him be at
ease. At every feast of life she dashed his cup with bitterness, and
robbed the choicest viands of their zest. He did not enjoy the fame of
an author, an orator, an artist, a man of science, a general, or of
any who held the world's admiring gaze—for while they stood in the
sunlight, he felt cast in the shade. So the guest Envy, warmed and
nourished in his heart, proved a tormentor. She gave him neither rest
Detraction, twin-sister of Envy, was all the while pointing out
defects in friends and neighbors. He saw their faults and hard
peculiaries; but rarely their good qualities. Then Doubt and Distrust
crept in through the unguarded door, and soon after their entrance
Markland began to think uneasily of the future; to fear lest the
foundations of worldly prosperity were not sure. These troublesome
guests were busiest in the night season, haunting his mind with
strange pictures of disasters, and with suggestions touching the
arbitrary power of God, whom he feared when the thought of him was
present, but did not love. "Whom He will He setteth up, and whom He
will He casteth down." Doubt and Distrust revived this warning in his
memory, and seeing that it gave his heart a throb of pain, they set it
close to his eyes, so that, for a time, he could see nothing else.
Thus, night after night, these guests troubled his peace, often
driving slumber from his eyelids until the late morning watches. If
there had been in his heart that true faith in God which believes in
him as doing all things well, Doubt and Distrust might never have
gained an entrance. But he had trusted in himself; had believed
himself equal to the task of creating his own prosperity—had been, in
common phrase, the architect of his own fortunes. And now just as he
was pluming himself on success, in crept Doubt and Distrust with their
alarming suggestions, and he was unable to cast them out.
Affections, whether evil or good, are social in their character,
and obey social laws. They do not like to dwell alone, and therefore
seek congenial friendships. They draw to themselves companions of
like quality, and are not satisfied until they rule a man as to all
the powers of his mind.
In the case of Markland, Envy made room for her twin-sister,
Detraction; Ill-will, Jealousy, Unkindness, and a teeming brood of
their malevolent kindred crowded into his heart, possessing its
chambers, ere a warning reached him of their approach. Is there rest
or peace for a man with such guests in his bosom?
Doubt and Distrust only heralded the coming of Fear, Anxiety,
Solicitude, Suspicion, Despondency, Foreboding. Markland had only to
open his eyes and look around him, to see, on every hand, the
unsightly wrecks of palaces once as fair to the eye as that which he
had raised with such labor and forethought, and as he contemplated
these, Doubt, Distrust, and their companions, filled his mind with
alarming thoughts, and so oppressed him with a sense of insecurity
that, at times, he saw the advancing shadows of misfortune on his
Thus it was with Markland at fifty. He had all good as to the
externals of life, yet was he a miserable man, and, worse than all,
he felt himself growing more and more unhappy as the years increased.
Was there no remedy for this? None, while his heart was so filled with
evil affections, which are always tormentors. He did not see this.
Though his guests disturbed and afflicted him, he called them friends,
and gave them entertainments of the best his house afforded.
Sometimes Pity came to the door of his heart and asked for
admission, but he sent Unkindness to double bar it against her.
Generosity knocked, but Avarice stood sentinel. Envy was forever
refusing to let Good-will, Appreciation, Approval, Delight, come in.
Detraction would give no countenance to Virtue and Excellence. Doubt
made deadly assault upon Faith, and Trust, and Hope, whenever they
drew near, while Ill-will stood ever on the alert to drive off
Charity, Loving-kindness and Neighborly regard. Unhappy man! Fiends
possessed him, and he knew it not.
It so happened on a time, that Markland, while standing in one of
his well-filled ware-houses, saw a child enter and come towards him
in a timid, hesitating manner.
"A beggar! Drive her away," said Unkindness and Suspicion, both
Markland was already lifting his hand to wave her back, when
Compassion, who had just then found an old way into his heart, hidden
for a long time by rank weeds and brambles, said, in soft and pitying
"She is such a little child!"
"A thieving beggar!" cried Unkindness and Suspicion, angrily.
"A weak little child," pleaded Compassion. "Don't be hard with her.
Compassion prevailed. Her voice had awakened into life some old and
long sleeping memories. Markland was himself, for a moment, a child,
full of pity, tenderness and loving-kindness. Compassion had already
uncovered the far away past, and the sweetness of its young blossoms
was reviving old delights.
"Well, little one, what is wanted?"
Markland hardly knew his own voice, it was so gentle and inviting.
How the, pale, pure face of the child warmed and brightened!
Gratefully with trust and hope in her eyes, she looked up to the
merchant. There was no answer on her lips, for this unexpected
kindness had choked the coming utterance. Rebuff, threat, anger, had
met her so often, that soft words almost surprised her into tears.
"Well, what can I do for you?"
Compassion held open the door through which she gained an entrance,
and already Good-will, Kindness and Satisfaction had come in.
"Mother is sick," said the child.
"A lying vagrant!" exclaimed Suspicion, jarring the merchant's
"There is truth in her face," said Compassion, pleading, and, at
the same time, she unveiled an image, sharply cut in the past of
Markland's life—an image of his own beloved, but long sainted
mother, pale and wasted, on her dying bed.
"Give this to your mother," he said, hastily, taking a coin from
his pocket. There was more of human kindness in his voice than it had
expressed for many years.
"God bless you, sir," the child dropped her grateful eyes from his
face, as she took the coin, bending with an involuntary reverent
motion. Then, as she slowly passed to the warehouse door, she turned
two or three times, to look on the man who, alone, of the many to
whom she had made solicitation that day, had answered her in
"So much for the encouragement of vagrancy," said Suspicion.
"Played on by the art of a cunning child," said Pride.
Markland began to feel ashamed of his momentary weakness. But, he
was not now, wholly, at the mercy of the guests who had so long
tormented him. Compassion, Good-will and Kindness were now his guests
also; and they had other and pleasanter suggestions for his mind. The
child's "God bless you, sir," they repeated over and over again,
softening the young voice, and giving it increasing power to awaken
tender and loving states which had formed themselves in earlier and
purer years. Tranquility, so long absent from his soul, came in, now,
through the entrance made by Compassion.
Markland went back into his counting-room, almost wondering at the
peace he felt. Taking up a newspaper, he read of a rare specimen of
statuary just received from Italy, the property of a well-known
merchant. Envy did not move quickly enough. The old love of beauty
and nature, which envy, detraction, greed of gain, and their
blear-eyed companions, had kept in thrall, was already in a freer
state; and found in good-will, kindness and tranquility, congenial
So, love of art and beauty ruled his mind in spite of envy, and
Markland found real pleasure in the ideal given him by the
description he read. It was, almost, a new sensation.
A friend came in, and spoke in praise of one who had performed a
generous deed. There was an instant motion among the guests in
Markland's heart, the evil inciting to envy and detraction, the good
to approval and emulation. Tranquility moved to the door through
which she had come in, as if to depart; but Good-will, Kindness and
Approbation, drew her back, and held, with her, possession of the
mind they sought to rule. Envy and Detraction were shorn, for the
time, of their power.
Wondering, as he lay on his bed that night, over the strange peace
that pervaded his mind—a peace such as he had not known for many
years—Markland fell asleep; and in his sleep there came to him a
dream of the human heart and its guest-chamber; and what we have
faintly suggested, was made visible to him in living personation.
He saw how evil affections, when permitted to dwell therein, became
its enemies and tormentors; and how, just in the degree that kind and
good affections gained entrance, there was peace, tranquility and
"I have looked into my own heart," he said, on awaking.
The incident of the child, and the dream that followed, were, in
Providence, sent for Markland's instruction. And they were not sent
in vain. Ever after he set watch and ward at the doors of his heart.
Evil guests, already in possession, were difficult to cast out; but,
he invited the good to come in, opening the way by kind and noble
acts, done in the face of opposing selfishness. Thus he went on,
peopling the guest-chamber with sweet beatitudes, until angels
instead of demons filled his house of life.
VI. CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED.
"Poor fellow! He has a hard time of it. Is he all the way down?"
"I presume so. When he begins to fall, he usually gets to the
bottom of the ladder."
It was true; Brantley had tripped again; and was down. He had been
climbing bravely for three or four years, and was well up the ladder
of prosperity, when in his eagerness to make two rundles of the
ladder at a step instead of one, he missed his footing and fell to
the bottom. My first knowledge of the fact came through the
conversation just recorded. From all I could hear, Brantley's failure
was a serious one. I knew him to be honorable and conscientious, and
to have a great deal of sensitive pride.
A few days afterwards, while passing the pleasant home where
Brantley had been residing, I saw a bill up, giving notice that the
house was for sale. A few days later I met him on the street. He did
not see me. His eyes were on the pavement; he looked pale and
careworn; he walked slowly, and was in deep thought.
"He is of tougher material than most men, if the heart is not all
taken out of him," I said in speaking of him to a mutual friend.
is of tougher material," was answered, "that is, of
finer material. Brantley is not one of your common men."
"Still, there must be something wrong about him. Some defect of
judgment. He is a good climber; but not sure-footed. Or, it may be
that beyond a certain height his head grows dizzy."
"If one gets too eager in any pursuit, he is almost sure to make
false steps. I think Brantley became too eager. The steadily widening
prospect as he went up, up, up, caused his pulses to move at a quicker
"Too eager, and less scrupulous," I suggested.
"His honor is unstained," said the friend, with some warmth.
"In the degree that a man grows eager in pursuit, he is apt to grow
blind to things collateral, and less concerned about the principles
"In some cases that may be true, but is hardly probable in the case
of Brantley. I do not believe that he has swerved from integrity in
"It is my belief," I answered, "that if he had not swerved, he
would not have fallen. I may be wrong, but cannot help the
"Brantley is an honest man. I will maintain that in the face of
every one," was replied.
"Honest as the world regards honesty. But there are higher than
legal standards. What A and B may consider fair, C may regard as
questionable. He has his own standard; and if he falls below that in
his dealings with men, he departs from his integrity."
"I have nothing to say for Brantley under that view of the
subject," said the friend. "If he has special standards of morality,
and does not live up to them, the matter is between himself and his
own conscience. We, on the outside, are not his judges."
It so happened that I met Brantley a short time afterwards. The
circumstances were favorable, and our interview unreserved. He had
sold his house, and a large part of the handsome furniture it
contained, and was living in a humbler dwelling. I referred to his
changed condition, and spoke of it with regret.
"There is no gratuitous evil," he remarked. "I have long been
satisfied on that head. If we lose on one hand, we gain on another.
And my experience in life leads me to this conclusion, that the loss
is generally in lower things, and the gain in higher."
I looked into his face, yet bearing the marks of recent trial and
suffering, and saw in it the morning dawn.
"Has it been so with you?" I asked.
"Yes; and it has always been so," he answered, without hesitation.
"It is painful to be under the surgeon's knife," he added. "We shrink
back, shivering, at the sight of his instruments. The flesh is
agonized. But when all is over, and the greedy tumor, or wasting
cancer, that was threatening life, is gone, we rejoice and are glad."
He sighed, and looked sober for a little while, as thought went
back, and memory gave too vivid a realization of what had been, and
"I can see now, that what seemed to me, and is still regarded by
others as a great misfortune, was the best thing that could have
taken place. I have lost, but I have gained; and the gain is greater
than the loss. It has always been so. Out of every trouble or
disaster that has befallen me in life, I have come with a deep
conviction that my feet stumbled because they were turning into paths
that would lead my soul astray. However much I may love myself and the
world, however much I may seek my own, below all and above all is the
conviction that time is fleeting, and life here but as a span, that if
I compass the whole world, and lose my own soul, I have made a fearful
exchange. There are a great many things regarded by business men as
allowable. They are so common in trade, that scarcely one man in a
score questions their morality; so common, that I have often found
myself drifting into their practice, and abandoning for a time the
higher principles in whose guidance there alone is safety. Misfortune
seems to have dogged my steps; but in this pause of my life—in this
state of calmness—I can see that misfortune is my good; for, not
until my feet were turning into ways that lead to death, did I stumble
"Are you not too hard in self-judgment?" I said.
"No," he answered. "The case stands just here. You know, I presume,
the immediate cause of my recent failure in business."
"A sudden decline in stocks."
The color deepened on his cheeks.
"Yes; that is the cause. Now, years ago, I settled it clearly with
my own conscience that stock speculation was wrong; that it was only
another name for gambling, in which, instead of rendering service to
the community, your gains were, in nearly all cases, measured by
another's loss. Departing from this just principle of action, I was
tempted to invest a large sum of money in a rising stock, that I was
sure would continue to advance until it reached a point where, in
selling I could realize a net gain of ten thousand dollars. I was
doing well. I was putting by from two to three thousand dollars every
year, and was in a fair way to get rich. But, as money began to
accumulate, I grew more and more eager in its acquirement, and less
concerned about the principles underlying every action, until I passed
into a temporary state of moral blindness. I was less scrupulous about
securing large advantages in trade, and would take the lion's share,
if opportunity offered, without a moment's hesitation. So, not content
with doing well in a safe path, I must step aside, and try my strength
at climbing more rapidly, even though danger threatened on the left
and on the right; even though I dragged others down in my hot and
perilous scramble upwards. I lost my footing—I stumbled—I fell,
crashing down to the very bottom of the hill, half way up which I had
gone so safely ere the greedy fiend took possession of me."
"And have not been really hurt by the fall," I remarked.
"I have suffered pain—terrible pain; for I am of a sensitive
nature," he replied. "But in the convulsions of agony, nothing but
the outside shell of a false life has been torn away. The real man is
unharmed. And now that the bitter disappointment and sadness that
attend humiliation are over, I can say that my gain is greater than
my loss. I would rather grope in the vale of poverty all my life, and
keep my conscience clean, than stand high up among the mountains of
prosperity with a taint thereon.
"God knows best," he added, after a pause, speaking in a more
subdued tone. "And I recognize the hand of His good providence in
this wreck of my worldly hopes. To gain riches at the sacrifice of
just principles is to gather up dirt and throw away goodly pearls."
"How is it with your family?" I asked. "They must feel the change
"They did feel it. But the pain is over with them also. Poor weak
human nature! My girls were active and industrious at home, and
diligent at school, while my circumstances were limited. But, as
money grew more plentiful, and I gave them a larger house to live in,
and richer clothes to wear, they wearied of their useful employments,
and neglected their studies. Pride grew apace, and vanity walked hand
in hand with pride. They were less considerate of one another, and
less loving to their parents. If I attempted to restrain their
fondness for dress, or check their extravagance, they grew sullen, or
used unfilial language. Like their father, they could not bear
prosperity. But all is changed now. Misfortune has restored them to a
better state of mind. They emulate each other in service at home;
their minds dwell on useful things; they are tender of their mother
and considerate of their father. Home is a sweeter place to us all
than it has been for a long time."
"And so what the world calls misfortune has proved a blessing."
"Yes. In permitting my feet to stumble; in letting me fall from the
height I had obtained, God dealt with me and mine in infinite love.
We give false names to things. We call that good which only
represents good, which is of the heart and life, and not in external
possessions. He has taken from me the effigy that He may give me the
"If all men could find like you," I said, "a sweet kernel at the
centre of misfortune's bitter nut."
"All men may find it if they will," he answered, "for the sweet
kernel is there."
How few find it! Nay, reader, if you say this, your observation is
at fault. God's providences with men are not like blind chances, but
full of wisdom and love. In the darkness of sorrow and adversity a
light shines on the path that was not illumined before. When the sun
of worldly prosperity goes down, a thousand stars are set in the
firmament. In the stillness that follows, God speaks to the soul and
VII. INTO GOOD GROUND.
"WHAT did you think of the sermon, Mr. Braxton?" said one
church member to another, as the two men passed from the vestibule of
St. Mark's out into the lofty portico.
Mr. Braxton gave a slight shrug, perceived by his companion as a
sign of disapproval. They moved along, side by side, down the broad
steps to the pavement, closely pressed by the retiring audience.
"Strong meat," said the first speaker, as they got free of the
crowd and commenced moving down the street.
"Too strong for my stomach," replied Mr. Braxton. "Something must
have gone wrong with our minister when he sat down to write that
"Or neuralgia," said Mr. Braxton.
"He was in no amiable mood—that much is certain. Why, he set
nine-tenths of us over on the left hand side, among the goats, as
remorselessly as if he were an avenging Nemesis. He actually made me
"That kind of literal application of texts to the living men and
women in a congregation is not only in bad taste, but presumptuous
and blasphemous. What right has a clergyman to sit in judgment on me,
for instance? To give forced constructions to parables and vague
generalities in Scripture, about the actual meaning of which divines
in all ages have differed; and, pointing his finger to me or to you,
say—'The case is yours, sir!' I cannot sit patiently under many more
Mr. Braxton evidently spoke from a disturbed state of mind.
Something in the discourse had struck at the foundations of self-love
"Into one ear, and out at the other. So it is with me, in cases
like this," answered Mr. Braxton's companion, in a changed and lighter
tone. "If a preacher chooses to be savage; to write from dyspeptic or
neuralgic states; to send his congregation, unshrived, to the nether
regions—why, I shrug my shoulders and let it pass. Most likely, on
the next Sunday, he will be full of consideration for tender
consciences, and grandly shut the gate he threw open so widely on the
last occasion. It would never answer, you know, to take these things
to heart—never in the world. We'd always be getting into hot water.
Clergymen have their moods, like other people. It doesn't answer to
forget this. Good morning, Mr. Braxton. Our ways part here."
"Good morning," was replied, and the men separated.
But, try as Mr. Braxton would to set his minister's closely applied
doctrine from Scripture to the account of dyspepsia or neuralgia, he
was unable to push from his mind certain convictions wrought therein
by the peculiar manner in which some positions had been argued and
sustained. The subject taken by the minister, was that striking
picture of the judgment given in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew,
from the thirty-first verse to the close of the chapter, beginning:
"When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels
with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before
him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from
another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." The passage
concludes: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but
the righteous into life eternal."
Now, although Mr. Braxton had complained of the literal application
of this text, that term was hardly admissible, for the preacher
waived the idea of a last general judgment, as involved in the letter
of Scripture, and declared his belief in a spiritual signification as
lying beneath the letter, and applicable to the inner life of every
single individual at the period of departure from this world; adding,
in this connection, briefly: "But do not understand me as in any
degree waiving the strictness of judgment to which every soul will
have to submit. It will not be limited by his acts, but go down to his
ends of life—to his motives and his quality—and the sentence will
really be a judgment upon what he is, not upon what he has done; although, taking the barest literal sense, only actions are
In opening and illustrating his text, he said, farther: "As the
word of God, according to its own declarations, is spirit and
life—treats, in fact, by virtue of divine and Scriptural origin, of
divine and spiritual things, must we not go beneath the merely
obvious and natural meaning, if we would get to its true
significance? Is there not a hunger of the soul as well as of the
body? May we not be spiritually athirst, and strangers?—naked, sick,
and in prison? This being so, can we confidently look for the
invitation, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, if our regard for the
neighbor have not reached beyond his bodily life? If we have never
considered his spiritual wants and sufferings, and ministered thereto
according to our ability? Just in the degree that the soul is more
precious than the body, is the degree of our responsibility under this
more interior signification of Scripture. The mere natural acts of
feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, of visiting the
sick, and those who lie in prison, of clothing the naked and
entertaining strangers, will not save us in our last day, if we have
neglected the higher duties involved in the divine admonition. Nor
will even the supply of spiritual nourishment to hungry and thirsty
souls be accounted to us for righteousness. We must find a higher
meaning still in the text. Are we not, each one of us, starving for
heavenly food?—spiritually exhausted with thirst?—naked, sick, in
prison? Are we eating, daily, of the bread of life?—drinking at the
wells of God's truth?—putting on the garments of
righteousness?—finding balm for our sick souls in Gilead?—breaking
the bonds of evil?—turning from strange lands, and coming back to our
father's house. If not, I warn you, men and brethren, that you are not
in the right way;—that, taking the significance of God's word, which
is truth itself, there is no reasonable ground of hope for your
It was not with Mr. Braxton as with his friend. He could not let
considerations like these enter one ear and go out at the other. From
earliest childhood he had received careful instruction. Parents,
teachers and preachers, had all shared in the work of storing his mind
with the precepts of religion, and now, in manhood, his conscience
rested on these and upon the states wrought therefrom in the
impressible substance of his mind. Try as he would, he found the
effort to push aside early convictions and early impressions a simple
impossibility; and, notwithstanding these had been laid on the
foundation of a far more literal interpretation of Scripture than the
one to which he had just been listening, his maturer reason accepted
the preacher's clear application of the law; and conscience, like an
angel, went down into his heart, and troubled the waters which had
been at peace.
Mr. Braxton was a man of thrift. He had started in life with a
purpose, and that purpose he was steadily attaining. To the god of
this world he offered daily sacrifice; and in his heart really
desired no higher good than seemed attainable through outward things.
Wealth, position, honor, among men—these bounded his real
aspirations. But prior things in his mind were continually reaching
down and affecting his present states. He could not forget that life
was short, and earthly possessions and honors but the things of a
day. That as he brought nothing into this world, so he could take
nothing out. That, without a religious life, he must not hope for
heaven. In order to get free from the disturbing influence of these
prior things, and to lay the foundations of a future hope, Mr.
Braxton became a church member, and, so far as all Sabbath
observances were concerned, a devout worshiper. Thus he made a truce
with conscience, and conscience having gained so much, accepted for a
period the truce, and left Mr. Braxton in good odor with himself.
A man who goes regularly to church, and reads his Bible, cannot
fail to have questions and controversies about truths, duties, and the
requirements of religion. The barest literal interpretation of
Scripture will, in most cases, oppose the action of self-love; and he
will not fail to see in the law of spiritual life a requirement wholly
in opposition to the law of natural life. In the very breadth of this
literal requirement, however, he finds a way of escape from literal
observance. To give to all who ask; to lend to all who would borrow;
to yield the cloak when the coat is taken forcibly; to turn the left
cheek when the right is smitten—all this is to him so evidently but a
figure of speech, that he does not find it very hard to satisfy
conscience. Setting these passages aside, as not to be taken in the
sense of the letter, he does not find it very difficult to dispose of
others that come nearer to the obvious duties of man to man—such, for
instance, as that in the illustration of which, by the preacher, Mr.
Braxton's self-complacency had been so much disturbed. He had never
done much in the way of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the
thirsty, clothing the naked, or visiting the sick and in prison—never
done anything of set purpose, in fact. If people were hungry, it was
mostly their own fault, and to feed them would be to encourage
idleness and vice. All the other items in the catalogue were as easily
disposed of; and so the literal duties involved might have been set
forth in the most impassioned eloquence, Sabbath after Sabbath,
without much disturbing the fine equipose of Mr. Braxton. Alas for his
peace of mind!—the preacher of truth had gone past the dead letter,
and revealed its spirit and its life. Suddenly he felt himself
removed, as it were, to an almost impossible distance from the heaven
into which, as he had complacently flattered himself, he should enter
by the door of mere ritual observances, when the sad hour came for
giving up the delightful things of this pleasant world. No wonder that
Mr. Braxton was disturbed—no wonder that, in his first convictions
touching those more interior truths, which made visible the sandy
foundations whereon he was building his eternal hopes, he should
regard the application of doctrine as personal and even literal.
It was not so easy a thing to set aside the duty of ministering to
the hungry, sick, and naked human souls around him, thousands of
whom, for lack of spiritual nourishment, medicine and clothing, were
in danger of perishing eternally. And the preacher in dwelling upon
this great duty of all Christian men and women, had used emphatic
"I give you," he said, "God's judgment of the case—not my own.
'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it
not unto me. And these shall go away;' where? 'To everlasting
punishment!' Who shall go thus, in the last day, from this
As Mr. Braxton sat alone on the evening of that Sabbath, troubled
by the new thoughts which came flowing into his mind, the full
impression of this scene in church came back upon him. There was an
almost breathless pause. Men leaned forward in their pews; the low,
almost whispered, tones of the minister were heard with thrilling
distinctness in even the remotest parts of the house.
"Who?" he repeated, and the stillness grew more profound. Then,
slowly, impressively, almost sadly, he said:
"I cannot hide the truth. As God's ambassador, I must give the
message; and it is this: If you, my brother, are not ministering to
the wants of the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the sick and in
prison, you are of those who will have to go away."
And the minister shut the Book, and sat down. If, as we have
intimated, the preacher had limited Christian duty to bodily needs,
Mr. Braxton would not have been much exercised in mind.
He had found an easy way to dispose of these merely literal
interpretations of Scripture. Now, his life was brought to the
judgment of a more interior law, as expounded that day. It was in
vain that he endeavored to reject the law; for the more he tried to
do this, the clearer it was seen in the light of perceptive truth.
"God help me, if this be so!" he exclaimed, in a moment of more
perfect realization of what was meant in the Divine Word. "Who shall
stand in the judgment?"
For awhile he endeavored to turn himself away from convictions that
were grounding themselves deeper and deeper every moment,—to shut
his eyes in wilful blindness, and refuse to see in the purer light
which had fallen around him. But this effort only brought his mind
into severer conflict, and consciously removed him to an almost fatal
distance from the paths leading upward to the mountains of peace.
"This is the way, walk ye in it." A clear voice rose above the
noise of strife in his soul, and his soul grew calm and listened. He
no longer wrought at the fruitless task of rejecting the higher truths
which were illustrating his mind, but let them flow in, and by virtue
thereof examined the state of his inner life. Now it was that his eyes
were in a degree opened, so that he could apprehend the profounder
meanings of Scripture. The parables were flooded with new light. He
understood, as he had never understood before, why the guest,
unclothed with a wedding garment, was cast out from the feast; and why
the door was shut upon the virgins who had no oil in their lamps. He
had always regarded these parables as involving a hidden meaning—as
intended to convey spiritual instruction under literal forms—but,
now, they spoke in a language that applied itself to his inward state,
and warned him that without a marriage garment, woven in the loom of
interior life, where motives rule, he could never be the King's guest;
warned him that without the light of divine truth in his
understanding, and the oil of love to God and the neighbor in his
heart, the door of the kingdom would be shut against him. Ritual
observances were, to these, but outward forms, dry husks, except when
truly representative of that worship in the soul which subordinates
natural affections to what is spiritual and divine.
At last the seed fell into good ground. Mr. Braxton had been a
"way-side" hearer; but, ere the good seed had time to germinate,
fowls came and devoured it. He had been a "stony-ground" hearer,
receiving the truth with gladness, but having no root in himself. He
had been as the ground choked with thorns, suffering the cares of
this world and the deceitfulness of riches to choke and hinder the
growth of heavenly life. Now, into good ground the seed had at last
fallen; and though the evil one tried to snatch it away, its hidden
life, moving to the earth's quick invitation, was already giving
prophetic signs of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold, in the harvest
Why was there good ground in the mind of Mr. Braxton? Good ground,
even though he was wedded to external life; a self-seeker; a lover of
the world? In the answer to this question lies a most important truth
for all to whom God has committed the care of children. Unless good
ground is formed, as it was in his case, by early instruction; by
storing up in the memory truths from the Bible, and states of good
affection; by weaving into the web and woof of the forming mind
precepts of religion—there is small hope for the future. If these
are not made a part of the forming life, things opposite will be
received, and determine spiritual capabilities. Influx of life into
the soul must be through prior things; as the twig is bent, the tree
is inclined; as the child's memory and consciousness is stored, so
will the man develop and progress. Take heart, then, doubting parent;
if you have in all faithfulness, woven precious truths, and tender,
pious, unselfish states into the texture of your child's mind—though
the fruit is not yet seen, depend on it, that the treasured remains of
good and true things are there, and will not be lost.
VIII. GIVING THAT DOTH NOT
OF all the fallacies accepted by men as truths, there is
none more widely prevalent, nor more fatal to happiness, than that
which assumes the measure of possession to be the measure of
enjoyment. All over the world, the strife for accumulation goes on;
every one seeking to increase his flocks and herds—his lands and
houses—or his gold and merchandise—and ever in the weary, restless,
unsatisfied present, tightening with one hand the grasp on worldly
goods, and reaching out for new accessions with the other.
In dispensation, not in possession, lies the secret of enjoyment; a
fact which nature illustrates in a thousand ways, and to which every
man's experience gives affirmation. "Very good doctrine for the idle
and thriftless," said Mr. Henry Steel, a gentleman of large wealth,
in answer to a friend, who had advanced the truth we have expressed
"As good doctrine for them as for you," was replied. "Possession
must come before dispensation. It is not the receiver but the
dispenser who gets the higher blessing."
The rich man shrugged his shoulders, and looked slightly annoyed,
as one upon whom a distasteful theme was intruded.
"I hear that kind of talk every Sunday," he said, almost
impatiently. "But I know what it is worth. Preaching is as much a
business as anything else; and this cant about its being more blessed
to give than to receive is a part of the capital in trade of your men
of black coats and white neck-ties. I understand it all, Mr. Erwin."
"You talk lighter than is your wont on so grave a theme," answered
the friend. "What you speak of as 'cant,' and the preacher's 'capital
in trade'—'it is more blessed to give than to receive, are the
recorded words of him who never spake as man spake. If his words, must
they not be true?"
"Perhaps I did speak lightly," was returned. "But indeed, Mr.
Erwin, I cannot help feeling that in all these efforts to make rich
men believe that their only way to happiness is through a distribution
of their estates, a large element of covetousness exists."
"That may be. But, to-day you are worth over a quarter of million
of dollars. I remember when fifty thousand, all told, limited the
extent of your possessions, and I think you were happier than I find
you to-day. How was it, my friend?"
"As to that," was unhesitatingly replied, "I had more true
enjoyment in life when I was simply a clerk with a salary of four
hundred dollars a year, than I have known at any time since."
"A remarkable confession," said the friend.
"Yet true, nevertheless."
"In all these years of strife with fortune—in all these years of
unremitted gain—has there been any great and worthy end in your
mind? Any purpose beyond the acquirement of wealth?"
Mr. Steel's brows contracted. He looked at his friend for a moment
like one half surprised, and then glanced thoughtfully down at the
"Gain, and only gain," said Mr. Erwin. "Not your history alone, nor
mine alone. It is the history of millions. Gathering, gathering, but
never of free choice, dispensing. Still, under Providence, the
dispensation goes on; and what we hoard, in due time another
distributes. Men accumulate gold like water in great reservoirs;
accumulate it for themselves, and refuse to lay conduits. Often they
pour in their gold until the banks fail under excessive pressure, and
the rich treasure escapes to flow back among the people. Often secret
conduits are laid, and refreshing and fertilizing currents, unknown to
the selfish owner, flow steadily out, while he toils with renewed and
anxious labors to keep the repository full. Oftener, the great
magazine of accumulated gold and silver, which he never found time to
enjoy, is rifled by others at his death. He was the toiler and the
accumulator—the slave who only produced. Miners, pearl-divers,
gold-washers are we, my friend; but what we gather we fail to possess
in that true sense of possession which involves delight and
satisfaction. For us the toil, for others the benefit."
"A flattering picture certainly!" was responded by Mr. Steel, with
the manner of one on whose mind an unpleasant conviction was forcing
"Is it not true to the life? Death holds out to us his unwelcome
hand, and we must leave all. The key of our treasure-house is given,
"Yet, is he not bound by our will?" said Mr. Steel. "As we have
ordered, must not he dispense?"
"Why not dispense with our own hands, and with our own eyes see the
fruit thereof? Why not, in some small measure, at least prove if it
be indeed, more blessed to give than to receive? Let us talk plainly
to each other—we are friends. I know that in your will is a bequest
of five thousand dollars to a certain charitable institution, that,
even in its limited way, is doing much good. I speak now of only this
single item. In my will, following your example and suggestion, is a
similar bequest of one thousand dollars. You are forty-five and I am
forty-seven. How long do we expect to live?"
"Life is uncertain."
"Yet often prolonged to sixty, seventy, or even eighty years. Take
sixty-five as the mean. Not for twenty years, then, will this
institution receive the benefit of your good intention. It costs, I
think, about fifty dollars a year to support each orphan child. Only
a small number can be taken, for want of liberal means. Applicants
are refused admission almost every day. Three hundred dollars, the
interest on five thousand, at six per cent., would pay for six
children. Take five years as the average time each would remain in
the institution, and we have thirty poor, neglected little ones,
taken from the street, and educated for usefulness. Thirty human
souls rescued, it may be, from hell, and saved, finally, in heaven.
And all this good might be accomplished before your eyes. You might,
if you chose, see it in progress, and comprehending its great
significance, experience a degree of pleasure, such as fills the
hearts of angels. I have made up my mind what to do."
"Erase the item of one thousand dollars from my will."
"Call it two thousand, and invest it at once for the use of this
charity. No, twenty years shall stand between my purpose and its
execution. I will have the satisfaction of knowing that good is done
in my lifetime. In this case, at least, I will be my own dispenser."
Love of money was a strong element in the heart of Mr. Steel. The
richer he grew, the more absorbing became his desire for riches. It
was comparatively an easy thing to write out charitable bequests in a
will—to give money for good uses when no longer able to hold
possession thereof; but to lessen his valued treasure by taking
anything therefrom for others in the present time, was a thing the
very suggestion of which startled into life a host of opposing
reasons. He did not respond immediately, although his heart moved him
to utterance. The force of his friend's argument was, however,
conclusive. He saw the whole subject in a new light. After a brief
but hard struggle with himself, he answered:
"And I shall follow in your footsteps, my friend. I never thought
of the lost time you mention, of the thirty children unblessed by the
good act I purposed doing. Can I leave them to vice, to suffering, to
crime, and yet be innocent? Will not their souls be required at my
hands, now that God shows me their condition? I feel the pressure of a
responsibility scarcely thought of an hour ago. You have turned the
current of my thoughts in a new direction."
"And what is better still," answered Mr. Erwin, your purposes
"My purposes also," was the reply.
A week afterwards the friends met again.
"Ah," said Mr. Erwin, as he took the hand of Mr. Steel, "I see a
new light in your face. Something has taken off from your heart that
dead, dull weight of which you complained when I was last here. I
don't know when I have seen so cheerful an expression on your
"Perhaps your eyes were dull before." Mr. Steel's smile was so
all-pervading that it lit up every old wrinkle and care-line in his
"I was at the school yesterday," said Mr. Erwin, in a meaning way.
"Were you?" The light lay stronger on the speaker's countenance.
"Yes. A little while after you were there."
Mr. Steel took a deep breath, as if his heart had commenced beating
"I have not seen a happier man than the superintendent for a score
of weeks. If you had invested the ten thousand dollars for his
individual benefit, he could not have been half so well pleased."
"He seems like an excellent man, and one whose heart is in his
work," said Mr. Steel.
"He had, already, taken in ten poor little boys and girls on the
strength of your liberal donation. Ten children lifted out of want
and suffering, and placed under Christian guardianship! Just think of
it. My heart gave a leap for joy when he told me. It was well done, my
"And what of your good purpose, Mr. Erwin?" asked the other.
"Two little girls—babes almost," replied Mr. Erwin, in a lower
voice, that almost trembled with feeling, "were brought to me. As I
looked at them, the superintendent said: 'I heard of them two days
ago. Their wretched mother had just died, and, in dying, had given
them to a vicious companion. Hunger, cold, debasement, suffering,
crime, were in the way before them; and but for your timely aid, I
should have had no power to intervene. But, you gave the means of
rescue, and here they are, innocent as yet, and out of danger from
the wolf.' In all my life, my friend, there has not been given a
moment of sincerer pleasure."
For some time Mr. Steel sat musing.
"This is a new experience," he said, at length. "Something outside
of the common order of things. I have made hundreds of investments in
my time, but none that paid me down so large an interest. A poor
speculation it seemed. You almost dragged me into it; but, I see that
it will yield unfailing dividends of pleasure."
"We have turned a leaf in the book of life," his friend made
answer, "and on the new page which now lies before us, we find it
written, that in wise dispensation, not in mere getting and hoarding,
lies the secret of happiness. The lake must have an outlet, and give
forth its crystal waters in full measure, if it would keep them pure
and wholesome, or, as the Dead Sea, it will be full of bitterness,
and hold no life in its bosom."
IX. WAS IT MURDER, OR SUICIDE?
"WHO is that young lady?"
A slender girl, just above the medium height, stood a moment at the
parlor door, and then withdrew. Her complexion was fair, but
colorless; her eyes so dark, that you were in doubt, on the first
glance, whether they were brown or blue. Away from her forehead and
temples, the chestnut hair was put far back, giving to her finely-cut
and regular features an intellectual cast. Her motions were easy, yet
with an air of reserve and dignity.
The question was asked by a visitor who had called a little while
"My seamstress," answered Mrs. Wykoff.
"Oh!" The manner of her visitor changed. How the whole character of
the woman was expressed in the tone with which she made that simple
ejaculation! Only a seamstress! "Oh! I thought it some relative or
friend of the family."
"She is a peculiar-looking girl," said Mrs. Lowe, the visitor.
"Do you think so? In what respect?"
"If she were in a different sphere of life, I would say that she
had the style of a lady."
"She's a true, good girl, answered Mrs. Wykoff, "and I feel much
interested in her. A few years ago her father was in excellent
"Ah!" With a slight manifestation of interest.
"Yes, and she's been well educated."
"And has ridden in her own carriage, no doubt. It's the story of
two-thirds of your sewing girls." Mrs. Lowe laughed in an
unsympathetic, contemptuous way.
"I happen to know that it is true in Mary Carson's case," said Mrs.
"Mary Carson. Is that her name?"
"Passing from her antecedents, as the phrase now is, which are
neither here nor there," said Mrs. Lowe, with a coldness, or rather
coarseness of manner, that shocked the higher tone of Mrs. Wykoff's
feelings, "what is she as a seamstress? Can she fit children?—little
girls like my Angela and Grace?"
"I have never been so well suited in my life," replied Mrs. Wykoff.
"Let me show you a delaine for Anna which she finished yesterday."
Mrs. Wykoff left the room, and returned in a few minutes with a
child's dress in her hand. The ladies examined the work on this dress
with practised eyes, and agreed that it was of unusual excellence.
"And she fits as well as she sews?" said Mrs. Lowe.
"Yes. Nothing could fit more beautifully than the dresses she has
made for my children."
"How soon will you be done with her?"
"She will be through with my work in a day or two."
"Is she engaged anywhere else?"
"I will ask her, if you desire it."
"Do so, if you please."
"Would you like to see her?"
"It's of no consequence. Say that I will engage her for a couple of
weeks. What are her terms?"
"Seventy-five cents a day."
"So much? I've never paid over sixty-two-and-a-half."
"She's worth the difference. I'd rather pay her a dollar a day than
give some women I've had, fifty cents. She works faithfully in all
"I'll take your word for that, Mrs. Wykoff. Please ask her if she
can come to me next week; and if so, on what day?"
Mrs. Wykoff left the room.
"Will Monday suit you?" she asked, on returning.
"Yes; that will do."
"Miss Carson says that she will be at your service on Monday."
"Very well. Tell her to report herself bright and early on that
day. I shall be all ready for her."
"Hadn't you better see her, while you are here?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.
"Oh, no. Not at all necessary. It will be time enough on Monday.
Your endorsement of her is all-sufficient."
Mrs. Lowe, who had only been making a formal call, now arose, and
with a courteous good morning, retired. From the parlor, Mrs. Wykoff
returned to the room occupied by Miss Carson.
"You look pale this morning, Mary," said the lady as she came in,
"I'm afraid you are not as well as usual."
The seamstress lifted herself in a tired way, and took a long
breath, at the same time holding one hand tightly against her left
side. Her eyes looked very bright, as they rested, with a sober
expression, on Mrs. Wykoff. But she did not reply.
"Have you severe pain there, Mary?" The voice was very kind; almost
"Not very severe. But it aches in a dull way."
"Hadn't you better lie down for a little while?"
"Oh, no—thank you, Mrs. Wykoff." And a smile flitted over the
girl's sweet, sad face; a smile that was meant to say—"How absurd to
think of such a thing!" She was there to work, not to be treated as an
invalid. Stooping over the garment, she went on with her sewing. Mrs.
Wykoff looked at her very earnestly, and saw that her lips were
growing colorless; that she moved them in a nervous way, and swallowed
every now and then.
"Come, child," she said, in a firm tone, as she took Miss Carson by
the arm. "Put aside your work, and lie down on that sofa. You are
She did not resist; but only said—-
"Not sick, ma'am—only a little faint."
As her head went heavily down upon the pillow, Mrs. Wykoff saw a
sparkle of tears along the line of her closely shut eyelids.
"Now don't stir from there until I come back," said the kind lady,
and left the room. In a little while she returned, with a small
waiter in her hand, containing a goblet of wine sangaree and a
"Take this, Mary. It will do you good."
The eyes which had not been unclosed since Mrs. Wykoff went out,
were all wet as Mary Carson opened them.
"Oh, you are so kind!" There was gratitude in her voice. Rising,
she took the wine, and drank of it like one athirst. Then taking it
from her lips, she sat, as if noting her sensations.
"It seems to put life into me," she said, with a pulse of
cheerfulness in her tones.
"Now eat this biscuit," and Mrs. Wykoff held the waiter near.
The wine drank and the biscuit eaten, a complete change in Miss
Carson was visible. The whiteness around her mouth gave place to a
ruddier tint; her face no longer wore an exhausted air; the glassy
lustre of her eyes was gone.
"I feel like myself again," she said, as she left the sofa, and
resumed her sewing chair.
"How is your side now?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.
"Easier. I scarcely perceive the pain."
"Hadn't you better lie still a while longer?"
"No, ma'am. I am all right now. A weak spell came over me. I didn't
sleep much last night, and that left me exhausted this morning, and
without any appetite."
"What kept you awake?"
"This dull pain in my side for a part of the time. Then I coughed a
good deal; and then I became wakeful and nervous."
"Does this often occur, Mary?"
"Well—yes, ma'am—pretty often of late."
"Two or three times a week."
"Can you trace it to any cause?"
"More that than anything else, I think."
"And you didn't eat any breakfast this morning?"
"I drank a cup of coffee."
"But took no solid food?"
"I couldn't have swallowed it, ma'am."
"And it's now twelve o'clock," said Mrs. Wykoff; drawing out her
watch. "Mary! Mary! This will not do. I don't wonder you were faint
Miss Carson bent to her work and made no answer. Mrs. Wykoff sat
regarding her for some time with a look of human interest, and then
A little before two o'clock there was a tap at the door, and the
waiter came in, bearing a tray. There was a nicely-cooked chop,
toast, and some tea, with fruit and a custard.
"Mrs. Wykoff said, when she went out, that dinner would be late
to-day, and that you were not well, and mustn't be kept waiting,"
remarked the servant, as he drew a small table towards the centre of
the room, and covered it with a white napkin.
He came just in time. The stimulating effect of the wine had
subsided, and Miss Carson was beginning to grow faint again, for lack
It was after three o'clock when Mrs. Wykoff came home, and half
past three before the regular dinner for the family was served. She
looked in, a moment, upon the seamstress, saying as she did so—
"You've had your dinner, Mary?"
"Oh yes, ma'am, and I'm much obliged," answered Miss Carson, a
bright smile playing over her face. The timely meal had put new life
"I knew you couldn't wait until we were ready," said the
kind-hearted, thoughtful woman, "and so told Ellen to cook you a
chop, and make you a cup of tea. Did you have enough?"
"Oh yes, ma'am. More than enough."
"You feel better than you did this morning?"
"A great deal better, I'm like another person."
"You must never go without food so long again, Mary. It is little
better than suicide for one in your state of health."
Mrs. Wykoff retired, and the seamstress went on with her work.
At the usual hour, Mary Carson appeared on the next morning. Living
at some distance from Mrs. Wykoff's, she did not come until after
breakfast. The excellent lady had thought over the incident of the
day before, and was satisfied that, from lack of nutritious food at
the right time, Mary's vital forces were steadily wasting, and that
she would, in a very little while, destroy herself.
"I will talk with her seriously about this matter," she said. "A
word of admonition may save her."
"You look a great deal better this morning," she remarked, as she
entered the room where Mary was sewing.
"I haven't felt better for a long time," was the cheerful answer.
"Did you sleep well last night?"
"Not of any consequence, ma'am."
"How was the pain in your side?"
"It troubled me a little when I first went to bed, but soon passed
"Did you feel the old exhaustion on waking?"
"I always feel weak in the morning; but it was nothing, this
morning, to what it has been."
"How was your appetite?"
"Better. I eat an egg and a piece of toast, and they tasted good.
Usually my stomach loathes food in the morning."
"Has this been the case long?"
"For a long time, ma'am."
Mrs. Wykoff mused for a little while, and then asked—
"How do you account for the difference this morning?"
Miss Carson's pale face became slightly flushed, and her eyes fell
away from the questioning gaze of Mrs. Wykoff.
"There is a cause for it, and it is of importance that you should
know the cause. Has it been suggested to your mind?"
"Yes, ma'am. To me the cause is quite apparent."
They looked at each other for a few moments in silence.
"My interest in you prompts these questions, Mary," said Mrs.
Wykoff. "Speak to me freely, if you will, as to a friend. What made
"I think the difference is mainly due to your kindness
yesterday.—To the glass of wine and biscuit when I was faint, and to
the early and good dinner, when exhausted nature was crying for food.
I believe, Mrs. Wykoff"—and Mary's eyes glistened—"that if you had
not thought of me when you did, I should not be here to-day."
"Are you serious, Mary?"
"I am, indeed, ma'am. I should have got over my faint spell in the
morning, even without the wine and biscuit, and worked on until
dinner-time; but I wouldn't have been able to eat anything. It almost
always happens, when I go so long without food, that my appetite fails
altogether, and by the time night comes, I sink down in an exhausted
state, from which nature finds it hard to rally. It has been so a
number of times. The week before I came here, I was sewing for a lady,
and worked from eight o'clock in the morning until four in the
afternoon, without food passing my lips. As I had been unable to eat
anything at breakfast-time, I grew very faint, and when called to
dinner, was unable to swallow a mouthful. When I got home in the
evening I was feverish and exhausted, and coughed nearly all night. It
was three or four days before I was well enough to go out again."
"Has this happened, in any instance, while you were sewing for me?"
asked Mrs. Wykoff.
Miss Carson dropped her face, and turned it partly aside; her
manner was slightly disturbed.
"Don't hesitate about answering my question, Mary. If it has
happened, say so. I am not always as thoughtful as I should be."
"It happened once."
"Oh! I remember that you were not able to come for two days. Now,
tell me, Mary, without reservation, exactly how it was."
"I never blamed you for a moment, Mrs. Wykoff. You didn't think;
and I'd rather not say anything about it. If I'd been as well as usual
on that day, it wouldn't have happened."
"You'd passed a sleepless night?" said Mrs. Wykoff.
"The consequence of fatigue and exhaustion?"
"Perhaps that was the reason."
"And couldn't eat any breakfast?"
"I drank a cup of coffee."
"Very well. After that you came here to work. Now, tell me exactly
what occurred, and how you felt all day. Don't keep back anything on
account of my feelings. I want the exact truth. It will be of use to
me, and to others also, I think."
Thus urged, Miss Carson replied—
"I'll tell you just as it was. I came later than usual. The walk is
long, and I felt so weak that I couldn't hurry. I thought you looked
a little serious when I came in, and concluded that it was in
consequence of my being late. The air and walk gave me an appetite,
and if I had taken some food then, it would have done me good. I
thought, as I stood at the door, waiting to be let in, that I would
ask for a cracker or a piece of bread and butter; but, when I met
you, and saw how sober you looked, my heart failed me."
"Why, Mary!" said Mrs. Wykoff. "How wrong it was in you!"
"May be it was, ma'am; but I couldn't help it. I'm foolish
sometimes; and it's hard for us to be anything else than what we are,
as my Aunt Hannah used to say. Well, I sat down to my work with the
dull pain in my side, and the sick feeling that always comes at such
times, and worked on hour after hour. You looked in once or twice
during the morning to see how I was getting on, and to ask about the
trimming for a dress I was making. Then you went out shopping, and did
not get home until half past two o'clock. For two hours there had been
a gnawing at my stomach, and I was faint for something to eat. Twice I
got up to ring the bell, and ask for a lunch; but, I felt backward
about taking the liberty. When, at three o'clock, I was called to
dinner, no appetite remained. I put food into my mouth, but it had no
sweetness, and the little I forced myself to swallow, lay undigested.
You were very much occupied, and did not notice me particularly. I
dragged on, as best I could, through the afternoon, feeling,
sometimes, as if I would drop from my chair. You had tea later than
usual. It was nearly seven o'clock when I put up my work and went
down. You said something in a kind, but absent tone, about my looking
pale, and asked if I would have a second cup of tea. I believe I
forced myself to eat a slice of bread half as large as my hand. I
thought I should never reach home that night, for the weakness that
came upon me. I got to bed as soon as possible, but was too tired to
sleep until after twelve o'clock, when a coughing spell seized me,
which brought on the pain in my side. It was near daylight when I
dropped off; and then I slept so heavily for two hours that I was all
wet with perspiration when I awoke. On trying to rise, my head swam so
that I had to lie down again, and it was late in the day before I
could even sit up in bed. Towards evening, I was able to drink a cup
of tea and eat a small piece of toast and then I felt wonderfully
better. I slept well that night, and was still better in the morning,
but did not think it safe to venture out upon a day's work; so I
rested and got all the strength I could. On the third day, I was as
well as ever again."
Mrs. Wykoff drew a long sigh as Miss Carson stopped speaking and
bent down over her sewing. For some time, she remained without
"Life is too precious a thing to be wasted in this way," said the
lady, at length, speaking partly to herself, and partly to the
seamstress. "We are too thoughtless, I must own; but you are not
blameless. It is scarcely possible for us to understand just how the
case stands with one in your position, and duty to yourself demands
that you should make it known. There is not one lady in ten, I am
sure, who would not be pleased rather than annoyed, to have you do
Miss Carson did not answer.
"Do you doubt?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.
"For one of my disposition," was replied, "the life of a seamstress
does not take off the keen edge of a natural reserve—or, to speak
more correctly sensitiveness. I dislike to break in upon another's
household arrangements, or in any way to obtrude myself. My rule is,
to adapt myself, as best I can, to the family order, and so not
disturb anything by my presence."
"Even though your life be in jeopardy?" said Mrs. Wykoff.
"Oh! it's not so bad as that."
"But it is, Mary! Let me ask a few more questions. I am growing
interested in the subject, as reaching beyond you personally. How
many families do you work for?"
After thinking for a little while, and naming quite a number of
ladies, she replied—
"Not less than twenty."
"And to many of these, you go for only a day or two at a time?"
"Passing from family to family, and adapting yourself to their
various home arrangements?"
"Getting your dinner at one o'clock to-day, and at three or four
Miss Carson nodded assent.
"Taking it now, warm and well served, with the family, and on the
next occasion, cold and tasteless by yourself, after the family has
Another assenting inclination of the head.
"One day set to work in an orderly, well ventilated room, and on
the next cooped up with children in a small apartment, the air of
which is little less than poison to your weak lungs."
"These differences must always occur, Mrs. Wykoff," replied Miss
Carson, in a quiet uncomplaining voice. "How could it be otherwise?
No house-keeper is going to alter her family arrangements for the
accommodation of a sewing-girl. The seamstress must adapt herself to
them, and do it as gracefully as possible."
"Even at the risk of her life?"
"She will find it easier to decline working in families where the
order of things bears too heavily upon her, than to attempt any
change. I have been obliged to do this in one or two instances."
"There is something wrong here, Mary," said Mrs. Wykoff, with
increasing sobriety of manner. "Something very wrong, and as I look
it steadily in the face, I feel both surprise and trouble; for, after
what you have just said, I do not see clearly how it is to be
remedied. One thing is certain, if you, as a class, accept, without
remonstrance, the hurt you suffer, there will be no change. People
are indifferent and thoughtless; or worse, too selfish to have any
regard for others—especially if they stand, socially, on a plane
"We cannot apply the remedy," answered Miss Carson.
"I am not so sure of that."
"Just look at it for a moment, Mrs. Wykoff. It is admitted, that,
for the preservation of health, orderly habits are necessary; and
that food should be taken at regular intervals. Suppose that, at
home, my habit is to eat breakfast at seven, dinner at one, and
supper at six. To-day, such is the order of my meals; but to-morrow,
I leave home at half past six, and sit down, on an empty stomach to
sew until eight, before I am called to breakfast. After that, I work
until two o'clock, when I get my dinner; and at seven drink tea. On
the day after that, may be, on my arrival at another house where a
day's cutting and fitting is wanted, I find the breakfast awaiting me
at seven; this suits very well—but not another mouthful of food
passes my lips until after three o'clock, and may be, then, I have
such an inward trembling and exhaustion, that I cannot eat. On the
day following, the order is again changed. So it goes on. The
difference in food, too, is often as great. At some houses,
everything is of good quality, well cooked, and in consequence, of
easy digestion; while at others, sour or heavy bread, greasy cooking,
and like kitchen abominations, if I must so call them, disorder
instead of giving sustenance to a frail body like mine. The seamstress
who should attempt a change of these things for her own special
benefit, would soon find herself in hot water. Think a moment.
Suppose, in going into a family for one or two days, or a week, I
should begin by a request to have my meals served at certain
hours—seven, one and six, for instance—how would it be received in
eight out of ten families?"
"Something would depend," said Mrs. Wykoff, "on the way in which it
was done. If there was a formal stipulation, or a cold demand, I do
not think the response would be a favorable one. But, I am satisfied
that, in your case, with the signs of poor health on your
countenance, the mild request to be considered as far as practicable,
would, in almost every instance, receive a kind return."
"Perhaps so. But, it would make trouble—if no where else, with
servants, who never like to do anything out of the common order. I
have been living around long enough to understand how such things
operate; and generally think it wisest to take what comes and make
the best of it."
"Say, rather, the worst of it, Mary. To my thinking, you are making
the worst of it."
But, Mrs. Wykoff did not inspire her seamstress with any purpose to
act in the line of her suggestions. Her organization was of too
sensitive a character to accept the shocks and repulses that she knew
would attend, in some quarters, any such intrusion of her individual
wants. Even with all the risks upon her, she preferred to suffer
whatever might come, rather than ask for consideration. During the two
or three days that she remained with Mrs. Wykoff, that excellent lady
watched her, and ministered to her actual wants, with all the tender
solicitude of a mother; and when she left, tried to impress upon her
mind the duty of asking, wherever she might be, for such consideration
as her health required.
The Monday morning on which Mary Carson was to appear "bright and
early" at the dwelling of Mrs. Lowe, came round, but it was far from
being a bright morning. An easterly storm had set in during the
night; the rain was falling fast, and the wind driving gustily. A
chilliness crept through the frame of Miss Carson as she arose from
her bed, soon after the dull light began to creep in drearily through
the half closed shutters of her room. The air, even within her
chamber, felt cold, damp, and penetrating. From her window a steeple
clock was visible. She glanced at the face, and saw that it was nearly
"So late as that!" she exclaimed, in a tone of surprise, and
commenced dressing herself in a hurried, nervous way. By the time she
was ready to leave her room, she was exhausted by her own excited
"Mary," said a kind voice, calling to her as she was moving down
stairs, "you are not going out this morning."
"Oh, yes, ma'am," she answered, in a cheerful voice. "I have an
engagement for to-day."
"But the storm is too severe. It's raining and blowing dreadfully.
Wait an hour or two until it holds up a little."
"Oh dear, no, Mrs. Grant! I can't stop for a trifle of rain."
"It's no trifle of rain this morning, let me tell you, Mary. You'll
get drenched to the skin. Now don't go out, child!"
"I must indeed, Mrs. Grant. The lady expects me, and I cannot
disappoint her." And Miss Carson kept on down stairs.
"But you are not going without something on your stomach, Mary.
Wait just for a few minutes until I can get you a cup of tea. The
water is boiling."
Mary did not wait. It was already past the time when she was
expected at Mrs. Lowe's; and besides feeling a little uncomfortable
on that account, she had a slight sense of nausea, with its attendant
aversion to food. So, breaking away from Mrs. Grant's concerned
importunities, she went forth into the cold driving storm. It so
happened, that she had to go for nearly the entire distance of six or
seven blocks, almost in the teeth of the wind, which blew a gale,
drenching her clothes in spite of all efforts to protect herself by
means of an umbrella. Her feet and ankles were wet by the time she
reached Mrs. Lowe's, and the lower parts of her dress and
under-clothing saturated to a depth of ten or twelve inches.
"I expected you half an hour ago," said the lady, in a coldly
polite way, as Miss Carson entered her presence.
"The morning was dark and I overslept myself," was the only reply.
Mrs. Lowe did not remark upon the condition of Mary's clothing and
feet. That was a matter of no concern to her. It was a seamstress,
not a human being, that was before her—a machine, not thing of
sensation. So she conducted her to a room in the third story,
fronting east, against the cloudy and misty windows of which the wind
and rain were driving. There was a damp, chilly feeling in the air of
this room. Mrs. Lowe had a knit shawl drawn around her shoulders; but
Mary, after removing her bonnet and cloak, had no external protection
for her chest beyond the closely fitting body of her merino dress. Her
feet and hands felt very cold, and she had that low shuddering,
experienced when one is inwardly chilled.
Mrs. Lowe was ready for her seamstress. There were the materials to
make half a dozen dresses for Angela and Grace, and one of the little
Misses was called immediately, and the work of selecting and cutting a
body pattern commenced, Mrs. Lowe herself superintending the
operation, and embarrassing Mary at the start with her many
suggestions. Nearly an hour had been spent in this way, when the
breakfast bell rang. It was after eight o'clock. Without saying
anything to Mary, Mrs. Lowe and the child they had been fitting, went
down stairs. This hour had been one of nervous excitement to Mary
Carson. Her cheeks were hot—burning as if a fire shone upon them—but
her cold hands, and wet, colder feet, sent the blood in every
returning circle, robbed of warmth to the disturbed heart.
It was past nine o'clock when a servant called Mary to breakfast.
As she arose from her chair, she felt a sharp stitch in her left side;
so sharp, that she caught her breath in half inspirations, two or
three times, before venturing on a full inflation of the lungs. She
was, at the same time, conscious of an uncomfortable tightness across
the chest. The nausea, and loathing of food, which had given place
soon after her arrival at Mrs. Lowe's to a natural craving of the
stomach for food, had returned again, and she felt, as she went down
stairs, that unless something to tempt the appetite were set before
her, she could not take a mouthful. There was nothing to tempt the
appetite. The table at which the family had eaten remained just as
they had left it—soiled plates and scraps of broken bread and meat;
partly emptied cups and saucers; dirty knives and forks, spread about
in confusion.—Amid all this, a clean plate had been set for the
seamstress; and Mrs. Lowe awaited her, cold and dignified, at the head
of the table.
"Coffee or tea, Miss Carson?"
It was a lukewarm decoction of spent coffee grounds, flavored with
tin, and sweetened to nauseousness. Mary took a mouthful and
swallowed it—put the cup again to her lips; but they resolutely
refused to unclose and admit another drop. So she sat the cup down.
"Help yourself to some of the meat." And Mrs. Lowe pushed the dish,
which, nearly three-quarters of an hour before had come upon the
table bearing a smoking sirloin, across to the seamstress. Now, lying
beside the bone, and cemented to the dish by a stratum of chilled
gravy, was the fat, stringy end of the steak. The sight of it was
enough for Miss Carson; and she declined the offered delicacy.
"There's bread." She took a slice from a fresh baker's loaf; and
spread it with some oily-looking butter that remained on one of the
butter plates. It was slightly sour. By forcing herself, she
swallowed two or three mouthfuls. But the remonstrating palate would
accept no more.
"Isn't the coffee good?" asked Mrs. Lowe, with a sharp quality in
her voice, seeing that Miss Carson did not venture upon a second
"I have very little appetite this morning," was answered, with an
effort to smile and look cheerful.
"Perhaps you'd rather have tea. Shall I give you a cup?" And Mrs.
Lowe laid her hand on the teapot.
"You may, if you please." Mary felt an inward weakness that she
knew was occasioned by lack of food, and so accepted the offer of tea,
in the hope that it might prove more palatable than the coffee. It had
the merit of being hot, and not of decidedly offensive flavor; but it
was little more in strength than sweetened water, whitened with milk.
She drank off the cup, and then left the table, going, with her still
wet feet and skirts to the sewing-room.
"Rather a dainty young lady," she heard Mrs. Lowe remark to the
waiter, as she left the room.
The stitch in Mary's side caught her again, as she went up stairs,
and almost took her breath away; and it was some time after she
resumed her work, before she could bear her body up straight on the
In her damp feet and skirts, on a chilly and rainy October day,
Mary Carson sat working until nearly three o'clock, without rest or
refreshment of any kind; and when at last called to dinner, the
disordered condition of the table, and the cold, unpalatable food set
before her, extinguished, instead of stimulating her sickly appetite.
She made a feint of eating, to avoid attracting attention, and then
returned to the sewing-room, the air of which, as she re-entered,
seemed colder than that of the hall and dining-room.
The stitch in her side was not so bad during the afternoon; but the
dull pain was heavier, and accompanied by a sickening sensation.
Still, she worked on, cutting, fitting and sewing with a patience and
industry, that, considering her actual condition, was surprising. Mrs.
Lowe was in and out of the room frequently, overlooking the work, and
marking its progress. Beyond the producing power of her seamstress,
she had no thought of that individual. It did not come within the
range of her questionings whether she were well or ill—weak or
strong—exhausted by prolonged labor, or in the full possession of
bodily vigor. To her, she was simply an agent through which a certain
service was obtained; and beyond that service, she was nothing. The
extent of her consideration was limited by the progressive creation of
dresses for her children. As that went on, her thought dwelt with Miss
Carson; but penetrated no deeper. She might be human; might have an
individual life full of wants, yearnings, and tender sensibilities;
might be conscious of bodily or mental suffering—but, if so, it was
in a region so remote from that in which Mrs. Lowe dwelt, that no
intelligence thereof reached her.
At six o'clock, Mary put up her work, and, taking her bonnet and
shawl, went down stairs, intending to return home.
"You're not going?" said Mrs. Lowe, meeting her on the way. She
spoke in some surprise.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm not very well, and wish to get home."
"What time is it?" Mrs. Lowe drew out her watch. "Only six o'clock.
I think you're going rather early. It was late when you came this
morning, you know."
"Excuse me, if you please," said Miss Carson, as she moved on. "I
am not very well to-night. To-morrow I will make it up."
Mrs. Lowe muttered something that was not heard by the seamstress,
who kept on down stairs, and left the house.
The rain was still falling and the wind blowing. Mary's feet were
quite wet again by the time she reached home.
"How are you, child?" asked Mrs. Grant, in kind concern, as Mary
"Not very well," was answered.
"Oh! I'm sorry! Have you taken cold?"
"I'm afraid that I have."
"I said it was wrong in you to go out this morning. Did you get
Mrs. Grant looked down at Mary's feet. "Are they damp?"
"Come right into the sitting-room. I've had a fire made up on
purpose for you." And the considerate Mrs. Grant hurried Mary into
the small back room, and taking off her cloak and bonnet, placed her
in a chair before the fire. Then, as she drew off one of her shoes,
and clasped the foot in her hand, she exclaimed—
"Soaking wet, as I live!" Then added, after removing, with kind
officiousness, the other shoe—"Hold both feet to the fire, while I
run up and get you a pair of dry stockings. Don't take off the wet
ones until I come back."
In a few minutes Mrs. Grant returned with the dry stockings and a
towel. She bared one of the damp feet, and dried and heated it
thoroughly—then warmed one of the stockings and drew it on.
"It feels so good," said Mary, faintly, yet with a tone of
Then the other foot was dried, warmed, and covered. On completing
this welcome service, Mrs. Grant looked more steadily into Mary's
face, and saw that her cheeks were flushed unnaturally, and that her
eyes shone with an unusual lustre. She also noticed, that in
breathing there was an effort.
"You got very wet this morning," said Mrs. Grant.
"Yes. The wind blew right in my face all the way. An umbrella was
hardly of any use."
"You dried yourself on getting to Mrs. Lowe's?"
Mary shook her head.
"There was no fire in the room."
"I had no change of clothing, and there was no fire in the room.
What could I do?"
"You could have gone down into the kitchen, if nowhere else, and
dried your feet."
"It would have been better if I had done so; but you know how hard
it is for me to intrude myself or give trouble."
"Give trouble! How strangely you do act, sometimes! Isn't life
worth a little trouble to save? Mrs. Lowe should have seen to this.
Didn't she notice your condition?"
"I think not."
"Well, it's hard to say who deserves most censure, you or she. Such
trifling with health and life is a crime. What's the matter?" She
observed Mary start as if from sudden pain.
"I have suffered all day, with an occasional sharp stitch in my
side—it caught me just then."
Mrs. Grant observed her more closely; while doing so, Mary coughed
two or three times. The cough was tight and had a wheezing sound.
"Have you coughed much?" she asked.
"Not a great deal. But I'm very tight here," laying her hand over
her breast. "I think," she added, a few moments afterwards, "that
I'll go up to my room and get to bed. I feel tired and sick."
"Wait until I can get you some tea," replied Mrs. Grant. "I'll
bring down a pillow, and you can lie here on the sofa."
"Thank you, Mrs. Grant. You are so kind and thoughtful." Miss
Carson's voice shook a little. The contrast between the day's selfish
indifference of Mrs. Lowe, and the evening's motherly consideration of
Mrs. Grant, touched her. "I will lie down here for a short time.
Perhaps I shall feel better after getting some warm tea. I've been
chilly all day."
The pillow and a shawl were brought, and Mrs. Grant covered Mary as
she lay upon the sofa; then she went to the kitchen to hurry up tea.
"Come, dear," she said, half an hour afterwards, laying her hand
upon the now sleeping girl. A drowsy feeling had come over Mary, and
she had fallen into a heavy slumber soon after lying down. The easy
touch of Mrs. Grant did not awaken her. So she called louder, and
shook the sleeper more vigorously. At this, Mary started up, and
looked around in a half-conscious, bewildered manner. Her cheeks were
"Come, dear—tea is ready," said Mrs. Grant.
"Oh! Yes." And Mary, not yet clearly awake, started to leave the
room instead of approaching the table.
"Where are you going, child?" Mrs. Grant caught her arm.
Mary stood still, looking at Mrs. Grant, in a confused way.
"Tea is ready." Mrs. Grant spoke slowly and with emphasis.
"Oh! Ah! Yes. I was asleep." Mary drew her hand across her eyes two
or three times, and then suffered Mrs. Grant to lead her to the
table, where she sat down, leaning forward heavily upon one arm.
"Take some of the toast," said Mrs. Grant, after pouring a cup of
tea. Mary helped herself, in a dull way, to a slice of toast, but did
not attempt to eat. Mrs. Grant looked at her narrowly from across the
table, and noticed that her eyes, which had appeared large and
glittering when she came home, were now lustreless, with the lids
"Can't you eat anything?" asked Mrs. Grant, in a voice that
Mary pushed her cup and plate away, and leaning back, wearily, in
her chair, answered—
"Not just now. I'm completely worn out, and feel hot and
Mrs. Grant got up and came around to where Miss Carson was sitting.
As she laid her hand upon her forehead, she said, a little anxiously,
"You have considerable fever, Mary."
"I shouldn't wonder." And a sudden cough seized her as she spoke.
She cried out as the rapid concussions jarred her, and pressed one
hand against her side.
"Oh dear! It seemed as if a knife were cutting through me," she
said, as the paroxysm subsided, and she leaned her head against Mrs.
"Come, child," and the kind woman drew upon one of her arms. "In
bed is the place for you now."
They went up stairs, and Mary was soon undressed and in bed. As she
touched the cool sheets, she shivered for a moment, and then shrank
down under the clothes, shutting her eyes, and lying very still.
"How do you feel now?" asked Mrs. Grant, who stood bending over
Mary did not reply.
"Does the pain in your side continue?"
"Yes, ma'am." Her voice was dull.
"And the tightness over your breast?"
"What can I do for you?"
"Nothing. I want rest and sleep."
Mrs. Grant stood for some time looking down upon Mary's red cheeks;
red in clearly defined spots, that made the pale forehead whiter by
"Something more than sleep is wanted, I fear," she said to herself,
as she passed from the chamber and went down stairs. In less than
half an hour she returned. A moan reached her ears as she approached
the room where the sick girl lay. On entering, she found her sitting
high up in bed; or, rather, reclining against the pillows, which she
had adjusted against the head-board. Her face, which had lost much of
its redness, was pinched and had a distressed look. Her eyes turned
anxiously to Mrs. Grant.
"How are you now, Mary?"
"Oh, I'm sick! Very sick, Mrs. Grant."
"Where? How, Mary?"
"Oh, dear!' I'm so distressed here!" laying her hand on her breast.
"And every time I draw a breath, such a sharp pain runs through my
side into my shoulder. Oh, dear! I feel very sick, Mrs. Grant."
"Shall I send for a doctor?"
"I don't know, ma'am." And Miss Carson threw her head from side to
side, uneasily—almost impatiently; then cried out with pain, as she
took a deeper inspiration than usual.
Mrs. Grant left the room, and going down stairs, despatched her
servant for a physician, who lived not far distant.
"It is pleurisy," said the doctor, on examining the case.—"And a
very severe attack," he added, aside, to Mrs. Grant.
Of the particulars of his treatment, we will not speak. He was of
the exhaustive school, and took blood freely; striking at the
inflammation through a reduction of the vital system. When he left
his patient that night, she was free from pain, breathing feebly, and
without constriction of the chest. In the morning, he found her with
considerable fever, and suffering from a return of the pleuritic pain.
Her pulse was low and quick, and had a wiry thrill under the fingers.
The doctor had taken blood very freely on the night before, and
hesitated a little on the question of opening another vein, or having
recourse to cups. As the lancet was at hand, and most easy of use, the
vein was opened, and permitted to flow until there was a marked
reduction of pain. After this, an anodyne diaphoretic was prescribed,
and the doctor retired from the chamber with Mrs. Grant. He was much
more particular, now, in his inquiries about his patient and the
immediate cause of her illness. On learning that she had been
permitted to remain all day in a cold room, with wet feet and damp
clothing, he shook his head soberly, and remarked, partly speaking to
himself, that doctors were not of much use in suicide or murder cases.
Then he asked, abruptly, and with considerable excitement of manner—
"In heaven's name! who permitted this think to be done? In what
family did it occur?"
"The lady for whom she worked yesterday is named Mrs. Lowe."
"And she permitted that delicate girl to sit in wet clothing, in a
room without fire, on a day like yesterday?"
"It is so, doctor."
"Then I call Mrs. Lowe a murderer!" The doctor spoke with excess of
"Do you think Mary so very ill, doctor?" asked Mrs. Grant.
"I do, ma'am."
"She is free from pain now."
"So she was when I left her last night; and I expected to find her
showing marked improvement this morning. But, to my concern, I find
her really worse instead of better."
"Worse, doctor? Not worse!"
"I say worse to you, Mrs. Grant, in order that you may know how
much depends on careful attendance. Send for the medicine I have
prescribed at once, and give it immediately. It will quiet her system
and produce sleep. If perspiration follows, we shall be on the right
side. I will call in again through the day. If the pain in her side
returns, send for me."
The pain did return, and the doctor was summoned. He feared to
strike his lancet again; but cupped freely over the right side, thus
gaining for the suffering girl a measure of relief. She lay, after
this, in a kind of stupor for some hours. On coming out of this, she
no longer had the lancinating pain in her side with every expansion
of the lungs; but, instead, a dull pain, attended by a cough and
tightness of the chest. The cough was, at first, dry, unsatisfactory,
and attended with anxiety. Then came a tough mucus, a little streaked
with blood. The expectoration soon became freer, and assumed a
brownish hue. A low fever accompanied these bad symptoms.
The case had become complicated with pneumonia, and assumed a very
dangerous type. On the third day a consulting physician was called
in. He noted all the symptoms carefully, and with a seriousness of
manner that did not escape the watchful eyes of Mrs. Grant. He passed
but few words with the attendant physician, and their exact meaning
was veiled by medical terms; but Mrs. Grant understood enough to
satisfy her that little hope of a favorable issue was entertained.
About the time this consultation over the case of Mary Carson was
in progress, it happened that Mrs. Wykoff received another visit from
"I've called," said the latter, speaking in the tone of one who
felt annoyed, "to ask where that sewing girl you recommended to me
"Yes, I believe that is her name."
"Didn't she come on Monday, according to appointment?"
"Oh, yes, she came. But I've seen nothing of her since."
"Ah! Is that so? She may be sick." The voice of Mrs. Wykoff dropped
to a shade of seriousness. "Let me see—Monday—didn't it rain?—Yes,
now I remember; it was a dreadful day. Perhaps she took cold. She's
very delicate. Did she get wet in coming to your house?"
"I'm sure I don't know." There was a slight indication of annoyance
on the part of Mrs. Lowe.
"It was impossible, raining and blowing as it did, for her to
escape wet feet, if not drenched clothing. Was there fire in the room
where she worked?"
"Fire! No. We don't have grates or stoves in any of our rooms."
"Oh; then there was a fire in the heater?"
"We never make fire in the heater before November," answered Mrs.
Lowe, with the manner of one who felt annoyed.
Mrs. Wykoff mused for some moments.
"Excuse me," she said, "for asking such minute questions; but I
know Miss Carson's extreme delicacy, and I am fearful that she is
sick, as the result of a cold. Did you notice her when she came in on
"Yes. I was standing in the hall when the servant admitted her. She
came rather late."
"Did she go immediately to the room where she was to work?"
"You are sure she didn't go into the kitchen and dry her feet?"
"She went up stairs as soon as she came in."
"Did you go up with her?"
"Excuse me, Mrs. Lowe," said Mrs. Wykoff, who saw that these
questions were chafing her visitor, "for pressing my inquiries so
closely. I am much concerned at the fact of her absence from your
house since Monday. Did she change any of her clothing,—take off her
stockings, for stance, and put on dry ones?"
"Nothing of the kind."
"But sat in her wet shoes and stockings all day!"
"I don't know that they were wet, Mrs. Wykoff," said the lady, with
"Could you have walked six or seven squares in the face of Monday's
driving storm, Mrs. Lowe, and escaped wet feet? Of course not. Your
stockings would have been wet half way to the knees, and your skirts
There was a growing excitement about Mrs. Wykoff, united with an
air of so much seriousness, that Mrs. Lowe began to feel a pressure of
alarm. Selfish, cold-hearted and indifferent to all in a social grade
beneath her, this lady was not quite ready to stand up in the world's
face as one without common humanity. The way in which Mrs. Wykoff was
presenting the case of Miss Carson on that stormy morning, did not
reflect very creditably upon her; and the thought—"How would this
sound, if told of me?"—did not leave her in the most comfortable
frame of mind.
"I hope she's not sick. I'm sure the thought of her being wet never
crossed my mind. Why didn't she speak of it herself? She knew her own
condition, and that there was fire in the kitchen. I declare! some
people act in a manner perfectly incomprehensible." Mrs. Lowe spoke
now in a disturbed manner.
"Miss Carson should have looked to this herself, and she was wrong
in not doing so—very wrong," said Mrs. Wykoff. "But she is shrinking
and sensitive to a fault—afraid of giving trouble or intruding
herself. It is our place, I think, when strangers come into our
houses, no matter under what circumstances, to assume that they have a
natural delicacy about asking for needed consideration, and to see
that all things due to them are tendered. I cannot see that any
exceptions to this rule are admissible. To my thinking, it applies to
a servant, a seamstress, or a guest, each in a just degree, with equal
force. Not that I am blameless in this thing. Far from it. But I
acknowledge my fault whenever it is seen, and repenting, resolve to
act more humanely in the future."
"Where does Miss Carson live?" asked Mrs. Lowe. "I came to make the
"As I feel rather troubled about her," answered Mrs. Wykoff, "I
will go to see her this afternoon."
"I wish you would. What you have said makes me feel a little
uncomfortable. I hope there is nothing wrong; or, at least, that she
is only slightly indisposed. It was thoughtless in me. But I was so
much interested in the work she was doing that I never once thought
of her personally."
"Did she come before breakfast?"
"Excuse me; but at what time did she get her breakfast?"
There was just a little shrinking in the manner of Mrs. Wykoff; as
"Towards nine o'clock."
"Did she eat anything?"
"Well, no, not much in particular. I thought her a little dainty.
She took coffee; but it didn't just appear to suit her appetite. Then
I offered her tea, and she drank a cup."
"But didn't take any solid food?"
"Very little. She struck me as a dainty Miss."
"She is weak and delicate, Mrs. Lowe, as any one who looks into her
face may see. Did you give her a lunch towards noon?"
"A lunch! Why no!" Mrs. Lowe elevated her brows.
"How late was it when she took dinner?"
"Did she eat heartily?"
"I didn't notice her particularly. She was at the table for only a
"I fear for the worst," said Mrs. Wykoff. "If Mary Carson sat all
day on Monday in damp clothes, wet feet, and without taking a
sufficient quantity of nourishing food, I wouldn't give much for her
Mrs. Lowe gathered her shawl around her, and arose to depart. There
was a cloud on her face.
"You will see Miss Carson to-day?" she said.
"At what time do you think of going?"
"I shall not be able to leave home before late in the afternoon."
"Say four o'clock."
"Not earlier than half past four."
Mrs. Lowe stood for some moments with the air of one who hesitated
about doing something.
"Will you call for me?" Her voice was slightly depressed.
"What you have said troubles me. I'm sure I didn't mean to be
unkind. It was thoughtlessness altogether. I hope she's not ill."
"I'll leave home at half past four," said Mrs. Wykoff. "It isn't
over ten minutes' walk to your house."
"You'll find me all ready. Oh, dear!" and Mrs. Lowe drew a long,
sighing breath. "I hope she didn't take cold at my house. I hope
nothing serious will grow out of it. I wouldn't have anything of this
kind happen for the world. People are so uncharitable. If it should
get out, I would be talked about dreadfully; and I'm sure the girl is
a great deal more to blame than I am. Why didn't she see to it that
her feet and clothes were dried before she sat down to her work?"
Mrs. Wykoff did not answer. Mrs. Lowe stood for a few moments,
waiting for some exculpatory suggestion; but Mrs. Wykoff had none to
"Good morning. You'll find me all ready when you call."
And the ladies parted.
"Ah, Mrs. Lowe! How are you this morning?"
A street meeting, ten minutes later.
"Right well. How are you?"
"Well as usual. I just called at your house."
"Ah, indeed! Come, go back again."
"No, thank you; I've several calls to make this morning. But, d'
you know, there's a strange story afloat about a certain lady of your
"Of my acquaintance?"
"Yes; a lady with whom you are very, very intimate."
"What is it?" There was a little anxiety mixed with the curious air
of Mrs. Lowe.
"Something about murdering a sewing-girl."
"What?" Mrs. Lowe started as if she had received a blow; a
frightened look came into her face.
"But there isn't anything in it, of course," said the friend, in
considerable astonishment at the effect produced on Mrs. Lowe.
"Tell me just what you have heard," said the latter. "You mean me
by the lady of your intimate acquaintance."
"Yes; the talk is about you. It came from doctor somebody; I don't
know whom. He's attending the girl."
"What is said? I wish to know. Don't keep back anything on account
of my feelings. I shall know as to its truth or falsehood; and, true
or false, it is better that I should stand fully advised. A
seamstress came to work for me on Monday—it was a stormy day, you
know—took cold from wet feet, and is now very ill. That much I know.
It might have happened at your house, or your neighbors, without
legitimate blame lying against either of you. Now, out of this simple
fact, what dreadful report is circulated to my injury? As I have just
said, don't keep anything back."
"The story," replied the friend, "is that she walked for half a
mile before breakfast, in the face of that terrible north-east storm,
and came to you with feet soaking and skirts wet to the knees, and
that you put her to work, in this condition, in a cold room, and
suffered her to sit in her wet garments all day. That, in consequence,
she went home sick, was attacked with pleurisy in the evening, which
soon ran into acute pneumonia, and that she is now dying. The doctor,
who told my friend, called it murder, and said, without hesitation,
that you were a murderer."
"Dying! Did he say that she was dying?"
"Yes, ma'am. The doctor said that you might as well have put a
pistol ball through her head."
"Yes, you. Those were his words, as repeated by my friend."
"Who is the friend to whom you refer?"
"And, without a word of inquiry as to the degree of blame referable
to me, she repeats this wholesale charge, to my injury? Verily, that
is Christian charity!"
"I suggested caution on her part, and started to see you at once.
Then she did sit in her wet clothing all day at your house?"
"I don't know whether she did or not," replied Mrs. Lowe,
fretfully. "She was of woman's age, and competent to take care of
herself. If she came in wet, she knew it; and there was fire in the
house, at which she could have dried herself. Even a half-witted
person, starting from home on a morning like that, and expecting to be
absent all day, would have provided herself with dry stockings and
slippers for a change. If the girl dies from cold taken on that
occasion, it must be set down to suicide, not murder. I may have been
thoughtless, but I am not responsible. I'm sorry for her; but I cannot
take blame to myself. The same thing might have happened in your
"It might have happened in other houses than yours, Mrs. Lowe, I
will admit," was replied. "But I do not think it would have happened
in mine. I was once a seamstress myself and for nearly two years went
out to work in families. What I experienced during those two years has
made me considerate towards all who come into my house in that
capacity. Many who are compelled to earn a living with the needle,
were once in better condition than now, and the change touches some of
them rather sharply. In some families they are treated with a
thoughtful kindness, in strong contrast with what they receive in
other families. If sensitive and retiring, they learn to be very chary
about asking for anything beyond what is conceded, and bear, rather
than suggest or complain."
"I've no patience with that kind of sensitiveness," replied Mrs.
Lowe; "it's simply ridiculous; and not only ridiculous, but wrong. Is
every sewing-girl who comes into your house to be treated like an
"We are in no danger of erring, Mrs. Lowe," was answered, "on the
side of considerate kindness, even to sewing-women. They are human,
and have wants, and weaknesses, and bodily conditions that as
imperatively demand a timely and just regard as those of the most
honored guest who may sojourn with us. And what is more, as I hold,
we cannot omit our duty either to the one or to the other, and be
blameless. But I must hurry on. Good morning, Mrs. Lowe."
"Good morning," was coldly responded. And the two ladies parted.
We advance the time a few hours. It is nearly sundown, and the
slant beams are coming in through the partly-raised blinds, and
falling on the bed, where, white, and panting for the shortcoming
breath, lies Mary Carson, a little raised by pillows against which her
head rests motionless. Her eyes are shut, the brown lashes lying in
two deep fringes on her cheeks. Away from her temples and forehead the
hair has been smoothly brushed by loving hands, and there is a
spiritual beauty in her face that is suggestive of heaven. Mrs. Grant
is on one side of the bed, and the physician on the other. Both are
gazing intently on the sick girl's face. The door opens, and two
ladies come in, noiselessly—Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Wykoff. They are
strangers there to all but Mary Carson, and she has passed too far on
the journey homeward for mortal recognitions. Mrs. Grant moves a
little back from the bed, and the two ladies stand in her place,
leaning forward, with half-suspended breathing. The almost classic
beauty of Miss Carson's face; the exquisite cutting of every feature;
the purity of its tone—are all at once so apparent to Mrs. Lowe that
she gazes down, wonder and admiration mingling with awe and
There is a slight convulsive cough, with a fleeting spasm. The
white lips are stained. Mrs. Lowe shudders. The stain is wiped off,
and all is still as before. Now the slanting sun rays touch the
pillows, close beside the white face, lighting it with a glory that
seems not of the earth. They fade, and life fades with them, going out
as they recede. With the last pencil of sunbeams passes the soul of
"It is over!" The physician breathes deeply, and moves backwards
from the bed.
"Over with her," he adds, like one impelled by crowding thoughts to
untimely utterance. "The bills of mortality will say pneumonia—it
were better written murder."
Call it murder, or suicide, as you will; only, fair reader, see to
it that responsibility in such a case lies never at your door.
X. THE NURSERY MAID.
I DID not feel in a very good humor either with myself or
with Polly, my nursery maid. The fact is, Polly had displeased me; and
I, while under the influence of rather excited feelings, had rebuked
her with a degree of intemperance not exactly becoming in a Christian
gentlewoman, or just to a well meaning, though not perfect domestic.
Polly had taken my sharp words without replying. They seemed to
stun her. She stood for a few moments, after the vials of my wrath
were emptied, her face paler than usual, and her lips almost
colorless. Then she turned and walked from my room with a slow but
firm step. There was an air of purpose about her, and a manner that
puzzled me a little.
The thermometer of my feelings was gradually falling, though not
yet reduced very far below fever-heat, when Polly stood again before
me. A red spot now burned on each cheek, and her eyes were steady as
she let them rest in mine.
"Mrs. Wilkins," said she, firmly, yet respectfully, "I am going to
leave when my month is up."
Now, I have my own share of willfulness and impulsive independence.
So I answered, without hesitation or reflection,
"Very well, Polly. If you wish to leave, I will look for another to
fill your place." And I drew myself up with an air of dignity.
Polly retired as quickly as she came, and I was left alone with my
not very agreeable thoughts for companions. Polly had been in my
family for nearly four years, in the capacity of nurse and chamber
maid. She was capable, faithful, kind in her disposition, and
industrious. The children were all attached to her, and her influence
over them was good. I had often said to myself in view of Polly's
excellent qualities, "She is a treasure!" And, always, the thought of
losing her services had been an unpleasant one. Of late, in some
things, Polly had failed to give the satisfaction of former times. She
was neither so cheerful, nor so thoughtful, nor had she her usual
patience with the children. "Her disposition is altering," I said to
myself, now and then, in view of this change; "something has spoiled
"You have indulged her too much, I suppose," was the reason given
by my husband, whenever I ventured to introduce to his notice the
shortcomings of Polly. "You are an expert at the business of spoiling
My good opinion of myself was generally flattered by this estimate
of the case; and, as this good opinion strengthened, a feeling of
indignation against Polly for her ingratitude, as I was pleased to
call it, found a lodging in my heart.
And so the matter had gone on, from small beginnings, until a state
of dissatisfaction on the one part, and coldness on the other, had
grown up between mistress and maid. I asked no questions of Polly, as
to the change in her manner, but made my own inferences, and took, for
granted, my own conclusions. I had spoiled her by indulgence—that was
clear. As a thing of course, this view was not very favorable to a
just and patient estimate of her conduct, whenever it failed to meet
On the present occasion, she had neglected the performance of
certain services, in consequence of which I suffered some small
inconvenience, and a great deal of annoyance.
"I don't know what's come over you, Polly," said I to her sharply.
"Something has spoiled you outright; and I tell you now, once for
all, that you'll have to mend your ways considerably, if you expect
to remain much longer in this family."
The language was hard enough, but the manner harder and more
offensive. I had never spoken to her before with anything like the
severity now used. The result of this intemperance of speech on my
part, the reader has seen. Polly gave notice that she would leave,
and I accepted the notice. For a short time after the girl retired
from my room, I maintained a state of half indignant independence;
but, as to being satisfied with myself, that was out of the question.
I had lost my temper, and, as is usual in such cases, had been harsh,
and it might be, unjust. I was about to lose the services of a
domestic, whose good qualities so far overbalanced all defects and
shortcomings, that I could hardly hope to supply her place. How could
the children give her up? This question came home with a most
unpleasant suggestion of consequences. But, as the disturbance of my
feelings went on subsiding, and thought grew clearer and clearer, that
which most troubled me was a sense of injustice towards Polly. The
suggestion came stealing into my mind, that the something wrong about
her might involve a great deal more than I had, in a narrow reference
of things to my own affairs, imagined. Polly was certainly changed;
but, might not the change have its origin in mental conflict or
suffering, which entitled her to pity and consideration, instead of
This was a new thought, which in no way tended to increase a
feeling of self-approval.
"She is human, like the rest of us," said I, as I sat talking over
the matter with myself, "and every human heart has its portion of
bitterness. The weak must bear in weakness, as well as the strong in
strength; and the light burden rests as painfully on the back that
bends in feebleness, as does the heavy one on Atlas-shoulders. We are
too apt to regard those who serve us as mere working machines. Rarely
do we consider them as possessing like wants and weaknesses, like
sympathies and yearnings with ourselves. Anything will do for them.
Under any external circumstances, is their duty to be satisfied."
I was wrong in this matter. Nothing was now clearer to me than
this. But, how was I to get right? That was the puzzling question. I
thought, and thought—looking at the difficulty first on this side,
and then on that. No way of escape presented itself, except through
some open or implied acknowledgment of wrong; that is, I must have
some plain, kind talk with Polly, to begin with, and thus show her,
by an entire change of manner, that I was conscious of having spoken
to her in a way that was not met by my own self-approval. Pride was
not slow in vindicating her own position among the mental powers. She
was not willing to see me humble myself to a servant. Polly had given
notice that she was going to leave, and if I made concession, she
would, at once conclude that I did so meanly, from self-interest,
because I wished to retain her services. My naturally independent
spirit revolted under this view of the case, but I marshalled some of
the better forces of my mind, and took the field bravely on the side
of right and duty. For some time the conflict went on; then the better
elements of my nature gained the victory.
When the decision was made, I sent a message for Polly. I saw, as
she entered my room, that her cheeks no longer burned, and that the
fire had died out in her eyes. Her face was pale, and its expression
sad, but enduring.
"Polly," said I, kindly, "sit down. I would like to have some talk
The girl seemed taken by surprise. Her face warmed a little, and
her eyes, which had been turned aside from mine, looked at me with a
glance of inquiry.
"There, Polly"—and I pointed to a chair—"sit down."
She obeyed, but with a weary, patient air, like one whose feelings
were painfully oppressed.
"Polly," said I, with kindness and interest in my voice, "has
anything troubled you of late?"
Her face flushed and her eyes reddened.
"If there has, Polly, and I can help you in any way, speak to me as
a friend. You can trust me."
I was not prepared for the sudden and strong emotion that instantly
manifested itself. Her face fell into her hands, and she sobbed out,
with a violence that startled me. I waited until she grew calm, and
then said, laying a hand kindly upon her as I spoke—
"Polly, you can talk to me as freely as if I were your mother.
Speak plainly, and if I can advise you or aid you in any way, be sure
that I will do it."
"I don't think you can help me any, ma'am, unless it is to bear my
trouble more patiently," she answered, in a subdued way.
"Trouble, child! What trouble? Has anything gone wrong with you?"
The manner in which this inquiry was made, aroused her, and she
said quickly and with feeling:
me? O no, ma'am!"
"But you are in trouble, Polly."
"Not for myself, ma'am—not for myself," was her earnest reply.
"For whom, then, Polly?"
The girl did not answer for some moments. Then with a long, deep
sigh, she said:
"You never saw my brother Tom, ma'am. Oh, he was such a nice boy,
and I was so fond of him! He had a hard place where he worked, and
they paid him so little that, poor fellow! if I hadn't spent half my
wages on him, he'd never have looked fit to be seen among folks. When
he was eighteen he seemed to me perfect. He was so good and kind.
But—" and the girl's voice almost broke down—"somehow, he began to
change after that. I think he fell into bad company. Oh, ma'am! It
seemed as if it would have killed me the first time I found that he
had been drinking, and was not himself. I cried all night for two or
three nights. When we met again I tried to talk with Tom about it, but
he wouldn't hear a word, and, for the first time in his life, got
angry with his sister.
"It has been going on from bad, to worse ever since, and I've
almost given up hope."
"He's several years younger than you are, Polly."
"Yes, ma'am. He was only ten years old when our mother died. I am
glad she is dead now, what I've never said before. There were only
two of us—Tom and I; and I being nearly six years the oldest, felt
like a mother as well as a sister to him. I've never spent much on
myself as you know, and never had as good clothes as other girls with
my wages. It took nearly everything for Tom. Oh, dear! What is to come
of it all? It will kill me, I'm afraid."
A few questions on my part brought out particulars in regard to
Polly's brother that satisfy me of his great lapse from virtue and
sobriety. He was now past twenty, and from all I could learn, was
moving swift-footed along the road to destruction.
There followed a dead silence for some time after all the story was
told. What could I say? The case was one in which it seemed that I
could offer neither advice nor consolation. But it was in my power to
show interest in the girl, and to let her feel that she had my
sympathy. She was sitting with her eyes cast down, and a look of
sorrow on her pale, thin face—I had not before re-marked the signs
of emaciation—that touched me deeply.
"Polly," said I, with as much kindness of tone as I could express,
"it is the lot of all to have trouble, and each heart knows its own
bitterness. But on some the trouble falls with a weight that seems
impossible to be borne. And this is your case. Yet it only seems to
be so, for as our day is, so shall our strength be. If you cannot
draw your brother away from the dangerous paths in which he is
walking, you can pray for him, and the prayer of earnest love will
bring your spirit so near to his spirit, that God may be able to
influence him for good through this presence of your spirit with
Polly looked at me with a light flashing in her face, as if a new
hope had dawned upon her heart,
"Oh, ma'am," she said, "I have prayed, and do pray for him daily.
But then I think God loves him better than I can love him, and needs
none of my prayer in the case. And so a chill falls over me, and
everything grows dark and hopeless—for, of myself, I can do
"Our prayers cannot change the purposes of God towards any one; but
God works by means, and our prayers may be the means through which he
can help another."
"How? How? Oh, tell me how, Mrs. Wilkins?"
The girl spoke with great eagerness.
I had an important truth to communicate, but how was I to make it
clear to her simple mind? I thought for a moment, and then said—
"When we think of others, we see them."
"In our minds?"
"Yes, Polly. We see them with the eyes of our minds, and are also
present with them as to our minds, or spirits. Have you hot noticed
that on some occasions you suddenly thought of a person, and that in
a little while afterwards that person came in?"
"Oh, yes, I've often noticed, and wondered why it should be so."
"Well, the person in coming to see you, or in approaching the place
where you were, thought of you so distinctly that she was present to
your mind, or spirit, and you saw her with the eyes of your mind. If
this be the right explanation, as I believe it is, then, if we think
intently of others, and especially if we think with a strong
affection, we are present with them so fully that they think of us,
and see our forms with the eyes of their spirits. And now, Polly,
keeping this in mind, we may see how praying, in tender love for
another, may enable God to do him good; for you know that men and
angels are co-workers with God in all good. On the wings of our
thought and love, angelic spirits, who are present with us in prayer,
may pass with us to the object of our tender interest and thus gaining
audience, as it were, stir the heart with good impulses. And who can
tell how effectual this may be, if of daily act and long continuance?"
I paused to see if I was comprehended. Polly was listening
intently, with her eyes upon the floor. She looked up, after a moment,
her countenance calmer than before, but bearing so hopeful an aspect
that I was touched with wonder.
"I will pray for him morning, noon, and night," she said, "and if,
bodily, I cannot be near him, my spirit shall be present with his
many times each day. Oh, if I could but draw him back from the evil
into which he has fallen!"
"A sister's loving prayer, and the memory of his mother in heaven,
will prove, I trust, Polly, too potent for all his enemies. Take
In the silence that followed this last remark, Polly arose and
stood as if there was something yet unsaid in her mind. I understood
her, and made the way plain for both of us.
"If I had known of this before, it would have explained to me some
things that gave my mind an unfavorable impression. You have not been
like yourself for some time past."
"How could I, ma'am?" Polly's voice trembled and her eyes again
filled with tears. "I never meant to displease you; but——"
"All is explained," said I, interrupting her. "I see just how it
is; and if I have said a word that hurt you, I am sorry for it. No one
could have given better satisfaction in a family than you have
"I have always tried to do right," murmured the poor girl, sadly.
"I know it, Polly." My tones were encouraging. "And if you will
forget the unkind way in which I spoke to you this morning, and let
things remain as they were, it may be better for both of us. You are
not fit, taking your state of mind as it now is, to go among
Polly looked at me with gratitude and forgiveness in her wet eyes.
There was a motion of reply about her lips, but she did not trust
herself to speak.
"Shall it be as it was, Polly?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am! I don't wish to leave you; and particularly, not
now. I am not fit, as you say, to go among strangers. But you must
bear with me a little; for I can't always keep my thoughts about me."
When Polly retired from my room, I set myself to thinking over what
had happened. The lesson went deeply into my heart. Poor girl! what a
heavy burden rested upon her weak shoulders. No wonder that she bent
under it! No wonder that she was changed! She was no subject for angry
reproof; but for pity and forbearance. If she had come short in
service, or failed to enter upon her daily tasks with the old
cheerfulness, no blame could attach to her, for the defect was of
force and not of will.
"Ah," said I, as I pondered the matter, "how little inclined are we
to consider those who stand below us in the social scale, or to think
of them as having like passions, like weaknesses, like hopes and fears
with ourselves. We deal with them too often as if they were mere
working machines, and grow impatient if they show signs of pain,
weariness, or irritation. We are quick to blame and slow to
praise—chary of kind words, but voluble in reproof—holding
ourselves superior in station, but not always showing ourselves
superior in thoughtfulness, self-control, and kind forbearance. Ah
me! Life is a lesson-book, and we turn a new page every day."
XI. MY FATHER.
I HAVE a very early recollection of my father as a cheerful
man, and of our home as a place full of the heart's warmest sunshine.
But the father of my childhood and the father of my more advanced
years wore a very different exterior. He had grown silent, thoughtful,
abstracted, but not morose. As his children sprang up around him,
full of life and hope, he seemed to lose the buoyant spirits of his
earlier manhood. I did not observe this at the time, for I had not
learned to observe and reflect. Life was a simple state of enjoyment.
Trial had not quickened my perceptions, nor suffering taught me an
unselfish regard for others.
The home provided by my father was elegant—some would have called
it luxurious. On our education and accomplishments no expense was
spared. I had the best teachers—and, of course, the most expensive;
with none others would I have been satisfied, for I had come
naturally to regard myself as on a social equality with the
fashionable young friends who were my companions, and who indulged
the fashionable vice of depreciating everything that did not come up
to a certain acknowledged standard. Yearly I went to Saratoga or
Newport with my sisters, and at a cost which I now think of with
amazement. Sometimes my mother went with us, but my father never. He
was not able to leave his business. Business! How I came to dislike
the word! It was always "business" when we asked him to go anywhere
with us; "business" hurried him away from his hastily-eaten meals;
"business" absorbed all his thoughts, and robbed us of our father.
"I wish father would give up business," I said to my mother one
day, "and take some comfort of his life. Mr. Woodward has retired, and
is now living on his income."
My mother looked at me strangely and sighed, but answered nothing.
About this time my father showed some inclination to repress our
growing disposition to spend money extravagantly in dress. Nothing
but hundred-dollar shawl would suit my ideas. Ada White had been
presented by her father with a hundred-dollar cashmere, and I did not
mean to be put off with anything less.
"Father, I want a hundred dollars," said I to him one morning as he
was leaving the house, after eating his light breakfast. He had grown
dyspeptic, and had to be careful and sparing in his diet.
"A hundred dollars!" He looked surprised; in fact, I noticed that
my request made him start. "What do you want with so much money?"
"I have nothing seasonable to wear," said I, very firmly; "and as I
must have a shawl, I might as well get a good one while I am about
it. I saw one at Stewart's yesterday that is just the thing. Ada
White's father gave her a shawl exactly like it, and you must let me
have the money to buy this one. It will last my lifetime."
"A hundred dollars is a large price for a shawl," said my father,
in his sober way.
Oh, dear, no!" was my emphatic answer; "a hundred dollars is a low
price for a shawl. Jane Wharton's cost five hundred."
"I'll think about it," said my father, turning from me rather
When he came home at dinner-time, I was alone in the parlor,
practicing a. new piece of music which my fashionable teacher had
left me. He was paid three dollars for every lesson. My father smiled
as he laid a hundred-dollar bill on the keys of the piano. I started
up, and kissing him, said, with the ardor of a pleased girl—
"What a dear good father you are!"
The return was ample. He always seemed most pleased when he could
gratify some wish or supply some want of his children. Ah! if we had
been less selfish—less exacting!
It was hardly to be expected that my sisters would see me the
possessor of a hundred-dollar shawl, and not desire a like addition
to their wardrobes.
"I want a hundred dollars," said my sister Jane, on the next
morning, as my father was about leaving for his store.
"Can't spare it to-day, my child," I heard him answer, kindly, but
"Oh, but I must have it," urged my sister.
"I gave you twenty-five dollars only day before yesterday," my
father replied to this. "What have you done with that?"
"Spent it for gloves and laces," said Jane, in a light way, as if
the sum were of the smallest possible consequence.
"I am not made of money, child." The tone of my father's voice
struck me as unusually sober—almost sad. But Jane replied instantly,
and with something of reproach and complaint in her tones—"I
shouldn't think you were, if you find it so hard to part with a
"I have a large payment to make to-day"—my father spoke with
unusual decision of manner—"and shall need every dollar that I can
"You gave sister a hundred dollars yesterday," said Jane, almost
Not a word of reply did my father make. I was looking at him, and
saw an expression on his countenance that was new to me—an
expression of pain, mingled with fear. He turned away slowly, and in
silence left the house.
"Jane," said my mother, addressing her from the stairway, on which
she had been standing, "how could you speak so to your father?"
"I have just as good right to a hundred dollar shawl as Anna,"
replied my sister, in a very undutiful tone. "And what is more, Im
going to have one."
"What reason did your father give for refusing your request
to-day?" asked my mother.
"Couldn't spare the money! Had a large payment to make! Only an
"Stop, my child!" was the quick, firm remark, made with unusual
feeling. "Is that the way to speak of so good a father? Of one who
has ever been so kindly indulgent? Jane! Jane! You know not what you
My sister looked something abashed at this unexpected rebuke, when
my mother took occasion to add, with an earnestness of manner that I
could not help remarking as singular,
"Your father is troubled about something. Business may not be going
on to his satisfaction. Last night I awoke, and found him walking the
floor. To my questions he merely answered that he was wakeful. His
health is not so good as formerly, and his spirits are low. Don't, let
me pray you, do anything to worry him. Say no more about this money,
Jane; you will get it whenever it can be spared."
I did not see my father again until tea-time. Occasionally,
business engagements pressed upon him so closely that he did not come
home at the usual hour for dining. He looked pale—weary—almost
"Dear father, are you sick?" said I, laying a hand upon him, and
gazing earnestly into his countenance.
"I do not feel very well," he replied, partly averting his face, as
if he did not wish me to read its expression too closely. "I have had
a weary day."
"You must take more recreation," said I. "This excessive devotion
to business is destroying your health. Why will you do it, father?"
He merely sighed as he passed onwards, and ascended to his own
room. At tea-time I observed that his face was unusually sober. His
silence was nothing uncommon, and so that passed without remark from
On the next day Jane received the hundred dollars, which was spent
for a shawl like mine. This brought the sunshine back to her face.
Her moody looks, I saw, disturbed my father.
From this time, the hand which had ever been ready to supply all
our wants real or imaginary, opened less promptly at our demands. My
father talked occasionally of retrenchment and economy when some of
our extravagant bills came in; but we paid little heed to his remarks
on this head. Where could we retrench? In what could we economize? The
very idea was absurd. We had nothing that others moving in our circle
did not have. Our house and furniture would hardly compare favorably
with the houses and furniture of many of our fashionable friends. We
dressed no better—indeed, not so well as dozens of our acquaintances.
Retrenchment and economy! I remember laughing with my sisters at the
words, and wondering with them what could be coming over our father.
In a half-amused way, we enumerated the various items of imaginary
reform, beginning at the annual summer recreations, and ending with
our milliner's bills. In mock seriousness, we proposed to take the
places of cook, chambermaid, and waiter, and thus save these items of
expense in the family. We had quite a merry time over our fancied
But our father was serious. Steadily he persisted in what seemed to
us a growing penuriousness. Every demand for money seemed to give him
a partial shock, and every dollar that came to us was parted with
reluctantly. All this was something new; but we thought less than we
felt about it. Our father seemed to be getting into a very singular
state of mind.
Summer came round—I shall never forget that summer—and we
commenced making our annual preparations for Saratoga. Money was, of
course, an indispensable prerequisite. I asked for fifty dollars.
"For what purpose?" inquired my father.
"I haven't a single dress fit to appear in away from home," said I.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
I thought the question a strange one, and replied, a little curtly,
"To Saratoga, of course."
"Oh!" It seemed new to him. Then he repeated my words, in a
questioning kind of a way, as if his mind were not altogether
satisfied on the subject.
"Yes, sir. To Saratoga. We always go there. We shall close the
season at Newport this year."
"Who else is going?" My father's manner was strange. I had never
seen him just in the mood he then appeared to be.
"Jane is going, of course; and so is Emily. And we are trying to
persuade mother, also. She didn't go last year. Won't you spend a
week or two with us? Now do say yes."
My father shook his head at this last proposal, and said, "No,
child!" very decidedly.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I have something of more importance to think about than
Saratoga and its fashionable follies."
"Business! business!" said I, impatiently. "It is the Moloch,
father, to which you sacrifice every social pleasure, every home
delight, every good! Already you have laid health and happiness upon
the bloody altars of this false god!"
A few quick flushes went over his pale face, and then its
expression became very sad.
"Anna," he said, after a brief silence, during which even my
unpracticed eyes could see that an intense struggle was going on in
his mind, "Anna, you will have to give up your visit to Saratoga this
"Why, father!" It seemed as if my blood were instantly on fire. My
face was, of course, all in a glow. I was confounded, and, let me
confess it, indignant; it seemed so like a tyrannical outrage.
"It is simply as I say, my daughter." He spoke without visible
excitement. "I cannot afford the expense this season, and you will,
therefore, all have to remain in the city."
"That's impossible!" said I. "I couldn't live here through the
"I manage to live!" There was a tone in my father's voice,
as he uttered these simple words, partly to himself, that rebuked me.
Yes, he did manage to live, but how? Witness his pale face,
wasted form, subdued aspect, brooding silence, and habitual
abstraction of mind!
"I manage to live!" I hear the rebuking words even now—the
tones in which they were uttered are in my ears. Dear father! Kind,
tender, indulgent, long-suffering, self-denying! Ah, how little were
you understood by your thoughtless, selfish children!
"Let my sisters and mother go," said I, a new regard for my father
springing up in my heart; "I will remain at home with you."
"Thank you, dear child!" he answered, his voice suddenly veiled
with feeling. "But I cannot afford to let any one go this season."
"The girls will be terribly disappointed. They have set their
hearts on going," said I.
"I'm sorry," he said. "But necessity knows no law. They will have
to make themselves as contented at home as possible."
And he left me, and went away to his all-exacting "business."
When I stated what he had said, my sisters were in a transport of
mingled anger and disappointment, and gave utterance to many unkind
remarks against our good, indulgent father. As for my oldest sister,
she declared that she would go in spite of him, and proposed our
visiting the store of a well-known merchant, where we often made
purchases, and buying all we wanted, leaving directions to have the
bill sent in. But I was now on my father's side, and resolutely
opposed all suggestions of disobedience. His manner and words had
touched me, causing some scales to drop from my vision, so that I
could see in a new light, and perceive things in a new aspect.
We waited past the usual time for my father's coming on that day,
and then dined without him. A good deal to our surprise he came home
about four o'clock, entering with an unusual quiet manner, and going
up to his own room without speaking to any one of the family.
"Was that your father?" We were sitting together, still discussing
the question of Saratoga and Newport. It was my mother who asked the
question. We had heard the street door open and close, and had also
heard footsteps along the passage and up the stairs.
"It is too early for him to come home," I answered.
My mother looked at her watch, and remarked, as a shade of concern
flitted over her face,
"It certainly was your father. I cannot be mistaken in his step.
What can have brought him home so early? I hope he is not sick." And
she arose and went hastily from the room. I followed, for a sudden
fear came into my heart.
"Edward! what ails you? Are you sick?" I heard my mother ask, in an
alarmed voice, as I came into her room. My father had laid himself
across the bed, and his face was concealed by a pillow, into which it
was buried deeply.
"Edward! Edward! Husband! What is the matter? Are you ill?"
"Oh, father! dear father!" I cried, adding my voice to my mother's,
and bursting into tears. I grasped his hand; it was very cold. I
leaned over, and, pressing down the pillow, touched his face. It was
cold also, and clammy with perspiration.
"Send James for the doctor, instantly," said my mother.
"No, no—don't." My father partially aroused himself at this,
speaking in a thick, unnatural voice.
"Go!" My mother repeated the injunction, and I flew down stairs
with the order for James, our waiter, to go in all haste for the
family physician. When I returned, my mother, her face wet with tears,
was endeavoring to remove some of my father's outer garments. Together
we took off his coat, waistcoat and boots, he making no resistance,
and appearing to be in partial stupor, as if under the influence of
some drug. We chafed his hands and feet, and bathed his face, that
wore a deathly aspect, and used all the means in our power to
rekindle the failing spark of life. But he seemed to grow less and
less conscious of external things every moment.
When the physician came, he had many questions to ask as to the
cause of the state in which he found my father. But we could answer
none of them. I watched his face intently, noting every varying
expression, but saw nothing to inspire confidence. He seemed both
troubled and perplexed. Almost his first act was to bleed copiously.
Twice, before the physician came, had my father been inquired for
at the door, a thing altogether unusual at that hour of the day.
Indeed, his presence in the house at that hour was something which
had not occurred within a year.
"A gentleman is in the parlor, and says that he must see Mr.
W——," said the waiter, speaking to me in a whisper, soon after the
"Did you tell him that father was very ill," said I.
"Yes; but he says that he must see him, sick or well."
"Go down and tell him that father is not in a state to be seen by
The waiter returned in a few moments, and beckoned me to the
"The man says that he is not going to leave the house until he sees
your father. I wish you would go down to him. He acts so strangely."
Without stopping to reflect, I left the apartment, and hurried down
to the parlor. I found a man walking the floor in a very excited
"I wish to see Mr. W.——," said he, abruptly, and in an imperative
"He is very ill, sir," I replied, "and cannot be seen."
"I must see him, sick or well." His manner was excited.
The door bell rang again at this moment, and with some violence. I
paused, and stood listening until the servant answered the summons,
while the man strode twice the full length of the parlor.
"I wish to see Mr. W——." It was the voice of a man.
"He is sick," the servant replied.
"Give him my name—Mr. Walton—and say that I must see him for just
a moment." And this new visitor came in past the waiter, and entered
"Mr. Arnold!" he ejaculated, in evident surprise.
"Humph! This a nice business!" remarked the first visitor, in a
rude way, entirely indifferent to my presence or feelings. "A nice
business, I must confess!"
"Have you seen Mr. W.——?" was inquired.
"No. They say he's sick."
There was an unconcealed doubt in the voice that uttered this.
"Gentlemen," said I, stung into indignant courage, "this is an
outrage! What do you mean by it?"
"We wish to see your father," said the last comer, his manner
changing, and his voice respectful.
"You have both been told," was my firm reply, "that my father is
too ill to be seen."
"It isn't an hour, as I am told, since he left his store," said the
first visitor, "and I hardly think his illness has progressed so
rapidly up to this time as to make an interview dangerous. We do not
wish to be rude or uncourteous, Miss W——, but our business with
your father is imperative, and we must see him. I, for one, do not
intend leaving the house until I meet him face to face!"
"Will you walk up stairs?" I had the presence of mind and decision
to say, and I moved from the parlor into the passage. The men
followed, and I led them up to the chamber where our distressed
family were gathered around my father. As we entered the hushed
apartment the men pressed forward somewhat eagerly, but their steps
were suddenly arrested. The sight was one to make its own impression.
My father's face, deathly in its hue, was turned towards the door, and
from his bared arm a stream of dark blood was flowing sluggishly. The
physician had just opened a vein.
"Come! This is no place for us," I heard one of the men whisper to
the other, and they withdrew as unceremoniously as they had entered.
Scarcely had they gone ere the loud ringing of the door bell sounded
through the house again.
"What does all this mean!" whispered my distressed mother.
"I cannot tell. Something is wrong," was all that I could answer;
and a vague, terrible fear took possession of my heart.
In the midst of our confusion, uncertainty and distress, my uncle,
the only relative of my mother, arrived, and from him we learned the
crushing fact that my father's paper had been that day dishonored at
bank. In other words, that he had failed in business.
The blow, long suspended over his head; and as I afterwards
learned, long dreaded, and long averted by the most desperate
expedients to save himself from ruin, when it did fall, was too heavy
for him. It crushed the life out of his enfeebled system. That fearful
night he died!
It is not my purpose to draw towards the survivors any sympathy, by
picturing the changes in their fortunes and modes of life that
followed this sad event. They have all endured much and suffered
much. But how light has it been to what my father must have endured
and suffered in his long struggle to sustain the thoughtless
extravagance of his family—to supply them with comforts and
luxuries, none of which he could himself enjoy! Ever before me is the
image of his gradually wasting form, and pale, sober, anxious face.
His voice, always mild, now comes to my ears, in memory, burdened with
a most touching sadness. What could we have been thinking about? Oh,
youth! how blindly selfish thou art! How unjust in thy
thoughtlessness! What would I not give to have my father back again!
This daily toil for bread, those hours of labor, prolonged often far
into the night season—how cheerful would I be if they ministered to
my father's comfort. Ah! if we had been loving and just to him, we
might have had him still. But we were neither loving nor just. While
he gathered with hard toil, we scattered. Daily we saw him go forth
hurried to his business, and nightly we saw him come home exhausted;
and we never put forth a hand to lighten his burdens; but, to gratify
our idle and vain pleasures, laid new ones upon his stooping
shoulders, until, at last, the cruel weight crushed him to the earth!
My father! Oh, my father! If grief and tearful repentance could
have restored you to our broken circle, long since you would have
returned to us. But tears and repentance are vain. The rest and peace
of eternity is yours!
XII. THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN.
IT has been said that no man can be a gentleman who is not a
Christian. We take the converse of this proposition, and say that no
man can be a Christian who is not a gentleman.
There is something of a stir among the dry bones at this. A few
eyes look at it in a rebuking way.
"Show me that in the Bible," says one in confident negation of our
"Ah, well, friend, we will take your case in illustration of our
theme. You call yourself a Christian?"
"By God's mercy I do."
Answered with an assured manner, as if in no doubt as to your being
a worthy bearer of that name.
"You seem to question my state of acceptance. Who made you a
Softly, friend. We do not like that gleam in your eyes. Perhaps we
had better stop here. If you cannot bear the probe, let us put on the
"I am not afraid of the probe, sir. Go on."
The name Christian includes all human perfection, does it not?
"Yes, and all God-like perfection in the human soul."
So we understand it. Now the fundamental doctrine of Christian life
is this:—"As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to
"Faith in Christ is fundamental," you answer.
Unless we believe in God, we cannot obey his precepts. The
understanding must first assent, before the divine life can be
brought into a conformity with divine laws. But we are not assuming
theologic ground. It is the life to which we are looking. We said
"The fundamental doctrine of Christian life."
"All doctrine has relation to life, and I contend for faith as
We won't argue that point, for the reason that it would lead us
away from the theme we are considering. We simply change the form of
our proposition, and call it a leading doctrine of Christian life.
"So far I agree with you."
Then the way before us is unobstructed again. You asked us to show
you authority in the Bible for saying that a man cannot be a
Christian who is not a gentlemen. We point you to the Golden Rule. In
that all laws of etiquette, so called, are included. It is the code of
good breeding condensed to an axiom. Now it has so happened that our
observation of you, friend objector, has been closer than may have
been imagined. We have noted your outgoings and incomings on divers
occasions; and we are sorry to say that you cannot be classed with the
Gently! Gently! If a man may be a Christian, and not a gentleman at
the same time, your case is not so bad. But to the testimony of fact.
Let these witness for or against you. Let your own deeds approve or
condemn. You are not afraid of judgment by the standard of your own
"Of course not."
And if we educe only well-remembered incidents, no offence will be
We go back, then, and repeat the law of true gentlemanly conduct.
"As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them." You
were at Stockbridge last summer?
And took supper at the hotel there, with a small company of
There was a dish of fine strawberries on the table, among the first
of the season. You are fond of strawberries. They are your favorite
fruit; and, as their rich fragrance came to your nostrils, you felt
eager to taste them. So you counted the guests at the table, and
measured the dish of strawberries with your eyes. Then you looked
from face to face, and saw that all were strangers. Appetite might be
indulged, and no one would know that it was you. The
strawberries would certainly not go round, So you hurried down a cup
of tea, and swallowed some toast quickly. Then you said to the
waiter, "Bring me the strawberries." They were brought and set before
you. And now, were you simply just in securing your share, if the
number fell below a dozen berries? You were taking care of yourself;
but in doing so, were not others' rights invaded. We shall see. There
were eight persons at the table, two of them children. The dish held
but little over a quart; of these nearly one-third were taken by you!
Would a true gentleman have done that? You haven't thought of it
since! We are sorry for you then. One of the children, who only got
six berries, cried through half the evening from disappointment. And
an invalid, whose blood would have gained life from the rich juice of
the fruit, got none.
"It was a little selfish, I admit. But I am so fond of
strawberries; and at hotels, you know, every one must take care of
A true gentleman maintains his character under all circumstances,
and a Christian, as a matter of course. A true gentleman defers to
others. He takes so much pleasure in the enjoyment of others, that he
denies himself in order to secure their gratification. Can a Christian
do less and honor the name he bears?
"It wasn't right, I see."
Was it gentlemanly?
"Perhaps not, strictly speaking."
In the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity still, we fear,
for all your profession. Christianity, as a system, must go deeper
down into the heart than that. But we have begun with you, friend,
and we will keep on. Perhaps you will see yourself a little
differently by the time we are through. A poor mechanic, who had done
some trifling work at your house, called, recently, with his little
bill of three dollars and forty cents. You were talking with a
customer, when this man came into your store and handed you his small
account. You opened it with a slight frown on your brow. He had
happened to come at a time when you felt yourself too much engaged to
heed this trifling matter. How almost rudely you thrust the coarse,
soiled piece of paper on which he had written his account back upon
him, saying, "I can't attend to you now!" The poor man went out hurt
and disappointed. Was that gentlemanly conduct? No, sir! Was it
Christian? Look at the formula of Christian life. "As ye would that
men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."
"He should have waited until I was at leisure," you answer. "When a
man is engaged with a customer who buys at the rate of hundreds and
thousands, he don't want paltry bills thrust into his face. He'll
know better next time."
Have you settled the bill yet?
"No. He called day before yesterday, but couldn't give change for
Why haven't you sent him the trifling sum? He worked over half a
day at your house, and your family have been more comfortable for what
he did there ever since. He needs the money, for he is a poor man.
You half smile in our face at the suggestion, and say, "Merchants
are not in the habit of troubling themselves to send all over the
city to pay the little paltry bills of mechanics. If money is worth
having, it is worth sending or calling for."
In thought, reverse your positions, and apply the rule for a
Christian gentleman; remembering, at the same time, that God is no
respecter of persons. In his eyes, the man's position is nothing—the
quality of his life, everything.
A gentleman in
form, according to the rules of good
breeding, is one who treats everybody with kindness; who thinks of
others' needs, pleasures and conveniences; and subordinates his own
needs, pleasures and conveniences to theirs. He is mild, gentle, kind
and courteous to all. A gentleman in feeling does all this from
a principle of good-will; the Christian from a law of spiritual
life. Now, a man may be a gentleman, in the common acceptation of
the term, and yet not be a Christian; but we are very sure, that he
cannot wave the gentleman and be a Christian.
You look at us more soberly. The truth of our words is taking hold
of conviction. Shall we go on?
Do you not, in all public places, study your own comfort and
convenience? You do not clearly understand the question! We'll make
the matter plainer then:
Last evening you were at Concert Hall, with your wife and daughter.
You went early, and secured good seats. Not three seats, simply,
according to the needs of your party; but nearly five seats, for
extra comfort. You managed it on the expansive principle. Well, the
house was crowded. Compression and condensation went on all around
you; but your party held its expanded position. A white-haired old
man stood at the head of your seat, and looked down at the spaces
between yourself, your wife and daughter; and though you knew it, you
kept your eyes another way until he passed on. You were not going to
be incommoded for any one. Then an old lady lingered there for a
moment, and looked wistfully along the seat. Your daughter whispered,
"Father, we can make room for her." And you answered: "Let her find
another seat; I don't wish to be crowded." Thus repressing good
impulses in your child, and teaching her to be selfish and
unlady-like. The evening's entertainment began, and you sat quite at
ease, for an hour and a half, while many were standing in the aisles.
Sir, there was not even the gentleman in form here; much less the
gentleman from naturally kind feelings. As to Christian principle, we
will not take that into account. Do you remember what you said as you
moved through the aisles to the door?
A friend remarked that he had been obliged to stand all the
evening, and you replied:
"We had it comfortable enough. I always manage that, in public
He didn't understand all you meant; but, there is One who did.
How was it in the same place only a few nights previously? You went
there alone, and happened to be late. The house was well filled in
the upper portion, but thinly occupied below the centre. Now you are
bound to have the best place, under all circumstances, if it can be
obtained. But all the best seats were well filled; and to crowd more
into them, would be to diminish the comfort of all. No matter. You
saw a little space in one of the desirable seats, and into it you
passed, against the remonstrance of looks, and even half uttered
objections. A lady by your side, not in good health, was so crowded
in consequence, and made so uncomfortable, that she could not listen
with any satisfaction to the eloquent lecture she had come to hear.
We need say no more about your gentlemanly conduct in public
places. Enough has been suggested to give you our full meaning.
Shall we go on? Do you call for other incidents in proof of our
assumption? Shall we follow you into other walks of life?
Very well. And, now, to press the matter home: Do you, in the sight
of that precept we have quoted, justify such conduct in a man who
takes the name of Christian? It was not gentlemanly, in any right
sense of the word; and not being so, can it be Christian?
Assuredly not. And you may depend upon it, sir, that your
profession, and faith, and church-going, and ordinance-observing,
will not stand you in that day when the book of your life is opened
in the presence of God. If there has been no genuine love of the
neighbor—no self-abnegation—no self-denial for the good of others,
all the rest will go for nothing, and you will pass over to abide
forever with spirits of a like quality with your own.
Who made us your judge? We judge no man! But only point to the law
of Christian life as given by God himself. If you wish to dwell with
him, you must obey his laws; and obedience to these will make you
nothing less than a Christian gentleman—that is, a gentleman in
heart as well as in appearance.