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The Advertisement by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

Sit down for a moment, we will not detain you long, our story will interest you, we are sure, for it is most commendable, brief, and—singularly true.

A poor widow, in the city of Philadelphia, was the mother of three pretty children, orphans of a ship-builder, who lost his life in the corvette Kensington, a naval vessel, built in Kensington for one of the South American republics, and launched in 1826. The South Americans being short of funds, the Kensington, after years of delay, was sold to the emperor of all the Russias, and sailed for Constradt in 1830. Some forty of the carpenters, who had built the vessel, went out in her; she had immense, but symmetrical spars—carried vast clouds of canvass—was caught off Cape Henlopen in a squall—her spars came thundering to the deck, and poor Glenn, the ship builder, was among the slain.

The widow was allowed but a brief time to mourn for the departed; pinching poverty was at her door; upon her own exertions now devolved the care and toil of rearing her three children. Cynthia, the eldest, was a pretty brunette, of thirteen; the neighbors thought Cynthia could “go out to work;” the next eldest, Martin, a fine, sturdy and intelligent boy, could go to a trade; and the youngest, Rosa, one of the most beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde little girls of seven years, poetical fancy ever realized, “the neighbors thought,” ought to be given to somebody, to raise. The mother was but a feeble woman; it would be a task for her to obtain her own living, they thought; and so, kind, generous souls, with that peculiar readiness with which disinterested friends console or advise the unfortunate, “the neighbors” became very eloquent and argumentative. But though the mother's hands were weak, her heart was strong, and her love for her children still stronger.

It is rather a singular trait in the human character, it appears to us, that people possessing the ordinary attributes of sane Christians, should so readily advise others to attempt, or do, that from which they would instinctively recoil; the mass of Widow Glenn's advisers might have been far more serviceable to her, by contributing their mites towards preserving the unity of her little and precious family, than thus savagely advising its disbanding.

Newspapers, at this day, were far less numerous very expensive, and circulated to a very limited degree, indeed. But the widow took a paper, a family, weekly journal; and while casting her vacant eye over the columns, at the close of a Saturday eve, after a severe week's toil for the bread her little and precious ones had eaten, the widow's attention was called to an advertisement, as follows:

     “A Housekeeper Wanted.—An elderly gentleman desires a middle-aged,
     pleasantly-disposed, tidy and industrious American woman, to take
     charge and conduct the domestic affairs of his household. A
     reasonable compensation allowed. Good reference required, the
     applicant to have no incumbrances
. Apply at this office, for the
     address, &c.”

The eager smile, that seemed to warm the wan features of the widow, as she glanced over the advertisement, was dimmed and darkened, as the shining river of summer is shadowed by the heavy passing cloud, when she came to the chilling words—the applicant to have no incumbrances.

“No incumbrances,” moaned the widow, “shall none but God deign to smile or have mercy on the helpless orphans; are they to be feared, shunned, hated, because helpless? Must they perish—die with me alone—struggling against our woes, poverty, wretchedness? No! I know there is a God, he is good, powerful, merciful; he will turn the hearts of some towards the widow and the orphan; and though basilisk-like words warn me to hope not, I will apply—I will attempt to win attention, work, slave, toil, toil, toil, until my poor hands shall wear to the bone, and my eyes no longer do their office—if he will only have mercy, pity for my poor, poor orphans—God bless them!” and in melting tenderness and emotion, the poor woman dropped her face upon her lap and wept—her tears were the showers of hope, to the almost parched soil of her heart, and as the gentle dews of heaven fall to the earth, so fell the widow's tears in balmy freshness upon her visions of a brighter something—in the future.

It was yet early in the evening; her children slept; the poor woman put on her bonnet and shawl, and started at once for the office of the news_paper. The publisher was just closing his sanctum, but he gave the information the widow required, and favorably impressed with Mrs. Glenn's appearance and manner, the publisher, a quaker, interrogated her on various points of her present condition, prospects, &c.; and observed, that but for her children, he had no doubt of the widow's suiting the old man exactly.

“But thee must not be neglected, or discarded from honest industry, because of thy responsibilities, which God hath given thee,” said the quaker. “If thy lad is stout of his age, and a good boy, I will provide for him; he may learn our business, and be off thy charge, and thee may be enabled to keep thy two female children about thee.”

On the following Monday, the widow signified her intention of writing a few lines as an applicant for the situation of housekeeper, and afterwards to consult with the publisher in regard to her boy, Martin, and then bidding the courteous quaker farewell, she sought her humble domicil, with a much lighter heart than she had lately carried from her distressed and lonely home.

In an ancient part of the Quaker city, facing the broad and beautiful Delaware river, stood a venerable mansion; but few of this class now remain in Philadelphia, and the one of which we now speak, but recently passed away, in the great conflagration that visited the city in 1850. In this substantial and stately brick edifice, lived one of the wealthy and retired ship brokers of Quakerdom. He was very wealthy, very eccentric, very good-hearted, but passionate, plethoric, gouty, and seventy years of age. Mr. Job Carson had lived long and seen much; he had been so engrossed in clearing his fortune, that from twenty-five to forty, he had not bethought him of that almost indispensable appendage to a man's comfort in this world—a wife. He was the next ten years considering the matter over, and then, having built and furnished himself a costly mansion, which he peopled with servants, headed by a maiden sister as housekeeper, Job thought, upon the whole—to which his sister added her strong consent—that matrimony would greatly increase his cares, and perhaps add more noise and confusion to his household, than it might counterbalance or offset by probable comfort in “wedded happiness,” so temptingly set forth to old bachelors.

“No,” said Job, at fifty, “I'll not marry, not trade off my single blessedness yet; at least, there's time enough, there's women enough; I'm young, hale, hearty, in the prime of life; no, I'll not give up the ship to woman yet.”

Another ten years rolled along, and the thing turned up in the retired merchant's mind again—he was now sixty, and one, at least, of the objections to his entering the wedded state, removed—for a man at sixty is scarcely too young to marry, surely.

“Ah, it's all up,” quoth Job Carson. “I'm spoiled now. I've had my own way so long, I could not think of surrendering to petticoats, turning my house into a nursery, and turning my back on the joys, quiet and comforts of bachelorhood. No, no, Job Carson—matrimony be hanged. You'll none of it.” And so ten years more passed—now age and luxury do their work.

“O, that infernal twinge in my toe. O, there it is again—hang the goat, it can't be gout. Dr. Bleedem swears I'm getting the gout. Blockhead—none of my kith or kin ever had such an infernal complaint. O, ah-h-h, that infernal window must be sand-bagged, given me this pain in the back, and—Banquo! Where the deuce is that nigger—Banquo-o-o!”

“Yis, massa, here I is,” said a good-natured, fat, black and sleek-looking old darkey, poking his shining, grinning face into the old gentleman's study, sitting, playing or smoking room.

“Here you are? Where? You black sarpint, come here; go to Jackplane, the carpenter, and tell him to come here and make my sashes tight, d'ye hear?”

“Yis, massa, dem's 'em; I'se off.”

“No, you ain't—come here, Banquo, you woolly son of Congo, you; go open my liquor case, bring the brandy and some cool water. There, now clear yourself.”

“Yis, massa, I'se gone, dis time—”

“No, you ain't, come back; go to old Joe Winepipes, and tell him I send my compliments to him, and if he wants to continue that game of chess, let him come over this afternoon, d'ye hear?”

“Yis, massa, dem's 'em, I'se gone dis time—shuah!

“Well, away with you.”

Old Job Carson was yet a rugged looking old gentleman. He had survived nearly all his “blood, kith and kin;” his sister had paid the last debt of nature some months before, and in hopes of finding some one to fill her station, in his domestic concerns, his advertisement had appeared in the Weekly Bulletin.

“Ah, me, it's no use crying about spilt milk,” sighed the old gent over his glass. “I suppose I've been a fool; out-lived everybody, everything useful to me. Made a fortune first, nobody to spend it last. Yes, yes,” continued the old man, in a thoughtful strain, “old Job Carson will soon slip off the handle; 'poor old devil,' some bloodsucker may say, as he grabs Job's worldly effects, 'he's gone, had a hard scrabble to get together these things, and now, we'll pick his bones.' Well, let 'em, let 'em; serves me right; ought to have known it before, but blast and rot 'em, if they only enjoy the pillage as much as I did the struggles to keep it together, why, a—it will be about an even thing with us, after all.”

“Yis, massa, here I is,” chuckled Banquo, again putting his black bullet pate in at the door.

“You are, eh? Well, clear yourself—no, come back; go down to Oatmeal's store, and tell him to let old Mrs. Dougherty, and the old blind man, and the sailor's wife, and—and—the rest of them, have their groceries, again, this week—only another week, mind, for I'm not going to support the whole neighborhood any longer—tell him so.”

“Yis, massa, I'se gone.”

“Wait, come here, Banquo; well, never mind—clear out.”

But Banquo returned in a moment, saying:

“Dar's a lady at the doo-ah, sah; says she wants to see you, sah, 'bout 'ticlar business, sah.”

“Is, eh? Well, call her into the parlor, I'll be down—ah-h, that infernal twinge again, ah-h-h-h, ah-h! What a stupid ass a man is to hang around in this world until he's a nuisance to himself and every body else!” grunted old Job, as he groped his way down stairs, and into the parlor.

“Good morning, ma'am,” said he, as he confronted the widow, who, in the utmost taste of simple neatness, had arranged her spare dress, to meet the umpire of her future fate.

Mrs. Glenn respectfully acknowledged the salutation, and at once opened her business to the bluff old man.

“Yes, yes; I'm a poor, unfortunate creature, ma'am; I'm nothing, nobody, any more. I want somebody to see that I'm not robbed, or poisoned, and that I may have a bed to lie upon, and a clean piece of linen to my back occasionally, and a—that's all I want, ma'am.”

The widow feigned to hope she knew the duties of a housekeeper, and situated as she was, it was a labor of love to work—toil, for those misfortune had placed in her charge.

“Eh? what's that—haven't got incumbrances, have you, ma'am?”

“I have three children, sir,” meekly said the widow.

“Three children?” gruffly responded the old gentleman; “ah, umph, what business have you, ma'am, with three children?”

[Illustration: “Three children?” gruffly responded the old gentleman. “Ah, umph, what business have you, ma'am, with three children?”—Page 393.]

The widow, not apparently able to answer such a poser, the old gentleman continued:

“Poor widows, poor people of any kind, have no business with incumbrances, ma'am; no excuse at all, ma'am, for 'em.”

“So, alas!” said Mrs. Glenn, “I find the world too—too much inclined to reason; but I shall trust to the mercy and providence of the Lord, if denied the kind feelings of mortals.”

“Ah, yes, yes, that's it, ma'am; it's all very fine, ma'am; but too many poor, foolish creatures get themselves in a scrape, then depend upon the Lord to help 'em out. This shifting the responsibility to the shoulders of the Lord isn't right. I don't wonder the Lord shuts his ears to half he's asked to do, ma'am.”

“Well, sir, I thought I would call, though I feared my children would be an objection to—”

“Yes, yes,—I don't want incumbrances, ma'am.”

“But I—I a—”—the widow's heart was too full for utterance; she moved towards the door. “Good morning, sir.”

“Stop, come back, ma'am, sit down; it's a pity—you've no business, ma'am, as I said before, to have incumbrances, when you haven't got any visible means of support. Now, if you only had one, one incumbrance—and that you'd no business to have”—said the old gent, doggedly, tapping an antique tortoise-shell snuff box, and applying “the pungent grains of titillating dust,” as Pope observes, to his proboscis, “if you had only one incumbrance—but you've got a house full, ma'am.”

“No, sir, only three!” answered widow Glenn.

“Three, only three? God bless me, ma'am, I wouldn't be a poor woman with two—no, with one incumbrance at my petticoat tails—for the biggest ship and cargo old Steve Girard ever owned, ma'am.”

“I might,” meekly said the widow, “put my son with the printer, sir; he has offered to take my poor boy.”

“Two girls and a boy?” inquiringly asked the old gent, applying the dust, and manipulating his box. “How old? Eldest thirteen, eh?—boy eleven, and the youngest seven, eh?” and working a traverse, or solving some problematic point, Job Carson stuck his hands under his morning gown, and strode over the floor; after a few evolutions of the kind, he stopped—fumbled in a drawer of a secretary, and placing a ten dollar note in the widow's hand, he said:

“There, ma'am; I don't know that I shall want you, but to-morrow morning, if you have time, from other and more important business, call in, bring your children with you; good morning, ma'am—Banquo!”

“Yis, sah; I'se heah.”

“Show the lady out—good morning, ma'am, good morning.”

“I like that woman's looks,” said old Job, continuing his walk; “she's plain and tidy; she's industrious, I'll warrant; if she only hadn't that raft of incumbrances; what do these people have incumbrances for, anyway?—”

“Lady at the doo-ah, sah,” said Banquo.

“Show her in. Good morning, ma'am; Banquo, a seat for the lady; yes, ma'am, I did; I want a housekeeper. I advertised for one. How many servants do I keep? Well, ma'am, I keep as many as I want. Have visitors? Of course I have. What and where are my rooms? Why, madam, I own the house, every brick and lath in it. I go to bed, and get up, and go round; come in and out, when I feel like it. What church do I worship in? I've assisted in building a number, own a half of one, and a third of several; but, ma'am, between you and I—I don't want to be rude to a lady, ma'am, but I do think, this examination ain't to my liking—you don't think the place would suit you, eh? Well, I think your ladyship wouldn't suit me, ma'am, so I'll bid your ladyship good morning,” said old Job, bowing very obsequiously to the stiff-starched and acrimonious dame, who, returning the old gentleman's bow with the same “high pressure” order, seized her skirts in one hand, and agitating her fan with the other, she stepped out, or finikined along to the hall door, and as Banquo flew around, and put on the extras to let her ladyship out, she gave the darkey a pat on the head with her fan, and looking crab-apples at the poor negro, she rushed down the steps and disappeared.

“Tank you, ma'am; come again, eb you please—of'n!” said the pouting negro.

“Yes, sah; here's nudder lady, sah,” says Banquo, ushering in a rather ruddy, jolly-looking and perfectly-at-home daughter of the “gim o' the sae.” The old gentleman eyed her liberal proportions; consulting his snuff-box, he answered “yes” to the woman's inquiry, if he was the gintleman wanting the housekeeper.

“Did you read my advertisement, ma'am?”

“Me rade it? Not I, faix. Mr. Mullony, our landlord, was saying till us—”

“Are you married, too?”

“Married two? Do I look like a woman as would marry two? No, sur; I'm a dacent woman, sur; my name is Hannah Geaughey, Jimmy Geaughey's my husband, sur; he, poor man, wrought in the board-yard till he was sun sthruck, by manes of falling from a cuart, sur.”

“Well, ma'am, that will do, I'm sorry for your husband—one dollar, there it is; you wouldn't suit me at all; good morning, ma'am. Banquo, show the good woman to the door.”

“But, sur, I want the place!”

“I don't want you—good morning.”

“Dis way, ma'am,” said Banquo, marshalling the woman to the hall.

“Stand away, ye nager; it's your masther I'm spakin' wid.”

“Go along, go along, woman, go, go, go!” roared the old gent.

“But, as I was saying, Mr. Mullony said—says he—who the divil you push'n, you black nager?” said the woman, grabbing Banquo's woolly top-knot.

“Dis way, ma'am,” persevered Banquo, quartering towards the door.

“Mr. Mullony was sayin', sur—”

“Dis way, ma'am,” continued the darkey, crowding Mrs. Geaughey, while his master was gesticulating furiously to keep on crowding her. Finally, Banquo vanquished the Irish woman, and received orders from his master to admit no more applicants—the place was filled.

That afternoon, old Captain Winepipes—a retired merchant and ship-master, an old bachelor, too, who was in the habit of exchanging visits with Job Carson, sipping brandy and water, talking over old times and playing chess—came to finish a litigated game, and Job and he discussed the matter of taking care of the widow and children of the dead ship-builder. At length, it was settled that, if the second interview with the widow, and an exhibition of her children, proved satisfactory to Job Carson, he should take them in; if found more than Job could attend to—

“Why a—I'll go you halves, Job,” said Captain Winepipes.

Next day, Widow Glenn and her pretty children appeared at the door of Carson's mansion; and Banquo, full of pleasant anticipations, ushered them into the retired merchant's presence.

It was evident, at the first glance the old gentleman gave the group, that the battle was more than half won.

“Fine boy, that; come here, sir—eleven years of age, eh? Your name's Martin—Martin Glenn, eh? Well, Martin, my lad, you've got a big world before you—a fussing, fuming world, not worth finding out, not worth the powder that would blow it up. You've got to take your position in the ranks, too, mean and contemptible as they are; but you may make a good man; if the world don't benefit you, why a—you can benefit it; that's the way I've done—been obliged to do it, ain't sorry for it, neither,” said the old man, with evident emotion.

“Your name is Cynthia, eh? And you are a fine grown girl for your age, surely. Cynthia, you'll soon be capable of 'keeping house,' too; you've got a world before you, too, my dear; a wicked, scandalous world; a world full of deceit and misery—look at your mother, look at me! Ah, well, it's all our own fault; yours, madam, for having these—these incumbrances, and mine, poor devil—for not having 'em. Cynthia, you're a fine girl; a good girl, I know. Ah, here's mamma's pet, I suppose; Rose Glenn, very pretty name, pretty girl, too, very pretty. Lips and cheeks like cherries, eyes brighter than Brazil diamonds. Ma'am, you've got great treasures here; a man must be a stupid ass to call these incumbrances. They are jewels of inestimable value. What's my filthy bank accounts, dollars and cents, houses, goods and chattels, that fire may destroy, and thieves steal—to these blessings that—that God has given the lone widow to strengthen her—cheer her in the dark path of life? God is great, generous, and just; I see it now, plainer than I ever did before. Banquo!”

“Yis'r, I'se here, massa.”

“Go tell Counsellor Prime to call on me immediately; tell Captain Winepipes to come over—I want to see him. I'm going to make a fool of myself, I believe.”

“Yes, sah, I'se gone; gorry, I guess dere's suffin gwoin to happen to dat lady and dem chil'ns—shuah!” said Banquo, rushing out of the house.

The fate of the ship-builder's family was fixed. Job Carson proposed—and the widow, of course, consented—that Martin Glenn should become the adopted son of the old gentleman, Job Carson; and that he should choose a trade or profession, which he should then, or later, learn, making the old gentleman's house as much his home as circumstances would permit; the two girls were to remain under the same roof with the mother, who was at once installed as housekeeper for the bluff and generous old gentleman.

Old Captain Winepipes insisted on a share in the settlement, to wit: that both girls should be educated at his expense, which was finally acceded to, adding, that in case he—Captain Joseph Winepipes—should live to see Rose Glenn a bride, he should provide for her wedding, and give her a dowry.

“Set that down in black and white, Mr. Prime,” said Job, “and that I, Job Carson, do agree, should I live to see Cynthia Glenn a wife, to give her a comfortable start in the world—set that down, for I will do it, yes, I will,” said the old gent, with an emphatic rap on his snuff-box.

       * * * * *

Ten years passed away; Captain Winepipes has paid the debt of nature; he did not live to see Rose Glenn a wife; but, nevertheless, he left a clause in his will, that fully carried out his expressed intentions when Rose did marry, some two years after she arrived at the age of sweet seventeen. Martin Glenn Carson graduated in the printing office, and very recently filled one of the most important stations in the judiciary of Illinois, as well as a chivalrous part in the recent war with Mexico. Cynthia was wedded to a well known member of the Philadelphia bar, an event that Job Carson barely lived to see, and, as he agreed to, donated a sum, quite munificent, towards making things agreeable in the progress of her married life. Widow Glenn remained a faithful servant and friend to the old merchant, and, upon his death, she became heir to the family mansion, and means to keep it up at the usual bountiful rate. Large bequests were made in Job Carson's will, to charitable institutes, but the bulk of his fortune fell to his adopted son, Martin, who proved not unworthy of his good fortune. Banquo ended his days in the service of the widow, who had cause for and took pleasure in blessing the vehicle that conveyed to herself and orphans their rare good fortune, in guise of a NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENT.

 
 
 

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