Good Hearted People by T. S. Arthur
THERE are two classes in the world: one acts from impulse, and the
other from reason; one consults the heart, and the other the head.
Persons belonging to the former class are very much liked by the
majority of those who come in contact with them: while those of the
latter class make many enemies in their course through life. Still,
the world owes as much to the latter as to the former—perhaps a
great deal more.
Mr. Archibald May belonged to the former class; he was known as a
good-hearted man. He uttered the word "no" with great difficulty; and
was never known to have deliberately said that to another which he
knew would hurt his feelings. If any one about him acted wrong, he
could not find it in his heart to wound him by calling his attention
to the fact. On one occasion, a clerk was detected in purloining
money; but it was all hushed up, and when Mr. May dismissed him, he
gave him a certificate of good character.
"How could you do so?" asked a neighbor, to whom he mentioned the
"How could I help doing it? The young man had a chance of getting a
good place. It would have been cruel in me to have refused to aid
him. A character was required, and I could do no less than give it.
Poor, silly fellow! I am sure I wish him well. I always liked him."
"Suppose he robs his present employer?"
"He won't do that, I'm certain. He is too much ashamed of his
conduct while in my store. It is a lesson to him. And, at any rate, I
do not think a man should be hunted down for a single fault."
"No: of course not. But, when you endorse a man's character, you
lead others to place confidence in him; a confidence that may be
betrayed under very aggravated circumstances."
"Better that many suffer, than that one innocent man should be
condemned and cast off."
"But there is no question about guilt or innocence. It was fully
proved that this young man robbed you."
"Suppose it was. No doubt the temptation was very strong. I don't
believe he will ever be guilty of such a thing again."
"You have the best evidence in the world that he will, in the fact
that he has taken your money."
"O no, not at all. It doesn't follow, by any means, that a fault
like this will be repeated. He was terribly mortified about it. That
has cured him, I am certain."
"I wouldn't trust to it."
"You are too uncharitable," replied Mr. May. "For my part, I always
look upon the best side of a man's character. There is good in every
one. Some have their weaknesses—some are even led astray at times;
but none are altogether bad. If a man falls, help him up, and start
him once more fair in the world—who can say that he will again trip?
Not I. The fact is, we are too hard with each other. If you brand your
fellow with infamy for one little act of indiscretion, or, say crime,
what hope is there for him."
"You go rather too far, Mr. May," the neighbor said, "in your
condemnation of the world. No doubt there are many who are really
uncharitable in their denunciations of their fellow man for a single
fault. But, on the other side, I am inclined to think, that there are
just as many who are equally uncharitable, in loosely passing by, out
of spurious kindness, what should mark a man with just suspicion, and
cause a withholding of confidence. Look at the case now before us. You
feel unwilling to keep a young man about you, because he has betrayed
your trust, and yet, out of kind feelings, you give him a good
character, and enable him to get a situation where he may seriously
wrong an unsuspecting man."
"But I am sure he will not do so."
"But what is your guarantee?"
"The impression that my act has evidently made upon him. If I had,
besides hushing up the whole matter, kept him still in my store, he
might again have been tempted. But the comparatively light punishment
of dismissing him with a good character, will prove a salutary check
"Don't you believe it."
"I will believe it, until I see evidence to the contrary. You are
too suspicious—too uncharitable, my good friend. I am always
inclined to think the best of every one. Give the poor fellow another
chance for his life, say I."
"I hope it may all turn out right."
"I am sure it will," returned Mr. May. "Many and many a young man
is driven to ruin by having all confidence withdrawn from him, after
his first error. Depend upon it, such a course is not right."
"I perfectly agree with you, Mr. May, that we should not utterly
condemn and cast off a man for a single fault. But, it is one thing
to bear with a fault, and encourage a failing brother man to better
courses, and another to give an individual whom we know to be
dishonest, a certificate of good character."
"Yes, but I am not so sure the young man we are speaking about is
"Didn't he rob you?"
"Don't say rob. That is too hard a word. He did take a little from
me; but it wasn't much, and there were peculiar circumstances."
"Are you sure that under other peculiar circumstances, he would not
have taken much more from you?"
"I don't believe he would."
"I wouldn't trust him."
"You are too suspicious—too uncharitable, as I have already said.
I can't be so. I always try to think the best of every one."
Finding that it was no use to talk, the neighbor said but little
more on the subject.
About a year afterwards the young man's new employer, who, on the
faith of Mr. May's recommendation, had placed great confidence in
him, discovered that he had been robbed of several thousand dollars.
The robbery was clearly traced to this clerk, who was arrested,
tried, and sentenced to three years imprisonment in the Penitentiary.
"It seems that all your charity was lost on that young scoundrel,
Blake," said the individual whose conversation with Mr. May has just
"Poor fellow!" was the pitying reply. "I am most grievously
disappointed in him. I never believed that he would turn out so
"You might have known it after he had swindled you. A man who will
steal a sheep, needs only to be assured of impunity, to rob the mail.
The principle is the same. A rogue is a rogue, whether it be for a pin
or a pound."
"Well, well—people differ in these matters. I never look at the
worst side only. How could Dayton find it in his heart to send that
poor fellow to the State Prison! I wouldn't have done it, if he had
taken all I possess. It was downright vindictiveness in him."
"It was simple justice. He could not have done otherwise. Blake had
not only wronged him, but he had violated the laws and to the laws he
was bound to give him up."
"Give up a poor, erring young man, to the stern, unbending,
unfeeling laws! No one is bound to do that. It is cruel, and no one
is under the necessity of being cruel."
"It is simply just, Mr. May, as I view it. And, further, really
more just to give up the culprit to the law he has knowingly and
wilfully violated, than to let him escape its penalties."
Mr. May shook his head.
"I certainly cannot see the charity of locking up a young man for
three or four years in prison, and utterly and forever disgracing
"It is great evil to steal?" said the neighbor.
"O, certainly—a great sin."
"And the law made for its punishment is just?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Do you think that it really injuries a thief to lock him up in
prison, and prevent him from trespassing on the property of his
"That I suppose depends upon circumstances. If——"
"No, but my friend, we must fix the principle yea or nay. The law
that punishes theft is a good law—you admit that—very well. If the
law is good. it must be because its effect is good. A thief, will,
under such law, he really more benefitted by feeling its force than
in escaping the penalty annexed to its infringement. No distinction
can or ought to be made. The man who, in, a sane mind, deliberately
takes the property of another, should be punished by the law which
forbids stealing. It will have at least one good effect, if none
others and that will be to make him less willing to run similar risk,
and thus leave to his neighbor the peaceable possession of his goods."
"Punishment, if ever administered, should look to the good of the
offender. But, what good disgracing and imprisoning a young man who
has all along borne a fair character, is going to have, is more than
I can tell. Blake won't be able to hold up his head among respectable
people when his term has expired."
"And will, in consequence, lose his power of injuring the honest
and unsuspecting. He will be viewed in his own true light, and be cast
off as unworthy by a community whose confidence he has most
"And so you will give an erring brother no chance for his life?"
"O yes. Every chance. But it would not be kindness to wink at his
errors and leave him free to continue in the practice of them, to his
own and others' injury. Having forfeited his right to the confidence
of this community by trespassing upon it, let him pay the penalty of
that trespass. It will be to him, doubtless, a salutary lesson. A few
years of confinement in a prison will give him time for reflection and
repentance; whereas, impunity in an evil course could only have
strengthened his evil purposes. When he has paid the just penalty of
his crime, let him go into another part of the country, and among
strangers live a virtuous life, the sure reward of which is peace."
Mr. May shook his head negatively, at these remarks.
"No one errs on the side of kindness," he said, "while too many, by
an opposite course, drive to ruin those whom leniency might have
A short time after the occurrence of this little interview, Mr.
May, on returning home one evening, found his wife in much apparent
"Has anything gone wrong, Ella?" he asked.
"Would you have believed it?" was Mrs. May's quick and excited
answer. "I caught Jane in my drawer to-day, with a ten dollar bill in
her hand which she had just taken out of my pocket book, that was
"It is too true! I charged it at once upon her, and she burst into
tears, and owned that she was going to take the money and keep it."
"That accounts, then, for the frequency with which you have missed
small sums of money for several months past."
"Yes. That is all plain enough now. But what shall we do? I cannot
think of keeping Jane any longer."
"Perhaps she will never attempt such a thing again, now that she
has been discovered."
"I cannot trust her. I should never feel safe a moment. To have a
thief about the house! Oh, no, That would never answer. She will have
"Well, Ella, you will have to do what you think best; but you
mustn't be too hard on the poor creature. You mustn't think of
exposing her, and thus blasting her character. It might drive her to
"But, is it right for me, knowing what she is, to let her go
quietly into another family? It is a serious matter, husband."
"I don't know that you have anything to do with that. The safest
thing, in my opinion, is for you to talk seriously to Jane, and warn
her of the consequences of acts such as she has been guilty of. And
then let her go, trusting that she will reform"
"But there is another fault that I have discovered within a week or
two past. A fault that I suspected, but was not sure about. It is a
very bad one."
"What is that, Ella?"
"I do not think she is kind to the baby."
"I have good reason for believing that she is not kind to our dear
little babe. I partly suspected this for some time. More than once I
have came suddenly upon her, and found our sweet pet sobbing as if
his heart would break. The expression in Jane's face I could not
exactly understand. Light has gradually broken in upon me, and now I
am satisfied that she has abused him shamefully."
"It is too true. Since my suspicions were fully aroused, I have
asked Hannah about it, and she, unwillingly, has confirmed my own
"Unwillingly! It was her duty to have let you know this
voluntarily. Treat my little angel Charley unkindly! The wretch! She
doesn't remain in this house a day longer."
"So I have fully determined. I am afraid that Jane has a wretched
disposition. It is bad enough to steal, but to ill-treat a helpless,
innocent babe, is fiend-like."
Jane was accordingly dismissed.
"Poor creature!" said Mrs. May, after Jane had left the house; "I
feel sorry for her. She is, after all, the worst enemy to herself. I
don't know what will become of her."
"She'll get a place somewhere."
"Yes, I suppose so. But, I hope she won't refer to me for her
character. I don't know what I should say, if she did."
"If I couldn't say any good, I wouldn't say any harm, Ella. It's
rather a serious matter to break down the character of a poor girl."
"I know it is; for that is all they have to depend upon. I shall
have to smooth it over some how, I suppose."
"Yes: put the best face you can upon it. I have no doubt but she
will do better in another place."
On the next day, sure enough, a lady called to ask about the
character of Jane.
"How long has she been with you?" was one of the first questions
"About six months," replied Mrs. May.
"In the capacity of nurse, I think she told me?"
"Yes. She was my nurse."
"Was she faithful?"
This was a trying question. But it had to be answered promptly, and
it was so answered.
"Yes, I think I may call her quite a faithful nurse. She never
refused to carry my little boy out; and always kept him very clean."
"She kept him nice, did she? Well, that is a recommendation. And I
want somebody who will not be above taking my baby into the street.
But how is her temper?"
"A little warm sometimes. But then, you know, perfection is not to
be attained any where."
"No, that is very true. You think her a very good nurse?"
"Yes, quite equal to the general run."
"I thank you very kindly," said the lady rising. "I hope I shall
find, in Jane, a nurse to my liking."
"I certainly hope so," replied Mrs. May, as she attended her to the
"What do you think?" said Mrs. May to her husband, when he returned
in the evening.—"That Jane had the assurance to send a lady here to
inquire about her character."
"She is a pretty cool piece of goods, I should say. But, I suppose
she trusted to your known kind feelings, not to expose her."
"No doubt that was the reason. But, I can tell her that I was
strongly tempted to speak out the plain truth. Indeed, I could hardly
contain myself when the lady told me that she wanted her to nurse a
little infant. I thought of dear Charley, and how she had neglected
and abused him—the wretched creature! But I restrained myself, and
gave her as good a character as I could."
"That was right. We should not let our indignant feelings govern us
in matters of this kind. We can never err on the side of kindness."
"No, I am sure we cannot."
Mrs. Campbell, the lady who had called upon Mrs. May, felt quite
certain that, in obtaining Jane for a nurse, she had been fortunate.
She gave, confidently, to her care, a babe seven months old. At
first, from a mother's natural instinct, she kept her eye upon Jane;
but every thing going on right, she soon ceased to observe her
closely. This was noted by the nurse, who began to breathe with more
freedom. Up to this time, the child placed in her charge had received
the kindest attentions. Now, however, her natural indifference led her
to neglect him in various little ways, unnoticed by the mother, but
felt by the infant. Temptations were also thrown in her way by the
thoughtless exposure of money and jewelry. Mrs. Campbell supposed, of
course, that she was honest, or she would have been notified of the
fact by Mrs. May, of whom she had inquired Jane's character; and,
therefore, never thought of being on her guard in this respect.
Occasionally he could not help thinking that there ought to be more
money in her purse than there was. But she did not suffer this thought
to rise into a suspicion of unfair dealing against any one. The loss
of a costly breast pin, the gift of a mother long since passed into
the invisible world, next worried her mind; but, even this did not
cause her to suspect that any thing was wrong with her nurse.
This the time passed on, many little losses of money and valued
articles disturbing and troubling the mind of Mrs. Campbell, until it
became necessary to wean her babe. This duty was assigned to Jane, who
took the infant to sleep with her. On the first night, it cried for
several hours—in fact, did not permit Jane to get more than a few
minutes sleep at a time all night. Her patience was tried severely.
Sometimes she would hold the distressed child with angry violence to
her bosom, while it screamed with renewed energy; and then, finding
that it still continued to cry, toss it from her upon the bed, and let
it lie, still screaming, until fear lest its mother should be tempted
to come to her distressed babe, would cause her again to take it to
her arms. A hard time had that poor child of it on that first night of
its most painful experience in the world. It was scolded, shaken, and
even whipped by the unfeeling nurse, until, at last, worn out nature
yielded, and sleep threw its protecting mantle over the wearied babe.
"How did you get along with Henry?" was the mother's eager
question, as she entered Jane's room soon after daylight.
"O very well, ma'am," returned Jane.
"I heard him cry dreadfully in the night. Several times I thought I
would come in and take him."
"Yes, ma'am, he did scream once or twice very hard; but he soon
gave up, and has long slept as soundly as you now see him."
"Dear little fellow!" murmured the mother in a trembling voice. She
stooped down and kissed him tenderly—tears were in her eyes.
On the next night, Henry screamed again for several hours. Jane,
had she felt an affection for the child, and, from that affection been
led to soothe it with tenderness, might easily have lulled it into
quiet; but her ill-nature disturbed the child. After worrying with it
a long time, she threw it from her with violence, exclaiming as she
"I'll fix you to-morrow night! There'll be no more of this. They
needn't think I'm going to worry out my life for their cross-grained
She stopped. For the babe had suddenly ceased crying. Lifting it
up, quickly, she perceived, by the light of the lamp, that its face
was very white, and its lips blue. In alarm, she picked it up and
sprang from the bed. A little water thrown into its face, soon revived
it. But the child did not cry again, and soon fell away into sleep.
For a long time Jane sat partly up in bed, leaning over on her arm,
and looking into little Henry's face. He breathed freely, and seemed
to be as well as ever. She did not wake until morning. When she did,
she found the mother bending over her, and gazing earnestly down into
the face of her sleeping babe. The incident that had occurred in the
night glanced through her mind, and caused her to rise up and look
anxiously at the child. Its sweet, placid face, at once reassured her.
"He slept better last night," remarked Mrs. Campbell.
"O, yes. He didn't cry any at all, hardly."
"Heaven bless him!" murmured the mother, bending over and kissing
On the next morning, when she awoke, Mrs. Campbell felt a strange
uneasiness about her child. Without waiting to dress herself, she
went softly over to the room where Jane slept. It was only a little
after day-light. She found both the child and nurse asleep. There was
something in the atmosphere of the room that oppressed her lungs, and
something peculiar in its odor. Without disturbing Jane, she stood for
several minutes looking into the face of Henry. Something about it
troubled her. It was not so calm as usual, nor had his skin that white
transparency so peculiar to a babe.
"Jane," she at length said, laying her hand upon the nurse.
Jane roused up.
"How did Henry get along last night, Jane?"
"Very well, indeed, ma'am; he did not cry at all."
"Do you think he looks well?"
Jane turned her eyes to the face of the child, and regarded it for
"O, yes, ma'am, he looks very well; he has been sleeping sound all
Thus assured, Mrs. Campbell regarded Henry for a few minutes
longer, and then left the room. But her heart was not at ease. There
was a weight upon it, and it labored in its office heavily.
"Still asleep," she said, about an hour after, coming into Jane's
room. "It is not usual for him to sleep so long in the morning."
Jane turned away from the penetrating glance of the mother, and
"He has been worried out for the last two nights. That is the
reason, I suppose."
Mrs. Campbell said no more, but lifted the child in her arms, and
carried it to her own chamber. There she endeavored to awaken it,
but, to her alarm, she found that it still slept heavily in spite of
all her efforts.
Running down into the parlor with it, where her husband sat reading
the morning papers, she exclaimed:
"Oh, Henry! I'm afraid that Jane has been giving this child
something to make him sleep. See! I cannot awake him. Something is
wrong, depend upon it!"
Mr. Campbell took the babe and endeavored to arouse him, but
"Call her down here," he then said, in a quick, resolute voice.
Jane was called down.
"What have you given this child?" asked Mr. Campbell, peremptorily.
"Nothing," was the positive answer. "What could I have given him?"
"Call the waiter."
Jane left the room, and in a moment after the waiter entered.
"Go for Doctor B—— as fast as you can, and say to him I must see
The waiter left the house in great haste. In about twenty minutes
Dr. B—— arrived.
"Is there any thing wrong about this child?" Mr. Campbell asked,
placing little Henry in the doctor's arms.
"There is," was replied, after the lapse of about half a minute.
"What have you been giving it."
"Nothing. But we are afraid the nurse has."
"Somebody has been giving it a powerful anodyne, that is certain.
This is no natural sleep. Where is the nurse? let me see her."
Jane was sent for, but word was soon brought that she was not to be
found. She had, in fact, bundled up her clothes, and hastily and
quietly left the house. This confirmed the worst fears of both
parents and physician. But, if any doubt remained, a vial of laudanum
and a spoon, found in the washstand drawer in Jane's room, dispelled
Then most prompt and active treatment was resorted to by Doctor
B—— in the hope of saving the child. But his anxious efforts were
in vain. The deadly narcotic had taken entire possession of the whole
system; had, in fact, usurped the seat of life, and was poisoning its
very fountain. At day dawn on the next morning the flickering lamp
went out, and the sad parents looked their last look upon their living
"I have heard most dreadful news," Mrs. May said to her husband, on
his return home that day.
"You have! What is it?"
"Jane has poisoned Mrs. Campbell's child!"
"Ella!" and Mr. May started from his chair.
"It is true. She had it to wean, and gave it such a dose of
laudanum, that it died."
"Dreadful! What have they done with her?"
"She can't be found, I am told."
"You recommended her to Mrs. Campbell."
"Yes. But I didn't believe she was wicked enough for that."
"Though it is true she ill-treated little Charley, and we knew it.
I don't see how you can ever forgive yourself. I am sure that I don't
feel like ever again looking Mr. Campbell in the face."
"But, Mr. May, you know very well that you didn't want me to say
any thing against Jane to hurt her character."
"True. And it is hard to injure a poor fellow creature by blazoning
her faults about. But I had no idea that Jane was such a wretch!"
"We knew that she would steal, and that she was unkind to children;
and yet, we agreed to recommend her to Mrs. Campbell."
"But it was purely out of kind feelings for the girl, Ella."
"Yes. But is that genuine kindness? Is it real charity? I fear
Mr. May was silent. The questions probed him to the quick. Let
every one who is good-hearted in the sense that Mr. May was, ask
seriously the same questions.