Home Lights and Shadows
by T. S. Arthur
IT'S NONE OF MY
NOT AT HOME.
THE FATAL ERROR.
A DOLLAR ON THE
SOMETHING FOR A
HOME! How at the word, a crowd of pleasant thoughts awaken. What
sun-bright images are pictured to the imagination. Yet, there is no
home without its shadows as well as sunshine. Love makes the
home-lights and selfishness the shadows. Ah! how dark the shadow at
times—how faint and fleeting the sunshine. How often selfishness
towers up to a giant height, barring out from our dwellings every
golden ray. There are few of us, who do not, at times, darken with
our presence the homes that should grow bright at our coming. It is
sad to acknowledge this; yet, in the very acknowledgement is a
promise of better things, for, it is rarely that we confess, without
a resolution to overcome the evil that mars our own and others'
happiness. Need we say, that the book now presented to the reader is
designed to aid in the work of overcoming what is evil and selfish,
that home-lights may dispel home-shadows, and keep them forever from
RIGHTS AND WRONGS.
IT is a little singular—yet certainly true—that people who are
very tenacious of their own rights, and prompt in maintaining them,
usually have rather vague notions touching the rights of others. Like
the too eager merchant, in securing their own, they are very apt to
get a little more than belongs to them.
Mrs. Barbara Uhler presented a notable instance of this. We cannot
exactly class her with the "strong-minded" women of the day. But she
had quite a leaning in that direction; and if not very strong-minded
herself, was so unfortunate as to number among her intimate friends
two or three ladies who had a fair title to the distinction.
Mrs. Barbara Uhler was a wife and a mother. She was also a woman;
and her consciousness of this last named fact was never indistinct,
nor ever unmingled with a belligerent appreciation of the rights
appertaining to her sex and position.
As for Mr. Herman Uhler, he was looked upon, abroad, as a mild,
reasonable, good sort of a man. At home, however, he was held in a
very different estimation. The "wife of his bosom" regarded him as an
exacting domestic tyrant; and, in opposing his will, she only fell
back, as she conceived, upon the first and most sacred law of her
nature. As to "obeying" him, she had scouted that idea from the
beginning. The words, "honor and obey," in the marriage service, she
had always declared, would have to be omitted when she stood at the
altar. But as she had, in her maidenhood, a very strong liking for
the handsome young Mr. Uhler, and, as she could not obtain so
material a change in the church ritual, as the one needed to meet her
case, she wisely made a virtue of necessity, and went to the altar
with her lover. The difficulty was reconciled to her own conscience by
a mental reservation.
It is worthy of remark that above all other of the obligations here
solemnly entered into, this one, _not_ to honor and obey her husband,
ever after remained prominent in the mind of Mrs. Barbara Uhler. And
it was no fruitless sentiment, as Mr. Herman Uhler could feelingly
From the beginning it was clearly apparent to Mrs. Uhler that her
husband expected too much from her; that he regarded her as a kind of
upper servant in his household, and that he considered himself as
having a right to complain if things were not orderly and
comfortable. At first, she met his looks or words of displeasure,
when his meals, for instance, were late, or so badly cooked as to be
unhealthy and unpalatable, with—
"I'm sorry, dear; but I can't help it."
"Are you sure you can't help it, Barbara?" Mr. Uhler at length
ventured to ask, in as mild a tone of voice as his serious feelings
on the subject would enable him to assume.
Mrs. Uhler's face flushed instantly, and she answered, with
"I _am_ sure, Mr. Uhler."
It was the first time, in speaking to her husband, that she had
said "Mr. Uhler," in her life the first time she had ever looked at
him with so steady and defiant an aspect.
Now, we cannot say how most men would have acted under similar
circumstances; we can only record what Mr. Uhler said and did:
"And I am _not_ sure, Mrs. Uhler," was his prompt, impulsive reply,
drawing himself up, and looking somewhat sternly at his better half.
"You are not?" said Mrs. Uhler; and she compressed her lips
"I am not," was the emphatic response.
"And what do you expect me to do, pray?" came next from the lady's
"Do as I do in my business," answered the gentleman. "Have
competent assistance, or see that things are done right yourself."
"Go into the kitchen and cook the dinner, you mean, I suppose?"
"You can put my meaning into any form of words you please, Barbara.
You have charge of this household, and it is your place to see that
everything due to the health and comfort of its inmates is properly
cared for. If those to whom you delegate so important a part of
domestic economy as the preparation of food, are ignorant or
careless, surely it is your duty to go into the kitchen daily, and
see that it is properly done. I never trust wholly to any individual
in my employment. There is no department of the business to which I
do not give personal attention. Were I to do so my customers would
pay little regard to excuses about ignorant workmen and careless
clerks. They would soon seek their goods in another and better
"Perhaps you had better seek your dinners elsewhere, if they are so
little to your fancy at home."
This was the cool, defiant reply of the outraged Mrs. Uhler.
Alas, for Mr. Herman Uhler; he had, so far as his wife was
concerned, committed the unpardonable sin; and the consequences
visited upon his transgression were so overwhelming that he gave up
the struggle in despair. Contention with such an antagonist, he saw,
from the instinct of self-preservation, would be utterly disastrous.
While little was to be gained, everything was in danger of being
"I have nothing more to say," was his repeated answer to the
running fire which his wife kept up against him for a long time. "You
are mistress of the house; act your own pleasure. Thank you for the
suggestion about dinner. I may find it convenient to act thereon."
The last part of this sentence was extorted by the continued
irritating language of Mrs. Uhler. Its utterance rather cooled the
lady's indignant ardor, and checked the sharp words that were
rattling from her tongue. A truce to open warfare was tacitly agreed
upon between the parties. The antagonism was not, however, the less
real. Mrs. Uhler knew that her husband expected of her a degree of
personal attention to household matters that she considered degrading
to her condition as a wife; and, because he _expected_ this, she, in
order to maintain the dignity of her position, gave even less
attention to these matters than would otherwise have been the case. Of
course, under such administration of domestic affairs, causes for
dissatisfaction on the part of Mr. Uhler, were ever in existence. For
the most part he bore up under them with commendable patience; but,
there were times when weak human nature faltered by the way—when,
from heart-fulness the mouth would speak. This was but to add new fuel
to the flame. This only gave to Mrs. Uhler a ground of argument
against her husband as an unreasonable, oppressive tyrant; as one of
the large class of men who not only regard woman as inferior, but who,
in all cases of weak submission, hesitate not to put a foot upon her
Some of the female associates, among whom Mrs. Uhler unfortunately
found herself thrown, were loud talkers about woman's rights and
man's tyranny; and to them, with a most unwife-like indelicacy of
speech, she did not hesitate to allude to her husband as one of the
class of men who would trample upon a woman if permitted to do so. By
these ladies she was urged to maintain her rights, to keep ever in
view the dignity and elevation of her sex, and to let man, the tyrant,
know, that a time was fast approaching when his haughty pride would be
humbled to the dust.
And so Mrs. Uhler, under this kind of stimulus to the maintainance
of her own rights against the imaginary aggressions of her husband,
trampled upon his rights in numberless ways.
As time wore on, no change for the better occurred. A woman does
not reason to just conclusions, either from facts or abstract
principles like man; but takes, for the most part, the directer road
of perception. If, therefore her womanly instincts are all right, her
conclusions will be true; but if they are wrong, false judgment is
inevitable. The instincts of Mrs. Uhler were wrong in the beginning,
and she was, in consequence, easily led by her associates, into wrong
estimates of both her own and her husband's position.
One day, on coming home to dinner, Mr. Uhler was told by a servant,
that his wife had gone to an anti-slavery meeting, and would not get
back till evening, as she intended dining with a friend. Mr. Uhler
made no remark on receiving this information. A meagre, badly-cooked
dinner was served, to which he seated himself, alone, not to eat, but
to chew the cud of bitter fancies. Business, with Mr. Uhler, had not
been very prosperous of late; and he had suffered much from a feeling
of discouragement. Yet, for all this, his wife's demands for money,
were promptly met—and she was not inclined to be over careful as to
the range of her expenditures.
There was a singular expression on the face of Mr. Uhler, as he
left his home on that day. Some new purpose had been formed in his
mind, or some good principle abandoned. He was a changed man—changed
for the worse, it may well be feared.
It was late in the afternoon when Mrs. Uhler returned. To have
inquired of the servant whether Mr. Uhler had made any remark, when
he found that she was absent at dinner time, she would have regarded
as a betrayal to that personage of a sense of accountability on her
part. No; she stooped not to any inquiry of this kind—compromised
not the independence of the individual.
The usual tea hour was at hand—but, strange to say, the punctual
Mr. Uhler did not make his appearance. For an hour the table stood on
the floor, awaiting his return, but he came not. Then Mrs. Uhler gave
her hungry, impatient little ones their suppers—singularly enough,
she had no appetite for food herself—and sent them to bed.
Never since her marriage had Mrs. Uhler spent so troubled an
evening as that one proved to be. A dozen times she rallied herself—a
dozen times she appealed to her independence and individuality as a
woman, against the o'er-shadowing concern about her husband, which
came gradually stealing upon her mind. And with this uncomfortable
feeling were some intruding and unwelcome thoughts, that in no way
stimulated her self-approval.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when Mr. Uhler came home; and then he
brought in his clothes such rank fumes of tobacco, and his breath was
so tainted with brandy, that his wife had no need of inquiry as to
where he had spent his evening. His countenance wore a look of vacant
"Ah! At home, are you?" said he, lightly, as he met his wife. "Did
you have a pleasant day of it?"
Mrs. Uhler was—frightened—shall we say? We must utter the word,
even though it meet the eyes of her "strong minded" friends, who will
be shocked to hear that one from whom they had hoped so much, should
be frightened by so insignificant a creature as a husband. Yes, Mrs.
Uhler was really frightened by this new aspect in which her husband
presented himself. She felt that she was in a dilemma, to which,
unhappily, there was not a single horn, much less choice between two.
We believe Mrs. Uhler did not sleep very well during the night. Her
husband, however, slept "like a log." On the next morning, her brow
was overcast; but his countenance wore a careless aspect. He chatted
with the children at the breakfast table, goodnaturedly, but said
little to his wife, who had penetration enough to see that he was
hiding his real feelings under an assumed exterior.
"Are you going to be home to dinner to-day?" said Mr. Uhler,
carelessly, as he arose from the table. He had only sipped part of a
cup of bad coffee.
"Certainly I am," was the rather sharp reply. The question
irritated the lady.
"You needn't on my account," said Mr. Uhler. "I've engaged to dine
at the Astor with a friend."
"Oh, very well!" Mrs. Uhler bridled and looked dignified. Yet, her
flashing eyes showed that cutting words were ready to leap from her
tongue. And they would have come sharply on the air, had not the
manner of her husband been so unusual and really mysterious. In a
word, a vague fear kept her silent.
Mr. Uhler went to his store, but manifested little of his usual
interest and activity. Much that he had been in the habit of
attending to personally, he delegated to clerks. He dined at the
Astor, and spent most of the afternoon there, smoking, talking, and
drinking. At tea-time he came home. The eyes of Mrs. Uhler sought his
face anxiously as he came in. There was a veil of mystery upon it,
through which her eyes could not penetrate. Mr. Uhler remained at home
during the evening, but did not seem to be himself. On the next
morning, as he was about leaving the house, his wife said—
"Can you let me have some money to-day?"
Almost for the first time in her life, Mrs. Uhler asked this
question in a hesitating manner; and, for the first time, she saw
that her request was not favorably received.
"How much do you want?" inquired the husband.
"I should like to have a hundred dollars," said Mrs. Uhler.
"I'm sorry; but I can't let you have it," was answered. "I lost
five hundred dollars day before yesterday through the neglect of one
of my clerks, while I was riding out with some friends."
"Riding out!" exclaimed Mrs. Uhler.
"Yes. You can't expect me to be always tied down to business. I
like a little recreation and pleasant intercourse with friends as much
as any one. Well, you see, a country dealer, who owed me five hundred
dollars, was in the city, and promised to call and settle on the
afternoon of day before yesterday. I explained to one of my clerks
what he must do when the customer came in, and, of course, expected
all to be done right. Not so, however. The man, when he found that he
had my clerk, and not me, to deal with, objected to some unimportant
charge in his bill, and the foolish fellow, instead of yielding the
point, insisted that the account was correct. The customer went away,
and paid out all his money in settling a bill with one of my
neighbors. And so I got nothing. Most likely, I shall lose the whole
account, as he is a slippery chap, and will, in all probability, see
it to be his interest to make a failure between this and next spring.
I just wanted that money to-day. Now I shall have to be running around
half the morning to make up the sum I need."
"But how could you go away under such circumstances, and trust all
to a clerk?" said Mrs. Uhler warmly, and with reproof in her voice.
"How could I!" was the quick response. "And do you suppose I am
going to tie myself down to the store like a slave! You are mistaken
if you do; that is all I have to say! I hire clerks to attend to my
"But suppose they are incompetent? What then?" Mrs. Uhler was very
"That doesn't in the least alter my character and position." Mr.
Uhler looked his wife fixedly in the face for some moments after
saying this, and then retired from the house without further remark.
The change in her husband, which Mrs. Uhler at first tried to make
herself believe was mere assumption or caprice, proved, unhappily, a
permanent state. He neglected his business and his home for social
companions; and whenever asked by his wife for supplies of cash,
invariably gave as a reason why he could not supply her want, the
fact of some new loss of custom, or money, in consequence of neglect,
carelessness, or incompetency of clerks or workmen, when he was away,
For a long time, Mrs. Uhler's independent spirit struggled against
the humiliating necessity that daily twined its coils closer and
closer around her. More and more clearly did she see, in her
husband's wrong conduct, a reflection of her own wrong deeds in the
beginning. It was hard for her to acknowledge that she had been in
error—even to herself. But conviction lifted before her mind, daily,
its rebuking finger, and she could not shut the vision out.
Neglect of business brought its disastrous consequences. In the end
there was a failure; and yet, to the end, Mr. Uhler excused his
conduct on the ground that he wasn't going to tie himself down like a
galley slave to the oar—wasn't going to stoop to the drudgery he had
employed clerks to perform. This was all his wife could gain from him
in reply to her frequent remonstrances.
Up to this time, Mr. Uhler had resisted the better suggestions
which, in lucid intervals, if we may so call them, were thrown into
her mind. Pride would not let her give to her household duties that
personal care which their rightful performance demanded; the more
particularly, as, in much of her husband's conduct, she plainly saw
At last, poverty, that stern oppressor, drove the Uhlers out from
their pleasant home, and they shrunk away into obscurity, privation,
and want. In the last interview held by Mrs. Uhler with the "strong
minded" friends, whose society had so long thrown its fascinations
around her, and whose views and opinions had so long exercised a
baleful influence over her home, she was urgently advised to abandon
her husband, whom one of the number did not hesitate to denounce in
language so coarse and disgusting, that the latent instincts of the
wife were shocked beyond measure. Her husband was not the brutal,
sensual tyrant this refined lady, in her intemperate zeal,
represented him. None knew the picture to be so false as Mrs. Uhler,
and all that was good and true in her rose up in indignant rebellion.
To her poor, comfortless home, and neglected children, Mrs. Uhler
returned in a state of mind so different from anything she had
experienced for years, that she half wondered within herself if she
were really the same woman. Scales had fallen suddenly from her eyes,
and she saw every thing around her in new aspects and new relations.
"Has my husband really been an exacting tyrant?" This question she
propounded to herself almost involuntarily. "Did he trample upon my
rights in the beginning, or did I trample upon his? He had a right to
expect from me the best service I could render, in making his home
comfortable and happy. Did I render that service? did I see in my home
duties my highest obligation as a wife? have I been a true wife to
So rapidly came these rebuking interrogations upon the mind of Mrs.
Uhler, that it almost seemed as if an accuser stood near, and uttered
the questions aloud. And how did she respond? Not in self
justification. Convinced, humbled, repentant, she sought her home.
It was late in the afternoon, almost evening, when Mrs. Uhler
passed the threshold of her own door. The cry of a child reached her
ears the moment she entered, and she knew, in an instant, that it was
a cry of suffering, not anger or ill nature. Hurrying to her chamber,
she found her three little ones huddled together on the floor, the
youngest with one of its arms and the side of its face badly burned
in consequence of its clothes having taken fire. As well as she could
learn, the girl in whose charge she had left the children, and who, in
the reduced circumstances of the family, was constituted doer of all
work, had, from some pique, gone away in her absence. Thus left free
to go where, and do what they pleased, the children had amused
themselves in playing with the fire. When the clothes of the youngest
caught in the blaze of a lighted stick, the two oldest, with singular
presence of mind, threw around her a wet towel that hung near, and
thus saved her life.
"Has your father been home?" asked Mrs. Uhler, as soon as she
comprehended the scene before her.
"Yes, ma'am," was answered.
"Where is he?"
"He's gone for the doctor," replied the oldest of the children.
"What did he say?" This question was involuntary. The child
hesitated for a moment, and then replied artlessly—
"He said he wished we had no mother, and then he'd know how to take
care of us himself."
The words came with the force of a blow. Mrs. Uhler staggered
backwards, and sunk upon a chair, weak, for a brief time, as an
infant. Ere yet her strength returned, her husband came in with a
doctor. He did not seem to notice her presence; but she soon made
that apparent. All the mother's heart was suddenly alive in her. She
was not over officious—had little to say; but her actions were all
to the purpose. In due time, the little sufferer was in a comfortable
state and the doctor retired.
Not a word had, up to this moment, passed between the husband and
wife. Now, the eyes of the latter sought those of Mr. Uhler; but
there came no answering glance. His face was sternly averted.
Darkness was now beginning to fall, and Mrs. Uhler left her husband
and children, and went down into the kitchen. The fire had burned
low; and was nearly extinguished. The girl had not returned; and,
from what Mrs. Uhler gathered from the children would not, she
presumed, come back to them again. It mattered not, however; Mrs.
Uhler was in no state of mind to regard this as a cause of trouble.
She rather felt relieved by her absence. Soon the fire was rekindled;
the kettle simmering; and, in due time, a comfortable supper was on
the table, prepared by her own hands, and well prepared too.
Mr. Uhler was a little taken by surprise, when, on being summoned
to tea, he took his place at the usually uninviting table, and saw
before him a dish of well made toast, and a plate of nicely boiled
ham. He said nothing; but a sensation of pleasure, so warm that it
made his heart beat quicker, pervaded his bosom; and this was
increased, when he placed the cup of well made, fragrant tea to his
lips, and took a long delicious draught. All had been prepared by the
hands of his wife—that he knew. How quickly his pleasure sighed
itself away, as he remembered that, with her ample ability to make
his home the pleasantest place for him in the world, she was wholly
wanting in inclination.
Usually, the husband spent his evenings away. Something caused him
to linger in his own home on this occasion. Few words passed between
him and his wife; but the latter was active through all the evening,
and, wherever her hand was laid, order seemed to grow up from
disorder; and the light glinted back from a hundred places in the
room, where no cheerful reflection had ever met his eyes before.
Mr. Uhler looked on, in wonder and hope, but said nothing. Strange
enough, Mrs. Uhler was up by day-dawn on the next morning; and in due
time, a very comfortable breakfast was prepared by her own hands. Mr.
Uhler ventured a word of praise, as he sipped his coffee. Never had he
tasted finer in his life, he said. Mrs. Uhler looked gratified; but
offered no response.
At dinner time Mr. Uhler came home from the store, where he was now
employed at a small salary, and still more to his surprise, found a
well cooked and well served meal awaiting him. Never, since his
marriage, had he eaten food at his own table with so true a
relish—never before had every thing in his house seemed so much like
And so things went on for a week, Mr. Uhler wondering and
observant, and Mrs. Uhler finding her own sweet reward, not only in a
consciousness of duty, but in seeing a great change in her husband,
who was no longer moody and ill-natured, and who had not been absent
once at meal time, nor during an evening, since she had striven to be
to him a good wife, and to her children a self denying mother.
There came, now, to be a sort of tacit emulation of good offices
between the wife and husband, who had, for so many years, lived in a
state of partial indifference. Mr. Uhler urged the procuring of a
domestic, in place of the girl who had left them, but Mrs. Uhler said
no—their circumstances would not justify the expense. Mr. Uhler said
they could very well afford it, and intimated something about an
expected advance in his salary.
"I do not wish to see you a mere household drudge," he said to her
one day, a few weeks after the change just noted. "You know so well
how every thing ought to be done, that the office of director alone
should be yours. I think there is a brighter day coming for us. I
hope so. From the first of next month, my salary is to be increased
to a thousand dollars. Then we will move from this poor place, into a
There was a blending of hopefulness and tenderness in the voice of
Mr. Uhler, that touched his wife deeply. Overcome by her feelings,
she laid her face upon his bosom, and wept.
"Whether the day be brighter or darker," she said, when she could
speak calmly, "God helping me, I will be to you a true wife, Herman.
If there be clouds and storms without, the hearth shall only burn the
brighter for you within. Forgive me for the past, dear husband! and
have faith in me for the future. You shall not be disappointed."
And he was not. Mrs. Uhler had discovered her true relation, and
had become conscious of her true duties. She was no longer jealous of
her own rights, and therefore never trespassed on the rights of her
The rapidity with which Mr. Uhler rose to his old position in
business, sometimes caused a feeling of wonder to pervade the mind of
his wife. From a clerk of one thousand, he soon came into the receipt
of two thousand a year, then rose to be a partner in the business, and
in a singularly short period was a man of wealth. Mrs. Uhler was
puzzled, sometimes, at this, and so were other people. It was even
hinted, that he had never been as poor as was pretended. Be that as it
may, as he never afterwards trusted important matters to the
discretion of irresponsible clerks, his business operations went on
prosperously; and, on the other hand, as Mrs. Uhler never again left
the comfort and health of her family entirely in the hands of ignorant
and careless domestics, the home of her husband was the pleasantest
place in the world for him, and his wife, not a mere upper servant,
but a loving and intelligent companion, whom he cared for and
cherished with the utmost tenderness.
THE HUMBLED PHARISEE.
"WHAT was that?" exclaimed Mrs. Andrews, to the lady who was seated
next to her, as a single strain of music vibrated for a few moments
on the atmosphere.
"A violin, I suppose," was answered.
"A violin!" An expression almost of horror came into the
countenance of Mrs. Andrews. "It can't be possible."
It was possible, however, for the sound came again, prolonged and
"What does it mean?" asked Mrs. Andrews, looking troubled, and
moving uneasily in her chair.
"Cotillions, I presume," was answered, carelessly.
"Not dancing, surely!"
But, even as Mrs. Andrews said this, a man entered, carrying in his
hand a violin. There was an instant movement on the part of several
younger members of the company; partners were chosen, and ere Mrs.
Andrews had time to collect her suddenly bewildered thoughts, the
music had struck up, and the dancers were in motion.
"I can't remain here. It's an outrage!" said Mrs. Andrews, making a
motion to rise.
The lady by whom she was sitting comprehended now more clearly her
state of mind, and laying a hand on her arm, gently restrained her.
"Why not remain? What is an outrage, Mrs. Andrews?" she asked.
"Mrs. Burdick knew very well that I was a member of the church."
The lady's manner was indignant.
"All your friends know that, Mrs. Andrews," replied the other. A
third person might have detected in her tones a lurking sarcasm. But
this was not perceived by the individual addressed. "But what is
"Wrong! Isn't that wrong?" And she glanced towards the mazy wreath
of human figures already circling on the floor. "I could not have
believed it of Mrs. Burdick; she knew that I was a professor of
"She doesn't expect you to dance, Mrs. Andrews," said the lady.
"But she expects me to countenance the sin and folly by my
"Sin and folly are strong terms, Mrs. Andrews."
"I know they are, and I use them advisedly. I hold it a sin to
"I know wise and good people who hold a different opinion."
"Wise and good!" Mrs. Andrews spoke with strong disgust. "I
wouldn't give much for their wisdom and goodness—not I!"
"The true qualities of men and women are best seen at home. When
people go abroad, they generally change their attire—mental as well
as bodily. Now, I have seen the home-life of certain ladies, who do
not think it sin to dance, and it was full of the heart's warm
sunshine; and I have seen the home-life of certain ladies who hold
dancing to be sinful, and I have said to myself, half shudderingly:
"What child can breathe that atmosphere for years, and not grow up
with a clouded spirit, and a fountain of bitterness in the heart!"
"And so you mean to say," Mrs. Andrews spoke with some asperity of
manner, "that dancing makes people better?—Is, in fact, a means of
"No. I say no such thing."
"Then what do you mean to say? I draw the only conclusion I can
"One may grow better or worse from dancing," said the lady. "All
will depend on the spirit in which the recreation is indulged. In
itself the act is innocent."
Mrs. Andrews shook her head.
"In what does its sin consist?"
"It is an idle waste of time."
"Can you say nothing worse of it?"
"I could, but delicacy keeps me silent."
"Did you ever dance?"
"Me? What a question! No!"
"I have danced often. And, let me say, that your inference on the
score of indelicacy is altogether an assumption."
"Why everybody admits that."
"Not by any means."
"If the descriptions of some of the midnight balls and assemblies
that I have heard, of the waltzing, and all that, be true, then
nothing could be more indelicate,—nothing more injurious to the
young and innocent."
"All good things become evil in their perversions," said the lady.
"And I will readily agree with you, that dancing is perverted, and
its use, as a means of social recreation, most sadly changed into
what is injurious. The same may be said of church going."
"You shock me," said Mrs. Andrews. "Excuse me, but you are
"I trust not. For true religion—for the holy things of the
church—I trust that I have the most profound reverence. But let me
prove what I say, that even church going may become evil."
"I am all attention," said the incredulous Mrs. Andrews.
"You can bear plain speaking."
"Me!" The church member looked surprised.
"Certainly I can. But why do you ask?"
"To put you on your guard,—nothing more."
"Don't fear but what I can bear all the plain speaking you may
venture upon. As to church going being evil, I am ready to prove the
negative against any allegations you can advance. So speak on."
After a slight pause, to collect her thoughts, the lady said:
"There has been a protracted meeting in Mr. B——'s church."
"I know it. And a blessed time it was."
"Yes, every day; and greatly was my soul refreshed and
"Did you see Mrs. Eldridge there?"
"Mrs. Eldridge? No indeed, except on Sunday. She's too
worldly-minded for that."
"She has a pew in your church."
"Yes; and comes every Sunday morning because it is fashionable and
respectable to go to church. As for her religion, it isn't worth much
and will hardly stand her at the last day."
"Why Mrs. Andrews! You shock me! Have you seen into her heart? Do
you know her purposes? Judge not, that ye be not judged, is the
"A tree is known by its fruit," said Mrs. Andrews, who felt the
rebuke, and slightly colored.
"True; and by their fruits shall ye know them," replied the lady.
"But come, there are too many around us here for this earnest
conversation. We will take a quarter of an hour to ourselves in one
of the less crowded rooms. No one will observe our absence, and you
will be freed from the annoyance of these dancers."
The two ladies quietly retired from the drawing rooms. As soon as
they were more alone, the last speaker resumed.
"By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles? Let me relate what I saw and heard in the
families of two ladies during this protracted meeting. One of these
ladies was Mrs. Eldridge. I was passing in her neighborhood about
four o'clock, and as I owed her a call, thought the opportunity a
good one for returning it. On entering, my ears caught the blended
music of a piano, and children's happy voices. From the front parlor,
through the partly opened door, a sight, beautiful to my eyes, was
revealed. Mrs. Eldridge was seated at the instrument, her sweet babe
asleep on one arm, while, with a single hand, she was touching the
notes of a familiar air, to which four children were dancing. A more
innocent, loving, happy group I have never seen. For nearly ten
minutes I gazed upon them unobserved, so interested that I forgot the
questionable propriety of my conduct, and during that time, not an
unkind word was uttered by one of the children, nor did anything occur
to mar the harmony of the scene. It was a sight on which angels could
have looked, nay, did look with pleasure; for, whenever hearts are
tuned to good affections, angels are present. The music was suspended,
and the dancing ceased, as I presented myself. The mother greeted me
with a happy smile, and each of the children spoke to her visitor with
an air at once polite and respectful.
"'I've turned nurse for the afternoon, you see,' said Mrs.
Eldridge, cheerfully. 'It's Alice's day to go out, and I never like to
trust our little ones with the chambermaid, who is n't over fond of
children. We generally have a good time on these occasions, for I
give myself up to them entirely. They've read, and played, and told
stories, until tired, and now I've just brightened them up, body and
mind, with a dance.'
"And bright and happy they all looked.
"'Now run up into the nursery for a little while, and build block
houses,' said she, 'while I have a little pleasant talk with my
friend. That's good children. And I want you to be very quiet, for
dear little Eddy is fast asleep, and I'm going to lay him in his
"Away went the children, and I heard no more of them for the half
hour during which I staid. With the child in her arms, Mrs. Eldridge
went up to her chamber, and I went with her. As she was laying him in
the crib, I took from the mantle a small porcelain figure of a
kneeling child, and was examining it, when she turned to me. 'Very
beautiful,' said I. 'It is,' she replied.—'We call it our Eddy,
saying his prayers. There is a history attached to it. Very early I
teach my little ones to say an evening prayer. First impressions are
never wholly effaced; I therefore seek to implant, in the very
dawning of thought, an idea of God, and our dependence on him for
life and all our blessings, knowing that, if duly fixed, this idea
will ever remain, and be the vessel, in after years, for the
reception of truth flowing down from the great source of all truth.
Strangely enough, my little Eddy, so sweet in temper as he was,
steadily refused to say his prayers. I tried in every way that I
could think of to induce him to kneel with the other children, and
repeat a few simple words; but not his aversion thereto was
unconquerable. I at last grew really troubled about it. There seemed
to be a vein in his character that argued no good. One day I saw this
kneeling child in a store. With the sight of it came the thought of
how I might use it. I bought the figure, and did not show it to Eddy
until he was about going to bed. The effect was all I had hoped to
produce. He looked at it for some moments earnestly, then dropped on
his little knees, clasped his white hands, and murmured the prayer I
had so long and so vainly striven to make him repeat.'
"Tears were in the eyes of Mrs. Eldridge, as she uttered the
closing words. I felt that she was a true mother, and loved her
children with a high and holy love. And now, let me give you a picture
that strongly contrasts with this. Not far from Mrs. Eldridge, resides
a lady, who is remarkable for her devotion to the church, and, I am
compelled to say, want of charity towards all who happen to differ
with her—more particularly, if the difference involves church
matters. It was after sundown; still being in the neighborhood, I
embraced the opportunity to make a call. On ringing the bell, I
heard, immediately, a clatter of feet down the stairs and along the
passage, accompanied by children's voices, loud and boisterous. It
was some time before the door was opened, for each of the four
children, wishing to perform the office, each resisted the others'
attempts to admit the visitor. Angry exclamations, rude outcries, ill
names, and struggles for the advantage continued, until the cook,
attracted from the kitchen by the noise, arrived at the scene of
contention, and after jerking the children so roughly as to set the
two youngest crying, swung it open, and I entered. On gaining the
parlor, I asked for the mother of these children.
"'She isn't at home,' said the cook.
"'She's gone to church,' said the oldest of the children.
"'I wish she'd stay at home,' remarked cook in a very disrespectful
way, and with a manner that showed her to be much fretted in her
mind. 'It's Mary's day out, and she knows I can't do anything with
the children. Such children I never saw! They don't mind a word you
say, and quarrel so among themselves, that it makes one sick to hear
"At this moment a headless doll struck against the side of my neck.
It had been thrown by one child at another; missing her aim, she gave
me the benefit of her evil intention. At this, cook lost all patience,
and seizing the offending little one, boxed her soundly, before I
could interfere. The language used by that child, as she escaped from
the cook's hands, was shocking. It made my flesh creep!
"'Did I understand you to say that your mother had gone to church?'
I asked of the oldest child.
"'Yes, ma'am,' was answered. 'She's been every day this week.
There's a protracted meeting.'
"'Give me that book!' screamed a child, at this moment. Glancing
across the room, I saw two of the little ones contending for
possession of a large family Bible, which lay upon a small table.
Before I could reach them, for I started forward, from an impulse of
the moment, the table was thrown over, the marble top broken, and the
cover torn from the sacred volume."
The face of Mrs. Andrews became instantly of a deep crimson. Not
seeming to notice this, her friend continued.
"As the table fell, it came within an inch of striking another
child on the head, who had seated himself on the floor. Had it done
so, a fractured skull, perhaps instant death, would have been the
Mrs. Andrews caught her breath, and grew very pale. The other
"In the midst of the confusion that followed, the father came home.
"'Where is your mother?' he asked of one of the children.
"'Gone to church,' was replied.
"'O dear!' I can hear his voice now, with its tone of
hopelessness,—'This church-going mania is dreadful. I tell my wife
that it is all wrong. That her best service to God is to bring up her
children in the love of what is good and true,—in filial obedience
and fraternal affection. But it avails not.'
"And now, Mrs. Andrews," continued the lady, not in the least
appearing to notice the distress and confusion of her over-pious
friend, whom she had placed upon the rack, "When God comes to make up
his jewels, and says to Mrs. Eldridge, and also to this mother who
thought more of church-going than of her precious little ones, 'Where
are the children I gave you?' which do you think will be most likely
to answer, 'Here they are, not one is lost?'"
"Have I not clearly shown you that even church-going may be
perverted into an evil? That piety may attain an inordinate growth,
while charity is dead at the root? Spiritual pride; a vain conceit of
superior goodness because of the observance of certain forms and
ceremonies, is the error into which too many devout religionists
fall. But God sees not as man seeth. He looks into the heart, and
judges his creatures by the motives that rule them."
And, as she said this, she arose, the silent and rebuked Mrs.
Andrews, whose own picture had been drawn, following her down to the
gay drawing rooms.
Many a purer heart than that of the humbled Pharisee beat there
beneath the bosoms of happy maidens even though their feet were
rising and falling in time to witching melodies.
ROMANCE AND REALITY.
"I MET with a most splendid girl last evening," remarked to his
friend a young man, whose fine, intellectual forehead, and clear
bright eye, gave indications of more than ordinary mental endowments.
"Who is she?" was the friend's brief question.
"Her name is Adelaide Merton. Have you ever seen her?"
"No, but I have often heard of the young lady."
"As a girl of more than ordinary intelligence?"
"O yes. Don't you remember the beautiful little gems of poetry that
used to appear in the Gazette, under the signature of Adelaide?"
"Very well. Some of them were exquisite, and all indicative of a
fine mind. Was she their author?"
"So I have been told."
"I can very readily believe it; for never have I met with a woman
who possessed such a brilliant intellect. Her power of expression is
almost unbounded. Her sentences are perfect pictures of the scenes
she describes. If she speaks of a landscape, not one of its most
minute features is lost, nor one of the accessories to its perfection
as a whole overlooked. And so of every thing else, in the higher
regions of the intellect, or in the lower forms of nature. For my own
part, I was lost in admiration of her qualities. She will yet shine in
The young man who thus expressed himself in regard to Adelaide
Merton, was named Charles Fenwick. He possessed a brilliant mind,
which had been well stored. But his views of life were altogether
perverted and erroneous, and his ends deeply tinctured with the love
of distinction, for its own sake. A few tolerably successful literary
efforts, had been met by injudicious over praise, leading him to the
vain conclusion that his abilities were of so high a character, that
no field of action was for him a worthy one that had any thing to do
with what he was pleased to term the ordinary grovelling pursuits of
life. Of course, all mere mechanical operations were despised, and as
a natural consequence, the men who were engaged in them. So with
merchandizing, and also with the various branches of productive
enterprise. They were mere ministers of the base physical wants of our
nature. His mind took in higher aims than these!
His father was a merchant in moderate circumstances, engaged in a
calling which was of course despised by the son, notwithstanding he
was indebted to his father's constant devotion to that calling for
his education, and all the means of comfort and supposed distinction
that he enjoyed. The first intention of the elder Mr. Fenwick had
been to qualify his son, thoroughly, for the calling of a merchant,
that he might enter into business with him and receive the benefits
of his experience and facilities in trade. But about the age of
seventeen, while yet at college, young Fenwick made the unfortunate
discovery that he could produce a species of composition which he
called poetry. His efforts were praised—and this induced him to go
on; until he learned the art of tolerably smooth versification. This
would all have been well enough had he not imagined himself to be, in
consequence, of vastly increased importance. Stimulated by this idea,
he prosecuted his collegiate studies with renewed diligence, storing a
strong and comprehensive mind with facts and principles in science and
philosophy, that would have given him, in after life, no ordinary
power of usefulness as a literary and professional man, had not his
selfish ends paralysed and perverted the natural energies of a good
The father's intention of making him a merchant was, of course,
opposed by the son, who chose one of the learned profession as more
honorable—not more useful; a profession that would give him
distinction—not enable him to fill his right place in society. In
this he was gratified. At the time of his introduction to the reader,
he was known as a young physician without a patient. He had graduated,
but had not yet seen any occasion for taking an office, as his
father's purse supplied all his wants. His pursuits were mainly
literary—consisting of essays and reviews for some of the periodicals
intermixed with a liberal seasoning of pretty fair rhymes which rose
occasionally to the dignity of poetry—or, as he supposed, to the
lofty strains of a Milton or a Dante. Occasionally a lecture before
some literary association brought his name into the newspapers in
connection with remarks that kindled his vanity into a flame. Debating
clubs afforded another field for display, and he made liberal use of
the facility. So much for Charles Fenwick.
Of Adelaide Merton, we may remark, that she was just the kind of a
woman to captivate a young man of Fenwick's character. She was showy
in her style of conversation, but exceedingly superficial. Her
reading consisted principally of poetry and the popular light
literature of the day, with a smattering of history. She could
repeat, in quite an attractive style, many fine passages from Homer,
Virgil, Milton, Shakspeare, Pope, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, and a
host of lesser lights in the poetic hemisphere—and could quote from
and criticise the philosophy and style of Bulwer with the most
edifying self-satisfaction imaginable—not to enumerate her many
other remarkable characteristics.
A second visit to Adelaide confirmed the first favorable impression
made upon the mind of Fenwick. At the third visit he was half in love
with her, and she more than half in love with him. A fourth interview
completed the work on both sides. At the fifth, the following
conversation terminated the pleasant intercourse of the evening. They
were seated on a sofa, and had been talking of poetry, and birds, and
flowers, green fields, and smiling landscapes, and a dozen other
things not necessary to be repeated at present. A pause of some
moments finally succeeded, and each seemed deeply absorbed in thought.
"Adelaide," at length the young man said in a low, musical tone,
full of richness and pathos—"Do you not feel, sometimes, when your
mind rises into the region of pure thoughts, and ranges free among
the beautiful and glorious images that then come and go like angel
visitants, a sense of loneliness, because another cannot share what
brings to you such exquisite delight?"
"Yes—often and often," replied the maiden lifting her eyes to
those of Fenwick, and gazing at him with a tender expression.
"And yet few there are, Adelaide, few indeed who could share such
"Few, indeed," was the response.
"Pardon me, for saying," resumed the young man, "that to you I have
been indebted for such added delights. Rarely, indeed, have I been
able to find, especially among your gentler sex, one who could rise
with me into the refining, elevating, exquisite pleasures of the
imagination. But you have seemed fully to appreciate my sentiments,
and fully to sympathize with them."
To this Adelaide held down her head for a moment or two, the
position causing the blood to deepen in her cheeks and forehead. Then
looking up with an expression of lofty poetic feeling she said—
"And, until I met you, Mr. Fenwick, I must be frank in saying, that
I have known no one, whose current of thought and feeling—no one
whose love of the beautiful in the ideal or natural—has seemed so
perfect a reflection of my own."
To this followed another pause, longer and more thoughtful than the
first. It was at length broken by Fenwick, who said, in a voice that
"I have an inward consciousness, that sprung into activity when the
first low murmur of your voice fell upon my ear, that you were to me
a kindred spirit. Since that moment, this consciousness has grown
daily more and more distinct, and now I feel impelled, by a movement
which I cannot resist, to declare its existence. First parden this
freedom, Adelaide, and then say if you understand and appreciate what
I have uttered in all frankness and sincerity?"
Not long did our young friend wait for an answer that made him
happier than he had ever been in his life—happy in the first
thrilling consciousness of love deeply and fervently reciprocated. To
both of them, there was a degree of romance about this brief courtship
that fully accorded with their views of love truly so called. The
ordinary cold matter-of-fact way of coming together, including a
cautious and even at times a suspicious investigation of character,
they despised as a mere mockery of the high, spontaneous confidence
which those who are truly capable of loving, feel in each other—a
confidence which nothing can shake. And thus did they pledge
themselves without either having thought of the other's moral
qualities; or either of them having formed any distinct ideas in
regard to the true nature of the marriage relation.
A few months sufficed to comsummate their union, when, in
accordance with the gay young couple's desire, old Mr. Fenwick
furnished them out handsomely, at a pretty heavy expense, in an
establishment of their own. As Charles Fenwick had not, heretofore,
shown any inclination to enter upon the practice of the profession he
had chosen, his father gently urged upon him the necessity of now
doing so. But the idea of becoming a practical doctor, was one that
Charles could not abide. He had no objection to the title, for that
sounded quite musical to his ear; but no farther than that did his
fancy lead him.
"Why didn't I choose the law as a profession?" he would sometimes
say to his young wife. "Then I might have shone. But to bury myself
as a physician, stealing about from house to house, and moping over
sick beds, is a sacrifice of my talents that I cannot think of
without turning from the picture with disgust."
"Nor can I," would be the wife's reply. "And what is more, I never
will consent to such a perversion of your talents."
"Why cannot you study law, even now, Charles?" she asked of him one
day. "With your acquirements, and habits of thought, I am sure you
would soon be able to pass an examination."
"I think that is a good suggestion, Adelaide," her husband replied,
thoughtfully. "I should only want a year or eighteen months for
preparation, and then I could soon place myself in the front rank of
The suggestion of Charles Fenwick's wife was promptly adopted. A
course of legal studies was entered upon, and completed in about two
years. Up to this time, every thing had gone on with our young couple
as smoothly as a summer sea. A beautifully furnished house, well kept
through the attention of two or three servants, gave to their indoor
enjoyments a very important accessory. For money there was no care, as
the elder Mr. Fenwick's purse-strings relaxed as readily to the hand
of Charles as to his own. A pleasant round of intelligent company,
mostly of a literary character, with a full supply of all the new
publications and leading periodicals of the day, kept their minds
elevated into the region of intellectual enjoyments, and caused them
still more to look down upon the ordinary pursuits of life as far
But all this could not last forever. On the day Charles was
admitted to the bar, he received a note from his father, requesting an
immediate interview. He repaired at once to his counting room, in
answer to the parental summons.
"Charles," said the old man, when they were alone, "I have, up to
this time, supplied all your wants, and have done it cheerfully. In
order to prepare you for taking your right place in society, I have
spared no expense in your education, bearing you, after your term of
college life had expired, through two professional courses, so that,
as either a physician or a lawyer, you are fully equal to the task of
sustaining yourself and family. As far as I am concerned, the tide of
prosperity has evidently turned against me. For two years, I have felt
myself gradually going back, instead of forward, notwithstanding my
most earnest struggles to maintain at least the position already
gained. To-day, the notice of a heavy loss completes my inability to
bear the burden of your support, and that of my own family. You must,
therefore, Charles, enter the world for yourself, and there struggle
as I have done, and as all do around you, for a living. But, as I know
that it will be impossible for you to obtain sufficient practice at
once in either law or medicine to maintain yourself, I will spare you
out of my income, which will now be small in comparison to what it has
been, four hundred dollars a year, for the next two years. You must
yourself make up the deficiency, and no doubt you can easily do so."
"But, father," replied the young man, his face turning pale, "I
cannot, possibly, make up the deficiency. Our rent alone, you know,
is four hundred dollars."
"I am aware of that, Charles. But what then? You must get a house
at one half that rent, and reduce your style of living,
proportionably, in other respects."
"What! And compromise my standing in society? I can never do that,
"Charles," said the old man, looking at his son with a sterner
countenance than he had ever yet put on when speaking to him,
"remember that you have no standing in society which you can truly
call your own. I have, heretofore, held you up, and now that my
sustaining hand is about to be withdrawn, you must fall or rise to
your own level. And I am satisfied, that the sooner you are permitted
to do so the better."
The fact was, that the selfish, and to old Mr. Fenwick, the
heartless manner in which Charles had received the communication of
his changed circumstances, had wounded him exceedingly, and suddenly
opened his eyes to the false relation which his son was holding to
"You certainly cannot be in earnest, father," the son replied,
after a few moments of hurried and painful thought, "in declaring your
intention of throwing me off with a meagre pittance of four hundred
dollars, before I have had a chance to do any thing for myself. How
can I possibly get along on that sum?"
"I do not expect you to live on that, Charles. But the difference
you will have to make up yourself. You have talents and acquirements.
Bring them into useful activity, and you will need little of my
assistance. As for me, as I have already told you, the tide of success
is against me, and I am gradually moving down the stream. Four hundred
dollars is the extent of what I can give you, and how long the ability
to do that may last, Heaven only knows."
Reluctantly the young couple were compelled to give up their
elegantly arranged dwelling, and move into a house of about one half
of its dimensions. In this there was a fixed, cold, common place
reality, that shocked the sensibilities of both even though
throughout the progress of the change, each had remained passive in
the hands of the elder Mr. and Mrs. Fenwick, who had to choose them a
house, and attend to all the arrangements of moving and refitting the
new home. For Charles to have engaged in the vulgar business of moving
household furniture, would have been felt as a disgrace;—and as for
Adelaide, she didn't know how to do any thing in regard to the matter,
and even if she had, would have esteemed such an employment as
entirely beneath her.
While the packing up was going on under the direction of her
husband's mother, Adelaide, half dressed, with an elegant shawl
thrown carelessly about her shoulders, her feet drawn up and her body
reclining upon a sofa, was deeply buried in the last new novel, while
her babe lay in the arms of a nurse, who was thus prevented from
rendering any assistance to those engaged in preparing the furniture
for removal. As for her husband, he was away, in some professional
friend's office, holding a learned discussion upon the relative merits
of Byron and Shelley.
After the removal had been accomplished, and the neat little
dwelling put, as the elder Mrs. Fenwick termed it, into "apple-pie
order" the following conversation took place between her and her
"Adelaide, it will now be necessary for you to let both your nurse
and chambermaid go. Charles cannot possibly afford the expense, as
things now are."
"Let my nurse and chambermaid go!" exclaimed Adelaide, with a look
and tone of profound astonishment.
"Certainly, Adelaide," was the firm reply. "You cannot now afford
to keep three servants."
"But how am I to get along without them? You do not, certainly,
suppose that I can be my own nurse and chambermaid?"
"With your small family," was Mrs. Fenwick's reply, "you can
readily have the assistance of your cook for a portion of the morning
in your chamber and parlors. And as to the nursing part, I should
think that you would desire no higher pleasure than having all the
care of dear little Anna. I was always my own nurse, and never had
assistance beyond that of a little girl."
"It's no use to speak in that way, mother; I cannot do without a
nurse," said Adelaide, bursting into tears. "I couldn't even dress
"The sooner you learn, child, the better," was the persevering
reply of Mrs. Fenwick.
But Adelaide had no idea of dispensing with either nurse or
chambermaid, both of whom were retained in spite of the remonstrances
and entreaties of the mother-in-law.
Driven to the absolute necessity of doing so, Charles Fenwick
opened an office, and advertised for business. Those who have
attempted to make their way, at first, in a large city, at the bar,
can well understand the disappointment and chagrin of Fenwick on
finding that he did not rise at once to distinction, as he had fondly
imagined he would, when he turned his attention, with strong reasons
for desiring success, to the practice of his profession. A few petty
cases, the trifling fees of which he rejected as of no consideration,
were all that he obtained during the first three months. At the end of
this time he found himself in debt to the baker, butcher, milkman,
tailor, dry-goods merchants, and to the three servants still
pertinaciously retained by his wife.—And, as a climax to the whole,
his father's business was brought to a termination by bankruptcy, and
the old man, in the decline of life, with still a large family
dependent upon him for support, thrown upon the world, to struggle,
almost powerless, for a subsistence. Fortunately, the Presidency of an
Insurance Company was tendered him, with a salary of fifteen hundred
dollars per annum. On this he could barely support those dependent
upon him, leaving Charles the whole task of maintaining himself, his
wife, and their child.
To be dunned for money was more than the young man could endure
with any kind of patience. But creditor tradesmen had no nice scruples
in regard to these matters, and duns came, consequently, thick and
fast, until poor Charles was irritated beyond measure. Cold, and
sometimes impatient, and half insulting answers to applications for
money, were not to be endured by the eager applicants for what was
justly their own. Warrants soon followed, as a matter of course,
which had to be answered by a personal appearance before city
magistrates, thus causing the infliction of a deeper mortification
than had yet assailed him. Added to these came the importunities of
his landlord, which was met by a response which was deemed insulting,
and then came a distraint for rent. The due bill of the father, saved
the son this utter prostration and disgrace.
The effect of all this, was to drive far away from their dwelling
the sweet angel of peace and contentment. Fretted and troubled deeply
in regard to his present condition and future prospects, Charles had
no smiling words for his wife. This, of course, pained her deeply. But
she readily found relief from present reality in the world of pure
romance. The more powerful fictions of the day, especially the highly
wrought idealities of Bulwer, and those of his class, introduced her
into a world above that in which she dwelt,—and there she lingered
the greatest portion of her time, unconscious of the calls of duty, or
the claims of affection.
A single year sufficed to break them up entirely. Expenses far
beyond their income, which rose to about three hundred dollars during
the first year of Charles' practice at the bar, brought warrants and
executions, which the father had no power to stay. To satisfy these,
furniture and library had to be sold, and Charles and his wife, child
and nurse, which latter Adelaide would retain, were thrown upon old
Mr. Fenwick, for support.
For four years did they remain a burden upon the father, during
which time, unstimulated to exertion by pressing necessities, Charles
made but little progress as a lawyer. Petty cases he despised, and
generally refused to undertake, and those of more importance were not
trusted to one who had yet to prove himself worthy of a high degree of
legal confidence. At the end of that time both his father and mother
were suddenly removed to the world of spirits, and he was again thrown
entirely upon his own resources.
With no one now to check them in any thing Charles and his wife,
after calculating the results of the next year's legal efforts, felt
fully justfied in renting a handsome house, and furnishing it on
credit. The proceeds of the year's practice rose but little above
four hundred dollars, and at its conclusion they found themselves
involved in a new debt of three thousand dollars. Then came another
breaking up, with all of its harrowing consequences—consequences
which to persons of their habits and mode of thinking, are so deeply
mortifying,—followed by their shrinking away, with a meagre remnant
of their furniture, into a couple of rooms, in an obscure part of the
"Adelaide," said the husband, one morning, as he roused himself
from a painful reverie.
"Well, what do you want?" she asked abstractedly, lifting her eyes
with reluctant air from the pages of a novel.
"I want to talk to you for a little while; so shut your book, if
"Won't some other time do as well? I have just got into the middle
of a most interesting scene."
"No—I wish to talk with you now."
"Well, say on," the wife rejoined, closing the book in her hand,
with her thumb resting upon the page that still retained her
thoughts, and assuming an attitude of reluctant attention.
"There is a school vacant at N——, some twenty miles from the
city. The salary is eight hundred dollars a year, with a house and
garden included. I can get the situation, if I will accept of it."
"And sink to the condition of a miserable country pedagogue?"
"And support my family comfortably and honestly," Fenwick replied
in a tone of bitterness.
"Precious little comfort will your family experience immured in an
obscure country village, without a single congenial associate. What
in the name of wonder has put that into your head?"
"Adelaide! I cannot succeed at the bar—at least, not for years. Of
that I am fully satisfied. It is absolutely necessary, therefore,
that I should turn my attention to something that will supply the
pressing demands of my family."
"But surely you can get into something better than the office of
schoolmaster, to the sons of clodpoles."
"I'm sure I cannot tell. That is a matter for you to think about,"
and so saying, Mrs. Fenwick re-opened her book, and commenced poring
again over the pages of the delightful work she held in her hand.
Irritated, and half disgusted at this, a severe reproof trembled on
his tongue, but he suppressed it. In a few minutes after he arose,
and left the apartment without his wife seeming to notice the
"Good morning, Mr. Fenwick!" said a well known individual, coming
into the lawyer's office a few minutes after he had himself entered.
"That trial comes on this afternoon at four o'clock."
"Well, John, I can't help it. The debt is a just one, but I have no
means of meeting it now."
"Try, and do so if you can, Mr. Fenwick, for the plaintiff is a
good deal irritated about the matter, and will push the thing to
"I should be sorry for that. But if so, let him use his own
pleasure. Take nothing from nothing, and nothing remains."
"You had better come then with security, Mr. Fenwick, for my orders
are, to have an execution issued against your person, as soon as the
case is decided."
"You are not in earnest, John?" suddenly ejaculated the lawyer,
rising to his feet, and looking at the humble minister of the law
with a pale cheek and quivering lip. "Surely Mr.——is not going to
push matters to so uncalled-for an extremity!"
"Such, he positively declares, is his fixed determination. So hold
yourself prepared, sir, to meet even this unpleasant event."
The debt for which the warrant had been issued against Mr. Fenwick,
amounted to ninety dollars.
The whole of the remaining part of that day was spent in the effort
to obtain security in the case. But in vain. His friends knew too
well his inability to protect them from certain loss, should they
step between him and the law. Talents, education, brilliant
addresses, fine poetry "and all that," turned to no good and useful
ends, he found availed him nothing now. Even many of those with whom
he had been in intimate literary association, shrunk away from the
penniless individual, and those who did not actually shun him had
lost much of their former cordiality.
The idea of being sent to jail for debt, was to him a terrible one.
And he turned from it with a sinking at the heart. He said nothing to
Adelaide on returning home in the evening, for the high communion of
spirit, in which they had promised themselves such deep and exquisite
delight, had long since given place to coldness, and a state of
non-sympathy. He found her deeply buried, as usual, in some volume of
romance, while every thing around her was in disorder, and full of
unmitigated realities. They were living alone in two small rooms, and
the duty of keeping them in order and providing their frugal meals
devolved as a heavy task upon Adelaide—so heavy, that she found it
utterly impossible to do it justice.
The fire—that essential preliminary to household operations—had
not even been made, when Fenwick reached home, and the dinner table
remained still on the floor, with its unwashed dishes strewn over it,
in admirable confusion.
With a sigh, Adelaide resigned her book, soon after her husband
came in, and commenced preparations for the evening meal. This was
soon ready, and despatched in silence, except so far as the aimless
prattle of their little girl interrupted it. Tea over, Mrs. Fenwick
put Anna to bed, much against her will, and then drew up to the table
again with her book.
Cheerless and companionless did her husband feel as he let his eye
fall upon her, buried in selfish enjoyment, while his own heart was
wrung with the bitterest recollections and the most heart-sickening
Thoughts of the gaming table passed through his mind, and with the
thought he placed his hand involuntarily upon his pocket. It was
empty. Sometimes his mind would rise into a state of vigorous
activity, with the internal consciousness of a power to do any thing.
But, alas—it was strength without skill—intellectual power without
the knowledge to direct it aright.
Late on the next morning he arose from a pillow that had been
blessed with but little sleep, and that unrefreshing. It was past
eleven o'clock before Adelaide had breakfast on the table. This over,
she, without even dressing Anna or arranging her own person sat down
to her novel, while he gave himself to the most gloomy and desponding
reflections. He feared to go out lest the first man he should meet,
should prove an officer with an execution upon his person.
About one o'clock, sick and weary of such a comfortless home, he
went out, glad of any change. Ten steps from his own door, he was met
by a constable who conveyed him to prison.
Several hours passed before his crushed feelings were aroused
sufficiently to cause him even to think of any means of extrication.
When his mind did act, it was with clearness, vigor, and decision.
The walls of a jail had something too nearly like reality about them,
to leave much of the false sentiment which had hitherto marred his
prospects in life. There was, too, something deeply humiliating in his
condition of an imprisoned debtor.
"What shall I do?" he asked himself, towards the close of the day,
with a strong resolution to discover the best course of action, and
to pursue that course, unswayed by any extraneous influences. The
thought of his wife came across his mind.
"Shall I send her word where I am?"—A pause of some moments
succeeded this question.
"No," he at length said, half aloud, while an expression of pain
flitted over his countenance. "It is of little consequence to her
where I am or what I suffer. She is, I believe, perfectly heartless."
But Fenwick was mistaken in this. She needed, as well as himself,
some powerful shock to awaken her to true consciousness. That shock
proved to be the knowledge of her husband's imprisonment for debt,
which she learned early on the next morning, after the passage of an
anxious and sleepless night, full of strange forebodings of
approaching evil. She repaired, instantly, to the prison, her heart
melted down into true feeling. The interview between herself and
husband was full of tenderness, bringing out from each heart the
mutual affections which had been sleeping there, alas! too long.
But one right course presented itself to the mind of either of
them, and that was naturally approved by both, as the only proper one.
It was for Fenwick to come out of prison under the act of insolvency,
and thus free himself from the trammels of past obligations, which
could not possibly be met.
This was soon accomplished, the requisite security for his personal
appearance to interrogatories being readily obtained.
"And now, Adelaide, what is to be done?" he asked of his wife, as
he sat holding her hand in his, during the first hour of his release
from imprisonment. His own mind had already decided—still he was
anxious for her suggestion, if she had any to make.
"Can you still obtain that school you spoke of?" she asked with
much interest in her tone.
"Yes. The offer is still open."
"Then take it, Charles, by all means. One such lesson as we have
had, is enough for a life time. Satisfied am I, now, that we have not
sought for happiness in the right paths."
The school was accordingly taken, and with humbled feelings, modest
expectations, and a mutual resolution to be satisfied with little,
did Charles Fenwick and his wife re-commence the world at the bottom
of the ladder. That he was sincere in his new formed resolutions, is
evident from the fact, that in a few years he became the principal of
a popular literary institution, for which office he was fully
qualified. She, too, learned, by degrees, to act well her part in all
her relations, social and domestic—and now finds far more pleasure in
the realities, than she ever did in the romance of life.
BOTH TO BLAME.
"OF course, both are to blame."
"Of course. You may always set that down as certain when you see
two persons who have formerly been on good terms fall out with each
other. For my part, I never take sides in these matters. I listen to
what both have to say, and make due allowance for the wish of either
party to make his or her own story appear most favorable."
Thus we heard two persons settling a matter of difference between a
couple of their friends, and it struck us at the time as not being
exactly the true way in all cases. In disputes and differences, there
are no doubt times when both are _equally_ to blame; most generally,
however, one party is _more_ to blame than the other. And it not
unfrequently happens that one party to a difference is not at all to
blame, but merely stands on a just and honorable defensive. The
following story, which may or may not be from real life, will
illustrate the latter position.
"Did you hear about Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Tarleton?" said one friend
"No; what is the matter?"
"They are up in arms against each other."
"Indeed; it's the first I've heard of it. What is the cause?"
"I can hardly tell; but I know that they don't speak. Mrs. Tarleton
complains bitterly against Mrs. Bates; and Mrs. Bates, they say, is
just as bitter against her. For my part, I've come to the conclusion
that both are to blame."
"There is no doubt of that. I never knew a case of this kind where
both were not to blame."
"But don't you know the ground of the difference?"
"They say it is about a head-dress."
"I'll be bound dress has something to do with it," grumbled out Mr.
Brierly, the husband of one of the ladies, who sat reading a
newspaper while they were talking.
"My husband is disposed to be a little severe on the ladies at
times, but you musn't mind him. _I_ never do," remarked Mrs. Brierly,
half sarcastically, although she looked at her husband with a smile as
she spoke. "He thinks we care for nothing but dress. I tell him it is
very well for him and the rest of the world that we have some little
regard at least to such matters. I am sure if I didn't think a good
deal about dress, he and the children would soon look like
Mr. Brierly responded to this by a "Humph!" and resumed the perusal
of his newspaper.
"It is said," resumed Mrs. Brierly, who had been asked to state the
cause of the unhappy difference existing between the two ladies,
"that Mrs. Bates received from her sister in New York a new and very
beautiful head-dress, which had been obtained through a friend in
Paris. Mrs. Tarleton wanted it very badly, and begged Mrs. Bates for
the pattern; but she refused to let her have it, because a grand
party was to be given by the Listons in a few weeks, and she wanted
to show it off there herself. Mrs. Tarleton, however, was not going
to take 'no' for an answer; she had set her heart upon the head-dress
and must have it. You know what a persevering woman she is when she
takes anything into her head. Well, she called in almost every day to
see Mrs. Bates, and every time she would have something to say about
the head-dress, and ask to see it. In this way she got the pattern of
it so perfectly in her mind that she was able to direct a milliner how
to make her one precisely like it. All unknown to Mrs. Bates, Mrs.
Tarleton came to the party wearing this new style of head-dress, which
made her so angry when she discovered it, that she insulted Mrs.
Tarleton openly, and then retired from the company."
"Is it possible!"
"That, I believe, is about the truth of the whole matter. I have
sifted it pretty closely."
"Well, I declare! I was at the party, but I saw nothing of this. I
remember Mrs. Tarleton's head-dress, however, very well. It certainly
was very beautiful, and has become quite fashionable since."
"Yes, and is called by some the Tarleton head-dress, from the first
wearer of it."
"This no doubt galls Mrs. Bates severely. They say she is a vain
"It is more than probable that this circumstance has widened the
"I must say," remarked the other lady, "that Mrs. Tarleton did not
"No, she certainly did not. At the same time, I think Mrs. Bates
was served perfectly right for her selfish vanity. It wouldn't have
hurt her at all if there had been two or three head-dresses there of
exactly the pattern of hers. But extreme vanity always gets
mortified, and in this case I think justly so."
"Besides, it was very unladylike to insult Mrs. Tarleton in
"Yes, or anywhere else. She should have taken no notice of it
whatever. A true lady, under circumstances of this kind, seems
perfectly unaware of what has occurred. She shuns, with the utmost
carefulness, any appearance of an affront at so trivial a matter,
even if she feels it."
Such was the opinion entertained by the ladies in regard to the
misunderstanding, as some others called it, that existed between Mrs.
Bates and Mrs. Tarleton. Both were considered to blame, and nearly
equally so; but whether the parties really misunderstood their own or
each other's true position will be seen when the truth appears.
Mrs. Bates did receive, as has been stated, a beautiful head-dress
from a sister in New York, who had obtained it from a friend in
Paris. The style was quite attractive, though neither unbecoming nor
showy. Mrs. Bates had her own share of vanity, and wished to appear
at a large party soon to take place, in this head-dress, where she
knew it must attract attention. Although a little vain, a fault that
we can easily excuse in a handsome woman, Mrs. Bates had a high sense
of justice and right, and possessed all a lady's true delicacy of
The head-dress, after being admired, was laid aside for the
occasion refrered to. A few days afterwards, Mrs. Tarleton, an
acquaintance, dropped in.
"I have something beautiful to show you," said Mrs. Bates, after
she had chatted awhile with her visitor.
"Indeed! What is it?"
"The sweetest head-dress you ever saw. My sister sent it to me from
New York, and she had it direct from a friend in Paris, where it was
all the fashion. Mine I believe to be the only one yet received in
the city, and I mean to wear it at Mrs. Liston's party.
"Do let me see it," said Mrs. Tarleton, all alive with expectation.
She had an extravagant love of dress, and was an exceedingly vain
The head-dress was produced. Mrs. Tarleton lifted her hands and
"The loveliest thing I ever saw! Let me try it on," she said,
laying off her bonnet and taking the head-dress from the hands of Mrs.
Bates. "Oh, it is sweet! I never looked so well in anything in my
life," she continued, viewing herself in the glass. "I wish I could
beg it from you; but that I havn't the heart to do."
Mrs. Bates smiled and shook her head, but made no reply.
"Here, you put it on, and let me see how you look in it," went on
Mrs. Tarleton, removing the cap from her own head and placing it upon
that of her friend. "Beautiful! How well it becomes you! you must let
me have the pattern. We can wear them together at the party. Two will
attract more attention than one."
"I am sorry to deny you," replied Mrs. Bates, "but I think I shall
have to be alone in my glory this time."
"Indeed, you must let me have the pattern, Mrs. Bates. I never saw
anything in my life that pleased me so much, nor anything in which I
looked so well. I have been all over town for a head-dress without
fnding anything I would wear. If you don't let me have one like
yours, I do not know what I will do. Come now, say yes, that is a
But Mrs. Bates said no as gently as she could. It was asking of her
too much. She had set her heart upon appearing in that head-dress as
something new and beautiful, and could not consent to share the
distinction, especially with Mrs. Tarleton, for whom, although a
friend, she entertained not the highest esteem, and for the reason
that Mrs. Tarleton had rather a vulgar mind, and lacked a lady's true
perceptions of propriety.
"Well, I must say you are a selfish woman," returned Mrs. Tarleton,
good-humoredly, and yet meaning what she said. "It wouldn't do you a
bit of harm to let me have the pattern, and would gratify me more
than I can tell."
"I'll tell you what I will do," said Mrs. Bates, to this, with a
reluctant effort that was readily perceived by her visitor, "I will
give you the head-dress and let you wear it, as long as you seem to
have set your heart so upon it."
"Oh no, no; you know I wouldn't do that. But it seems strange that
you are not willing for us to wear the same head-dress."
The indelicate pertinacity of her visitor annoyed Mrs. Bates very
much, and she replied to this rather more seriously than she had
"The fact is, Mrs. Tarleton," she said, "this head-dress is one
that cannot fail to attract attention. I have several very intimate
friends, between whom and myself relations of even a closer kind
exist than have yet existed between you and me. If I give you the
pattern of this cap and the privilege of wearing it with me for the
first time it is seen in this city, these friends will have just
cause to think hard of me for passing them by. This is a reason that
would inevitably prevent me from meeting your wishes, even if I were
indifferent about appearing in it myself alone."
"I suppose I must give it up, then," said Mrs. Tarleton, in a
slightly disappointed tone.
"As I said before," returned Mrs. Bates, "I will defer the matter
entirely to you. You shall have the head-dress and I will choose some
"Oh no; I couldn't think of such a thing," returned Mrs. Tarleton.
"That is more than I ought to ask or you to give."
"It is the best I can do," Mrs. Bates said, with a quiet smile.
"Sister," said Mrs. Tarleton, on returning home, "you can't imagine
what a sweet head-dress Mrs. Bates has just received from Paris
through her sister in New York. It is the most unique and beautiful
thing I ever saw. I tried hard for the pattern, but the selfish
creature wouldn't let me have it. She is keeping it for the Liston's
party, where it will be the admiration of every one."
"What is it like?"
"Oh, I can't begin to describe it. It is altogether novel. I wish
now I had asked her to let me bring it home to show it to you."
"I wish you had. You must go there again and get it for me."
"I believe I will call in again to-morrow.—Perhaps she will have
thought better of it by that time, and changed her mind. At any rate,
if not, I will ask her to let me bring it home and show it to you."
This was done. Mrs. Bates did not object to letting Mrs. Tarleton
take the head-dress and show it to her sister, for she had the
fullest confidence that she would not do anything with it that she
knew was against her wishes, which had been clearly expressed.
The sister of Mrs. Tarleton was in raptures with the head-dress.
"It is right down mean and selfish in Mrs. Bates not to let you
have the pattern," she said. "What a vain woman she must be. I always
thought better of her."
"So did I. But this shows what she is."
"If I were you," remarked the sister, "I would have it in spite of
her. It isn't _her_ pattern, that she need pretend hold it so
exclusively. It is a Paris fashion, and any body else may get it just
as well as she. She has no property in it."
"No, of course not."
"Then while you have the chance, take it to Madame Pinto and get
her to make you one exactly like it."
"I have a great mind to do it; it would serve her perfectly right."
"I wouldn't hesitate a moment," urged the sister. "At the last
party, Mrs. Bates managed to have on something new that attracted
every one and threw others into the shade, I wouldn't let her have
another such triumph."
Thus urged by her sister, Mrs. Tarleton yielded to the evil
counsel, which was seconded by her own heart. The head-dress was taken
to Madame Pinto, who, after a careful examination of it, said that she
would make one exactly similar for Mrs. Tarleton. After charging the
milliner over and over again to keep the matter a profound secret,
Mrs. Tarleton went away and returned the head-dress to Mrs. Bates. It
had been in her possession only a couple of hours.
Mrs. Pinto was a fashionable milliner and dress maker, and was
patronized by the most fashionable people in the city, Mrs. Bates
among the rest. The latter had called in the aid of this woman in the
preparation of various little matters of dress to be worn at the
party. Three or four days after Mrs. Tarleton's visit to Mrs. Pinto
with the head-dress, Mrs. Bates happened to step in at the
milliner's, who, during their consultation, about little matters of
dress, drew the lady aside, saying—"I've got something that I know I
can venture to show you.—It's for the party, and the loveliest thing
you ever saw."
As she said this she took from a box a facsimile of Mrs. Bates' own
beautiful head-dress, and held it up with looks of admiration.
"Isn't it sweet?" she said.
"It is the most beautiful head-dress I ever saw," replied Mrs.
Bates, concealing her surprise. "Who is it for?"
"It's a secret, but I can tell _you_. It is for Mrs. Tarleton."
"Ah! Where did she get the pattern?"
"I don't know; she brought it here, but said she couldn't leave it
for the world. I had to study it all out, and then make it from my
recollection of the pattern."
"The pattern did not belong to her?"
"Oh, no. Somebody had it who was going to show it off at the party,
she said; but she meant to surprise her."
"Have you any new patterns for head-dresses not chosen by the
ladies who have made selections of you for Mrs. Liston's party?" asked
Mrs. Bates, not seeming to notice the reply of Mrs. Pinto.
"Oh, yes, ma'am, a good many," and half-a-dozen really handsome
head-dresses were shown—none, however, that pleased her half so well
as the one she was about throwing aside. She suited herself from the
assortment shown her, and directed it to be sent home.
Mrs. Bates felt justly outraged at the conduct of Mrs. Tarleton,
but she did not speak of what had taken place, except to one or two
very intimate friends and to her husband. The evening of the party at
length arrived. Mrs. Tarleton was there a little earlier than Mrs.
Bates, in all the glory of her ungenerous triumph. The beautiful
head-dress she wore attracted every eye, and in the admiration won by
the display of her taste, she lost all the shame she had felt in
anticipation of meeting Mrs. Bates, to whom her meanness and
dishonesty would be at once apparent.
At length she saw this lady enter the parlors by the side of her
husband, and noticed with surprise that her head-dress was entirely
different from the one she wore. The truth flashed across her mind.
Mrs. Pinto had betrayed her secret, and Mrs. Bates, justly outraged
by what had occurred, had thrown aside her beautiful cap and selected
Now Mrs. Bates was a woman whom Mrs. Tarleton would be sorry to
offend seriously, because her position in certain circles was
undoubted, while her own was a little questionable. The fact that
Mrs. Bates had declined wearing so beautiful a head-dress because she
had obtained one of the same pattern by unfair means, made her fear
that serious offence had been given, and dashed her spirits at once.
She was not long left in doubt. Before ten minutes had elapsed she was
thrown into immediate contact with Mrs. Bates, from whom she received
a polite but cold bow.
Mrs. Tarleton was both hurt and offended at this, and immediately
after the party, commenced talking about it and mis-stating the whole
transaction, so as not to appear so much to blame as she really was.
Mrs. Bates, on the contrary, said little on the subject, except to a
few very intimate friends, and to those who made free to ask her about
it, to whom she said, after giving fairly the cause of complaint
against Mrs. Tarleton—"I spoke to her coldly because I wished our
more intimate acquaintance to cease. Her conduct was unworthy of a
lady, and therefore I cannot and will not consider her among my
friends. No apologies, if she would even make them, could change the
wrong spirit from which she acted, or make her any more worthy of my
confidence, esteem or love."
"But you will surely forgive her?" said one.
"The wrong done to me I am ready enough to forgive, for it is but a
trifling matter; but the violation of confidence and departure from a
truly honest principle, of which she has been guilty, I cannot
forgive, for they are not sins against me, but against Heaven's first
and best laws."
But that did not satisfy some. Persons calling themselves mutual
friends strove hard to reconcile what they were pleased to call a
misunderstanding in which "both were to blame." But it availed not.
To their interference, Mrs. Bates usually replied—"If it will be any
satisfaction to Mrs. Tarleton to be recognized by me and treated
kindly and politely in company, I will most cheerfully yield her all
that; but I cannot feel towards her as heretofore, because I have
been deceived in her, and find her to be governed by principles that
I cannot approve. We can never again be on terms of intimacy."
But it was impossible to make some understand the difference
between acting from principle and wounded pride. The version given by
Mrs. Tarleton was variously modified as it passed from mouth to mouth,
until it made Mrs. Bates almost as much to blame as herself, and
finally, as the coldness continued until all intercourse at last
ceased, it was pretty generally conceded, except by a very few, that
"both were about equally to blame."
The reader can now make up his own mind on the subject from what
has been related. For our part, we do not think Mrs. Bates at all to
blame in at once withdrawing herself from intimate association with
such a woman as Mrs. Tarleton showed herself to be, and we consider
that a false charity which would seek to interfere with or set aside
the honest indignation that should always be felt in similar cases of
open betrayal of confidence and violation of honest and honorable
We have chosen a very simple and commonplace incident upon which to
"hang a moral."—But it is in the ordinary pursuits of business and
pleasure where the true character is most prone to exhibit itself,
and we must go there if we would read the book of human life aright.
IT'S NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
"WAS N'T that young Sanford?" asked Mrs. Larkin of her husband, as
the two stood at a window of their dwelling one Sunday afternoon,
noticing the passers by. The individual she alluded to was a young
man who had ridden gaily along on a spirited horse.
"Yes," was the reply.
"He rides past here almost every Sunday afternoon, and often in
company with Harriet Meadows. He is quite a dashing young fellow."
"He is dashing far beyond his ostensible means. I wonder at Millard
for keeping him in his store. I would soon cast adrift any one of my
clerks who kept a fast horse, and sported about with the gay
extravagance that Sanford does. His salary does not, I am sure, meet
half his expenses. I have heard some of my young men speak of his
habits. They say money with him is no consideration. He spends it as
freely as water."
"Strange that his employer does not see this!"
"It is. But Millard is too unsuspicious, and too ignorant of what
is going on out of the narrow business circle. He is like a horse in a
mill. He sees nothing outside of a certain limit. He gets up in the
morning, dresses himself, goes to his store, and then devotes himself
to business until dinner time. Then he goes home and dines. After this
he comes back to his store and stays until night. His evenings are
either spent in reading or dozing at home, or with a neighbor at
checkers. On Sunday morning he goes to church, in the afternoon he
sleeps to kill time, and in the evening retires at eight, unless a
friend steps in, to sleep away the tedious hours. Of the habits of his
clerks, when out of his store, he knows as little as the man in the
"But some one ought to give him a hint."
"It would be a charity."
"Why do n't you do it?"
"Me! Oh, it's none of my business. Let Millard look after his own
affairs. I 'm not going to get myself into trouble by meddling with
things that do n't concern me. It is his place to see into the habits
of his clerks. If he neglects to do so, he deserves to be cheated by
"I do n't know. It seems to me that it would be no more than right
to give him a hint, and put him on his guard."
"It would be a good turn, no doubt. But I'm not going to do it.
It's no affair of mine."
"I do n't think he is fit company for Harriet Meadows," said Mrs.
Larkin, after a pause.
"Nor I," returned her husband. "I should be very sorry to see our
Jane riding with him, or indeed, associating with him in any way.
Surely Harriet's father and mother cannot know that their daughter
rides out with him almost every Sunday afternoon."
"Of course not. They are religious people and would think it a sin
for her to do so. I am surprised that Harriet should act in such
direct violation of what she knows to be their real sentiments."
"Some one ought to give them a hint upon the subject."
"I think so. If it were my child I would take it as a great favor
"Yes, so would I. Suppose, Ellen, you drop a word in Mrs. Meadows'
"Me!" with a look and tone of surprise. "Oh no, I never interfere
in other people's business. Every one ought to look after his or her
own concerns. I hate your meddlesome folks. I 'll take good care that
my own child do n't form such associations. Let every body else do the
same. The fact is, parents are too careless about where their children
go, and what kind of company they keep."
"That's very true. Still I think no harm could come of your just
giving Mrs. Meadows a hint."
"Oh, no indeed! It's none of my business."
"Well, just as you like," returned Mr. Larkin, indifferently. "Let
every one see that his own stable door is locked before the horse is
Mr. Millard, who was in the same line of business with Larkin, was
just the plodding, unobserving, unsuspicious person that the latter
had described him. Sanford was an intelligent clerk and an active
salesman. These were valuable qualities, for which he was appreciated
by his employer. As to what he did or where he went after business
hours, Millard never thought. He, doubtless, on the supposition of the
merchant, went into good company, and acted with the same prudence
that had governed himself under similar circumstances. But in this he
was mistaken. The young man's habits were bad, and his associates
often of a vicious character. Bad habits and bad associates always
involve the spending of money freely. This consequence naturally
occurred in the case of Sanford. To supply his wants his salary proved
insufficient. These wants were like the horse-leech, and cried
continually—" give, give." They could not be put off. The first
recourse was that of borrowing, in anticipation of his quarterly
receipt of salary, after his last payment was exhausted. It was not
long before, under this system, his entire quarterly receipt had to be
paid away to balance his borrowed money account, thus leaving him
nothing to meet his increasing wants for the next three months. By
borrowing again from some friends immediately, and curtailing his
expenses down to the range of his income, he was able to get along for
two or three quarters. But, of course, he was always behind hand just
the amount of three months' salary. At length, as new wants pressed
upon him, he was tempted to exceed in his borrowed money account the
sum received as his quarterly dues. This made it impossible for him to
pay off, when he received his instalments of salary, the whole amount
of borrowed money, and caused him to cast about for some new resource.
In balancing the cash account one day,—he had charge of this,—he
found that there was an error of one hundred dollars in favor of
cash—that is, there were on hand one hundred dollars more than was
called for by the account. He went over the account again and again,
but could not discover the error. For more than an hour he examined
the various entries and additions, but with no better success. At
last, however, a little to his disappointment, for he had already
began to think of quietly appropriating the surplus, he found the
error to consist in the carriage of tens—four instead of five having
been carried to the third or column of hundreds on one of the pages of
the cash book, thus making the amount called for in the book one
hundred dollars less than the real sum on hand.
For some time after this discovery, Sanford sat at his desk in a
state of abstraction and irresolution. He was vexed that the error
had been found out, for he had already nearly made up his mind to
keep the overplus and say nothing about it. He did not attempt to
change the erroneous figure.—Why should it not remain so?—he at
length asked himself. If it had cost him so much time and labor to
find it out, it was not probable that any one else would detect it.
Indeed, no one but himself and Mr. Millard had any thing to do with
the general cash account of the establishment, and he knew very well
that the latter did not examine it with a very close scrutiny.
Finally, pressing demands for money determined him to put the surplus
into his pocket, at least for the present. He did so, and in that act
let into his mind a flood of evil counsellors, whose arguments,
enforced by his own cupidities, could at any time afterwards have
sufficient control to guide him almost at will. With this sum of one
hundred dollars, he paid off a portion of what he owed, and retained
the rest to meet the demands that would be made upon him before the
arrival of the next quarter day. It was a rule with Millard to pay off
his clerks only in quarterly instalments. No other payments were
It was not long before a deliberate false entry was made, by which
another hundred dollars passed into Sanford's pockets. With this
increase of income came a freer expenditure. Hitherto he had been in
the habit of riding out on Sundays on hired horses; but now he was
inspired with a wish to own a horse himself. A beautiful animal just
at this time came under his eye. It was offered at one hundred and
fifty dollars. The owner, knowing Sanford's fondness for a gay,
fast-going horse, urged him to buy.
The temptation was very strong. He looked at the animal again and
again, rode him out, talked about him, until, finally, the desire to
own him became almost irresistible. He had not twenty dollars,
however, and it would be two months before his salary came due, which
at any rate was all wanted for current expenses. The cash book was
looked at for a week or ten days before he could make up his mind to
pen another false entry. At last, however, he picked up the courage to
do so. The horse was purchased, and for a few days the thought of
possessing so noble an animal was very pleasant.
On the third day after this act of dishonesty, Mr. Millard, who had
been looking over the cash book, discovered the erroneous figures.
"Look here, Sanford," said he, "you have made a mistake here. This
figure should be nine instead of eight, and this five instead of
The young man's heart gave a quick throb, but he controlled himself
by a strong effort.
"Where?" he asked, quickly, coming at once to Mr. Millard, and
looking over the cash-book.
"Here—just add up these two columns."
Sanford added them up, and then said—
"Yes, that's a fact. I'm glad you have found it out. The cash has
been over about two hundred dollars for several days, and I have
tried in vain to find where the error lay. Strange, after adding up
these columns for some twenty times or more, I should have still been
wrong in these figures. Let me strike a balance for you now, so that
you can count the cash, and see that there is just this amount over."
This dispelled all suspicions from the mind of Millard, if any had
found a place there.
"No," he replied, "I hav n't time now. I have no doubt of it being
right. Make the corrections required."
And as he thus remarked, he turned away from the desk.
Sanford trembled from head to foot the moment his employer left
him. He tried to make the corrections, but his hand shook so that he
could not hold the pen. In a little while he mastered this agitation
so far as to be externally composed. He then changed the erroneous
figures. But this did not make the matter straight. The cash account
now called for two hundred dollars more than the funds on hand would
show. If the money should be counted before he could make other false
entries, he would be discovered and disgraced. And now that errors had
been discovered, it was but natural to suppose that Mr. Millard would
glance less casually at the account than he had been in the habit of
doing. At last, he determined to erase a few pages back certain
figures, and insert others in their places, and carry down from thence
the error by a regular series of erasures and new entries. This he did
so skilfully, that none but the eye of suspicion could have detected
it. It was some weeks before he again ventured to repeat these acts.
When he did so, he permitted the surplus cash to remain in the drawer
for eight or ten days, so that if a discovery happened to be made, the
balance on hand would show that it was an error. But Mr. Millard
thought no more about the matter, and the dishonest clerk was
permitted to prosecute his base conduct undetected. In this way month
after month passed, until the defalcation rose to over a thousand
dollars. Nightly Sanford attended places of public amusement, usually
accompanied by a young lady, the daughter of some respectable citizen,
who knew as little of the habits and character of the young man as did
his employer himself. Among those with whom he had become intimate was
Harriet Meadows, the daughter of a merchant possessing a high sense of
honor and considerable wealth. Mr. Meadows, so soon as the young man
began to visit at his house, gave him to understand by his manner that
he was not welcome. This was so plainly done that there was no room
for mistake in the matter. Piqued at this, Sanford determined that he
would keep the daughter's company in spite of her crusty old father.
Harriet was gay and thoughtless, and had been flattered by the
attentions of Sanford. She met him a few times after his repulse, at
balls, and hesitated not to dance with him. These meetings afforded
full opportunity for the young man to push himself still farther into
her good opinion, and to prevail upon her at length to meet him
clandestinely, which she frequently did on Sunday afternoons, when,
as has already been seen, she would ride out in his company. This
kind of intimacy soon led to a declaration of love on the part of
Sanford, which was fully responded to by the foolish girl. The former
had much, he thought, to hope for in in a union with Miss Meadows. Her
father was well off, and in a very excellent business. His fortune
would be made if he could rise to the position of his son-in-law. He
did not hope to do this by a fair and open offer for Harriet's hand.
The character of Meadows, which was decided, precluded all hope of
gaining his consent after he had once frowned upon his approaches. The
only road to success was a secret marriage, and to that he was
gradually inclining the mind of the daughter at the time our story
It is not always that a villain remains such alone. He generally,
by a kind of intuition, perceives who are like him in interiors, and
he associates with these on the principle that birds of a feather
flock together. He was particularly intimate with one of Larkin's
clerks, a young man named Hatfield, who had no higher views of life
than himself, and who was governed by no sounder principles. Hatfield
found it necessary to be more guarded than Sanford, from the fact
that his employer was gifted with much closer observation than was
Millard. He, too, rode a fast trotting horse on Sunday, but he knew
pretty well the round taken by Larkin on that day, and the hours when
he attended church, and was very careful never to meet him. At some
place of public resort, a few miles from the city, he would join
Sanford, and together they would spend the afternoon.
On Jane Larkin, his employer's only daughter, Hatfield had for some
time looked with a favourable eye. But he felt very certain that
neither her father nor mother would favor his addresses.
Occasionally, with her parents' knowledge, he would attend her to
places of public amusement. But both himself and the young lady saw
that even this was not a thing that fully met their approbation.
Hatfield would, on such occasions, ingeniously allude to this fact,
and thus gather from Jane how she regarded their coldness. It was not
agreeable to her, he quickly perceived. This encouraged him to push
Soon the two understood each other fully, and soon after the tacit
opposition of the parents to their intimacy was a matter of
conversation between them, whenever they could get an opportunity of
talking together without awakening suspicion.
Harriet Meadows and Jane Larkin were particular friends, and soon
became confidants. They were both quite young, and, we need not say,
weak and thoughtless. Sanford and Hatfield, as the reader has seen,
were also intimate. In a short time after the latter had made up
their minds to secure the hands of these two young ladies, if
possible, there was a mutual confession of the fact. This was
followed by the putting of their heads together for the contrivance
of such plans as would best lead to the effectuation of the end each
had proposed to himself. It is a curious fact, that on the very
Sunday afternoon on which we have seen Mr. and Mrs. Larkin conversing
about the danger and impropriety of Harriet Meadows keeping company
with a man like Sanford, their own daughter was actually riding out
with Hatfield. In this ride they passed the residence of Mr. Meadows,
who, in turn, commented upon the fact with some severity of censure
towards Mr. Larkin and his wife for not looking more carefully after
their only child.
"They certainly cannot know it," finally remarked Mr. Meadows.
"No, I should think not. It would be a real charity for some one
just to mention it to them."
"It certainly would."
"Suppose you speak to Mr. Larkin about it," said Mrs. Meadows.
"Me? Oh no!" was the reply. "It is none of my business. I never
meddle with family affairs. It is their duty to look after their
daughter. If they don't, and she rides about with Tom, Dick and Harry
on Sundays, they have no one to blame but themselves for the
Thus their responsibility in the affair was dismissed. It was no
business of theirs.
In the mean time the two clerks were laying their plans for
carrying off the young ladies, and marrying them secretly.
"Have you sounded Jane on this subject?" asked Sanford of his
friend one evening, when the matter had come up for serious
"How does she stand?"
"I think there is no doubt of her. But how is Harriet?"
"All right. That point we settled last night. She is ready to go at
any time that Jane is willing to take a similar step. She would
rather not go all alone."
"If she will only second me in urging the absolute necessity of the
thing upon Jane, there can be no doubt of the result. And she will do
that of course."
"Oh yes—all her influence can be calculated upon. But how do you
think Larkin will stand affected after all is over?"
"It's hard to tell. At first he will be as mad as a March hare. But
Jane is his only child, and he loves her too well to cast her off.
All will settle down quietly after a few weeks' ebullition and I
shall be as cosily fixed in the family as I could wish. After that,
my fortune is made. Larkin is worth, to my certain knowledge, fifty
or sixty thousand dollars, every cent of which will in the end come
into my hands. And, besides, Larkin's son-in-law will have to be set
up in business. Give me a fair chance, and I'll turn a bright penny
"How are you off for funds at this present time?"
"Low, very low. The old fellow don't pay me half a salary. I'm in
debt three or four hundred dollars, and dunned almost to death
whenever I am in the way of duns. All the people I owe know better
than to send their bills to the store, for if they were to do so, and
by thus exposing me cause me to lose my situation, they are well aware
that they might have to whistle for their money."
"Can't you make a raise some how? We must both have money to carry
out this matter. In the first place, we must go off a hundred or two
miles and spend a week. After we return we may have to board for
weeks at pretty high charges before a reconciliation can be brought
about. During this time you will be out of a situation, for old
Larkin won't take you back into the store until the matter is made
up. You ought at least to have a couple of hundred dollars."
"And I have n't twenty."
"Bad, very bad. But don't you think you could borrow a couple of
hundred from Larkin, and pay him back after you become his
"Borrow from Larkin! Goodness! He'd clear me out in less than no
time, if I were to ask him to loan me even fifty dollars."
"No, but you don't understand me," remarked Sanford after a
thoughtful pause. "Can 't you borrow it without his knowledge, I
mean? No harm meant of course. You intend borrowing his daughter, you
know, for a little while, until he consents to give her to you."
Hatfield looked into the face of his tempter with a bewildered air
for some moments. He did not yet fully comprehend his drift.
"How am I to borrow without his knowing it? Figure me that out if
you please," he said.
"Who keeps the cash?"
"Ah! so far so good. You keep the cash. Very well. Now is n't it
within the bounds of possibility for you to possess yourself of a
couple of hundred dollars in such a way that the deficit need not
appear? If you can, it will be the easiest thing in the world, after
you come back, and get the handling of a little more money in your
right than has heretofore been the case, to return the little loan."
"But suppose it possible for me thus to get possession of two
hundred dollars, and suppose I do not get back safely after our
adventure, and do not have the handling of more money in my own
"You'll only be supporting his daughter out of his own money—that
"Humph! Quite a casuist."
"But is n't there reason in it?"
"I do n't know. I am not exactly in a state to see reasons clearly
"You can see the necessity of having a couple of hundred dollars, I
"Oh yes—as clear as mud."
"You must have that sum at least, or to proceed will be the height
"I can see that too."
"It is owing to Larkin's mean pride that you are driven to this
extremity. He ought to pay for it."
"But how am I to get hold of two hundred dollars? That's the
"Is there ordinarily much cash on hand?"
"Yes. We deposit some days as high as ten thousand dollars;
particularly at this season, when a good many merchants are in."
"The chance is fair enough. Two hundred won't be missed."
"No, not until the cash is settled, and then it will come to
"That does n't follow."
"I think it does."
"You may prevent it."
"Miss a couple of tens in your additions on the debit side of the
cash book. Do you understand?"
"You are dull. Change a figure in footing up your cash book, so
that it will balance, notwithstanding a deficit of two hundred
dollars. After you come back, this can be set right again. No one will
think of adding up the back columns to see if there is any fraud."
"After Sanford ceased speaking, his friend cast his eyes to the
floor, and reflected for some time. There was in his mind a powerful
struggle between right and wrong. When the plan was first presented,
he felt an inward shrinking from it. It involved an act of fraud,
that, if found out, would blast his character. But the longer he
reflected, and the more fully he looked in the face of the fact that
without money he could not proceed to the consummation of his wishes,
the more favorable the plan seemed.
"But," he said, lifting his eyes and drawing a long breath, "if it
should be found out?"
"Larkin will not expose his son-in-law for his daughter's sake."
"True—there is something there to hope for. Well, I will think of
it. I must have two hundred dollars from some source."
And he did think of it to evil purpose. He found no very great
difficulty in getting Jane to consent to run away with him,
especially as her particular friend, Harriet Meadows, was to
accompany her on a like mad-cap expedition with Sanford.
Nothing occurred to prevent the acts proposed. By false entries,
Hatfield was enabled to abstract two hundred dollars in a way that
promised a perfect concealment of the fraud, although in doing it he
felt much reluctance and many compunctions of conscience.
About ten days after the conversation between the young men, just
given, Jane Larkin obtained her mother's consent to spend a few days
with a cousin who resided some miles from the city on a road along
which one of the omnibus lines passed. Harriet Meadows did not use
this precaution to elude suspicion. She left her father's house at
the time agreed upon, and joined young Sanford at an appointed place,
where a carriage was waiting, into which Hatfield and Jane had already
entered. The two couples then proceeded to the house of an alderman,
who united them in marriage bonds. From thence they drove to a
railroad depot, took passage for a neighboring city, and were soon
gliding away, a suspicion unawakened in the minds of the young ladies'
The absence of Harriet on the night following alarmed the fears and
awakened the suspicions of her father and mother. Early on the next
day, Mr. Meadows learned that his daughter had been seen entering
the——cars in company with young Sanford. Calling upon Millard, he
ascertained that Sanford had not been to the store on the previous
day, and was still absent. To merge suspicion and doubt into
certainty, the alderman who had married the couples was met
accidentally. He testified to the fact of his having united them.
Sick at heart, Mr. Meadows returned home to communicate the sad
intelligence to the mother of Harriet. When he again went out, he was
met by the startling rumor that a defalcation had been discovered on
the part of young Sanford to a large amount. Hurrying to the store of
Mr. Millard, he was shocked to find that the rumor was but, alas! too
true. Already false entries in the cash book had been discovered to
the amount of at least five thousand dollars. An officer, he also
learned, had been despatched to——, for the purpose of arresting the
dishonest clerk and bringing him back to justice.
"Quite an affair this," remarked Larkin to an acquaintance whom he
met some time during the day, in a half-serious, half-indifferent
"About Meadows' daughter and Sanford? Yes, and rather a melancholy
affair. The worst part of it is, that the foolish young man has been
embezzling the money of his employer."
"Yes, that is very bad. But Millard might have known that Sanford
could not dash about and spend money as he did upon his salary
"I do n't suppose he knew any thing about his habits. He is an
unsuspicious man, and keeps himself quietly at home when not in his
"Well, I did then. I saw exactly how he was going on, and could
have told him; but it wasn't any of my business."
"I do n't care so much for Millard or his clerk as I do for the
foolish girl and her parents. Her happiness is gone and theirs with
"Ah, yes—that is the worst part. But they might have known that
something of the kind would take place. They were together a good
deal, and were frequently to be seen riding out on Sunday
"This was not with the knowledge of her parents, I am sure."
"I do n't suppose it was. Still they should have looked more
carefully after their child. I knew it and could have told them how
things were going—but it was n't any of my business. I always keep
myself clear from these matters."
Just at this moment a third person came up. He looked serious.
"Mr. Larkin," he said, "I have just heard that your daughter and
Hatfield, your clerk, were married at the same time that Sanford was,
and went off with that young man and his bride. Alderman——, it is
said, united them."
Larkin turned instantly pale. Hatfield had been away since the
morning of the day before, and his daughter was not at home, having
asked the privilege of going to see a cousin who resided a few miles
from the city. A call upon Alderman——confirmed the afflicting
intelligence. The father returned home to communicate the news to his
wife, on whom it fell with such a shock that she became quite ill.
"He might have known that something of this kind would have
happened," remarked the person who had communicated the intelligence,
as soon as Larkin had left. "No man who does n't wish his daughters to
marry his clerks, ought to let them go to balls and concerts together,
and ride out when they please on Sunday afternoons."
"Did Larkin permit this with Jane and Hatfield?"
"They were often thus together whether he permitted it or not."
"He could n't have known it."
"Perhaps not. I could have given him a hint on the subject, if I
had chosen—but it was none of my business."
On the next day all the parties came home—Sanford compulsorily, in
the hands of an officer; Hatfield voluntarily, and in terrible alarm.
The two brides were of course included. Sanford soon after left the
city, and has not since been heard of. His crime was "breach of
trust!" As for Hatfield, he was received on the principle that, in
such matters, the least said the soonest mended. In the course of a
few months he was able to restore the two hundred dollars he had
abstracted. After this was done he felt easier in mind. He did not,
however, make the foolish creature he had married happy. Externally,
or to the world, they seem united, but internally they are not
conjoined. Too plainly is this apparent to the father and mother, who
have many a heart-ache for their dearly loved child.
THE MOTHER'S PROMISE.
A LADY, handsomely dressed, was about leaving her house to make a
few calls, when a little boy ran out from the nursery, and clasping
one of her gloved hands in both of his, looked up into her face with
a glance of winning entreaty, saying, as he did so:
"Mamma! dear mamma! Won't you buy me a picture-book, just like
"Yes, love," was the unhesitating reply; and the lady stooped to
kiss the sweet lips of her child.
"Eddy must be a good boy, and mind nurse while mamma is away," she
"I'll be so good," replied Eddy, with all the earnestness of a
childish purpose. "You may ask nurse when you come home, if I have
not been the goodest little boy that ever was."
Mrs. Herbert kissed her darling boy again, and then went forth to
make her morning round of calls. Eddy returned to the nursery, strong
in his purpose, to be a good boy, as he had promised.
"Such a dear little picture-book as mamma is going to bring me
home," he said to nurse, as he leaned his arms against her, and
looked up into her face. "Oh! won't I be so glad. It's to be just
like cousin Edie's. Mamma said so; and cousin Edie's book is so
beautiful. I 've wanted one ever since I was there. Is'nt mamma
"Yes, Eddy," replied the nurse, "your mamma is very good; and you
should love her so much, and do everything she tells you to do."
"I do love her," said the child. "Oh, I love her more than all the
world; and I'm going to mind every thing she says."
Then the child went to his play, and was happy with his toys. But
his thoughts were on the picture-book, and pleasantly his young
imagination lingered amid its attractive pages.
"Is'nt it 'most time for mother to be home?" he asked, at the end
of half an hour, coming to the side of his nurse, and gazing up into
"Why no, child," replied the nurse, "not for a long while yet."
Eddy looked disappointed. But that instant the door bell rung.
"There's mamma!" exclaimed the child, clapping his hands; and
before nurse could restrain him, he had bounded from the room, and his
little feet were heard pattering down the stairs. Slowly he came
back, after a little while, and with a look of disappointment on his
sweet young face, entered the nursery, saying, as he did so:
"It was only a man with brooms to sell."
"Your mamma won't be home for a long time yet, Eddy," said his
nurse, "so it is of no use for you to expect her. Go and build block
"I'm tired of block houses," replied the little boy, "and now that
mamma has promised me a picture-book like cousin Edie's I can't think
of anything else."
"Oh, well," said nurse, a little impatiently, "she'll be home in
good time. Try and not think of the book. It won't do any good—it
won't bring her home a minute sooner."
"I can't help thinking of it," persisted the child, in whom the
imaginative faculty was unusually, strong for one of his age.
In a little while, however, something occurred to interest him, and
a full hour elapsed before he again recurred to his mother and the
expected picture book. As best she could, his nurse diverted his
mind, and kept him, in a measure, occupied with what was around him.
At length it was full time for Mrs. Herbert to return. Eddy had
ceased to find interest in anything appertaining to the nursery. He
went down into the parlor, and seating himself at the window,
watched, with childish eagerness, for the form of his mother.
Strange as it may seem to the reader, Mrs. Herbert had scarcely
passed into the street, ere her promise was forgotten. Not that she
was indifferent to the happiness of her child—not that she was a
heartless mother. Far very far from this. Purely and truly did she
love this sweet boy. But, so much were her thoughts interested in
other things, that she did not, at the time, comprehend the
earnestness of his childish wishes; nor think of her promise as a
sacred thing. The request for a picture book seemed to her but the
expression of a sudden thought, that passed from his mind as soon as
uttered. And yet, she had not promised without intending to meet the
wishes of her child, for she was an indulgent mother, and rarely said
"No," to any request that might reasonably be gratified. She had
noticed Cousin Edie's pretty book, and thought that she would, some
time or other, get one like it for Eddy. The child's request but
seconded this thought. There was will, therefore, in her promise. She
meant to do as she had said.
But things of more interest to Mrs. Herbert, than the simple wish
of a child, so fully occupied her mind from the time she left her own
door, that she never again thought of the book, until she saw Eddy's
dear face at the window. It was serious, and slightly impatient, as
if he were wearied with watching and waiting; but the moment his eyes
rested upon her form, his whole countenance brightened, as though lit
up by a sunbeam. Almost as soon as Mrs. Herbert's hand touched the
bell, the street door was thrown open, and the glad child stood, like
a rebuking spirit, before her.
"Where's my book, mamma? Give me my book, mamma! Oh, I'm so glad
Now, the first conviction of wrong, often has an irritating effect
upon the mind, obscuring its perceptions, and leading, sometimes, to
the impulsive commission of greater wrongs. It was so in the present
case. The happy countenance of her child did not bring joy to the
mother's heart; for she knew that with a word, she must dash to the
ground all his buoyant anticipations. And she remembered, too, at the
moment, how poorly he could bear disappointment.
"Eddy, dear," said Mrs. Herbert, taking her little boy by the hand,
and advancing toward the parlor door with him, "Eddy, dear, let me
tell you something."
Her grave tone and look caused a shiver to pass inward toward the
heart of the child. He understood, but too well, that the mother,
whose word he had trusted so implicitly, had been faithless to her
Poor child! even this advancing shadow of a coming disappointment,
darkened his young face and filled his eyes with tears.
Mrs. Herbert sat down on the nearest chair, as she entered the
parlor, and drew Eddy to her side. She saw, from his sad face, that
words were not required to make him aware that the promised book was
not in her possession; and she knew, from former experience, that
trouble was before her. Unhappily, she did not feel softened, but
rather irritated, toward the child.
"Eddy," she said firmly, yet with as much tenderness as she could
assume, "Eddy, you know you promised me to be such a good boy."
"And I have been good," eagerly answered the little fellow, lifting
his swimming eyes to her face, "you may ask nurse if I havn't been
good all the time."
"I'm sure you have," said Mrs. Herbert, touched by the manner of
her child; "and yet, Eddy, I have not brought your book."
The tears, which had been ready to start, now gushed over his face,
and a low cry pained the mother's ears.
"Eddy," said she, seriously, "let me tell you about it. You must
listen to reason."
Reason! poor, disappointed little one! He had no ear for the
comprehension of reasons.
"Now, Eddy! I can't have this!" Mrs. Herbert spoke firmly, for
already the child was weeping bitterly. "Crying will do no good. I
promised you the book, and you shall have it. I had no opportunity to
get it this morning. Come now! you must stop at once, or I——"
Mrs. Herbert did not utter the threat which came to her lips; for
her mind shrunk from the thought of punishing her child, especially
as his fault was a consequence of her own actions. But, as he
continued to cry on, and in a louder voice, she not only began to
feel excessively annoyed, but deemed it her duty to compel a
cessation of what could do no possible good, but rather harm.
"Eddy, you must stop this crying!" Firmness had changed to
The words might as well not have been spoken.
"Then you are not going to stop!" The tones were angry now; and, as
Mrs. Herbert uttered them, she caught the arm of her child with a
At this moment, the sound of the latch-key was heard in the street
door. It was dinner time, and Mr. Herbert entered.
"Bless us! what's the trouble here?" the father of Eddy exclaimed,
good-naturedly, as he presented himself in the parlor.
"The trouble is," said Mrs. Herbert, in a fretful voice, "that I
promised to buy him a book, and forgot all about it."
"Oho! Is that all?" Mr. Herbert spoke cheerfully. "This trouble can
soon be healed. Come, dear, and let us see what I can do for you."
And Mr. Herbert drew forth a small, square packet, and began
untying the string, with which it was bound. Eddy ceased crying in an
instant, while a rainbow light shone through his tears. Soon a book
came to view. It was _the_ book. Singularly enough, Mr. Herbert had,
that morning, observed it in a store, and thinking it would please
his child, had bought it for him.
"Will that do?" he said, handing the book to Eddy.
What a gush of gladness came to the child's face. A moment or two
he stood, like one bewildered, and then throwing his arms around his
father's neck and hugging him tightly, he said, in the fullness of
"Oh! you are a dear good papa! I do love you so much!"
Ere the arms of Eddy were unclasped from his father's neck, Mrs.
Herbert had left the room. When, on the ringing of the dinner bell,
she joined her husband and child at the table, her countenance wore a
sober aspect, and there were signs of tears about her eyes. What her
thoughts had been, every true mother can better imagine than we
describe. That they were salutary, may be inferred from the fact that
no promise, not even the lightest, was ever afterwards made to her
child, which was not righteously kept to the very letter.
THE TWO HUSBANDS.
"Jane, how _can_ you tolerate that dull, spiritless creature? I
never sat by his side for five minutes, without getting sleepy."
"He does not seem so very dull to me, Cara," replied her companion.
"It is a true saying, that there never was a Jack without a Jill;
but I could not have believed that my friend Jane Emory would have
been willing to be the Jill to such a Jack."
A slight change was perceptible in the countenance of Jane Emory,
and for a moment the color deepened on her cheek. But when she spoke
in reply to her friend's remark, no indication that she felt its
cutting import, was perceptible.
"I am convinced, from close observation of Walter Gray," said Jane,
"that he has in his character that which should ever protect him from
jest or ridicule."
"And what is that, my lady Jane?"
"Right thoughts and sound principles."
These should not only be respected, but honored wherever found,"
said Jane, gravely.
"In a bear or a boor!" Cara responded, in a tone of irony.
"My friend Cara is ungenerous in her allusions. Surely, she will
not assert that Walter Gray is a bear or a boor?"
"He is boorish enough, at any rate."
"There I differ with you, Cara. His manner is not so showy, nor his
attentions to the many little forms and observances of social life,
so prompt as to please the fastidious in these matters. These
defects, however, are not defects of character, but of education. He
has not mingled enough in society to give him confidence."
"They are defects, and are serious enough to make him quite
offensive to me. Last evening, at Mrs. Clinton's party, I sat beside
him for half an hour, and was really disgusted with his marked
disregard of the little courtesies of social life."
"Indeed!" replied Jane, her manner becoming more serious, "and in
what did these omissions consist?"
"Why, in the first place, while we were conversing,——"
"He could converse, then?" said Jane, interrupting her friend.
"O, no, I beg pardon! While we were _trying_ to converse—for among
his other defects is an inability to talk to a lady on any subject of
interest—I dropped my handkerchief, on purpose, of course, but he
never offered to lift it for me; indeed, I doubt whether he saw it at
"Then, Cara, how could you expect him to pick it up for you, if he
did not see it?"
"But he ought to have seen it. He should have had his eyes about
him; and so should every gentleman who sits by or is near a lady. I
know one that never fails."
"And pray, who is the perfect gentleman?" asked Jane smiling. "Is
he one of my acquaintances?"
"Certainly he is. I mean Charles Wilton."
"He is, I must confess, different from Walter Gray," Jane remarked,
"I hope he is!" said Cara, tossing her head, for she felt that
something by no means complimentary was implied in the equivocal
remark of her friend.
"But, seriously, Cara, I must, in turn, express regret that you
allow yourself to feel interested in one like Charles Wilton. Trust
me, my friend, he is unworthy of your regard."
"And pray, Miss," said Cara, warming suddenly, "what do you know of
Charles Wilton, that will warrant your throwing out such insinuations
"Little beyond what I have learned by my own observation."
"And what has that taught you? I should like very much to know."
"It has taught me, Cara," replied Jane, seriously, "to estimate him
very lightly indeed. From what I have seen, I am convinced that he
possesses neither fixed principles nor any decision of character. In
the world, without these a man is like a ship upon the ocean, having
neither helm nor compass."
"You make broad and bold charges, Jane. But I am sure you are
"I may be. But so certain am I that I am right, that I would rather
die this hour than be compelled to link my lot in life with his.
Certain I am that I should make shipwreck of hope and affection."
"You deal in riddles, Jane. Speak out more plainly."
"Surely, Cara, long before this you have or ought to have
discovered, that Charles Wilton exhibits far too much love of
appearance for a sensible man. He dresses in the very best style and
may be able to afford it; but that is not all;—he evidently esteems
these external embellishments of superior importance to mental or
moral endowments. He rarely fails to remark upon men not so well
dressed as himself, and to refer to the defect as one sufficient to
make the individual contemptible, no matter what may be the
circumstances or merit of the person referred to. I have more than
once noticed that Charles Wilton passes over every thing in his
disgust for defect in dress."
"I do not see a matter of serious importance in that," said Cara.
"His love of dress is a mere foible, that may be excused. It
certainly has nothing to do with his real character."
"It is an indication of the man's true character," her friend
replied. "I am sure that I want no plainer exhibition. If he was
simply fond of dress, and indulged in that fondness even to the
extent he now does it might indicate a mere weakness of character, in
the form of an undue love of admiration. But when, to this, we see a
disposition to value others, and to judge of them by their garments,
then we may be sure that there is a serious defect of character. The
man, Cara, believe me, who has no higher standard of estimation for
other men, than the form, manner, and texture of their garments, has
not the capacity rightly to value a woman or to know wherein her true
merit lies. This is _one_ of the reasons why I said that I would
rather die than link my lot in life with that young man."
"Well, as for me, Jane, I am sure that I would rather have a man
with some spirit in him, than to be tied to such a drone as Walter
Gray. Why, I should die in a week. I can't for my life, see how you
can enjoy his society for a moment!"
"I should think any woman ought to be able to enjoy the company of
a man of sense," Jane remarked, quietly.
"Surely, Jane, you don't pretend by that to set up Walter Gray as
the superior of Charles Wilton in regard to intelligence?"
"Certainly I do, Cara."
"Why, Jane! There is no comparison, in this respect, between them.
Every one knows that while Walter is dull, even to stupidity, Charles
has a brilliant, well-informed mind. It is only necessary to hear each
converse for an hour, to decide upon their respective merits."
"In that last sentence you have uttered the truth, Cara, but the
result would depend much upon the character of the listeners. For a
time, no doubt, if Charles made an effort to show off, he would
eclipse the less brilliant and unobtrusive Walter. But a close and
discriminating observer would soon learn to judge between sound and
sense, between borrowed thoughts and truthful sentiments originating
in a philosophical and ever active mind. The shallow stream runs
sparkling and flashing in the sunlight, while the deeper waters lie
dark and unattractive."
Cara shook her head as her friend ceased speaking, and replied,
"You can beat me at talking, Jane—but all your philosophy and
poetry can't make me think Charles Wilton less brilliant and
sensible, or Walter Gray less dull and spiritless."
The two young men whose merits Jane Emory and Cara Linton had thus
been discussing, had been law students for some years in the same
office, and were now just admitted to practice at the bar in one of
our Atlantic cities. They were friends, though altogether unlike each
other. Walter Gray was modest and retiring, while Charles Wilton was a
dashing, off-hand kind of a fellow, with more pretensions than merit.
The mind of Walter was rather sluggish, while that of his friend was
quick, and what some were disposed to esteem brilliant. The one was
fond of dress and show, and effect; while the other paid less regard
to these things than was really necessary to make him, with many, an
agreeable companion. But the quick perceptions of the one were not
equal to the patient, untiring application of the other. When admitted
to practice, Wilton could make an effective, brilliant speech, and in
ordinary cases, where an appeal to the feelings could influence a
jury, was uniformly successful. But, where profound investigation,
concise reasoning, and a laborious array of authorities were
requisite, he was no competitor for his friend Gray. He was vain of
his personal appearance, as has before been indicated, and was also
fond of pleasure and company. In short, he was one of those dashing
young men to be met with in all professions, who look upon business as
an necessary evil, to be escaped whenever a opportunity offers—whose
expectations of future prosperity are always large, and who look for
success, not in the roads of patient, laborious application, but by a
quicker and more brilliant way. They hope to produce a sensation by
their tact or talents, and thus take fortune by storm. Few, indeed we
might say none, of this class succeed. Those who startle a community
by rapid advances, are, in all cases, such as have, to quick
perceptions and brilliant powers, added much labor. Talent is nothing
without prolonged and patient application; and they who suppose the
road to success lies in any other way, may discover their error too
The estimation in which the characters of these two young men was
held, at least by two individuals, the preceding conversation has
apprised the reader. Each made his impression upon a certain order of
mind, and each was regarded, or lightly esteemed accordingly. Although
in talents and in a right estimation of life and its true ends, the
two young men were altogether dissimilar; yet were they friends, and
in many respects intimate. Why they were so, we shall not stop to
enquire, but proceed to introduce them more particularly to the
"I suppose you are going to Mrs. Melton's this evening?" said
Wilton to his friend, a few weeks after the period indicated in the
opening of this story.
"I feel as if I would like to go. A social evening, now and then, I
find pleasant, and I have no doubt it is useful to me."
"That is right, Walter. I am glad to see you coming out of your
recluse habits. You want the polish and ease that social life will
"I feel that, Wilton. But I fear I am too old now to have all the
rough corners knocked off, and worn smooth."
"O, don't despair. You'll make a ladies' man after awhile, if you
persevere, and become more particular in your dress. But, to change
the subject, a little, tell me what you think of Cara Linton? Her
father is worth a plum, and she is just the showy, brilliant woman,
of which a man like me ought to be proud of."
"As you ask me, Charles, I must reply candidly. I would think her a
dear bargain with all her father's money thrown in with her; and as
to your other reasons for thinking of her as a wife, I consider them,
to speak plainly, as I always do to you, despicable!"
"And why so, Mr. Philosopher?"
"A wife should be chosen from much higher considerations than
these. What do you want with a brilliant, showy wife? You marry, or
ought to marry, a companion for yourself—not a woman for the world to
"You are too matter-of-fact, by half, Walter. Your common sense
ideas, as you call them, will keep you grubbing in a mole hill all
"I should like to see the woman _you_ would choose for a wife!"
"I wish you had a few of these common sense ideas you despise so
much. I am afraid, Charles, that the time is not very distant when
you will stand sadly in need of them."
"Don't trouble yourself, Walter. I'll take care of number one. Let
me alone for that. But, I should like to know your serious objections
to Cara? You sweep her aside with one wave of your hand, as if she
were too insignificant to be thought of for a moment."
"I said that _I_ should consider her a dear bargain, and so I
would—for she would not suit me at all."
"Ah, there I believe you. But come, let me hear why she would not
"Because she has no correct and common sense estimation of life and
its relations. She is full of poetry and romance, and fashion, and
show, and 'all that kind of thing;' none of which, without a great
deal of the salt of common sense, would suit me."
"Common sense! Common sense! Common sense! That is your hobby.
Verily, Walter, you are a monomaniac on the subject of common sense;
but, as for me, I will leave common sense to common people. I go in
for uncommon sense."
"The poorest and most unprofitable sense of all, let me tell you.
And one of these days you will discover it to be so."
"It is no use for us to compare our philosophical notes, I see
plainly enough," Wilton responded. "We shall never view things in the
same light. You are not the man of the world you should be, Walter.
Men of half your merit will eclipse you, winning opulence and
distinction—while you, with your common sense notions, will be
plodding on at a snail's pace. You are behind the age, and a stranger
to its powerful, onward impulses."
"And ever do I desire to remain behind the age, Wilton, if mere
pretension and show be its ruling and impulsive spirit."
"The old fashioned way of attaining eminence," Charles Wilton
replied, assuming an attitude and speaking out truly the thoughts
that were in his mind; "by plodding on with the emmet's patience, and
storing up knowledge, grain by grain, brings not the hoped for reward,
now. You must startle and surprise. The brilliant meteor attracts a
thousand times more attention, than the brightest star that shines in
"You are trifling, Charles."
"Never was more in earnest in my life. I have made up my mind to
succeed; to be known and envied. And to gain the position of eminence
I desire, I mean to take the surest way. The world _will_ be deceived,
and, therefore, they who would succeed must throw dust in people's
"Or, in other words, deceive them by pretension. Charles, let me
warn you against any such unmanly, and, I must say, dishonest course.
Be true to yourself and true to principle."
"I shall certainly be true to myself, Walter. For what pray do we
toil over dry and musty law books in a confined office, months and
years, if not to gain the power of rising in the world? I have served
my dreary apprenticeship—I have learnt the art and mystery, and now
for the best and most certain mode of applying it."
"But, remember your responsibility to society. Your——"
Nonsense! What do I, or what does any one else care about society?
My motto is, Every one for himself, and the deuce take the hindmost.
And that's the motto of the whole world."
"Not of the whole world, Charles."
"Yes, of the whole world, with, perhaps, the single, strange
exception of Walter Gray. And he will be flung to the wall, and soon
forgotten, I fear."
"You jest on a serious subject, Charles."
"I tell you, Walter, I am in earnest," Wilton replied with
emphasis. "He that would be ahead, must get ahead in the best way
possible. But I cannot linger here. It is now nearly night; and it
will take me full two hours to prepare myself to meet Miss Cara
Linton. I must make a captive of the dashing maiden this very
evening." And so saying, he turned, and left the office.
That evening, amid a gay and fashionable assemblage at Mrs.
Merton's, was to be seen the showy Charles Wilton, with his easy, and
even elegant manners, attracting almost as much attention as his vain
heart could desire. And the quiet, sensible Walter Gray was there
also, looking upon all things with a calm, philosophic mein.
"Your friend Mr. Wilton is quite the centre of attraction for the
young ladies, this evening," remarked Jane Emory, who was leaning
upon the arm of Walter Gray, and listening with an interest she
scarcely dared confess to herself, to his occasional remarks, that
indicated a mind active with true and healthful thought.
"And he seems to enjoy it," replied Walter, with a pleasant tone
"Almost too much so, it seems to me, for a man," his companion
said, though with nothing censorious in her manner. She merely
expressed a sentiment without showing that it excited unkind feelings.
"Or for a woman, either," was the quick response.
"True. But if pleased with attentions, and even admiration may we
not be excused?"
"O, certainly. We may all be excused for our weaknesses; still they
are weaknesses, after all."
"And therefore should not be encouraged."
"Certainly not. We should be governed by some higher end than the
mere love of admiration—even admiration for good qualities."
"I admit the truth of what you say, and yet, the state is one to
which I have not yet attained."
Walter Gray turned a look full of tender interest upon the maiden
by his side, as she ceased speaking, and said in a tone that had in it
much of tenderness,
"You express, Miss Emory, but the feeling which every one has who
truly desires the attainment of true excellence of character. We have
not this excellence, naturally, but it is within the compass of
effort. Like you, I have had to regret the weaknesses and
deficiencies of my own character. But, in self-government, as in
everything else, my motto is, Persevere to the end. The same motto,
or the same rule of action, clothed in other words, perhaps, I
trust—nay, I am sure, rules in your mind."
For a few moments Jane did not reply. She feared to utter any form
of words that would mislead. At length she said, modestly,
"I try to subdue in me what is evil, or that which seems to me to
act in opposition to good principles."
Before Walter Gray, pleased with the answer, could frame in his
mind a fitting reply, Charles Wilton, with Cara Linton on his arm, was
thrown in front of them.
"Has Walter been edifying you with one of the Psalms of David, Miss
Emory?" said Wilton, gaily. "One would think so from his solemn face,
and the demure, thoughtful expression of yours."
Neither Walter nor his fair companion were what is called
quick-witted; and both were so checked in their thoughts and feelings
that neither could, on the moment, fitly reply.
"O, I see how it is," the gay young man continued. "He has been
reading you some of his moral homilies, and you are tired to death.
Well, you must bear with him, Miss Emory, he will learn better after
awhile." And the young man and his thoughtless companion turned
For a few moments the disturbed thoughts of Walter and his fair
friend, trembled upon the surface of their feelings, and then all was
again as tranquil as the bosom of a quiet lake.
Enough has now been said, to give a fair idea of the ends which the
two young men, we have introduced, set before them upon entering
life. Let us now proceed to trace the effects of these ends; effects,
which, as a necessary consequence, involved others as much as
"Well, Gray, the business is all settled," said Wilton, one day,
coming into the office of the individual he addressed so familiarly.
"What business, Charles?"
"Why, I've won the rich and beautiful Miss Linton. Last night I
told my story, and was referred to the old man, of course. I have just
seen him, and he says I am welcome to the hand of his daughter. Now,
is not that a long stride up the ladder! The most beautiful and
attractive woman in the city for a wife, and an old daddy in law as
rich as Croesus!"
"You are what some would call a lucky dog," said Wilton, with a
"And yet there is no luck in it. 'Faint heart, they say, 'never won
fair lady.' I knew half-a-dozen clever fellows who were looking to
Miss Linton's hand; but while they hesitated, I stepped boldly up and
carried off the prize. Let me alone, Walter. I'll work my way through
"And I, too, have been doing something in that line."
"You? Why, Walter, you confound me! I never dreamed that you would
have the courage to make love to a woman."
"Wiser ones than you are mistaken, sometimes."
"No doubt of it. But who is the fair lady?"
"Can you not guess?"
"Of course. She is the most sensible women it has yet been my
fortune to meet."
"Has the best common sense, I suppose?"
"You are a genius, Walter. When you die, I expect you will leave a
clause in your will, to the effect that the undertaker shall be a man
of good, plain, common sense. O dear! What a dull life you will lead!
Darby and Joan!"
"You are still a trifler with serious matters, Charles. But time
will sober you, I trust, and do it before such a change will come too
"How much is old Emory worth, Walter?" Wilton asked, without
regarding the last remark of his friend.
"I am sure I do not know. Not a great deal, I suppose."
"You don't know?"
"No; how should I?"
"Well, you are a queer one! It is time that you did then, let me
"In the name of sense, Walter, what are you going to marry his
"Because I love her."
"Pah! I know how much of that sort of thing appertains to the
"Don't look so utterly dumfounded, friend Walter."
"I am surprised, and I must say pained, to hear you speak thus.
Surely you love the young lady you propose to marry?"
"Of course. But then I have a decent regard for her old father's
wealth; and I am by no means insensible to her personal attractions.
I group all that is desirable into one grand consideration—beauty,
wealth, standing, mental endowments, etc.,—and take her for the
whole. But for love—a mere impulse that will die of itself, if left
alone,—to marry a young lady! O no,—I am not the simpleton for
Walter Gray looked his friend in the face for a moment or two, but
did not reply. He was pained, even shocked at his levity.
"You seem really to doubt my being in earnest?" said Wilton, after
"I would doubt, if I could, Charles. But I fear you are speaking
out too truly, sentiments that I could not have believed you capable
"You are too simple and unsophisticated to live in this world, my
old friend Walter Gray."
"And long may I remain so," was the calm response, "if to be honest
and sincere is to be simple and unsophisticated."
"Well, good morning to you, and success to your love marriage."
And so saying, Charles Wilton left the office of his friend.
A few weeks more passed away, and the two young men had, in the
meantime, consummated their matrimonial engagements. The wedding of
Charles Wilton and Cara Linton was a splendid affair, succeeded by
parties and entertainments for five or six weeks. That of Walter Gray
and Jane Emory passed off more quietly and rationally.
Three months after their wedding-day, let us look in upon the two
friends and their fair partners; and first, upon Charles Wilton and
his bride. The time is evening, and they are sitting alone in one of
their richly furnished parlors.
"O dear!" yawned out Wilton, rising and walking backwards and
forwards, "this is dull work. Is there no place where we can go and
spend a pleasant evening?"
"I don't know, dear. Suppose we step over and see Pa?"
"O no. We were there two or three evenings ago. And, any how, I am
in no humor for playing at draughts."
"Well, I should like to go there this evening. I want to see Ma
"You can easily go to-morrow, Cara, and stay as long as you
"But I should like to go to night, dear."
"Don't think of it, Cara."
"Then suppose we call in and sit an hour with the Melton's?"
"Not to-night, Cara. The old man is deaf, and talks you out of all
patience about sugars and teas cotton and tobacco."
"But the girls are lively and entertaining."
"Not for me, Cara. Think again."
"Why not stay at home?"
"And pray what shall we do here?"
"I'll sing and play for you."
"I am in no humor for music to-night."
His young wife sighed, but Wilton did not notice it.
"Come, let us go over to the Grogans?" he at length said.
"I can't say that I care much about going there," his wife replied.
"Of course not. You never seem to care much about going where I
wish to," said Wilton, pettishly.
His wife burst into tears, and sat sobbing for some minutes, during
which time Wilton paced the room backwards and forwards, in moody
silence. After a while his wife rose up and stole quietly from the
room, and in a few minutes returned, dressed, to go out.
"I am ready," she said.
"Ready to go where?"
"To Mr. Grogan's, of course. You wish to go."
"I don't care about going now, as long as you are unwilling."
"Yes, but I am willing, Charles, if the visit will be pleasant to
"O, as to that, I don't wish to compel you to go anywhere."
"Indeed, Charles, I am willing to go," said his wife, while her
voice trembled and sounded harshly. "Come, now that I am ready. I
wish to go."
For a moment longer Wilton hesitated, and then took up his hat and
went with her. Few were the words that passed between them as they
walked along the street. Arrived at their friend's house they both
suddenly changed, and were as gay, and seemed as happy, as the gayest
and the happiest.
"Shall we call in upon some pleasant friends to-night or spend our
evening alone?" asked Walter Gray, taking a seat upon the sofa beside
his happy wife, on the same evening that the foregoing conversation
and incidents occurred.
"Let it be as you wish, Walter," was the affectionate, truthful
"As for me, Jane, I am always happy at home—too happy, I sometimes
"How, too happy?"
"Too happy to think of others, Jane. We must be careful not to
become isolated and selfish in our pleasures. Our social character
must not be sacrificed. If it is in our power to add to the happiness
of others, it is right that we should mingle in the social circle."
"I feel the truth of what you say, Walter, and yet I find it hard
to be thus unselfish. I am sure that I would a thousand times rather
remain at home and read with you a pleasant book, or sing and play
for you, than to spend an evening away from our pleasant home."
"I feel the same inclinations. But I am unwilling to encourage
them. And yet, I am not an advocate for continual visitings. The
delights of our own sweet fireside, small though the circle be, I
would enjoy often. But these pleasures will be increased tenfold by
our willingness to let others share them, and, also, by our joining in
their home—delights and social recreations."
A pause of a few moments ensued, when Mrs. Gray said,
"Suppose, then, Walter, we call over and see how they are getting
on at 'home?' Pa and Ma are lonesome, now that I am away."
"Just what I was thinking of, Jane. So get on your things, and we
will join them and spend a pleasant evening."
These brief conversations will indicate to the reader how each of
the young men and their wives were thus early beginning to reap the
fruits of true and false principles of action. We cannot trace each
on his career, step by step, during the passage of many years, though
much that would interest and instruct could be gathered from their
histories. The limits of a brief story like this will not permit us
thus to linger. On, then, to the grand result of their lives we must
pass. Let us look at the summing up of the whole matter, and see which
of the young men started with the true secret of success in the world,
and which of the young ladies evinced most wisdom in her choice of a
"Poor Mrs. Wilton!" remarked Mrs. Gray, now a cheerful, intelligent
woman of forty, with half-a-dozen grown and half-grown up daughters,
"it makes me sad whenever I see her, or think of her."
"Her husband was not kind to her, I believe, while she lived with
him," said Mrs. Gray's visitor, whom she had addressed.
"It is said so. But I am sure I do not know. I never liked him, nor
thought him a man of principle. I said as much as I thought prudent
to discourage her from receiving his attentions. But she was a gay
girl herself, and was attracted by dashing pretension, rather than by
"It was thought at one time that Mr. Wilton would lead in the
profession here. I remember when his name used frequently to get into
the newspapers, coupled with high compliments on his brilliant
"Yes. He flashed before the eyes of the crowd for awhile, but it
was soon discovered that he had more brilliancy than substance. The
loss of two or three important cases, that required solid argument and
a well-digested array of facts and authorities, instead of flights of
fancy and appeals to the feelings, ruined his standing at the bar.
The death of his father-in-law, with an insolvent estate, immediately
after, took wonderfully from the estimation in which he was held.
Thrown, thus, suddenly back, and upon his own resources, he sunk at
once from the point of observation, and lingered around the
court-house, picking up petty cases, as a matter of necessity. Long
before this, I had noticed that Mrs. Wilton had greatly changed. But
now a sadder change took place—a separation from her husband. The
cause of this separation I know not. I never asked her, nor to me has
she ever alluded to it. But it is said that his manner towards her
became insufferable, and that she sought protection and an asylum
among her friends. Be the cause what it may, it is enough to make her
a poor, heart-stricken creature."
"How well I remember, when their parties were the most splendid and
best attended of the season."
"Yes, I well remember it too. Still, even then, gay and brilliant
as Mrs. Wilton was, I never thought her happy. Indeed, seeing her
often alone as I did, I could not but mark the painful contrast in her
spirits. At home, when not entertaining company, she was listless or
unhappy. How often have I come in upon her, and noticed her moistened
"Ah me! it must be a wrong beginning that makes so sad an ending."
The truth of the remark, as applicable in this case, struck Mrs.
Gray forcibly, and she mused in thoughtful silence for a few moments.
"Have you heard the news, Judge Gray?" said a lawyer, addressing
the individual he had named, about the same hour that the
conversation, just noted, occurred.
"No. What is it?"
"Why, Wilton has committed a forgery."
"O no, it cannot be!" said the Judge, in tones of painful surprise.
"It is too true, I fear, Judge."
"Is the amount considerable?"
"Ten thousand dollars is the sum mentioned."
"Has he been arrested?"
"No. But the officers are hard after him. The newspapers will
announce the fact to-morrow morning."
Judge Gray leaned his head upon his hand, and, with his eyes cast
upon the floor, sat for some moments in painful thought.
"Poor man!" he at length said, looking up. "The end has come at
last. I have long feared for him. He started wrong in the beginning."
"I hope they will catch him," remarked the individual he was
Judge Gray did not reply, but cast his eyes again upon the floor.
"He has lived by gambling these six years," continued the lawyer,
"and I suppose he has committed this forgery to pay some 'debt of
honor.' Well, I can't say that I am sorry to be rid of him from this
bar, for he was not a pleasant man to be forced into contact with."
"And yet he was a man of some talents," remarked the Judge,
"And when that is said all is said. Without industry, legal
knowledge, or sound principles of action, what was he good for? He
would do for a political stump declaimer—but, as a lawyer, in any
case of moment, he was not worth a copper."
And thus saying, the lawyer turned away, and left Judge Gray to his
"I have unpleasant news to tell you, Jane," said Judge Gray, coming
into the room where sat his wife, an hour afterwards.
"What is that, husband?" asked Mrs. Gray, looking up with a
"Why, our old friend Charles Wilton has committed a forgery!"
"Poor Cara! It will break her heart," Mrs. Gray said in a sad tone.
"I do not suppose she has much affection for him, Jane."
"No, but she has a good deal of pride left—all, in fact, that
sustains her. This last blow, I fear, will be too much for one who
has no true strength of character."
"Would it not be well for you to call in and see her to-morrow? The
papers will all announce the fact in the morning, and she may need
the consolation which a true friend might be able to afford her."
"I will go, most certainly, much as my natural feelings shrink from
the task. Where she is, I am sure she has no one to lean upon: for
there is not one of her so-called friends, upon whom she feels
herself a burden, that can or will sympathize with her truly."
"Go, then. And may mercy's errand find mercy's reward."
On the next morning all the city papers teemed with accounts of the
late forgery, and blazoned Charles Wilton's name, with many
opprobrious epithets before the public. Some went even so far as to
allude to his wife, whom they said he had forsaken years before, and
who was now, it was alleged, living in poverty, and, some hinted in
disgrace and infamy.
Early in the day, Mrs. Gray repaired to the cheerless home of her
early friend. She was shown to her chamber, where she found her lying
insensible on the bed, with one of the newspapers in her hand, that
alluded to herself in disgraceful terms.
Long and patient efforts to restore her, at length produced the
desired result. But it was many days before she seemed distinctly
conscious of what was passing or would converse with any degree of
"Come and spend a few weeks with me, Cara."
Mrs. Gray said to her, one day, on calling in to see her; "I am
sure it will do you good."
There was a sad, but grateful expression in the pale face of Mrs.
Wilton, as she looked into the eye of her old friend, but ventured no
"You will come, will you not, Cara?" urged Mrs. Gray.
"My presence in your happy family would be like the shadow of an
evil wing," said she bitterly.
"Our happy family, say-rather, would chase away the gloomy shadows
that darken your heart. Come then, and we will give you a cheerful
"I feel much inclined, and yet I hesitate, for I ought not to throw
a gloom over your household," and the tears filled her eyes, and
glistened through the lids which were closed suddenly over them.
"Come, and welcome!" Mrs. Gray urged, taking her hand and gently
That evening Mrs. Wilton spent in the pleasant family of her old
Three weeks afterwards, Mrs. Gray asked of her husband, if anything
had been heard of Mr. Wilton.
"Nothing," he replied. "He has escaped all pursuit thus far, and
the officers, completely at fault, have returned."
"I cannot say that I am sorry, at least for the sake of his wife.
She seems more cheerful since she came here. I feel sometimes as if I
should like to offer her a home, for she has none, that might truly be
"Act up to your kind desire, Jane, if you think it right to do so,"
said her husband. "Perhaps in no other home open to her could so much
be done for her comfort."
The home was accordingly offered, and tearfully accepted.
"Jane," said the sad hearted woman, "I cannot tell you how much I
have suffered in the last twenty years. How much from heart-sickening
disappointments, and lacerated affections. High hopes and brilliant
expectations that made my weak brain giddy to think of, have all ended
thus. How weak and foolish—how mad we were! But my husband was not
all to blame. I was as insane in my views of life as he. We lived only
for ourselves—thought and cared only for ourselves—and here is the
result. How wisely and well did you choose, Jane. Where my eye saw
nothing to admire, yours more skilled, perceived the virgin ore of
truth. I was dazzled by show, while you looked below the surface, and
saw true character, and its effect in action. How signally has each of
us been rewarded!" and the heart-stricken creature bowed her head and
And now, kind reader, if there be one who has followed us thus far,
are you disappointed in not meeting some startling denoument, or some
effective point in this narrative. I hope not. Natural results have
followed, in just order, the adoption of true and false principles of
action—and thus will they ever follow. Learn, then, a lesson from the
history of the two young men and the maidens of their choice. Let
every young man remember, that all permanent success in life depends
upon the adoption of such principles of action as are founded in
honesty and truth; and let every young woman take it to heart, that
all her married life will be affected by the principles which her
husband sets down as rules of action. Let her give no consideration to
his brilliant prospect, or his brilliant mind, if sound moral
principles do not govern him.
"But what became of Charles Wilton and his wife?" I hear a
bright-eyed maiden asking, as she turns half impatient from my
Wilton has escaped justice thus far, and his wife, growing more and
more cheerful every day, is still the inmate of Judge Gray's family,
and I trust will remain so until the end of her journeying here. And
what is more, she is learning the secret, that there is more
happiness in caring for others, than in being all absorbed in selfish
consideration. Still, she is a sad wreck upon the stream of life—a
warning beacon for your eyes, young lady.
VISITING AS NEIGHBORS.
"I see that the house next door has been taken," remarked Mr.
Leland to his wife, as they sat alone one pleasant summer evening.
"Yes. The family moved in to-day," returned Mrs. Leland.
"Do you know their name?"
"It is Halloran."
"Halloran, Halloran," said Mr. Leland, musingly. "I wonder if it's
the same family that lived in Parker Street."
"Yes, the same; and I wish they had stayed there."
"Their moving in next door need not trouble us, Jane. They are not
on our list of acquaintances."
"But I shall have to call upon Mrs. Haloran; and Emma upon her
grown-up daughter Mary."
"I do not see how that is to follow as a consequence of their
removal into our neighborhood."
"Politeness requires us to visit them as neighbors."
"Are they really our neighbors?" asked Mr. Leland, significantly.
"Certainly they are. How strange that you should ask the question!"
"What constitutes them such? Not mere proximity, certainly. Because
a person happens to live in a house near by, can that make him or her
really a neighbor, and entitled to the attention and consideration due
This remark caused Mrs. Leland to look thoughtful. "It ought not,"
she said, after sitting silent a little while, "but still, it does."
"I do not think so. A neighbor—that is, one to whom kind offices
is due—ought to come with higher claims than the mere fact of living
in a certain house located near by the dwelling in which we reside.
If mere location is to make any one a neighbor, we have no protection
against the annoyance and intrusions of persons we do not like; nay,
against evil-minded persons, who would delight more in doing us injury
than good. These Hallorans for instance. They move in good society;
but they are not persons to our mind. I should not like to see you on
terms of intimacy with Mrs. Halloran, or Jane with her daughter. In
fact, the latter I should feel, did it exist, to be a calamity."
"Still they _are_ our neighbors," Mrs. Leland said. "I do not see
how we can avoid calling upon them."
"Perhaps," remarked the husband, "you have not thought seriously
enough on the subject.
"Who is my neighbor? is a question of importance, and ought to be
answered in every mind. Something more than living in the same
street, or block of houses, is evidently implied in the word
neighbor. It clearly involves a reciprocity of good feelings. Mere
proximity in space cannot effect this. It requires another kind of
nearness—the nearness of similar affections; and these must,
necessarily, be unselfish; for in selfishness there is no
reciprocity. Under this view, could you consider yourself the
neighbor of such a person as Mrs. Halloran?"
"No matter what the character, we should be kind to all. Every one
should be our neighbor, so far as this is concerned. Do you not think
"I do not, Jane."
"Should we not be kind to every one?"
"Yes, kind; but not in the acceptation of the word as you have used
it. There is a false, as well as a true kindness. And it often
happens that true kindness appears to be any thing but what it really
is. In order to be kind to another, we are not always required to
exhibit flattering attentions. These often injure where distance and
reserve would do good. Besides, they too frequently give power to such
as are evil-disposed—a power that is exercised injuriously to
"But the simple fact of my calling upon Mrs. Halloran cannot,
possibly, give her the power of injuring me or any one else."
"I think differently. The fact that you have called upon her will
be a reason for some others to do the same; for, you know, there are
persons who never act from a distinct sense of right, but merely
follow in the wake of others. Thus the influence of a selfish,
censorious, evil-minded woman will be extended. So far as you are
concerned, the danger may be greater than you imagine. Is Mary
Halloran, in your estimation, a fit companion for our daughter? Could
she become intimate with her, and not suffer a moral deterioration?"
"I think not."
"Are you sure that a call upon Mrs. Halloran will not lead to this
"No, I am not _sure_. Still, I do not apprehend any danger."
"I should be very much afraid of the experiment."
"But, do you not think, husband, that, apart from all these fears,
I am bound to extend to Mrs. Halloran the courtesies due a neighbor?"
"I cannot, in the true sense of the word, consider her a neighbor;
and, therefore, do not see that you owe her the courtesies to which
you allude. It is the good in any one that really makes the neighbor.
This good should ever be regarded. But, to show attentions, and give
eminence and consideration to an evil-minded person, is to make evil,
instead of good, the neighbor.—It is to give that power to evil which
is ever exercised in injury to others."
Mrs. Leland's mind perceived only in a small degree the force of
what her husband said.—She was not a woman who troubled herself
about the characters of those who stood upon a certain level in
society. Mrs. Halloran claimed her place from wealth and family
connexions, and this place was rather above than below that occupied
by Mrs. Leland. The temptation to call upon her was, therefore,
pretty strong. It was not so much a regard for her new neighbor, as a
desire to make her acquaintance, that influenced her.—Acting in
opposition to her husband's judgment, in a few days she called upon
She found her, to use her own words, a "charming woman." The next
move was for the daughter to call upon Mary Halloran. Before the week
passed, these calls had been returned. In a month the two
families—that is, the female members of them—had become quite
intimate. This intimacy troubled Mr. Leland. He was a man of pure
principles, and could tolerate no deviation from them. Deeply did he
regret any association that might tend to weaken the respect for such
principles with which he had sought to inspire the mind of his
daughter. In them he knew lay the power that was to protect her in
the world. But he could not interfere, arbitrarily, with his wife;
that he would have considered more dangerous than to let her act in
freedom. But he felt concerned for the consequence, and frequently
urged her not to be too intimate with her new neighbor.
"Some evil, I am sure, will grow out of it," he would say, whenever
allusion was in any way made to the subject of his wife's intimacy
with Mrs. Halloran. "No one can touch pitch and not be defiled."
"I really must blame you," Mrs. Leland replied to a remark like
this, "for your blind opposition to Mrs. Halloran. The more I see of
her, the better I like her. She is a perfect lady. So kind, so
Mr. Leland shook his head.
"The mere gloss of polite society," he returned. "There is no
soundness in her heart. We know that, for the tree is judged by its
"We have seen no evil fruit," said the wife.
"Others have, and we _know_ that others have.—Her conduct in the
case of the Percys is notorious."
"Common report is always exaggerated."
"Though it usually has some foundation in truth. But granting all
the exaggeration and false judgment that usually appertain to common
report, is it not wiser to act as if common report were true, until
we know it to be false?"
But it was useless for Mr. Leland to talk.—His wife was charmed
with the fascinating neighbor, and would hear nothing against her.
Jane, too, had become intimate with Mary Halloran, a bold-faced girl,
who spent half of her time in the street, and talked of little else
but beaux and dress. Jane was eighteen, and before her acquaintance
with Mary, had been but little into company. Her intimacy with Mary
soon put new notions into her head. She began to think more of dress,
and scarcely a day passed that she did not go out with her very
intimate and pleasant friend. Mrs. Leland did not like this. Much as
she was pleased Mrs. Halloran, she never fancied the daughter a great
deal, and would have been much better satisfied if the two young
ladies had not become quite so intimate.
"Where are you going?" she said to Jane, who came down stairs
dressed to go out, one morning.
"Mary and I are going to make some calls," she replied.
"You were out making calls, yesterday, with Mary, and the day
before also. This is too great a waste of time, Jane. I would rather
see you at home more."
"I don't know why you should wish to confine me down to the house.
Mary Halloran goes and comes when she pleases."
"Mary Halloran is in the street a great deal too much. I am far
from wishing to see you imitate her example."
"But what harm is there in it, mother?"
"A great deal, Jane. It gives idle habits, and makes the mind
dissatisfied with the more sober duties of life."
"I am too young for the sober duties of life," said Jane, rather
"That is, doubtless, one of your friend Mary's sentiments; and it
is worthy of her."
This was true, and Jane did not deny it.
"Go now," said Mrs. Leland, with much sobriety of manner. "But
remember that I disapprove of this gadding about, and object to its
continuance. I should be very sorry to have your father know to what
extent you are carrying it."
Jane went out and called for Mary, and the two young ladies made a
few calls, and then walked the streets until dinner time; not,
however, alone, but accompanied by a dashing young fellow, who had
been introduced to Mary a few evenings before, and now made bold to
follow up the acquaintance, encouraged by a glance from the young
lady's bright, inviting eyes.
Mrs. Leland, in the mean time, felt unhappy. Her daughter was
changing, and the change troubled her. The intimacy formed with Mary
Halloran, it was clear, was doing her no good, but harm. By this
time, too, she had noticed some things in the mother that were by no
means to her taste. There was a coarseness, vulgarity and want of
delicacy about her, that showed itself more and more every day,
traits of character particularly offensive to Mrs. Leland, who was a
woman of refined sentiments. Besides, Mrs. Halloran's conversation
involved topics neither interesting nor instructing to her neighbors;
and often of a decidedly objectionable kind. In fact, she liked her
less and less every day, and felt her too frequently repeated visits
as an annoyance; and though "Why don't you come in to see me oftener?"
was repeated almost daily, she did not return more than one out of
every half dozen calls she received.
"I've seen Jane in the street with that Mary Halloran no less than
three times this week," said Mr. Leland, one day, "and on two of
these occasions there was a beau accompanying each of the young
"She goes out too often, I know," returned Mrs. Leland seriously.
"I have objected to it several times, but the girl's head seems turned
with that Mary Halloran. I do wish she had never known her."
"So do I, from my heart. We knew what she was, and never should
have permitted Jane to make her acquaintance, if it had been in our
power to prevent it."
"It is too late now, and can't be helped."
"Too late to prevent the acquaintance, but not too late to prevent
some of the evil consequences likely to grow out of such an improper
intimacy, which must cease from the present time."
"It will be a difficult matter to break it off now."
"No matter how difficult it may be, it must be done. The first step
toward it you will have to make, in being less intimate with the
mother, whom I like less and less the oftener I meet her."
"That step, so far as I am concerned, has already been taken. I
have ceased visiting Mrs. Halloran almost entirely; but she is here
just as often, and sadly annoys me. I dislike her more and more every
"If I saw as much in any one to object to as you see in Mrs.
Halloran, I would soon make visiting a thing by no means agreeable.
You can easily get rid of her intrusive familiarity if you think
"Yes, by offending her, and getting the ill-will of a low-minded
unprincipled woman; a thing that no one wants."
"Better offend her than suffer, as we are likely to suffer, from a
continuance of the acquaintance. Offend the mother, I say, and thus
you get rid of the daughter."
But Mrs. Leland was not prepared for this step, yet. From having
been fascinated by Mrs. Halloran, she now began to fear her.
"I should not like to have her talk of me as she talks of some
people whom I think a great deal better than she is."
"Let her talk. What she says will be no scandal," returned Mr.
"Even admit that, I don't want to be on bad terms with a neighbor.
If she were to remove from the neighborhood, the thing would assume a
different aspect. As it is, I cannot do as I please."
"Can't you indeed? Then I think we had better move forthwith, in
order that you may be free to act right. There is one thing that I
intend doing, immediately, in any event, and that is, to forbid Jane
from associating any longer with Mary Halloran."
"She cannot help herself. Mary calls for her every day."
"She can help going out with her and returning her calls; and this
she must do."
"I wish it could be prevented. But I am afraid of harsh measures."
"I am more afraid of the consequences to our daughter. We know not
into what company this indiscreet young lady may introduce, nor how
deeply she may corrupt her. Our duty to our child requires us at once
to break up all intercourse with the family."
The necessity Mrs. Leland saw clearly enough, but she hesitated.
Her husband, however, was not a man to hold back when his duty was
before him. Neither fear nor favor governed him in his actions toward
others. When satisfied that a thing ought to be done, he entered
fearlessly upon the work, leaving consequences to take care of
While they were yet conversing Jane came to the door, accompanied
by a young gallant. Mr. Leland happened to be sitting near the window
and saw him.
"Bless my heart!" he said, in an excited voice.
"Here she is now, in company with that good-for-nothing son of Mr.
Clement. She might almost as well associate with Satan himself."
"With John Clement?" asked Mrs. Leland, in surprise.
"It is too true; and the fellow had the assurance to kiss his hand
to her. This matter has gone quite far enough now, in all conscience,
and must be stopped, if half the world become offended."
Mrs. Leland doubted and hesitated no longer. The young man who had
come home with Jane bore a notoriously bad character. It was little
less than disgrace, in the eyes of virtuous people, for a lady to be
seen in the street with him. Mr. and Mrs. Leland were shocked and
distressed at the appearance of things; and mutually resolved that
all intercourse with Mrs. Halloran and her daughter should cease.
This could not be effected without giving offence; but no matter,
offence would have to be given.
On that very afternoon Mrs. Halloran called in. But Mrs. Leland
sent her word that she was engaged.
"Engaged, indeed!" said the lady to the servant, tossing her head.
"I'm never engaged to a neighbor."
The servant repeated the words.
"Be engaged again, if she calls," said Mr. Leland, when his wife
mentioned the remark of her visitor. "It will raise an effectual
barrier between you."
Some serious conversation was had with Jane that day by her mother,
but Jane was by no means submissive.
"Your father positively forbids any farther intimacy between you
and Mary Halloran. I shall have nothing more to do with her mother."
Jane met this declaration with a passionate gush of tears, and an
intimation that she was not prepared to sacrifice the friendship of
Mary, whom she believed to be quite as good as herself.
"It must be done, Jane. Your father has the best of reasons for
desiring it, and I hope you will not think for a moment of opposing
"He doesn't know Mary as I know her. His prejudices have no
foundation in truth," said Jane.
"No matter how pure she may be," replied the mother, "she has
already introduced you into bad company. A virtuous young lady should
blush to be seen in the street with the man who came home with you
"Who, Mr. Clement?" inquired Jane.
"Yes, John Clement. His bad conduct is so notorious as to exclude
him entirely from the families of many persons, who have the
independence to mark with just reprehension his evil deeds. It
grieves me to think that you were not instinctively repelled by him
the moment he approached you."
Jane's manner changed at these words. But the change did not
clearly indicate to her mother what was passing in her mind. From that
moment she met with silence nearly every thing that her mother said.
Early on the next day Mary Halloran called for Jane, as she was
regularly in the habit of doing. Mrs. Leland purposely met her at the
door, and when she inquired for Jane, asked her, with an air of cold
politeness, to excuse her daughter, as she was engaged.
"Not engaged to _me_," said Mary, evincing surprise.
"You must excuse her, Miss Halloran; she is engaged this morning,"
returned the mother, with as much distance and formality as at first.
Mary Halloran turned away, evidently offended.
"Ah me!" sighed Mrs. Leland, as she closed the door upon the giddy
young girl; "how much trouble has my indiscreetness cost me. My
husband was right, and I felt that he was right; but, in the face of
his better judgment, I sought the acquaintance of this woman, and
now, where the consequences are to end, heaven only knows."
"Was that Mary Halloran?" inquired Jane, who came down stairs as
her mother returned along the passage.
"It was," replied the mother.
"Why did she go away?"
"I told her you were engaged."
"Why, mother!" Jane seemed greatly disturbed.
"It is your father's wish as well as mine," said Mrs. Leland
calmly, "that all intercourse between you and this young lady cease,
and for reasons that I have tried to explain to you. She is one whose
company you cannot keep without injury."
Jane answered with tears, and retired to her chamber, where she
wrote a long and tender letter to Mary, explaining her position. This
letter she got the chambermaid to deliver, and bribed her to secrecy.
Mary replied, in an epistle full of sympathy for her unhappy
condition, and full of indignation at the harsh judgment of her
parents in regard to herself. The letter contained various suggestions
in regard to the manner in which Jane ought to conduct herself, none
of them at all favorable to submission and concluded with warm
attestations of friendship.
From that time an active correspondence took place between the
young ladies, and occasional meetings at times when the parents of
Jane supposed her to be at the houses of some of their friends.
As for Mrs. Halloran, she was seriously offended at the sudden
repulse both she and her daughter had met, and spared no pains, and
let no opportunity go unimproved, for saying hard things of Mrs.
Leland and her family. Even while Mary was carrying on a tender and
confidential correspondence with Jane, she was hinting disreputable
things against the thoughtless girl, and doing her a serious injury.
The first intimation that the parents had of any thing being wrong,
was the fact that two very estimable ladies, for whom they had a high
respect, and with whose daughters Jane was on terms of intimacy, twice
gave Jane the same answer that Mrs. Leland had given Mary Halloran;
thus virtually saying to her that they did not wish her to visit their
daughters. Both Mr. and Mrs. Leland, when Jane mentioned these
occurrences, left troubled. Not long after, a large party was given by
one of the ladies, but no invitations were sent to either Mr. or Mrs.
Leland, or their daughter. This was felt to be an intended omission.
After long and serious reflection on the subject, Mrs. Leland felt
it to be her duty, as a parent, to see this lady, and frankly ask the
reason of her conduct towards Jane, as well as toward her and her
husband. She felt called upon to do this, in order to ascertain if
there were not some things injurious to her daughter in common report.
The lady seemed embarrassed on meeting Mrs. Leland, but the latter,
without any excitement, or the appearance of being in the least
offended, spoke of what had occurred, and then said—
"Now, there must be a reason for this. Will you honestly tell me
what it is?"
The lady seemed confused and hesitated.
"Do not fear to speak plainly, my dear madam. Tell me the whole
truth. There is something wrong, and I ought to know it. Put yourself
in my place, and you will not long hesitate what to do."
"It is a delicate and painful subject for me to speak of to you,
"No matter. Speak out without disguise."
After some reflection, the lady said—
"I have daughters, and am tremblingly alive to their good. I feel
it to be my duty to protect them from all associations likely to do
them an injury. Am I not right in this?"
"There is one young man in this city whose very name should shock
the ear of innocence and purity. I mean Clement."
"You cannot think worse of him than I do."
"And yet, I am told, Mrs. Leland, that your daughter may be seen on
the street with him almost every day; and not only on the streeet,
but at balls, concerts, and the theatre."
"Who says so?"
"I have heard it from several," replied the lady, speaking slower
and more thoughtfully. "Mrs. Halloran mentioned it to the person who
first told me; and, since then, I have frequently heard it spoken
In answer to this, Mrs. Leland related the whole history of her
intercourse with Mrs. Halloran, and the cause of its interruption.
She then said—
"Once, only, are we aware of our daughter's having met this young
man. Since then, she has gone out but rarely, and has not been from
home a single evening, unless in our company; so that the broad
charge of association with Clement is unfounded, and has had its
origin in a malignant spirit."
"I understand it all, now, clearly," replied the lady. "Mrs.
Halloran is a woman of no principle. You have deeply offended her,
and she takes this method of being revenged."
"That is the simple truth. I was urged by my husband not to call
upon her when she moved in our square, but I felt it to be only right
to visit her as a neighbor."
"A woman like Mrs. Halloran is not to be regarded as a neighbor,"
replied the lady.
"So my husband argued, but I was blind enough to think differently,
and to act as I thought. Dearly enough am I paying for my folly.
Where the consequences will end is more than I can tell."
"We may be able to counteract them to a certain extent," said the
lady. "Understanding as I now do, clearly, your position toward Mrs.
Halloran, I will be able to neutralize a great deal that she says.
But I am afraid your daughter is misleading you in some things, and
giving color to what is said of her."
"How so?" asked Mrs. Leland in surprise.
"Was she out yesterday?"
"Yes. She went to see her cousins in the morning."
"One of my daughters says she met her in the street, in company
with the very individual of whom we are speaking."
"My daughter says she is not mistaken," returned the lady.
Mrs. Leland's distress of mind, as to this intelligence, may be
imagined. On returning home, she found that Jane had gone out during
her absence. She went up into her daughter's room, and found a note
addressed to Jane lying upon her table. After some reflection, she
felt it to be her duty to open the note, which she did. It was from
Mary Halloran, and in these words:—
"MY SWEET FRIEND,—I saw Mr. Clement last night at the opera. He
had a great deal to say about you, and uttered many flattering
compliments on your beauty. He says that he would like to meet you
to-morrow evening, and will be at the corner of Eighth and Pine
streets at half past seven o'clock. Can you get away at that time,
without exciting suspicion? If you can, don't fail to meet him, as he
is very desirous that you should do so. I was delighted with the
opera, and wished a hundred times that you were with me to enjoy it.
Mrs. Leland clasped her hands together, and leaned forward upon the
bureau near which she had been standing, scarcely able to sustain her
own weight. It was many minutes before she could think clearly. After
much reflection, she thought it best not to say anything to Jane about
the note. This course was approved by Mr. Leland, who believed with
his wife, that it was better that Jane should be kept in ignorance of
its contents, at least until the time mentioned for her joining
Clement had passed. Both the parents were deeply troubled; and
bitterly did Mrs. Leland repent her folly in making the acquaintance
of their new neighbor, simply because she was a neighbor according to
It was after seven o'clock when the tea bell rang that evening. Mr.
and Mrs. Leland descended to the dining-room, and took their places
at the table.
"Where is Jane?" asked Mrs. Leland, after they had been seated a
"She went out five or ten minutes ago," replied the waiter.
Both the mother and father started, with exclamations of surprise
and alarm, from the table. Mr. Leland seized his hat and cane, and
rushing from the house, ran at full speed toward the place which
Clement had appointed for a meeting with his daughter. He arrived in
time to see a lady hastily enter a carriage, followed by a man. The
carriage drove off rapidly. A cab was passing near him at the time,
to the driver of which he called in an excited voice.
"Do you see that carriage?" Mr. Leland said eagerly, as the man
reined up his horse. "Keep within sight of it until it stops, and I
will give you ten dollars."
"Jump in," returned the driver. "I'll keep in sight."
For nearly a quarter of an hour the wheels of the cab rattled in
the ears of Mr. Leland. It then stopped, and the anxious father sprang
out upon the pavement. The carriage had drawn up a little in advance,
and a lady was descending from it, assisted by a man. Mr. Leland knew
the form of his daughter. Ere the young lady and her attendant could
cross the pavement, he had confronted them. Angry beyond the power of
control, he seized the arm of Jane with one hand, and, as he drew away
from her companion, knocked him down with a tremendous blow from the
cane which he held in the other. Then dragging, or rather carrying,
his frightened daughter to the cab, thrust her in, and, as he followed
after, gave the driver the direction of his house, and ordered him to
go there at the quickest speed. Jane either was, or affected to be,
unconscious, when she arrived at home.
Two days after, this paragraph appeared in one of the daily papers.
"SAVED FROM THE BRINK OF RUIN.—A young man of notoriously bad
character, yet connected with one of our first families, recently
attempted to draw aside from virtue an innocent but thoughtless and
unsuspecting girl, the daughter of a respectable citizen. He
appointed a meeting with her in the street at night, and she was mad
enough to join him at the hour mentioned. Fortunately it happened
that the father, by some means, received intelligence of what was
going on, and hurried to the place. He arrived in time to see them
enter a carriage and drive off. He followed in another carriage, and
when they stopped before a house, well known to be one of evil
repute, he confronted them on the pavement, knocked the young villain
down, and carried his daughter off home. We forbear to mention names,
as it would do harm, rather than good, the young lady being innocent
of any evil intent, and unsuspicious of wrong in her companion. We
hope it will prove a lesson that she will never forget. She made a
most fortunate escape."
When Jane Leland was shown this paragraph, she shuddered and turned
pale; and the shudder went deeper, and her cheek became still paler,
a few weeks later when the sad intelligence came that Mary Halloran
had fallen into the same snare that had been laid for her feet; a
willing victim too many believed, for she was not ignorant of
Clement's real character.
By sad experience Mrs. Leland was taught the folly of any weak
departure from what is clearly seen to be a right course of action;
and she understood, better than she had ever done before, the
oft-repeated remark of her husband that "only those whose principles
and conduct we approve are to be considered, in any true sense,
NOT AT HOME.
JONAS BEBEE has one merit, if he possesses no other, and that is,
the merit of being able to make himself completely at home with all
his friends, male or female, high or low, rich or poor, under any and
all circumstances. His good opinion of himself leaves no room for his
imagination to conceive the idea, that possibly there may be, in his
character, certain peculiarities not agreeable to all. It never occurs
to him, that he may chance to make a _mal apropos_ visit, nor that the
prolongation of a call may be a serious annoyance; for he is so
entirely satisfied with himself that he is sure every one else must
feel his presence as a kind of sunshine.
Of course, such being the character of Mr. Jonas Bebee, it may
readily be inferred that he is very likely to commit an occasional
mistake, and blunder, though unconsciously, into the commission of
acts most terribly annoying to others. His evening calls upon ladies
generally produce a marked effect upon those specially selected for
the favor. The character of the effect will appear in the following
little scene, which we briefly sketch—
"Gentleman in the parlor," says a servant coming into a room where
two or three young ladies sit sewing or reading.
"Who is he?" is the natural inquiry.
"Say we are not at home, Kitty."
"No—no, Kitty, you mustn't say that," interposes one. "Tell him
the ladies will be down in a little while."
Kitty accordingly retires.
"I'm not going down," says one, more self willed and independent
than the rest.
You've as much right to be annoyed with him as we have," is replied
"I don't care."
"I wish he'd stay away from here. Nobody wants him."
"He's after you, Aggy."
"After me!" replied Agnes. "Goodness knows I don't want him. I hate
the very sight of him!"
"It's no use fretting ourselves over the annoyance, we've got to
endure it," says one of the young ladies. "So, come, let's put on the
best face possible."
"You can go, Cara, if you choose, but I'm in no hurry; nor will he
be in any haste to go. Say to him that I'll be along in the course of
half an hour."
"No, you must all make your own apologies."
In the meantime Mr. Bebee patiently awaits the arrival of the
ladies, who make their appearance, one after the other, some time
during the next half hour. He compliments them, asks them to sing and
play, and leads the conversation until towards eleven o'clock, when he
retires in the best possible humor with himself and the interesting
young ladies favored with his presence. He has not even a distant
suspicion of the real truth, that his visit was considered an almost
Mr. Bebee's morning calls are often more unwelcome. He walks in, as
a matter of course, takes his seat in the parlor, and sends up his
name by the servant. If told that the lady is not at home, a
suspicion that it may not be so does not cross his mind; for he
cannot imagine it possible that any one would make such an excuse in
order to avoid seeing _him_. Should the lady not be willing to utter
an untruth, nor feel independent enough to send word that she is
engaged, an hour's waste of time, at least, must be her penalty; for
Mr. Bebee's morning calls are never of shorter duration. He knows, as
well as any one, that visits of politeness should be brief; but he is
on such familiar terms with all his friends, that he can waive all
ceremony—and he generally does so, making himself "at home," as he
says, wherever he goes.
One day Mr. Jonas Bebee recollected that he had not called upon a
certain Mrs. Fairview, for some weeks; and as the lady was, like most
of his acquaintances, a particular friend, he felt that he was
neglecting her. So he started forth to make her a call.
It was Saturday, and Mrs. Fairview, after having been, for the
greater part of the morning, in the kitchen making cake, came up to
the parlor to dust and re-arrange some of the articles there a little
more to her liking. Her hair was in papers, and her morning wrapper
not in a very elegant condition, having suffered a little during the
cake-making process. It was twelve o'clock, and Mrs. Fairview was
about leaving the parlor, when some one rung the bell. Gliding
noiselessly to the window, she obtained a view of Mr. Bebee.
"O, dear!" she sighed, "am I to have this infliction to-day? But
it's no use; I won't see him!"
By this time the servant was moving along the passage towards the
"Hannah!" called the lady, in a whisper, beckoning at the same time
with her hand.
Hannah came into the parlor.
"Say I'm not at home, Hannah."
"Yes, ma'am," replied the girl, who proceeded on towards the street
door, while Mrs. Fairview remained in the parlor.
"Is Mrs. Fairview in?" the latter heard the visitor ask.
"No, sir," replied Hannah.
"No, sir. She's gone out."
By this time Mr. Bebee stood within the vestibule.
"O, well; I reckon I'll just drop in and wait awhile. No doubt
she'll be home, soon."
"I don't think she will return before two o'clock," said Hannah,
knowing that her mistress, looking more like a scarecrow than a
genteel lady, was still in the parlor, and seeing that the visiter
was disposed to pass her by and make himself a temporary occupant of
the same room.
"No matter," returned the gentleman, "I'll just step in for a
little while and enjoy myself by the parlor fire. It's a bitter cold
day—perhaps she will be home sooner."
"O, no, sir. She told me that she would not come back until
dinner-time," said the anxious Hannah, who fully appreciated the
dilemma in which her mistress would find herself, should Mr. Bebee
make his way into the parlor.
"It's no consequence. You can just say to her, if she does not
return while I am here, that I called and made myself at home for
half an hour or so." And with this, Mr. Bebee passed by the girl, and
made his way towards the parlor.
In despair, Hannah ran back to her place in the kitchen, wondering
what her mistress would say or do when Mr. Bebee found that she was
at home—and, moreover, in such a plight!
In the meantime, Mrs. Fairview, who had been eagerly listening to
what passed between Hannah and the visiter, finding that he was about
invading her parlor, and seeing no way of escape, retreated into a
little room, or office, built off from and communicating only with the
parlor. As she entered this room and shut the door, the cold air
penetrated her garments and sent a chill through her frame. There was
no carpet on the floor of this little box of a place, and it contained
neither sofa, chair, nor anything else to sit upon. Moreover, it had
but a single door, and that one led into the parlor. Escape,
therefore, was cut off, entirely; and to remain long where she was
could not be done except at the risk of taking a severe cold.
Through the openings in a Venitian blind that was hung against the
glass door, Mrs. Fairview saw the self-satisfied Mr. Bebee draw up
the large cushioned chair before the grate, and with a book in his
hand, seat himself comfortably and begin to make himself entirely "at
home." The prospect was, that he would thus remain "at home," for at
least the next half hour, if not longer. What was she to do? The
thermometer was almost down to zero, and she was dressed for a
temperature of seventy.
"I shall catch my death a cold," she sighed, as the chilly air
penetrated her garments, and sent a shudder through her frame.
Comfortably, and as much at home as if he were in his own parlor,
sat Mr. Bebee in front of the roaring grate, rocking himself in the
great arm-chair, and enjoying a new book which he had found upon the
As Mrs. Fairview looked at him, and saw the complete repose and
satisfaction of his manner, she began to feel in utter despair.
Already her teeth were beginning to chatter, and she was shivering as
if attacked by a fit of ague. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes
elapsed—but there sat the visiter, deeply absorbed in his book; and
there stood the unfortunate lady who was "not at home," so benumbed
with cold as almost to have lost the sense of bodily feeling. A
certain feeling in the throat warned her that she was taking cold,
and would, in all probability, suffer from inflammation of the
windpipe and chest. Five, ten, fifteen minutes more went by; but Mr.
Beebe did not move from his place. He was far too comfortable to
think of that.
At last after remaining in prison for nearly an hour, Mrs.
Fairview, who by this time was beginning to suffer, besides excessive
fatigue, from a sharp pain through her breast to her left shoulder
blade, and who was painfully aware that she had taken a cold that
would, in all probability, put her in bed for a week, determined to
make her escape at all hazards. Mr. Beebe showed no disposition to go,
and might remain for an hour longer. Throwing an apron over her head
and face, she softly opened the door, and gliding past her visiter,
escaped into the hall, and ran panting up stairs. Mr. Beebe raised
his head at this unexpected invasion of the parlor, but on reflection
concluded that the person who so suddenly appeared and disappeared was
merely a servant in the family.
About an hour afterwards, finding that Mrs. Fairview did not
return, Mr. Beebe left his card on the table, and departed in his
usual comfortable state of mind.
Poor Mrs. Fairview paid dearly for her part in this transaction. A
severe attack of inflammation of the lungs followed, which came near
resulting in death. It was nearly three weeks before she was able to
leave her room, and then her physician said she must not venture out
before the mild weather of the opening spring.
A few days after the lady was able to go about the house again, Mr.
Bebee called to congratulate her on her recovery. Two of her children
were in the parlor; one eleven years old, and the other a child in her
"O, you naughty man, you!" exclaimed the latter, the moment she saw
Mr. Bebee. The oldest of the two children, who understood in a moment
what her little sister meant, whispered: "H-u-s-h!—h-u-s-h! Mary!"
"What am I naughty about, my little sis?" said Mr. Bebee.
"O, because you are a naughty man! You made my mother sick, so you
did! And mother says she never wants to look in your face again. You
are a naughty man!"
"Mary! Mary! Hush! hush!" exclaimed the elder sister, trying to
stop the child.
"Made your mother sick?" said Mr. Bebee. "How did I do that?"
"Why, you shut her up in that little room there, all in the cold,
when you were here and staid so long, one day. And it made her
sick—so it did."
"Shut her up in that room! what does the child mean?" said Mr.
Bebee, speaking to the elder sister.
"Mary! Mary! I'm ashamed of you. Come away!" was the only response
made to this.
Mr. Bebee was puzzled. He asked himself as to the meaning of this
strange language. All at once, he remembered that after he had been
sitting in the parlor for an hour, on the occasion referred to, some
one had come out of the little room referred to by the child, and
swept past him almost as quick as a flash. But it had never once
occurred to him that this was the lady he had called to visit, who,
according to the servant, was not at home.
"I didn't shut your mother up in that room, Mary," said he, to the
"O, but you did. And she got cold, and almost died."
At this the elder sister, finding that she could do nothing with
little Mary, escaped from the parlor, and running up stairs, made a
report to her mother of what was going on below.
"Mercy!" exclaimed the lady, in painful surprise.
"She told him that you said you never wanted to look upon his face
again," said the little girl.
"Yes. And she is telling him a great deal more. I tried my best to
make her stop, but couldn't."
"Rachel! Go down and bring that child out of the parlor!" said Mrs.
Fairview, to a servant. "It is too bad! I had no idea that the little
witch knew anything about it. So much for talking before children!"
"And so much for not being at home when you are," remarked a sister
of Mrs. Fairview, who happened to be present.
"So much for having an acquaintance who makes himself at home in
your house, whether you want him or not."
"No doubt you are both sufficiently well punished."
"I have been, I know."
The heavy jar of the street door was heard at this moment.
"He's gone, I do believe!"
And so it proved. What else little Mary said to him was never
known, as the violent scolding she received when her mother got hold
of her, sealed her lips on the subject, or drove all impressions
relating thereto from her memory.
Mr. Bebee never called again.
THE FATAL ERROR.
"CLINTON!" said Margaret Hubert, with a look of supreme contempt.
Don't speak of him to me, Lizzy. His very name is an offence to my
ears!" and the lady's whole manner became disturbed.
"He will be at the ball to-night, of course, and will renew his
attentions," said the friend, in an earnest, yet quiet voice. "Now,
for all your expressions of dislike, I have thought that you were
really far from being indifferent to Mr. Clinton, and affected a
repugnance at variance with your true feelings."
"Lizzy, you will offend me if you make use of such language. I tell
you he is hateful to me," replied Miss Hubert.
"Of course, you ought to know your own state of mind best," said
Lizzy Edgar. "If it is really as you say, I must confess that my
observation has not been accurate. As to there being anything in Mr.
Clinton to inspire an emotion of contempt, or create so strong a
dislike as you express, I have yet to see it. To me he has ever
appeared in the light of a gentleman."
"Then suppose you make yourself agreeable to him, Lizzy," said Miss
"I try to make myself agreeable to every one," replied the
even-minded girl. "That is a duty I owe to those with whom I
"Whether you like them or not?"
"It doesn't follow, because I do not happen to like a person, that
I should render myself disagreeable to him."
"I never tolerate people that I don't like," said Miss Hubert.
"We needn't associate too intimately with those who are
disagreeable to us," returned her friend; "but when we are thrown
together in society, the least we can do is to be civil."
"You may be able to disguise your real feelings, but I cannot.
Whatever emotion passes over my mind is seen in my face and
discovered in my tone of voice. All who know me see me as I am."
And yet, notwithstanding this affirmation, Margaret Hubert did not,
at all times, display her real feelings. And her friend Lizzy Edgar
was right in assuming that she was by no means indifferent to Mr.
Clinton. The appearance of dislike was assumed as a mask, and the
distance and reserve she displayed towards him were the offspring of
a false pride and unwomanly self-esteem. The truth was, her heart
had, almost unsought, been won. The manly bearing, personal grace and
brilliant mind of Philip Clinton, had captivated her feelings and
awakened an emotion of love ere she was conscious that her heart was
in danger. And she had even leaned towards him instinctively, and so
apparently that the young man observed it, and was attracted thereby.
The moment, however, he became at all marked in his attentions, the
whole manner of Margaret changed. She was then aware of the rashness
she had displayed, and her pride instantly took the alarm. Reserve,
dignity, and even hauteur, characterized her bearing towards Clinton;
and to those who spoke of him as a lover, she replied in terms nearly
similar to what she used to her friend Lizzy Edgar, on the occasion to
which reference has just been made.
All this evidenced weakness of mind as well as pride. She wished to
be sought before she was won—at least, that was the language she
used to herself. Her lover must come, like a knight of old, and sue
on bended knee for favor.
Clinton observed the marked change in her manner. Fortunately for
his peace of mind, he was not so deeply in love as to be very
seriously distressed. He had admired her beauty, her accomplishments,
and the winning grace of her manners; and more, had felt his heart
beginning to warm towards her. But the charm with which she had been
invested, faded away the moment the change of which we have spoken
became apparent. He was not a man of strong, ungovernable impulses;
all his passions were under the control of right reason, and this gave
him a clear judgment. Consequently, he was the last person in the
world for an experiment such as Margaret Hubert was making. At first
he thought there must be some mistake, and continued to offer the
young lady polite attentions, coldly and distantly as they were
received. He even went farther than his real feelings bore him out in
going, and made particular advances, in order to be perfectly
satisfied that there was no mistake about her dislike or repugnance.
But there was one thing which at first Clinton did not understand.
It was this. Frequently, when in company where Margaret was present,
he would, if he turned his eyes suddenly upon her, find that she was
looking at him with an expression which told him plainly that he was
not indifferent to her. This occurred so often, and was so frequently
attended with evident confusion on her part, that he began to have a
suspicion of the real truth, and to feel disgust at so marked an
exhibition of insincerity. Besides, the thought of being experimented
upon in this way, did not in the least tend to soften his feelings
towards the fair one. He believed in frankness, honesty and reciprocal
sincerity. He liked a truthful, ingenuous mind, and turned
instinctively from all artifice, coquetry or affectation.
The game which Miss Hubert was playing had been in progress only a
short time, when her friend Lizzy Edgar, who was on terms of close
intimacy, spent the day with her, occupying most of the time in
preparation for a fancy ball that was to come off that night. The two
young ladies attired themselves with much care, each with a view to
effect. Margaret looked particularly to the assumption of a certain
dignity, and her costume for the evening had been chosen with that end
in view. A ruff, and her grand-mother's rich silk brocade, did give to
her tall person all the dignity she could have desired.
At the proper time the father of Miss Hubert accompanied the young
ladies to the ball, preparations for which had for some time been in
progress. As soon almost as Margaret entered the room, her eyes began
to wander about in search of Mr. Clinton. It was not long before she
discovered him—nor long before his eyes rested upon and recognized
her stately figure.
"If she be playing a part, as I more than half suspect," said the
young man to himself, "her performance will end to-night, so far as I
And with the remark, he moved towards that part of the room where
the two young ladies were standing. Lizzy returned his salutations
with a frank and easy grace, but Margaret drew herself up coldly, and
replied to his remarks with brief formality. Clinton remained with
them only long enough to pass a few compliments, and then moved away
and mingled with the crowd in another part of the large saloon, where
the gay company were assembled. During the next hour, he took occasion
now and then to search out Margaret in the crowd, and more than once
he found that her eyes were upon him.
"Once more," he said, crossing the room and going up to where she
was leaning upon the arm of an acquaintance.
"May I have the pleasure of dancing with you in the next set?"
"Thank you, sir," replied Margaret, with unbending dignity; "I am
Clinton bowed and turned away. The fate of the maiden was sealed.
She had carried her experiment too far. As the young man moved across
the room, he saw Lizzy Edgar sitting alone, her face lit up with
interest as she noted the various costumes, and observed the
ever-forming and dissolving tableaux that filled the saloon, and
presented to the eye a living kaleidoscope.
"Alone," he said, pausing before the warm-hearted, even tempered
"One cannot be alone here," she replied, with a sweet smile
irradiating her countenance. "What a fairy scene it is," she added,
as her eyes wandered from the face of Clinton and again fell upon the
brilliant groups around them.
"Have you danced this evening?" asked Clinton.
"In one set," answered Lizzy.
"Are you engaged for the next in which you may feel disposed to
take the floor?"
"Then may I claim you for my partner?"
"If it is your pleasure to do so," replied Lizzy, smiling.
In a cotillion formed soon afterward in that part of the room, were
Margaret Hubert and her sweet friend Lizzy Edgar. Margaret had a
warmer color on her cheeks than usual, and her dignity towered up
into an air of haughtiness, all of which Clinton observed. Its effect
was to make his heart cold towards her, instead of awakening an ardent
desire to win a proud and distant beauty.
In vain did Margaret look for the young man to press forward, the
moment the cotillion was dissolved, and claim her for the next. He
lingered by the side of Miss Edgar, more charmed with her than he had
ever been, until some one else came and engaged the hand of Miss
Hubert. The disappointed and unhappy girl now unbent herself from the
cold dignity that had marked her bearing since her entrance into the
ball-room, and sought to win him to her side by the flashing
brilliancy of her manners; but her efforts were unavailing. Clinton
had felt the sweeter, purer, stronger attractions of one free from
all artifice; and when he left her side, he had no wish to pass to
that of one whose coldness had repelled, and whose haughtiness had
On the next day, when Lizzy called upon her friend, she found her
in a very unhappy state of mind. As to the ball and the people who
attended, she was exceedingly captious in all her remarks. When
Clinton was mentioned, she spoke of him with a sneer. Lizzy hardly
knew how to take her. Why the young man should be so offensive, she
was at a loss to imagine, and honestly came to the conclusion that
she had been mistaken in her previous supposition that Margaret
really felt an interest in him.
A few evenings only elapsed before Clinton called upon Miss Edgar,
and from that time visited her regularly. An offer of marriage was
the final result. This offer Lizzy accepted.
The five or six months that elapsed from the time Clinton became
particular in his attentions to Miss Edgar, until he formally
declared himself a lover, passed with Margaret Herbert in one
long-continued and wild struggle with her feelings. Conscious of her
error, and madly conscious, because conviction had come too late, she
wrestled vigorously, but in vain, with a passion that, but for her own
folly, would have met a free and full return. Lizzy spoke to her of
Clinton's marked attentions, but did not know how, like heavy and
painful strokes, every word she uttered fell upon her heart. She saw
that Margaret was far from being happy, and often tenderly urged her
to tell the cause, but little dreamed of the real nature of her
At last Lizzy told her, with a glowing cheek, that Clinton had
owned his love for her, and claimed her hand in marriage. For some
moments after this communication was made, Margaret could offer no
reply. Her heart trembled faintly in her bosom and almost ceased to
beat; but she rallied herself, and concealed what she felt under warm
congratulations. Lizzy was deceived, though in her friend's manner
there was something that she could not fully comprehend.
"You must be my bridesmaid," said the happy girl, a month or two
"Why not choose some one else?" asked Margaret.
"Because I love you better than any friend I have," replied Lizzy,
putting an arm around the neck of Margaret and kissing her.
"No, no; I cannot—I cannot!" was the unexpressed thought of
Margaret—while something like a shudder went over her. But the eyes
of her friend did not penetrate the sad secret of her heart.
"Come, dear, say yes. Why do you hesitate? I would hardly believe
myself married if you were not by my side when the nuptial pledge was
"It shall be as you wish," replied Margaret.
"Perhaps you misunderstood me," said Lizzy, playfully; "I was not
speaking of my funeral, but of my wedding."
This sportive sally gave Margaret an opportunity to recover
herself, which she did promptly; and never once, from that time until
the wedding day of her friend arrived, did she by look or word betray
what was in her heart.
Intense was the struggle that went on in the mind of Margaret
Hubert. But it was of no avail; she loved Clinton with a wild
intensity that was only the more fervid from its hopelessness. But
pride and a determined will concealed what neither could destroy.
At last the wedding night of Lizzy Edgar arrived, and a large
company assembled to witness the holy rite that was to be performed,
and to celebrate the occasion with appropriate festivities. Margaret,
when the morning of that day broke coldly and drearily upon her, felt
so sad at heart that she wept, and, weeping, wished that she could
die. There had been full time for reflection since, by her own acts,
she had repulsed one in whom her heart felt a deep interest, and
repulsed him with such imprudent force that he never returned to her
again. Suffering had chastened her spirit, although it could not still
the throbbings of pain. As the time approached when she must stand
beside her friend and listen to vows of perpetual love that she would
have given all the world, were it in her possession, to hear as her
own, she felt that she was about entering upon a trial for which her
strength would be little more than adequate.
But there was no retreat now. The ordeal had to be passed through.
At last the time of trial came, and she descended with her friend,
and stood up with her before the minister of God, who was to say the
fitting words and receive the solemn vows required in the marriage
covenant. From the time Margaret took her place on the floor, she
felt her power over herself failing. Most earnestly did she struggle
for calmness and self-control, but the very fear that inspired this
struggle made it ineffectual. When the minister in a deeply
impressive voice, said, "I pronounce you husband and wife," her eyes
grew dim, and her limbs trembled and failed; she sunk forward, and
was only kept from falling by the arm of the minister, which was
extended in time to save her.
Twenty years have passed since that unhappy evening, and Margaret
Hubert is yet unmarried. It was long before she could quench the fire
that had burned so fiercely in her heart. When it did go out, the
desolate hearth it left remained ever after cold and dark.
FOLLOWING THE FASHIONS.
"WHAT is this?" asked Henry Grove of his sister Mary, lifting, as
he spoke, a print from the centre-table.
"A fashion plate," was the quiet reply.
"A fashion plate? What in the name of wonder, are you doing with a
"To see what the fashions are."
"And what then?"
"To follow them, of course."
"Mary, is it possible you are so weak? I thought better of my
"Explain yourself, Mr. Censor," replied Mary with an arch look, and
a manner perfectly self-possessed.
"There is nothing I despise so much as a heartless woman of
"Such an individual is certainly, not much to be admired, Henry.
But there is a vast difference you must recollect, between a lady who
regards the prevailing mode of dress and a _heartless_ woman, be she
attired in the latest style, or in the costume of the times of good
queen Bess. A fashionably dressed woman need not, of necessity, be
"O no, of course not; nor did I mean to say so. But it is very
certain, to my mind, that any one who follows the fashions cannot be
very sound in the head. And where there is not much head, it seems to
me there is never a superabundance of heart."
"Quite a philosopher!"
"You needn't try to beat me off by ridicule, Mary. I am in
"In condemning this blind slavery to fashion."
"You follow the fashions."
"No, Mary, I do not."
"Your looks very much belie you, then."
"Nonsense! Don't look so grave. What I say is true. You follow the
fashion as much as I do."
"I am sure I never examined a plate of fashions in my life."
"If you have not, your tailor has for you, many a time."
"I don't believe a word of it. I don't have my clothes cut in the
height of the fashion. They are made plain and comfortable. There is
nothing about them that is put on merely because it is fashionable."
"I beg your pardon, sir."
"It is a fact."
"Why do you have your lappels made to roll three button-holes
instead of two. There's father's old coat, made, I don't know when,
that roll but two."
"Because, I suppose, its now the fash—"
"Ah, exactly! Didn't I get you there nicely?"
"No, but Mary, that's the tailor's business, not mine."
"Of course,—you trust to him to make you clothes according to the
fashion, while I choose to see if the fashions are just such as suits
my stature, shape, and complexion, that I may adopt them fullly, or
deviate from them in a just and rational manner. So there is this
difference between us; you follow the fashions blindly, and I with
judgment and discrimination!"
"Indeed, Mary, you are too bad."
"Do I speak anything but the truth?"
"I should be very sorry, indeed, if your deductions were true in
regard to my following the fashions so blindly, if indeed at all."
"But don't you follow them?"
"I never think about them."
"If you don't, somehow or other, you manage to be always about even
with the prevailing modes. I don't see any difference between your
dress and that of other young men."
"I don't care a fig for the fashions, Mary!" rejoined Henry,
speaking with some warmth.
"So you say."
"And so I mean."
"Then why do you wear fashionable clothes?"
"I don't wear fashionable clothes—that is—I——"
"You have figured silk or cut velvet buttons, on your coat, I
believe. Let me see? Yes. Now, lasting buttons are more durable, and
I remember very well when you wore them. But they are out of fashion!
And here is your collar turned down over your black satin stock,
(where, by the by, have all the white cravats gone, that were a few
years ago so fashionable?) as smooth as a puritan's! Don't you
remember how much trouble you used to have, sometimes, to get your
collar to stand up just so? Ah, brother, you are an incorrigible
follower of the fashions!"
"But, Mary, it is a great deal less trouble to turn the collar over
"I know it is, now that it is fashionable to do so."
"It is, though, in fact."
"But when it was fashionable to have the collar standing, you were
very willing to take the trouble."
"You would not have me affect singularity, sister?"
"Me? No, indeed! I would have you continue to follow the fashions
as you are now doing. I would have you dress like other people. And
there is one other thing that I would like to see in you."
"What is that."
"I would like to see you willing to allow me the same privilege."
"You have managed your case so ingeniously, Mary," her brother now
said, "as to have beaten me in argument, though I am very sure that I
am right, and you in error, in regard to the general principle. I hold
it to be morally wrong to follow the fashions. They are unreasonable
and arbitrary in their requirements, and it is a species of miserable
folly, to be led about by them. I have conversed a good deal with old
aunt Abigail on the subject, and she perfectly agrees with me. Her
opinions, you can not, of course, treat with indifference?"
"No, not my aunt's. But for all that, I do not think that either
she or uncle Absalom is perfectly orthodox on all matters."
"I think that they can both prove to you beyond a doubt that it is
a most egregious folly to be ever changing with the fashions."
"And I think that I can prove to them that they are not at all
uninfluenced by the fickle goddess."
"Do so, and I will give up the point. Do so and I will avow myself
an advocate of fashion."
"As you are now in fact. But I accept your challenge, even though
the odds of age and numbers are against me. I am very much mistaken,
indeed, if I cannot maintain my side of the argument, at least to my
"You may do that probably; but certainly not to ours."
"We will see," was the laughing reply.
It was a few evenings after, that Henry Grove and his sister called
in to see uncle Absalom and aunt Abigail, who were of the old school,
and rather ultra-puritanical in their habits and notions. Mary could
not but feel, as she came into their presence, that it would be rowing
against wind and tide to maintain her point with them—confirmed as
they were in their own views of things, and with the respect due to
age to give weight to their opinions. Nevertheless, she determined
resolutely to maintain her own side of the question, and to use all
the weapons, offensive and defensive, that came to her hand. She was a
light-hearted girl, with a high flow of spirits, and a quick and
discriminating mind. All these were in her favor. The contest was not
long delayed, for Henry, feeling that he had powerful auxiliaries on
his side, was eager to see his own positions triumph, as he was sure
that they must. The welcome words that greeted their entrance had not
long been said, before he asked, turning to his aunt,—
"What do you think I found on Mary's table, the other day, Aunt
"I don't know, Henry. What was it?"
"You will be surprised to hear,—a fashion plate! And that is not
all. By her own confession, she was studying it in order to conform
to the prevailing style of dress. Hadn't you a better opinion of
"I certainly had," was aunt Abigail's half smiling, half grave
"Why, what harm is there in following the fashions, aunt?" Mary
"A great deal, my dear. It is following after the vanities of this
life. The apostle tells us not to be conformed to this world."
"I know he does; but what has that to do with the fashions? He
doesn't say that you shall not wear fashionable garments; at least I
never saw the passage."
"But that is clearly what he means, Mary."
"I doubt it. Let us hear what he further says; perhaps that will
guide us to a truer meaning?"
"He says: 'But be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.'
That elucidates and gives force to what goes before."
"So I think, clearly upsetting your position. The apostle evidently
has reference to a deeper work than mere _external_ non-conformity in
regard to the cut of the coat, or the fashion of the dress. Be ye not
conformed to this world in its selfish, principles and maxims—be ye
not as the world, lovers of self more than lovers of God—but be ye
transformed by the renewing of your minds. That is the way I
"Then you understand him wrong, Mary," uncle Absalom spoke up. "If
he had meant that, he would have said it in plain terms."
"And so he has, it seems to me. But I am not disposed to excuse my
adherence to fashion upon any passage that allows of two
interpretations. I argue for it upon rational grounds."
"Fashion and rationality! The idea is absurd, Mary!" said uncle
Absalom, with warmth. "They are antipodes."
"Not by any means, uncle, and I think I can make it plain to you."
Uncle Absalom shook his head, and aunt Abigail fidgeted in her
"You remember the celebrated John Wesley—the founder of that once
unfashionable people, the Methodists?" Mary asked.
"What would you think if I proved to you that he was an advocate
for fashion upon rational principles?"
"You can't do it."
"I can. On one occasion, it is related of him, that he called upon
a tailor to make him a coat. 'How will you have it made?' asked the
tailor. 'O, make it like other people's,' was the reply. 'Will you
have the sleeves in the new fashion?' 'I don't know, what is it?'
'They have been made very tight, you know, for some time,' the tailor
said, 'but the newest fashion is loose sleeves.' 'Loose sleeves, ah?
Well, they will be a great deal more comfortable than these. Make mine
loose.' What do you think of that, uncle? Do you see no rationality
"Yes, but Mary," replied aunt Abigail, "fashion and comfort hardly
ever go together."
"There you are mistaken, aunt. Most fashionable dress-makers aim at
producing garments comfortable to the wearers; and those fashions
which are most comfortable, are most readily adopted by the largest
"You certainly do not pretend to say, Mary," Henry interposed,
"that all changes in fashions are improvements in comfort?"
"O no, certainly not. Many, nay, most of the changes are
unimportant in that respect."
"And are the inventions and whims of fashion makers," added aunt
Abigail with warmth.
"No doubt of it," Mary readily admitted.
"And you are such a weak, foolish girl, as to adopt, eagerly, every
trifling variation in fashion?" continued aunt Abigail.
"No, not eagerly, aunt."
"But at all?"
"I adopt a great many, certainly, for no other reason than because
they are fashionable."
"For shame, Mary, to make such an admission! I really thought
better of you."
"But don't you follow the fashions, aunt?"
"Why Mary," exclaimed both uncle Absalom and her brother, at once.
"Me follow the fashions, Mary?" broke in aunt Abigail, as soon as
she could recover her breath, for the question struck her almost
speechless. "Me follow the fashions? Why, what can the girl mean?"
"I asked the question," said Mary. "And if you can't answer it, I
"And how will you answer it, pray?"
"In the affirmative, of course."
"You are trifling, now, Mary," said uncle Absalom, gravely.
"Indeed I am not, uncle. I can prove to her satisfaction and yours,
too, that aunt Abigail is almost as much a follower of the fashions
as I am."
"For shame, child!"
"I can though, uncle; so prepare yourself to be convinced. Did you
never see aunt wear a different shaped cap from the one she now has
"O yes, I suppose so. I don't take much notice of such things. But
I believe she has changed the pattern of her cap a good many times."
"And what if I have, pray?" asked aunt Abigail, fidgeting uneasily.
"O, nothing, only that in doing so, you were following some new
fashion," replied Mary.
"It is no such thing!" said aunt Abigail.
"I can prove it."
"Yes I can, and I will. Don't you remember when the high crowns
"Of course I do."
"And you wore them, of course."
"Well, suppose I did?"
"And then came the close, low-crowned cap. I remember the very time
you adopted that fashion, and thought it so much more becoming than
the great tower of lace on the back part of the head."
"And so it was."
"But why didn't you think so before," asked Mary, looking archly
into the face of her aunt.
"O, I can tell you, so you needn't search all over the world for a
reason. It was because the high crowns were fashionable. Come out
plain and aboveboard and say so."
"Indeed, I won't say any such thing."
"Then what was the reason?"
"Every body wore them, and their unsightly appearance had not been
made apparent by contrast."
"Exactly! They were fashionable. But when a new fashion laughed
them out of countenance, you cast them aside, as I do an old fashion
for a new one. Then came the quilled border all around. Do you
remember that change? and how, in a little while after, the plain
piece of lace over your forehead disappeared? Why was that, aunt
Abigail? Was there no regard for fashion there? And now, at this very
time your cap is one that exhibits the latest and neatest style for
old ladies' caps. I could go on and prove to your satisfaction, or at
least to my own, that you have followed the fashion almost as
steadily as I have. But I have sufficiently made out my case. Don't
you think so, Henry?"
Thus appealed to, her brother, who had been surprised at the turn
the conversation had taken, not expecting to see Mary carry the war
home so directly as she had done, hardly knew how to reply. He,
however, gave a reluctant
"But there is some sense in your aunt's adoption of fashion," said
"Though not much, it would seem in yours, if you estimate fashion
by use," retorted Mary.
"What does the girl mean?" asked aunt Abigail in surprise.
"Of what use, uncle, are those two buttons on the back of your
"I am sure I don't know."
"Then why do you wear them if you don't know their use, unless it
be that you wish to be in the fashion? Then there are two more at the
bottom of the skirt, half hid, half seen, as if they were ashamed to
be found so much out of their place. Then, can you enlighten me as to
the use of these two pieces of cloth here, called, I believe, flaps?"
"To give strength to that part of the coat, I presume."
"And yet it is only a year or two since it was the fashion to have
no flaps at all. I do not remember ever to have seen a coat torn
there, do you? It is no use, uncle—you might as well be out of the
world as out of the fashion. And old people feel this as well as
young. They have their fashions, and we have ours, and they are as
much the votaries of their peculiar modes as we are of our. The only
difference is, that, as our states of mind change more rapidly, there
is a corresponding and more rapid change in our fashions. You change
as well as we do—but slower."
"How could you talk to uncle Absalom and aunt Abigail as you did?"
said Henry Grove to his sister, as they walked slowly home together.
"Didn't I make out my point? Didn't I prove that they too were
votaries of the fickle goddess?"
"I think you did, in a measure."
"And in a good measure too. So give up your point, as you promised,
and confess yourself an advocate of fashion."
"I don't see clearly how I can do that, notwithstanding all that
has passed to-night; for I do not rationally perceive the use of all
these changes in dress."
"I am not certain that I can enlighten you fully on the subject;
but think that I may, perhaps in a degree, if you will allow my views
their proper weight in your mind."
"I will try to do so; but shall not promise to be convinced."
"No matter. Convinced or not convinced you will still be carried
along by the current. As to the primary cause of the change in
fashion it strikes me that it is one of the visible effects of that
process of change ever going on in the human mind. The fashion of
dress that prevails may not be the true exponent of the internal and
invisible states, because they must necessarily be modified in
various ways by the interests and false tastes of such individuals as
promulgate them. Still, this does not affect the primary cause."
"Granting your position to be true, Mary, which I am not fully
prepared to admit or deny—why should we blindly follow these
"We need not _blindly_. For my part, I am sure that I do not
blindly follow them."
"You do when you adopt a fashion without thinking it becoming."
"That I never do."
"But, surely, you do not pretend to say that all fashions are
"All that prevail to any extent, appear so, during the time of
their prevalence, unless they involve an improper exposure of the
person, or are injurious to health."
"That is singular."
"But is it not true."
"Perhaps it is. But how do you account for it?"
"On the principle that there are both external and internal causes
at work, modifying the mind's perceptions of the appropriate and
"Mostly external, I should think, such as a desire to be in the
"That feeling has its influence no doubt, and operates very
"But is it a right feeling?"
"It is right or wrong, according to the end in view. If fashion be
followed from no higher view than a selfish love of being admired,
then the feeling is wrong."
"Can we follow fashion with any other end?"
"Answer the question yourself. You follow the fashions."
"I think but little about them, Mary."
"And yet you dress very much like people who do."
"That may be so. The reason is, I do not wish to be singular."
"For this reason. A man who affects any singularity of dress or
manners, loses his true influence in society. People begin to think
that there must be within, a mind not truly balanced and therefore do
not suffer his opinions, no matter how sound, to have their true
"A very strong and just argument why we should adopt prevailing
usages and fashions, if not immoral or injurious to health. They are
the badges by which we are known—diplomas which give to our opinions
their legitimate value. I could present this subject in many other
points of view. But it would be of little avail, if you are determined
not to be convinced."
"I am not so determined, Mary. What you have already said, greatly
modifies my view of the subject. I shall, at least, not ridicule your
adherence to fashion, if I do not give much thought to it myself."
"I will present one more view. A right attention to dress looks to
the development of that which is appropriate and beautiful to the
eye. This is a universal benefit. For no one can look upon a truly
beautiful object in nature or art without having his mind
correspondingly elevated and impressed with beautiful images, and
these do not pass away like spectrums, but remain ever after more or
less distinct, bearing with them an elevating influence upon the
whole character. Changes in fashion, so far as they present new and
beautiful forms, new arrangements, and new and appropriate combination
of colors, are the dictates of a true taste, and so far do they tend
to benefit society."
"But fashion is not always so directed by true taste."
"A just remark. And likewise a reason why all who have a right
appreciation of the truly beautiful should give some attention to the
prevailing fashion in dress, and endeavor to correct errors, and
develop the true and the beautiful here as in other branches of art."
A DOLLAR ON THE CONSCIENCE.
"FIFTY-FIVE cents a yard, I believe you said?" The customer was
opening her purse.
Now fifty cents a yard was the price of the goods, and so Mr.
Levering had informed the lady. She misunderstood him, however.
In the community, Mr. Levering had the reputation of being a
conscientious, high-minded man. He knew that he was thus estimated,
and self-complacently appropriated the good opinion as clearly his
It came instantly to the lip of Mr. Levering to say, "Yes,
fifty-five." The love of gain was strong in his mind, and ever ready
to accede to new plans for adding dollar to dollar. But, ere the
words were uttered, a disturbing perception of something wrong
"I wish twenty yards," said the customer taking it for granted that
fifty-five cents was the price of the goods.
Mr. Levering was still silent; though he commenced promptly to
measure off the goods.
"Not dear at that price," remarked the lady.
"I think not," said the storekeeper. "I bought the case of goods
from which this piece was taken very low."
"Twenty yards at fifty-five cents! Just eleven dollars." The
customer opened her purse as she thus spoke, and counted out the sum
in glittering gold dollars. "That is right, I believe," and she
pushed the money towards Mr. Levering, who, with a kind of automatic
movement of his hand, drew forward the coin and swept it into his
"Send the bundle to No. 300 Argyle Street," said the lady, with a
bland smile, as she turned from the counter, and the half-bewildered
"Stay, madam! there is a slight mistake!" The words were in Mr.
Levering's thoughts, and on the point of gaining utterance, but he
had not the courage to speak. He had gained a dollar in the
transaction beyond his due, and already it was lying heavily on his
conscience. Willingly would he have thrown it off; but when about to
do so, the quick suggestion came, that, in acknowledging to the lady
the fact of her having paid five cents a yard too much, he might
falter in his explanation, and thus betray his attempt to do her
wrong. And so he kept silence, and let her depart beyond recall.
Any thing gained at the price of virtuous self-respect is acquired
at too large a cost. A single dollar on the conscience may press so
heavily as to bear down a man's spirits, and rob him of all the
delights of life. It was so in the present case. Vain was it that Mr.
Levering sought self-justification. Argue the matter as he would, he
found it impossible to escape the smarting conviction that he had
unjustly exacted a dollar from one of his customers. Many times
through the day he found himself in a musing, abstracted state, and on
rousing himself therefrom, became conscious, in his external thought,
that it was the dollar by which he was troubled.
"I'm very foolish," said he, mentally, as he walked homeward, after
closing his store for the evening. "Very foolish to worry myself
about a trifle like this. The goods were cheap enough at fifty-five,
and she is quite as well contented with her bargain as if she had
paid only fifty."
But it would not do. The dollar was on his conscience, and he
sought in vain to remove it by efforts of this kind.
Mr. Levering had a wife and three pleasant children. They were the
sunlight of his home. When the business of the day was over, he
usually returned to his own fireside with buoyant feeling. It was not
so on this occasion. There was a pressure on his bosom—a sense of
discomfort—a want of self-satisfaction. The kiss of his wife, and the
clinging arms of his children, as they were twined around his neck,
did not bring the old delight.
"What is the matter with you this evening, dear? Are you not well?"
inquired Mrs. Levering, breaking in upon the thoughtful mood of her
husband, as he sat in unwonted silence.
I'm perfectly well," he replied, rousing himself, and forcing a
"You look sober."
"Do I?" Another forced smile.
"Something troubles you, I'm afraid."
"O no; it's all in your imagination."
"Are you sick, papa?" now asks a bright little fellow, clambering
upon his knee.
"Why no, love, I'm not sick. Why do you think so?"
"Because you don't play horses with me."
"Oh dear! Is that the ground of your suspicion?" replied the
father, laughing. "Come! we'll soon scatter them to the winds."
And Mr. Levering commenced a game of romps with the children. But
he tired long before they grew weary, nor did he, from the beginning,
enter into this sport with his usual zest.
"Does your head ache, pa?" inquired the child who had previously
suggested sickness, as he saw his father leave the floor, and seat
himself, with some gravity of manner, on a chair.
"Not this evening, dear," answered Mr. Levering.
"Why don't you play longer, then?"
"Oh pa!" exclaimed another child, speaking from a sudden thought,
"you don't know what a time we had at school to-day."
"Ah! what was the cause?"
"Oh! you'll hardly believe it. But Eddy Jones stole a dollar from
"Stole a dollar!" ejaculated Mr. Levering. His voice was husky, and
he felt a cold thrill passing along every nerve.
"Yes, pa! he stole a dollar! Oh, wasn't it dreadful?"
"Perhaps he was wrongly accused," suggested Mrs. Levering.
"Emma Wilson saw him do it, and they found the dollar in his
pocket. Oh! he looked so pale, and it made me almost sick to hear him
cry as if his heart would break."
"What did they do with him?" asked Mrs. Levering.
"They sent for his mother, and she took him home. Wasn't it
"It must have been dreadful for his poor mother," Mr. Levering
ventured to remark.
"But more dreadful for him," said Mrs. Levering. "Will he ever
forget his crime and disgrace? Will the pressure of that dollar on
his conscience ever be removed? He may never do so wicked an act
again; but the memory of this wrong deed cannot be wholly effaced
from his mind."
How rebukingly fell all these words on the ears of Mr. Levering.
Ah! what would he not then have given to have the weight of that
dollar removed? Its pressure was so great as almost to suffocate him.
It was all in vain that he tried to be cheerful, or to take an
interest in what was passing immediately around him. The innocent
prattle of his children had lost its wonted charm, and there seemed an
accusing expression in the eye of his wife, as, in the concern his
changed aspect had occasioned, she looked soberly upon him. Unable to
bear all this, Mr. Levering went out, something unusual for him, and
walked the streets for an hour. On his return, the children were in
bed, and he had regained sufficient self-control to meet his wife
with a less disturbed appearance.
On the next morning, Mr. Levering felt something better. Sleep had
left his mind more tranquil. Still there was a pressure on his
feelings, which thought could trace to that unlucky dollar. About an
hour after going to his store, Mr. Levering saw his customer of the
day previous enter, and move along towards the place where he stood
behind his counter. His heart gave a sudden bound, and the color rose
to his face. An accusing conscience was quick to conclude as to the
object of her visit. But he soon saw that no suspicion of wrong
dealing was in the lady's mind. With a pleasant half recognition, she
asked to look at certain articles, from which she made purchases, and
in paying for them, placed a ten dollar bill in the hand of the
"That weight shall be off my conscience," said Mr. Levering to
himself, as he began counting out the change due his customer; and,
purposely, he gave her one dollar more than was justly hers in that
transaction. The lady glanced her eyes over the money, and seemed
slightly bewildered. Then, much to the storekeeper's relief, opened
her purse and dropped it therein.
"All right again!" was the mental ejaculation of Mr. Levering, as
he saw the purse disappear in the lady's pocket, while his breast
expanded with a sense of relief.
The customer turned from the counter, and had nearly gained the
door, when she paused, drew out her purse, and emptying the contents
of one end into her hand, carefully noted the amount. Then walking
back, she said, with a thoughtful air—
"I think you 've made a mistake in the change, Mr. Levering."
"I presume not, ma'am. I gave you four and thirty-five," was the
"Four, thirty-five," said the lady, musingly.
"Yes, here is just four, thirty-five."
"That's right; yes, that's right," Mr. Levering spoke, somewhat
"The article came to six dollars and sixty-five cents, I believe?"
"Yes, yes; that was it!"
"Then three dollars and thirty-five cents will be my right change,"
said the lady, placing a small gold coin on the counter. "You gave me
The customer turned away and retired from the store, leaving that
dollar still on the conscience of Mr. Levering.
"I'll throw it into the street," said he to himself, impatiently.
"Or give it to the first beggar that comes along."
But conscience whispered that the dollar wasn't his, either to give
away or to throw away. Such prodigality, or impulsive benevolence,
would be at the expense of another, and this could not mend the
"This is all squeamishness," said Mr. Levering trying to argue
against his convictions. But it was of no avail. His convictions
remained as clear and rebuking as ever.
The next day was the Sabbath, and Mr. Levering went to church, as
usual, with his family. Scarcely had he taken a seat in his pew,
when, on raising his eyes, they rested on the countenance of the lady
from whom he had abstracted the dollar. How quickly his cheek flushed!
How troubled became, instantly, the beatings of his heart! Unhappy Mr.
Levering! He could not make the usual responses that day, in the
services; and when the congregation joined in the swelling hymn of
praise, his voice was heard not in the general thanksgiving. Scarcely
a word of the eloquent sermon reached his ears, except something about
"dishonest dealing;" he was too deeply engaged in discussing the
question, whether or no he should get rid of the troublesome dollar by
dropping it into the contribution box, at the close of the morning
service, to listen to the words of the preacher. This question was not
settled when the box came round, but, as a kind of desperate
alternative, he cast the money into the treasury.
For a short time, Mr. Levering felt considerable relief of mind.
But this disposition of the money proved only a temporary palliative.
There was a pressure on his feelings; still a weight on his
conscience that gradually became heavier. Poor man! What was he to
do? How was he to get this dollar removed from his conscience? He
could not send it back to the lady and tell her the whole truth. Such
an exposure of himself would not only be humiliating, but hurtful to
his character. It would be seeking to do right, in the infliction of a
wrong to himself.
At last, Mr. Levering, who had ascertained the lady's name and
residence, inclosed her a dollar, anonymously, stating that it was
her due; that the writer had obtained it from her, unjustly, in a
transaction which he did not care to name, and could not rest until
he had made restitution.
Ah! the humiliation of spirit suffered by Mr. Levering in thus
seeking to get ease for his conscience! It was one of his bitterest
life experiences. The longer the dollar remained in his possession,
the heavier became its pressure, until he could endure it no longer.
He felt not only disgraced in his own eyes, but humbled in the
presence of his wife and children. Not for worlds would he have
suffered them to look into his heart.
If a simple act of restitution could have covered all the past,
happy would it have been for Mr. Levering. But this was not possible.
The deed was entered in the book of his life, and nothing could efface
the record. Though obscured by the accumulating dust of time, now and
then a hand sweeps unexpectedly over the page, and the writing is
revealed. Though that dollar has been removed from his conscience, and
he is now guiltless of wrong, yet there are times when the old
pressure is felt with painful distinctness.
Earnest seeker after this world's goods, take warning by Mr.
Levering, and beware how, in a moment of weak yielding, you get a
dollar on your conscience. One of two evils must follow. It will give
you pain and trouble, or make callous the spot where it rests. And the
latter of these evils is that which is most to be deplored.
AUNT MARY'S SUGGESTION.
"JOHN THOMAS!" Mr. Belknap spoke in a firm, rather authoritative
voice. It was evident that he anticipated some reluctance on the
boy's part, and therefore, assumed, in the outset, a very decided
John Thomas, a lad between twelve and thirteen years of age, was
seated on the doorstep, reading. A slight movement of the body
indicated that he heard; but he did not lift his eyes from the book,
nor make any verbal response.
"John Thomas!" This time the voice of Mr. Belknap was loud, sharp,
"Sir," responded the boy, dropping the volume in his lap, and
looking up with a slightly flushed, but sullen face.
"Did n't you hear me when I first spoke?" said Mr. Belknap,
"Then, why did n't you answer me? Always respond when you are
spoken to. I'm tired of this ill-mannerd, disrespectful way of yours."
The boy stood up, looking, now, dogged, as well as sullen.
"Go get your hat and jacket." This was said in a tone of command,
accompanied by a side toss of the head, by the way of enforcing the
"What for?" asked John Thomas, not moving a pace from where he
"Go and do what I tell you. Get your hat and jacket."
The boy moved slowly and with a very reluctant air from the room.
"Now, don't be all day," Mr. Belknap called after him, "I'm in a
hurry. Move briskly."
How powerless the father's words died upon the air. The motions of
John Thomas were not quickened in the slightest degree. Like a
soulless automaton passed he out into the passage and up the stairs;
while the impatient Mr. Belknap could with difficulty restrain an
impulse to follow after, and hasten the sulky boy's movements with
blows. He controlled himself, however, and resumed the perusal of his
newspaper. Five, ten minutes passed, and John Thomas had not yet
appeared to do the errand upon which his father designed to send him.
Suddenly Mr. Belknap dropped his paper, and going hastily to the
bottom of the stairs, called out:
"You John! John Thomas!"
"Sir!" came a provokingly indifferent voice from one of the
"Did n't I tell you to hurry—say?"
"I can't find my jacket."
"You don't want to find it. Where did you lay it when you took it
off last night?"
"I don't know. I forget."
"If you're not down here, with your jacket on, in one minute, I'll
warm your shoulders well for you."
Mr. Belknap was quite in earnest in this threat, a fact plainly
enough apparent to John Thomas in the tone of his father's voice. Not
just wishing to have matters proceed to this extremity, the boy opened
a closet, and, singularly enough, there hung his jacket in full view.
At the expiration of the minute, he was standing before his disturbed
father, with his jacket on, and buttoned up to the chin.
"Where's your hat?" now asked Mr. Belknap.
"I don't know, sir."
"Well, find it, then."
"I've looked everywhere."
"Look again. There! What is that on the hat rack, just under my
The boy answered not, but walked moodily to the rack, and took his
"Ready at last. I declare I'm out of all patience with your slow
movements and sulky manner. What do you stand there for, knitting
your brows and pouting your lips? Straighten out your face, sir! I
won't have a boy of mine put on such a countenance."
The lad, thus angrily and insultingly rated, made a feeble effort
to throw a few rays of sunshine into his face. But, the effort died
fruitless. All was too dark, sullen, and rebellious within his bosom.
"See here." Mr. Belknap still spoke in that peculiar tone of
command which always stifles self-respect in the one to whom it is
"Do you go down to Leslie's and tell him to send me a good claw
hammer and three pounds of eightpenny nails. And go quickly."
The boy turned off without a word of reply, and was slowly moving
away, when his father said, sharply:
"Look here, sir!"
John Thomas paused and looked back.
"Did you hear me?"
"What did I tell you to do?"
"Go get a claw hammer and three pounds of eightpenny nails."
"Very well. Why did n't you indicate, in some way, that you heard
me? Have n't I already this morning read you a lecture about this
very thing? Now, go quickly. I'm in a hurry."
For all this impatience and authority on the part of Mr. Belknap,
John Thomas moved away at a snail's pace; and as the former in a
state of considerable irritability, gazed after the boy, he felt
strongly tempted to call him back, and give him a good flogging in
order that he might clearly comprehend the fact of his being in
earnest. But as this flogging was an unpleasant kind of business, and
had, on all previous occasions, been succeeded by a repentant and
self-accusing state, Mr. Belknap restrained his indignant impulses.
"If that stubborn, incorrigible boy returns in half an hour, it
will be a wonder," muttered Mr. Belknap, as he came back into the
sitting-room. "I wish I knew what to do with him. There is no respect
or obedience in him. I never saw such a boy. He knows that I'm in a
hurry; and yet he goes creeping along like a tortoise, and ten chances
to one, if he does n't forget his errand altogether before he is
halfway to Leslie's. What is to be done with him, Aunt Mary?"
Mr. Belknap turned, as he spoke to an elderly lady, with a mild,
open face, and clear blue eyes, from which goodness looked forth as
an angel. She was a valued relative, who was paying him a brief
Aunt Mary let her knitting rest in her lap, and turned her mild,
thoughtful eyes upon the speaker.
"What is to be done with that boy, Aunt Mary?" Mr. Belknap repeated
his words. "I've tried everything with him; but he remains
"Have you tried—"
Aunt Mary paused, and seemed half in doubt whether it were best to
give utterance to what was in her mind.
"Tried what?" asked Mr. Belknap.
"May I speak plainly?" said Aunt Mary.
"To me? Why yes! The plainer the better."
"Have you tried a kind, affectionate, unimpassioned manner with the
boy? Since I have been here, I notice that you speak to him in a
cold, indifferent, or authoritative tone. Under such treatment, some
natures, that soften quickly in the sunshine of affection, grow hard
The blood mounted to the cheeks and brow of Mr. Belknap.
"Forgive me, if I have spoken too plainly," said Aunt Mary.
Mr. Belknap did not make any response for some time, but sat, with
his eyes upon the floor, in hurried self-examination.
"No, Aunt Mary, not too plainly," said he, as he looked at her with
a sobered face. "I needed that suggestion, and thank you for having
"Mrs. Howitt has a line which beautifully expresses what I mean,"
said Aunt Mary, in her gentle, earnest way. "It is
'For love hath readier will than fear.'
Ah, if we could all comprehend the wonderful power of love! It is
the fire that melts; while fear only smites, the strokes hardening,
or breaking its unsightly fragments. John Thomas has many good
qualities, that ought to be made as active as possible. These, like
goodly flowers growing in a carefully tilled garden, will absorb the
latent vitality in his mind, and thus leave nothing from which
inherent evil tendencies can draw nutrition."
Aunt Mary said no more, and Mr. Belknap's thoughts were soon too
busy with a new train of ideas, to leave him in any mood for
Time moved steadily on. Nearly half an hour had elapsed, in which
period John Thomas might have gone twice to Leslie's store, and
returned; yet he was still absent. Mr. Belknap was particularly in
want of the hammer and nails, and the delay chafed him very
considerably; the more particularly, as it evidenced the indifference
of his son in respect to his wishes and commands. Sometimes he would
yield to a momentary blinding flush of anger, and resolve to punish
the boy severely the moment he could get his hands on him. But quickly
would come in Aunt Mary's suggestion, and he would again resolve to
try the power of kind words. He was also a good deal strengthened in
his purposes, by the fact that Aunt Mary's eyes would be upon him at
the return of John Thomas. After her suggestion, and his
acknowledgment of its value, it would hardly do for him to let passion
so rule him as to act in open violation of what was right. To wrong
his son by unwise treatment, when he professed to desire only his
The fact is, Mr. Belknap had already made the discovery, that if he
would govern his boy, he must first govern himself. This was not an
easy task. Yet he felt that it must be done.
"There comes that boy now," said he, as he glanced forth, and saw
John Thomas coming homeward at a very deliberate pace. There was more
of impatience in his tone of voice than he wished to betray to Aunt
Mary, who let her beautiful, angel-like eyes rest for a moment or two,
penetratingly, upon him. The balancing power of that look was needed;
and it performed its work.
Soon after, the loitering boy came in. He had a package of nails in
his hand, which he reached, half indifferently, to his father.
"The hammer!" John started with a half frightened air.
"Indeed, father, I forgot all about it!" said he, looking up with a
flushed countenance, in which genuine regret was plainly visible.
"I'm sorry," said Mr. Belknap, in a disappointed, but not angry or
rebuking voice. "I've been waiting a long time for you to come back,
and now I must go to the store without nailing up that trellice for
your mother's honeysuckle and wisteria, as I promised."
The boy looked at his father a moment or two with an air of
bewilderment and surprise; then he said, earnestly:
"Just wait a little longer. I'll run down to the store and get it
for you in a minute. I'm very sorry that I forgot it."
"Run along, then," said Mr. Belknap, kindly.
How fleetly the lad bounded away! His father gazed after him with
an emotion of surprise, not unmixed with pleasure.
"Yes—yes," he murmured, half aloud, "Mrs. Howitt never uttered a
wiser saying. 'For love hath readier will than fear.'"
Quicker than even Aunt Mary, whose faith in kind words was very
strong, had expected, John came in with the hammer, a bright glow on
his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes that strongly contrasted with
the utter want of interest displayed in his manner a little while
"Thank you, my son," said Mr. Belknap, as he took the hammer; "I
could not have asked a prompter service."
He spoke very kindly, and in a voice of approval. "And now, John,"
he added, with the manner of one who requests, rather than commands,
"if you will go over to Frank Wilson's, and tell him to come over and
work for two or three days in our garden, you will oblige me very
much. I was going to call there as I went to the store this morning;
but it is too late now."
"O, I'll go, father—I'll go," replied the boy, quickly and
cheerfully. "I'll run right over at once."
"Do, if you please," said Mr. Belknap, now speaking from an impulse
of real kindness, for a thorough change had come over his feelings. A
grateful look was cast, by John Thomas, into his father's face, and
then he was off to do his errand. Mr. Belknap saw, and understood the
meaning of that look.
"Yes—yes—yes,—" thus he talked with himself as he took his way
to the store,—"Aunt Mary and Mrs. Howitt are right. Love hath a
readier will. I ought to have learned this lesson earlier. Ah! how
much that is deformed in this self-willed boy, might now be growing
HELPING THE POOR.
"I'M on a begging expedition," said Mr. Jonas, as he came bustling
into the counting-room of a fellow merchant named Prescott. "And, as
you are a benevolent man, I hope to get at least five dollars here in
aid of a family in extremely indigent circumstances. My wife heard of
them yesterday; and the little that was learned, has strongly excited
our sympathies. So I am out on a mission for supplies. I want to raise
enough to buy them a ton of coal, a barrel of flour, a bag of
potatoes, and a small lot of groceries."
"Do you know anything of the family for which you propose this
charity?" inquired Mr. Prescott, with a slight coldness of manner.
"I only know that they are in want and that it is the first duty of
humanity to relieve them," said Mr. Jonas, quite warmly.
"I will not question your inference," said Mr. Prescott. "To
relieve the wants of our suffering fellow creatures is an
unquestionable duty. But there is another important consideration
connected with poverty and its demands upon us."
"What is that pray?" inquired Mr. Jonas, who felt considerably
fretted by so unexpected a damper to his benevolent enthusiasm.
"How it shall be done," answered Mr. Prescott, calmly.
"If a man is hungry, give him bread; if he is naked, clothe him,"
said Mr. Jonas. "There is no room for doubt or question here. This
family I learn, are suffering for all the necessaries of life, and I
can clearly see the duty to supply their wants."
"Of how many does the family consist?" asked Mr. Prescott.
"There is a man and his wife and three or four children."
"Is the man sober and industrious?"
"I don't know anything about him. I've had no time to make
inquiries. I only know that hunger and cold are in his dwelling, or,
at least were in his dwelling yesterday."
"Then you have already furnished relief?"
"Temporary relief. I shouldn't have slept last night, after what I
heard, without just sending them a bushel of coal, and a basket of
"For which I honor your kindness of heart, Mr. Jonas. So far you
acted right. But, I am by no means so well assured of the wisdom and
humanity of your present action in the case. The true way to help the
poor, is to put it into their power to help themselves. The mere
bestowal of alms is, in most cases an injury; either encouraging
idleness and vice, or weakening self-respect and virtuous
self-dependence. There is innate strength in every one; let us seek
to develop this strength in the prostrate, rather than hold them up
by a temporary application of our own powers, to fall again,
inevitably, when the sustaining hand is removed. This, depend upon
it, is not true benevolence. Every one has ability to serve the
common good, and society renders back sustenance for bodily life as
the reward of this service."
"But, suppose a man cannot get work," said Mr. Jonas. "How is he to
serve society, for the sake of a reward?"
"True charity will provide employment for him rather than bestow
"But, if there is no employment to be had Mr. Prescott?"
"You make a very extreme case. For all who are willing to work, in
this country, there is employment."
"I'm by no means ready to admit this assertion."
"Well, we'll not deal in general propositions; because anything can
be assumed or denied. Let us come direct to the case in point, and
thus determine our duty towards the family whose needs we are
considering. Which will be best for them? To help them in the way you
propose, or to encourage them to help themselves?"
"All I know about them at present," replied Mr. Jonas, who was
beginning to feel considerably worried, "is, that they are suffering
for the common necessaries of life. It is all very well to tell a man
to help himself, but, if his arm be paralyzed, or he have no key to
open the provision shop, he will soon starve under that system of
benevolence. Feed and clothe a man first, and then set him to work to
help himself. He will have life in his heart and strength in his
"This sounds all very fair, Mr. Jonas; and yet, there is not so
much true charity involved there as appears on the surface. It will
avail little, however, for us to debate the matter now. Your time and
mine are both of too much value during business hours for useless
discussion. I cannot give, understandingly, in the present case, and
so must disappoint your expectations in this quarter."
"Good morning, then," said Mr. Jonas, bowing rather coldly.
"Good morning," pleasantly responded Mr. Prescott, as his visitor
turned and left his store.
"All a mean excuse for not giving," said Mr. Jonas, to himself, as
he walked rather hurriedly away. "I don't believe much in the
benevolence of your men who are so particular about the whys and
wherefores—so afraid to give a dollar to a poor, starving fellow
creature, lest the act encourage vice or idleness."
The next person upon whom Mr. Jonas called, happened to be very
much of Mr. Prescott's way of thinking; and the next chanced to know
something about the family for whom he was soliciting aid. "A lazy,
vagabond set!" exclaimed the individual, when Mr. Jonas mentioned his
errand, "who would rather want than work. They may starve before I
give them a shilling."
"Is this true?" asked Mr. Jonas, in surprise.
"Certainly it is. I've had their case stated before. In fact, I
went through the sleet and rain one bitter cold night to take them
provisions, so strongly had my sympathies in regard to them been
excited. Let them go to work."
"But can the man get work?" inquired Mr. Jonas.
"Other poor men, who have families dependent on them, can get work.
Where there's a will there's a way. Downright laziness is the disease
in this case, and the best cure for which is a little wholesome
starvation. So, take my advice, and leave this excellent remedy to
work out a cure."
Mr. Jonas went back to his store in rather a vexed state of mind.
All his fine feelings of benevolence were stifled. He was angry with
the indigent family, and angry with himself for being "the fool to
meddle with any business but his own."
"Catch me on such an errand again," said he, indignantly. "I'll
never seek to do a good turn again as long as I live."
Just as he was saying this, his neighbor Prescott came into his
"Where does the poor family live, of whom you were speaking to me?"
"O, don't ask me about them!" exclaimed Mr. Jonas. "I've just found
them out. They're a lazy, vagabond set."
"You are certain of that?"
"Morally certain. Mr. Caddy says he knows them like a book, and
they'd rather want than work. With him, I think a little wholesome
starvation will do them good."
Notwithstanding this rather discouraging testimony, Mr. Prescott
made a memorandum of the street and number of the house in which the
family lived, remarking as he did so:
"I have just heard where the services of an able-bodied man are
wanted. Perhaps Gardiner, as you call him, may be glad to obtain the
"He won't work; that's the character I have received of him,"
replied Mr. Jonas, whose mind was very much roused against the man.
The pendulum of his impulses had swung, from a light touch, to the
"A dollar earned, is worth two received in charity," said Mr.
Prescott; "because the dollar earned corresponds to service rendered,
and the man feels that it is his own—that he has an undoubted right
to its possession. It elevates his moral character, inspires
self-respect, and prompts to new efforts. Mere alms-giving is
demoralizing for the opposite reason. It blunts the moral feelings,
lowers the self-respect, and fosters inactivity and idleness, opening
the way for vice to come in and sweep away all the foundations of
integrity. Now, true charity to the poor is for us to help them to
help themselves. Since you left me a short time ago, I have been
thinking, rather hastily, over the matter; and the fact of hearing
about the place for an able-bodied man, as I just mentioned, has led
me to call around and suggest your making interest therefor in behalf
of Gardiner. Helping him in this way will be true benevolence."
"It's no use," replied Mr. Jonas, in a positive tone of voice.
"He's an idle good-for-nothing fellow, and I'll have nothing to do
Mr. Prescott urged the matter no farther, for he saw that to do so
would be useless. On his way home, on leaving his store, he called to
see Gardiner. He found, in two small, meagerly furnished rooms, a man,
his wife, and three children. Everything about them indicated extreme
poverty; and, worse than this, lack of cleanliness and industry. The
woman and children had a look of health, but the man was evidently the
subject of some wasting disease. His form was light, his face thin and
rather pale, and his languid eyes deeply sunken. He was very far from
being the able-bodied man Mr. Prescott had expected to find. As the
latter stepped into the miserable room where they were gathered, the
light of expectation, mingled with the shadows of mute suffering, came
into their countenances. Mr. Prescott was a close observer, and saw,
at a glance, the assumed sympathy-exciting face of the mendicant in
"You look rather poor here," said he, as he took a chair, which the
woman dusted with her dirty apron before handing it to him.
"Indeed, sir, and we are miserably off," replied the woman, in a
half whining tone. "John, there, hasn't done a stroke of work now for
three months; and—"
"Why not!" interrupted Mr. Prescott.
"My health is very poor," said the man. "I suffer much from pain in
my side and back, and am so weak most of the time, that I can hardly
"That is bad, certainly," replied Mr. Prescott, "very bad." And as
he spoke, he turned his eyes to the woman's face, and then scanned
the children very closely.
"Is that boy of yours doing anything?" he inquired.
"No, sir," replied the mother. "He's too young to be of any
"He's thirteen, if my eyes do not deceive me."
"Just a little over thirteen."
"Does he go to school?"
"No sir. He has no clothes fit to be seen in at school."
"Bad—bad," said Mr. Prescott, "very bad. The boy might be earning
two dollars a week; instead of which he is growing up in idleness,
which surely leads to vice."
Gardiner looked slightly confused at this remark, and his wife,
evidently, did not feel very comfortable under the steady, observant
eyes that were on her.
"You seem to be in good health," said Mr. Prescott, looking at the
"Yes sir, thank God! And if it wasn't for that, I don't know what
we should all have done. Everything has fallen upon me since John,
there, has been ailing."
Mr. Prescott glanced around the room, and then remarked, a little
"I don't see that you make the best use of your health and
The woman understood him, for the color came instantly to her face.
"There is no excuse for dirt and disorder," said the visitor, more
seriously. "I once called to see a poor widow, in such a state of low
health that she had to lie in bed nearly half of every day. She had
two small children, and supported herself and them by fine embroidery,
at which she worked nearly all the time. I never saw a neater room in
my life than hers, and her children, though in very plain and patched
clothing, were perfectly clean. How different is all here; and yet,
when I entered, you all sat idly amid this disorder, and—shall I
The woman, on whose face the color had deepened while Mr. Prescott
spoke, now rose up quickly, and commenced bustling about the room,
which, in a few moments, looked far less in disorder. That she felt
his rebuke, the visiter regarded as a good sign.
"Now," said he, as the woman resumed her seat, "let me give you the
best maxim for the poor in the English language; one that, if lived
by, will soon extinguish poverty, or make it a very light
thing,—'God helps those who help themselves.' To be very plain with
you, it is clear to my eyes, that you do not try to help yourselves;
such being the case, you need not expect gratuitous help from God.
Last evening you received some coal and a basket of provisions from a
kind-hearted man, who promised more efficient aid to-day. You have not
yet heard from him, and what is more, will not hear from him. Some
one, to whom he applied for a contribution happened to know more about
you than he did, and broadly pronounced you a set of idle vagabonds.
Just think of bearing such a character! He dropped the matter at once,
and you will get nothing from him. I am one of those upon whom he
called. Now, if you are all disposed to help yourselves, I will try to
stand your friend. If not, I shall have nothing to do with you. I
speak plainly; it is better; there will be less danger of
apprehension. That oldest boy of yours must go to work and earn
something. And your daughter can work about the house for you very
well, while you go out to wash, or scrub, and thus earn a dollar or
two, or three, every week. There will be no danger of starvation on
this income, and you will then eat your bread in independence. Mr.
Gardiner can help some, I do not in the least doubt."
And Mr. Prescott looked inquiringly at the man.
"If I was only able-bodied," said Gardiner, in a half reluctant
tone and manner.
"But you are not. Still, there are many things you may do. If by a
little exertion you can earn the small sum of two or three dollars a
week, it will be far better—even for your health—than idleness. Two
dollars earned every week by your wife, two by your boy, and three by
yourself, would make seven dollars a week; and if I am not very much
mistaken, you don't see half that sum in a week now."
"Indeed, sir, and you speak the truth there," said the woman.
"Very well. It's plain, then, that work is better than idleness."
"But we can't get work." The woman fell back upon this strong
"Don't believe a word of it. I can tell you how to earn half a
dollar a day for the next four or five days at least. So there's a
beginning for you. Put yourself in the way of useful employment, and
you will have no difficulty beyond."
"What kind of work, sir?" inquired the woman.
"We are about moving into a new house, and my wife commences the
work of having it cleaned to-morrow morning. She wants another
assistant. Will you come?"
The woman asked the number of his residence, and promised to accept
the offer of work.
"Very well. So far so good," said Mr. Prescott, cheerfully, as he
arose. "You shall be paid at the close of each day's work; and that
will give you the pleasure of eating your own bread—a real pleasure,
you may depend upon it; for a loaf of bread earned is sweeter than the
richest food bestowed by charity, and far better for the health."
"But about the boy, sir?" said Gardiner, whose mind was becoming
active with more independent thoughts.
"All in good time," said Mr. Prescott smiling. "Rome was not built
in a day, you know. First let us secure a beginning. If your wife
goes to-morrow, I shall think her in earnest; as willing to help
herself, and, therefore, worthy to be helped. All the rest will come
in due order. But you may rest assured, that, if she does not come to
work, it is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned. So good
evening to you."
Bright and early came Mrs. Gardiner on the next morning, far tidier
in appearance than when Mr. Prescott saw her before. She was a stout,
strong woman, and knew how to scrub and clean paint as well as the
best. When fairly in the spirit of work, she worked on with a sense of
pleasure. Mrs. Prescott was well satisfied with her performance, and
paid her the half dollar earned when her day's toil was done. On the
next day, and the next, she came, doing her work and receiving her
On the evening of the third day, Mr. Prescott thought it time to
call upon the Gardiners.
"Well this is encouraging!" said he, with an expression of real
pleasure, as he gazed around the room, which scarcely seemed like the
one he had visited before. All was clean, and everything in order;
and, what was better still, the persons of all, though poorly clad,
were clean and tidy. Mrs. Gardiner sat by the table mending a garment;
her daughter was putting away the supper dishes; while the man sat
teaching a lesson in spelling to their youngest child.
The glow of satisfaction that pervaded the bosom of each member of
the family, as Mr. Prescott uttered these approving words, was a new
and higher pleasure than had for a long time been experienced, and
caused the flame of self-respect and self-dependence, rekindled once
more, to rise upwards in a steady flame.
"I like to see this," continued Mr. Prescott. "It does me good. You
have fairly entered the right road. Walk on steadily, courageously,
unweariedly. There is worldly comfort and happiness for you at the
end. I think I have found a very good place for your son, where he
will receive a dollar and a half a week to begin with. In a few
months, if all things suit, he will get two dollars. The work is
easy, and the opportunities for improvement good. I think there is a
chance for you, also, Mr. Gardiner. I have something in my mind that
will just meet your case. Light work, and not over five or six hours
application each day—the wages four dollars a week to begin with,
and a prospect of soon having them raised to six or seven dollars.
What do you think of that?"
"Sir!" exclaimed the poor man, in whom personal pride and a native
love of independence were again awakening, "if you can do this for
me, you will be indeed a benefactor."
"It shall be done," said Mr. Prescott, positively. "Did I not say
to you, that God helps those who help themselves? It is even thus. No
one, in our happy country who is willing to work, need be in want;
and money earned by honest industry buys the sweetest bread."
It required a little watching, and urging, and admonition, on the
part of Mr. and Mrs. Prescott, to keep the Gardiners moving on
steadily, in the right way. Old habits and inclinations had gained
too much power easily to be broken; and but for this watchfulness on
their part, idleness and want would again have entered the poor man's
The reader will hardly feel surprise, when told, that in three or
four years from the time Mr. Prescott so wisely met the case of the
indigent Gardiners, they were living in a snug little house of their
own, nearly paid for out of the united industry of the family, every
one of which was now well clad, cheerful, and in active employment.
As for Mr. Gardiner, his health has improved, instead of being
injured by light employment. Cheerful, self-approving thoughts, and
useful labor, have temporarily renovated a fast sinking constitution.
Mr. Prescott's way of helping the poor is the right way. They must
be taught to help themselves. Mere alms-giving is but a temporary
aid, and takes away, instead of giving, that basis of
self-dependence, on which all should rest. Help a man up, and teach
him to use his feet, so that he can walk alone. This is true
"ARE you going to call upon Mrs. Clayton and her daughters, Mrs.
Marygold?" asked a neighbor, alluding to a family that had just moved
into Sycamore Row.
"No, indeed, Mrs. Lemmington, that I am not. I don't visit
"I thought the Claytons were a very respectable family," remarked
"Respectable! Everybody is getting respectable now-a-days. If they
are respectable, it is very lately that they have become so. What is
Mr. Clayton, I wonder, but a school-master! It's too bad that such
people will come crowding themselves into genteel neighborhoods. The
time was when to live in Sycamore Row was guarantee enough for any
one—but, now, all kinds of people have come into it."
"I have never met Mrs. Clayton," remarked Mrs. Lemmington, "but I
have been told that she is a most estimable woman, and that her
daughters have been educated with great care. Indeed, they are
represented as being highly accomplished girls."
"Well, I don't care what they are represented to be. I'm not going
to keep company with a schoolmaster's wife and daughters, that's
"Is there anything disgraceful in keeping a school?"
"No, nor in making shoes, either. But, then, that's no reason why I
should keep company with my shoemaker's wife, is it? Let common
people associate together—that's my doctrine."
"But what do you mean by common people, Mrs. Marygold?"
"Why, I mean common people. Poor people. People who have not come
of a respectable family. That's what I mean."
"I am not sure that I comprehend your explanation much better than
I do your classification. If you mean, as you say, poor people, your
objection will not apply with full force to the Claytons, for they
are now in tolerably easy circumstances. As to the family of Mr.
Clayton, I believe his father was a man of integrity, though not
rich. And Mrs. Clayton's family I know to be without reproach of any
"And yet they are common people for all that," persevered Mrs.
Marygold. "Wasn't old Clayton a mere petty dealer in small wares. And
wasn't Mrs. Clayton's father a mechanic?"
"Perhaps, if some of us were to go back for a generation or two, we
might trace out an ancestor who held no higher place in society,"
Mrs. Lemmington remarked, quietly. "I have no doubt but that I
"I have no fears of that kind," replied Mrs. Marygold, in an
exulting tone. "I shall never blush when my pedigree is traced."
"Nor I neither, I hope. Still, I should not wonder if some one of
my ancestors had disgraced himself, for there are but few families
that are not cursed with a spotted sheep. But I have nothing to do
with that, and ask only to be judged by what I am—not by what my
progenitors have been."
"A standard that few will respect, let me tell you."
"A standard that far the largest portion of society will regard as
the true one, I hope," replied Mrs. Lemmington. "But, surely, you do
not intend refusing to call upon the Claytons for the reason you have
assigned, Mrs. Marygold."
"Certainly I do. They are nothing but common people, and therefore
beneath me. I shall not stoop to associate with them."
"I think that I will call upon them. In fact, my object in dropping
in this morning was to see if you would not accompany me," said Mrs.
"Indeed, I will not, and for the reasons I have given. They are
only common people. You will be stooping."
"No one stoops in doing a kind act. Mrs. Clayton is a stranger in
the neighborhood, and is entitled to the courtesy of a call, if no
more; and that I shall extend to her. If I find her to be uncongenial
in her tastes, no intimate acquaintanceship need be formed. If she is
congenial, I will add another to my list of valued friends. You and I,
I find, estimate differently. I judge every individual by merit, you
by family, or descent."
"You can do as you please," rejoined Mrs. Marygold, somewhat
coldly. "For my part, I am particular about my associates. I will
visit Mrs. Florence, and Mrs. Harwood, and such an move in good
society, but as to your schoolteachers' wives and daughters, I must
beg to be excused."
"Every one to her taste," rejoined Mrs. Lemmington, with a smile,
as she moved towards the door, where she stood for a few moments to
utter some parting compliments, and then withdrew.
Five minutes afterwards she was shown into Mrs. Clayton's parlors,
where, in a moment or two, she was met by the lady upon whom she had
called, and received with an air of easy gracefulness, that at once
charmed her. A brief conversation convinced her that Mrs. Clayton
was, in intelligence and moral worth, as far above Mrs. Marygold, as
that personage imagined herself to be above her. Her daughters, who
came in while she sat conversing with their mother, showed themselves
to possess all those graces of mind and manner that win upon our
admiration so irresistably. An hour passed quickly and pleasantly, and
then Mrs. Lemmington withdrew.
The difference between Mrs. Lemmington and Mrs. Marygold was simply
this. The former had been familiar with what is called the best
society from her earliest recollection, and being therefore,
constantly in association with those looked upon as the upper class,
knew nothing of the upstart self-estimation which is felt by certain
weak ignorant persons, who by some accidental circumstance are
elevated far above the condition into which they moved originally.
She could estimate true worth in humble garb as well as in velvet and
rich satins. She was one of those individuals who never pass an old
and worthy domestic in the street without recognition, or stopping to
make some kind inquiry—one who never forgot a familiar face, or
neglected to pass a kind word to even the humblest who possessed the
merit of good principles. As to Mrs. Marygold, notwithstanding her
boast in regard to pedigree, there were not a few who could remember
when her grandfather carried a pedlar's pack on his back—and an
honest and worthy pedlar he was, saving his pence until they became
pounds, and then relinquishing his peregrinating propensities, for the
quieter life of a small shop-keeper. His son, the father of Mrs.
Marygold, while a boy had a pretty familiar acquaintance with low
life. But, as soon as his father gained the means to do so, he was put
to school and furnished with a good education. Long before he was of
age, the old man had become a pretty large shipper; and when his son
arrived at mature years, he took him into business as a partner. In
marrying, Mrs. Marygold's father chose a young lady whose father, like
his own, had grown rich by individual exertions. This young lady had
not a few false notions in regard to the true genteel, and these fell
legitimately to the share of her eldest daughter, who, when she in
turn came upon the stage of action, married into an old and what was
called a highly respectable family, a circumstance that puffed her up
to the full extent of her capacity to bear inflation. There were few
in the circle of her acquaintances who did not fully appreciate her,
and smile at her weakness and false pride. Mrs. Florence, to whom she
had alluded in her conversation with Mrs. Lemmington, and who lived in
Sycamore Row, was not only faultless in regard to family connections,
but was esteemed in the most intelligent circles for her rich mental
endowments and high moral principles. Mrs. Harwood, also alluded to,
was the daughter of an English barrister and wife of a highly
distinguished professional man, and was besides richly endowed
herself, morally and intellectually. Although Mrs. Marygold was very
fond of visiting them for the mere _eclat_ of the thing, yet their
company was scarcely more agreeable to her, than hers was to them, for
there was little in common between them. Still, they had to tolerate
her, and did so with a good grace.
It was, perhaps, three months after Mrs. Clayton moved into the
neighborhood, that cards of invitation were sent to Mr. and Mrs.
Marygold and daughter to pass a social evening at Mrs. Harwood's.
Mrs. M. was of course delighted and felt doubly proud of her own
importance. Her daughter Melinda, of whom she was excessively vain,
was an indolent, uninteresting girl, too dull to imbibe even a small
portion of her mother's self-estimation. In company, she attracted
but little attention, except what her father's money and standing in
society claimed for her.
On the evening appointed, the Marygolds repaired to the elegant
residence of Mrs. Harwood and were ushered into a large and brilliant
company, more than half of whom were strangers even to them. Mrs.
Lemmington was there, and Mrs. Florence, and many others with whom
Mrs. Marygold was on terms of intimacy, besides several "distinguished
strangers." Among those with whom Mrs. Marygold was unacquainted, were
two young ladies who seemed to attract general attention. They were
not showy, chattering girls, such as in all companies attract a swarm
of shallow-minded youug fellows about them. On the contrary, there was
something retiring, almost shrinking in their manner, that shunned
rather than courted observation. And yet, no one, who, attracted by
their sweet, modest faces, found himself by their side that did not
feel inclined to linger there.
"Who are those girls, Mrs. Lemmington?" asked Mrs. Marygold,
meeting the lady she addressed in crossing the room.
"The two girls in the corner who are attracting so much attention?"
"Don't you know them?"
"I certainly do not."
"They are no common persons, I can assure you, Mrs. Marygold."
"Of course, or they would not be found here. But who are they?"
"Ah, Mrs. Lemmington! how are you?" said a lady, coming up at this
moment, and interrupting the conversation. "I have been looking for
you this half hour." Then, passing her arm within that of the
individual she had addressed, she drew her aside before she had a
chance to answer Mrs. Marygold's question.
In a few minutes after, a gentleman handed Melinda to the piano,
and there was a brief pause as she struck the instrument, and
commenced going through the unintelligible intricacies of a
fashionable piece of music. She could strike all the notes with
scientific correctness and mechanical precision. But there was no more
expression in her performance than there is in that of a musical box.
After she had finished her task, she left the instrument with a few
words of commendation extorted by a feeling of politeness.
"Will you not favor us with a song?" asked Mr. Harwood, going up to
one of the young ladies to whom allusion has just been made.
"My sister sings, I do not," was the modest reply, "but I will take
pleasure in accompanying her."
All eyes were fixed upon them as they moved towards the piano,
accompanied by Mr. Harwood, for something about their manners,
appearance and conversation, had interested nearly all in the room
who had been led to notice them particularly. The sister who could
not sing, seated herself with an air of easy confidence at the
instrument, while the other stood near her. The first few touches
that passed over the keys showed that the performer knew well how to
give to music a soul. The tones that came forth were not the simple
vibrations of a musical chord, but expressions of affection given by
her whose fingers woke the strings into harmony. But if the preluding
touches fell witchingly upon every ear, how exquisitely sweet and
thrilling was the voice that stole out low and tremulous at first, and
deepened in volume and expression every moment, until the whole room
seemed filled with melody! Every whisper was hushed, and every one
bent forward almost breathlessly to listen. And when, at length, both
voice and instrument were hushed into silence, no enthusiastic
expressions of admiration were heard, but only half- whispered
ejaculations of "exquisite!" "sweet!" "beautiful!" Then came earnestly
expressed wishes for another and another song, until the sisters,
feeling at length that many must be wearied with their long continued
occupation of the piano, felt themselves compelled to decline further
invitations to sing. No one else ventured to touch a key of the
instrument during the evening.
"Do pray, Mrs. Lemmington, tell me who those girls are—I am dying
to know," said Mrs. Marygold, crossing the room to where the person
she addressed was seated with Mrs. Florence and several other ladies
of "distinction," and taking a chair by her side.
"They are only common people," replied Mrs. Lemmington, with
"Common people, my dear madam! What do you mean by such an
expression?" said Mrs. Florence in surprise, and with something of
indignation latent in her tone.
"I'm sure their father, Mr. Clayton, is nothing but a teacher."
"Mr. Clayton! Surely those are not Clayton's daughters!" ejaculated
Mrs. Marygold, in surprise.
"They certainly are ma'am," replied Mrs. Florence in a quiet but
firm voice, for she instantly perceived, from something in Mrs.
Marygold's voice and manner, the reason why her friend had alluded to
them as common people.
"Well, really, I am surprised that Mrs. Harwood should have invited
them to her house, and introduced them into genteel company."
"Why so, Mrs. Marygold?"
"Because, as Mrs. Lemmington has just said, they are common people.
Their father is nothing but a schoolmaster."
"If I have observed them rightly," Mrs. Florence said to this, "I
have discovered them to be a rather uncommon kind of people. Almost
any one can thrum on the piano; but you will not find one in a
hundred who can perform with such exquisite grace and feeling as they
can. For half an hour this evening I sat charmed with their
conversation, and really instructed and elevated by the sentiments
they uttered. I cannot say as much for any other young ladies in the
room, for there are none others here above the common run of
ordinarily intelligent girls—none who may not really be classed with
common people in the true acceptation of the term."
"And take them all in all," added Mrs. Lemmington with warmth, "you
will find nothing common about them. Look at their dress; see how
perfect in neatness, in adaptation of colors and arrangement to
complexion and shape, is every thing about them. Perhaps there will
not be found a single young lady in the room, besides them, whose
dress does not show something not in keeping with good taste. Take
their manners. Are they not graceful, gentle, and yet full of
nature's own expression. In a word, is there any thing about them
that is 'common?'"
"Nothing that my eye has detected," replied Mrs. Florence.
"Except their origin," half-sneeringly rejoined Mrs. Marygold.
"They were born of woman," was the grave remark. "Can any of us
boast a higher origin?"
"There are various ranks among women," Mrs. Marygold said, firmly.
"True. But, 'The rank is but the guinea's stamp, The man's the
gold for a' that.'
"Mere position in society does not make any of us more or less a
true woman. I could name you over a dozen or more in my circle of
acquaintance, who move in what is called the highest rank; who, in
all that truly constitutes a woman, are incomparably below Mrs.
Clayton; who, if thrown with her among perfect strangers, would be
instantly eclipsed. Come then, Mrs. Marygold, lay aside all these
false standards, and estimate woman more justly. Let me, to begin,
introduce both yourself and Melinda to the young ladies this evening.
You will be charmed with them, I know, and equally charmed with their
mother when you know her."
"No, ma'am," replied Mrs. Marygold, drawing herself up with a
dignified air. "I have no wish to cultivate their acquaintance, or
the acquaintance of any persons in their station. I am surprised that
Mrs. Harwood has not had more consideration for her friends than to
compel them to come in contact with such people."
No reply was made to this; and the next remark of Mrs. Florence was
about some matter of general interest.
"Henry Florence has not been here for a week," said Mrs. Marygold
to her daughter Melinda, some two months after the period at which the
conversation just noted occurred.
"No; and he used to come almost every evening," was Melinda's
reply, made in a tone that expressed disappointment.
"I wonder what can be the reason?" Mrs. Marygold said, half aloud,
half to herself, but with evident feelings of concern. The reason of
her concern and Melinda's disappointment arose from the fact that
both had felt pretty sure of securing Henry Florence as a member of
the Marygold family—such connection, from his standing in society,
being especially desirable.
At the very time the young man was thus alluded to by Mrs. Marygold
and her daughter, he sat conversing with his mother upon a subject
that seemed, from the expression of his countenance, to be of much
interest to him.
"So you do not feel inclined to favor any preference on my part
towards Miss Marygold?" he said, looking steadily into his mother's
"I do not, Henry," was the frank reply.
"There is something too common about her, if I may so express
"Too common! What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that there is no distinctive character about her. She is,
like the large mass around us, a mere made-up girl."
"Speaking in riddles."
"I mean then, Henry, that her character has been formed, or made
up, by mere external accretions from the common-place, vague, and
often too false notions of things that prevail in society, instead of
by the force of sound internal principles, seen to be true from a
rational intuition, and acted upon because they are true. Cannot you
perceive the difference?"
"O yes, plainly. And this is why you use the word 'common,' in
speaking of her?"
"The reason. And now my son, can you not see that there is force in
my objection to her—that she really possess any character
distinctively her own, that is founded upon a clear and rational
appreciation of abstractly correct principles of action?"
"I cannot say that I differ from you very widely," the young man
said, thoughtfully. "But, if you call Melinda 'common,' where shall I
go to find one who may be called 'uncommon?'"
"I can point you to one."
"You have met Fanny Clayton?"
"Fanny Clayton!" ejaculated the young man, taken by surprise, the
blood rising to his face. "O yes, I have met her."
"She is no common girl, Henry," Mrs. Florence said, in a serious
voice. "She has not her equal in my circle of acquaintances."
"Nor in mine either," replied the young man, recovering himself.
"But you would not feel satisfied to have your son address Miss
"And why not, pray? Henry, I have never met with a young lady whom
I would rather see your wife than Fanny Clayton."
"And I," rejoined the young man with equal warmth, "never met with
any one whom I could truly love until I saw her sweet young face."
"Then never think again of one like Melinda Marygold. You could not
be rationally happy with her."
Five or six months rolled away, during a large portion of which
time the fact that Henry Florence was addressing Fanny Clayton formed
a theme for pretty free comment in various quarters. Most of Henry's
acquaintance heartily approved his choice; but Mrs. Marygold, and a
few like her, all with daughters of the "common" class, were deeply
incensed at the idea of a "common kind of a girl" like Miss Clayton
being forced into genteel society, a consequence that would of course
follow her marriage. Mrs. Marygold hesitated not to declare that for
her part, let others do as they liked, she was not going to associate
with her—that was settled. She had too much regard to what was due to
her station in life. As for Melinda, she had no very kind feelings for
her successful rival—and such a rival too! A mere schoolmaster's
daughter! And she hesitated not to speak of her often and in no very
When the notes of invitation to the wedding at length came, which
ceremony was to be performed in the house of Mr. Clayton, in Sycamore
Row, Mrs. Marygold declared that to send her an invitation to go to
such a place was a downright insult. As the time, however, drew near,
and she found that Mrs. Harwood and a dozen others equally respectable
in her eyes were going to the wedding, she managed to smother her
indignation so far as, at length, to make up her mind to be present at
the nuptial ceremonies. But it was not until her ears were almost
stunned by the repeated and earnestly expressed congratulations to
Mrs. Florence at the admirable choice made by her son, and that too by
those whose tastes and opinions she dared not dispute, that she could
perceive any thing even passable in the beautiful young bride.
Gradually, however, as the younger Mrs. Florence, in the process of
time, took her true position in the social circle, even Mrs. Marygold
could begin to perceive the intrinsic excellence of her character,
although even this was more a tacit assent to a universal opinion than
a discovery of her own.
As for Melinda, she was married about a year after Fanny Clayton's
wedding, to a sprig of gentility with about as much force of
character as herself. This took place on the same night that Lieut.
Harwood, son of Mrs. Harwood before alluded to, led to the altar Mary
Clayton, the sister of Fanny, who was conceded by all, to be the
loveliest girl they had ever seen—lovely, not only in face and form,
but loveliness itself in the sweet perfections of moral beauty. As for
Lieut. Harwood, he was worthy of the heart he had won.
MAKING A SENSATION.
"Do you intend going to Mrs. Walshingham's party, next week,
Caroline?" asked Miss Melvina Fenton of her friend Caroline Gay. "It
is said that it will be a splendid affair."
"I have not made up my mind, Melvina."
"O you'll go of course. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"I am much inclined to think that I will stay at home or spend my
evening in some less brilliant assemblage," Caroline Gay replied in a
"Nonsense, Caroline! There hasn't been such a chance to make a
sensation this season."
"And why should I wish to make a sensation, Melvina?"
"Because it's the only way to attract attention. Now-a-days, the
person who creates a sensation, secures the prize that a dozen quiet,
retiring individuals are looking and longing after, in vain. We must
dazzle if we would win."
"That is, we must put on false colors, and deceive not only
ourselves, but others."
"How strangely you talk, Caroline! Every one now is attracted by
show and _eclat_."
"Not every one, I hope, Melvina."
"Show me an exception."
Caroline smiled as she answered,
"Your friend Caroline, as you call her, I hope is one."
"Indeed! And I suppose I must believe you. But come, don't turn
Puritan. You are almost behind the age, as it is, and if you don't
take care, you will get clear out of date, and either live and die an
old maid, or have to put up with one of your quiet inoffensive
gentlemen who hardly dare look a real briliant belle in the face."
Caroline Gay could not help smiling at her friend's light
bantering, even while she felt inclined to be serious in consideration
of the false views of life that were influencing the conduct and
affecting the future prospects of one, whose many good qualities of
heart, won her love.
"And if I should get off," she said, "with one of those quiet
gentlemen you allude to, it will be about the height of my
"Well, you are a queer kind of a girl, any how! But, do you know
why I want to make a sensation at Mrs. Walshingham's?"
"No. I would be pleased to hear."
"Then I will just let you into a bit of a secret. I've set my heart
on making a conquest of Henry Clarence."
"Indeed!" ejaculated Caroline, with an emphasis that would have
attracted Melvina's attention, had her thoughts and feelings not been
at the moment too much engaged.
"Yes, I have. He's so calm and cold, and rigidly polite to me
whenever we meet, that I am chilled with the frigid temperature of
the atmosphere that surrounds him. But as he is a prize worth the
trouble of winning, I have set my heart on melting him down, and
bringing him to my feet."
Caroline smiled as her friend paused, but did not reply.
"I know half a dozen girls now, who are breaking their hearts after
him," continued the maiden. "But I'll disappoint them all, if there
is power in a woman's winning ways to conquer. So you see, my lady
Gay—Grave it should be—that I have some of the strongest reasons in
the world, for wishing to be present at the 'come off' next week. Now
you'll go, won't you?"
"Perhaps I will, if it's only to see the effect of your
demonstrations on the heart of Henry Clarence. But he is one of your
quiet, inoffensive gentlemen, Melvina. How comes it that you set him
as a prize?"
"If he is quiet, there is fire in him. I've seen his eye flash, and
his countenance brighten with thought too often, not to know of what
kind of stuff he is made."
"And if I were to judge of his character, he is not one to be
caugnt by effect," Caroline remarked.
"O, as to that, all men have their weak side. There isn't one,
trust me, who can withstand the brilliant attractions of the belle of
the ball room, such as, pardon my vanity, I hope to be on next Tuesday
evening. I have seen a little of the world in my time, and have
always observed, that whoever can eclipse all her fair compeers at
one of these brilliant assemblages, possesses, for the time, a power
that may be used to advantage. All the beaux flock around her, and
vie with each other in kind attentions. If, then, she distinguish
some individual of them above the rest, by her marked reciprocation
of his attentions, he is won. The grateful fellow will never forsake
"Quite a reasoner, upon my word! And so in this way you intend
winning Henry Clarence?"
"Of course I do. At least, I shall try hard."
"And you will fail, I am much disposed to think."
"I'm not sure of that. Henry Clarence is but a man."
"Yet he is too close an observer to be deceived into any strong
admiration of a ball-room belle."
"You are behind the age, Caroline. Your quiet unobtrusiveness will
I fear cause you to be passed by, while some one not half so worthy,
will take the place which you should have held in the affections of a
"Perhaps so. But, I wish to be taken for what I am. I want no man,
who has not the good sense and discrimination to judge of my real
"You will die an old maid, Caroline."
"That may be. But, in all sincerity, I must say that I hope not."
"You will go to the ball, of course?"
"I think I will, Melvina."
"Well, that settled, what are you going to wear?"
"Something plain and simple, of course. But I have not thought of
"O don't Caroline. You will make yourself singular."
"I hope not, for I dislike singularity. But how are you going to
dress? Splendid, of course, as you expect to make a sensation."
"I'll try my best, I can assure you?"
"Well, what kind of a dress are you going to appear in?"
"I have ordered a robe of blue tulle, to be worn over blue silk.
The robe to be open in front, of course, and confined to the
silk-skirt with variegated roses."
"And your head-dress?"
"I shall have my hair ornamented with variegated roses, arranged
over the brow like a coronet. Now, how do you like that?"
"Not at all."
"O, of course not. I might have known that your taste was too
uneducated for that."
"And I hope it will ever remain so, Melvina."
"But how will _you_ dress, Caroline. Do let me hear, that I may put
you right if you fix on any thing _outre_."
"Well, really, Melvina, I have not given the subject a thought. But
it never takes me long to choose. Let me see. A plain—"
"Not plain, Caroline, for mercy sake!"
"Yes. A plain white dress, of India muslin."
"Plain white! O, don't Caroline—let me beg of you."
"Yes, white it shall be."
"Plain white! Why nobody will see you!"
"O, yes. Among all you gay butterflies, I will become the observed
of all observers," said Caroline, laughing.
"Don't flatter yourself. But you will have some pink trimming, will
"No, not a flower, nor ribbon, nor cord, nor tassel."
"You will be an object of ridicule."
"Not in a polite company of gentlemen and ladies, I hope!"
"No; but—. And your head-dress, Caroline. That I hope will atone
for the rest."
"No, my own dark hair, plain—"
"For mercy sake, Caroline! Not plain."
"Yes, my hair plain."
"And no ornament!"
"O, yes—a very beautiful one."
"Ah, that may help a little. A ray of sunshine on a barren waste."
"A simple sprig of buds and half blown flowers."
"White, of course."
"You are an original, Caroline. But I suppose I can't make you
change your taste?"
I hope not, Melvina."
"I am sorry that I shall be compelled to throw you so far in the
shade, my little Quakeress friend. The world will never know half
your real worth, Caroline. You are hiding your light.
"Many a gem of purest ray serene, The deep unfathomed caves of
ocean bear— Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste
its sweetness on the desert air."
And as she repeated these lines, applying them to her friend,
Melvina rose to depart.
"You are resolved on trying to make a sensation, then?" said
"Of course, and what is more, I will succeed."
"And win Henry Clarence?"
"I hope so. He must be made of sterner stuff than I think him, if I
"Well, we shall see."
"Yes, we will. But good-bye; I must go to the mantua-maker's this
morning, to complete my orders."
After Melvina Felton had gone, Caroline Gay's manner changed a good
deal. Her cheek, the color of which had heightened during her
conversation with her friend, still retained its beautiful glow, but
the expression of her usually calm face was changed, and slightly
marked by what seemed troubled thoughts. She sat almost motionless
for nearly two minutes, and then rose up slowly with a slight sigh,
and went to her chamber.
It was early on the same evening that Henry Clarence, the subject
of her conversation with Melvina, called in, as he not unfrequently
did, to spend an hour in pleasant conversation with Caroline Gay. He
found her in the parlor reading.
"At your books, I see," he remarked, in a pleasant tone, as he
"Yes; I find my thoughts need exciting by contact with the thoughts
of others. A good book helps us much sometimes."
"You were reading a book then. May I ask its author?"
"You are right in calling this a good book, Caroline," he said,
glancing at the title page, to which she had opened, as she handed
him the volume. "Self-education is a most important matter, and with
such a guide as Degerando, few can go wrong."
"So I think. He is not so abstract, nor does he border on
transcendentalism, like Coleridge, who notwithstanding these
peculiarities I am yet fond of reading. Degerando opens for you your
own heart, and not only opens it, but gives you the means of
self-control at every point of your exploration."
The beautiful countenance of Caroline was lit up by pure thoughts,
and Henry Clarence could not help gazing upon her with a lively
feeling of admiration.
"I cannot but approve your taste," he said.—"But do you not also
read the lighter works of the day?"
"I do not certainly pass all these by. I would lose much were I to
do so. But I read only a few, and those emanating from such minds as
James, Scott, and especially our own Miss Sedgwick. The latter is
particularly my favorite. Her pictures, besides being true to nature,
are pictures of home. The life she sketches, is the life that is
passing all around us—perhaps in the family, unknown to us, who hold
the relation of next door neighbors."
"Your discrimination is just. After reading Miss Sedgwick, our
sympathies for our fellow creatures take a more humane range. We are
moved by an impulse to do good—to relieve the suffering—to regulate
our own action in regard to others by a higher and better rule. You
are a reader of the poets, too—and like myself, I believe, are an
admirer of Wordsworth's calm and deep sympathy with the better and
nobler principles of our nature."
"The simple beauty of Wordsworth has ever charmed me. How much of
the good and true, like precious jewels set in gold, are scattered
thickly over his pages!"
"And Byron and Shelly—can you not enjoy them?" Clarence asked,
with something of lively interest in her reply, expressed in his
"It were but an affectation to say that I can find nothing in them
that is beautiful, nothing to please, nothing to admire. I have read
many things in the writings of these men that were exquisitely
beautiful. Many portions of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage are not
surpassed for grandeur, beauty, and force, in the English language:
and the Alastor of Shelly, is full of passages of exquisite
tenderness and almost unequalled finish of versification. But I have
never laid either of them down with feelings that I wished might
remain. They excite the mind to a feverish and unhealthy action. We
find little in them to deepen our sympathies with our fellows—little
to make better the heart, or wiser the head."
"You discriminate with clearness, Caroline," he said; "I did not
know that you looked so narrowly into the merits of the world's
favorites. But to change the subject; do you intend going to Mrs.
Walsingham's next week?"
"Yes, I think I will be there."
"Are you fond of such assemblages?" the young man asked.
"Not particularly so," Caroline replied. "But I think it right to
mingle in society, although all of its forms are not pleasant to me."
"And why do you mingle in it then, if its sphere is uncongenial?"
"I cannot say, Mr. Clarence, that it is altogether uncongenial.
Wherever we go, into society, we come in contact with much that is
good. Beneath the false glitter, often assumed and worn without the
heart's being in it, but from a weak spirit of conformity, lies much
that is sound in principle, and healthy in moral life. In mingling,
then, in society, we aid to develope and strengthen these good
principles in others. We encourage, often, the weak and wavering, and
bring back such as are beginning to wander from the simple dignity and
truth of nature."
"But is there not danger of our becoming dazzled by the false
"There may be. But we need not fear this, if we settle in our minds
a right principle of action, and bind ourselves firmly to that
A pause followed this last remark, and then the subject of
conversation was again changed to one of a more general nature.
An evening or two after, Henry Clarence called in to see Melvina
Fenton. Melvina was what may be called a showy girl. Her countenance,
which was really beautiful, when animated, attracted every eye. She
had a constant flow of spirits, had dipped into many books, and could
make a little knowledge in these matters go a great way. Clarence
could not conceal from himself that he admired Melvina, and, although
his good sense and discrimination opposed this admiration, he could
rarely spend an evening with Miss Fenton, without a strong
prepossession in her favor. Still, with her, as with every one, he
maintained a consistency of character that annoyed her. He could not
be brought to flatter her in any way; and for this she thought him
cold, and often felt under restraint in his society. One thing in her
which he condemned, was her love of dress. Often he would express a
wonder to himself, how a young woman of her good sense and information
could be guilty of such a glaring departure from true taste.
On this evening she received him in her very best manner. And she
was skilful at acting; so skilful, as even to deceive the keen eye of
Henry Clarence. Fully resolved on making a conquest, she studied his
character, and tried to adapt herself to it.
"I have your favorite here," she remarked, during the evening,
lifting a copy of Wordsworth from the centre table.
"Ah, indeed! so you have. Do you ever look into him, Miss Fenton?"
"O yes. I did not know what a treasure was hid in this volume,
until, from hearing your admiration of Wordsworth, I procured and
read it with delighted interest."
"I am glad that you are not disappointed. If you have a taste for
his peculiar style of thinking and writing, you have in that volume
an inexhaustible source of pleasure."
"I have discovered that, Mr. Clarence, and must thank you for the
delight I have received, and I hope I shall continue to receive."
Nearly two hours were spent by the young man in the company of Miss
Fenton, when he went away, more prepossessed in her favor than he had
yet been. She had played her part to admiration. The truth was,
Wordsworth, except in a few pieces, she had voted a dull book. By
tasking herself, she had mastered some passages, to which she
referred during the evening, and thus obtained credit for being far
more familiar with the poet of nature than she ever was or ever would
be. She went upon the principle of making a sensation, and thus
carrying hearts, or the heart she wished to assault, by storm.
"I believe that I really love that girl," Henry Clarence said, on
the evening before the party at Mrs. Walsingham's to a young friend.
"Who, Melvina Fenton?"
"She is certainly a beautiful girl."
"And interesting and intelligent."
"Yes—I know of no one who, in comparison with her, bears off the
"And still, there is one thing about her that I do not like. She is
too fond of dress and display."
"O, that is only a little foible. No one is altogether perfect."
"True—and the fault with me is, in looking after perfection."
"Yes, I think you expect too much."
"She is affectionate, and that will make up for many deficiencies.
And what is more, I can see plainly enough that her heart is
interested. The brightening of her cheek, the peculiar expression of
her eye, not to be mistaken, when certain subjects are glanced at,
convince me that I have only to woo to win her."
"What do you think of Caroline Gay?" asked his friend.
"Well, really, I can hardly tell what to think of her. She has
intelligence, good sense, and correct views on almost every subject.
But she is the antipodes of Melvina in feeling. If she were not so
calm and cold, I could love her; but I do not want a stoic for a
wife. I want a heart that will leap to my own, and send its emotion
to the cheek and eye."
"I am afraid you will not find an angel in this world," his friend
"No, nor do I want an angel. But I want as perfect a woman as I can
"You will have to take Melvina, then, for she has three exceeding
good qualities, at least, overshadowing all others."
"And what are they?"
"An affectionate heart."
"Something to be desired above every thing else. And her next good
"Her father is worth a 'plum.'"
"I would dispense with that, were she less fond of show, and
effect, and gay company."
"O, they are only the accompaniments of girlhood. As a woman and a
wife, she will lay them all aside."
"I should certainly hope so, were I going to link my lot with
"Why, I thought your mind was made up."
"Not positively. I must look on a little longer, and scan a little
closer before I commit myself."
"Well, success to your marrying expedition. I belong yet to the
In due time Mrs. Walshingham's splendid affair came off.
"Isn't she an elegant woman!" exclaimed a young man in an under
tone, to a friend, who stood near Henry Clarence, as Melvina swept
into the room dressed in a style of elegance and effect that
attracted every eye.
"Beautiful!" responded his companion. "I must dance with her
to-night. I always make a point to have one round at least with the
belle of the ball-room."
The individual who last spoke, was well known to all in that room
as the betrayer of innocence. And Henry Clarence felt his cheek burn
and his heart bound with an indignant throb as he heard this remark.
"He will be disappointed, or I am mistaken," he said to himself as
the two, who had been conversing near him, moved to another part of
the room. "But if Melvina Fenton has so little of that sensitive
innocence, that shrinks from the presence of guilt as to dance with
him, and suffer her hand to be touched by his, my mind is made up. I
will never marry her."
"She is the queen of beauty to-night, Clarence," said a friend
coming to Henry's side, and speaking in an under tone.
"She is, indeed, very beautiful; but I cannot help thinking a
little too showy. Her dress would be very good for the occasion were
those variegated roses taken from their blue ground. Flowers never
grow on such a soil; and her head dress is by far too conspicuous, and
by no means in good taste."
"Why you are critical to-night, Clarence. I thought Melvina one of
"I must confess a little good will towards her, and perhaps that is
the reason of my being somewhat particular in my observation of her
style of dress. Certainly, she makes a most decided sensation here
to-night; for every eye is upon her, and every tongue, that I have
yet heard speak is teeming with words of admiration."
"That she does," responded the friend. "Every other girl in the
room will be dying of envy or neglect before the evening is over."
"That would speak little for the gallantry of the men or the good
sense of the young ladies," was the quiet reply.
Several times the eye of Henry Clarence wandered around the room in
search of Caroline—but he did not see her in the gay assemblage.
"She told me she would be here," he mentally said, "and I should
really like to mark the contrast between her and the brilliant Miss
Fenton. Oh! there she is, as I live, leaning on the arm of her
father, the very personification of innocence and beauty. But her
face is too calm by half. I fear she is cold."
Truly was she as Henry Clarence had said, the personification of
innocence and beauty. Her dress of snowy whiteness, made perfectly
plain, and fitting well a figure that was rather delicate, but of
exquisite symmetry, contrasted beautifully with the gay and flaunting
attire of those around her. Her head could boast but a single
ornament, besides her own tastefully arranged hair, and that was a
sprig of buds and half-blown flowers as white as the dress she had
chosen for the evening. Her calm sweet face looked sweeter and more
innocent than ever, for the contrast of the whole scene relieved her
peculiar beauty admirably.
"An angel?" ejaculated a young man by the side of Clarence, moving
over towards the part of the room where Caroline stood, still leaning
on the arm of her father.
"We wanted but you to make our tableau complete," he said, with a
graceful bow. "Let me relieve you, Mr. Gay, of the care of this young
lady," he added offering his arm to Caroline—and in the next minute
he had joined the promenade with the sweetest creature in the room by
The beautiful contrast that was evident to all, between Caroline,
the plainest-dressed maiden in the room, and Melvina the gayest and
most imposing, soon drew all eyes upon the former, and Melvina had
the discrimination to perceive that she had a rival near the throne,
in one whom she little dreamed of fearing; and whose innocent heart
she knew too well to accuse of design.
Soon cotillion parties were formed, and among the first to offer
his hand to Melvina, was a young man named Sheldon, the same alluded
to as declaring that he would dance with her, as he always did with
the belle of the ball room. Melvina knew his character well, and Henry
Clarence was aware that she possessed this knowledge. His eye was
upon her, and she knew it. But she did not know of the determination
that he formed or else she would have hesitated.
"The most splendid man in the room, and the most graceful dancer,"
were the thoughts that glanced through her mind, as she smiled an
assent to his invitation to become his partner. "I shall not yet lose
And now all eyes were again upon the brilliant beauty threading the
mazy circles, with glowing cheek and sparkling eye. And few thought
of blaming her for dancing with Sheldon, whose character ought to
have banished him from virtuous society. But there was one whose
heart sickened as he looked on, and that one was Henry Clarence. He
lingered near the group of dancers but a few minutes, and then
wandered away to another room.
"Permit me to transfer my company, Mr. Clarence," said the young
man who had thus far monopolized the society of Caroline Gay. "I will
not be selfish; and besides, I fear I am becoming too dull for my
fair friend here."
With a bow and a smile, Clarence received on his arm the fair girl.
He felt for her a tenderer regard than had heretofore warmed his
heart, as he strolled through the rooms and listened to her sweet,
penetrating voice. And whenever he turned and looked her in the face,
he saw that in the expression of her eyes which he had never marked
before—something of tenderness that made his own heart beat with a
quicker motion. As they drew near the dancers, they observed Sheldon
with Melvina leaning on his arm, and two or three others, engaged in
maikng up another cotillion.
"We want but one more couple, and here they are," said Sheldon, as
Clarence and Caroline came up.
"Will you join this set?" asked Clarence, in a low tone.
"Not _this_ one," she replied.
"Miss Gay does not wish to dance now," her companion said, and they
But the cotillion was speedily formed without them, and the dance
Half an hour after, while Henry Clarence and Caroline were sitting
on a lounge, engaged in close conversation, Sheldon came up, and
bowing in his most graceful manner, and, with his blandest smile,
"Can I have the pleasure of dancing with Miss Gay, this evening?"
"No, sir," was the quiet, firm reply of the maiden, while she
looked him steadily in the face.
Sheldon turned hurriedly away, for he understood the rebuke, the
first he had yet met with in the refined, fashionable, virtuous
society of one of the largest of the Atlantic cities.
The heart of Henry Clarence blessed the maiden by his side.
"You are not averse to dancing, Caroline?" he said.
"O no. But I do not dance with _every_ one."
"In that you are right, and I honor your decision and independence
During the remainder of the evening, she danced several times, more
frequently with Henry than with any other, but never in a cotillion
of which Sheldon was one of the partners. Much to the pain and alarm
of Melvina, Clarence did not offer to dance with her once; and long
before the gay assemblage broke up, her appearance had failed to
produce any sensation. The eye tired of viewing her gaudy trapping,
and turned away unsatisfied. But let Caroline go where she would, she
was admired by all. None wearied of her chaste, simple and beautiful
attire; none looked upon her mild, innocent face, without an
expression, tacit or aloud, of admiration. Even the rebuked, and for a
time angered, Sheldon, could not help ever and anon seeking her out
amid the crowd, and gazing upon her with a feeling of respect that he
tried in vain to subdue.
Melvina had sought to produce a "sensation" by gay and imposing
attire, and after a brief and partial success, lost her power. But
Caroline, with no wish to be noticed, much less to be the reigning
belle of the evening, consulting her own pure taste, went in simple
garments, and won the spontaneous admiration of all, and, what was
more, the heart of Henry Clarence. He never, after that evening,
could feel any thing of his former tenderness towards Melvina Felton.
The veil had fallen from his eyes. He saw the difference between the
desire of admiration, and a simple love of truth and honor, too
plainly, to cause him to hesitate a moment longer in his choice
between two so opposite in their characters. And yet, to the eye of an
inattentive observer nothing occurred during the progress of Mrs.
Walshingham's party more than ordinarily takes place on such
occasions. All seemed pleased and happy, and Melvina the happiest of
the whole. And yet she had signally failed in her well-laid scheme to
take the heart of Henry Clarence—while Caroline, with no such design,
and in simply following the promptings of a pure heart and a right
taste, had won his affectionate regard.
It was some three or four months after the party at Mrs.
Walshingham's, that Melvina Fenton and Caroline Gay were alone in the
chamber of the latter, in close and interested conversation.
"I have expected as much," the former said, in answer to some
communication made to her by the latter.
"Then you are not surprised?"
"Not at all."
"And I hope not pained by the intelligence?"
"No, Caroline, not now," her friend said, smiling; "though two or
three months ago it would have almost killed me. I, too, have been
wooed and won."
"Indeed! That is news. And who is it, Melvina? I am eager to know."
"A gentleman, and every way worthy of your hand. But how in the
world comes it that so quiet and modest a young man as Martin has now
the dashing belle?"
"It has occurred quite naturally, Caroline. The dashing belle has
gained a little more good sense than she had a few months ago. She
has not forgotten the party at Mrs. Walsaingham's. And by the bye,
Caroline, how completely you out-generalled me on that occasion. I
had a great mind for a while never to forgive you."
"You are altogether mistaken, Melvina," Caroline said, with a
serious air. "I did not act a part on that occasion. I went but in my
true character, and exhibited no other."
"It was nature, then, eclipsing art; truth of character outshining
the glitter of false assumption. But all that is past, and I am wiser
and better for it, I hope. You will be happy, I know, with Henry
Clarence, for he is worthy of you, and can appreciate your real
excellence; and I shall be happy, I trust, with the man of my choice."
"No doubt of it, Melvina. And by the way," Caroline said, laughing,
"we shall make another 'sensation,' and then we must be content to
retire into peaceful domestic obscurity. You will have a brilliant
time, I suppose?"
"O yes. I must try my hand at creating one more sensation, the last
and most imposing; and, as my wedding comes the first, you must be my
bridesmaid. You will not refuse?"
"Not if we can agree as to how we are to dress. We ought to be
alike in this, and yet I can never consent to appear in any thing but
what is plain, and beautiful for its simplicity."
"You shall arrange all these. You beat me the last time in creating
a sensation, and now I will give up to your better taste."
And rarely has a bride looked sweeter than did Melvina Fenton on
her wedding-day. Still, she was eclipsed by Caroline, whose native
grace accorded so well with her simple attire, that whoever looked
upon her, looked again, and to admire. The "sensation" they created
was not soon forgotten.
Caroline was married in a week after, and then the fair heroines of
our story passed from the notice of the fashionable world, and were
lost with the thousands who thus yearly desert the gay circles, and
enter the quiet sphere and sweet obscurity of domestic life.
SOMETHING FOR A COLD.
"Henry," said Mr. Green to his little son Henry, a lad in his
eighth year, "I want you to go to the store for me."
Mr. Green was a working-man, who lived in a comfortable cottage,
which he had built from money earned from honest industry. He was,
moreover, a sober, kind-hearted man, well liked by all his neighbors,
and beloved by his own family.
"I'm ready, father," said Henry, who left his play, and went to
look for his cap, the moment he was asked to go on an errand.
"Look in the cupboard, and get the pint flask. It's on the lower
Henry did as desired, and then asked—"What shall I get, father?"
"Tell Mr. Brady to send me a pint of good Irish whiskey."
The boy tripped lightly away, singing as he went. He was always
pleased to do an errand for his father.
"This cold of mine gets worse," remarked Mr. Green to his wife, as
Henry left the house. "I believe I'll try old Mr. Vandeusen's
remedy—a bowl of hot whiskey-punch. He says it always cures him; it
throws him into a free perspiration, and the next morning he feels as
clear as a bell."
"It is not always good," remarked Mrs. Green, "to have the pores
open. We are more liable to take cold."
"Very true. It is necessary to be careful how we expose ourselves
"I think I can make you some herb-tea, that would do you as much
good as the whiskey punch," said Mrs. Green.
"Perhaps you could," returned her husband, "but I don't like your
bitter stuff. It never was to my fancy."
Mrs. Green smiled, and said no more.
"A few moments afterwards, the door opened, and Henry came in,
looking pale and frightened.
"Oh, father!" he cried, panting, "Mr. Brooks is killing Margaret!"
"What!" Mr. Green started to his feet.
"Oh!" exclaimed the child, "he's killing her! he's killing her! I
saw him strike her on the head with his fist." And tears rolled over
the boy's cheeks.
Knowing Brooks to be a violent man when intoxicated, Mr. Green lost
not a moment in hesitation or reflection, but left his house
hurriedly, and ran to the dwelling of his neighbor, which was near at
hand. On entering the house, a sad scene presented itself. The oldest
daughter of Brooks, a girl in her seventeenth year, was lying upon a
bed, insensible, while a large bruised and bloody spot on the side of
her face showed where the iron fist of her brutal father had done its
fearful if not fatal work. Her mother bent over her, weeping; while
two little girls were shrinking with frightened looks into a corner of
Mr. Green looked around for the wretched man, who, in the insanity
of drunkenness, had done this dreadful deed; but he was not to be
"Where is Mr. Brooks?" he asked.
"He has gone for the doctor," was replied.
And in a few minutes he came in with a physician. He was partially
sobered, and his countenance had a troubled expression. His eyes
shrunk beneath the steady, rebuking gaze of his neighbors.
"Did you say your daughter had fallen down stairs?" said the
doctor, as he leaned over Margaret, and examined the dreadful bruise
on her cheek.
"Yes—yes," stammered the guilty father, adding this falsehood to
the evil act.
"Had the injury been a few inches farther up, she would ere this
have breathed her last," said the doctor—looking steadily at Brooks,
until the eyes of the latter sunk to the floor.
Just then there were signs of returning life in the poor girl, and
the doctor turned towards her all his attention. In a little while,
she began to moan, and moved her arms about, and soon opened her
After she was fully restored again to conscious life, Mr. Green
returned to his home, where he was met with eager questions from his
wife.—After describing all he had seen, he made this remark—
"There are few better men than Thomas Brooks when he it sober; but
when he is drunk he acts like a demon."
"He must be a demon to strike with his hard fist, a delicate
creature like his daughter Margaret. And she is so good a girl. Ah,
me! to what dreadful consequences does this drinking lead!"
"It takes away a man's reason," said Mr. Green, "and when this is
gone, he becomes the passive subject of evil influences. He is, in
fact, no longer a man."
Mrs. Green sighed deeply.
"His poor wife!" she murmured; "how my heart aches for her, and his
poor children! If the husband and father changes, from a guardian and
provider for his family, into their brutal assailant, to whom can they
look for protection? Oh, it is sad! sad!"
"It is dreadful! dreadful!" said Mr. Green.—
"It is only a few years ago," he added, "since Brooks began to show
that he was drinking too freely. He always liked his glass, but he
knew how to control himself, and never drowned his reason in his
cups. Of late, however, he seems to have lost all control over
himself. I never saw a man abandon himself so suddenly."
"All effects of this kind can be traced back to very small
beginnings," remarked Mrs. Green.
"Yes. A man does not become a drunkard in a day. The habit is one
of very gradual formation."
"But when once formed," said Mrs. Green, "hardly any power seems
strong enough to break it. It clings to a man as if it were a part of
"And we might almost say that it was a part of himself," replied
Mr. Green: "for whatever we do from a confirmed habit, fixes in the
mind an inclination thereto, that carries us away as a vessel is borne
upon the current of a river."
"How careful, then, should every one be, not to put himself in the
way of forming so dangerous a habit. Well do I remember when Mr.
Brooks was married. A more promising young man could not be
found—nor one with a kinder heart. The last evil I feared for him
and his gentle wife was that of drunkenness. Alas! that this calamity
should have fallen upon their household.—What evil, short of crime,
is greater than this?"
"It is so hopeless," remarked Mr. Green. "I have talked with Brooks
a good many times, but it has done no good. He promises amendment,
but does not keep his promise a day."
"Touch not, taste not, handle not. This is the only safe rule,"
said Mrs. Green.
"Yes, I believe it," returned her husband.—"The man who never
drinks is in no danger of becoming a drunkard."
For some time, Mr. and Mrs. Green continued to converse about the
sad incident which had just transpired in the family of their
neighbor, while their little son, upon whose mind the fearful sight
he had witnessed was still painfully vivid, sat and listened to all
they were saying, with a clear comprehension of the meaning of the
After awhile the subject was dropped. There had been a silence of
some minutes, when the attention of Mr. Green was again called to
certain unpleasant bodily sensations, and he said—
"I declare! this cold of mine is very bad. I must do something to
break it before it gets worse. Henry, did you get that Irish whiskey
I sent for?"
"No, sir," replied the child, "I was so frightened when I saw Mr.
Brooks strike Margaret, that I ran back."
"Oh, well, I don't wonder! It was dreadful. Mr. Brooks was very
wicked to do so. But take the flask and run over to the store. Tell
Brady that I want a pint of good Irish whiskey."
Henry turned from his father, and went to the table on which he had
placed the flask. He did not move with his usual alacrity.
"It was whiskey, wasn't it," said the child, as he took the bottle
in his hand, "that made Mr. Brooks strike Margaret?" And he looked so
earnestly into his father's face, and with so strange an expression,
that the man felt disturbed, while he yet wondered at the manner of
"Yes," replied Mr. Green, "it was the whiskey. Mr. Brooks, if he
had been sober, would not have hurt a hair of her head."
Henry looked at the bottle, then at his father, in so strange a
way, that Mr. Green, who did not at first comprehend what was in the
child's thoughts wondered still more. All was soon understood, for
Harry, bursting into tears, laid down the flask, and, throwing his
arms around his father's neck, said—
"Oh, father! don't get any whiskey!"
Mr. Green deeply touched by the incident, hugged his boy tightly to
his bosom. He said—
"I only wanted it for medicine, dear. But, never mind. I won't let
such dangerous stuff come into my house. Mother shall make me some of
her herb-tea, and that will do as well."
Henry looked up, after a while, timidly.—"You're not angry with
me, father?" came from his innocent lips.
"Oh, no, my child! Why should I be angry?" replied Mr. Green,
kissing the cheek of his boy. Then the sunshine came back again to
Henry's heart, and he was happy as before.
Mrs. Green made the herb-tea for her husband, and it proved quite
as good for him as the whiskey-punch. A glass or two of cold water, on
going to bed, would probably have been of more real advantage in the
case, than either of these doubtful remedies.
"BLESS the happy art!" ejaculated Mrs. Morton, wiping the moisture
from her eyes. "Could anything be more perfect than that likeness of
his sweet, innocent face? Dear little Willie! I fear I love him too
"It is indeed perfect," said Mr. Morton, after viewing the picture
in many lights. "My favourite painter has surpassed himself. What
could be more like life, than that gentle, half-pensive face looking
so quiet and thoughtful, and yet so full of childhood's most
innocent, happy expression?"
Mr. Morton, here introduced to the reader, was a wealthy merchant
of Philadelphia, and a liberal patron of the arts. He had, already,
obtained several pictures from Sully, who was, with him, as an
artist, a great favourite. The last order had just been sent home. It
was a portrait of his youngest, and favourite child—a sweet little
boy, upon whose head three summers had not yet smiled.
"I would not take the world for it!" said Mrs. Morton after looking
at it long and steadily for the hundredth time. "Dear little fellow!
A year from now, and how changed he will be. And every year he will
be changing and changing; but this cannot alter, and even from the
period of manhood, we may look back and see our Willie's face when
but a child."
"Every one who is able," remarked Mr. Morton, "should have the
portraits of his children taken. What better legacy could a father
leave to his child, than the image of his own innocent face! Surely,
it were enough to drive away thoughts of evil, and call up old and
innocent affections, for any man, even the man of crime, to look for
but a moment upon the image of what he was in childhood."
"And yet there are some," added Mrs. Morton, "who call portraits,
and indeed, all paintings, mere luxuries—meaning, thereby, something
that is utterly useless."
"Yes, there are such, but even they, it seems to me, might perceive
their use in preserving the innocent features of their children. The
good impressions made in infancy and childhood, are rarely if ever
lost; they come back upon every one at times, and are, frequently,
all-powerful in the influence they exert against evil. How like a
spell to call back those innocent thoughts and affections, would be
the image of a man's face in childhood! No one, it seems to me, could
resist its influence."
One, two, and three years passed away, and every one wrought some
change upon "little Willie," but each change seemed to the fond
parents an improvement,—yet, did they not look back to earlier
years, as they glanced at his picture, with less of tender emotion,
and heart-stirring delight. But now a sad change, the saddest of all
changes that occur, took place. Disease fastened upon the child, and
ere the parents, and fond sisters of a younger and only brother, were
fully sensible of danger, the spirit of the child had fled. We will
not linger to pain the reader with any minute description of the deep
and abiding grief that fell, like a shadow from an evil wing
overspreading them, upon the household of Mr. Morton, but pass on to
scenes more exciting, if not less moving to the heart.
For many weeks, Mrs. Morton could not trust herself to look up to
the picture that still hung in its place, the picture of her lost
one. But after time had, in some degree, mellowed the grief that
weighed down her spirits, she found a melancholy delight in gazing
intently upon the beautiful face that was still fresh and
unchanged—that still looked the impersonation of innocence.
"He was too pure and too lovely for the earth," she said, one day,
to her husband, about two months after his death, leaning her head
upon his shoulder—"and so the angels took him."
"Then do not grieve for him," Mr. Morton replied in a soothing
tone. "We know that he is with the angels, and where they are, is
neither evil, nor sorrow, nor pain. Much as I loved him, much as I
grieved for his loss, I would not recall him if I could. But, our
picture cannot die. And though it is mute and inanimate, yet it is
something to awaken remembrances, that, even though sad, we delight to
cherish. It is something to remind us, that we have a child in
But the loss of their child seemed but the beginning of sorrows to
Mr. Morton and his family. An unexpected series of failures in
business so fatally involved him, that extrication became impossible.
He was an honest man, and therefore, this sudden disastrous aspect of
affairs was doubly painful, for he knew no other course but the
honourable giving up of everything. On learning the whole truth in
relation to his business, he came home, and after opening the sad news
to his wife, he called his family around him.
"My dear children," he said, "I have painful news to break to you;
but you cannot know it too soon. Owing to a succession of heavy
failures, my business has become embarrassed beyond hope. I must give
up all,—even our comfortable and elegant home must be changed for one
less expensive, and less comfortable. Can you, my children, bear with
cheerfulness and contentment such a changed condition?"
The heart of each one had already been subdued and chastened by the
affliction that removed the little playmate of all so suddenly away,
and now the news of a painful and unlooked-for reverse came with a
shock that, for a few moments, bewildered and alarmed.
"Are not my children willing to share the good and evil of life
with their father?" Mr. Morton resumed after the gush of tears that
followed the announcement of his changed fortunes had in a degree
"Yes, dear father! be they what they may," Constance, the eldest, a
young lady in her seventeenth year, said, looking up affectionately
through her tears.
Mary, next in years, pressed up to her father's side, and twining
an arm around his neck, kissed his forehead tenderly. She did not
speak; for her heart was too full; but it needed no words to assure
him that her love was as true as the needle to the pole.
Eliza, but twelve, and like an unfolding bud half revealing the
loveliness and beauty within, could not fully comprehend the whole
matter. But enough she did understand, to know that her father was in
trouble, and this brought her also to his side.
"Do not think of us, dear father!" Constance said, after the pause
of a few oppressive moments. "Let the change be what it may, it
cannot take from us our father's love, and our father's honourable
principles. Nor can it change the true affection of his children. I
feel as if I could say, With my father I could go unto prison or to
The father was much moved. "That trial, my dear children, I trust
you may never be called upon to meet. The whole extent of the painful
one into which you are about to enter, you cannot now possibly
realize, and I earnestly hope that your hearts may not fail you while
passing through the deep waters. But one thought may strengthen; think
that by your patience and cheerfulness, your father's burdens will be
lightened. He cannot see you pained without suffering a double pang
"Trust us, father," was the calm, earnest, affectionate reply of
Constance; and it was plain, by the deep resolution expressed in the
faces of her sisters, that she spoke for them as well as herself.
And now, the shadow that was obscuring their earthly prospects,
began to fall thicker upon them. At the meeting of his creditors
which was called, he gave a full statement of his affairs.
"And now," he said, "I am here to assign everything. In consequence
of heavy, and you all must see, unavoidable, losses, this assignment
will include all my property, and still leave a small deficiency.
Beyond that, I can only hope for success in my future exertions, and
pledge that success in anticipation. Can I do more?"
"We could not ask for more certainly," was the cold response of a
single individual, made in a tone of voice implying no sympathy with
the debtor's misfortunes, but rather indicating disappointment that
the whole amount of his claim could not be made out of the assets.
Some degree of sympathy, some kind consideration for his painful
condition Mr. Morton naturally looked for, but nearly every kind
emotion for him was stifled by the sordid disappointment which each
one of his former business friends felt in losing what they valued,
as their feelings indicated, above everything else—their money.
"When will the assignment be made?" was the next remark.
"Appoint your trustees, and I am ready at any moment."
Trustees were accordingly appointed, and these had a private
conference with, and received their instructions from the creditors.
In a week they commenced their work of appraisement. After a thorough
and careful examination into accounts, deeds, mortgages, and documents
of various kinds, and becoming satisfied that every thing was as Mr.
Morton had stated it, it was found that the property represented by
these would cover ninety cents in the dollar.
"Your furniture and plate comes next," said one of the trustees.
Mr. Morton bowed and said, while his heart sunk in his bosom—
"To-morrow I will be ready for that."
"But why not to-day?" inquired one of the trustees. "We are anxious
to get through with this unpleasant business."
"I said to-morrow," Mr. Morton replied, while a red spot burned
upon his cheek.
The trustees looked at each other, and hesitated.
"Surely," said the debtor, "you cannot hesitate to let me have a
single day in which to prepare my family for so painful a duty as
that which is required of me."
"We should suppose," remarked one of the trustees, in reply, "that
your family were already prepared for that."
The debtor looked the last speaker searchingly in the face for some
moments, and then said, as if satisfied with the examination—
"Then you are afraid that I will make way, in the mean time, with
some of my plate!"
"I did not say so, Mr. Morton. But, you know we are under oath to
protect the interest of the creditors."
An indignant reply trembled on the lips of Morton, but he curbed
his feelings with a strong effort.
"I am ready now," he said, after a few moments of hurried
self-communion. "The sooner it is over the better."
Half an hour after he entered his house with the trustees, and
sworn appraiser. He left them in the parlour below, while he held a
brief but painful interview with his family.
"Do not distress yourself, dear father!" Constance said, laying her
hand upon his shoulder. We expected this, and have fully nerved
ourselves for the trial."
"May he who watches over, and regards us all, bless you, my
children!" the father said with emotion, and hurriedly left them.
A careful inventory of the costly furniture that adorned the
parlours was first taken. The plate was then displayed, rich and
beautiful, and valued; and then the trustees lifted their eyes to the
wall—they were connoisseurs in the fine arts; at least one of them
was, but a taste for the arts had, in his case, failed to soften his
feelings. He looked at a picture much as a dealer in precious stones
looks at a diamond, to determine its money-value.
"That is from Guido," he said, looking admiringly at a sweet
picture, which had always been a favourite of Mr. Morton's, "and it
is worth a hundred dollars."
"Shall I put it down at that?" asked the appraiser, who had little
experience in valuing pictures.
"Yes; put it down at one hundred. It will bring that under the
hammer, any day," replied the connoisseur. "Ah, what have we here? A
copy from Murillo's 'Good Shepherd.' Isn't that a lovely picture?
Worth a hundred and fifty, every cent. And here is 'Our Saviour,'
from Da Vinci's celebrated picture of the Last Supper; and a
'Magdalen' from Correggio. You are a judge of pictures, I see, Mr.
Morton! But what is this?" he said, eyeing closely a large engraving,
"A proof, as I live! from the only plate worth looking at of
Raphael's Madonna of St. Sixtus. I'll give fifty dollars for that,
The pictures named were all entered up by the appraiser, and then
the group continued their examination.
"Here is a Sully," remarked the trustee above alluded to, pausing
before Willie's portrait.
"But that is a portrait," Mr. Morton said, advancing, while his
heart leaped with a new and sudden fear.
"If it is, Mr. Morton, it is a valuable picture, worth every cent
of two hundred dollars. We cannot pass that, Sir."
"What!" exclaimed Mr. Morton, "take my Willie's portrait? O no, you
cannot do that!"
"It is no doubt a hard case, Mr. Morton," said one of the trustees.
"But we must do our duty, however painful. That picture is a most
beautiful one, and by a favourite artist, and will bring at least two
hundred dollars. It is not a necessary article of household furniture,
and is not covered by the law. We should be censured, and justly too,
if we were to pass it."
For a few moments, Mr. Morton's thoughts were so bewildered and his
feelings so benumbed by the sudden and unexpected shock, that he
could not rally his mind enough to decide what to say or how to act.
To have the unfeeling hands of creditors, under the sanction of the
law, seize upon his lost Willie's portrait, was to him so unexpected
and sacrilegious a thing, that he could scarcely realize it, and he
stood wrapt in painful, dreamy abstraction, until roused by the
"Put it down at a hundred and fifty," given to the appraiser, by
one of the trustees.
"Are your hearts made of iron?" he asked bitterly, roused at once
into a distinct consciousness of what was transpiring.
"Be composed, Mr. Morton," was the cold, quiet reply.
"And thus might the executioner say to the victim he was
torturing—_Be composed_. But surely, when I tell you that that
picture is the likeness of my youngest child, now no more, you will
not take it from us. To lose that, would break his mother's heart.
Take all the rest, and I will not murmur. But in the name of humanity
spare me the portrait of my angel boy."
There was a brief, cold, silent pause, and the trustees continued
their investigations. Sick at heart, Mr. Morton turned from them and
sought his family. The distressed, almost agonized expression of his
countenance was noticed, as he came into the chamber where they had
"Is it all over?" asked Mrs. Morton.
"Not yet," was the sad answer.
The mother and daughter knew how much their father prized his
choice collection of pictures, and supposed that giving an inventory
of them had produced the pain that he seemed to feel. Of the truth,
they had not the most distant idea. For a few minutes he sat with
them, and then, recovering in some degree, his self-possession, he
returned and kept with the trustees, until everything in the house
that could be taken, was valued. He closed the door after them, when
they left, and again returned to his family.
"Have they gone?" asked Constance, in a low, almost whispering
"Yes, my child, they have gone at last."
"And what have they left us?" inquired Mrs. Morton somewhat
"Nothing but the barest necessaries for housekeeping."
"They did not take our carpets and—"
"Yes, Mary," said Mr. Morton interrupting her, "every article in
the parlors has been set down as unnecessary."
"O, father!" exclaimed the eldest daughter, "can it be possible?"
"Yes, my child, it is possible. We are left poor, indeed. But for
all that I would not care, if they had only left us Willie's
Instantly the mother and daughters rose to their feet, with
blanched cheeks, and eyes staring wildly into the father's face.
"O no, not Willie's portrait, surely!" the mother at length said,
mournfully. "We cannot give that up. It is of no comparative value to
others, and is all in all to us."
"I plead with them to spare us that. But it was no use," Mr. Morton
replied. "The tenderest ties in nature were nothing to them in
comparison with a hundred and fifty dollars."
"But surely," urged Constance, "the law will protect us in the
possession of the picture. Who ever heard of a portrait being seized
upon by a creditor?"
"It is a cruel omission; but nevertheless, Constance, there is no
law to protect us in keeping it."
"But they shall _not_ have it!" Mary said indignantly. "I will take
it away this very night, where they can never find it."
"That would be doing wrong my child," Mr. Morton replied. "I owe
these men, and this picture, they say, will bring a hundred and fifty
dollars. If they claim it, then, I cannot honestly withhold it. Let
us, then, my dear children, resolve to keep our consciences clear of
wrong, and endeavor patiently to bear with our afflictions. They can
only result in good to us so far as we humbly acquiesce in them.
Nothing happens by chance. Every event affecting us, I have often told
you, is ordered or permitted by Divine Providence, and is intended to
make us better and wiser. This severest trial of all, if patiently
borne, will, I am sure, result in good."
But, even while he tried to encourage and bear up the drooping
spirits of his family, his own heart sunk within him at the thought
of losing the portrait of his child.
One week sufficed to transfer his property into the hands of the
individuals appointed to receive it. He sought to make no unnecessary
delay, and, therefore, it was quickly done. At the end of that time,
he removed his family into a small house at the northern extremity of
the city, and furnished it with the scanty furniture that, as an
insolvent debtor the law allowed him to claim. Ere he left his
beautiful mansion with his wife and children, they all assembled in
the parlour where still hung Willie's sweet portrait. The calm,
innocent face of the child had for their eyes a melancholy beauty,
such as it had never worn before; and they gazed upon it until every
cheek was wet, and every heart oppressed. A sale of the furniture had
been advertised for that day, and already the house had been thrown
open. Several strangers had come in to make examinations before the
hour of sale, and among them was a young man, who on observing the
family in the parlour, instinctively withdrew; not, however before he
had glanced at the picture they were all looking at so earnestly.
Aware that strangers were gathering, Mr. Morton and his family soon
withdrew, each taking a last, lingering, tearful glance at the dear
face looking so sweet, so calm, so innocent.
Their new home presented a painful and dreary contrast to the one
from which they had just parted. In the parlours, the floors of which
were all uncarpeted there were a dozen chairs, and a table, and that
was all! Bedding barely enough for the family, with but scanty
furniture, sufficed for the chambers; and the same exacting hands had
narrowed down to a stinted remnant the appendages of the kitchen.
It was an hour after the closing in of evening, and the family
greatly depressed in spirits, were gathered in one of the chambers,
sad, gloomy, and silent, when the servant which they had retained
came in and said that Mr. Wilkinson was below and wished to see Miss
"Indeed, indeed, mother, I cannot see him!" Constance said bursting
into tears. "It is cruel for him to come here so soon," she added,
after she had a little regained her self-possession.
"You can do no less than see him Constance," her mother said. "Do
not lose that consciousness of internal truth of character which
alone can sustain you in your new relations. You are not changed,
even if outward circumstances are no longer as they were. And if Mr.
Wilkinson does not regard these do not you. Meet him my child, as you
have ever met him."
"We have only met as friends," Constance replied, while her voice
trembled in spite of her efforts to be calm.
"Then meet now as friends, and equals. Remember, that, all that is
of real worth in you remains. Adversity cannot rob you of your true
"Your mother has spoken well and wisely," Mr. Morton said. "If Mr.
Wilkinson, whom I know to be a man of most sterling integrity of
character, still wishes your society, or ours, it must not, from any
foolish pride or weakness on our part, be denied."
"Then I will see him, and try to meet him as I should, though I
feel that the task will be a hard one," Constance replied. And her
pale cheek and swimming eye, told but too well, that it would need all
her efforts to maintain her self-possession.
In a few minutes she descended and met Mr. Wilkinson in the
"Pardon me," he said advancing and taking her hand as she entered,
"for so soon intruding upon you after the sad change in your
condition. But I should have been untrue to the kind feelings I bear
yourself and family, had I, from a principle of false delicacy, staid
away. I trust I shall be none the less welcome now than before."
"We must all esteem the kindness that prompted your visit,"
Constance replied with a strong effort to subdue the troubled
emotions within, and which were but too plainly indicated, by her now
flushed cheek and trembling lips.
"No other feeling induced me to call, except indeed, one stronger
than that possibly could be—" Mr. Wilkinson said, still holding her
hand, and looking intently in her face—" the feeling of profound
regard, nay, I must call it, affection, which I have long entertained
A declaration so unexpected, under the circumstances, entirely
destroyed all further efforts on the part of Constance, to control
her feelings. She burst into tears, but did not attempt to withdraw
"Can I hope for a return of like sentiment, Constance?" he at
length said, tenderly.
A few moments' silence ensued, when the weeping girl lifted her
head, and looked him in the face with eyes, though filled with tears,
full of love's tenderest expression.
"I still confide in my father, Mr. Wilkinson," was her answer.
"Then I would see your father to-night."
Instantly Constance glided from the room, and in a few minutes her
father came down into the parlour. A long conference ensued; and then
the mother was sent for, and finally Constance again. Mr. Wilkinson
made offers of marriage, which, being accepted, he urged an immediate
consummation. Delay was asked, but he was so earnest, that all parties
agreed that the wedding should take place in three days.
In three days the rite was said, and Wilkinson, one of the most
prosperous young merchants of Philadelphia, left for New York with
his happy bride. A week soon glided away, at the end of which time
"Where are we going?" Constance asked, as they entered a carriage
on landing from the steamboat.
"To our own house, of course!" was her husband's reply.
"You didn't tell me that you had taken a house, and furnished it."
"Didn't I? Well, that is something of an oversight. But you hardly
thought that I was so simple as to catch a bird without having a cage
first provided for it."
"You had but little time to get the cage," thought Constance, but
she did not utter the thought.
In a few minutes the carriage stopped before a noble dwelling, the
first glance of which bewildered the senses of the young bride, and
caused her to lean silent and trembling upon her husband's arm, as
she ascended the broad marble steps leading to the entrance. Thence
she was ushered hurriedly into the parlours.
There stood her father, mother, and sisters, ready to receive her.
There was every article of furniture in its place, as she had left it
but a little over a week before. The pictures, so much admired by her
father, still hung on the wall; and there, in the old spot, was Willie
s dear portrait, as sweet, as innocent, as tranquil as ever! One
glance took in all this. In the next moment she fell weeping upon her
A few words will explain all. Mr. Wilkinson, who was comparatively
wealthy, was just on the eve of making proposals for the hand of
Constance Morton, when the sudden reverse overtook her father, and
prostrated the hopes of the whole family. But his regard was a true
one, and not to be marred or effaced by external changes. When he saw
the sale of the house and furniture announced, he determined to buy
all in at any price. And he did so. On the day of the sale, he bid
over every competitor.
On the night of his interview with Constance and her father, he
proposed a partnership with the latter.
"But I have nothing, you know, Mr. Wilkinson," he replied.
"You have established business habits, and extensive knowledge of
the operations of trade, and a large business acquaintance. And
besides these, habits of discrimination obtained by long experience,
which I need. With your co-operation in my business, I can double my
profits. Will you join me?"
"It were folly, Mr. Wilkinson, to say nay," Mr. Morton replied.
"Then I will announce the co-partnership at once," he said.
And it was announced before the day of marriage, but Constance did
not see it.
A happy elevation succeeded of course, the sudden, painful, but
brief depression of their fortunes. Nor was any of that tried family
less happy than before. And one was far happier. Still, neither Mr.
Morton, nor the rest could ever look at Willie's portrait without
remembering how near they had once been to losing it, nor without a
momentary fear, that some change in life's coming mutations might rob
them of the precious treasure, now doubly dear to them.
"WHAT has become of the Wightmans?" I asked of my old friend
Payson. I had returned to my native place after an absence of several
years. Payson looked grave.
"Nothing wrong with them, I hope. Wightman was a clever man, and he
had a pleasant family."
My friend shook his head ominously.
"He was doing very well when I left," said I.
"All broken up now," was answered. "He failed several years ago."
"Ah! I'm sorry to hear this. What has become of him?"
"I see him now and then, but I don't know what he is doing."
"And his family?"
"They live somewhere in Old Town. I havn't met any of them for a
long time. Some one told me that they were very poor."
This intelligence caused a feeling of sadness to pervade my mind.
The tone and manner of Payson, as he used the words "very poor," gave
to them more than ordinary meaning. I saw, in imagination, my old
friend reduced from comfort and respectability, to a condition of
extreme poverty, with all its sufferings and humiliations. While my
mind was occupied with these unpleasant thoughts, my friend said,
"You must dine with me to-morrow. Mrs. Payson will be glad to see
you, and I want to have a long talk about old times. We dine at
I promised to be with them, in agreement with the invitation; and
then we parted. It was during business hours, and as my friend's
manner was somewhat occupied and hurried, I did not think it right to
trespass on his time. What I had learned of the Wightmans troubled my
thoughts. I could not get them out of my mind. They were estimable
people. I had prized them above ordinary acquaintances; and it did
seem peculiarly hard that they should have suffered misfortune. "Very
poor"—I could not get the words out of my ears. The way in which they
were spoken involved more than the words themselves expressed, or
rather, gave a broad latitude to their meaning. "VERY poor! Ah me!"
The sigh was deep and involuntary.
I inquired of several old acquaintances whom I met during the day
for the Wightmans; but all the satisfaction I received was, that
Wightman had failed in business several years before, and was now
living somewhere in Old Town in a very poor way. "They are miserably
poor," said one. "I see Wightman occasionally," said another—"he
looks seedy enough." "His girls take in sewing, I have heard," said a
third, who spoke with a slight air of contempt, as if there were
something disgraceful attached to needle-work, when pursued as a
means of livelihood. I would have called during the day, upon
Wightman, but failed to ascertain his place of residence.
"Glad to see you!" Payson extended his hand with a show of
cordiality, as I entered his store between two and three o'clock on
the next day.
"Sit down and look over the papers for a little while," he added.
"I'll be with you in a moment. Just finishing up my bank business."
"Business first," was my answer, as I took the proffered newspaper.
"Stand upon no ceremony with me."
As Payson turned partly from me, and bent his head to the desk at
which he was sitting, I could not but remark the suddenness with
which the smile my appearance had awakened faded from his
countenance. Before him was a pile of bank bills, several checks, and
quite a formidable array of bank notices. He counted the bills and
checks, and after recording the amount upon a slip of paper glanced
uneasily at his watch, sighed, and then looked anxiously towards the
door. At this moment a clerk entered hastily, and made some
communication in an undertone, which brought from my friend a
disappointed and impatient expression.
"Go to Wilson," said he hurriedly, "and tell him to send me a check
for five hundred without fail. Say that I am so much short in my bank
payments, and that it is now too late to get the money any where else.
Don't linger a moment; it is twenty five minutes to three now."
The clerk departed. He was gone full ten minutes, during which
period Payson remained at his desk, silent, but showing many signs of
uneasiness. On returning, he brought the desired check, and was then
dispatched to lift the notes for which this late provision was made.
"What a life for a man to lead," said my friend, turning to me with
a contracted brow and a sober face. "I sometimes wish myself on an
island in mid ocean. You remember C——?"
"He quit business a year ago, and bought a farm. I saw him the
other day. 'Payson,' said he, with an air of satisfaction, 'I haven't
seen a bank notice this twelvemonth.' He's a happy man! This note
paying is the curse of my life. I'm forever on the street
financiering—_Financiering_. How I hate the word! But come—they'll
be waiting dinner for us. Mrs. Payson is delighted at the thought of
seeing you. How long is it since you were here? About ten years, if
I'm not mistaken. You'll find my daughters quite grown up. Clara is
in her twentieth year. You, of course, recollect her only as a school
girl. Ah me! how time does fly!"
I found my friend living in a handsome house in Franklin street. It
was showily, not tastefully, furnished, and the same might be said of
his wife and daughters. When I last dined with them—it was many years
before—they were living in a modest, but very comfortable way, and
the whole air of their dwelling was that of cheerfulness and comfort.
Now, though their ample parlors were gay with rich Brussels, crimson
damask, and brocatelle, there was no genuine home feeling there. Mrs.
Payson, the last time I saw her, wore a mousseline de lain, of subdued
colors, a neat lace collar around her neck, fastened with a small
diamond pin, the marriage gift of her father. Her hair, which curled
naturally, was drawn behind her ears in a few gracefully falling
ringlets. She needed no other ornament. Anything beyond would have
taken from her the chiefest of her attractions, her bright, animated
countenance, in which her friends ever read a heart-welcome.
How changed from this was the rather stately woman, whose real
pleasure at seeing an old friend was hardly warm enough to melt
through the ice of an imposed formality. How changed from this the
pale, cold, worn face, where selfishness and false pride had been
doing a sad, sad work. Ah! the rich Honiton lace cap and costly cape;
the profusion of gay ribbons, and glitter of jewelry; the ample folds
of glossy satin; how poor a compensation were they for the true woman
I had parted with a few years ago, and now sought beneath these showy
adornments in vain!
Two grown-up daughters, dressed almost as flauntingly as their
mother, were now presented. In the artificial countenance of the
oldest, I failed to discover any trace of my former friend Clara.
A little while we talked formally, and with some constraint all
round; then, as the dinner had been waiting us, and was now served,
we proceeded to the dining-room. I did not feel honored by the really
sumptuous meal the Paysons had provided for their old friend; because
it was clearly to be seen that no honor was intended. The honor was
all for themselves. The ladies had not adorned their persons, nor
provided their dinner, to give me welcome and pleasure, but to exhibit
to the eyes of their guest, their wealth, luxury, and social
importance. If I had failed to perceive this, the conversation of the
Paysons would have made it plain, for it was of style and elegance in
house-keeping and dress—of the ornamental in all its varieties; and
in no case of the truly domestic and useful. Once or twice I referred
to the Wightmans; but the ladies knew nothing of them, and seemed
almost to have forgotten that such persons ever lived.
It did not take long to discover that, with all the luxury by which
my friends were surrounded, they were far from being happy. Mrs.
Payson and her daughters, had, I could see, become envious as well as
proud. They wanted a larger house, and more costly furniture in order
to make as imposing an appearance as some others whom they did not
consider half as good as themselves. To all they said on this subject,
I noticed that Payson himself maintained, for the most part, a
half-moody silence. It was, clearly enough, unpleasant to him.
"My wife and daughters think I am made of money," said he, once,
half laughing. "But if they knew how hard it was to get hold of,
sometimes, they would be less free in spending. I tell them I am a
poor man, comparatively speaking; but I might as well talk to the
"Just as well," replied his wife, forcing an incredulous laugh;
"why will you use such language? A poor man!"
"He that wants what he is not able to buy, is a poor man, if I
understand the meaning of the term," said Payson, with some feeling.
"And he who lives beyond his income, as a good many of our
acquaintances do to my certain knowledge, is poorer still."
"Now don't get to riding that hobby, Mr. Payson," broke in my
friend's wife, deprecatingly—"don't, if you please. In the first
place, it's hardly polite, and, in the second place, it is by no
means agreeable. Don't mind him"—and the lady turned to me
gaily—"he gets in these moods sometimes."
I was not surprised at this after what I had witnessed, about his
house. Put the scenes and circumstances together, and how could it
well be otherwise? My friend, thus re-acted upon, ventured no further
remark on a subject that was so disagreeable to his family. But while
they talked of style and fashion, he sat silent, and to my mind
oppressed with no very pleasant thoughts. After the ladies had
retired, he said, with considerable feeling—
"All this looks and sounds very well, perhaps; but there are two
aspects to almost everything. My wife and daughters get one view of
life, and I another. They see the romance, I the hard reality. It is
impossible for me to get money as fast as they wish to spend it. It
was my fault in the beginning, I suppose. Ah! how difficult it is to
correct an error when once made. I tell them that I am a poor man,
but they smile in my face, and ask me for a hundred dollars to shop
with in the next breath. I remonstrate, but it avails not, for they
don't credit what I say. AND I AM POOR—poorer, I sometimes think,
than the humblest of my clerks, who manages, out of his salary of
four hundred a year, to lay up fifty dollars. He is never in want of
a dollar, while I go searching about, anxious and troubled, for my
thousands daily. He and his patient, cheerful, industrious little
wife find peace and contentment in the single room their limited
means enables them to procure, while my family turn dissatisfied from
the costly adornments of our spacious home, and sigh for richer
furniture, and a larger and more showy mansion. If I were a
millionaire, their ambition might be satisfied. Now, their ample
wishes may not be filled. I must deny them, or meet inevitable ruin.
As it is, I am living far beyond a prudent limit—not half so far,
however, as many around me, whose fatal example is ever tempting the
weak ambition of their neighbors."
This and much more of similar import, was said by Payson. When I
returned from his elegant home, there was no envy in my heart. He was
called a rich and prosperous man by all whom I heard speak of him, but
in my eyes, he was very poor.
A day or two afterwards, I saw Wightman in the street. He was so
changed in appearance that I should hardly have known him, had he not
first spoken. He looked in my eyes, twenty years older than when we
last met. His clothes were poor, though scrupulously clean; and, on
observing him more closely, I perceived an air of neatness and order,
that indicates nothing of that disregard about external appearance
which so often accompanies poverty.
He grasped my hand cordially, and inquired, with a genuine
interest, after my health and welfare. I answered briefly, and then
"I am sorry to hear that it is not so well with you in worldly
matters as when I left the city."
A slight shadow flitted over his countenance, but it grew quickly
"One of the secrets of happiness in this life," said he, "is
contentment with our lot. We rarely learn this in prosperity. It is
not one of the lessons taught in that school."
"And you have learned it?" said I.
"I have been trying to learn it," he answered, smiling. "But I find
it one of the most difficult of lessons. I do not hope to acquire it
A cordial invitation to visit his family and take tea with them
followed, and was accepted. I must own, that I prepared to go to the
Wightmans with some misgivings as to the pleasure I should receive.
Almost every one of their old acquaintances, to whom I had addressed
inquiries on the subject, spoke of them with commiseration, as "very
poor." If Wightman could bear the change with philosophy, I hardly
expected to find the same Christian resignation in his wife, whom I
remembered as a gay, lively woman, fond of social pleasures.
Such were my thoughts when I knocked at the door of a small house,
that stood a little back from the street. It was quickly opened by a
tall, neatly-dressed girl, whose pleasant face lighted into a smile
of welcome as she pronounced my name.
"This is not Mary?" I said as I took her proffered hand.
"Yes, this is your little Mary," she answered. "Father told me you
Mrs. Wightman came forward as I entered the room into which the
front door opened, and gave me a most cordial welcome. Least of all
had time and reverses changed her. Though a little subdued, and
rather paler and thinner, her face had the old heart-warmth in
it—the eyes were bright from the same cheerful spirit.
"How glad I am to see you again!" said Mrs. Wightman. And she was
glad. Every play of feature, every modulation of tone, showed this.
Soon her husband came in, and then she excused herself with a
smile, and went out, as I very well understood, to see after tea. In a
little while supper was ready, and I sat down with the family in
their small breakfast room, to one of the pleasantest meals I have
ever enjoyed. A second daughter, who was learning a trade, came in
just as we were taking our places at the table, and was introduced.
What a beautiful glow was upon her young countenance! She was the
very image of health and cheerfulness.
When I met Wightman in the street, I thought his countenance wore
something of a troubled aspect—this was the first impression made
upon me. Now, as I looked into his face, and listened to his
cheerful, animated conversation, so full of life's true philosophy, I
could not but feel an emotion of wonder. "Very poor!" How little did
old friends, who covered their neglect of this family with these
commiserating words, know of their real state. How little did they
dream that sweet peace folded her wings in that humble dwelling
nightly; and that morning brought to each a cheerful, resolute
spirit, which bore them bravely through all their daily toil.
"How are you getting along now Wightman?" I asked, as, after
bidding good evening to his pleasant family, I stood with him at the
gate opening from the street to his modest dwelling.
"Very well," was his cheerful reply. "It was up hill work for
several years, when I only received five hundred dollars salary as
clerk, and all my children were young. But now, two of them are
earning something, and I receive eight hundred dollars instead of
five. We have managed to save enough to buy this snug little house.
The last payment was made a month since. I am beginning to feel
And he laughed a pleasant laugh.
"Very poor," I said to myself, musingly, as I walked away from the
humble abode of the Wightmans. "Very poor. The words have had a wrong
On the next day I met Payson.
"I spent last evening with the Wightmans," said I.
"Indeed! How did you find them? Very poor, of course."
"I have not met a more cheerful family for years. No, Mr. Payson
they are not '_very poor_,' for they take what the great Father
sends, and use it with thankfulness. _Those who ever want more than
they possess are the very poor._ But such are not the Wightmans."
Payson looked at me a moment or two curiously, and then let his
eyes fall to the ground. A little while he mused. Light was breaking
in upon him.
"Contented and thankful!" said he, lifting his eyes from the
ground. "Ah! my friend, if I and mine were only contented and
"You have cause to be," I remarked. "The great Father hath covered
your table with blessings."
"And yet we are poor—VERY POOR," said he, "for we are neither
contented nor thankful. We ask for more than we possess, and, because
it is not given, we are fretful and impatient. Yes, yes—we, not the
Wightmans, are poor—very poor."
And with these words on his lips, my old friend turned from me, and
walked slowly away, his head bent in musing attitude to the ground.
Not long afterwards, I heard that he had failed.
"Ah!" thought I, when this news reached me, "now you are poor, VERY
poor, indeed!" And it was so.