Dream by T. S. Arthur
FROM the time Mr. Andrew Grim opened a low grogshop near the
Washington Market, until, as a wealthy distiller, he counted himself
worth a hundred thousand dollars, every thing had gone on smoothly;
and now he might be seen among the money-lords of the day, as
self-complacent as any. He had stock, houses, and lands: and, in his
mind, these made up life's greatest good. And had he not obtained
them in honest trade? Were they not the reward of persevering
industry? Mr. Grim felt proud of the fact, that he was the architect
of his own fortunes. "How many had started in life side by side with
him; and yet scarcely one in ten of them had risen above the common
Thoughts like these often occupied the mind of Mr. Grim. Such were
his thoughts as he sat in his luxurious parlor, one bleak December
evening, surrounded by every external comfort his heart could desire,
when a child not over seven or eight years of age was brought into the
room by a servant, who said, as he entered—
"Here's a little girl that says she wants to see you."
Mr. Grim, turned, and looked for a moment or two at the visiter.
She was the child of poor parents; that was evident from her coarse
and meager garments.
"Do you wish to see me?" he inquired, in a voice that was meant to
"Yes, sir," timidly answered the child.
"Well, what do you want?"
"My mother wants you."
"Your mother! Who's your mother?"
The manner of Mr. Grim changed instantly; and he said—
"Indeed! What does your mother want?"
"Father is sick; and mother says he will die."
"What ails your father?"
"I don't know. But he's been sick ever since yesterday; and he
screams out so, and frightens us all."
"Where does your mother live?"
The child gave the street and number.
Mr. Grim walked about the room uneasily for some time.
"Didn't your mother say what she wanted with me?" he asked again,
pausing before the little girl, whose eyes had been following all his
"No, sir. But she cried when she told me to go for you."
Mr. Grim moved about the room again for some time. Then stopping
suddenly, he said—
"Go home and tell your mother I'll be there in a little while."
The child retired from the room, and Mr. Grim resumed his
perambulations, his eyes upon the floor, and a shadow resting on his
countenance. After the lapse of nearly half an hour he went into the
hall, and drawing on a warm overcoat, started forth in obedience to
what was evidently an unwelcome summons—for he muttered to himself
as he descended to the pavement—
"I wish people would take care of what they get, and learn to
depend on themselves."
Mr. Grim took an omnibus and rode as far as Canal street. Down
Canal street he walked to West Broadway, and along West Broadway for a
couple of blocks, when he stopped before an old brick house that
looked as if it had seen service for at least a hundred years, and
examined the number.
"This is the place, I suppose," said he, fretfully. And he stepped
back and looked up at the house. Then he approached the door, and
searched for a bell or knocker; but of neither of these appendages
could the dwelling boast. First, he rapped with his knuckles, then
with his cane. But no one responded to the summons. He looked up and
saw lights in the window. So he knocked again, and louder. After
waiting several minutes, and not being admitted, Mr. Grim tried the
door and found it unfastened; but the passage into which he stepped
was dark as midnight. After knocking on the floor loudly with his
cane, a door opened above, a gleam of light fell on an old stairway,
and a rough voice called out,
"Does Mr. Dyer live here?"
"Be sure he does!" was roughly answered.
"Will you be kind enough to show me his room?"
"You'll find it in the third story back," said the voice,
impatiently. The door was shut again, and all was dark as before.
Mr. Grim stood irresolute for a few moments, and then commenced
groping his way up stairs, slowly and cautiously. Just as he gained
the landing on the second flight, a stifled scream was heard in one
of the rooms on the third floor, followed by a sudden movement, as if
two persons were struggling in a murderous conflict. He stopped and
listened, while a chill went over him. A long shuddering groan
followed, and then all was still again. Mr. Grim was about
retreating, when a door opened, and the child who had called for him
came out with a candle in her hand. The light fell upon his form and
the child saw him.
"Oh! mother! mother!" she cried, "Mr. Grim is here!"'
Instantly the form of a woman was seen in the door. Her look was
wild and distressed, and her hair, which had become loosened from the
comb, lay in heavy masses upon her shoulders.
"For heaven's sake, Mary! what is the matter?" exclaimed Mr. Grim,
as he approached the woman.
"The matter!" She looked sternly at the visiter. "Come and see!"
And she pointed into the room.
A cry of unutterable distress broke upon the air, and the woman
sprang back quickly into the room. Mr. Grim hurried after her. By the
feeble light of a single poor candle, he saw a half-clothed man
crouching fearfully in a corner of the room, with his hands raised in
the attitude of defence.
"Keep off! Keep off, I say!" he cried, despairingly. "Oh! oh! oh!
It's on me, Mary! Mary! Oh! Lord, help me! help me!"
And as these broken sentences fell from his lips, he shrunk closer
and closer into the corner, and then fell forward, writhing upon the
floor. By this time, his wife was bending down over him, and with her
assuring voice she soon succeeded in quieting him.
"They've all gone now, Henry," said she, in a tone of cheerful
confidence, assumed at what an effort! "I've driven them away. Come!
lie down upon the bed."
"They're under the bed," replied the sufferer, glancing fearfully
around. "Yes, yes! There! I see that blackest devil with the snake in
his hand. He's grinning at me from behind the bed post. Now he's going
to throw his horrible snake at me! There! oh-oh-oh-oh!"
The fearful, despairing scream that issued from the poor creature's
lips, as he clung to his wife, curdled the very blood in the veins of
Mr. Grim, who now comprehended the meaning of the scene. Dyer and his
wife were friends of other days. With the latter he had grown up from
childhood, and there were many reasons why he felt an interest in her.
Her husband had learned drinking and idleness in his bar-room, many
years before; and more than once during the time of his declension,
had she called upon Mr. Grim, and earnestly besought him to do
something to save the one she loved best on earth from impending ruin.
But, he had entered the downward way, and it seemed that nothing could
stop his rapid progress. Now he met him, after the lapse of ten years,
and found him mad with the drunkard's madness.
The scene was too painful for Mr. Grim. He could not bear it. So,
hurriedly drawing his purse from his pocket, he threw it upon the
floor, and turning from the room made his way out of the house,
trembling in every nerve. When he arrived at home, the perspiration
stood cold and clammy on every part of his body. His mind was greatly
excited. Most vividly did he picture, in imagination, the horrible
fiend, striking the poor drunken wretch with his serpent spear, or
blasting him with his terrific countenance. For an hour he walked the
floor of his chamber, and then, exhausted in body and mind, threw
himself on a bed, and tried to find oblivion in sleep. But, though he
wooed the gentle goddess, she came not with her soothing poppies. Too
vivid was the impression of what he had seen, and too painful were the
accompanying reflections, to admit of sweet repose. At last, however,
exhaustion came, and he fell into that half sleeping and waking
state—in which the imagination remains active, so painful to endure.
In this state, one picture presented by imagination was most vivid of
all; it was the picture of poor Dyer, shrinking from the fiend with
the serpent, which latter was now as plainly visible to him as it had
been to the unhappy drunkard. Presently the fiend began to turn his
eyes upon him with a malignant expression; then it glanced from him to
the drunkard, and pointing at the latter, said Grim heard the voice
"It is your work!"
The distiller closed his eyes to hide from view the grinning
phantom. But it did not shut out the vision. The fiend was before him
still; and now it swung around its head a horrid serpent with
distended jaws, and seemed about to dash it upon him. He cowered and
groaned in fear. As he still gazed upon the dreadful form, it slowly
changed into a female of stern yet beautiful aspect. In one hand she
held a naked sword, and in the other a balance. Her knew her, and
trembled still more intensely.
"I am JUSTICE," said the figure. "You have been weighed in the
balance and found wanting. The world is sustained by mutual benefits.
No man can live wholly for himself. Each must serve the others. What
one man produces another enjoys. You have enjoyed, in abundance, the
good things produced by others; but what has been your return? Let me
show you the work of your hands. Look!"
Suddenly there was a murmur of voices; the sound came nearer and
nearer, and a crowd of men and women came eagerly toward the
prostrate distiller—all eyes upon him, and all countenances
expressive of anger, rebuke, or despair. One poor mother held towards
him her ragged, starving child, and cried—
"Your cursed trade has murdered his father. Give him back to us!"
Another marred and degraded wretch called, with clenched hand—
"Where is my money, my good name, my all?" You have robbed me of
By his side was a poor drunkard, supporting the pale form of his
sick wife, while their starving children stood weeping before them—
"Look at us?" said he. "It is your handy-work!"
And there were dozens of others in the squalid crowd who called to
him with bitter execrations, or pointed to their ruined homes and
"It is your work! Your work! Rum—rum has cursed us!"
"Yes, this is your work," said Justice, sternly. "For the good
things of life you received on all hands from your fellow-men, you
gave them back a stream of fire to consume them. Wealth is the
representative of use to society. It comes, or should come, as a
reward for serving the common good. So earned, it is a blessing; and
he who thus gains it has a right to its possession. But, in your
eager pursuit of gain you have cursed every man who brought you a
blessing; and now your ill-gotten wealth must be given up. See!"
And, as she spoke, she pointed to an immense bag of gold.
"It is all there!" continued Justice. "Your houses and lands, your
stocks and your merchandise, have been converted into gold; and I now
distribute it once more among the people, to be gathered by those more
worthy to possess it than thou!"
Then a troop of fiends came rushing down through the air, and,
seizing the bag, were bearing it off in triumph, when the agonized
sleeper sprang towards his gold, and in the effort threw off the
terrible nightmare that was almost crushing out his life.
There was no sleep for him during the hours that intervened until
the daylight broke. The images he had seen, and the words he had
heard, were before him all the time, crushing his heart like the
pressure of heavy footsteps. As soon as the day had dawned he started
forth and sought the dwelling he had so hastily left on the night
before. All was silent as he ascended the stairway. The door of the
room where he had been stood partly open. He listened a moment—all
was silent. He moved the door, but nothing stirred within. Then he
entered. His purse lay upon the floor where he had thrown it; that was
the first object which met his sight. The next was the ghastly face of
death! The wretched drunkard had passed to his account; and his body
lay upon the bed. Close beside was the form of her who had been to Mr.
Grim, in early years, as a tender sister. She was in a profound sleep;
and on the floor lay the child, also wrapped in deep forgetfulness of
the misery with which she was surrounded.—
"And this is the work I have been doing!" sighed the distiller;
whose mind could not lose the vivid impression made by his dream.
A little while he contemplated the scene around him, and then
taking up his purse he silently withdrew. But ere returning home he
made known to a benevolent person the fact of the unhappy death which
had occurred, and, placing money in his hand, asked him to do all that
humanity required, and to do it at his expense.
Few men went about their daily business with a heavier heart than
Mr. Andrew Grim. He felt that he was the possessor of ill-gotten
gain; and felt, besides, a sense of insecurity.
"Wealth is the representative of use to society. It comes, or
should come, as a reward for serving the common good," he repeated
to himself, in the words he had heard in his dream. "And how have I
served the common good? What good have I performed that corresponds
to the blessings I have received and enjoy? Ah, me! I wish it were
With such thoughts, how could the man be happy! When night came
round again he feared to trust himself in the arms of sleep; and when
exhausted nature yielded, painful dreams haunted him until morning.
Weeks elapsed before the vivid impression he had received wore off,
and before he enjoyed any thing like a quiet slumber. But, though he
had a better sleep, his waking thoughts ceased to be peaceful and
self-satisfying. A year went by, and then, fretted beyond endurance at
his position of manufacturer of death and destruction, both natural
and spiritual, for his fellow men, he broke up his distillery, and
invested his money in a business that could be followed with benefit