The Mayflower; or,
Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrilm
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
LOVE versus LAW.
THE TEA ROSE.
TRIALS OF A
LET EVERY MAN
MIND HIS OWN
SKETCHES FROM A
NOTE-BOOK OF AN
SO MANY CALLS. A
MORRIS. A SKETCH
If the plea of "being solicited" is of any avail in securing a
favourable reception for a literary production, the writer of these
sketches might make out a triple claim. For most of them were written
by a young mother and housekeeper, in the first years of her
novitiate, amid alternate demands from an ever dissolving "kitchen
cabinet," and from the two, three, and four occupants of her nursery.
During this period, the entreaty of some friend to "write just a
page or two" for her literary soirée, or the request of some
editor with the offer of a douceur that might eke out a
domestic accommodation, backed by the occasional offer of friends to
act as substitutes in domestic concerns while securing the fulfilment
of such requests, elicited most of these articles; which, at the
request of a publisher, have been collected and prepared by the
author of this preface.
Being thus, to some extent, responsible for the matter contained in
this volume, the writer of the preface takes the opportunity to offer
a few remarks on this particular kind of literature, with which the
press is now teeming. The time was when, to the greater part of the
religious world, novel reading was almost as much an
interdicted amusement as dancing and card-playing. But since the
writings of Miss Edgeworth and Sir Walter Scott have produced so great
a change in the character of novels, there has been a corresponding
change in practice, even among the most scrupulous, till now we can
find novels as a part of the clergyman's library, and novel writers
publicly eulogized by some of the most influential among our clergy
and theological professors.
At the same time, there has been a most enormous multiplication of
sketches, tales, novels, and romances, of all sorts and sizes, which,
by the agency of cheap magazines and mammoth sheets, have been
showered into every hamlet in our land. They are found not only in
the library of the rich or the literary, but on the counter, in the
workshop, in the tavern, in the canal-boat, and the railroad car. And
the greatest evil in all this is, that there is little or no
discrimination in the selection of this food for the imagination. The
worst stands about an equal chance with the best.
The powerful effect of this kind of literature on the public mind
has recently been strongly indicated by the oblations paid to an
amiable and interesting foreign novelist, whose advent has called
forth demonstrations rarely accorded to the greatest benefactors of
mankind. And what are his claims to this homage, and what will be the
probable result? True it is, that the vivid delineations of character
and scenes in his writings, their democratic tendency, the kindliness
of heart displayed in them, the pleasing vein of humour that runs
through them, and their comparative freedom from what is licentious
and unprincipled, are just claims to public favour. And there is some
real occasion for patriotic pleasure in so uncommon a popular ovation
to merit that is so purely intellectual. But, on the other hand, what
false views of human nature are presented in these so popular and
widespread writings; as if such pure, elevated, refined characters
could grow up under the most baleful influences, without parental
influence, without education, and without religion: as if it made
little or no difference with the human mind whether it were trained
right or wrong, or not trained at all. And what a low standard of
virtue is presented! as if the truths and hopes of religion had
nothing to do with virtue or morality, or noble and refined sentiment.
And what sad familiarity is induced with the most depraved, the most
degraded, and the most vulgar of mankind! And with what careless and
mirthful levity are the crimes and vices of our fellow-creatures held
up to view! And what is there in these writings to counteract such
unfortunate influences? And what can be hoped from the unbounded
popularity thus gained, but the flooding of our land by competitors,
both at home and abroad, who probably will sink below their model of
imitation in these respects?
It is such considerations as these that seem to call on both the
writers and readers of works of imagination, to pause and look about
for the landmarks. And it is by these considerations that the writer,
in aiding to add another volume to this kind of literature, has felt
called upon to present some of her own views on this subject.
What, then, is to be done? Shall persons professing to be regulated
by religious principle, attempt to revert to former strictness, and
banish all novel-reading as a sinful practice, at all times to be
In reply to this, it may be remarked, that this mode of remedying
the difficulty is utterly impracticable. For, in the first
place, there is no foundation for drawing any line of exclusion. A
novel—what is it? Is it merely the highly-wrought tale contained in
two volumes, and called a novel? But what are many of the
highly-wrought tales in our juvenile libraries but little novels for
children? And what are the highly-wrought love-stories in Mrs.
Sherwood's Lady of the Manor, which figure in our Sunday schools, and
are conned over by the children of minister and people, and often in
the hours of sanctuary service, but a collection of little novels,
with a bit of the catechism at the beginning, and a prayer at the end
of each? There is no possibility, then, of making rules to exclude
novels, because there is no mode of deciding what a novel is. The
question, therefore, is much more general; for we are led to inquire,
by what methods are we to regulate and properly restrain the
reading of works of imagination? In determining this, we cannot
assume that all "fictitious narratives" shall be excluded, for this
would shut out, not only much of the most profitable religious
reading, but even the parables and allegories of Scripture.
In meeting the matter fairly, it is to be conceded that there are
many advantages to be gained by reading works of this class, if
properly selected. The imagination and taste are gifts of God, which
are to be cultivated and developed, and their proper exercise is
conducive to the health both of body and mind. Now that the laws of
our physical nature are beginning to be better understood, it is
extensively conceded that it is not only right, but that it is a duty,
at certain intervals, to release the intellect and feelings from care
and effort, and devote a certain portion of time to mere recreation
and amusement. And the most elevating and refining of all amusements
is the exercise of the imagination in contemplating the pictures
drawn by the sculptor, painter, poet, and novelist. These amusements,
if properly regulated, have a tendency to improve the manners by an
acquaintance with the refinements of polished society, to increase a
knowledge of the world by vivid pictures of men and things, to
cultivate the taste by exhibitions of the beautiful, correct, and
pure, to elevate the sentiments, to expand the generous and
benevolent sympathies, and to cherish religious principles and pious
aspirations. For never do self-denying virtue and heaven-born piety
appear more interesting and inviting than when appropriately
portrayed in works of imagination. But every good has its attendant
dangers, and, ordinarily, the greater the blessing, the greater are
the evils involved in its perversion.
Works of imagination
might be made the most powerful of all
human agencies in promoting virtue and religion; and yet, through
perversion, they are often the channel for conveying the most
widespread and pernicious poisons. And the most dangerous part of
these evils is their insidious and unmarked operation. The havoc they
often make in tastes, feelings, habits, and principles, is ordinarily
as silent and unnoticed as the invisible miasma, whose presence is
never realized until pale cheeks and decaying forms tell of its fatal
The lassitude of spirits and vis inertiæ of intellect that often
result from over-excitement of the imagination—the distaste for
solid mental nutriment thus induced— the waste of time and
energies—the false and mawkish taste—the wrong views of life and
its trials, awakening hopes and wishes that can end only in
disappointment and disgust—the false estimate of character, induced
by adorning with the charms of fancy heroes and heroines destitute of
the grand qualifications alike indispensable to our present and our
eternal well-being—the false standard of right and wrong
presented— and still more fatal and insidious, those dangerous
pictures, that tempt the imagination to guilty indulgences,
destructive alike to health, character, and virtue: all these evils
come unawares upon the young and unwary, while no guardian is near to
save from the evil, or spread the alarm to the yet unharmed.
What, then, should be attempted by those who feel, or fear these
evil tendencies, in order to stay the contaminating influence now
pervading our intellectual and moral atmosphere?
The writer may at least suggest what
could be done.
In the first place, parents might be as watchful for the safety of
their children in regard to the slow poisons that corrupt the taste,
and principle, and feelings, as they are to save from poisonous food.
The practicability of this the writer has seen exemplified in
families, where the mother keeps a careful inspection of all books,
newspapers, and magazines that enter the house, and where the rule of
the family is, that no book or paper shall be read without parental
permission. The father co-operates, and leaves his office,
counting-room, or study, to spend his evenings with his family, and at
such times the carefully-selected works of fiction are read aloud for
common entertainment. Thus the parents and children are united in
their pleasures, while parents have an opportunity to counteract any
bad influence that might otherwise be exerted.
In the second place, teachers of schools and officers of all
institutions for educating the young, could make it a definite object
to instruct those under their care in the dangers to which they are
exposed, and to point out the works that should be avoided, and those
which may safely be read.
In the third place, the editors of our magazines and newspapers
might exert a most healthful influence in presenting appropriately to
the minds of their readers the dangers and evils involved in the
promiscuous reading of works of imagination, in drawing attention to
works that are safe and valuable, and in giving warning whenever a
work issues from the press that is pernicious in its tendencies.
Lastly, the ministers of religion may, in their pulpit discourses,
instruct their people in their duties as individuals and as parents
on this subject. They can most appropriately point out how intimately
the proper control and training of the imagination is connected with
all devotional and practical duties—how much the power of regulating
this unruly principle depends on the course of reading adopted—how
much the tastes and principles of the young are modified by works of
imagination—how responsible parents, and teachers, and guardians are
for the proper protection of the young from these insidious and
multiplying dangers—and how proper domestic regulations may avail to
secure all desirable advantages without the attending evils.
If these fountains of influence would thus exert even a
small moiety of their power for the public safety, the baleful
missives that are now spreading poison with every breeze would soon
be supplanted by those verdant leaves that bloom by the waters of
life, and are shed abroad "for the healing of the nations."
When this is attempted, those who cater for the public taste will
find it for their interest to select only the safe and good. And
then, too, genius will no longer debase itself in providing aliment
for a vicious public taste, but, pluming its wings for a nobler
flight, will roam through celestial regions, combining only the
bright, the elevated, the right and pure, and thus "allure to
brighter worlds, and lead the way."
Such considerations have inspired the conviction that a person who
has the taste, invention, sprightliness, humour, and command of
diction that qualifies for a successful novelist, by employing these
talents appropriately, may become one of the greatest of public
benefactors, by skilfully providing the healthful aliment that may be
employed in supplanting the pernicious leaven.
Whether the writer of these sketches has the qualifications that
warrant her to aim at any such effort, the public can more fairly
judge, than one who must be biased, not only by the partialities of a
sister, but by the deep interest felt in the nascent efforts of a
mind trained from childhood under her care.
Catharine E. Beecher.
LOVE versus LAW.
How many kinds of beauty there are! How many even in the human
form! There is the bloom and motion of childhood, the freshness and
ripe perfection of youth, the dignity of manhood, the softness of
woman—all different, yet each in its kind perfect.
But there is none so peculiar, none that bears more the image of
the heavenly, than the beauty of Christian old age. It is like
the loveliness of those calm autumn days, when the heats of summer
are past, when the harvest is gathered into the garner, and the sun
shines over the placid fields and fading woods, which stand waiting
for their last change. It is a beauty more strictly moral, more
belonging to the soul, than that of any other period of life. Poetic
fiction always paints the old man as a Christian; nor is there any
period where the virtues of Christianity seem to find a more
harmonious development. The aged man, who has outlived the hurry of
passion—who has withstood the urgency of temptation—who has
concentrated the religious impulses of youth into habits of obedience
and love—who, having served his generation by the will of God, now
leans in helplessness on Him whom once he served, is, perhaps, one of
the most faultless representations of the beauty of holiness that
this world affords.
Thoughts something like these arose in my mind as I slowly turned
my footsteps from the graveyard of my native village, where I had
been wandering after years of absence. It was a lovely spot—a soft
slope of ground close by a little stream, that ran sparkling through
the cedars and junipers beyond it, while on the other side arose a
green hill, with the white village laid like a necklace of pearls upon
There is no feature of the landscape more picturesque and peculiar
than that of the graveyard— that "city of the silent," as it is
beautifully expressed by the Orientals—standing amid the bloom and
rejoicing of Nature, its white stones glittering in the sun, a
memorial of decay, a link between the living and the dead.
As I moved slowly from mound to mound, and read the inscriptions,
which purported that many a money saving man, and many a busy,
anxious housewife, and many a prattling, halfblossomed child, had
done with care or mirth, I was struck with a plain slab, bearing the
inscription, "To the memory of Deacon Enos Dudley, who died in his
hundredth year." My eye was caught by this inscription, for in
other years I had well known the person it recorded. At this instant,
his mild and venerable form arose before me as erst it used to rise
from the deacon's seat, a straight, close slip just below the pulpit.
I recollect his quiet and lowly coming into meeting, precisely ten
minutes before the time, every Sunday—his tall form a little
stooping—his best suit of butternut-coloured Sunday clothes, with
long flaps and wide cuffs, on one of which two pins were always to be
seen stuck in with the most reverent precision. When seated, the top
of the pew came just to his chin, so that his silvery, placid head
rose above it like the moon above the horizon. His head was one that
might have been sketched for a St. John—bald at the top, and around
the temples adorned with a soft flow of bright fine hair,
"That down his shoulders reverently spread, As hoary frost with
spangles doth attire The naked branches of an oak half dead."
He was then of great age, and every line of his patient face seemed
to say, "And now, Lord, what wait I for?" Yet still, year after year,
was he to be seen in the same place, with the same dutiful
The services he offered to his God were all given with the
exactness of an ancient Israelite. No words could have persuaded him
of the propriety of meditating when the choir was singing, or of
sitting down, even through infirmity, before the close of the longest
prayer that ever was offered. A mighty contrast was he to his
fellow-officer, Deacon Abrams, a tight, little, tripping, well-to-do
man, who used to sit beside him with his hair brushed straight up like
a little blaze, his coat buttoned up trig and close, his psalm-book
in hand, and his quick gray eyes turned first on one side of the broad
aisle, and then on the other, and then up into the gallery, like a
man who came to church on business, and felt responsible for
everything that was going on in the house.
A great hinderance was the business talent of this good little man
to the enjoyments of us youngsters, who, perched along in a row on a
low seat in front of the pulpit, attempted occasionally to diversify
the long hour of sermon by sundry small exercises of our own, such as
making our handkerchiefs into rabbits, or exhibiting, in a sly way,
the apples and gingerbread we had brought for a Sunday dinner, or
pulling the ears of some discreet meeting-going dog, who now and then
would soberly pit-a-pat through the broad aisle. But wo be to us
during our contraband sports if we saw Deacon Abrams's sleek head
dodging up from behind the top of the deacon's seat. Instantly all
the apples, gingerbread, and handkerchiefs vanished, and we all set
with our hands folded, looking as demure as if we understood every
word of the sermon, and more too.
There was a great contrast between these two deacons in their
services and prayers, when, as was often the case, the absence of the
pastor devolved on them the burden of conducting the duties of the
sanctuary. That God was great and good, and that we all were sinners,
were truths that seemed to have melted into the heart of Deacon Enos,
so that his very soul and spirit were bowed down with them With
Deacon Abrams it was an undisputed fact. which he had settled
long ago, and concerning which he felt that there could be no
reasonable doubt, and his bustling way of dealing with the matter
seemed to say that he knew that and a great many things besides.
Deacon Enos was known far and near as a very proverb for
peacefulness of demeanour and unbounded charitableness in covering and
excusing the faults of others. As long as there was any doubt in a
case of alleged evil-doing, Deacon Enos guessed "the man did
not mean any harm, after all;" and when transgression became too
barefaced for this excuse, he always guessed "it wa'n't best to say
much about it; nobody could tell what they might be left to."
Some incidents in his life will show more clearly these traits. A
certain shrewd landholder, by the name of Jones, who was not well
reported of in the matter of honesty, sold to Deacon Enos a valuable
lot of land, and received the money for it; but, under various
pretences, deferred giving the deed. Soon after, he died; and, to the
deacon's amazement, the deed was nowhere to be found, while this very
lot of land was left by will to one of his daughters.
The deacon said "it was very extraor'nary: he always knew that Seth
Jones was considerably sharp about money, but he did not think he
would do such a right up-and-down wicked thing." So the old man
repaired to Squire Abel to state the case and see if there was any
redress. "I kinder hate to tell of it," said he; "but, Squire Abel,
you know Mr. Jones was— was—what he was, even if he is
dead and gone!" This was the nearest approach the old gentleman
could make to specifying a heavy charge against the dead. On being
told that the case admitted of no redress, Deacon Enos comforted
himself with half soliloquizing, "Well, at any rate, the land has
gone to those two girls, poor lone critters—I hope it will do them
some good. There is Silence—we won't say much about her; but Sukey
is a nice, pretty girl." And so the old man departed, leaving it as
his opinion that, since the matter could not be mended, it was just
as well not to say anything about it.
Now the two girls here mentioned (to wit, Silence and Sukey) were
the eldest and the youngest of a numerous family, the offspring of
three wives of Seth Jones, of whom these two were the sole survivers.
The elder, Silence, was a tall, strong, black-eyed, hard-featured
girl, verging upon forty, with a good, loud, resolute voice, and what
the Irishman would call "a dacent notion of using it." Why she was
called Silence was a standing problem to the neighbourhood, for
she had more faculty and inclination for making a noise than any
person in the whole township. Miss Silence was one of those persons
who have no disposition to yield any of their own rights. She marched
up to all controverted matters, faced down all opposition, held her
way lustily and with good courage, making men, women, and children
turn out for her, as they would for a mailstage. So evident was her
innate determination to be free and independent, that, though she was
the daughter of a rich man, and well portioned, only one swain was
ever heard of who ventured to solicit her hand in marriage, and he
was sent off with the assurance that, if he ever showed his face about
the house again, she would set the dogs on him.
But Susan Jones was as different from her sister as the little
graceful convolvulus from the great rough stick that supports it. At
the time of which we speak she was just eighteen, a modest, slender,
blushing girl, as timid and shrinking as her sister was bold and
hardy. Indeed, the education of poor Susan had cost Miss Silence much
painstaking and trouble, and, after all, she said "the girl would make
a fool of herself; she never could teach her to be up and down with
people, as she was."
When the report came to Miss Silence's ears that Deacon Enos
considered himself as aggrieved by her father's will, she held forth
upon the subject with great strength of courage and of lungs. "Deacon
Enos might be in better business than in trying to cheat orphans out
of their rights—she hoped he would go to law about it, and see what
good he would get by it—a pretty church member and deacon, to be
sure! getting up such a story about her poor father, dead and gone!"
"But, Silence," said Susan, "Deacon Enos is a good man: I do not
think he means to injure any one; there must be some mistake about
"Susan, you are a little fool, as I have always told you," replied
Silence; "you would be cheated out of your eye-teeth if you had not
me to take care of you."
But subsequent events brought the affairs of these two damsels in
closer connexion with those of Deacon Enos, as we shall proceed to
It happened that the next-door neighbour of Deacon Enos was a
certain old farmer, whose crabbedness of demeanour had procured for
him the name of Uncle Jaw. This agreeable surname accorded
very well with the general characteristics both of the person and
manner of its possessor. He was tall and hard-favoured, with an
expression of countenance much resembling a northeast rain-storm—a
drizzling, settled sulkiness, that seemed to defy all prospect of
clearing off, and to take comfort in its own disagreeableness. His
voice seemed to have taken lessons of his face, in such admirable
keeping was its sawing, deliberate growl with the pleasing
physiognomy before indicated. By nature he was endowed with one of
those active, acute, hair-splitting minds, which can raise forty
questions for dispute on any point of the compass; and had he been an
educated man, he might have proved as clever a metaphysician as ever
threw dust in the eyes of succeeding generations. But, being deprived
of these advantages, he nevertheless exerted himself to quite as
useful a purpose in puzzling and mystifying whomsoever came in his
way. But his activity particularly exercised itself in the line of
the law, as it was his meat, and drink, and daily meditation, either
to find something to go to law about, or to go to law about something
he had found. There was always some question about an old rail fence
that used to run "a leetle more to the left hand," or that was
built up "a leetle more to the right hand," and so cut off a
strip of his "medder land," or else there was some outrage of
Peter Somebody's turkeys, getting into his mowing, or Squire Moses's
geese were to be shut up in the town pound, or something equally
important kept him busy from year's end to year's end. Now, as a
matter of private amusement, this might have answered very well; but
then Uncle Jaw was not satisfied to fight his own battles, but must
needs go from house to house, narrating the whole length and breadth
of the case, with all the says he's and says I's, and
the I tell'd him's and he tell'd me's, which do either
accompany or flow therefrom. Moreover, he had such a marvellous
facility of finding out matters to quarrel about, and of letting every
one else know where they, too, could muster a quarrel, that he
generally succeeded in keeping the whole neighbourhood by the ears.
And as good Deacon Enos assumed the office of peacemaker for the
village, Uncle Jaw's efficiency rendered it no sinecure. The deacon
always followed the steps of Uncle Jaw, smoothing, hushing up, and
putting matters aright with an assiduity that was truly wonderful.
Uncle Jaw himself had a great respect for the good man, and, in
common with all the neighbourhood, sought unto him for counsel,
though, like other seekers of advice, he appropriated only so much as
seemed good in his own eyes.
Still he took a kind of pleasure in dropping in of an evening to
Deacon Enos's fire, to recount the various matters which he had taken
or was to take in hand; at one time to narrate "how he had been over
the mill-dam, telling old Granny Clark that she could get the law of
Seth Scran about that pasture lot," or else "how he had told Ziah
Bacon's widow that she had a right to shut up Bill Scranton's pig
every time she caught him in front of her house."
But the grand "matter of matters," and the one that took up the
most of Uncle Jaw's spare time, lay in a dispute between him and
Squire Jones, the father of Susan and Silence; for it so happened
that his lands and those of Uncle Jaw were contiguous. Now the matter
of dispute was on this wise: on Squire Jones's land there was a mill,
which mill Uncle Jaw averred was "always a flooding his medder land."
As Uncle Jaw's "medder land" was by nature half bog and bulrushes,
and therefore liable to be found in a wet condition, there was always
a happy obscurity where the water came from, and whether there was at
any time more there than belonged to his share. So, when all other
subject matters of dispute failed, Uncle Jaw recreated himself with
getting up a lawsuit about his "medder land," and one of these cases
was in pendency when, by the death of the squire, the estate was left
to Susan and Silence, his daughters. When, therefore, the report
reached him that Deacon Enos had been cheated out of his dues, Uncle
Jaw prepared forthwith to go and compare notes. Therefore, one
evening, as Deacon Enos was sitting quietly by the fire, musing and
reading with his big Bible open before him he heard the premonitory
symptoms of a visitation from Uncle Jaw on his door scraper, and soon
the man made his appearance. After seating himself directly in front
of the fire, with his elbows on his knees, and his hands spread out
over the coals, he looked up in Deacon Enos's mild face with his
little inquisitive gray eyes, and remarked, by way of opening the
subject, "Well, Deacon, old Squire Jones is gone at last. I wonder how
much good all his land will do him now?"
"Yes," replied Deacon Enos, "it just shows how all these things are
not worth striving after. We brought nothing into the world, and it is
certain we can carry nothing out."
"Why, yes," replied Uncle Jaw, "that's all very right, Deacon, but
it was strange how that old Squire Jones did hang on to things. Now
that mill of his, that was always soaking off water into these
medders of mine, I took and tell'd Squire Jones just how it was,
pretty nigh twenty times, and yet he would keep it just so; and now
he's dead and gone, there is that old gal Silence is full as bad, and
makes more noise; and she and Suke have got the land; but, you see, I
mean to work it yet!"
Here Uncle Jaw paused to see whether he had produced any
sympathetic excitement in Deacon Enos; but the old man sat without the
least emotion, quietly contemplating the top of the long kitchen
shovel. Uncle Jaw fidgeted in his chair, and changed his mode of
attack for one more direct. `I heard 'em tell, Deacon Enos, that the
Squire served you something of an unhandy sort of trick about that
'ere lot of land."
Still Deacon Enos made no reply; but Uncle Jaw's perseverance was
not so to be put off, and he recommenced. "Squire Abel, you see, he
tell'd me how the matter was, and he said he did not see as it could
be mended; but I took and tell'd him, `Squire Abel,' says I, `I'd bet
pretty nigh 'most anything, if Deacon Enos would tell the matter to
me, that I could find a hole for him to creep out at; for,' says I,
`I've seen daylight through more twistical cases than that afore now."'
Still Deacon Enos remained mute; and Uncle Jaw, after waiting a
while, recommenced with, "But, railly, Deacon, I should like to hear
"I have made up my mind not to say anything more about that
business," said Deacon Enos, in a tone which, though mild, was so
exceedingly definite, that Uncle Jaw felt that the case was hopeless
in that quarter; he therefore betook himself to the statement of his
"Why, you see, Deacon," he began, at the same time taking the
tongs, and picking up all the little brands, and disposing them in the
middle of the fire, "you see, two days after the funeral (for I
didn't railly like to go any sooner), I stepped up to hash over the
matter with old Silence; for as to Sukey, she ha'n't no more to do
with such things than our white kitten. Now, you see, Squire Jones,
just afore he died, he took away an old rail fence of his'n that lay
between his land and mine, and began to build a new stone wall, and
when I come to measure, I found he had took and put a'most the whole
width of the stone wall on to my land, when there ought not to have
been more than half of it come there. Now, you see, I could not say a
word to Squire Jones, because, jest before I found it out, he took
and died; and so I thought I'd speak to old Silence, and see if she
meant to do anything about it, 'cause I knew pretty well she wouldn't;
and I tell you, if she didn't put it on me! we had a regular pitched
battle — the old gal, I thought she would 'a screamed herself to
death! I don't know but she would, but just then poor Sukey came in,
and looked so frightened and scarey—Sukey is a pretty gal, and
looks so trembling and delicate, that it's kinder a shame to plague
her, and so I took and come away for that time."
Here Uncle Jaw perceived a brightening in the face of the good
deacon, and felt exceedingly comforted that at last he was about to
interest him in his story.
But all this while the deacon had been in a profound meditation
concerning the ways and means of putting a stop to a quarrel that had
been his torment from time immemorial, and just at this moment a plan
had struck his mind which our story will proceed to unfold.
The mode of settling differences which had occurred to the good man
was one which has been considered a specific in reconciling contending
sovereigns and states from early antiquity, and the deacon hoped it
might have a pacifying influence even in so unpromising a case as that
of Miss Silence and Uncle Jaw.
In former days, Deacon Enos had kept the district school for
several successive winters, and among his scholars was the gentle
Susan Jones, then a plump, rosy little girl, with blue eyes, curly
hair, and the sweetest disposition in the world. There was also
little Joseph Adams, the only son of Uncle Jaw, a fine, healthy,
robust boy, who used to spell the longest words, make the best
snowballs and poplar whistles, and read the loudest and fastest in
the Columbian Orator of any boy at school.
Little Joe inherited all his father's sharpness, with a double
share of good-humour, so that, though he was forever effervescing in
the way of one funny trick or another, he was a universal favourite,
not only with the deacon, but with the whole school.
Master Joseph always took little Susan Jones under his especial
protection, drew her to school on his sled, helped her out with all
the long sums in her arithmetic, saw to it that nobody pillaged her
dinner-basked or knocked down her bonnet, and resolutely whipped or
snowballed any other boy who attempted the same gallantries. Years
passed on, and Uncle Jaw had sent his son to college. He sent him
because, as he said, he had "a right to send him; just as good a
right as Squire Abel or Deacon Abrams to send their boys, and so he would send him." It was the remembrance of his old favourite
Joseph, and his little pet Susan, that came across the mind of Deacon
Enos, and which seemed to open a gleam of light in regard to the
future. So, when Uncle Jaw had finished his prelection, the deacon,
after some meditation, came out with,
"Railly, they say that your son is going to have the valedictory in
Though somewhat startled at the abrupt transition, Uncle Jaw found
the suggestion too flattering to his pride to be dropped; so, with a
countenance grimly expressive of his satisfaction, he replied,
"Why yes—yes—I don't see no reason why a poor man's son ha'n't
as much right as any one to be at the top, if he can get there."
"Just so," replied Deacon Enos.
"He was always the boy for larning, and for nothing else,"
continued Uncle Jaw; "put him to farming, couldn't make nothing of
him. If I set him to hoeing corn or hilling potatoes, I'd always find
him stopping to chase hoptoads, or off after chip-squirrels. But set
him down to a book, and there he was! That boy larnt reading the
quickest of any boy that ever I saw: it wasn't a month after he began
his a b, abs, before he could read in the `Fox and the
Brambles,' and in a month more he could clatter off his chapter in the
Testament as fast as any of them; and you see, in college, it's jest
so—he has ris right up to be first."
"And he is coming home week after next," said the Deacon,
The next morning, as Deacon Enos was eating his breakfast, he
quietly remarked to his wife, "Sally, I believe it was week after next
you were meaning to have your quilting?"
"Why, I never told you so: what alive makes you think that, Deacon
"I thought that was your calculation," said the good man, quietly.
"Why no—to be sure, I
can have it, and maybe it's the best
of any time, if we can get Black Dinah to come and help about the
cakes and pies. I guess we will, finally."
"I think it's likely you had better," replied the Deacon, "and we
will have all the young folks here."
And now let us pass over all the intermediate pounding, and
grinding, and chopping, which for the next week foretold approaching
festivity in the kitchen of the Deacon. Let us forbear to provoke the
appetite of a hungry reader by setting in order before him the minced
pies, the cranberry tarts, the pumpkin pies, the dough-nuts, the
cookies, and other sweet cakes of every description, that sprung into
being at the magic touch of Black Dinah, the village priestess on all
these solemnities. Suffice it to say that the day had arrived, and the
auspicious quilt was spread.
The invitation had not failed to include the Misses Silence and
Susan Jones—nay, the good deacon had pressed gallantry into the
matter so far as to be the bearer of the message himself; for which
he was duly rewarded by a broadside from Miss Silence, giving him
what she termed a piece of her mind in the matter of the rights of
widows and orphans; to all which the good old man listened with great
benignity from the beginning to the end, and replied with,
"Well, well, Miss Silence, I expect you will think better of this
before long; there had best not be any hard words about it." So
saying, he took up his hat and walked off, while Miss Silence, who
felt extremely relieved by having blown off steam, declared that "It
was of no more use to hector old Deacon Enos than to fire a gun at a
bag of cotton-wool. For all that, though, she shouldn't go to the
quilting; nor, more, should Susan."
"But, sister, why not?" said the little maiden; "I think I
go." And Susan said this in a tone so mildly positive that Silence
"What upon 'arth ails you, Susan?" said she, opening her eyes with
astonishment; "haven't you any more spirit than to go to Deacon Enos's
when he is doing all he can to ruin us?"
"I like Deacon Enos," replied Susan; "he was always kind to me when
I was a little girl, and I am not going to believe that he is a bad
When a young lady states that she is not going to believe a thing,
good judges of human nature generally give up the case; but Miss
Silence, to whom the language of opposition and argument was entirely
new, could scarcely give her ears credit for veracity in the case; she
therefore repeated over exactly what she said before, only in a much
louder tone of voice, and with much more vehement forms of
asseveration: a mode of reasoning which, if not strictly logical, has
at least the sanction of very respectable authorities among the
enlightened and learned.
"Silence," replied Susan, when the storm had spent itself, "if it
did not look like being angry with Deacon Enos, I would stay away to
oblige you; but it would seem to every one to be taking sides in a
quarrel, and I never did, and never will, have any part or lot in such
"Then you'll just be trod and trampled on all your days, Susan,"
replied Silence; "but, however, if you choose to make a fool of
yourself, I don't;" and so saying, she flounced out of the room
in great wrath. It so happened, however, that Miss Silence was one of
those who have so little economy in disposing of a fit of anger, that
it was all used up before the time of execution arrived. It followed,
of consequence, that, having unburdened her mind freely both to Deacon
Enos and to Susan, she began to feel very much more comfortable and
good-natured; and consequent upon that came divers reflections upon
the many gossiping opportunities and comforts of a quilting; and then
the intrusive little reflection, "What if she should go—after all,
what harm would be done?" and then the inquiry, "Whether it was not
her duty to go and look after Susan, poor child, who had no
mother to watch over her?" In short, before the time of preparation
arrived, Miss Silence had fully worked herself up to the magnanimous
determination of going to the quilting. Accordingly, the next day,
while Susan was standing before her mirror, braiding up her pretty
hair, she was startled by the apparition of Miss Silence coming into
the room as stiff as a changeable silk and a high horn comb could
make her; and "grimly determined was her look."
"Well, Susan," said she, "if you
will go to the quilting
this afternoon, I think it is my duty to go and see to you."
What would people do if this convenient shelter of
not afford them a retreat in cases when they are disposed to change
their minds? Susan suppressed the arch smile that, in spite of
herself, laughed out at the corners of her eyes, and told her sister
that she was much obliged to her for her care. So off they went
Silence in the mean time held forth largely on the importance of
standing up for one's rights, and not letting one's self be trampled
The afternoon passed on, the elderly ladies quilted and talked
scandal, and the younger ones discussed the merits of the various
beaux who were expected to give vivacity to the evening entertainment.
Among these, the newly-arrived Joseph Adams, just from college, with
all his literary honours thick about him, became a prominent subject
It was duly canvassed whether the young gentleman might be called
handsome, and the affirmative was carried by a large majority,
although there were some variations and exceptions; one of the party
declaring his whiskers to be in too high a state of cultivation,
another maintaining that they were in the exact line of beauty, while
a third vigorously disputed the point whether he wore whiskers at
all. It was allowed by all, however, that he had been a great beau in
the town where he had passed his college days. It was also inquired
into whether he were matrimonially engaged; and the negative being
understood, they diverted themselves with predicting to one another
the capture of such a prize; each prophecy being received with such
disclaimers as "Come now!" "Do be still!" "Hush your nonsense!" and
At length the long-wished-for hour arrived, and one by one the
lords of the creation began to make their appearance, and one of the
last was this much-admired youth.
"That is Joe Adams!" "That is he!" was the busy whisper, as a tall,
well-looking young man came into the room, with the easy air of one
who had seen several things before, and was not to be abashed by the
combined blaze of all the village beauties.
In truth, our friend Joseph had made the most of his residence in
N—, paying his court no less to the Graces than the Muses. His fine
person, his frank, manly air, his ready conversation, and his faculty
of universal adaptation, had made his society much coveted among the beau monde of N—, and though the place was small, he had become
familiar with much good society.
We hardly know whether we may venture to tell our fair readers the
whole truth in regard to our hero. We will merely hint, in the
gentlest manner in the world, that Mr. Joseph Adams, being undeniably
first in the classics and first in the drawing-room, having been
gravely commended in his class by his venerable president, and gayly
flattered in the drawing-room by the elegant Miss This and That, was
rather inclining to the opinion that he was an uncommonly fine fellow,
and even had the assurance to think that, under present circumstances,
he could please without making any great effort; a thing which,
however true it were in point of fact, is obviously improper to be
thought of by a young man. Be that as it may, he moved about from one
to another, shaking hands with all the old ladies, and listening with
the greatest affability to the various comments on his growth and
personal appearance, his points of resemblance to his father, mother,
grandfather, and grandmother, which are always detected by the
superior acumen of elderly females.
Among the younger ones, he at once, and with full frankness,
recognised old schoolmates, and partners in various whortleberry,
chestnut, and strawberry excursions, and thus called out an abundant
flow of conversation. Nevertheless, his eye wandered occasionally
around the room, as if in search of something not there. What could it
be? It kindled, however, with an expression of sudden brightness as
he perceived the tall and spare figure of Miss Silence; whether owing
to the personal fascinations of that lady, or to other causes, we
leave the reader to determine.
Miss Silence had predetermined never to speak a word again to Uncle
Jaw or any of his race; but she was taken by surprise at the frank,
extended hand, and friendly "how d'ye do?" It was not in woman to
resist so cordial an address from a handsome young man, and Miss
Silence gave her hand and replied with a graciousness that amazed
herself. At this moment, also, certain soft blue eyes peeped forth
from a corner, just "to see if he looked as he used to do." Yes, there
he was! the same dark, mirthful eyes that used to peer on her from
behind the corners of the spelling-book at the district school; and
Susan Jones gave a half sigh to those times, and then wondered why she
happened to think of such nonsense.
"How is your sister, little Miss Susan?" said Joseph.
"Why, she is here—have you not seen her?' said Silence; "there
she is, in that corner."
Joseph looked, but could scarcely recognise her. There stood a
tall, slender, blooming girl, that might have been selected as a
specimen of that union of perfect health with delicate fairness so
characteristic of the young New-England beauty.
She was engaged in telling some merry story to a knot of young
girls, and the rich colour that, like a bright spirit, constantly went
and came in her cheeks; the dimples, quick and varying as those of a
little brook; the clear, mild eye; the clustering curls, and, above
all, the happy, rejoicing smile, and the transparent frankness and
simplicity of expression which beamed like sunshine about her, all
formed a combination of charms that took our hero quite by surprise;
and when Silence, who had a remarkable degree of directness in all her
dealings, called out, "Here, Susan, is Joe Adams, inquiring after
you!" our practised young gentleman felt himself colour to the roots
of his hair, and for a moment he could scarce recollect that first
rudiment of manners, "to make his bow like a good boy." Susan coloured
also; but, perceiving the confusion of our hero, her countenance
assumed an expression of mischievous drollery, which, helped on by
the titter of her companions, added not a little to his confusion.
"Deuse take it!" thought he, "what's the matter with me?" and,
calling up his courage, he dashed into the formidable circle of fair
ones, and began chattering with one and another, calling by name with
or without introduction, remembering things that never happened with a
freedom that was perfectly fascinating.
"Really, how handsome he has grown!" thought Susan; and she
coloured deeply when once or twice the dark eyes of our hero made the
same observation with regard to herself, in that quick, intelligible
dialect which eyes alone can speak. And when the little party
dispersed, as they did very punctually at nine o'clock, our hero
requested of Miss Silence the honour of attending her home, an
evidence of discriminating taste which materially raised him in the
estimation of that lady. It was true, to be sure, that Susan walked on
the other side of him, her little white hand just within his arm; and
there was something in that light touch that puzzled him
unaccountably, as might be inferred from the frequency with which Miss
Silence was obliged to bring up the ends of conversation with, "What
did you say?" "What were you going to say?" and other persevering
forms of inquiry, with which a regular-trained matter-of-fact talker
will hunt down a poor fellow-mortal who is in danger of sinking into a
When they parted at the gate, however, Silence gave our hero a
hearty invitation to "come and see them any time," which he mentally
regarded as more to the point than anything else that had been said.
As Joseph soberly retraced his way homeward, his thoughts, by some
unaccountable association, began to revert to such topics as the
loneliness of man by himself, the need of kindred spirits, the solaces
of sympathy, and other like matters.
That night Joseph dreamed of trotting along with his dinner-basket
to the old brown schoolhouse, and vainly endeavouring to overtake
Susan Jones, whom he saw with her little pasteboard sun-bonnet a few
yards in front of him; then he was tetering with her on a long
board, her bright little face glancing up and down, while every curl
around it seemed to be living with delight; and then he was
snowballing Tom Williams for knocking down Susan's doll's house, or he
sat by her on a bench, helping her out with a long sum in arithmetic;
but, with the mischievous fatality of dreams, the more he ciphered
and expounded, the longer and more hopeless grew the sum; and he awoke
in the morning pshawing at his ill luck, after having done a sum over
half a dozen times, while Susan seemed to be looking on with the same
air of arch drollery that he saw on her face the evening before.
"Joseph," said Uncle Jaw, the next morning at breakfast, "I s'pose
Squire Jones's daughters were not at the quilting?"
"Yes, sir, they were," said our hero; "they were both there."
"Why, you don't say so?"
"They certainly were," persisted the son.
"Well, I thought the old gal had too much spunk for that: you see
there is a quarrel between the deacon and those gals."
"Indeed!" said Joseph. "I thought the deacon never quarrelled with
"But, you see, old Silence there, she will quarrel with
railly, that creatur' is a tough one;" and Uncle Jaw leaned back in
his chair, and contemplated the quarrelsome propensities of Miss
Silence with the satisfaction of a kindred spirit. "But I'll fix her
yet," he continued; "I see how to work it."
"Indeed, father, I did not know that you had anything to do with
"Ha'n't I? I should like to know if I ha'n't!" replied Uncle Jaw,
triumphantly. "Now see here, Joseph: you see I mean you shall be a
lawyer: I'm pretty considerable of a lawyer myself—that is, for one
not college larn't, and I'll tell you how it is"—and thereupon Uncle
Jaw launched forth into the case of the medder land and the mill, and
concluded with, "Now, Joseph, this 'ere is a kinder whetstone for you
to hone up your wits on."
In pursuance, therefore, of this plan of sharpening his wits in the
manner aforesaid, our hero, after breakfast, went, like a dutiful son,
directly towards Squire Jones's, doubtless for the purpose of taking
ocular survey of the meadow land, mill, and stone wall; but, by some
unaccountable mistake, lost his way, and found himself standing before
the door of Squire Jones's house.
The old 'squire had been among the aristocracy of the village, and
his house had been the ultimate standard of comparison in all matters
of style and garniture. Their big front room, instead of being strewn
with lumps of sand, duly streaked over twice a week, was resplendent
with a carpet of red, yellow, and black stripes, while a towering pair
of long-legged brass andirons, scoured to a silvery white, gave an
air of magnificence to the chimney, which was materially increased by
the tall brassheaded shovel and tongs, which, like a decorous,
starched married couple, stood bolt upright in their places on either
side. The sanctity of the place was still farther maintained by
keeping the window-shutters always closed, admitting only so much
light as could come in by a round hole at the top of the shutter, and
it was only on occasions of extraordinary magnificence that the room
was thrown open to profane eyes.
Our hero was surprised, therefore, to find both the doors and
windows of this apartment open, and symptoms evident of its being in
daily occupation. The furniture still retained its massive, clumsy
stiffness, but there were various tokens that lighter fingers had
been at work there since the notable days of good Dame Jones. There
was a vase of flowers on the table, two or three books of poetry, and
a little fairy work-basket, from which peeped forth the edges of some
worked ruffling; there was a small writing-desk, and last, not least,
in a lady's collection, an album, with leaves of every colour of the
rainbow, containing inscriptions, in sundry strong masculine hands,
"To Susan," indicating that other people had had their eyes open as
well as Mr. Joseph Adams. "So," said he to himself, "this quiet
little beauty has had admirers after all;" and consequent upon this
came another question (which was none of his concern, to be sure),
whether the little lady were or were not engaged; and from these
speculations he was aroused by a light footstep, and anon the neat
form of Susan made its appearance.
"Good-morning, Miss Jones," said he, bowing.
Now there is something very comical in the feeling when little boys
and girls, who have always known each other as plain Susan or Joseph,
first meet as "Mr." or "Miss" So-and-So. Each one feels half
disposed, half afraid, to return to the old familiar form, and
awkwardly fettered by the recollection that they are no longer
children. Both parties had felt this the evening before, when they met
in company, but, now that they were alone together, the feeling
became still stronger; and when Susan had requested Mr. Adams to take
a chair, and Mr. Adams had inquired after Miss Susan's health, there
ensued a pause, which, the longer it continued, seemed the more
difficult to break, and during which Susan's pretty face slowly
assumed an expression of the ludicrous, till she was as near laughing
as propriety would admit; and Mr. Adams, having looked out at the
window, and up at the mantelpiece, and down at the carpet, at last
looked at Susan; their eyes met: the effect was electrical; they both
smiled, and then laughed outright, after which the whole difficulty of
"Susan," said Joseph, "do you remember the old schoolhouse?"
"I thought that was what you were thinking of," said Susan; "but,
really, you have grown and altered so that I could hardly believe my
eyes last night."
"Nor I mine," said Joseph, with a glance that gave a very
complimentary turn to the expression.
Our readers may imagine that after this the conversation proceeded
to grow increasingly confidential and interesting; that, from the
account of early life, each proceeded to let the other know something
of intervening history, in the course of which each discovered a
number of new and admirable traits in the other, such things being
matters of very common occurrence. In the course of the conversation,
Joseph discovered that it was necessary that Susan should have two or
three books then in his possession, and, as promptitude is a great
matter in such cases, he promised to bring them "tomorrow."
For some time our young friends pursued then acquaintance, without
a distinct consciousness of anything except that it was a very
pleasant thing to be together. During the long, still afternoons,
they rambled among the fading woods, now illuminated with the
radiance of the dying year, and sentimentalized and quoted poetry; and
almost every evening Joseph found some errand to bring him to the
house; a book for Miss Susan, or a bevy of roots and herbs for Miss
Silence, or some remarkably fine yarn for her to knit; attentions
which retained our hero in the good graces of the latter lady, and
gained him the credit of being "a young man that knew how to behave
himself." As Susan was a leading member in the village choir, our hero
was directly attacked with a violent passion for sacred music, which
brought him punctually to the singing-school, where the young people
came together to sing anthems and fuguing tunes, and to eat apples
It cannot be supposed that all these things passed unnoticed by
those wakeful eyes that are ever upon the motions of such "bright
particular stars," and, as is usual in such cases, many things were
known to a certainty which were not yet known to the parties
themselves. The young belles and beaux whispered and tittered, and
passed the original jokes and witticisms common in such cases, while
the old ladies soberly took the matter in hand when they went out with
their knitting to make afternoon visits, considering how much money
Uncle Jaw had, how much his son would have, and how much Susan would
have, and what all together would come to, and whether Joseph would
be a "smart man," and Susan a good housekeeper, with all the "ifs,
ands, and buts" of married life.
But the most fearful wonders and prognostics crowded around the
point "what Uncle Jaw would have to say to the matter." His lawsuit
with the sisters being well understood, as there was every reason it
should be, it was surmised what two such vigorous belligerents as
himself and Miss Silence would say to the prospect of a matrimonial
conjunction. It was also reported that Deacon Enos Dudley had a claim
to the land which constituted the finest part of Susan's portion, the
loss of which would render the consent of Uncle Jaw still more
doubtful. But all this while Miss Silence knew nothing of the matter,
for her habit of considering and treating Susan as a child seemed to
gain strength with time. Susan was always to be seen to, and watched,
and instructed, and taught; and Miss Silence could not conceive that
one who could not even make pickles without her to oversee, could
think of such a matter as setting up housekeeping herself. To be
sure, she began to observe an extraordinary change in her sister;
remarked that lately Susan seemed to be getting sort o' crazyheaded;
that she seemed not to have any "faculty" for anything; that she had
made gingerbread twice, and forgot the ginger one time, and put in
mustard the other; that she took the saltcellar out in the
tablecloth, and let the cat into the pantry half a dozen times; and
that, when scolded for these sins of omission or commission, she had a
fit of crying, and did a little worse than before. Silence was of
opinion that Susan was getting to be "weakly and narvy," and actually
concocted an unmerciful pitcher of wormwood and boneset, which she
said was to keep off the "shaking weakness" that was coming over her.
In vain poor Susan protested that she was well enough—Miss Silence knew better; and one evening she entertained Mr. Joseph Adams
with a long statement of the case in all its bearings, and ended with
demanding his opinion, as a candid listener, whether the wormwood and
boneset sentence should not be executed.
Poor Susan had that very afternoon parted from a knot of young
friends who had teased her most unmercifully on the score of
attentions received, till she began to think the very leaves and
stones were so many eyes to pry into her secret feelings, and then to
have the whole case set in order before the very person, too, whom she
most dreaded. "Certainly he would think she was acting like a fool;
perhaps he did not mean anything more than friendship, after all
, and she would not, for the world, have him suppose that she cared a
copper more for him than for any other friend, or that she was in love, of all things." So she sat very busy with her
knitting-work, scarcely knowing what she was about, till Silence
"Why, Susan, what a piece of work you are making of that stocking
heel! What in the world are you doing to it?"
Susan dropped her knitting, and, making some pettish answer,
escaped out of the room.
"Now did you ever!" said Silence, laying down the seam she had been
cross-stitching; "what is the matter with her, Mr. Adams?"
"Miss Susan is certainly indisposed," replied our hero, gravely; "I
must get her to take your advice, Miss Silence."
Our hero followed Susan to the front door, where she stood looking
out at the moon, and begged to know what distressed her.
Of course it was "nothing," the young lady's usual complaint when
in low spirits; and to show that she was perfectly easy, she began an
unsparing attack on a white rosebush near by.
"Susan!" said Joseph, laying his hand on hers, and in a tone that
made her start. She shook back her curls, and looked up to him with
such an innocent, confiding face—
Ah, my good reader, you may go on with this part of the story for
yourself. We are principled against unveiling the "sacred mysteries,"
the "thoughts that breathe and words that burn," in such little
moonlight interviews as these. You may fancy all that followed; and we
can only assure all who are doubtful, that, under judicious
management, cases of this kind may be disposed of without wormwood or
boneset. Our hero and heroine were called to sublunary realities by
the voice of Miss Silence, who came into the passage to see what upon
earth they were doing. That lady was satisfied by the representations
of so friendly and learned a young man as Joseph, that nothing
immediately alarming was to be apprehended in the case of Susan, and
she retired. From that evening Susan stepped about with a heart many
pounds lighter than before.
"I'll tell you what, Joseph," said Uncle Jaw, "I'll tell you what,
now, I hear 'em tell that you've took and courted that 'ere Susan
Jones. Now I jest want to know if it's true?"
There was an explicitness about this mode of inquiry that took our
hero quite by surprise, so that he could only reply,
"Why, sir, supposing I had, would there be any objection to it in
"Don't talk to me," said Uncle Jaw; "I jest want to know if it's
Our hero put his hands in his pockets, walked to the window, and
"'Cause if you have," said Uncle Jaw, "you may jest uncourt as fast
as you can; for Squire Jones's daughter won't get a single cent of my
money, I can tell you that."
"Why, father, Susan Jones is not to blame for anything that her
father did, and I'm sure she is a pretty girl enough."
"I don't care if she is pretty; what's that to me? I've got you
through college, Joseph, and a hard time I've had of it, a delvin and
slaving, and here you come, and the very first thing you do, you must
take and court that 'ere Squire Jones's daughter, who was always
putting himself up above me; besides, I mean to have the law on that
estate yet, and Deacon Dudley, he will have the law too, and it will
cut off the best piece of land the girl has; and when you get married,
I mean you shall have something. It's jest a trick of them gals
at me; but I guess I'll come up with 'em yet. I'm just a goin' down
to have a `regular hash' with old Silence, to let her know she can't
come round me that way."
"Silence," said Susan, drawing her head into the window and looking
apprehensive, "there is Mr. Adams coming here."
"What, Joe Adams? Well, and what if he is?"
"No, no, sister, but it is his father—it is Uncle Jaw."
"Well, s'pose 'tis, child—what scares you? s'pose I'm afraid of
him? If he wants more than I gave him last time, I'll put it on." So
saying, Miss Silence took her knitting-work and marched down into the
sitting-room, and sat herself bolt upright in an attitude of defiance,
while poor Susan, feeling her heart beat unaccountably fast, glided
out of the room.
"Well, good-morning, Miss Silence," said Uncle Jaw, after having
scraped his feet on the scraper, and scrubbed them on the mat nearly
ten minutes in silent deliberation.
"Morning, sir," said Silence, abbreviating the "good."
Uncle Jaw helped himself to a chair directly in front of the enemy,
dropped his hat on the floor, and surveyed Miss Silence with a dogged
air of satisfaction, like one who is sitting down to a regular,
comfortable quarrel, and means to make the most of it.
Miss Silence tossed her head disdainfully, but scorned to commence
"So, Miss Silence," said Uncle Jaw, deliberately, "you don't think
you'll do anything about that 'ere matter."
"What matter?" said Silence, with an intonation resembling that of
a roasted chestnut when it bursts from the fire.
"I railly thought, Miss Silence, in that 'ere talk I had with you
about Squire Jones's cheatin' about that 'ere—"
"Mr. Adams," said Silence, "I tell you, to begin with, I'm not a
going to be sauced in this 'ere way by you. You ha'n't got common
decency, nor common sense, nor common anything else, to talk so to me
about my father: I won't bear it, I tell you."
"Why, Miss Jones," said Uncle Jaw, "how you talk! Well, to be sure,
Squire Jones is dead and gone, and it's as well not to call it
cheatin', as I was tellin' Deacon Enos when he was talking about that
'ere lot—that 'ere lot, you know, that he sold the deacon, and
never let him have the deed on't."
"That's a lie," said Silence, starting on her feet; "that's an up
and down black lie! I tell you that now, before you say another word."
"Miss Silence, railly, you seem to be getting touchy," said Uncle
Jaw; "well, to be sure, if the deacon can let that pass, other folks
can, and maybe the deacon will, because Squire Jones was a church
member, and the deacon is 'mazin' tender about bringing out anything
against professors; but railly, now, Miss Silence, I didn't think you
and Susan were going to work it so cunning in this here way."
"I don't know what you mean, and, what's more, I don't care," said
Silence, resuming her work, and calling back the bolt, upright dignity
with which she began.
There was a pause of some moments, during which the features of
Silence worked with suppressed rage, which was contemplated by Uncle
Jaw with undisguised satisfaction.
"You see, I s'pose, I shouldn't a minded your Susan's setting out
to court up my Joe, if it hadn't a been for those things."
"Courting your son! Mr. Adams, I should like to know what you mean
by that. I'm sure nobody wants your son, though he's a civil, likely
fellow enough; yet with such an old dragon for a father, I'll warrant
he won't get anybody to court him, nor be courted by him neither."
"Railly, Miss Silence, you a'n't hardly civil, now."
"Civil! I should like to know who
could be civil? You know,
now, as well as I do, that you are saying all this out of clear, sheer
ugliness; and that's what you keep a doing all round the
"Miss Silence," said Uncle Jaw, "I don't want no hard words with
you. It's pretty much known round the neighbourhood that your Susan
thinks she'll get my Joe, and I s'pose you was thinking that perhaps
it would be the best way of settling up matters; but you see, now, I
took and tell'd my son I railly didn't see as I could afford it; I
took and tell'd him that young folks must have something considerable
to start with; and that, if Susan lost that 'ere piece of ground, as
is likely she will, it would be cutting off quite too much of a piece;
so, you see, I don't want you to take no encouragement about that."
"Well, I think this is pretty well!" exclaimed Silence, provoked
beyond measure or endurance; "you old torment! think I don't know what
you're at? I and Susan courting your son? I wonder if you a'n't
ashamed of yourself, now! I should like to know what I or she have
done, now, to get that notion into your head?"
"I didn't s'pose you 'spected to get him yourself," said Uncle Jaw,
"for I guess by this time you've pretty much gin up trying, ha'n't ye?
But Susan does, I'm pretty sure."
"Here, Susan! Susan! you—come down!" called Miss Silence, in
great wrath, throwing open the chamber door. "Mr. Adams wants to speak
with you." Susan, fluttering and agitated, slowly descended into the
room, where she stopped, and looked hesitatingly, first at Uncle Jaw
and then at her sister, who, without ceremony, proposed the
subject-matter of the interview as follows:
"Now, Susan, here's this man pretends to say that you've been a
courting and snaring to get his son, and I just want you to tell him
that you ha'n't never had no thought of him, and that you won't have,
This considerate way of announcing the subject had the effect of
bringing the burning colour into Susan's face, as she stood like a
convicted culprit, with her eyes bent on the floor.
Uncle Jaw, savage as he was, was always moved by female loveliness,
as wild beasts are said to be mysteriously swayed by music, and looked
on the beautiful, downcast face with more softening than Miss
Silence, who, provoked that Susan did not immediately respond to the
question, seized her by the arm and eagerly reiterated,
"Susan! why don't you speak, child?"
Gathering desperate courage, Susan shook off the hand of Silence,
and straightened herself up with as much dignity as some little flower
lifts up its head when it has been bent down by rain-drops.
"Silence," she said, "I never would have come down if I had thought
it was to hear such things as this. Mr. Adams, all I have to say to
you is, that your son has sought me, and not I your son. If you wish
to know any more, he can tell you better than I."
"Well, I vow! she is a pretty girl," said Uncle Jaw, as Susan shut
This exclamation was involuntary; then recollecting himself, he
picked up his hat, and saying, "Well, I guess I may as well get along
hum," he began to depart; but, turning round before he shut the door,
he said, "Miss Silence, if you should conclude to do anything about
that 'ere fence, just send word over and let me know."
Silence, without deigning any reply, marched up into Susan's little
chamber, where our heroine was treating resolution to a good fit of
"Susan, I did not think you had been such a fool," said the lady.
"I do want to know, now, if you've railly been thinking of getting
married, and to that Joe Adams of all folks!"
Poor Susan! such an interlude in all her pretty romantic little
dreams about kindred feelings and a hundred other delightful ideas,
that flutter like singing-birds through the fairy-land of first love.
Such an interlude! to be called on by gruff human voices to give up
all the cherished secrets that she had trembled to whisper even to
herself. She felt as if love itself had been defiled by the coarse,
rough hands that had been meddling with it; so to her sister's
soothing address Susan made no answer, only to cry and sob still more
bitterly than before.
Miss Silence, if she had a great stout heart, had no less a kind
one, and seeing Susan take the matter so bitterly to heart, she began
gradually to subside.
"Susan, you poor little fool, you," said she, at the same time
giving her a hearty slap, as expressive of earnest sympathy, "I really
do feel for you; that good-for-nothing fellow has been a cheatin' you,
I do believe."
"Oh, don't talk any more about it, for mercy's sake," said Susan;
"I am sick of the whole of it."
"That's you, Susan! Glad to hear you say so! I'll stand up for you,
Susan; if I catch Joe Adams coming here again with his palavering
face, I'll let him know!"
"No! no! Don't, for mercy's sake, say anything to Mr.
"Well, child, don't claw hold of a body so! Well, at any rate, I'll
just let Joe Adams know that we ha'n't nothing more to say to him."
"But I don't wish to say that—that is—I don't know—indeed,
sister Silence, don't say anything about it."
"Why not? You a'n't such a
natural, now, as to want to marry
him after all, hey?"
"I don't know what I want nor what I don't want; only, Silence, do
now, if you love me, do promise not to say anything at all to Mr.
"Well, then, I won't," said Silence; "but, Susan, if you railly was
in love all this while, why ha'n't you been and told me? Don't you
know that I'm as much as a mother to you, and you ought to have told
me in the beginning?"
"I don't know, Silence! I couldn't—I don't want to talk about it."
"Well, Susan, you a'n't a bit like me," said Silence; a remark
evincing great discrimination, certainly, and with which the
That very evening our friend Joseph walked down towards the
dwelling of the sisters, not without some anxiety for the result, for
he knew by his father's satisfied appearance that war had been
declared. He walked into the family room, and found nobody there but
Miss Silence, who was sitting, grim as an Egyptian sphinx, stitching
very vigorously on a meal-bag, in which interesting employment she
thought proper to be so much engaged as not to remark the entrance of
our hero. To Joseph's accustomed "Good-evening, Miss Silence," she
replied merely by looking up with a cold nod, and went on with her
sewing. It appeared that she had determined on a literal version of
her promise not to say anything to Mr. Adams.
Our hero, as we have before stated, was familiar with the crooks
and turns of the female mind, and mentally resolved to put a bold face
on the matter, and give Miss Silence no encouragement in her attempt
to make him feel himself unwelcome. It was rather a frosty autumnal
evening, and the fire on the hearth was decaying. Mr. Joseph bustled
about most energetically, throwing down the tongs, and shovel, and
bellows, while he pulled the fire to pieces, raked out ashes and
brands, and then, in a twinkling, was at the woodpile, from whence he
selected a massive backlog and forestick, with accompaniments, which
were soon roaring and crackling in the chimney.
"There, now, that does look something like comfort," said our hero;
and drawing forward the big rocking-chair, he seated himself in it,
and rubbed his hands with an air of great complacency. Miss Silence
looked not up, but stitched so much the faster, so that one might
distinctly hear the crack of the needle and the whistle of the thread
all over the apartment.
"Have you a headache to-night, Miss Silence?"
"No!" was the gruff answer.
"Are you in a hurry about those bags?" said he, glancing at a pile
of unmade ones which lay by her side.
No reply. "Hang it all!" said our hero to himself, "I'll make her
Miss Silence's needle-book and brown thread lay on a chair beside
her. Our friend helped himself to a needle and thread, and taking one
of the bags, planted himself bolt upright opposite to Miss Silence,
and pinning his work to his knee, commenced stitching at a rate fully
equal to her own.
Miss Silence looked up and fidgeted, but went on with her work
faster than before; but the faster she worked, the faster and steadier
worked our hero, all in "marvellous silence." There began to be an
odd twitching about the muscles of Miss Silence's face; our hero took
no notice, having pursed his features into an expression of unexampled
gravity, which only grew more intense as he perceived, by certain
uneasy movements, that the adversary was beginning to waver.
As they were sitting, stitching away, their needles whizzing at
each other like a couple of locomotives engaged in conversation, Susan
opened the door.
The poor child had been crying for the greater part of her spare
time during the day, and was in no very merry humour; but the moment
that her astonished eyes comprehended the scene, she burst into a fit
of almost inextinguishable merriment, while Silence laid down her
needle, and looked half amused and half angry. Our hero, however,
continued his business with inflexible perseverance, unpinning his
work and moving the seam along, and going on with increased velocity.
Poor Miss Silence was at length vanquished, and joined in the loud
laugh which seemed to convulse her sister. Whereupon our hero unpinned
his work, and folding it up, looked up at her with all the assurance
of impudence triumphant, and remarked to Susan,
"Your sister had such a pile of these pillow-cases to make, that
she was quite discouraged, and engaged me to do half a dozen of them:
when I first came in she was so busy she could not even speak to me."
"Well, if you a'n't the beater for impudence!" said Miss Silence.
"The beater for
industry—so I thought," rejoined our hero.
Susan, who had been in a highly tragical state of mind all day, and
who was meditating on nothing less sublime than an eternal separation
from her lover, which she had imagined, with all the affecting
attendants and consequents, was entirely revolutionized by the
unexpected turn thus given to her ideas, while our hero pursued the
opportunity he had made for himself, and exerted his powers of
entertainment to the utmost, till Miss Silence, declaring that if she
had been washing all day she should not have been more tired than she
was with laughing, took up her candle, and good-naturedly left our
young people to settle matters between themselves. There was a grave
pause of some length when she had departed, which was broken by our
hero, who, seating himself by Susan, inquired very seriously if his
father had made proposals of marriage to Miss Silence that morning.
"No, you provoking creature!" said Susan, at the same time laughing
at the absurdity of the idea.
"Well, now, don't draw on your long face again, Susan," said
Joseph; "you have been trying to lengthen it down all the evening, if
I would have let you. Seriously, now, I know that something painful
passed between my father and you this morning, but I shall not inquire
what it was. I only tell you, frankly, that he has expressed his
disapprobation of our engagement, forbidden me to go on with it,
"And, consequently, I release you from all engagements and
obligations to me, even before you ask it," said Susan.
"You are extremely accommodating," replied Joseph; "but I cannot
promise to be as obliging in giving up certain promises made to me,
unless, indeed the feelings that dictated them should have changed."
"Oh, no—no, indeed," said Susan, earnestly; "you know it is not
that; but if your father objects to me—"
"If my father objects to you, he is welcome not to marry you," said
"Now, Joseph, do be serious," said Susan.
"Well, then, seriously, Susan, I know my obligation to my father,
and in all that relates to his comfort I will ever be dutiful and
submissive, for I have no college-boy pride on the subject of
submission; but in a matter so individually my own as the choice of a
wife—in a matter that will most likely affect my happiness years and
years after he has ceased to be, I hold that I have a right to consult
my own inclinations, and, by your leave, my dear little lady, I shall
take that liberty."
"But, then, if your father is made angry, you know what sort of a
man he is; and how could I stand in the way of all your prospects?"
"Why, my dear Susan, do you think I count myself dependant upon my
father, like the heir of an English estate, who has nothing to do but
sit still and wait for money to come to him? No! I have energy and
education to start with, and if I cannot take care of myself, and you
too, then cast me off and welcome;" and, as Joseph spoke, his fine
face glowed with a conscious power, which unfettered youth never feels
so fully as in America. He paused a moment, and resumed:
"Nevertheless, Susan, I respect my father; whatever others may say of
him, I shall never forget that I owe to his hard earnings the
education that enables me to do or be anything, and I shall not
wantonly or rudely cross him. I do not despair of gaining his consent;
my father has a great partiality for pretty girls, and if his love of
contradiction is not kept awake by open argument, I will trust to time
and you to bring him round; but, whatever comes, rest assured, my
dearest one, I have chosen for life, and cannot change."
The conversation, after this, took a turn which may readily be
imagined by all who have been in the same situation, and will,
therefore, need no farther illustration.
"Well, Deacon, railly I don't know what to think now: there's my
Joe, he's took and been a courting that 'ere Susan," said Uncle Jaw.
This was the introduction to one of Uncle Jaw's periodical visits
to Deacon Enos, who was sitting, with his usual air of mild
abstraction, looking into the coals of a bright November fire, while
his busy helpmate was industriously rattling her knittingneedles by
A close observer might have suspected that this was
to the good deacon, who had given a great deal of good advice, in
private, to Master Joseph of late; but he only relaxed his features
into a quiet smile, and ejaculated, "I want to know!"
"Yes; and railly, Deacon, that 'ere gal is a rail pretty un. I was
a tellin' my folks that our new minister's wife was a fool to her."
"And so your son is going to marry her?" said the good lady; "I
knew that long ago."
"Well—no—not so fast; ye see there's two to that bargain yet.
You see, Joe, he never said a word to me, but took and courted the gal
out of his own head; and when I come to know, says I, `Joe,' says I,
`that 'ere gal wont's do for me;' and I took and tell'd him, then,
about that 'ere old fence, and all about that old mill, and them
medders of mine; and I tell'd him, too, about that 'ere lot of
Susan's; and I should like to know, now, Deacon, how that lot
business is a going to turn out."
"Judge Smith and Squire Moseley say that my claim to it will
stand," said the deacon.
"They do?" said Uncle Jaw, with much satisfaction; "s'pose, then,
you'll sue, won't you?"
"I don't know," replied the deacon, meditatively.
Uncle Jaw was thoroughly amazed; that any one should have doubts
about entering suit for a fine piece of land, when sure of obtaining
it, was a problem quite beyond his powers of solving.
"You say your son has courted the girl," said the deacon, after a
long pause; "that strip of land is the best part of Susan's share; I
paid down five hundred dollars on the nail for it; I've got papers
here that Judge Smith and Squire Moseley say will stand good in any
court of law."
Uncle Jaw pricked up his ears and was all attention, eying with
eager looks the packet, but, to his disappointment, the deacon
deliberately laid it into his desk, shut and locked it, and resumed
"Now, railly," said Uncle Jaw, "I should like to know the
"Well, well," said the deacon, "the lawyers will be at my house
to-morrow evening, and if you have any concern about it, you may as
well come along."
Uncle Jaw wondered all the way home at what he could have done to
get himself into the confidence of the old deacon, who, he rejoiced to
think, was a going to "take" and go to law like other folks.
The next day there was an appearance of some bustle and preparation
about the deacon's house; the best room was opened and aired; an
ovenful of cake was baked, and our friend Joseph, with a face full of
business, was seen passing to and fro, in and out of the house, from
various closetings with the deacon. The deacon's lady bustled about
the house with an air of wonderful mystery, and even gave her
directions about eggs and raisins in a whisper, lest they should
possibly let out some eventful secret.
The afternoon of that day Joseph appeared at the house of the
sisters, stating that there was to be company at the deacon's that
evening, and he was sent to invite them.
"Why, what's got into the deacon's folks lately," said Silence, "to
have company so often? Joe Adams, this 'ere is some `cut up' of yours.
Come, what are you up to now?"
"Come, come, dress yourselves and get ready," said Joseph; and,
stepping up to Susan, as she was following Silence out of the room, he
whispered something into her ear, at which she stopped short and
"Why, Joseph, what do you mean?"
"It is so," said he.
"No, no, Joseph; no, I can't, indeed I can't."
"Oh, Joseph, don't."
"Why, how strange, Joseph!"
"Come, come, my dear, you keep me waiting. If you have any
objections on the score of propriety, we will talk about them to-morrow;" and our hero looked so saucy and so resolute that
there was no disputing farther; so, after a little more lingering and
blushing on Susan's part, and a few kisses and persuasions on the part
of the suiter, Miss Susan seemed to be brought to a state of
At a table in the middle of Uncle Enos's north front room were
seated the two lawyers, whose legal opinion was that evening to be
fully made up. The younger of these, Squire Moseley, was a rosy,
portly, laughing little bachelor, who boasted that he had offered
himself, in rotation, to every pretty girl within twenty miles round,
and, among others, to Susan Jones, notwithstanding which he still
remained a bachelor, with a fair prospect of being an old one; but
none of these things disturbed the boundless flow of good-nature and
complacency with which he seemed at all times full to overflowing. On
the present occasion he seemed to be particularly in his element, as
if he had some law business in hand remarkably suited to his turn of
mind; for, on finishing the inspection of the papers, he started up,
slapped his graver brother on the back, made two or three flourishes
round the room, and then seizing the old deacon's hand, shook it
"All's right, Deacon, all's right! Go it! go it! hurrah!"
When Uncle Jaw entered, the deacon, without preface, handed him a
chair and the papers, saying,
"These papers are what you wanted to see. I just wish you would
read them over."
Uncle Jaw read them deliberately over. "Didn't I tell ye so,
Deacon? The case is as clear as a bell: now ye will go to law, won't
"Look here, Mr. Adams; now you have seen these papers, and heard
what's to be said, I'll make you an offer. Let your son marry Susan
Jones, and I'll burn these papers and say no more about it, and there
won't be a girl in the parish with a finer portion."
Uncle Jaw opened his eyes with amazement, and looked at the old
man, his mouth gradually expanding wider and wider, as if he hoped, in
time, to swallow the idea.
"Well, now, I swan!" at length he ejaculated.
"I mean just as I say," said the deacon.
"Why, that's the same as giving the gal five hundred dollars out of
your own pocket, and she a'n't no relation neither."
"I know it," said the deacon; "but I have said I will do it."
"What upon 'arth for?" said Uncle Jaw.
"To make peace," said the deacon, "and to let you know that when I
say it is better to give up one's rights than to quarrel, I mean so. I
am an old man; my children are dead"—his voice faltered— "my
treasures are laid up in heaven; if I can make the children happy,
why, I will. When I thought I had lost the land, I made up my mind to
lose it, and so I can now."
Uncle Jaw looked fixedly on the old deacon and said,
"Well, Deacon, I believe you. I vow, if you ha'n't got something
ahead in t'other world, I'd like to know who has, that's all; so, if
Joe has no objections, and I rather guess he won't have—"
"The short of the matter is," said the squire, "we'll have a
wedding; so come on;" and with that he threw open the parlour door,
where stood Susan and Joseph in a recess by the window, while Silence
and the Rev. Mr. Bissel were drawn up by the fire, and the deacon's
lady was sweeping up the hearth, as she had been doing ever since the
Instantly Joseph took the hand of Susan, and led her to the middle
of the room; the merry squire seized the hand of Miss Silence and
placed her as bridesmaid, and before any one could open their mouths,
the ceremony was in actual progress, and the minister, having been
previously instructed, made the two one with extraordinary celerity.
"What! what! what!" said uncle Jaw. "Joseph! Deacon!"
"Fair bargain, sir," said the squire. "Hand over your papers,
The deacon handed them, and the squire, having read them aloud,
proceeded, with much ceremony, to throw them into the fire; after
which, in a mock solemn oration, he gave a statement of the whole
affair, and concluded with a grave exhortation to the new couple on
the duties of wedlock, which unbent the risibles even of the minister
Uncle Jaw looked at his pretty daughter-in-law, who stood half
smiling, half blushing, receiving the congratulations of the party,
and then at Miss Silence, who appeared full as much taken by surprise
"Well, well, Miss Silence, these 'ere young folks have come round
us slick enough," said he. "I don't see but we must shake hands upon
it." And the warlike powers shook hands accordingly, which was a
signal for general merriment.
As the company were dispersing, Miss Silence laid hold of the good
deacon, and by main strength dragged him aside: "Deacon," said she, "I
take back all that 'ere I said about you, every word on't."
"Don't say any more about it, Miss Silence," said the good man;
"it's gone by, and let it go."
"Joseph!" said his father, the next morning, as he was sitting at
breakfast with Joseph and Susan, "I calculate I shall feel kinder
proud of this 'ere gal! and I'll tell you what, I'll jest give you
that nice little delicate Stanton place that I took on Stanton's
mortgage: it's a nice little place, with green blinds, and flowers,
and all them things, just right for Susan."
And, accordingly, many happy years flew over the heads of the young
couple in the Stanton place, long after the hoary hairs of their kind
benefactor, the deacon, were laid with reverence in the dust. Uncle
Jaw was so far wrought upon by the magnanimity of the good old man as
to be very materially changed for the better. Instead of quarrelling
in real earnest all around the neighbourhood, he confined himself
merely to battling the opposite side of every question with his son,
which, as the latter was somewhat of a logician, afforded a pretty
good field for the exercise of his powers; and he was heard to
declare at the funeral of the old deacon, that, "after all, a man got
as much, and maybe more, to go along as the deacon did, than to be
all the time fisting and jawing; though I tell you what it is," said
he, afterward, "'taint every one that has the deacon's faculty,
THE TEA ROSE.
There it stood, in its little green vase, on a ebony stand, in the
window of the drawing-room The rich satin curtains, with their costly
fringes, swept down on either side of it, and around it glittered
every rare and fanciful trifle which wealth can offer to luxury, and
yet that simple rose was the fairest of them all. So pure it looked,
its white leaves just touched with that delicious creamy tint
peculiar to its kind; its cup so full, so perfect; its head bending
as if it were sinking and melting away in its own richness—oh! when
did ever man make anything to equal the living, perfect flower!
But the sunlight that streamed through the window revealed
something fairer than the rose. Reclined on an ottoman, in a deep
recess, and intently engaged with a book, rested what seemed the
counterpart of that so lovely flower. That cheek so pale, that fair
forehead so spiritual, that countenance so full of high thought, those
long, downcast lashes, and the expression of the beautiful mouth,
sorrowful, yet subdued and sweet—it seemed like the picture of a
"Florence! Florence!" echoed a merry and musical voice, in a sweet,
impatient tone. Turn your head, reader, and you will see a light and
sparkling maiden, the very model of some little wilful elf, born of
mischief and motion, with a dancing eye, a foot that scarcely seems to
touch the carpet, and a smile so multiplied by dimples that it seems
like a thousand smiles at once. "Come, Florence, I say," said the
little sprite, "put down that wise, good, and excellent volume, and
descend from your cloud, and talk with a poor little mortal."
The fair apparition, thus adjured, obeyed; and, looking up,
revealed just such eyes as you expected to see beneath such
lids—eyes deep, pathetic, and rich as a strain of sad music.
"I say, cousin," said the "light ladye," "I have been thinking what
you are to do with your pet rose when you go to New-York, as, to our
consternation, you are determined to do; you know it would be a sad
pity to leave it with such a scatterbrain as I am. I do love flowers,
that is a fact; that is, I like a regular bouquet, cut off and tied
up, to carry to a party; but as to all this tending and fussing,
which is needful to keep them growing, I have no gifts in that line."
"Make yourself easy as to that, Kate," said Florence, with a smile;
"I have no intention of calling upon your talents; I have an asylum in
view for my favourite."
"Oh, then you know just what I was going to say. Mrs. Marshall, I
presume, has been speaking to you; she was here yesterday, and I was
quite pathetic upon the subject, telling her the loss your favourite
would sustain, and so forth; and she said how delighted she would be
to have it in her greenhouse, it is in such a fine state now, so full
of buds. I told her I knew you would like to give it to her, you are
so fond of Mrs. Marshall, you know."
"Now, Kate, I am sorry, but I have otherwise engaged it."
"Who can it be to? you have so few intimates here."
"Oh, it is only one of my odd fancies."
"But do tell me, Florence."
"Well, cousin, you know the little pale girl to whom we give
"What! little Mary Stephens? How absurd! Florence, this is just
another of your motherly, oldmaidish ways—dressing dolls for poor
children, making bonnets and knitting socks for all the little dirty
babies in the region round about. I do believe you have made more
calls in those two vile, ill-smelling alleys back of our house, than
ever you have in Chestnut-street, though you know everybody is half
dying to see you; and now, to crown all, you must give this choice
little bijou to a sempstress girl, when one of your most intimate
friends, in your own class, would value it so highly. What in the
world can people in their circumstances want of flowers?"
"Just the same as I do," replied Florence, calmly. "Have you not
noticed that the little girl never comes here without looking
wistfully at the opening buds? And, don't you remember, the other
morning she asked me so prettily if I would let her mother come and
see it, she was so fond of flowers?"
"But, Florence, only think of this rare flower standing on a table
with ham, eggs, cheese, and flour, and stifled in that close little
room where Mrs. Stephens and her daughter manage to wash, iron, cook,
and nobody knows what besides."
"Well, Kate, and if I were obliged to live in one coarse room, and
wash, and iron, and cook, as you say—if I had to spend every moment
of my time in toil, with no prospect from my window but a brick wall
and dirty lane, such a flower as this would be untold enjoyment to me."
"Pshaw! Florence—all sentiment: poor people have no time to be
sentimental. Besides, I don't believe it will grow with them; it is a
greenhouse flower, and used to delicate living."
"Oh, as to that, a flower never inquires whether its owner is rich
or poor; and Mrs. Stephens, whatever else she has not, has sunshine of
as good quality as this that streams through our window. The
beautiful things that God makes are his gift to all alike. You will
see that my fair rose will be as well and cheerful in Mrs. Stephens's
room as in ours."
"Well, after all, how odd! When one gives to poor people, one wants
to give them something useful—a bushel of potatoes, a ham,
and such things."
"Why, certainly, potatoes and ham must be supplied; but, having
ministered to the first and most craving wants, why not add any other
little pleasures or gratifications we may have it in our power to
bestow? I know there are many of the poor who have fine feeling and a
keen sense of the beautiful, which rusts out and dies because they are
too hard pressed to procure it any gratification. Poor Mrs. Stephens,
for example: I know she would enjoy birds, and flowers, and music as
much as I do. I have seen her eye light up as she looked on these
things in our drawing-room, and yet not one beautiful thing can she
command. From necessity, her room, her clothing, all she has, must be
coarse and plain. You should have seen the almost rapture she and
Mary felt when I offered them my rose."
"Dear me! all this may be true, but I never thought of it before. I
never thought that these hard-working people had any ideas of taste!
"Then why do you see the geranium or rose so carefully nursed in
the old cracked teapot in the poorest room, or the morning-glory
planted in a box and twined about the window. Do not these show that
the human heart yearns for the beautiful in all ranks of life? You
remember, Kate, how our washerwoman sat up a whole night, after a hard
day's work, to make her first baby a pretty dress to be baptized in."
"Yes, and I remember how I laughed at you for making such a
tasteful little cap for it."
"Well, Katy, I think the look of perfect delight with which the
poor mother regarded her baby in its new dress and cap, was something
quite worth creating: I do believe she could not have felt more
grateful if I had sent her a barrel of flour."
"Well, I never thought before of giving anything to the poor but
what they really needed, and I have always been willing to do that
when I could without going far out of my way."
"Well, cousin, if our heavenly Father gave to us after this mode,
we should have only coarse, shapeless piles of provisions lying about
the world, instead of all this beautiful variety of trees, and
fruits, and flowers."
"Well, well, cousin, I suppose you are right— but have mercy on
my poor head; it is too small to hold so many new ideas all at
once—so go on your own way." And the little lady began practising a
waltzing step before the glass with great satisfaction.
It was a very small room, lighted by only one window. There was no
carpet on the floor; there was a clean, but coarsely-covered bed in
one corner; a cupboard, with a few dishes and plates, in the other; a
chest of drawers; and before the window stood a small cherry stand,
quite new, and, indeed, it was the only article in the room that
A pale, sickly-looking woman of about forty was leaning back in her
rocking-chair, her eyes closed and her lips compressed as if in pain.
She rocked backward and forward a few minutes, pressed her hand hard
upon her eyes, and then languidly resumed her fine stitching, on which
she had been busy since morning. The door opened, and a slender
little girl of about twelve years of age entered, her large blue eyes
dilated and radiant with delight as she bore in the vase with the
rose-tree in it.
"Oh! see, mother, see! Here is one in full bloom, and two more half
out, and ever so many more pretty buds peeping out of the green
The poor woman's face brightened as she looked, first on the rose
and then on her sickly child, on whose face she had not seen so bright
a colour for months.
"God bless her!" she exclaimed, unconsciously.
"Miss Florence—yes, I knew you would feel so, mother. Does it not
make your head feel better to see such a beautiful flower? Now you
will not look so longingly at the flowers in the market, for we have
a rose that is handsomer than any of them. Why, it seems to me it is
worth as much to us as our whole little garden used to be. Only see
how many buds there are! Just count them, and only smell the flower!
Now where shall we set it up?" And Mary skipped about, placing her
flower first in one position and then in another, and walking off to
see the effect, till her mother gently reminded her that the rose-tree
could not preserve its beauty without sunlight.
"Oh yes, truly," said Mary; "well, then, it must stand here on our
new stand. How glad I am that we have such a handsome new stand for
it; it will look so much better." And Mrs. Stephens laid down her
work, and folded a piece of newspaper, on which the treasure was duly
"There," said Mary, watching the arrangement eagerly, "that will
do—no, for it does not show both the opening buds; a little farther
around—a little more; there, that is right;" and then Mary walked
around to view the rose in various positions, after which she urged
her mother to go with her to the outside, and see how it looked there.
"How kind it was in Miss Florence to think of giving this to us!"
said Mary; "though she had done so much for us, and given us so many
things yet this seems the best of all, because it seems as if she
thought of us, and knew just how we felt and so few do that, you know,
What a bright afternoon that little gift made in that little room.
How much faster Mary's fingers flew the livelong day as she sat sewing
by her mother; and Mrs. Stephens, in the happiness of her child,
almost forgot that she had a headache, and thought, as she sipped her
evening cup of tea, that she felt stronger than she had done for some
That rose! its sweet influence died not with the first day. Through
all the long cold winter, the watching, tending, cherishing that
flower awakened a thousand pleasant trains of thought, that beguiled
the sameness and weariness of their life. Every day the fair, growing
thing put forth some fresh beauty—a leaf, a bud, a new shoot, and
constantly awakened fresh enjoyment in its possessors. As it stood in
the window, the passer-by would sometimes stop and gaze, attracted by
its beauty, and then proud and happy was Mary; nor did even the
serious and careworn widow notice with indifference this tribute to
the beauty of their favourite.
But little did Florence think, when she bestowed the gift, that
there twined about it an invisible thread that reached far and
brightly into the web of her destiny.
One cold afternoon in early spring, a tall and graceful gentleman
called at the lowly room to pay for the making of some linen by the
inmates. He was a stranger and wayfarer, recommended through the
charity of some of Mrs. Stephens's patrons. As he turned to go, his
eye rested admiringly on the rose tree, and he stopped to gaze at it.
"How beautiful!" said he.
"Yes," said little Mary, "and it was given to us by a lady as sweet
and beautiful as that is."
"Ah," said the stranger, turning upon her a pair of bright dark
eyes, pleased and rather struck by the communication; "and how came
she to give it to you, my little girl?"
"Oh, because we are poor, and mother is sick, and we never can have
anything pretty. We used to have a garden once, and we loved flowers
so much, and Miss Florence found it out, and so she gave us this."
"Florence!" echoed the stranger.
"Yes—Miss Florence l'Estrange—a beautiful lady. They say she
was from foreign parts; but she speaks English just like other ladies,
"Is she here now? Is she in this city?" said the gentleman, eagerly.
"No; she left some months ago," said the widow, noticing the shade
of disappointment on his face; "but," said she, "you can find out all
about her at her aunt's, Mrs. Carlysle's, No. 10 — street."
A short time after, Florence received a letter in a handwriting
that made her tremble. During the many early years of her life spent
in France, she had well learned to know that writing—had loved as a
woman like her loves only once; but there had been obstacles of
parents and friends, long separation, long suspense, till, after
anxious years, she had believed the ocean had closed over that hand
and heart; and it was this that had touched with such pensive sorrow
the lines in her lovely face.
But this letter told that he was living, that he had traced her,
even as a hidden streamlet may be traced, by the freshness, the
verdure of heart, which her deeds of kindness had left wherever she
had passed. Thus much said, our readers need no help in finishing my
story for themselves.
TRIALS OF A HOUSEKEEPER.
I have a detail of very homely grievances to present, but such as
they are, many a heart will feel them to be heavy—the trials of a
"Poh!" says one of the lords of creation, taking his cigar out of
his mouth, and twirling it between his two first fingers, "what a fuss
these women do make of this simple matter of managing a family!
I can't see, for my life, as there is anything so extraordinary to be
done in this matter of housekeeping: only three meals a day to be got
and cleared off, and it really seems to take up the whole of their
mind from morning till night. I could keep house without so
much of a flurry, I know."
Now prithee, good brother, listen to my story, and see how much you
know about it. I came to this enlightened West about a year since, and
was duly established in a comfortable country residence within a mile
and a half of the city, and there commenced the enjoyment of domestic
felicity. I had been married about three months, and had been
previously in love in the most approved romantic way with all
the proprieties of moonlight walks, serenades, sentimental
billet-doux, and everlasting attachment.
After having been allowed, as I said, about three months to get
over this sort of thing, and to prepare for realities, I was located
for life as aforesaid. My family consisted of myself and husband, a
female friend as a visiter, and two brothers of my good man, who were
engaged with him in business.
I pass over the two or three first days spent in that process of
hammering boxes, breaking crockery, knocking things down and picking
them up again, which is commonly called getting to housekeeping. As
usual, carpets were sewed and stretched, laid down, and taken up to be
sewed over; things were reformed, transformed, and con
formed, till at last a settled order began to appear. But now came up
the great point of all. During our confusion, we had cooked and eaten
our meals in a very miscellaneous and pastoral manner, eating now
from the top of a barrel, and now from a fireboard laid on two
chairs, and drinking, some from teacups, and some from saucers, and
some from tumblers, and some from a pitcher big enough to be drowned
in, and sleeping, some on sofas, and some on straggling beds and
mattresses, thrown down here and there, wherever there was room. All
these pleasant barbarities were now at an end: the house was in
order; the dishes put up in their places; three regular meals were to
be administered in one day, all in an orderly, civilized form; beds
were to be made; rooms swept and dusted; dishes washed; knives
scoured, and all the et cetera to be attended to. Now for getting "
help," as Mrs. Trollope says; and where and how were we to get
it? We knew very few persons in the city, and how were we to
accomplish the matter? At length the "house of employment" was
mentioned, and my husband was despatched thither regularly every day
for a week, while I, in the mean time, was very nearly despatched
by the abundance of work at home. At length, one evening, as I was
sitting completely exhausted, thinking of resorting to the last
feminine expedient for supporting life, viz., a good fit of crying
, my husband made his appearance, with a most triumphant air, at the
door: "There, Margaret, I have got you a couple at last— cook and
chambermaid!" So saying, he flourished open the door, and gave to my
view the picture of a little, dry, snuffy-looking old woman, and a
great staring Dutch girl in a green bonnet with red ribands—mouth
wide open, and hands and feet that would have made a Greek sculptor
open his mouth too. I addressed forthwith a few words of
encouragement to each of this cultivated-looking couple, and
proceeded to ask their names, and forthwith the old woman began to
snuffle and to wipe her face with what was left of an old silk
pocket-handkerchief preparatory to speaking, while the young lady
opened her mouth wider, and looked around with a frightened air, as if
meditating an escape. After some preliminaries, however, I found out
that my old woman was Mrs. Tibbins, and my Hebe's name was Kotterin;
also, that she knew much more Dutch than English, and not any too
much of either. The old lady was the cook. I ventured a few
inquiries: "Had she ever cooked?"
"Yes, ma'am, sartin; she had lived at two or three places in the
"I suspect, my dear," said my husband, confidently, "that she is an
experienced cook, and so your troubles are over;" and he went to
reading his newspaper. I said no more, but determined to wait till
morning. The breakfast, to be sure, did not do much honour to the
talents of my official; but it was the first time, and the place was
new to her After breakfast was cleared away, I proceeded to give
directions for dinner: it was merely a plain joint of meat, I said, to
be roasted in the tin oven. The experienced cook looked at me
with a stare of entire vacuity: "the tin oven," I repeated, "stands
there," pointing to it.
She walked up to it, and touched it with such an appearance of
suspicion as if it had been an electrical battery, and then looked
round at me with a look of such helpless ignorance that my soul was
moved: "I never see one of them things before," said she.
"Never saw a tin oven!" I exclaimed. "I thought you said you had
cooked in two or three families."
"They does not have such things as them, though," rejoined my old
lady. Nothing was to be done, of course, but to instruct her into the
philosophy of the case; and, having spitted the joint, and given
numberless directions, I walked off to my room to superintend the
operations of Kotterin, to whom I had committed the making of my bed
and the sweeping of my room, it never having come into my head that
there could be a wrong way of making a bed, and to this day it
is a marvel to me how any one could arrange pillows and quilts to make
such a nondescript appearance as mine now presented. One glance
showed me that Kotterin also was "just caught," and that I had
as much to do in her department as in that of my old lady.
Just then the door-bell rang: "Oh, there is the door-bell!" I
exclaimed; "run, Kotterin, and show them into the parlour."
Kotterin started to run, as directed, and then stopped, and stood
looking round on all the doors, and on me with a wofully puzzled air:
"The street-door," said I, pointing towards the entry. Kotterin
blundered into the entry, and stood gazing with a look of stupid
wonder at the bell ringing without hands, while I went to the door and
let in the company before she could be fairly made to understand the
connexion between the ringing and the phenomenon of admission.
As dinner-time approached, I sent word into my kitchen to have it
set on; but, recollecting the state of the heads of department there,
I soon followed my own orders. I found the tin oven standing out in
the middle of the kitchen, and my cook seated à la Turk in front of
it, contemplating the roast meat with full as puzzled an air as in the
morning. I once more explained the mystery of taking it off, and
assisted her to get it on to the platter, though somewhat cooled by
having been so long set out for inspection. I was standing holding
the spit in my hands, when Kotterin, who had heard the door-bell
ring, and was determined this time to be in season, ran into the hall,
and soon returning, opened the kitchen door, and politely ushered in
three or four fashionable-looking ladies, exclaiming, "Here she is."
As these were strangers from the city, who had come to make their
first call, this introduction was far from proving an eligible
one—the look of thunderstruck astonishment with which I greeted
their first appearance, as I stood brandishing the spit, and the
terrified snuffling and staring of poor Mrs. Tibbins, who again had
recourse to her old pocket-handkerchief, almost entirely vanquished
their gravity, and it was evident that they were on the point of a
broad laugh; so, recovering my self-possession, I apologized, and led
the way to the parlour.
Let these few incidents be a specimen of the four mortal weeks that
I spent with these "helps," during which time I did almost as
much work, with twice as much anxiety, as when there was nobody
there; and yet everything went wrong besides. The young gentlemen
complained of the patches of starch grimed to their collars, and the
streaks of black coal ironed into their dickies, while one week every
pocket-handkerchief in the house was starched so stiff that you might
as well have carried an earthen plate in your pocket; the tumblers
looked muddy; the plates were never washed clean or wiped dry unless
I attended to each one; and as to eating and drinking, we experienced
a variety that we had not before considered possible.
At length the old woman vanished from the stage, and was succeeded
by a knowing, active, capable damsel, with a temper like a steel-trap,
who remained with me just one week, and then went off in a fit of
spite. To her succeeded a rosy, good-natured, merry lass, who broke
the crockery, burned the dinner, tore the clothes in ironing, and
knocked down everything that stood in her way about the house,
without at all discomposing herself about the matter. One night she
took the stopper from a barrel of molasses, and came singing off up
stairs, while the molasses ran soberly out into the cellar-bottom all
night, till by morning it was in a state of universal emancipation
. Having done this, and also despatched an entire set of tea-things
by letting the waiter fall, she one day made her disappearance.
Then, for a wonder, there fell to my lot a tidy, efficient-trained
English girl; pretty, and genteel, and neat, and knowing how to do
everything, and with the sweetest temper in the world. "Now," said I
to myself, "I shall rest from my labours." Everything about the
house began to go right, and looked as clean and genteel as Mary's own
pretty self. But, alas! this period of repose was interrupted by the
vision of a clever, trim-looking young man, who for some weeks could
be heard scraping his boots at the kitchen door every Sunday night;
and at last Miss Mary, with some smiling and blushing, gave me to
understand that she must leave in two weeks.
"Why, Mary," said I, feeling a little mischievous, "don't you like
"Oh, yes, ma'am."
"Then why do you look for another?"
"I am not going to another place."
"What, Mary, are you going to learn a trade?"
"Why, then, what do you mean to do?"
"I expect to keep house
myself, ma'am," said she, laughing
"Oh ho!" said I, "that is it;" and so, in two weeks, I lost the
best little girl in the world: peace to her memory.
After this came an interregnum, which put me in mind of the chapter
in Chronicles that I used to read with great delight when a child,
where Basha, and Elah, and Tibni, and Zimri, and Omri, one after the
other came on to the throne of Israel, all in the compass of half a
dozen verses. We had one old woman who stayed a week, and went away
with the misery in her tooth; one young woman who ran away and
got married; one cook, who came at night and went off before light in
the morning; one very clever girl, who stayed a month, and then went
away because her mother was sick; another, who stayed six weeks, and
was taken with the fever herself; and during all this time, who can
speak the damage and destruction wrought in the domestic
paraphernalia by passing through these multiplied hands?
What shall we do? Shall we go for slavery, or shall we give up
houses, have no furniture to take care of, keep merely a bag of meal,
a porridgepot, and a pudding-stick, and sit in our tent door in real
patriarchal independence? What shall we do?
Were any of you born in New-England, in the good old catechising,
church-going, schoolgoing, orderly times? If so, you may have seen my
Uncle Abel; the most perpendicular, rectangular, upright, downright
good man that ever laboured six days and rested on the seventh.
You remember his hard, weather-beaten countenance, where every line
seemed drawn with "a pen of iron and the point of a diamond;" his
considerate gray eyes, that moved over objects as if it were not best
to be in a hurry about seeing; the circumspect opening and shutting
of his mouth; his down-sitting and up-rising, all performed with
conviction aforethought—in short, the whole ordering of his life
and conversation, which was, according to the tenour of the military
order, "to the right about face—forward, march!"
Now if you supposed, from all this triangularism of exterior, that
this good man had nothing kindly within, you were much mistaken. You
often find the greenest grass under a snow-drift; and though my
uncle's mind was not exactly of the flower-garden kind, still there
was an abundance of wholesome and kindly vegetation there.
It is true, he seldom laughed, and never joked himself, but no man
had a more serious and weighty conviction of what a good joke was in
another; and when some exceeding witticism was dispensed in his
presence, you might see Uncle Abel's face slowly relax into an
expression of solemn satisfaction, and he would look at the author
with a sort of quiet wonder, as if it was past his comprehension how
such a thing could ever come into a man's head.
Uncle Abel, too, had some relish for the fine arts; in proof of
which, I might adduce the pleasure with which he gazed at the plates
in his family Bible, the likeness whereof is neither in Heaven, nor
on earth, nor under the earth. And he was also such an eminent
musician, that he could go through the singing-book at one sitting
without the least fatigue, beating time like a windmill all the way.
He had, too, a liberal hand, though his liberality was all by the
rule of three. He did to his neighbour exactly as he would be done by;
he loved some things in this world very sincerely: he loved his God
much, but he honoured and feared him more; he was exact with others,
he was more exact with himself, and he expected his God to be more
Everything in Uncle Abel's house was in the same time, place,
manner, and form, from year's end to year's end. There was old Master
Bose, a dog after my uncle's own heart, who always walked as if he
were studying the multiplication-table. There was the old clock,
forever ticking in the kitchen corner, with a picture on its face of
the sun, forever setting behind a perpendicular row of poplar trees.
There was the never-failing supply of red-peppers and onions hanging
over the chimney. There, too, were the yearly hollyhocks and
morning-glories blooming about the windows. There was the "best
room," with its sanded floor, the cupboard in one corner with its
glass doors, the evergreen asparagus-bushes in the chimney, and there
was the stand with the Bible and almanac on it in another corner.
There, too, was Aunt Betsey, who never looked any older, because she
always looked as old as she could; who always dried her catnip and
wormwood the last of September, and began to clean house the first of
May. In short, this was the land of continuance. Old Time never took
it into his head to practise either addition, or subtraction, or
multiplication on its sum total.
This Aunt Betsey aforenamed was the neatest and most efficient
piece of human machinery that ever operated in forty places at once.
She was always everywhere, predominating over, and seeing to
everything; and though my uncle had been twice married, Aunt Betsey's
rule and authority had never been broken. She reigned over his wives
when living, and reigned after them when dead, and so seemed likely
to reign on to the end of the chapter. But my uncle's latest wife left
Aunt Betsey a much less tractable subject than ever before had fallen
to her lot. Little Edward was the child of my uncle's old age, and a
brighter, merrier little blossom never grew on the verge of an
avalanche. He had been committed to the nursing of his grandmamma
till he had arrived at the age of indiscretion, and then my old
uncle's heart so yearned for him that he was sent for home.
His introduction into the family excited a terrible sensation.
Never was there such a contemner of dignities, such a violator of high
places and sanctities as this very Master Edward. It was all in vain
to try to teach him decorum. He was the most outrageously merry elf
that ever shook a head of curls; and it was all the same to him
whether it was "Sabba' day" or any other day. He laughed and
frolicked with everybody and everything that came in his way, not
even excepting his solemn old father; and when you saw him, with his
fair arms around the old man's neck, and his bright blue eyes and
blooming cheek peering out beside the bleak face of Uncle Abel, you
might fancy you saw Spring caressing Winter. Uncle Abel's metaphysics
were sorely puzzled by this sparkling, dancing compound of spirit and
matter; nor could he devise any method of bringing it into any
reasonable shape, for he did mischief with an energy and perseverance
that was truly astonishing. Once he scoured the floor with Aunt
Betsey's very Scotch snuff; once he washed up the hearth with Uncle
Abel's most immaculate clothes-brush; and once he was found trying to
make Bose wear his father's spectacles. In short, there was no use,
except the right one, to which he did not put everything that came in
But Uncle Abel was most of all puzzled to know what to do with him
on the Sabbath, for on that day Master Edward seemed to exert himself
to be particularly diligent and entertaining.
"Edward! Edward must not play Sunday!" his father would call out;
and then Edward would hold up his curly head, and look as grave as
the catechism; but in three minutes you would see "pussy" scampering
through the "best room," with Edward at her heels, to the entire
discomposure of all devotion in Aunt Betsey and all others in
At length my uncle came to the conclusion that "it wasn't in natur'
to teach him any better," and that "he could no more keep Sunday than
the brook down in the lot." My poor uncle! he did not know what was
the matter with his heart, but certain it was, he lost all faculty of
scolding when little Edward was in the case, and he would rub his
spectacles a quarter of an hour longer than common when Aunt Betsey
was detailing his witticisms and clever doings.
In process of time our hero had compassed his third year, and
arrived at the dignity of going to school. He went illustriously
through the spelling-book, and then attacked the catechism; went from
"man's chief end" to the "requirin's and forbiddin's" in a fortnight,
and at last came home inordinately merry, to tell his father that he
had got to "Amen." After this, he made a regular business of saying
over the whole every Sunday evening, standing with his hands folded
in front and his checked apron folded down, occasionally glancing
round to see if pussy gave proper attention. And, being of a
practically benevolent turn of mind, he made several commendable
efforts to teach Bose the catechism, in which he succeeded as well as
might be expected. In short, without farther detail, Master Edward
bade fair to become a literary wonder.
But alas for poor little Edward! his merry dance was soon over. A
day came when he sickened. Aunt Betsey tried her whole herbarium, but
in vain: he grew rapidly worse and worse. His father sickened in
heart, but said nothing; he only stayed by his bedside day and night,
trying all means to save, with affecting pertinacity.
"Can't you think of anything more, doctor?" said he to the
physician, when all had been tried in vain.
"Nothing," answered the physician.
A momentary convulsion passed over my uncle's face. "The will of
the Lord be done," said he, almost with a groan of anguish.
Just at that moment a ray of the setting sun pierced the checked
curtains, and gleamed like an angel's smile across the face of the
little sufferer. He woke from troubled sleep.
"Oh, dear! I am so sick!" he gasped, feebly. His father raised him
in his arms; he breathed easier, and looked up with a grateful smile.
Just then his old playmate, the cat, crossed the room. "There goes
pussy," said he; "oh, dear! I shall never play with pussy any more."
At that moment a deadly change passed over his face. He looked up
in his father's face with an imploring expression, and put out his
hand as if for help. There was one moment of agony, and then the
sweet features all settled into a smile of peace, and "mortality was
swallowed up of life."
My uncle laid him down, and looked one moment at his beautiful
face. It was too much for his principles, too much for his
consistency, and "he lifted up his voice and wept."
The next morning was the Sabbath—the funeral day—and it rose
with "breath all incense and with cheek all bloom." Uncle Abel was as
calm and collected as ever, but in his face there was a
sorrow-stricken appearance touching to behold. I remember him at
family prayers, as he bent over the great Bible and began the psalm,
"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations."
Apparently he was touched by the melancholy splendour of the poetry,
for after reading a few verses he stopped. There was a dead silence,
interrupted only by the tick of the clock. He cleared his voice
repeatedly, and tried to go on, but in vain. He closed the book, and
kneeled down to prayer. The energy of sorrow broke through his usual
formal reverence, and his language flowed forth with a deep and
sorrowful pathos which I shall never forget. The God so much
reverenced, so much feared, seemed to draw near to him as a friend
and comforter, his refuge and strength, "a very present help in time
My uncle rose, and I saw him walk to the room of the departed one.
He uncovered the face. It was set with the seal of death, but oh! how
surpassingly lovely! The brilliancy of life was gone, but that pure,
transparent face was touched with a mysterious, triumphant brightness,
which seemed like the dawning of Heaven.
My uncle looked long and earnestly. He felt the beauty of what he
gazed on; his heart was softened, but he had no words for his
feelings. He left the room unconsciously, and stood in the front
door. The morning was bright, the bells were ringing for church, the
birds were singing merrily, and the pet squirrel of little Edward was
frolicking about the door. My uncle watched him as he ran first up one
tree, and then down and up another, and then over the fence, whisking
his brush and chattering just as if nothing was the matter.
With a deep sigh Uncle Abel broke forth: "How happy that
' is! Well, the Lord's will be done!"
That day the dust was committed to dust, amid the lamentations of
all who had known little Edward. Years have passed since then, and
all that is mortal of my uncle has long since been gathered to his
fathers, but his just and upright spirit has entered the glorious
liberty of the sons of God. Yes; the good man may have had opinions
which the philosophical scorn, weaknesses at which the thoughtless
smile; but death shall change him into all that is enlightened, wise,
and refined; for he shall awake in "His" likeness, and "be satisfied."
LET EVERY MAN MIND HIS OWN
"And so you will not sign this paper?" said Alfred Melton to his
cousin, a fine-looking young man, who was lounging by the centre-table
"Not I, indeed. What in life have I to do with these decidedly
vulgar temperance pledges? Pshaw! they have a relish of whiskey in
their very essence!"
"Come, come, Cousin Melton," said a brilliant, dark-eyed girl, who
had been lolling on the sofa during the conference, "I beg of you to
give over attempting to evangelize Edward. You see, as Falstaff has
it, `he is little better than one of the wicked.' You must not waste
such valuable temperance documents on him."
"But, seriously, Melton, my good fellow," resumed Edward, "this
signing, and sealing, and pledging is altogether an unnecessary affair
for me. My past and present habits, my situation in life—in short,
everything that can be mentioned with regard to me, goes against the
supposition of my ever becoming the slave of a vice so debasing; and
this pledging myself to avoid it is something altogether needless—
nay, by implication, it is degrading. As to what you say of my
influence, I am inclined to the opinion, that if every man will look
to himself, every man will be looked to. This modern notion of
tacking the whole responsibility of society on to every individual, is
one I am not at all inclined to adopt; for, first, I know it is a
troublesome doctrine; and, secondly, I doubt if it be a true one. For
both which reasons, I shall decline extending it my patronage."
"Well, positively," exclaimed the lady, "you gentlemen have the
gift of continuance in an uncommon degree. You have discussed this
matter backward and forward till I am ready to perish. I will take
the matter in hand myself, and sign a temperance pledge for Edward,
and see that he gets into none of those naughty courses upon which
you have been so pathetic."
"I dare say," said Melton, glancing on her brilliant face with
evident admiration, "that you will be the best temperance pledge he
could have. But every man, cousin, may not be so fortunate."
"But, Melton," said Edward, "seeing my steady habits are so well
provided for, you must carry your logic and eloquence to some poor
fellow less favoured." And thus the conference ended.
"What a good, disinterested fellow Melton is!" said Edward, after
he had left.
"Yes, good as the day is long," said Augusta, "but rather prosy,
after all. This tiresome temperance business! One never hears the end
of it nowadays. Temperance papers— temperance tracts—temperance
hotels—temperance this, that, and the other thing, even down to
temperance pocket-handkerchiefs for little boys! Really, the world is
getting intemperately temperate."
"Ah, well! with the security you have offered, Augusta, I shall
dread no temptation."
Though there was nothing peculiar in these words, yet there was a
certain earnestness of tone that called the colour into the face of
Augusta, and set her to sewing with uncommon assiduity. And thereupon
Edward proceeded with some remark about "guardian angels," together
with many other things of the kind, which, though they contain no more
that is new than a temperance lecture, always seem to have a peculiar
freshness to people in certain circumstances. In fact, before the hour
was at an end, Edward and Augusta had forgotten where they began, and
had wandered far into that land of anticipations and bright dreams,
which surrounds the young and loving before they eat of the tree of
experience, and gain the fatal knowledge of good and evil.
But here, stopping our sketching pencil, let us throw in a little
back ground and perspective that will enable our readers to perceive
more readily the entire picture.
Edward Howard was a young man whose brilliant talents and
captivating manners had placed him first in the society in which he
moved. Though without property or weight of family connexions, he had
become a leader in the circles where these appendages are most
considered, and there were none of their immunities and privileges
that were not freely at his disposal.
Augusta Elmore was conspicuous in all that lies within the sphere
of feminine attainment. She was an orphan, and accustomed from a very
early age to the free enjoyment and control of an independent
property. This circumstance, doubtless, added to the magic of her
personal graces in procuring for her that flattering deference which
beauty and wealth secure.
Her mental powers were naturally superior, although, from want of
motive, they had received no development, except such as would secure
success in society. Native good sense, with great strength of feeling
and independence of mind, had saved her from becoming heartless and
frivolous. She was better fitted to lead and to influence than to be
influenced or led. And hence, though not swayed by any habitual sense
of moral responsibility, the tone of her character seemed altogether
more elevated than the average of fashionable society.
General expectation had united the destiny of two persons who
seemed every way fitted for each other, and for once general
expectation did not err. A few months after the interview mentioned
were witnessed the festivities and congratulations of their brilliant
and happy marriage.
Never did two young persons commence life under happier auspices.
"What an exact match!" "What a beautiful couple!" said all the
gossips. "They seem made for each other," said every one; and so
thought the happy lovers themselves.
Love, which with persons of strong character is always an earnest
and sobering principle, had made them thoughtful and considerate, and
as they looked forward to future life, and talked of the days before
them, their plans and ideas were as rational as any plans can be,
when formed entirely with reference to this life, without any regard
For a while their absorbing attachment to each other tended to
withdraw them from the temptations and allurements of company, and
many a long winter evening passed delightfully in the elegant
quietude of home, as they read, and sang, and talked of the past, and
dreamed of the future in each other's society. But, contradictory as
it may appear to the theory of the sentimentalist, it is nevertheless
a fact, that two persons cannot always find sufficient excitement in
talking to each other merely; and this is especially true of those to
whom high excitement has been a necessary of life. After a while, the
young couple, though loving each other none the less, began to respond
to the many calls which invited them again into society, and the
pride they felt in each other added zest to the pleasures of their
As the gaze of admiration followed the graceful motions of the
beautiful wife, and the whispered tribute went round the circle
whenever she entered, Edward felt a pride beyond all that flattery,
addressed to himself, had ever excited; and Augusta, when told of the
convivial talents and powers of entertainment which distinguished her
husband, could not resist the temptation of urging him into society
even oftener than his own wishes would have led him.
Alas! neither of them knew the perils of constant excitement, nor
supposed that, in thus alienating themselves from the pure and simple
pleasures of home, they were risking their whole capital of
happiness. It is in indulging the first desire for extra stimulus that
the first and deepest danger to domestic peace lies. Let that
stimulus be either bodily or mental, its effects are alike to be
The man or the woman to whom habitual excitement of any kind has
become essential, has taken the first step towards ruin. In the case
of a woman, it leads to discontent, fretfulness, and dissatisfaction
with the quiet duties of domestic life; in the case of a man, it leads
almost invariably to animal stimulus, ruinous alike to the powers of
body and mind.
Augusta, fondly trusting to the virtue of her husband, saw no
danger in the constant round of engagements which were gradually
drawing his attention from the graver cares of business, from the
pursuit of self-improvement, and from the love of herself. Already
there was in her horizon the cloud "as big as a man's hand"— the
precursor of future darkness and tempest; but, too confident and
buoyant, she saw it not.
It was not until the cares and duties of a mother began to confine
her at home, that she first felt, with a startling sensation of fear,
that there was an alteration in her husband, though even then the
change was so shadowy and in definite that it could not be defined by
It was known by that quick, prophetic sense, which reveals to the
heart of woman the first variation in the pulse of affection, though
it be so slight that no other touch can detect it.
Edward was still fond, affectionate, admiring; and when he tendered
her all the little attentions demanded by her situation, or caressed
and praised his beautiful son, she felt satisfied and happy. But when
she saw that, even without her, the convivial circle had its
attractions, and that he could leave her to join it, she sighed, she
scarce knew why. "Surely," she said, "I am not so selfish as to wish
to rob him of pleasure because I cannot enjoy it with him. But yet,
once he told me there was no pleasure where I was not. Alas! is it
true, what I have so often heard, that such feelings cannot always
Poor Augusta! she knew not how deep reason she had to fear. She saw
not the temptations that surrounded her husband in the circles where,
to all the stimulus of wit and intellect was often added the zest of wine, used far too freely for safety.
Already had Edward become familiar with a degree of physical
excitement which touches the very verge of intoxication; yet, strong
in self-confidence, and deluded by the customs of society, he dreamed
not of danger. The traveller who has passed above the rapids of
Niagara may have noticed the spot where the first white sparkling
ripple announces the downward tendency of the waters. All here is
brilliancy and beauty; and as the waters ripple and dance in the
sunbeam, they seem only as if inspired by a spirit of new life, and
not as hastening to a dreadful fall. So the first approach to
intemperance, that ruins both body and soul, seems only like the
buoyancy and exulting freshness of a new life, and the unconscious
voyager feels his bark undulating with a thrill of delight, ignorant
of the inexorable hurry, the tremendous sweep, with which the laughing
waters urge him on beyond the reach of hope or recovery.
It was at this period in the life of Edward that one judicious and
manly friend, who would have had the courage to point out to him the
danger that every one else perceived, might have saved him. But among
the circle of his acquaintances there was none such. "Let every
man mind his own business" was their universal maxim. True, heads
were gravely shaken, and Mr. A. regretted to Mr. B. that so promising
a young man seemed about to ruin himself. But one was "no relation
" of Edward's, and the other "felt a delicacy in speaking on such a
subject," and therefore, according to a very ancient precedent, they
"passed by on the other side." Yet it was at Mr. A.'s sideboard,
always sparkling with the choicest wine, that he had felt the first
excitement of extra stimulus; it was at Mr. B.'s house that the
convivial club began to hold their meetings, which, after a time,
found a more appropriate place in a public hotel. It is thus that the
sober, the regular, and the discreet, whose constitution saves them
from liabilities to excess, will accompany the ardent and excitable
to the very verge of danger, and then wonder at their want of
It was a cold winter evening, and the wind whistled drearily around
the closed shutters of the parlour in which Augusta was sitting.
Everything around her bore the marks of elegance and comfort.
Splendid books and engravings lay about in every direction. Vases
of rare and costly flowers exhaled perfume, and magnificent mirrors
multiplied every object. All spoke of luxury and repose, save the
anxious and sad countenance of its mistress.
It was late, and she had watched anxiously for her husband for many
long hours. She drew out her gold and diamond repeater, and looked at
it. It was long past midnight. She sighed as she remembered the
pleasant evenings they had passed together, as her eye fell on the
books they had read together, and on her piano and harp, now silent,
and thought of all he had said and looked in those days when each was
all to the other.
She was aroused from this melancholy revery by a loud knocking at
the street door. She hastened to open it, but started back at the
sight it disclosed—her husband borne by four men.
"Dead! is he dead?" she screamed, in agony.
"No, ma'am," said one of the men, "but he might as well be dead as
in such a fix as this."
The whole truth, in all its degradation, flashed on the mind of
Augusta. Without a question or comment, she motioned to the sofa in
the parlour, and her husband was laid there. She locked the street
door, and when the last retreating footstep had died away, she turned
to the sofa, and stood gazing in fixed and almost stupified silence
on the face of her senseless husband.
At once she realized the whole of her fearful lot. She saw before
her the blight of her own affections, the ruin of her helpless
children, the disgrace and misery of her husband. She looked around
her in helpless despair, for she well knew the power of the vice whose
deadly seal was set upon her husband. As one who is struggling and
sinking in the waters casts a last dizzy glance at the green sunny
banks and distant trees which seem sliding from his view, so did all
the scenes of her happy days pass in a moment before her, and she
groaned aloud in bitterness of spirit. "Great God! help me— help
me!" she prayed. "Save him—oh, save my husband!"
Augusta was a woman of no common energy of spirit, and when the
first wild burst of anguish was over, she resolved not to be wanting
to her husband and children in a crisis so dread ful.
"When he wakes," she mentally exclaimed, "I will warn and implore;
I will pour out my whole soul to save him. My poor husband, you have
been misled—betrayed. But you are too good—too generous—too
noble to be sacrificed without a struggle."
It was late the next morning before the stupor in which Edward was
plunged began to pass off. He slowly opened his eyes, started up
wildly, gazed hurriedly around the room, till his eye met the fixed
and sorrowful gaze of his wife. The past instantly flashed upon him,
and a deep flush passed over his countenance. There was a dead, a
solemn silence, until Augusta, yielding to her agony, threw herself
into his arms, and wept.
"Then you do not hate me, Augusta?" said he, sorrowfully.
"Hate you—never! but oh, Edward—Edward, what has beguiled you?"
"My wife—you once promised to be my guardian in virtue—such you
are, and will be. Oh, Augusta! you have looked on what you shall
never see again—never—never—so help me God!" said he, looking up
with solemn earnestness.
And Augusta, as she gazed on the noble face, the ardent expression
of sincerity and remorse, could not doubt that her husband was saved.
But Edward's plan of reformation had one grand defect. It was merely
modification and retrenchment, and not entire abandonment. He
could not feel it necessary to cut himself off entirely from the
scenes and associations where temptation had met him. He considered
not that, when the temperate flow of the blood and the even balance
of the nerves have once been destroyed, there is, ever after, a double
and fourfold liability, which often makes a man the sport of the
first untoward chance.
He still contrived to stimulate sufficiently to prevent the return
of a calm and healthy state of the mind and body, and to make constant
self-control and watchfulness necessary.
It is a great mistake to call nothing intemperance but that degree
of physical excitement which completely overthrows the mental powers.
There is a state of nervous excitability, resulting from what is
often called moderate stimulation, which often long precedes this, and
is, in regard to it, like the premonitory warnings of the fatal
cholera, an unsuspected draught on the vital powers, from which, at
any moment, they may sink into irremediable collapse.
It is in this state, often, that the spirit of gambling or of wild
speculation is induced by the morbid cravings of an over-stimulated
system. Unsatisfied with the healthy and regular routine of business,
and the laws of gradual and solid prosperity, the excited and unsteady
imagination leads its subjects to daring risks, with the alternative
of unbounded gain on the one side, or of utter ruin on the other. And
when, as is too often the case, that ruin comes, unrestrained and
desperate intemperance is the wretched resort to allay the ravings of
disappointment and despair.
Such was the case with Edward. He had lost his interest in his
regular business, and he embarked the bulk of his property in a
brilliant scheme then in vogue; and when he found a crisis coming,
threatening ruin and beggary, he had recourse to the fatal stimulus,
which, alas! he had never wholly abandoned.
At this time he spent some months in a distant city, separated from
his wife and family, while the insidious power of temptation daily
increased, as he kept up, by artificial stimulus, the flagging vigour
of his mind and nervous system.
It came at last — the blow which shattered alike his brilliant
dreams and his real prosperity. The large fortune brought by his wife
vanished in a moment, so that scarcely a pittance remained in his
hands. From the distant city where he had been to superintend his
schemes, he thus wrote to his too confiding wife:
"Augusta, all is over! expect no more from your husband—believe
no more of his promises— for he is lost to you and to him. Augusta,
our property is gone; your property, which I have blindly
risked, is all swallowed up. But is that the worst? No, no, Augusta, I
am lost— lost, body and soul, and as irretrievably as the perishing
riches I have squandered. Once I had
energy—health—nerve—resolution; but all are gone: yes, yes, I
have yielded—I do yield daily to what is at once my tormentor and
my temporary refuge from intolerable misery. You remember the sad hour
you first knew your husband was a drunkard. Your look on that morning
of misery—shall I ever forget it! Yet, blind and confiding as you
were, how soon did your ill-judged confidence in me return. Vain
hopes! I was even then past recovery— even then sealed over to
blackness of darkness forever.
"Alas! my wife, my peerless wife, why am I your husband? why the
father of such children as you have given me? Is there nothing in
your unequalled loveliness—nothing in the innocence of our helpless
babes, that is powerful enough to recall me?—no, there is not.
"Augusta, you know not the dreadful gnawing, the intolerable agony
of this master passion. I walk the floor—I think of my own dear
home, my high hopes, my proud expectations, my children, my treasured
wife, my own immortal spirit—I feel that I am sacrificing all—
feel it till I am withered with agony; but the hour comes—the
burning hour, and all is in vain. I shall return to you no
more, Augusta. All the little wreck I have saved, I send: you have
friends, relatives—above all, you have an energy of mind, a capacity
of resolute action, beyond that of ordinary women, and you shall
never be bound—the living to the dead. True, you will suffer, thus
to burst the bonds that unite us; but be resolute, for you will suffer
more to watch from day to day the slow workings of death and ruin in
your husband. Would you stay with me, to see every vestige of what
you once loved passing away; to endure the caprice, the moroseness,
the delirious anger of one no longer master of himself? Would you
make your children victims and fellow-sufferers with you? No! dark
and dreadful is my path! I will walk it alone: no one shall go with me.
"In some peaceful retirement you may concentrate your strong
feelings upon your children, and bring them up to fill a place in your
heart which a worthless husband has abandoned. If I leave you now,
you will remember me as I have been—you will love me and weep for me
when dead; but if you stay with me, your love will be worn out; I
shall become the object of disgust and loathing. Therefore farewell,
my wife—my first, best love, farewell! with you I part with hope,
`And, with hope, farewell fear,
Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost:
Evil, be thou my good.' This is a wild strain, but fit for me: do
not seek for me, do not write: nothing can save me."
Thus abruptly began and ended the letter that conveyed to Augusta
the death-doom of her hopes. There are moments of agony when the most
worldly heart is pressed upward to God, even as a weight will force
upward the reluctant water. Augusta had been a generous, a highminded,
an affectionate woman, but she had lived entirely for this world. Her
chief good had been her husband and her children. These had been her
pride, her reliance, her dependance. Strong in her own resources, she
had never felt the need of looking to a higher power for assistance
and happiness. But when this letter fell from her trembling hand, her
heart died within her at its wild and reckless bitterness.
In her desperation she looked up to God. "What have I to live for
now?" was the first feeling of her heart.
But she repressed this inquiry of selfish agony, and besought
Almighty assistance to nerve her weakness; and here first began that
practical acquaintance with the truths and hopes of religion which
changed her whole character.
The possibility of blind, confiding idolatry of any earthly object
was swept away by the fall of her husband, and with the full energy of
a decided and desolate spirit, she threw herself on the protection of
an Almighty helper. She followed her husband to the city whither he
had gone, found him, and vainly attempted to save.
There were the usual alternations of shortlived reformations,
exciting hopes only to be destroyed. There was the gradual sinking of
the body, the decay of moral feeling and principle— the slow but
sure approach of disgusting animalism, which marks the progress of the
It was some years after that a small and partly ruinous tenement in
the outskirts of A— received a new family. The group consisted of
four children, whose wan and wistful countenances, and still,
unchildlike deportment, testified an early acquaintance with want and
sorrow. There was the mother, faded and careworn, whose dark and
melancholy eyes, pale cheeks and compressed lips, told of years of
anxiety and endurance. There was the father, with haggard face,
unsteady step, and that callous, reckless air, that betrayed long
familiarity with degradation and crime. Who that had seen Edward
Howard in the morning and freshness of his days, could have recognised
him in this miserable husband and father; or who, in this worn and
wo-stricken woman, would have known the beautiful, brilliant, and
accomplished Augusta? Yet such changes are not fancy, as many a
bitter and broken heart can testify.
Augusta had followed her guilty husband through many a change and
many a weary wandering. All hope of reformation had gradually faded
away. Her own eyes had seen, her ears had heard, all those disgusting
details, too revolting to be portrayed; for in drunkenness there is
no royal road—no salvo for greatness of mind, refinement of taste,
or tenderness of feeling. All alike are merged in the corruption of a
The traveller, who met Edward reeling by the roadside, was
sometimes startled to hear the fragments of classical lore, or wild
bursts of half-remembered poetry, mixing strangely with the imbecile
merriment of intoxication. But when he stopped to gaze, there was no
farther mark on his face or in his eye by which he could be
distinguished from the loathsome and lowest drunkard.
Augusta had come with her husband to a city where they were wholly
unknown, that she might at least escape the degradation of their lot
in the presence of those who had known them in better days. The long
and dreadful struggle that annihilated the hopes of this life, had
raised her feelings to rest upon the next, and the habit of communion
with God, induced by sorrows which nothing else could console, had
given a tender dignity to her character such as nothing else could
It is true, she deeply loved her children, but it was with a holy,
chastened love, such as in spired the sentiment once breathed by Him
"who was made perfect through sufferings."
"For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be
Poverty, deep poverty, had followed their steps, but yet she had
not fainted. Talents which in her happier days had been nourished
merely as luxuries, were now stretched to the utmost to furnish a
support; while from the resources of her own reading she drew that
which laid the foundation for early mental culture in her children.
Augusta had been here but a few weeks before her footsteps were
traced by her only brother, who had lately discovered her situation,
and urged her to forsake her unworthy husband and find refuge with
"Augusta, my sister, I have found you!" he exclaimed, as he
suddenly entered one day, while she was busied with the work of her
"Henry, my dear brother!" There was a momentary illumination of
countenance accompanying these words, which soon faded into a
mournful quietness as she cast her eyes around on the scanty
accommodations and mean apartment.
"I see how it is, Augusta; step by step, you are sinking—dragged
down by a vain sense of duty to one no longer worthy. I cannot bear
it any longer; I have come to take you away."
Augusta turned from him, and looked abstractedly out of the window.
Her features settled in thought. Their expression gradually deepened
from their usual tone of mild, resigned sorrow to one of keen anguish.
"Henry," said she, turning towards him, " never was mortal woman so
blessed in another as I once was in him. How can I forget it? Who
knew him in those days that did not admire and love him? They tempted
and ensnared him; and even I urged him into the path of danger. He
fell, and there was none to help. I urged reformation, and he again
and again promised, resolved, and began. But again they tempted
him—even his very best friends; yes, and that, too, when they knew
his danger. They led him on as far as it was safe for them to
go, and when the sweep of his more excitable temperament took him
past the point of safety and decency, they stood by and coolly
wondered and lamented. How often was he led on by such heartless
friends to humiliating falls, and then driven to desperation by the
cold look, averted faces, and cruel sneers of those whose medium
temperament and cooler blood saved them from the snares which they saw
were enslaving him. What if I had forsaken him then?
What account should I have rendered to God? Every time a friend has
been alienated by his comrades, it has seemed to seal him with another
seal. I am his wife—and mine will be the last. Henry, when I
leave him, I know his eternal ruin is sealed. I cannot do it
now; a little longer—a little longer; the hour, I see, must come. I
know my duty to my children forbids me to keep them here; take
them—they are my last earthly comforts, Henry—but you must take
them away. It may be—O God— perhaps it must be, that I
shall soon follow; but not till I have tried once more. What is
this present life to one who has suffered as I have? Nothing. But
eternity! Oh, Henry! eternity— how can I abandon him to everlasting despair! Under the breaking of my heart I have borne
up. I have borne up under all that can try a woman; but this
thought—" She stopped, and seemed struggling with herself; but at
last, borne down by a tide of agony, she leaned her head on her
hands; the tears streamed through her fingers, and her whole frame
shook with convulsive sobs.
Her brother wept with her; nor dared he again to touch the point so
solemnly guarded. The next day Augusta parted from her children,
hoping something from feelings that, possibly, might be stirred by
their absence in the bosom of their father.
It was about a week after this that Augusta one evening presented
herself at the door of a rich Mr. L—, whose princely mansion was
one of the ornaments of the city of A—. It was not till she reached
the sumptuous drawing-room that she recognised in Mr. L— one whom
she and her husband had frequently met in the gay circles of their
early life. Altered as she was, Mr. L— did not recognise her, but
compassionately handed her a chair, and requested her to wait the
return of his lady, who was out; and then turning, he resumed his
conversation with another gentleman.
"Now, Dallas," said he, "you are altogether excessive and
intemperate in this matter. Society is not to be reformed by every man
directing his efforts towards his neighbour, but by every man taking
care of himself. It is you and I, my dear sir, who must begin with
ourselves, and every other man must do the same; and then society
will be effectually reformed. Now this modern way, by which every man
considers it his duty to attend to the spiritual matters of his
next-door neighbour, is taking the business at the wrong end
altogether. It makes a vast deal of appearance, but it does very
"But suppose your neighbour feels no disposition to attend to his
own improvement—what then?"
"Why, then it is his own concern, and not mine. What my Maker
requires is, that I do my duty, and not fret about my
"But, my friend, that is the very question. What is the duty your
Maker requires? Does it not include some regard to your neighbour,
some care and thought for his interest and improvement?"
"Well, well, I do that by setting a good example. I do not mean by
example what you do—that is, that I am to stop drinking wine because
it may lead him to drink brandy, any more than that I must stop
eating because he may eat too much and become a dyspeptic—but that
I am to use my wine, and everything else, temperately and decently,
and thus set him a good example."
The conversation was here interrupted by the return of Mrs. L—.
It recalled, in all its freshness, to the mind of Augusta the days
when both she and her husband had thus spoken and thought.
Ah, how did these sentiments appear to her now, lonely, helpless,
forlorn—the wife of a ruined husband—the mother of more than
orphan children. How different from what they seemed, when, secure in
ease, in wealth, in gratified affections, she thoughtlessly echoed the
common phraseology, "Why must people concern themselves so much in
their neighbours' affairs? Let every man mind his own business."
Augusta received in silence from Mrs. L— the fine sewing for
which she came, and left the room.
"Ellen," said Mr. L— to his wife, "that poor woman must be in
trouble of some kind or other. You must go some time, and see if
anything can be done for her."
"How singular!" said Mrs. L—; "she reminds me all the time of
Augusta Howard. You remember her, my dear?"
"Yes, poor thing! and her husband too. That was a shocking affair
of Edward Howard's. I hear that he became an intemperate, worthless
fellow. Who could have thought it!"
"But you recollect, my dear," said Mrs. L—, "I predicted it six
months before it was talked of. You remember, at the wineparty which
you gave after Mary's wedding, he was so excited that he was hardly
decent. I mentioned then that he was getting into dangerous ways. But
he was such an excitable creature, that two or three glasses would put
him quite beside himself. And there is George Eldon, who takes off
his ten or twelve glasses, and no one suspects it."
"Well, it was a great pity," replied Mr. L—; "Howard was worth a
dozen George Eldons."
"Do you suppose," said Dallas, who had listened thus far in
silence, "that if he had moved in a circle where it was the universal
custom to banish all stimulating drinks, he would thus have
"I cannot say," said Mr. L—; "perhaps not."
Mr. Dallas was a gentleman of fortune and leisure, and of an ardent
and enthusiastic temperament. Whatever engaged him absorbed his whole
soul; and of late years, his mind had become deeply engaged in schemes
of philanthropy for the improvement of his fellow-men. He had, in his
benevolent ministrations, often passed the dwelling of Edward, and was
deeply interested in the pale and patient wife and mother. He made
acquaintance with her through the aid of her children, and, in one way
and another, learned particulars of their history that awakened the
deepest interest and concern. None but a mind as sanguine as his would
have dreamed of attempting to remedy such hopeless misery by the
reformation of him who was its cause. But such a plan had actually
occurred to him. The remarks of Mr. and Mrs. L— recalled the idea,
and he soon found that his projected protegée was the very Edward
Howard whose early history was thus disclosed. He learned all the
minutiæ from these his early associates without disclosing his aim,
and left them still more resolved upon his benevolent plan.
He watched his opportunity when Edward was free from the influence
of stimulus, and it was just after the loss of his children had called
forth some remains of his better nature. Gradually and kindly he
tried to touch the springs of his mind, and awaken some of its buried
"It is in vain, Mr. Dallas, to talk thus to me," said Edward, when
one day, with the strong eloquence of excited feeling, he painted the
motives for attempting reformation; "you might as well try to reclaim
the lost in hell. Do you think," he continued, in a wild, determined
manner, "do you think I do not know all you can tell me? I have it
all by heart, sir; no one can preach such discourses as I can on this
subject: I know all—believe all—as the devils believe and
"Ay, but," said Dallas, "to you
there is hope; you
to ruin yourself forever."
"And who the devil are you, to speak to me in this way?" said
Edward, looking up from his sullen despair with a gleam of curiosity,
if not of hope.
"God's messenger to you, Edward Howard," said Dallas, fixing his
keen eye upon him solemnly; "to you, Edward Howard; who have thrown
away talents, hope, and health—who have blasted the heart of your
wife, and beggared your suffering children. To you I am the messenger
of your God—by me he offers health, and hope, and self-respect, and
the regard of your fellow-men. You may heal the broken heart of your
wife, and give back a father to your helpless children. Think of it,
Howard: what if it were possible? only suppose it. What would it be
again to feel yourself a man, beloved and respected as you once were,
with a happy home, a cheerful wife, and smiling little ones? Think how
you could repay your poor wife for all her tears! What hinders you
from gaining all this?"
"Just what hindered the rich man in hell— `between us there is
a great gulf fixed;' it lies between me and all that is good; my
wife, my children, my hope of heaven, are all on the other side."
"Ay, but this gulf can be passed: Howard, what
would you give
to be a temperate man?"
"What would I give?" said Howard—he thought for a moment, and
burst into tears.
"Ah, I see how it is," said Dallas; "you need a friend, and God has
sent you one."
"What can you do for me, Mr. Dallas?" said Edward, in a tone
of wonder at the confidence of his assurances.
"I will tell you what I can do: I can take you to my house, and
give you a room, and watch over you until the strongest temptations
are past—I can give you business again. I can do all for you
that needs to be done, if you will give yourself to my care."
"Oh God of mercy!" exclaimed the unhappy man, "is there hope for
me? I cannot believe it possible; but take me where you choose—I
will follow and obey."
A few hours witnessed the transfer of the lost husband to one of
the retired apartments in the elegant mansion of Dallas, where he
found his anxious and grateful wife still stationed as his watchful
Medical treatment, healthful exercise, useful employment, simple
food, and pure water, were connected with a personal supervision by
Dallas, which, while gently and politely sustained, at first amounted
to actual imprisonment.
For a time the reaction from the sudden suspension of habitual
stimulus was dreadful, and even with tears did the unhappy man entreat
to be permitted to abandon the undertaking. But the resolute
steadiness of Dallas and the tender entreaties of his wife prevailed.
It is true that he might be said to be saved "so as by fire;" for a
fever, and a long and fierce delirium, wasted him almost to the
borders of the grave.
But, at length, the struggle between life and death was over, and
though it left him stretched on the bed of sickness, emaciated and
weak, yet he was restored to his right mind, and was conscious of
returning health. Let any one who has laid a friend in the grave, and
known what it is to have the heart fail with longing for them day by
day, imagine the dreamy and unreal joy of Augusta when she began
again to see in Edward the husband so long lost to her. It was as if
the grave had given back the dead!
"Augusta!" said he, faintly, as, after a long and quiet sleep, he
awoke free from delirium. She bent over him. "Augusta, I am
redeemed— I am saved — I feel in myself that I am made whole."
The high heart of Augusta melted at these words. She trembled and
wept. Her husband wept also, and after a pause he continued:
"It is more than being restored to this life— I feel that it is
the beginning of eternal life. It is the Saviour who sought me out,
and I know that he is able to keep me from falling."
But we will draw a veil over a scene which words have little power
"Pray, Dallas," said Mr. L—, one day, "who is that fine-looking
young man whom I met in your office this morning? I thought his face
"It is a Mr. Howard—a young lawyer whom I have lately taken into
business with me."
"Strange! Impossible!" said Mr. L—. "Surely this cannot be the
Howard that I once knew?"
"I believe he is," said Mr. Dallas.
"Why, I thought he was gone—dead and done over, long ago, with
"He was so; few have ever sunk lower; but he now promises even to
outdo all that was hoped of him."
"Strange! Why, Dallas, what did bring about this change?"
"I feel a delicacy in mentioning how it came about, to you, Mr.
L—, as there undoubtedly was a great deal of `interference with
other men's matters' in the business. In short, the young man fell in
the way of one of those meddlesome fellows, who go prowling about,
distributing tracts, forming temperance societies, and all that sort
"Come, come, Dallas," said Mr. L—, smiling, "I must hear the
story, for all that."
"First call with me at this house," said Dallas, stopping before
the door of a neat little mansion. They were soon in the parlour. The
first sight that met their eyes was Edward Howard, who, with a cheek
glowing with exercise, was tossing aloft a blooming boy, while
Augusta was watching his motions, her face radiant with smiles.
"Mr. and Mrs. Howard, this is Mr. L— an old acquaintance, I
There was a moment of mutual embarrassment and surprise, soon
dispelled, however, by the frank cordiality of Edward. Mr. L— sat
down, but could scarce withdraw his eyes from the countenance of
Augusta, in whose eloquent face he recognised a beauty of a higher
cast than even in her earlier days.
He glanced about the apartment. It was simply, but tastefully
furnished, and wore an air of retired, domestic comfort. There were
books, engravings, and musical instruments. Above all, there were
four happy, healthy looking children, pursuing studies or sports at
the farther end of the room.
After a short call they regained the street.
"Dallas, you are a happy man," said Mr. L—; "that family will be
a mine of jewels to you."
He was right. Every soul saved from pollution and ruin is a jewel
to him that reclaims it, whose lustre only eternity can disclose; and
therefore it is written, "They that be wise shall shine as the
brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness,
as the stars forever and ever."
In a stately red house, in one of the villages of New-England,
lived the heroine of our story. She had every advantage of rank and
wealth, for her father was a deacon of the church, and owned sheep,
and oxen, and exceeding much substance. There was an appearance of
respectability and opulence about all the demesnes. The house stood
almost concealed amid a forest of apple-trees, in spring blushing with
blossoms, and in autumn golden with fruit; and near by might be seen
the garden, surrounded by a red picket-fence, enclosing all sorts of
magnificence. There, in autumn, might be seen abundant squash-vines,
which seemed puzzled for room where to bestow themselves, and bright
golden squashes, and full-orbed yellow pumpkins, looking as satisfied
as the evening sun when he has just had his face washed in a shower,
and is sinking soberly to bed. There were superannuated
seed-cucumbers, enjoying the pleasures of a contemplative old age; and
Indian corn, nicely done up in green silk, with a specimen tassel
hanging at the end of each ear. The beams of the summer sun darted
through rows of crimson currants, abounding on bushes by the fence,
while a sulky black currant bush sat scowling in one corner, a sort of
But time would fail us were we to enumerate all the wealth of
Deacon Enos Taylor. He himself belonged to that necessary class of
beings who, though remarkable for nothing at all, are very useful in
filling up the links of society. Far otherwise was his sister-in-law,
Mrs. Abigail Evetts, who, on the demise of the deacon's wife, had
assumed the reins of government in the household.
This lady was of the same opinion that has animated many
illustrious philosophers, namely, that the affairs of this world need
a great deal of seeing to in order to have them go on prosperously;
and, although she did not, like them, engage in the supervision of the
universe, she made amends by unremitting diligence in the department
under her care. In her mind there was an evident necessity that every
one should be up and doing: Monday, because it was washing-day;
Tuesday, because it was ironing-day; Wednesday, because it was
bakingday; Thursday, because to-morrow was Friday, and so on to the
end of the week. Then she had the care of reminding all in the house
of everything each was to do from week's end to week's end; and she
was so faithful in this respect, that scarcely an original act of
volition took place in the family. The poor deacon was reminded when
he went out and when he came in, when he sat down and when he rose up,
so that an act of omission could only have been committed through
sheer malice prepense.
But the supervision of a whole family of children afforded, to a
lady of her active turn of mind, more abundant matter of exertion. To
see that their faces were washed, their clothes mended, and their
catechism learned; to see that they did not pick the flowers, nor
throw stones at the chickens, nor sophisticate the great housedog,
was an accumulation of care that devolved almost entirely on Mrs.
Abigail, so that, by her own account, she lived and throve by a
The eldest of her charge, at the time this story begins, was a girl
just arrived at young-ladyhood, and her name was Mary. Now we know
that people very seldom have stories written about them, who have not
sylph-like forms, and glorious eyes, or, at least, "acertain
inexpressible charm diffused over their whole person." But stories
have of late so much abounded, that they actually seem to have used up
all the eyes, hair, teeth, lips, and forms necessary for a heroine,
so that no one can now pretend to find an original collection
wherewith to set one forth. These things considered, I regard it as
fortunate that my heroine was not a beauty. She looked neither like a
sylph, nor an oread, nor a fairy; she had neither "l'air distingué
" nor "l'air magnifique," but bore a great resemblance to a
real mortal girl, such as you might pass a dozen of without any
particular comment; one of those appearances which, though common as
water, may, like that, be coloured any way by the associations you
connect with it. Accordingly, a faultless taste in dress, a perfect
ease and gayety of manner, a constant flow of kindly feeling, seemed,
in her case, to produce all the effect of beauty. Her manners had
just dignity enough to repel impertinence, without destroying the
careless freedom and sprightliness in which she commonly indulged. No
person had a merrier run of stories, songs, and village traditions,
and all those odds and ends of character which form the materials for
animated conversation. She had read, too, everything she could find:
Rollin's History, and Scott's Family Bible, that stood in the glass
bookcase in the best room, and an odd volume of Shakspeare, and now
and then one of Scott's novels, borrowed from a somewhat literary
family in the neighbourhood. She also kept an album to write her
thoughts in, and was in a constant habit of cutting out all the
pretty poetry from the corners of the newspapers, besides drying a
number of forget-menots and rosebuds, in memory of different
particular friends, with a number of other little sentimental
practices to which young ladies of sixteen and thereabout are
addicted. She was also endowed with great constructiveness; so that,
in this day of ladies' fairs, there was nothing, from bellows
needle-books down to web-footed pincushions, to which she could not
turn her hand. Her sewing certainly was extraordinary (we think
too little is made of this in the accomplishments of heroines), her
stitching was like rows of pearls, and her cross-stitching was
fairy-like; and for sewing over-and-over, as the village school ma'am
hath it, she had not her equal. And what shall we say of her pies and
puddings! They would have converted the most reprobate old bachelor in
the world. And then her sweeping and dusting! "Many daughters have
done virtuously, but thou excellest them all!"
And now, what do you suppose is coming next? Why, a young
gentleman, of course; for about this time comes to settle in the
village, and take charge of the academy, a certain William Barton.
Now, if you wish to know more particularly who he was, we only wish
we could refer you to Mrs. Abigail, who was most accomplished in
genealogies and old wives' fables, and she would have told you that
"her gran'ther, Ike Evetts, married a wife who was second cousin to
Peter Scranton, who was great uncle to Polly Mosely, whose daughter
Mary married William Barton's father, just about the time old Squire
Peter's house was burned down." And then would follow an account of
the domestic history of all branches of the family since they came
over from England. Be that as it may, it is certain that Mrs. Abigail
denominated him cousin, and that he came to the deacon's to board; and
he had not been there more than a week, and made sundry observations
on Miss Mary, before he determined to call her cousin too, which he
accomplished in the most natural way in the world.
Mary was at first somewhat afraid of him, because she had heard
that he had studied through all that was to be studied in Greek, and
Latin, and German too; and she saw a library of books in his room,
that made her sigh every time she looked at them, to think how much
there was to be learned of which she was ignorant. But all this wore
away, and presently they were the best friends in the world. He gave
her books to read, and he gave her lessons in French, nothing puzzled
by that troublesome verb which must be first conjugated, whether in
French, Latin, or English. Then he gave her a deal of good advice
about the cultivation of her mind and the formation of her character,
all of which was very improving, and tended greatly to consolidate
their friendship. But, unfortunately for Mary, William made quite as
favourable an impression on the female community generally as he did
on her, having distinguished himself on certain public occasions, such
as delivering lectures on botany, and also, at the earnest request of
the Fourth of July Committee, pronounced an oration which covered him
with glory. He had been known, also, to write poetry, and had a
retired and romantic air greatly bewitching to those who read Bulwer's
novels. In short, it was morally certain, according to all rules of
evidence, that if he had chosen to pay any lady of the village a dozen
visits a week, she would have considered it as her duty to entertain
William did visit; for, like many studious people, he found a need
for the excitement of society; but, whether it was party or
singing-school, he walked home with Mary, of course, in as steady and
domestic a manner as any man who has been married a twelvemonth. His
air in conversing with her was inevitably more confidential than with
any other one, and this was cause for envy in many a gentle breast,
and an interesting diversity of reports with regard to her manner of
treating the young gentleman went forth into the village.
"I wonder Mary Taylor will laugh and joke so much with William
Barton in company," said one. "Her manners are altogether too free,"
said another. "It is evident she has designs upon him," remarked a
third; "and she cannot even conceal it," pursued a fourth.
Some sayings of this kind at length reached the ears of Mrs.
Abigail, who had the best heart in the world, and was so indignant
that it might have done your heart good to see her. Still, she
thought it showed that "the girl needed advising," and "she
should talk to Mary about the matter."
But she first concluded to advise with William on the subject, and
therefore, after dinner, the same day, while he was looking over a
treatise on trigonometry or conic sections, she commenced upon him:
"Our Mary is growing up a fine girl."
William was intent on solving a problem, and only understanding
that something had been said, mechanically answered "Yes."
"A little wild or so," said Mrs. Abigail.
"I know it," said William, fixing his eyes earnestly on E, F, B, C.
"Perhaps you think her a little too talkative and free with you
sometimes; you know girls do not always think what they do."
"Certainly," said William, going on with his problem.
"I think you had better speak to her about it," said Mrs. Abigail.
"I think so too," said William, musing over his completed work,
till at length he arose, put it in his pocket, and went to school.
Oh, this unlucky concentrativeness! How many shocking things a man
may endorse by the simple habit of saying "Yes" and "No," when he is
not hearing what is said to him.
The next morning, when William was gone to the academy, and Mary
was washing the breakfast things, Aunt Abigail introduced the subject
with great tact and delicacy by remarking,
"Mary, I guess you had better be rather less free with William than
you have been."
"Free!" said Mary, starting and nearly dropping the cup from her
hand; "why, aunt, what do you mean?"
"Why, Mary, you must not always be, around, so free in talking with
him, at home, and in company, and everywhere. It won't do." The
colour started into Mary's cheek, and mounted even to her forehead,
as she answered with a dignified air,
"I have not been too free—I know what is right and proper—I
have not been doing anything that was improper."
Now, when one is going to give advice, it is very troublesome to
have its necessity thus called in question, and Mrs. Abigail, who was
fond of her own opinion, felt called upon to defend it.
"Why, yes you have, Mary; everybody in the village notices it."
"I don't care what everybody in the village says—I shall always
do what I think proper," retorted the young lady; "I know cousin
William does not think so."
I think he does—from some things I have heard him
"Oh, aunt! what have you heard him say?" said Mary, nearly
upsetting a chair in the eagerness with which she turned to her aunt.
"Mercy on us! you need not knock the house down, Mary; I don't
remember exactly about it, only that his way of speaking made me think
"Oh, aunt, do tell me what it was, and all about it," said Mary,
following her aunt, who went around dusting the furniture.
Mrs. Abigail, like most obstinate people, who feel that they have
gone too far, and yet are ashamed to go back, took refuge in an
obstinate generalization, and only asserted that she had heard him
say things, as if he did not quite like her ways.
This is the most consoling of all methods in which to leave a
matter of this kind for a person of active imagination. Of course, in
five minutes, Mary had settled in her mind a string of remarks that
would have been suited to any of her village companions, as coming
from her cousin. All the improbability of the thing vanished in the
absorbing consideration of its possibility; and, after a moment's
reflection, she pressed her lips together in a very firm way, and
remarked that "Mr. Barton would have no occasion to say such things
It was very evident, from her heightened colour and dignified air,
that her state of mind was very heroical. As for poor Aunt Abigail,
she felt sorry she had vexed her, and addressed herself most
earnestly to her consolation, remarking, "Mary, I don't suppose
William meant anything. He knows you don't mean anything wrong."
mean anything wrong!" said Mary, indignantly.
"Why, child, he thinks you don't know much about folks and things,
and if you have been a little—"
"But I have not been. It was he that talked with me first; it was
he that did everything first; he called me cousin—and he is
"No, child, you are mistaken; for you remember his grandfather
"I don't care who his grandfather was; he has no right to think of
me as he does."
"Now, Mary, don't go to quarrelling with him; he can't help his
thoughts, you know."
"I don't care what he thinks," said Mary, flinging out of the room
with tears in her eyes.
Now when a young lady is in such a state of affliction, the first
thing to be done is to sit down and cry for two hours or more, which
Mary accomplished in the most thorough manner; in the mean while
making many reflections on the instability of human friendships, and
resolving never to trust any one again as long as she lived, and
thinking that this was a cold and hollow-hearted world, together with
many other things she had read in books, but never realized so
forcibly as at present. But what was to be done? Of course, she did
not wish to speak a word to William again, and wished he did not
board there; and, finally, she put on her bonnet, and determined to go
over to her other aunt's in the neighbourhood, and spend the day, so
that she might not see him at dinner.
But it so happened that Mr. William, on coming home to dinner,
found himself unaccountably lonesome during school recess for dinner,
and hearing where Mary was, determined to call after school at night
at her aunt's, and at tend her home.
Accordingly, in the afternoon, as Mary was sitting in the parlour
with two or three cousins, Mr. William entered.
Mary was so anxious to look just as if nothing was the matter, that
she turned away her head and began to look out of the window just as
the young gentleman came up to speak to her. So, after he had twice
inquired after her health, she drew up very coolly and said,
"Did you speak to me, sir?"
William looked a little surprised at first, but seating himself by
her, "To be sure," said he; "and I came to know why you ran away
without leaving any message for me?"
"It did not occur to me," said Mary, in the dry tone which, in a
lady, means "I will excuse you from any farther conversation, if you
please." William felt as if there was something different from common
in all this, but thought that perhaps he was mistaken, and so
"What a pity, now, that you should be so careless of me, when I was
so thoughtful of you! I have come all this distance to see how you
"I am sorry to have given you the trouble," said Mary.
"Cousin, are you unwell to-day?" said William.
"No, sir," said Mary, going on with her sewing.
There was something so marked and decisive in all this, that
William could scarcely believe his ears. He turned away, and commenced
a conversation with a young lady; and Mary, to show that she could
talk if she chose, commenced relating a story to her cousins, and
presently they were all in a loud laugh.
"Mary has been full of her knick-knacks to-day," said her old
uncle, joining them.
William looked at her: she never seemed brighter or in better
spirits, and he began to think that even Cousin Mary might puzzle a
He turned away, and began a conversation with old Mr. Zacary Coan
on the raising of buckwheat, a subject which evidently required
profound thought, for he never looked more grave, not to say
Mary glanced that way, and was struck with the sad and almost
severe expression with which he was listening to the details of Mr.
Zacary, and was convinced that he was no more thinking of buckwheat
than she was.
"I never thought of hurting his feelings so much," said she,
relenting; "after all, he has been very kind to me. But he might have
told me about it, and not somebody else." And hereupon she cast
another glance towards him.
William was not talking, but sat with his eyes fixed on the
snuffer-tray, with an intense gravity of gaze that quite troubled her,
and she could not help again blaming herself.
"To be sure! Aunt was right; he could not help his thoughts. I will
try to forget it," thought she.
Now you must not think Mary was sitting still and gazing during
this soliloquy. No, she was talking and laughing, apparently the most
unconcerned spectator in the room. So passed the evening till the
little company broke up.
"I am ready to attend you home," said William, in a tone of cold
and almost haughty deference.
"I am obliged to you," said the young lady, in a similar tone, "but
I shall stay all night; then, suddenly changing her tone, she said,
"No, I cannot keep it up any longer. I will go home with you, Cousin
"Keep up what?" said William, with surprise.
Mary was gone for her bonnet. She came out, took his arm, and
walked on a little way.
"You have advised me always to be frank, cousin," said Mary, "and I
must and will be; so I shall tell you all, though I dare say it is
not according to rule."
"All what?" said William.
"Cousin," said she, not at all regarding what he said, "I was very
much vexed this after noon."
"So I perceived, Mary."
"Well, it is vexatious," she continued, "though, after all, we
cannot expect people to think us perfect; but I did not think it quite
fair in you not to tell me."
"Tell you what, Mary?"
Here they came to a place where the road turned through a small
patch of woods. It was green and shady, and enlivened by a lively
chatterbox of a brook. There was a mossy trunk of a tree that had
fallen beside it, and made a pretty seat. The moonlight lay in little
patches upon it, as it streamed down through the branches of the
trees. It was a fairy-looking place, and Mary stopped and sat down, as
if to collect her thoughts. After picking up a stick, and playing a
moment in the water, she began:
"After all, cousin, it was very natural in you to say so, if you
thought so; though I should not have supposed you would think so."
"Well, I should be glad if I could know what it is," said William,
in a tone of patient resignation.
"Oh, I forgot that I had not told you," said she, pushing back her
hat, and speaking like one determined to go through with the thing.
"Why, cousin, I have been told that you spoke of my manners towards
yourself as being freer—more—obtrusive than they should be And
now," said she, her eyes flashing, "you see it was not a very easy
thing to tell you, but I began with being frank, and I will be so,
for the sake of satisfying myself."
To this William simply replied, "Who told you this, Mary?"
"Did she say I said it to her?"
"Yes; and I do not so much object to your saying it as to your
thinking it, for you know I did not force myself on your notice;
it was you who sought my acquaintance and won my confidence; and that
you, above all others, should think of me in this way!"
"I never did think so, Mary," said William, quietly.
"Never. I should think you might have
known it, Mary."
"But—" said Mary.
"But," said William, firmly, "Aunt Abigail is certainly mistaken."
"Well, I am glad of it," said Mary, looking relieved, and gazing in
the brook. Then looking up with warmth, "and, cousin, you never must
think so. I am ardent, and I express myself freely; but I never meant,
I am sure I never should mean, anything more than a sister
"And are you sure you never could, if all my happiness depended on
She turned and looked up in his face, and saw a look that brought
conviction. She rose to go on, and her hand was taken and drawn into
the arm of her cousin, and that was the end of the first and the last
difficulty that ever arose between them.
And so I am to write a story—but of what and where? Shall it be
radiant with the sky of Italy, or eloquent with the beau ideal of
Greece? Shall it breathe odour and languor from the orient, or
chivalry from the occident? or gayety from France, or vigour from
England? No, no: these are all too old—too romance like—too
obviously picturesque for me. No: let me turn to my own land—my own
New-England; the land of bright fires and strong hearts; the land of deeds and not of words; the land of fruits and not of flowers; the
land often spoken against, yet always respected; "the latchet of
whose shoes the nations of the earth are not worthy to unloose."
Now, from this very heroic apostrophe, you may suppose that I have
something very heroic to tell. By no means. It is merely a little
introductory breeze of patriotism, such as occasionally brushes over
every mind, bearing on its wings the remembrance of all we ever loved
or cherished in the land of our early years; and if it should seem to
be rhodomontade to any people on the other side of the mountains, let
them only imagine it to be said about "Old Kentuck," or any other
corner of the world in which they happened to be born, and they will
find it quite rational.
But, as touching our story, it is time to begin. Did you ever see
the little village of Newbury, in New-England? I dare say you never
did; for it was just one of those out-of-the-way places where nobody
ever came unless they came on purpose: a green little hollow, wedged
like a bird's nest between half a dozen high hills, that kept off the
wind and kept out foreigners; so that the little place was as
straitly "sui generis" as if there were not another in the world. The
inhabitants were all of that respectable old standfast family who
make it a point to be born, bred, married, die, and be buried all in
the selfsame spot. There were just so many houses, and just so many
people lived in them; and nobody ever seemed to be sick, or to die
either—at least while I was there. The natives grew old till they
could not grow any older, and then they stood still, and lasted
from generation to generation. There was, too, an unchangeability
about all the externals of Newbury. Here was a red house, and there
was a brown house, and across the way was a yellow house; and there
was a straggling rail fence or a tribe of mullen stalks between. The
parson lived here, and Squire Moses lived there, and Deacon Hart lived
under the hill, and Messrs. Nadab and Abihu Peters lived by the
crossroad, and the old "widder" Smith lived by the meeting-house, and
Ebenezer Camp kept a shoemaker's shop on one side, and Patience
Mosely kept a milliner's shop in front; and there was old Comfort
Scran, who kept store for the whole town, and sold axe-heads, brass
thimbles, liquorice ball, fancy handkerchiefs, and everything else
you can think of. Here, too, was the general postoffice, where you
might see letters marvellously folded, directed wrong side upward,
stamped with a thimble, and superscribed to some of the Dollys, or
Pollys, or Peters, or Moseses aforenamed or not named.
For the rest, as to manners, morals, arts, and sciences, the people
in Newbury always went to their parties at three o'clock in the
afternoon, and came home before dark; always stopped all work the
minute the sun was down on Saturday night; always went to meeting on
Sunday, had a schoolhouse with all the ordinary inconveniences; were
in neighbourly charity with each other; read their Bibles, feared
their God, and were content with such things as they had—the best
philosophy, after all. Such was the place into which Master James
Benton made an irruption in the year eighteen hundred and no matter
what. Now this James is to be our hero, and he is just the hero for a
sensation— at least so you would have thought, if you had been in
Newbury the week after his arrival. Master James was one of those
whole-hearted, energetic Yankees, who rise in the world as naturally
as cork does in water. He possessed a great share of that
characteristic national trait so happily denominated "cuteness
," which signifies an ability to do everything without trying, and to
know everything without learning, and to make more use of one's ignorance than other people do of their knowledge. This quality in
James was mingled with an elasticity of animal spirits, a buoyant
cheerfulness of mind, which, though found in the New-England
character perhaps as often as anywhere else, is not ordinarily
regarded as one of its distinguishing traits.
As to the personal appearance of our hero, we have not much to say
of it—not half so much as the girls in Newbury found it necessary to
remark, the first Sabbath that he shone out in the meeting-house.
There was a saucy frankness of countenance, a knowing roguery of eye,
a joviality and prankishness of demeanour, that was wonderfully
captivating, especially to the ladies.
It is true that Master James had an uncommonly comfortable opinion
of himself, a full faith that there was nothing in creation that he
could not learn and could not do; and this faith was maintained with
an abounding and triumphant joyfulness, that fairly carried your
sympathies along with him, and made you feel quite as much delighted
with his qualifications and prospects as he felt himself. There are
two kinds of self-sufficiency; one is amusing, and the other is
provoking. His was the amusing kind. It seemed, in truth, to be only
the buoyancy and overflow of a vivacious mind, delighted with
everything that is delightful, in himself or others. He was always
ready to magnify his own praise, but quite as ready to exalt his
neighbour, if the channel of discourse ran that way: his own
perfections being more completely within his knowledge, he rejoiced in
them more constantly; but, if those of any one else came within the
same range, he was quite as much astonished and edified as if they had
been his own.
Master James, at the time of his transit to the town of Newbury,
was only eighteen years of age, so that it was difficult to say which
predominated in him most, the boy or the man. The belief that he
could, and the determination that he would be something in the world,
had caused him to abandon his home, and, with all his worldly effects
tied in a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief, to proceed to seek his
fortune in Newbury. And never did stranger in Yankee village rise to
promotion with more unparalleled rapidity, or boast a greater
plurality of employment. He figured as schoolmaster all the week, and
as chorister on Sundays, and taught singing and reading in the
evenings, besides studying Latin and Greek with the minister, nobody
knew when; thus fitting for college, while he seemed to be doing
everything else in the world besides.
James understood every art and craft of popularity, and made
himself mightily at home in all the chimney corners of the region
round about; knew the geography of everybody's cider-barrel and
apple-bin, helping himself and every one else therefrom with all
bountifulness; rejoicing in the good things of this life, devouring
the old ladies' doughnuts and pumpkin pies with most flattering
appetite, and appearing equally to relish every body and thing that
came in his way.
The degree and versatility of his acquirements were truly
wonderful. He knew all about arithmetic and history, and all about
catching squirrels and planting corn; made poetry and hoe-handles
with equal celerity; wound yarn and took out grease spots for old
ladies, and made nosegays and knick-knacks for young ones; caught
trout Saturday afternoons, and discussed doctrines on Sundays, with
equal adroitness and effect. In short, Mr. James moved on through the
Happy and glorious," welcomed and privileged by everybody in
every place; and when he had told his last ghost-story, and fairly
flourished himself out of doors at the close of a long winter's
evening, you might see the hard face of the good man of the house
still phosphorescent with his departing radiance, and hear him
exclaim, in a paroxysm of admiration, that "Jemeses talk re'ely did
beat all—that he was sartinly most a miraculous cre'tur!"
It was wonderfully contrary to the buoyant activity of Master
James's mind to keep a school. He had, moreover, so much of the boy
and the rogue in his composition, that he could not be strict with
the iniquities of the curly pates under his charge; and when he saw
how determinately every little heart was boiling over with mischief
and motion, he felt in his soul more disposed to join in and help
them to a frolic, than to lay justice to the line, as was meet. This
would have made a sad case, had it not been that the activity of the
master's mind communicated itself to his charge, just as the reaction
of one brisk little spring will fill a manufactory with motion; so
that there was more of an impulse towards study in the golden
good-natured day of James Benton, than in the time of all that went
before or came after him.
But, when "school was out," James's spirits foamed over as
naturally as a tumbler of soda-water, and he could jump over benches
and burst out of doors with as much rapture as the veriest little elf
in his company. Then you might have seen him stepping homeward with a
most felicitous expression of countenance, occasionally reaching his
hand through the fence for a bunch of currants, or over it after a
flower, or bursting into some back yard to help an old lady empty her
wash-tub, or stopping to pay his devoirs to Aunt This or Mistress
That—for James well knew the importance of the "powers that be,"
and always kept the sunny side of the old ladies.
We shall not answer for James's general flirtations, which were
sundry and manifold; for he had just the kindly heart that fell in
love with everything in feminine shape that came in his way, and if
he had not been blessed with an equal faculty for falling out again,
we do not know what ever would have become of him. But at length he
came into an abiding captivity, and it is quite time that he should;
for, having devoted thus much space to the illustration of our hero,
it is fit we should do something in behalf of our heroine; and,
therefore, we must beg the reader's attention while we draw a diagram
or two that will assist him in gaining a right idea of her.
Do you see yonder brown house, with its broad roof sloping almost
to the ground on one side, and a great, unsupported, sun-bonnet of a
piazza shooting out over the front door? You must often have noticed
it; you have seen its tall well-sweep, relieved against the clear
evening sky, or observed the feather beds and bolsters lounging out of
its chamber-windows on a still summer morning; you recollect its
gate, that swung with a chain and a great stone; its pantry-window,
latticed with little brown slabs, and looking out upon a forest of
beanpoles. You remember the zephyrs that used to play among its
pea-brush, and shake the long tassels of its corn-patch, and how
vainly any zephyr might essay to perform similar flirtations with the
considerate cabbages that were solemnly vegetating near by. Then
there was the whole neighbourhood of purple-leaved beets and feathery
parsnips; there were the billows of gooseberry bushes rolled up by
the fence, interspersed with rows of quincetress; and far off in one
corner was one little patch penuriously devoted to ornament, which
flamed with marigolds, poppies, snappers, and fouro'clocks. Then
there was a little box by itself with one rose geranium in it, which
seemed to look around the garden as much like a stranger as a French
dancing-master in a Yankee meeting-house.
That is the dwelling of Uncle Timothy Griswold Uncle Tim, as he was
commonly called, had a character that a painter would sketch for its
lights and contrasts rather than its symmetry. He was a chestnut
burr, abounding with briers without and with substantial goodness
within. He had the strong grained practical sense, the calculating
worldly wisdom of his class of people in New-England: he had, too, a
kindly heart, but the whole strata of his character was crossed by a
vein of surly petulance, that, half way between joke and earnest,
coloured everything that he said and did.
If you asked a favour of Uncle Tim, he generally kept you arguing
half an hour, to prove that you really needed it, and to tell you that
he could not all the while be troubled with helping one body or
another, all which time you might observe him regularly making his
preparations to grant your request, and see, by an odd glimmer of his
eye, that he was preparing to let you hear the "conclusion of the
whole matter," which was, "Well, well— I guess—I'll go on the
hull—I 'spose I must, at least;" so off he would go and work
while the day lasted, and then wind up with a farewell exhortation
"not to be a callin' on your neighbours when you could get along
without." If any of Uncle Tim's neighbours were in any trouble, he was
always at hand to tell them "that they shouldn't a' done so;" that
"it was strange they couldn't had more sense;" and then to close his
exhortations by labouring more diligently than any to bring them out
of their difficulties, groaning in spirit, meanwhile, that folks would
make people so much trouble.
"Uncle Tim, father wants to know if you will lend him your hoe
to-day?" says a little boy, making his way across a cornfield.
"Why don't your father use his own hoe?"
"Ours is broke."
"Broke! How came it broke?"
"I broke it yesterday, trying to hit a squirrel."
"What business had you to be hittin' squirrels with a hoe? say!"
"But father wants to borrow yours."
"Why don't he have that mended? It's a great pester to have
everybody usin' a body's things."
"Well, I can borrow one somewhere else, I suppose," says the
suppliant. After the boy has stumbled across the ploughed ground and
is fairly over the fence, Uncle Tim calls,
"Halloo, there, you little rascal! what are you goin' off without
the hoe for?"
"I didn't know as you meant to lend it."
"I didn't say I wouldn't, did I? Here, come and take it—stay,
I'll bring it; and do tell your father not to be a lettin' you hunt
squirrels with his hoes next time."
Uncle Tim's household consisted of Aunt Sally his wife, and an only
son and daughter; the former, at the time our story begins, was at a
neighbouring literary institution. Aunt Sally was precisely as
clever, as easy to be entreated, and kindly in externals, as her
helpmate was the reverse. She was one of those respectable, pleasant
old ladies whom you might often have met on the way to church on a
Sunday, equipped with a great fan and a psalm-book, and carrying some
dried orange-peel or a stalk of fennel, to give to the children if
they were sleepy in meeting. She was as cheerful and domestic as the
teakettle that sung by her kitchen fire, and slipped along among Uncle
Tim's angles and peculiarities as if there never was anything the
matter in the world; and the same mantle of sunshine seemed to have
fallen on Miss Grace, her only daughter.
Pretty in her person and pleasant in her ways, endowed with native
self-possession and address, lively and chatty, having a mind and a
will of her own, yet good-humoured withal, Miss Grace was a universal
favourite. It would have puzzled a city lady to understand how Grace,
who never was out of Newbury in her life, knew the way to speak, and
act, and behave, on all occasions, exactly as if she had been taught
how. She was just one of those wild flowers which you may sometimes
see waving its little head in the woods, and looking so civilized and
garden-like, that you wonder if it really did come up and grow there
by nature. She was an adept in all household concerns, and there was
something amazingly pretty in her energetic way of bustling about,
and "putting things to rights." Like most Yankee damsels, she had a
longing after the tree of knowledge, and, having exhausted the
literary fountains of a district school, she fell to reading
whatsoever came in her way. True, she had but little to read; but what
she perused she had her own thoughts upon, so that a person of
information, in talking with her, would feel a constant wondering
pleasure to find that she had so much more to say of this, that, and
the other thing than he expected.
Uncle Tim, like every one else, felt the magical brightness of his
daughter, and was delighted with her praises, as might be discerned by
his often finding occasion to remark that "he didn't see why the boys
need to be all the time a' comin' to see Grace, for she was nothing so
extror'nary, after all." About all matters and things at home she
generally had her own way, while Uncle Tim would scold and give up
with a regular good grace that was quite creditable.
"Father," says Grace, "I want to have a party next week."
"You sha'n't go to havin' your parties, Grace. I always have to eat
bits and ends a fortnight after you have one, and I won't have it so."
And so Uncle Tim walked out, and Aunt Sally and Miss Grace proceeded
to make the cake and pies for the party.
When Uncle Tim came home, he saw a long array of pies and rows of
cakes on the kitchen table.
"Grace—Grace—Grace, I say! What is all this here flummery for?"
"Why, it is
to eat, father," said Grace, with a good-natured
look of consciousness.
Uncle Tim tried his best to look sour; but his visage began to wax
comical as he looked at his merry daughter, so he said nothing, but
quietly sat down to his dinner.
"Father," said Grace, after dinner, "we shall want two more
candlesticks next week."
"Why! can't you have your party with what you've got?"
"No, father, we want two more."
"I can't afford it, Grace—there's no sort of use on't—and you
sha'n't have any."
"Oh, father, now do," said Grace.
"I won't, neither," said Uncle Tim, as he sallied out of the house,
and took the road to Comfort Scran's store.
In half an hour he returned again, and fumbling in his pocket, and
drawing forth a candlestick, levelled it at Grace.
"There's your candlestick."
"But, father, I said I wanted
"Why! can't you make one do?"
"No, I can't; I must have two."
"Well, then, there's t'other; and here's a fol-derol for you to tie
round your neck." So saying, he bolted for the door, and took himself
off with all speed. It was much after this fashion that matters
commonly went on in the brown house.
But, having tarried long on the way, we must proceed with the main
James thought Miss Grace was a glorious girl, and as to what Miss
Grace thought of Master James, perhaps it would not have been
developed, had she not been called to stand on the defensive for him
with Uncle Tim. For, from the time that the whole village of Newbury
began to be wholly given unto the praise of Master James, Uncle Tim
set his face as a flint against him, from the laudable fear of
following the multitude. He therefore made conscience of stoutly
gainsaying everything that was said in his favour, which, as James was
in high favour with Aunt Sally, he had frequent opportunities to do.
So, when Miss Grace perceived that Uncle Tim did not like our hero
as much as he ought to do, she, of course, was bound to like him well
enough to make up for it. Certain it is that they were remarkably
happy in finding opportunities of being acquainted; that James waited
on her, as a matter of course, from singing-school; that he
volunteered making a new box for her geranium on an improved plan;
and, above all, that he was remarkably particular in his attentions to
Aunt Sally, a stroke of policy which showed that James had a natural
genius for this sort of matters. Even when emerging from the
meeting-house in full glory, with flute and psalm-book under his arm,
he would stop to ask her how she did; and if it was cold weather, he
would carry her foot-stove all the way home from meeting, discoursing
upon the sermon and other serious matters, as Aunt Sally observed, "in
the pleasantest, prettiest way that ever ye see." This flute was one
of the crying sins of James in the eyes of Uncle Tim. James was
particularly fond of it, because he had learned to play on it by
intuition; and on the decease of the old pitchpipe, which was slain
by a fall from the gallery, he took the liberty to introduce the flute
in its place. For this and other sins, and for the good reasons above
named, Uncle Tim's countenance was not towards James, neither could
he be moved to him ward by any manner of means.
To all Aunt Sally's good words and kind speeches, he had only to
say that "he didn't like him; that he hated to see him a' manifesting
and glorifying there in the front gallery Sundays, and a' acting
everywhere as if he was master of all; he didn't like it, and he
wouldn't." But our hero was no whit cast down or discomfited by the
malcontent aspect of Uncle Tim. On the contrary, when report was made
to him of divers of his hard speeches, he only shrugged his shoulders
with a very satisfied air, and remarked that "he knew a thing or two,
for all that."
"Why, James," said his companion and chief counsellor, "do you
think Grace likes you?"
"I don't know," said our hero, with a comfortable appearance of
"But you can't get her, James, if Uncle Tim is cross about it."
"Fudge! I can make Uncle Tim like me, if I have a mind to try."
"Well, then, Jim, you'll have to give up that flute of yours, I
tell you, now."
"Faw, sol, law—I can make him like me, and my flute too."
"Why, how will you do it?"
"Oh, I'll work it," said our hero.
"Well, Jim, I tell you, now, you don't know Uncle Tim if you say
so; for he's just the settest crittur in his way that ever you
`I do know Uncle Tim, though, better than most folks; he is
no more cross than I am; and as to his being set, you have
nothing to do but make him think he is in his own way when he is in
yours— that is all."
`Well," said the other, "but, you see, I don't believe it."
"And I'll bet you a gray squirrel that I'll go there this very
evening, and get him to like me and my flute both," said James.
Accordingly, the late sunshine of that afternoon shone full on the
yellow buttons of James as he proceeded to the place of conflict. It
was a bright, beautiful evening. A thunder-storm had just cleared
away, and the silver clouds lay rolled up in masses around the
setting sun; the rain-drops were sparkling and winking to each other
over the ends of the leaves, and all the bluebirds and robins,
breaking forth into song, made the little green valley as merry as a
James's soul was always overflowing with that kind of poetry which
consists in feeling unspeakably happy; and it is not to be wondered,
at, considering where he was going, that he should feel in a double
ecstasy on the present occasion. He stepped gayly along, occasionally
springing over a fence to the right, to see whether the rain had
swollen the trout-brook, or to the left, to notice the ripening of
Mr. Somebody's watermelons—for James always had an eye on all his
neighbours' matters as well as his own.
In this way he proceeded till he arrived at the picket-fence that
marked the commencement of Uncle Tim's ground. Here he stopped to
consider. Just then, four or five sheep walked up, and began also to
consider a loose picket, which was hanging just ready to drop off; and
James began to look at the sheep. "Well, mister," said he, as he
observed the leader judiciously drawing himself through the gap, "in
with you—just what I wanted;" and, having waited a moment, to
ascertain that all the company were likely to follow, he ran with all
haste towards the house, and swinging open the gate, pressed all
breathless to the door.
"Uncle Tim, there are four or five sheep in your garden." Uncle Tim
dropped his whetstone and scythe.
"I'll drive them out," said our hero; and with that, he ran down
the garden alley, and made a furious descent on the enemy; bestirring
himself, as Bunyan says, "lustily and with good courage," till every
sheep had skipped out much quicker than it skipped in; and then,
springing over the fence, he seized a great stone, and nailed on the
picket so effectually that no sheep could possibly encourage the hope
of getting in again. This was all the work of a minute; and he was
back again, but so exceedingly out of breath that it was necessary for
him to stop a moment and rest himself. Uncle Tim looked ungraciously
"What under the canopy set you to scampering so?" said he; "I could
a' driv' out them critturs myself!"
"If you are at all particular about driving them out
, I can let them in again," said James.
Uncle Tim looked at him with an odd sort of twinkle in the corner
of his eye.
"'Spose I must ask you to walk in," said he.
"Much obliged," said James, "but I am in a great hurry." So saying,
he started in very business-like fashion towards the gate.
"You'd better jest stop a minute."
"Can't stay a minute."
"I don't see what possesses you to be all the while in sich a
hurry; a body would think you had all creation on your shoulders!"
"Just my situation, Uncle Tim," said James, swinging open the gate.
"Well, at any rate, have a drink of cider, can't ye?" said Uncle
Tim, who was now quite engaged to have his own way in the case.
James found it convenient to accept this invitation, and Uncle Tim
was twice as good-natured as if he had stayed in the first of the
Once fairly forced into the premises, James thought fit to forget
his long walk and excess of business, especially as about that moment
Aunt Sally and Miss Grace returned from an afternoon call. You may be
sure that the last thing these respectable ladies looked for was to
find Uncle Tim and Master James tête-à-tête over a pitcher of cider;
and when, as they entered, our hero looked up with something of a
mischievous air, Miss Grace, in particular, was so puzzled that it
took her at least a quarter of an hour to untie her bonnet strings.
But James stayed and acted the agreeable to perfection. First he must
needs go down into the garden to look at Uncle Tim's wonderful
cabbages, and then he promenaded all around the corn-patch, stopping
every few moments and looking up with an appearance of great
gratification, as if he had never seen such corn in his life; and
then he examined Uncle Tim's favourite apple-tree with an expression
of wonderful interest.
"I never!" he broke forth, having stationed himself against the
fence opposite to it; "what kind of an apple-tree is that?"
"It's a bell-flower, or somethin' another," said Uncle Tim.
did you get it? I never saw such apples!" said
our hero, with his eyes still fixed on the tree.
Uncle Tim pulled up a stalk or two of weeds and threw them over the
fence, just to show that he did not care anything about the matter,
and then he came up and stood by James.
"Nothin' so remarkable, as I know on," said he.
Just then, Grace came to say that supper was ready. Once seated at
table, it was astonishing to see the perfect and smiling assurance
with which our hero continued his addresses to Uncle Tim. It
sometimes goes a great way towards making people like us, to take it
for granted that they do already, and upon this principle James
proceeded. He talked, laughed, told stories, and joked with the most
fearless assurance, occasionally seconding his words by looking Uncle
Tim in the face with a countenance so full of good-will as would have
melted any snow-drift of prejudices in the world.
James also had one natural accomplishment, more courtier-like than
all the diplomacy in Europe, and that was, the gift of feeling a real interest for anybody in five minutes; so that if he began to
please in jest, he generally ended in earnest. With great simplicity
of mind, he had a natural tact for seeing into others, and watched
their motions with the same delight with which a child gazes at the
wheels and springs of a watch, to "see what it will do."
The rough exterior and latent kindness of Uncle Tim were quite a
spirit-stirring study; and when tea was over, as he and Grace happened to be standing together in the front door, he broke forth,
"I do really like your father, Grace!"
"Do you?" said Grace.
"Yes, I do. He has something
in him, and I like him all the
better for having to fish it out."
"Well, I hope you will make him like you," said Grace,
unconsciously; and then she stopped, and looked a little abashed.
James was too well bred to see this, or look as if Grace meant any
more than she said—a kind of breeding not always attendant on more fashionable polish—so he only answered,
"I think I shall, Grace! though I doubt whether I can get him to
"He is the kindest man that ever was," said Grace; "and he always
acts as if he was ashamed of it."
James turned a little away, and looked at the bright evening sky,
which was glowing like a calm golden sea; and over it was the silver
new moon, with one little star to hold the candle for her. He shook
some bright drops off from a rosebush near by, and watched to see them
shine as they fell, while Grace stood very quietly waiting for him to
"Grace," said he, at last, "I am going to college this fall."
"So you told me yesterday," said Grace
James stooped down over Grace's geranium, and began to busy himself
with pulling off all the dead leaves, remarking in the mean while,
"And if I do get
him to like me, Grace, will you like me
"I like you now very well," said Grace.
"Come, Grace, you know what I mean," said James, looking
steadfastly at the top of the apple-tree.
"Well, I wish, then, you would understand what
without my saying any more about it," said Grace.
"Oh! to be sure I will," said our hero, looking up with a very
intelligent air; and so, as Aunt Sally would say, the matter was
settled, with "no words about it."
Now shall we narrate how our hero, as he saw Uncle Tim approaching
the door, had the impudence to take out his flute, and put the parts
together, screwing it round and fixing it with great composure?
"Uncle Tim," said he, looking up, "this is the best flute that ever
"I hate them tooting critturs," said Uncle Tim, snappishly.
"I declare! I wonder how you can!" said James, "for I do think they
So saying, he put the flute to his mouth, and ran up and down a
"There! what think you of that?" said he, looking in Uncle Tim's
face with much delight.
Uncle Tim turned and marched into the house, but soon faced to the
right-about and came out again, for James was fingering "Yankee
Doodle"— that appropriate national air for the descendants of the
Uncle Tim's patriotism began to bestir itself; and now, if it had
been anything, as he said, but "that 'ere flute"—as it was, he
looked more than once at James's fingers.
"How under the sun
could you learn to do that?" said he.
"Oh, it's easy enough," said James, proceeding with another tune;
and, having played it through, he stopped a moment to examine the
joints of his flute, and in the mean time addressed Uncle Tim: "You
can't think how grand this is for pitching tunes—I always pitch the
tunes Sunday with it."
"Yes; but I don't think it's a right and fit instrument for the
Lord's house," said Uncle Tim.
"Why not? It is only a kind of a long pitchpipe, you see," said
James; "and, seeing the old one is broken, and this will answer, I
don't see why it is not better than nothing."
"Why, yes, it may be better than nothing," said Uncle Tim; "but, as
I always tell Grace and my wife, it 'aint the right kind of
instrument, after all; it 'aint solemn."
"Solemn!" said James; "that is according as you work it: see here,
So saying, he struck up Old Hundred, and proceeded through it with
"There, now!" said he.
"Well, well, I don't know but it is," said Uncle Tim; "but, as I
said at first, I don't like the look of it in meetin'."
"But yet you really think it is better than nothing," said James,
"for you see I couldn't pitch my tunes without it."
"Maybe 'tis," said Uncle Tim; "but that isn't sayin' much."
This, however, was enough for Master James who soon after departed,
with his flute in his pock et, and Grace's last words in his heart;
soliloquizing as he shut the gate. "There, now, I hope Aunt Sally
won't go to praising me; for, just so sure as she does, I shall have
it all to do over again."
James was right in his apprehension. Uncle Tim could be privately
converted, but not brought to open confession; and when, the next
morning, Aunt Sally remarked, in the kindness of her heart,
"Well, I always knew you would come to like James," Uncle Tim only
responded, "Who said I did like him?"
"But I'm sure you
seemed to like him last night."
"Why, I couldn't turn him out o' doors, could I? I don't think
nothin' of him but what I always did."
But it was to be remarked that Uncle Tim contented himself at this
time with the mere general avowal, without running it into
particulars, as was formerly his wont. It was evident that the ice
had begun to melt, but it might have been a long time in dissolving,
had not collateral incidents assisted.
It so happened that, about this time, George Griswold, the only son
before referred to, returned to his native village, after having
completed his theological studies at a neighbouring institution. It
is interesting to mark the gradual development of mind and heart, from
the time that the white-headed, bashful boy quits the country village
for college, to the period when he returns, a formed and matured man,
to notice how gradually the rust of early prejudices begins to cleave
from him—how his opinions, like his handwriting, pass from the
cramped and limited forms of a country school into that confirmed and
characteristic style which is to mark the man for life. In George this
change was remarkably striking. He was endowed by nature with
uncommon acuteness of feeling and fondness for reflection: qualities
as likely as any to render a child backward and uninteresting in
When he left Newbury for college, he was a taciturn and apparently
phlegmatic boy, only evincing sensibility by blushing, and looking
particularly stupified whenever anybody spoke to him. Vacation after
vacation passed, and he returned more and more an altered being; and
he who once shrunk from the eye of the deacon, and was ready to sink
if he met the minister, now moved about among the dignitaries of the
place with all the composure of a superior being.
It was only to be regretted that, while the mind improved, the
physical energies declined, and that every visit to his home found him
paler, thinner, and less prepared in body for the sacred profession
to which he had devoted himself. But now he was returned, a
minister—a real minister, with a right to stand in the pulpit and
preach; and what a joy and glory to Aunt Sally—and to Uncle Tim, if
he were not ashamed to own it.
The first Sunday after he came, it was known far and near that
George Griswold was to preach; and never was a more ready and
As the time for reading the first psalm approached, you might see
the white-headed men turning their faces attentively towards the
pulpit; the anxious and expectant old women, with their little black
bonnets, bent forward to see him rise. There were the children
looking, because everybody else looked; there was Uncle Tim in the
front pew, his face considerately adjusted; there was Aunt Sally,
seeming as pleased as a mother could seem; and Miss Grace, lifting her
sweet face to her brother, like a flower to the sun; there was our
friend James in the front gallery, his joyous countenance a little
touched with sobriety and expectation; in short, a more embarrassingly
attentive audience never greeted the first effort of a young minister.
Under these circumstances, there was something touching in the
fervent self-forgetfulness which characterized the first exercises of
this morning— something which moved every one in the house.
The devout poetry of his prayer, rich with the orientalism of
Scripture, and eloquent with the expression of strong yet chastened
emotion, breathed over his audience like music, hushing every one to
silence, and beguiling every one to feeling. In the sermon there was
the strong intellectual nerve, the constant occurrence of argument and
statement, which distinguishes a New-England discourse; but it was
touched with life by the intense, yet halfsubdued feeling with which
he seemed to utter it. Like the rays of the sun, it enlightened and
melted at the same moment.
The strong peculiarities of New-England doctrine, involving, as
they do, all the hidden machinery of mind, all the mystery of its
divine relations and future progression, and all the tremendous
uncertainties of its eternal good or ill, seemed to have dwelt in his
mind, to have burned in his thoughts, to have wrestled with his
powers, and they gave to his manner the fervency almost of another
world; while the exceeding paleness of his countenance, and a
tremulousness of voice that seemed to spring from bodily weakness,
touched the strong workings of his mind with a pathetic interest, as
if the being so early absorbed in another world could not be long for
When the services were over, the congregation dispersed with the
air of people who had felt rather than heard; and all
the criticism that followed was similar to that of old Deacon
Hart—an upright, shrewd man—who, as he lingered a moment at the
church door, turned and gazed with unwonted feeling at the young
"He's a blessed cre'tur!" said he, the tears actually making their
way to his eyes; "I han't been so near heaven this many a day. He's a
blessed cre'tur of the Lord—that's my mind about him!"
As for our friend James, he was at first sobered, then deeply
moved, and at last wholly absorbed by the discourse; and it was only
when meeting was over that he began to think where he really was.
With all his versatile activity, James had a greater depth of
mental capacity than he was himself aware of, and he began to feel a
sort of electric affinity for the mind that had touched him in a way
so new; and when he saw the mild minister standing at the foot of the
pulpit stairs, he made directly towards him.
"I do want to hear more from you," said he, with a face full of
earnestness; "may I walk home with you?"
"It is a long and warm walk," said the young minister, smiling.
"Oh, I don't care for that, if it does not trouble
said James; and leave being gained, you might have seen them slowly
passing along under the trees, James pouring forth all the floods of
inquiry which the sudden impulse of his mind had brought out, and
supplying his guide with more questions and problems for solution than
he could have gone through with in a month.
"I cannot answer all your questions now," said he, as they stopped
at Uncle Tim's gate.
"Well, then, when will you?" said James, eagerly. "Let me come home
with you to-night?"
The minister smiled assent, and James departed so full of new
thoughts, that he passed Grace without even seeing her. From that time
a friendship commenced between the two, which was a beautiful
illustration of the affinities of opposites. It was like a friendship
between morning and evening—all freshness and sunshine on one side,
and all gentleness and peace on the other.
The young minister, worn by long-continued ill health, by the
fervency of his own feelings, and the gravity of his own reasonings,
found pleasure in the healthful buoyancy of a youthful, unexhausted
mind, while James felt himself sobered and made better by the
moonlight tranquillity of his friend. It is one mark of a superior
mind to understand and be influenced by the superiority of others, and
this was the case with James. The ascendency which his new friend
acquired over him was unlimited, and did more in a month towards
consolidating and developing his character, than all the four years
course of a college. Our religious habits are likely always to retain
the impression of the first seal which stamped them, and in this case
it was a peculiarly happy one. The calmness, the settled purpose, the
mild devotion of his friend, formed a just alloy to the energetic and
reckless buoyancy of James's character, and awakened in him a set of
feelings without which the most vigorous mind must be incomplete.
The effect of the ministrations of the young pastor, in awaking
attention to the subjects of his calling in the village, was marked,
and of a kind which brought pleasure to his own heart. But, like all
other excitement, it tends to exhaustion, and it was not long before
he sensibly felt the decline of the powers of life. To the
best-regulated mind there is something bitter in the relinquishment of
projects for which we have been long and laboriously preparing, and
there is something far more bitter in crossing the long-cherished
expectations of friends. All this George felt. He could not bear to
look on his mother, hanging on his words and following his steps with
eyes of almost childish delight— on his singular father, whose whole
earthly ambition was bound up in his success, and think how soon the
"candle of their old age" must be put out. When he returned from a
successful effort, it was painful to see the old man, so evidently
delighted, and so anxious to conceal his triumph, as he would seat
himself in his chair, and begin with,
"George, that 'ere doctrine is rather of a puzzler; but you seem to
think you've got the run on't. I should re'ly like to know what
business you have to think you know better than other folks about
it;" and, though he would cavil most courageously at all George's
explanations, yet you might perceive, through all, that he was inly
uplifted to hear how his boy could talk.
If George was engaged in argument with any one else, he would sit
by, with his head bowed down, looking out from under his shaggy
eyebrows with a shamefaced satisfaction very unusual with him.
Expressions of affection from the naturally gentle are not half so
touching as those which are forced out from the hard-favoured and
severe; and George was affected, even to pain, by the evident pride
and regard of his father.
"He never said so much to anybody before," thought he, "and what
will he do if I die?"
In such thoughts as these Grace found her brother engaged one still
autumn morning, as he stood leaning against the garden fence.
"What are you solemnizing here for, this bright day, brother
George?" said she, as she bounded down the alley.
The young man turned and looked on her happy face with a sort of
"How happy you are, Grace!" said he.
"To be sure I am! and you ought to be too, because you are better."
"I am happy, Grace—that is, I hope I shall be."
"You are sick, I know you are," said Grace; "you look worn out! Oh,
I wish your heart could spring once, as mine does."
"I am not well, dear Grace, and I fear I never shall be," said he,
turning away, and fixing his eyes on the fading trees opposite.
"Oh, George! dear George! don't, don't say
break all our hearts," said Grace, with tears in her own eyes.
"Yes, but it is
true, sister: I do not feel it on my own
account so much as—However," he added, "it will all be the same in
It was but a week after this that a violent cold hastened the
progress of debility into a confirmed malady. He sunk very fast. Aunt
Sally, with the self-deceit of a fond and cheerful heart, thought
every day that "he would be better," and Uncle Tim resisted
conviction with all the obstinate pertinacity of his character, while
the sick man felt that he had not the heart to undeceive them.
James was now at the house every day, exhausting all his energy and
invention in the case of his friend; and any one who had seen him in
his hours of recklessness and glee, could scarcely recognise him as
the being whose step was so careful, whose eye so watchful, whose
voice and touch were so gentle, as he moved around the sick-bed. But
the same quickness which makes a mind buoyant in gladness, often
makes it gentlest and most sympathetic in sorrow.
It was now nearly morning in the sick-room. George had been
restless and feverish all night, but towards day he fell into a light
slumber, and James sat by his side, almost holding his breath lest he
should waken him. It was yet dusk, but the sky was brightening with a
solemn glow, and the stars were beginning to disappear; all, save the
bright and morning one, which, standing alone in the east, looked
tenderly through the casement, like the eye of our heavenly Father,
watching over us when all earthly friendships are fading.
George awoke with a placid expression of countenance, and fixing
his eyes on the brightening sky, murmured faintly,
"The sweet, immortal morning sheds
Its blushes round the spheres."
A moment after, a shade passed over his face; he pressed his
fingers over his eyes, and the tears dropped silently on his pillow.
dear George!" said James, bending over him.
"It's my friends—it's my father—my mother," said he, faintly.
"Jesus Christ will watch over them," said James, soothingly.
"Oh, yes, I know he will; for
He loved his own which were in
the world; he loved them unto the end. But I am dying—and before I
have done any good."
"Oh, do not say so," said James; "think, think what you have done,
if only for me! God bless you for it! God will bless you
for it; it will follow you to heaven; it will bring me there. Yes, I
will do as you have taught me! I will give my life, my soul, my whole
strength to it; and then you will not have lived in vain."
George smiled and looked upward; "his face was as that of an
angel;" and James, in his warmth, continued:
"It is not
I alone who can say this: we all bless you; every
one in this place blesses you; you will be had in everlasting
remembrance by some hearts here, I know."
God!" said George.
"We do," said James. "I bless him that I ever knew you; we all
bless him, and we love you, and shall forever."
The glow that had kindled over the pale face of the invalid again
faded as he said,
"But, James, I must, I ought to tell my father and mother; I ought
to, and how can I?"
At that moment the door opened, and Uncle Tim made his appearance.
He seemed struck with the paleness of George's face; and, coming to
the side of the bed, he felt his pulse, and laid his hand anxiously
on his forehead, and clearing his voice several times, inquired "if
he didn't feel a little better."
"No, father," said George; then taking his hand, he looked
anxiously in his face, and seemed to hesitate a moment: "Father," he
began, "you know that we ought to submit to God."
There was something in his expression at this moment which flashed
the truth into the old man's mind; he dropped his son's hand with an
exclamation of agony, and turning quickly, left the room.
"Father! father!" said Grace, trying to rouse him, as he stood with
his arms folded by the kitchen window.
"Get away, child!" said he, roughly.
"Father, mother says breakfast is ready."
"I don't want any breakfast," said he, turning short about. "Sally,
what are you fixing in that 'ere porringer?"
"Oh, it's only a little tea for George: 'twill comfort him up, and
make him feel better, poor fellow."
"You won't make him feel better—he's gone," said Uncle Tim,
"Oh, dear heart! no!" said Aunt Sally.
"Be still a contradicting me; I won't be contradicted all the time
by nobody! The short of the case is, that George is goin' to die
just as we've got him ready to be a minister and all; and I wish to
pity I was in my grave myself, and so—" said Uncle Tim, as he
plunged out of the door and shut it after him.
It is well for man that there is one Being who sees the suffering
heart as it is, and not as it manifests itself through the
repellancies of outward infirmity, and who, perhaps, feels more for
the stern and wayward, than for those whose gentler feelings win for
them human sympathy. With all his singularities, there was in the
heart of Uncle Tim a depth of religious sincerity; but there are few
characters where religion does anything more than struggle with
natural defect, and modify what would else be far worse.
In this hour of trial, all the native obstinacy and pertinacity of
the old man's character rose, and while he felt the necessity of
submission, it seemed impossible to submit; and thus, reproaching
himself, struggling in vain to repress the murmurs of nature,
repulsing from him all external sympathy, his mind was "tempest-toss'd
and not comforted."
It was on the still afternoon of the following Sabbath that he was
sent for, in haste, to the chamber of his son. He entered, and saw
that the hour was come. The family were all there; Grace and James,
side by side, bent over the dying one, and his mother sat afar off,
with her face hid in her apron, "that she might not see the death of
the child." The aged minister was there, and the Bible lay open
before him. The father walked to the side of the bed. He stood still,
and gazed on the face now brightening with "life and immortality."
The son lifted up his eyes: he saw his father, smiled, and put out
his hand. "I am glad you are come," said he. "Oh, George, to
the pity, don't! don't smile on me so! I know what is coming;
I have tried and tried, and I can't, I can't have it so;"
and his frame shook, and he sobbed audibly. The room was still as
death; there was none that seemed able to comfort him. At last the
son repeated, in a sweet but interrupted voice, those words of man's
best Friend: "Let not your heart be troubled; in my Father's house are
"Yes, but I
can't help being troubled; I suppose the Lord's
will must be done, but it'll kill me."
"Oh, father, don't, don't break my heart," said the son, much
agitated. "I shall see you again in heaven, and you shall see me
again; and then `your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh
"I never shall get to heaven, if I feel as I do now," said the old
man. "I cannot have it so."
The mild face of the sufferer was overcast. "I wish he saw all that
I do," said he, in a low voice; then looking towards the minister,
he articulated, "Pray for us."
They knelt in prayer. It was soothing, as
real prayer always
must be; and when they rose, every one seemed more calm. But the
sufferer was exhausted; his countenance changed; he looked on his
friends; there was a faint whisper, "Peace I leave with you," and he
was in heaven.
We need not dwell on what followed. The seed sown by the righteous
often blossoms over their grave; and so was it with this good man: the
words of peace which he spake unto his friends while he was yet with
them, came into remembrance after he was gone; and though he was laid
in the grave with many tears, yet it was with softened and submissive
"The Lord bless him!" said Uncle Tim, as he and James were
standing, last of all, over the grave. "I believe my heart is gone to
heaven with him; and I think the Lord really did know what was
best, after all."
Our friend James seemed now to become the support of the family,
and the bereaved old man unconsciously began to transfer to him the
affections that had been left vacant.
"James," said he to him one day, "I suppose you know that you are
about the same to me as a son."
"I hope so," said James, kindly.
"Well, well, you'll go to college next week, and none o' y'r
keepin' school to get along. I've got enough to bring you safe
out—that is, if you'll be car'ful and stiddy."
James knew the heart too well to refuse a favour in which the poor
old man's mind was comforting itself; he had the self-command to
abstain from any extraordinary expressions of gratitude, but took it
kindly, as a matter of course.
"Dear Grace," said he to her, the last evening before he left home,
"I am changed; we both are altered since we first knew each other; and
now I am going to be gone a long time, but I am sure—"
He stopped to arrange his thoughts.
"Yes, you may be sure of all those things that you wish to say, and
cannot," said Grace.
"Thank you," said James; then, looking thoughtfully, he added,
"God help me. I believe I have mind enough to be what I mean to;
but whatever I am or have shall be given to God and my fellow-men; and
then, Grace, your brother in heaven will rejoice over me."
"I believe he does
now," said Grace. "God bless you, James;
I don't know what would have become of us if you had not been here."
"Yes, you will live to be like him, and to do even more good," she
added, her face brightening as she spoke, till James thought she
really must be right.
It was five years after this that James was spoken of as an
eloquent and successful minister in the State of C—, and was settled
in one of its most influential villages. Late one autumn evening, a
tall, bony, hard-favoured man was observed making his way into the
outskirts of the place.
"Halloa, there!" he called to a man over the other side of a fence;
"what town is this 'ere?"
"It's Farmington, sir."
"Well, I want to know if you know anything of a boy of mine that
"A boy of yours—who?"
"Why, I've got a boy here, that's livin'
on the town, and I
thought I'd jest look him up."
"I don't know any boy that is living on the town; what's his name?"
"Why," said the old man, pushing his hat off from his forehead, "I
believe they call him James Benton."
"James Benton! why, that is our minister's name."
"Oh, wal, I believe he
is the minister, come to think on't.
He's a boy o' mine, though. Where does he live?"
"In that white house that you see set back from the road there,
with all those trees round it."
At this instant a tall, manly-looking person approached from
behind. Have we not seen that face before? It is a touch graver than
of old, and its lines have a more thoughtful significance; but all
the vivacity of James Benton sparkles in that quick smile as his eye
falls on the old man.
"I thought you could not keep away from us long," said he,
with the prompt cheerfulness of his boyhood, and laying hold of both
of Uncle Tim's hard hands.
They approached the gate; a bright face glances past the window,
and in a moment Grace is at the door.
better make believe be so glad," said Uncle Tim, his
eyes glistening as he spoke.
"Come, come, father, I have authority in these days," said Grace,
drawing him towards the house, "so no disrespectful speeches; away
with your hat and coat, and sit down in this great chair."
"So, ho! Miss Grace," said Uncle Tim, "you are at your old tricks,
ordering round as usual. Well, if I must, I must;" so down he sat.
"Father," said Grace, as he was leaving them, after a few days'
stay, "it is Thanksgiving-day next month, and you and mother must come
and stay with us."
Accordingly, the following month found Aunt Sally and Uncle Tim by
the minister's fireside, delighted witnesses of the Thanksgiving
presents which a willing people were pouring in, and the next day
they had once more the pleasure of seeing a son of theirs in the
sacred desk, and hearing a sermon that everybody said was the "best he
ever preached;" and it is to be remarked, by-the-by, that this was
the standing commentary on all James's discourses, so that it was
evident that he was "going on unto perfection."
"There's a great deal that's worth havin' in this 'ere life, after
all," said Uncle Tim, as he sat musing over the coals of the bright
evening fire of that day; "that is, if we'd only take it when
the Lord lays it in our way."
"Yes," said James; "and let us only take it as
and this life will be cheerfulness, and the next fulness of joy."
Since sketching character is the mode, I too take up my pencil, not
to make you laugh, though peradventure it may be—to get you to
I am now a tolerably old gentleman—an old bachelor,
moreover—and, what is more to the point, an unpretending and
sober-minded one. Lest, however, any of the ladies should take
exceptions against me in the very outset, I will merely remark, en
passant, that a man can some times become an old bachelor because
he has too much heart as well as too little.
Years ago—before any of my readers were born—I was a little
good-for-naught of a boy, of precisely that unlucky kind who are
always in everybody's way, and always in mischief. I had, to watch
over my uprearing, a father and mother, and a whole army of older
brothers and sisters. My relatives bore a very great resemblance to
other human beings, neither good angels nor the opposite class, but,
as mathematicians say, "in the mean proportion."
As I have before insinuated, I was a sort of family scapegrace
among them, and one on whose head all the domestic trespasses were
regularly visited, either by real actual desert or by imputation.
For this order of things, there was, I confess, a very solid and
serious foundation, in the constitution of my mind. Whether I was born
under some cross-eyed planet, or whether I was fairy-smitten in my
cradle, certain it is that I was, from the dawn of existence, a sort
of "Murad the Unlucky;" an out-of-time, out-of-place, out-of-form
sort of a boy, with whom nothing prospered.
Who always left open doors in cold weather? it was Henry. Who was
sure to upset his coffee-cup at breakfast, or to knock over his
tumbler at dinner, or to prostrate salt-cellar, pepper-box, and
mustard-pot, if he only happened to move his arm? why, Henry. Who was
plate-breaker general for the family? it was Henry. Who tangled
mamma's silks and cottons, and tore up the fast newspaper for papa,
or threw down old Phoebe's clothes'-horse, with all her clean ironing
thereupon? why, Henry.
Now all this was no "malice prepense" in me, for I solemnly believe
that I was the best- natured boy in the world; but something was the
matter with the attraction of cohesion, or the attraction of
gravitation—with the general dispensation of matter around me, that,
let me do what I would, things would fall down, and break, or be torn
and damaged, if I only came near them; and my unluckiness seemed in
exact proportion to my carefulness in any matter.
If anybody in the room with me had a headache, or any manner of
nervous irritability, which made it particularly necessary for others
to be quiet, and if I was in an especial desire unto the same, I was
sure, while stepping around on tiptoe, to fall headlong over a chair,
which would give an introductory push to the shovel, which would fall
upon the tongs, which would animate the poker, and all together would
set in action two or three sticks of wood, and down they would come,
with just that hearty, sociable sort of racket, which showed that they
were disposed to make as much of the opportunity as possible.
In the same manner, everything that came into my hand, or was at
all connected with me, was sure to lose by it. If I rejoiced in a
clean apron in the morning, I was sure to make a full-length
prostration thereupon on my way to school, and come home nothing
better, but rather worse. If I was sent on an errand, I was sure
either to lose my money in going, or my purchases in returning; and on
these occasions my mother would often comfort me with the reflection,
that it was well that my ears were fastened to my head, or I should
lose them too. Of course, I was a fair mark for the exhortatory
powers, not only of my parents, but of all my aunts, uncles, and
cousins, to the third and fourth generation, who ceased not to
reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
All this would have been very well if Nature had not gifted me with
a very unnecessary and uncomfortable capacity of feeling,
which, like a refined ear for music, is undesirable, because, in this
world, one meets with discord ninetynine times where it meets with
harmony once. Much, therefore, as I furnished occasion to be scolded
at, I never became used to scolding, so that I was just as much
galled by it the forty first time as the first. There was no
such thing as philosophy in me: I had just that unreasonable heart
which is not conformed unto the nature of things, neither indeed can
be. I was timid, and shrinking, and proud; I was nothing to any one
around me but an awkward, unlucky boy; nothing to my parents but one
of half a dozen children, whose faces were to be washed and stockings
mended on Saturday afternoon. If I was very sick, I had medicine and
the doctor; if I was a little sick, I was exhorted unto patience; and
if I was sick at heart, I was left to prescribe for myself.
Now all this was very well: what should a child need but meat, and
drink, and room to play, and a school to teach him reading and
writing, and somebody to take care of him when sick? certainly,
But the feelings of grown-up children exist in the mind of little
ones oftener than is supposed; and I had, even at this early day, the
same keen sense of all that touched the heart wrong; the same longing
for something which should touch it aright; the same discontent with
latent, matter-of-course affection, and the same craving for sympathy,
which has been the unprofitable fashion of this world in all ages.
And no human being possessing such constitutionals has a better chance
of being made unhappy by them than the backward, uninteresting,
wrong-doing child. We can all sympathize, to some extent, with men
and women; but how few can go back to the sympathies of
childhood; can understand the desolate insignificance of not being one
of the grown-up people; of being sent to bed, to be out of
the way in the evening, and to school, to be out of the way in the
morning; of manifold similar grievances and distresses, which the
child has no elocution to set forth, and the grown person no
imagination to conceive.
When I was seven years old, I was told one morning, with
considerable domestic acclamation, that Aunt Mary was coming to make
us a visit; and so, when the carriage that brought her stopped at our
door, I pulled off my dirty apron, and ran in among the crowd of
brothers and sisters to see what was coming. I shall not describe her
first appearance, for, as I think of her, I begin to grow somewhat
sentimental, in spite of my spectacles, and might, perhaps, talk a
Perhaps every man, whether married or unmarried, who has lived to
the age of fifty or thereabout, has seen some woman who, in his mind,
is the woman in distinction from all others. She may not have
been a relative; she may not have been a wife; she may simply have
shone on him from afar; she may be remembered in the distance of years
as a star that is set, as music that is hushed, as beauty and
loveliness faded forever; but remembered she is with interest,
with fervour, with enthusiasm; with all that heart can feel, and more
than words can tell.
To me there has been but one such, and that is she whom I describe.
Was she beautiful? you ask. "I also will ask you one question:" If an
angel from heaven should dwell in human form, and animate any human
face, would not that face be lovely? It might not be beautiful,
but would it not be lovely? She was not beautiful except after this
How well I remember her, as she used sometimes to sit thinking,
with her head resting on her hand, her face mild and placid, with a
quiet October sunshine in her blue eyes, and an everpresent smile
over her whole countenance. I remember the sudden sweetness of look
when any one spoke to her; the prompt attention, the quick
comprehension of things before you uttered them; the obliging
readiness to leave for you whatever she was doing.
To those who mistake occasional pensiveness for melancholy, it
might seem strange to say that my Aunt Mary was always happy. Yet she
was so. Her spirits never rose to buoyancy, and never sunk to
despondency. I know that it is an article in the sentimental
confession of faith that such a character cannot be interesting. For
this impression there is some ground. The placidity of a medium
commonplace mind is uninteresting, but the placidity of a strong and
well-governed one borders on the sublime. Mutability of emotion
characterizes inferior orders of being; but he who combines all
interest, all excitement, all perfection, is "the same yesterday,
to-day, and forever." And if there be anything sublime in the idea of
an Almighty mind, in perfect peace itself, and, therefore, at leisure
to bestow all its energies on the wants of others, there is at least a
reflection of the same sublimity in the character of that human being
who has so quieted and governed the world within, that nothing is left
to absorb sympathy or distract attention from those around.
Such a woman was my Aunt Mary. Her placidity was not so much the
result of temperament as of choice. She had every susceptibility of
suffering incident to the noblest and most delicate construction of
mind; but they had been so directed, that, instead of concentrating
thought on self, they had prepared her to understand and feel for
She was, beyond all things else, a sympathetic person, and her
character, like the green in a landscape, was less remarkable for what
it was in itself than for its perfect and beautiful harmony with all
the colouring and shading around it.
Other women have had talents, others have been good; but no woman
that ever I knew possessed goodness and talent in union with such an
intuitive perception of feelings, and such a faculty of instantaneous
adaptation to them. The most troublesome thing in this world is to be
condemned to the society of a person who can never understand anything
you say without you say the whole of it, making your commas and
periods as you go along; and the most desirable thing in the world is
to live with a person who saves you all the trouble of talking, by
knowing just what you mean to say before you begin.
Something of this kind of talent I began to feel, to my great
relief, when Aunt Mary came into the family. I remember the very first
evening, as she sat by the hearth, surrounded by all the family, her
eye glanced on me with an expression that let me know she saw
me; and when the clock struck eight, and my mother proclaimed that
it was my bedtime, my countenance fell as I moved sorrowfully from
the back of her rocking-chair, and thought how many beautiful stories
Aunt Mary would tell after I was gone to bed. She turned towards me
with such a look of real understanding, such an evident insight into
the case, that I went into banishment with a lighter heart than ever
I did before. How very contrary is the obstinate estimate of the heart
to the rational estimate of worldly wisdom. Are there not some who
can remember when one word, one look, or even the withholding of a
word, has drawn their heart more to a person than all the substantial
favours in the world? By ordinary acceptation, substantial kindness
respects the necessaries of animal existence; while those wants which
are peculiar to mind, and will exist with it forever, by equally
correct classification, are designated as sentimental ones, the
supply of which, though it will excite more gratitude in fact, ought
not to in theory. Before Aunt Mary had lived with us a month, I loved
her beyond anybody in the world, and a utilitarian would have been
amused in ciphering out the amount of favours which produced this
result. It was a look—a word—a smile: it was that she seemed
pleased with my new kite; that she rejoiced with me when I learned to
spin a top; that she alone seemed to estimate my proficiency in
playing ball and marbles; that she never looked at all vexed when I
upset her workbox upon the floor; that she received all my awkward
gallantry and mal-adroit helpfulness as if it had been in the
best taste in the world; that when she was sick, she insisted on
letting me wait on her, though I made my customary havoc among the
pitchers and tumblers of her room, and displayed, through my zeal to
please, a more than ordinary share of insufficiency for the station.
She also was the only person that ever I conversed with, and I
used to wonder how anybody who could talk all about matters and
things with grown-up persons, could talk so sensibly about marbles,
and hoops, and skates, and all sorts of little-boy matters; and I
will say, by-the-by, that the same sort of speculation has often
occurred to the minds of older people in connexion with her. She knew
the value of varied information in making a woman, not a pedant, but
a sympathetic, companionable being, and such she was to almost every
class of mind.
She had, too, the faculty of drawing others up to her level in
conversation, so that I would often find myself going on in most
profound style while talking with her, and would wonder, when I was
through, whether I was really a little boy still.
When she had enlightened us many months, the time came for her to
take leave, and she besought my mother to give me to her for company.
All the family wondered what she could find to like in Henry; but if
she did like me, it was no matter, and so was the case disposed of.
From that time I
lived with her—and there are some persons
who can make the word live signify much more than it commonly
does—and she wrought on my character all those miracles which
benevolent genius can work. She quieted my heart, directed my
feelings, unfolded my mind, and educated me, not harshly or by force,
but as the blessed sunshine educates the flower, into full and perfect
life; and when all that was mortal of her died to this world, her
words and deeds of unutterable love shed a twilight around her memory
that will fade only in the brightness of heaven.
There is one kind of frankness, which is the result of perfect
unsuspiciousness, and which requires a measure of ignorance of the
world and of life: this kind appeals to our generosity and
tenderness. There is another, which is the frankness of a strong but
pure mind, acquainted with life, clear in its discrimination and
upright in its intention, yet above disguise or concealment: this
kind excites respect. The first seems to proceed simply from impulse,
the second from impulse and reflection united; the first proceeds, in
a measure, from ignorance, the second from knowledge; the first is
born from an undoubting confidence in others, the second from a
virtuous and well-grounded reliance on one's self.
Now if you suppose that this is the beginning of a sermon or of a
Fourth of July oration, you are very much mistaken, though, I must
confess, it hath rather an uncertain sound. I merely prefaced it to a
little sketch of character, which you may look at if you please,
though I am not sure you will like it.
It was said of Alice H— that she had the mind of a man, the heart
of a woman, and the face of an angel: a combination that all my
readers will think peculiarly happy.
There never was a woman who was so unlike the mass of society in
her modes of thinking and acting, yet so generally popular. But the
most remarkable thing about her was her proud superiority to all
disguise, in thought, word, and deed. She pleased you; for she spoke
out a hundred things that you would conceal, and spoke them with a
dignified assurance that made you wonder that you had ever hesitated
to say them yourself. Nor did this unreserve appear like the weakness
of one who could not conceal, or like a determination to make war on
the forms of society. It was rather a calm, well-guided integrity,
regulated by a just sense of propriety; knowing when to be silent, but
speaking the truth when it spoke at all.
Her extraordinary frankness often beguiled superficial observers
into supposing themselves fully acquainted with her real character
long before they were, as the beautiful transparency of some lakes is
said to deceive the eye as to their depth; yet the longer you knew
her, the more variety and compass of character appeared through the
same transparent medium. But you may just visit Miss Alice for half an
hour to-night, and judge for yourselves. You may walk into this
little parlour. There sits Miss Alice on that sofa, sewing a pair of
lace sleeves into a satin dress, in which peculiarly angelic
employment she may persevere till we have finished another sketch.
Do you see that pretty little lady, with sparkling eyes, elastic
form, and beautiful hand and foot, that is sitting opposite to her?
She is a belle: the character is written in her face—it sparkles
from her eye—it dimples in her smile, and pervades the whole woman.
But there—Alice has risen, and is gone to the mirror, and is
arranging the finest auburn hair in the world in the most tasteful
manner. The little lady watches every motion as comically as a kitten
watches a pin-ball.
"It is all in vain to deny it, Alice—you are really anxious to
look pretty this evening," said she.
"I certainly am," said Alice, quietly.
"Ay, and you hope you shall please Mr. A. and Mr. B.," said the
little accusing angel.
"Certainly I do," said Alice, as she twisted her fingers in a
"Well, I would not tell of it, Alice, if I did."
"Then you should not ask me," said Alice.
"I declare! Alice!"
"And what do you declare?"
"I never saw such a girl as you are!"
"Very likely," said Alice, stooping to pick up a pin.
my part," said the little lady, "I never would
take any pains to make anybody like me—particularly a
"I would," said Alice, "if they would not like me without."
"Why, Alice! I should not think you were so fond of admiration."
"I like to be admired very much," said Alice, returning to the
sofa, "and I suppose everybody else does."
"I don't care about admiration," said the little lady. "I
would be as well satisfied that people shouldn't like me as that they
"Then, cousin, I think it's a pity we all like you so well," said
Alice, with a good-humoured smile. If Miss Alice had penetration, she
never made a severe use of it.
"But really, cousin," said the little lady, "I should not think
such a girl as you would think anything about dress, or admiration,
and all that."
"I don't know what sort of a girl you think I am," said Alice,
"but, for my own part, I only pretend to be a common human
being, and am not ashamed of common human feelings. If God has made
us so that we love admiration, why should we not honestly say so. I
love it— you love it—everybody loves it; and why should
not everybody say it?"
"Why, yes," said the little lady, "I suppose everybody has a—has
a—a general love for admiration. I am willing to acknowledge that I have; but—"
"But you have no love for it in particular," said Alice, "I suppose
you mean to say; that is just the way the matter is commonly disposed
of. Everybody is willing to acknowledge a general wish for the good
opinion of others, but half the world are ashamed to own it when it
comes to a particular case. Now I have made up my mind, that if it is
correct in general, it is correct in particular, and I mean to own it
"But, somehow, it seems mean!" said the little lady.
"It is mean to live for it, to be selfishly engrossed in it, but
not mean to enjoy it when it comes, or even to seek it, if we neglect
no higher interest in doing so. All that God made us to feel is
dignified and pure, unless pervert it."
"But, Alice, I never heard any person speak out so frankly as you
"Almost all that is innocent and natural may be spoken out; and as
for that which is not innocent and natural, it ought not even to be
"But can everything be spoken that may be thought?" said the
"No; we have an instinct which teaches us to be silent sometimes:
but, if we speak at all, let it be in simplicity and sincerity."
"Now, for instance, Alice," said the lady, "it is very innocent and
natural, as you say, to think this, that, and the other good thing of
yourself, especially when everybody is telling you of it; now would
you speak the truth if any one asked you on this point?"
"If it were a person who had a right to ask, and if it were a
proper time and place, I would," said Alice.
"Well, then," said the bright lady, "I ask you, Alice, in this very
proper time and place, do you think that you are handsome?"
"Now I suppose you expect me to make a courtesy to every chair in
the room before I answer," said Alice; "but, dispensing with that
ceremony, I will tell you fairly, I think I am."
"Do you think that you are good?"
"Not entirely," said Alice.
"Well, but don't you think you are better than most people?"
"As far as I can tell, I think I am better than some people; but
really, cousin, I don't trust my own judgment in this matter," said
"Well, Alice, one more question. Do you think James Martyrs likes
you or me best?"
"I do not know," said Alice.
"I did not ask you what you knew, but what you thought," said the
lady; "you must have some thought about it."
"Well, then, I think he likes me best," said Alice.
Just then the door opened, and in walked the identical James
Martyrs. Alice blushed, looked a little comical, and went on with her
sewing, while the little lady began,
"Really, Mr. James, I wish you had come a minute sooner, to hear
"What has she confessed?" said James.
"Why, that she is handsomer and better than most folks."
"That's nothing to be ashamed of," said James.
"Oh, that's not all; she wants to look pretty, and loves to be
admired, and all—"
"It sounds very much like her," said James, looking at Alice.
"Oh, but, besides that," said the lady, "she has been preaching a
discourse in justification of vanity and self-love—"
"And next time you shall take notes when I preach," said Alice,
"for I don't think your memory is remarkably happy."
"You see, James," said the lady, "that Alice makes it a point to
say exactly the truth when she speaks at all, and I've been puzzling
her with questions. I really wish you would ask her some, and see
what she will say. But, mercy! there is Uncle C. come to take me to
ride. I must run." And off flew the little humming-bird, leaving
James and Alice tête-à-tête.
"There really is one question—" said James, clearing his voice.
Alice looked up.
"There is one question, Alice, which I wish you
Alice did not inquire what the question was, but began to look very
solemn; and just then the door was shut—and so I never knew what it
was that Alice's friend James wanted to be enlightened about.
THE SABBATH. SKETCHES FROM A
NOTE-BOOK OF AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.
The Puritan Sabbath—is there such a thing existing now, or has it
gone with the things that were, to be looked at as a curiosity in the
museum of the past? Can any one, in memory, take himself back to the
unbroken stillness of that day, and recall the sense of religious awe
which seemed to brood in the very atmosphere, checking the merry laugh
of childhood, and chaining in unwonted stillness the tongue of
volatile youth, and imparting even to the sunshine of heaven, and the
unconscious notes of animals, a tone of its own gravity and repose?
If you cannot remember these things, go back with me to the verge of
early boyhood, and live with me one of the Sabbaths that I have spent
beneath the roof of my uncle, Phineas Fletcher.
Imagine the long sunny hours of a Saturday afternoon insensibly
slipping away, as we youngsters are exploring the length and breadth
of a trout-stream, or chasing gray squirrels, or building mud
milldams in the brook. The sun sinks lower and lower, but we still
think it does not want half an hour to sundown. At last, he so
evidently is really going down, that there is no room for
skepticism or latitude of opinion on the subject; and with many a
lingering regret, we began to put away our fish-hooks, and hang our
hoops over our arm, preparatory to trudging homeward.
"Oh, Henry, don't you wish that Saturday afternoons lasted longer?"
said little John to me.
"I do," says Cousin Bill, who was never the boy to mince matters in
giving his sentiments; "and I wouldn't care if Sunday didn't come but
once a year."
"Oh, Bill, that's wicked, I'm afraid," says little conscientious
Susan, who, with her doll in hand, was coming home from a Saturday
"Can't help it," says Bill, catching Susan's bag, and tossing it in
the air; "I never did like to sit still, and that's why I hate
"Hate Sundays! oh, Bill! Why, Aunt Kezzy says Heaven is an
eternal Sabbath—only think of that!"
"Well, I know I must be pretty different from what I am now before
I could sit still forever," said Bill, in a lower and somewhat
disconcerted tone, as if admitting the force of the consideration.
The rest of us began to look very grave, and to think that we must
get to liking Sunday some time or other, or it would be a very bad
thing for us. As we drew near the dwelling, the compact and business
like form of Aunt Kezzy was seen emerging from the house to hasten
"How often have I told you, young ones, not to stay out after
sundown on Saturday night? Don't you know it's the same as Sunday,
you wicked children, you? Come right into the house, every one of
you, and never let me hear of such a thing again."
This was Aunt Kezzy's regular exordium every Saturday night, for we
children, being blinded, as she supposed, by natural depravity, always
made strange mistakes in reckoning time on Saturday afternoons. After
being duly suppered and scrubbed, we were enjoined to go to bed, and
remember that to-morrow was Sunday, and that we must not laugh and
play in the morning. With many a sorrowful look did Susan deposite
her doll in the chest, and give one lingering look at the patchwork
she was piecing for dolly's bed, while William, John, and myself
emptied our pockets of all superfluous fish-hooks, bits of twine,
pop-guns, slices of potato, marbles, and all the various items of boy
property, which, to keep us from temptation, were taken into Aunt
Kezzy's safe keeping over Sunday.
My Uncle Phineas was a man of great exactness, and Sunday was the
centre of his whole worldly and religious system. Everything with
regard to his worldly business was so arranged that by Saturday noon
it seemed to come to a close of itself. All his accounts were looked
over, his workmen paid, all borrowed things returned, and lent things
sent after, and every tool and article belonging to the farm was
returned to its own place at exactly such an hour every Saturday
afternoon, and an hour before sundown every item of preparation, even
to the blacking of his Sunday shoes and the brushing of his Sunday
coat, was entirely concluded; and at the going down of the sun, the
stillness of the Sabbath seemed to settle down over the whole dwelling.
And now it is Sunday morning; and though all without is fragrance,
and motion, and beauty, the dewdrops are twinkling, butterflies
fluttering, and merry birds carolling and racketing as if they never
could sing loud or fast enough, yet within there is such a stillness
that the tick of the tall mahogany clock is audible through the whole
house, and the buzz of the blue flies, as they whiz along up and down
the window panes, is a distinct item of hearing. Look into the best
front room, and you may see the upright form of my Uncle Phineas, in
his immaculate Sunday clothes, with his Bible spread open on the
little stand before him, and even a deeper than usual gravity settling
down over his toilworn features. Alongside, in well-brushed Sunday
clothes, with clean faces and smooth hair, sat the whole of us younger
people, each drawn up in a chair, with hat and handkerchief ready for
the first stroke of the bell, while Aunt Kezzy, all trimmed, and
primmed, and made ready for meeting, sat reading her psalm book, only
looking up occasionally to give an additional jerk to some
shirt-collar, or the fifteenth pull to Susan's frock, or to repress
any straggling looks that might be wandering about "beholding vanity!"
A stranger, in glancing at Uncle Phineas as he sat intent on his
Sunday reading, might have seen that the Sabbath was in his heart
—there was no mistake about it. It was plain that he had put by all
worldly thoughts when he shut up his account-book, and that his mind
was as free from every earthly association as his Sunday coat was
from dust. The slave of worldliness, who is driven, by perplexing
business or adventurous speculation, through the hours of a half-kept
Sabbath to the fatigues of another week, might envy the unbroken
quiet, the sunny tranquillity which hallowed the weekly rest of my
The Sabbath of the Puritan Christian was the golden day, and all
its associations, and all its thoughts, words, and deeds, were so
entirely distinct from the ordinary material of life, that it was to
him a sort of weekly translation—a quitting of this world to sojourn
a day in a better; and year after year, as each Sabbath set its seal
on the completed labours of a week, the pilgrim felt that one more
stage of his earthly journey was completed, and that he was one week
nearer to his eternal rest. And as years, with their changes, came
on, and the strong man grew old, and missed, one after another,
familiar forms that had risen around his earlier years, the face of
the Sabbath became like that of an old and tried friend, carrying him
back to the scenes of his youth, and connecting him with scenes long
gone by, restoring to him the dew and freshness of brighter and more
Viewed simply as an institution for a Christian and mature mind,
nothing could be more perfect than the Puritan Sabbath: if it had any
failing, it was in the want of adaptation to children, and to those
not interested in its peculiar duties. If you had been in the dwelling
of my uncle of a Sabbath morning, you must have found the unbroken
stillness delightful; the calm and quiet must have soothed and
disposed you for contemplation, and the evident appearance of
single-hearted devotion to the duties of the day in the elder part of
the family must have been a striking addition to the picture. But,
then, if your eye had watched attentively the motions of us juveniles,
you might have seen that what was so very invigorating to the
disciplined Christian was a weariness to young flesh and bones. Then
there was not, as now, the intellectual relaxation afforded by the
Sunday-school, with its various forms of religious exercise, its
thousand modes of interesting and useful information. Our whole stock
in this line was the Bible and primer, and these were our main
dependance for whiling away the tedious hours between our early
breakfast and the signal for meeting. How often was our invention
stretched to find wherewithal to keep up our stock of excitement in a
line with the duties of the day. For the first half hour, perhaps, a
story in the Bible answered our purpose very well; but, having
despatched the history of Joseph, or the story of the ten plagues, we
then took to the primer: and then there was, first, the looking over
the system of theological and ethical truth, commencing, "In Adam's
fall we sinned all," and extending through three or four pages of
pictorial and poetic embellishment. Next was the death of John Rogers,
who was burned at Smithfield; and for a while we could entertain
ourselves with counting all his "nine children and one at the breast,"
as in the picture they stand in a regular row, like a pair of stairs.
These being done, came miscellaneous exercises of our own invention,
such as counting all the psalms in the psalm-book backward and
forward, to and from the Doxology, or numbering the books in the
Bible, or some other such device as we deemed within the pale of
religious employments. When all these failed, and it still wanted an
hour of meeting-time, we looked up at the ceiling, and down at the
floor, and all around into every corner, to see what we could do next;
and happy was he who could spy a pin gleaming in some distant crack,
and forthwith muster an occasion for getting down to pick it up. Then
there was the infallible recollection that we wanted a drink of
water, as an excuse to get out to the well; or else we heard some
strange noise among the chickens, and insisted that it was essential
that we should see what was the matter; or else pussy would jump on
to the table, when all of us would spring to drive her down; while
there was a most assiduous watching of the clock to see when the
first bell would ring. Happy was it for us, in the interim, if we did
not begin to look at each other and make up faces, or slyly slip off
and on our shoes, or some other incipient attempts at roguery, which
would gradually so undermine our gravity that there would be some
sudden explosion of merriment, whereat Uncle Phineas would look up and
say "tut, tut," and Aunt Kezzy would make a speech about
wicked children breaking the Sabbath day. I remember once how my
cousin Bill got into deep disgrace one Sunday by a roguish trick. He
was just about to close his Bible with all sobriety, when snap came a
grasshopper through an open window, and alighted in the middle of the
page. Bill instantly kidnapped the intruder, for so important an
auxiliary in the way of employment was not to be despised. Presently
we children looked towards Bill, and there he sat, very demurely
reading his Bible, with the grasshopper hanging by one leg from the
corner of his mouth, kicking and sprawling, without in the least
disturbing Master William's gravity. We all burst into an uproarious
laugh. But it came to be rather a serious affair for Bill, as his
good father was in the practice of enforcing truth and duty by certain
modes of moral suasion much recommended by Solomon, though fallen
into disrepute at the present day.
This morning picture may give a good specimen of the whole livelong
Sunday, which presented only an alternation of similar scenes until
sunset, when a universal unchaining of tongues and a general scamper
proclaimed that the "sun was down."
But, it may be asked, what was the result of all this strictness?
Did it not disgust you with the Sabbath and with religion? No, it did
not. It did not, because it was the result of no unkindly feeling
, but of consistent principle; and consistency of principle is
what even children learn to appreciate and revere. The law of
obedience and of reverence for the Sabbath was constraining so
equally on the young and the old, that its claims came to be regarded
like those immutable laws of nature, which no one thinks of being out
of patience with, though they sometimes bear hard on personal
convenience. The effect of the system was to ingrain into our
character a veneration for the Sabbath which no friction of after life
would ever efface. I have lived to wander in many climates and
foreign lands, where the Sabbath is an unknown name, or where it is
only recognised by noisy mirth; but never has the day returned
without bringing with it a breathing of religious awe, and even a
yearning for the unbroken stillness, the placid repose, and the simple
devotion of the Puritan Sabbath
"How late we are this morning," said Mrs. Roberts to her husband,
glancing hurriedly at the clock, as they were sitting down to
breakfast on a Sabbath morning. "Really, it is a shame to us to be so
late Sundays. I wonder John and Henry are not up yet: Hannah, did you
speak to them?"
"Yes, ma'am, but I could not make them mind; they said it was
Sunday, and that we always have breakfast later Sundays."
"Well, it is a shame to us, I must say," said Mrs. Roberts, sitting
down to the table. "I never lie late myself unless something in
particular happens. Last night I was out very late, and Sabbath
before last I had a bad headache."
"Well, well, my dear," said Mr. Roberts, "it is not worth while to
worry yourself about it; Sunday is a day of rest; everybody indulges a
little of a Sunday morning—it is so very natural, you know; one's
work done up, one feels like taking a little rest."
"Well, I must say, it was not the way my mother brought me up,"
said Mrs. Roberts, "and I really can't feel it to be right."
This last part of the discourse had been listened to by two
sleepy-looking boys, who had, meanwhile, taken their seat at table
with that listless air which is the result of late sleeping.
"Oh, by-the-by, my dear, what did you give for those hams,
Saturday?" said Mr. Roberts.
"Eleven cents a pound, I believe," replied Mrs. Roberts; "but
Stephens & Philips have some much nicer, canvass and all, for ten
cents. I think we had better get our things at Stephens & Philips's
in future, my dear."
"Why, are they much cheaper?"
"Oh, a great deal; but I forget—it is Sunday. We ought to be
thinking of other things. Boys, have you looked over your
"Now, how strange! and here it wants only half an hour of the time,
and you are not dressed either. Now see the bad effects of not being
up in time."
The boys looked sullen, and said "they were up as soon as any one
else in the house."
"Well, your father and I had some excuse, because we were out late
last night: you ought to have been up full three hours ago, and to
have been all ready, with your lessons learned. Now what do you
suppose you shall do?"
"Oh, mother, do let us stay at home this one morning; we don't know
the lesson, and it won't do any good for us to go."
"No, indeed, I shall not. You must go, and get along as well as you
can. It is all your own fault. Now go up stairs and hurry. We shall
not find time for prayers this morning."
The boys took themselves up stairs to "hurry," as directed, and
soon one of them called from the top of the stairs, "Mother! mother!
the buttons are off this vest, so I can't wear it;" and "mother! here
is a long rip in my best coat," said another.
"Why did you not tell me of it before?" said Mrs. Roberts, coming
"I forgot it," said the boy.
"Well, well, stand still; I must catch it together somehow, if it
is Sunday. There! there is the bell! Stand still a minute!" and Mrs.
Roberts plied needle and thread and scissors; "there, that will do
for to-day. Dear me, how confused everything is to-day!"
"It is always just so, Sundays," said John, flinging up his book
and catching it again as he ran down stairs.
"It is always just so, Sundays." The words struck rather
unpleasantly on Mrs. Roberts's conscience, for something told her
that, whatever the reason might be, it was just so. On Sunday
everything was later and more irregular than any other day in the week.
"Hannah, you must boil that piece of beef for dinner to-day."
"I thought you told me you did not have cooking done on Sunday."
"No, I do not, generally. I am very sorry Mr. Roberts would get
that piece of meat yesterday; we did not need it; but here it is on
our hands; the weather is too hot to keep it. It won't do to let it
spoil; so I must have it boiled, for aught I see."
Hannah had lived four Sabbaths with Mrs. Roberts, and on two of
them she had been required to cook from similar reasoning. "For
once" is apt, in such cases, to become a word of very extensive
"It really worries me to have things go on so as they do on
Sundays," said Mrs. Roberts to her husband; "I never do feel as if we
kept Sunday as we ought."
"My dear, you have been saying so ever since we were married, and I
do not see what you are going to do about it. For my part, I do not
see why we do not do as well as people in general. We do not visit,
nor receive company, nor read improper books. We go to church, and
send the children to Sunday-school, and so the greater part of the day
is spent in a religious way. Then out of church we have the
children's Sunday-school books, and one or two religious newspapers: I
think that is quite enough."
"But, somehow, when I was a child, my mother—" said Mrs. Roberts,
"Oh, my dear, your mother must not be considered an exact pattern
for these days. People were too strict in your mother's time; they
carried the thing too far altogether; everybody allows it now."
Mrs. Roberts was silenced, but not satisfied A strict religious
education had left just conscience enough on this subject to make her
These worthy people had a sort of general idea that Sunday ought to
be kept, and they intended to keep it, but they had never taken the
trouble to investigate or inquire as to the most proper way, nor was
it so much an object of interest that their weekly arrangements were
planned with any reference to it. Mr. Roberts would often engage in
business at the close of the week, which he knew would so fatigue him
that he would be weary and listless on Sunday; and Mrs. Roberts would
allow her family cares to accumulate in the same way, so that she was
either wearied with efforts to accomplish it before the Sabbath, or
perplexed and worried by finding everything at loose ends on that day.
They had the idea that Sunday was to be kept when it was perfectly
convenient, and did not demand any sacrifice of time or money. But if
stopping to keep the Sabbath in a journey would risk passage-money or
a seat in the stage; or, in housekeeping, if it would involve any
considerable inconvenience or expense, it was deemed a providential
intimation that it was "a work of necessity and mercy" to attend to
secular matters. To their minds the fourth command read thus:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy when it comes convenient,
and costs neither time nor money."
As to the effects of this on the children, there was neither enough
of strictness to make them respect the Sabbath, nor of religious
interest to make them love it; of course, the little restraint there
was proved just enough to lead them to dislike and despise it.
Children soon perceive the course of their parents' feelings, and it
was evident enough to the children of this family that their father
and mother generally found themselves hurried into the Sabbath with
hearts and minds full of this world, and their conversation and
thoughts were so constantly turning to worldly things, and so
awkwardly drawn back by a sense of religious obligation, that the
Sabbath appeared more obviously a clog and a fetter, than it did under
the strictest régime of Puritan days.
The little quiet village of Camden stands under the brow of a
rugged hill, in one of the most picturesque parts of New-England, and
its regular, honest, and industrious villagers were not a little
surprised and pleased that Mr. James, a rich man, and pleasant spoken
withal, had concluded to take up his residence among them. He brought
with him a pretty, genteel wife, and a group of rosy, romping, but
amiable children; and there was so much of good-nature and kindness
about the manners of every member of the family, that the whole
neighbourhood were prepossessed in their favour. Mr. James was a man
of somewhat visionary and theoretical turn of mind, and very much in
the habit of following out his own ideas of right and wrong, without
troubling himself particularly as to the appearance his course might
make in the eyes of others. He was a supporter of the ordinances of
religion, and always ready to give both time and money to promote any
benevolent object; and though he had never made any public profession
of religion, nor connected himself with any particular set of
Christians, still he seemed to possess great reverence for God, and to
worship him in spirit and in truth, and he professed to make the
Bible the guide of his life. Mr. James had been brought up under a
system of injudicious religious restraint. He had determined, in
educating his children, to adopt an exactly opposite course, and to
make religion and all its institutions sources of enjoyment. His aim,
doubtless, was an appropriate one, but his method of carrying it out,
to say the least, was one which was not a safe model for general
imitation. In regard to the Sabbath, for example, he considered that,
although the plan of going to church twice a day, and keeping all the
family quiet within doors the rest of the time, was good, other
methods would be much better. Accordingly, after the morning service,
which he and his whole family regularly attended, he would spend the
rest of the day with his children. In bad weather he would instruct
them in natural history, show them pictures, and read them various
accounts of the works of God, combining all with such religious
instruction and influence as a devotional mind might furnish. When
the weather permitted, he would range with them through the fields,
collecting minerals and plants, or sail with them on the lake,
meanwhile directing the thoughts of his young listeners upward to God,
by the many beautiful traces of his presence and agency, which
superior knowledge and observation enabled him to discover and point
out. These Sunday strolls were seasons of most delightful enjoyment
to the children. Though it was with some difficulty that their father
could restrain them from loud and noisy demonstrations of delight, he
saw, with some regret, that the mere animal excitement of the stroll
seemed to draw the attention too much from religious considerations,
and, in particular, to make the exercises of the morning seem like a
preparatory penance to the enjoyments of the afternoon. Nevertheless,
when Mr. James looked back to his own boyhood, and remembered the
frigid restraint, the entire want of any kind of mental or bodily
excitement, which had made the Sabbath so much a weariness to him, he
could not but congratulate himself when he perceived his children
looking forward to Sunday as a day of delight, and found himself on
that day continually surrounded by a circle of smiling and cheerful
faces. His talent of imparting religious instruction in a simple and
interesting form was remarkably happy, and it is probable that there
was among his children an uncommon degree of real thought and feeling
on religious subjects as the result.
The good people of Camden, however, knew not what to think of a
course that appeared to them an entire violation of all the
requirements of the Sabbath. The first impulse of human nature is to
condemn at once all who vary from what has been commonly regarded as
the right way; and, accordingly, Mr. James was unsparingly denounced,
by many good people, as a Sabbath-breaker, an infidel, and an opposer
Such was the character heard of him by Mr. Richards, a young
clergyman, who, shortly after Mr. James fixed his residence in Camden,
accepted the pastoral charge of the village. It happened that Mr.
Richards had known Mr. James in college, and, remembering him as a
remarkably serious, amiable, and conscientious man, he resolved to
ascertain from himself the views which had led him to the course of
conduct so offensive to the good people of the neighbourhood.
"This is all very well, my good friend," said he, after he had
listened to Mr. James's eloquent account of his own system of
religious instruction, and its effects upon his family; "I do not
doubt that this system does very well for yourself and family; but
there are other things to be taken into consideration besides personal
and family improvement. Do you not know, Mr. James, that the most
worthless and careless part of my congregation quote your example as
a respectable precedent for allowing their families to violate the
order of the Sabbath? You and your children sail about on the lake,
with minds and hearts, I doubt not, elevated and tranquillized by its
quiet repose; but Ben Dakes, and his idle, profane army of children,
consider themselves as doing very much the same thing when they lie
lolling about, sunning themselves on its shore, or skipping stones
over its surface the whole of a Sunday afternoon."
"Let every one answer to his own conscience," replied Mr. James.
"It I keep the Sabbath conscientiously, I am approved of God; if
another transgresses his conscience, `to his own master he standeth or
falleth.' I am not responsible for all the abuses that idle or
evil-disposed persons may fall into, in consequence of my doing what
"Let me quote an answer from the same chapter," said Mr. Richards.
"`Let no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his
brother's way: let not your good be evil spoken of. It is good neither
to eat flesh nor drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother
stumbleth, or is offended, or made weak.' Now, my good friend,
you happen to be endowed with a certain tone of mind which enables you
to carry through your mode of keeping the Sabbath with little
comparative evil, and much good, so far as your family is concerned;
but how many persons in this neighbourhood, do you suppose, would
succeed equally well if they were to attempt it? If it were the common
custom for families to absent themselves from public worship in the
afternoon, and to stroll about the fields, or ride, or sail, how many
parents, do you suppose, would have the dexterity and talent to check
all that was inconsistent with the duties of the day? Is it not your
ready command of language, your uncommon tact in simplifying and
illustrating, your knowledge of natural history and of biblical
literature, that enables you to accomplish the results that you do?
And is there one parent in a hundred that could do the same? Now,
just imagine our neighbour, Squire Hart, with his ten boys and girls,
turned out into the fields on a Sunday afternoon, to profit withal:
you know he can never finish a sentence without stopping to begin it
again half a dozen times. What progress would he make in instructing
them? And so of a dozen others I could name along this very street
here. Now you men of cultivated minds must give your countenance to
courses which would be best for society at large, or, as the sentiment
was expressed by St. Paul, `We that are strong ought to bear the
infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves, for even
Christ pleased not himself. ' Think, my dear sir, if our
Saviour had gone only on the principle of avoiding what might be
injurious to his own improvement, how unsafe his example might have
proved to less elevated minds. Doubtless he might have made a
Sabbath-day fishing excursion an occasion of much elevated and
impressive instruction; but, although he declared himself `Lore of
the Sabbath-day,' and at liberty to suspend its obligation at his own
discretion, yet he never violated the received method of observing it,
except in cases where superstitious tradition trenched directly on
those interests which the Sabbath was given to promote. He asserted
the right to relieve pressing bodily wants, and to administer to the
necessities of others on the Sabbath, but beyond that he allowed
himself in no deviation from established custom."
Mr. James looked thoughtful. "I have not reflected on the subject
in this view," he replied. "But, my dear sir, considering how little
of the public services of the Sabbath is on a level with the capacity
of younger children, it seems to me almost a pity to take them to
church the whole of the day."
"I have thought of that myself," replied Mr. Richards, "and have
sometimes thought that, could persons be found to conduct such a
thing, it would be desirable to conduct a separate service for
children, in which the exercises should be particularly adapted to
"I should like to be minister to a congregation of children," said
Mr. James, warmly.
"Well," replied Mr. Richards, "give our good people time to get
acquainted with you, and do away the prejudices which your
extraordinary mode of proceeding has induced, and I think I could
easily assemble such a company for you every Sabbath."
After this, much to the surprise of the village, Mr. James and his
family were regular attendants at both the services of the Sabbath.
Mr. Richards explained to the good people of his congregation the
motives which had led their neighbour to the adoption of what, to
them, seemed so unchristian a course; and, upon reflection, they came
to the perception of the truth, that a man may depart very widely
from the received standard of right for other reasons than being an
infidel or an opposer of religion. A ready return of cordial feeling
was the result; and as Mr. James found himself treated with respect
and confidence, he began to feel, notwithstanding his fastidiousness,
that there were strong points of congeniality between all real and
warm-hearted Christians, however different might be their intellectual
culture, and in all simplicity united himself with the little church
of Camden. A year from the time of his first residence there, every
Sabbath afternoon saw him surrounded by a congregation of young
children, for whose benefit he had, at his own expense, provided a
room, fitted up with maps, scriptural pictures, and every convenience
for the illustration of biblical knowledge; and the parents or
guardians who from time to time attended their children during these
exercises, often confessed themselves as much interested and benefited
as any of their youthful companions.
It was near the close of a pleasant Saturday afternoon that I drew
up my weary horse in front of a neat little dwelling in the village of
N—. This, as near as I could gather from description, was the house
of my cousin, William Fletcher, the identical rogue of a Bill
Fletcher of whom we have aforetime spoken. Bill had always been a
thriving, push-ahead sort of a character, and during the course of my
rambling life I had improved every occasional opportunity of keeping
up our early acquaintance. The last time that I returned to my native
country, after some years of absence, I heard of him as married and
settled in the village of N—, where he was conducting a very
prosperous course of business, and shortly after received a pressing
invitation to visit him at his own home. Now, as I had gathered from
experience the fact that it is of very little use to rap one's
knuckles off on the front door of a country house without any knocker,
I therefore made the best of my way along a little path, bordered
with marigolds and balsams, that led to the back part of the dwelling.
The sound of a number of childish voices made me stop, and, looking
through the bushes, I saw the very image of my cousin Bill Fletcher,
as he used to be twenty years ago; the same bold forehead, the same
dark eyes, the same smart, saucy mouth, and the same
"who-caresfor-that" toss to his head. "There, now," exclaimed the
boy, setting down a pair of shoes that he had been blacking, and
arranging them at the head of a long row of all sizes and sorts, from
those which might have fitted a two year old foot upward, "there, I've
blacked every single one of them, and made them shine too, and done
it all in twenty minutes; if anybody thinks they can do it quicker
than that, I'd just like to have them try, that's all."
"I know they couldn't, though," said a fair-haired little girl, who
stood admiring the sight, evidently impressed with the utmost
reverence for her brother's ability; "and, Bill, I've been putting up
all the playthings in the big chest, and I want you to come and turn
the lock—the key hurts my fingers."
"Poh! I can turn it easier than that," said the boy, snapping his
fingers; "have you got them all in?"
"Yes, all; only I left out the soft bales, and the string of red
beads, and the great rag baby for Fanny to play with—you know mother
says babies must have their playthings Sunday."
"Oh, to be sure," said the brother, very considerately; "babies
can't read, you know, as we can, nor hear Bible stories, nor look at
pictures." At this moment I stepped forward, for the spell of former
times was so powerfully on me, that I was on the very point of
springing forward with a "halloo, there, Bill!" as I used to meet the
father in old times; but the look of surprise that greeted my
appearance brought me to myself.
"Is your father at home?" said I.
"Father and mother are both gone out, but I guess, sir, they will
be home in a few moments: won't you walk in?"
I accepted the invitation, and the little girl showed me into a
small and very prettily furuished parlour. There was a piano with
music books on one side of the room, some fine pictures hung about
the walls, and a little, neat centre-table was plentifully strewn with
books. Besides this, the two recesses on each side of the fireplace
contained each a bookcase with a glass locked door.
The little girl offered me a chair, and then lingered a moment, as
if she felt some disposition to entertain me if she could only think
of something to say, and at last, looking up in my face, she said, in
a confidential tone, "Mother says she left Willie and me to keep house
this afternoon while she was gone, and we are putting up all the
things for Sunday, so as to get everything done before she comes home.
Willie has gone to put away the playthings, and I'm going to put up
the books." So saying, she opened the doors of one of the bookcases,
and began busily carrying the books from the centre-table to deposite
them on the shelves, in which employment she was soon assisted by
Willie, who took the matter in hand in a very masterly manner,
showing his sister what were and what were not "Sunday books" with the
air of a person entirely at home in the business. Robinson Crusoe and
the many-volumed Peter Parley were put by without hesitation; there
was, however, a short demurring over a North American Review, because
Willie said he was sure his father read something one Sunday out of
one of them, while Susan averred that he did not commonly read in it,
and only read in it then because the piece was something about the
Bible; but as nothing could be settled definitively on the point, the
review was "laid on the table," like knotty questions in Congress.
Then followed a long discussion over an extract book, which, as
usual, contained all sorts, both sacred, serious, comic, and profane,
and at last Willie, with much gravity, decided to lock it up, on the
principle that it was best to be on the safe side, in support
of which he appealed to me. I was saved from deciding the question by
the entrance of the father and mother. My old friend knew me at once,
and presented his pretty wife to me with the same look of exultation
with which he used to hold up a string of trout, or an uncommonly fine
perch of his own catching for my admiration, and then looking round
on his fine family of children, two more of which he had brought home
with him, seemed to say to me, "There! what do you think of that, now?"
And, in truth, a very pretty sight it was— enough to make any
one's old bachelor coat sit very uneasily on him. Indeed, there is
nothing that gives one such a startling idea of the tricks that old
Father Time has been playing on us, as to meet some boyish or girlish
companions with half a dozen or so of thriving children about them.
My old friend, I found, was in essence just what the boy had been.
There was the same upright bearing, the same confident, cheerful tone
to his voice, and the same fire in his eye; only that the hand of
manhood had slightly touched some of the lines of his face, giving
them a staidness of expression becoming the man and the father.
"Very well, my children," said Mrs. Fletcher, as, after tea,
William and Susan finished recounting to her the various matters that
they had set in order that afternoon; "I believe now we can say that
our week's work is finished, and that we have nothing to do but rest
and enjoy ourselves."
"Oh, and papa will show us the pictures in those great books that
he brought home for us last Monday, will he not?" said little Robert.
"And, mother, you will tell us some more about Solomon's Temple and
his palaces, won't you?" said Susan.
"And I should like to know if father has found out the answer to
that hard question I gave him last Sunday?" said Willie.
"All will come in good time," said Mrs. Fletcher. "But tell me, my
dear children, are you sure that you are quite ready for the Sabbath?
You say you have put away the books and the playthings; have you put
away, too, all wrong and unkind feelings? Do you feel kindly and
pleasantly towards everybody?"
"Yes, mother," said Willie, who appeared to have taken a great part
of this speech to himself; "I went over to Tom Walters this very
morning to ask him about that chicken of mine, and he said that he did
not mean to hit it, and did not know he had till I told him of it;
and so we made all up again, and I am glad I went."
"I am inclined to think, Willie," said his father, "that if
everybody would make it a rule to settle up all their differences before Sunday, that there would be very few long quarrels and
lawsuits. In about half the cases, a quarrel is founded on some
misunderstanding that would be got over in five minutes if one would
go directly to the person for explanation."
"I suppose I need not ask you," said Mrs. Fletcher, "whether you
have fully learned your Sunday-school lessons?"
"Oh, to be sure," said William. "You know, mother, that Susan and I
were busy about them through Monday and Tuesday, and then this
afternoon we looked them over again, and wrote down some questions."
"And I heard Robert say his all through, and showed him all the
places on the Bible Atlas," said Susan.
"Well, then," said my friend, "if everything is done, let us begin
Sunday with some music."
Thanks to the recent improvements in the musical instruction of the
young, every family can now form a domestic concert, with words and
tunes adapted to the capacity and the voices of children; and while
these little ones, full of animation, pressed round their mother as
she sat at the piano, and accompanied her music with the words of
some beautiful hymns, I thought that, though I might have heard finer
music, I had never listened to any that answered the purpose of music
It was a custom at my friend's to retire at an early hour on
Saturday evening, in order that there might be abundant time for rest,
and no excuse for late rising on the Sabbath; and, accordingly, when
the children had done singing, after a short season of family
devotion, we all betook ourselves to our chambers, and I, for one,
fell asleep with the impression of having finished the week most
agreeably, and with anticipations of very great pleasure on the
Early in the morning I was roused from my sleep by the sound of
little voices singing with great animation in the room next to mine,
and, listening, I caught the following words:
"Awake! awake! your bed forsake,
To God your praises pay;
The morning sun is clear and bright,
With joy we hail his cheerful light.
In songs of love
Praise God above—
It is the Sabbath day!"
The last words were repeated, and prolonged most vehemently by a
voice that I knew for Master William's.
"Now, Willie, I like the other one best," said the soft voice of
little Susan; and immediately she began,
"How sweet is the day,
When, leaving our play,
The Saviour we seek;
The fair morning glows
When Jesus arose—
The best in the week."
Master William helped along with great spirit in the singing of
this tune, thought I heard him observing, at the end of the first
verse, that he liked the other one better, because "it seemed to step
off so kind o'lively;" and his accommodating sister followed him as he
began singing it again with redoubled animation.
It was a beautiful summer morning, and the voices of the children
within accorded well with the notes of birds and bleating flocks
without— a cheerful, yet Sabbath-like and quieting sound.
"Blessed be children's music!" said I to myself; "how much better
this is than the solitary tic-tic of old Uncle Fletcher's tall
The family bell summoned us to the breakfast-room just as the
children had finished their hymn. The little breakfast-parlour had
been swept and garnished expressly for the day, and a vase of
beautiful flowers, which the children had the day before collected
from their gardens, adorned the centre-table. The door of one of the
bookcases by the fireplace was thrown open, presenting to view a
collection of prettily bound books, over the top of which appeared in
gilt letters the inscription, "Sabbath Library." The windows were
thrown open to let in the invigorating breath of the early morning,
and the birds that flitted among the rosebushes without seemed
scarcely lighter and more buoyant than did the children as they
entered the room. It was legibly written on every face in the house,
that the happiest day in the week had arrived, and each one seemed to
enter into its duties with a whole soul. It was still early when the
breakfast and the season of family devotion was over, and the children
eagerly gathered round the table to get a sight of the pictures in
the new books which their father had purchased in New-York the week
before, and which had been reserved as a Sunday's treat. They were a
beautiful edition of Calmet's Dictionary, in several large volumes,
with very superior engravings.
"It seems to me that this work must be very expensive," I remarked
to my friend, as we were turning the leaves.
"Indeed, it is so," he replied; "but here is one place where I am
less withheld by considerations of expense than in any other. In all
that concerns making a show in the world, I am perfectly ready to
economize. I can do very well without expensive clothing or
fashionable furniture, and am willing that we should be looked on as
very plain sort of people in all such matters; but in all that relates
to the cultivation of the mind, and the improvement of the hearts of
my children, I am willing to go to the extent of my ability. Whatever
will give my children a better knowledge of, or deeper interest, in
the Bible, or enable them to spend a Sabbath profitably and without
weariness, stands first on my list among things to be purchased. I
have spent in this way one third as much as the furnishing of my
house costs me." On looking over the shelves of the Sabbath library, I
perceived that my friend had been at no small pains in the selection.
It comprised all the popular standard works for the illustration of
the Bible, together with the best of the modern religious
publications adapted to the capacity of young children. Two large
drawers below were filled with maps and scriptural engravings, some
of them of a very superior character.
"We have been collecting these things gradually ever since we have
been at housekeeping," said my friend; "the children take an interest
in this library, as something more particularly belonging to them, and
some of the books are donations from their little earnings."
"Yes," said Willie, "I bought Helon's Pilgrimage with my egg-money,
and Susan bought the Life of David, and little Robert is going to buy
one, too, next Newyear."
"But," said I, "would not the Sunday-school library answer all the
purpose of this?"
"The Sabbath-school library is an admirable thing," said my friend;
"but this does more fully and perfectly what that was intended to do.
It makes a sort of central attraction at home on the Sabbath, and
makes the acquisition of religious knowledge and the proper observance
of the Sabbath a sort of family enterprise. You know," he added,
smiling, "that people always feel interested for an object in which
they have invested money."
The sound of the first Sabbath-school bell put an end to this
conversation. The children promptly made themselves ready, and, as
their father was the superintendent of the school, and their mother
one of the teachers, it was quite a family party.
One part of every Sabbath at my friend's was spent by one or both
parents, with the children, in a sort of review of the week. The
attention of the little ones was directed to their own characters, the
various defects or improvements of the past week were pointed out,
and they were stimulated to be on their guard in the time to come, and
the whole was closed by earnest prayer for such heavenly aid as the
temptations and faults of each particular one might need. After church
in the evening, while the children were thus withdrawn to their
mother's apartment, I could not forbear reminding my friend of old
times, and of the rather anti-Sabbatical turn of his mind in our
"Now, William," said I, "do you know that you were the last boy of
whom such an enterprise in Sabbath-keeping as this was to have been
expected? I suppose you remember Sunday at `the old place?"'
"Nay, now, I think I was the very one," said he, smiling, "for I
had sense enough to see, as I grew up that the day must be kept thoroughly or not at all, and I had enough blood and motion in my
composition to see that something must be done to enliven and make it
interesting; so I set myself about it. It was one of the first of our
housekeeping resolutions, that the Sabbath should be made a pleasant
day, and yet be as inviolably kept as in the strictest times of our
good father; and we have brought things to run in that channel so
long, that it seems to be the natural order."
"I have always supposed," said I, "that it required a peculiar
talent, and more than common information in a parent, to accomplish
this to any extent."
"It requires nothing," replied my friend, "but common sense, and a
strong determination to do it. Parents who make a definite
object of the religious instruction of their children, if they have
common sense, can very soon see what is necessary in order to
interest them; and, if they find themselves wanting in the requisite
information, they can, in these days, very readily acquire it. The
sources of religious knowledge are so numerous, and so popular in
their form, that all can avail themselves of them. The only
difficulty, after all, is, that the keeping of the Sabbath and the
imparting of religious instruction is not made enough of a home
object. Parents pass off the responsibility on to the Sunday-school
teacher, and suppose, of course, if they send their children to
Sunday-school, they do the best they can for them. Now I am satisfied,
from my experience as a Sabbath-school teacher, that the best
religious instruction imparted abroad still stands in need of the
co-operation of a systematic plan of religious discipline and
instruction at home; for, after all, God gives a power to the efforts
of a parent that can never be transferred to other hands."
"But do you suppose," said I, "that the
common class of
minds, with ordinary advantages, can do what you have done?"
"I think, in most cases, they could,
if they begin right. But
when both parents and children have formed habits, it is more
difficult to change than to begin right at first. However, I think all might accomplish a great deal if they would give time, money,
and effort towards it. It is because the object is regarded of so
little value, compared with other things of a worldly nature, that so
little is done."
My friend was here interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Fletcher
with the children. Mrs. Fletcher sat down to the piano, and the
Sabbath was closed with the happy songs of the little ones; nor could
I notice a single anxious eye turning to the window to see if the sun
was not almost down. The tender and softened expression of each
countenance bore witness to the subduing power of those instructions
which had hallowed the last hour, and their sweet, bird-like voices
harmonized well with the beautiful words,
"How sweet the light of Sabbath eve,
How soft the sunbeam lingering there;
Those holy hours this low earth leave,
And rise on wings of faith and prayer."
SO MANY CALLS. A SKETCH.
It was a brisk, clear evening in the latter part of December, when
Mr. A— returned from his counting-house to the comforts of a bright
coal fire and warm arm-chair in his parlour at home. He changed his
heavy boots for slippers, drew around him the folds of his evening
gown, and then, lounging back in the chair, looked up to the ceiling
and about with an air of satisfaction. Still there was a cloud on his
brow: what could be the matter with Mr. A—? To tell the truth, he
had that afternoon received in his counting-room the agent of one of
the principal religious charities of the day, and had been warmly
urged to double his last year's subscription, and the urging had been
pressed by statements and arguments to which he did not know well how
to reply. "People think," soliloquized he to himself, "that I am made
of money, I believe; this is the fourth object this year for which I
have been requested to double my subscription, and this year has been
one of heavy family expenses—building and fitting up this house—
carpets, curtains—no end to the new things to be bought—I really
do not see how I am to give a cent more in charity; then there are the
bills for the girls and the boys—they all say that they must have
twice as much now as before we came into this house: wonder if I did
right in building it?" And Mr. A— glanced up and down the ceiling,
and around on the costly furniture, and looked into the fire in
silence. He was tired, harassed, and drowsy; his head began to swim,
and his eyes closed— he was asleep. In his sleep he thought he heard
a tap at the door; he opened it, and there stood a plain,
poor-looking man, who, in a voice singularly low and sweet, asked for
a few moments' conversation with him. Mr. A— asked him into the
parlour, and drew him a chair near the fire. The stranger looked
attentively around, and then, turning to Mr. A—, presented him with
a paper. "It is your last year's subscription to Missions," said he;
"you know all of the wants of that cause that can be told you; I
called to see if you had anything more to add to it."
This was said in the same low and quiet voice as before; but, for
some reason unaccountable to himself, Mr. A — was more embarrassed
by the plain, poor, unpretending man, than he had been in the
presence of any one before. He was for some moments silent before he
could reply at all, and then, in a hurried and embarrassed manner, he
began the same excuses which had appeared so satisfactory to him the
afternoon before—the hardness of the times, the difficulty of
collecting money, family expenses, &c.
The stranger quietly surveyed the spacious apartment, with its many
elegances and luxuries, and without any comment took from the merchant
the paper he had given, but immediately presented him with another.
"This is your subscription to the Tract Society: have you anything
to add to it; you know how much it has been doing, and how much more
it now desires to do, if Christians would only furnish means: do you
not feel called upon to add something to it?"
Mr. A— was very uneasy under this appeal, but there was something
in the mild manner of the stranger that restrained him; but he
answered that, although he regretted it exceedingly, his circumstances
were such that he could not this year conveniently add to any
of his charities.
The stranger received back the paper without any reply, but
immediately presented in its place the subscription to the Bible
Society, and in a few clear and forcible words, reminded him of its
wellknown claims, and again requested him to add something to his
donations. Mr. A— became impatient.
"Have I not said," he replied, "that I can do
for any charity than I did last year? There seems to be no end to the
calls upon us in these days. At first there were only three or four
objects presented, and the sums required were moderate; now the
objects increase every day; all call upon us for money, and all, after
we give once want us to double and treble our subscriptions: there is
no end to the thing; we may as well stop in one place as another."
The stranger took back the paper, rose, and, fixing his eye on his
companion, said in a voice that thrilled to his soul,
"One year ago to-night you thought that your daughter lay dying;
you could not sleep for agony: upon whom did you call all that night?"
The merchant started and looked up; there seemed a change to have
passed over the whole form of his visiter, whose eye was fixed on him
with a calm, intense, penetrating expression, that awed and subdued
him; he drew back, covered his face, and made no reply.
"Five years ago," said the stranger, "when you lay at the brink of
the grave, and thought that if you died then you should leave a family
of helpless children entirely unprovided for, do you remember how you
prayed? who saved you then?"
The stranger paused for an answer, but there was a dead silence.
The merchant only bent forward as one entirely overcome, and rested
his head on the seat before him.
The stranger drew yet nearer, and said, in a still lower and more
impressive tone, "Do you remember, fifteen years since, that time
when you felt yourself so lost, so helpless, so hopeless; when you
spent days and nights in prayer; when you thought you would give the
whole world for one hour's assurance that your sins were forgiven
you?—who listened to you then?"
"It was my God and Saviour!" said the merchant, with a sudden burst
of remorseful feeling; "oh, yes, it was he."
He ever complained of being called on too often,"
inquired the stranger, in a voice of reproachful sweetness; "say," he
added, "are you willing to begin this night, and ask no more of Him,
if he, from this night, will ask no more from you?"
"Oh, never, never!" said the merchant, throwing himself at his
feet; but, as he spake these words, the figure seemed to vanish, and
he awoke with his whole soul stirred within him.
`Oh, my Saviour! what have I been saying? what have I been doing?"
he exclaimed. "Take all, take everything! what is all that I have to
what thou hast done for me!"
Of all the ways of travelling which obtain among our locomotive
nation, this said vehicle, the canal-boat, is the most absolutely
prosaic and inglorious. There is something picturesque, nay, almost
sublime, in the lordly march of your well-built, high-bred steamboat.
Go take your stand on some overhanging bluff, where the blue Ohio
winds its thread of silver, or the sturdy Mississippi makes its path
through unbroken forests, and it will do your heart good to see the
gallant boat walking the waters with unbroken and powerful tread, and,
like some fabled monster of the wave, breathing fire, and making the
shores resound with its deep respirations. Then there is something
mysterious, even awful, in the power of steam. See it curling up
against a blue sky some rosy morning— graceful, fleeting,
intangible, and to all appearance the softest and gentlest of all
spiritual things—and then think that it is this fairy spirit that
keeps all the world alive and hot with motion; think how excellent a
servant it is, doing all sorts of gigantic works, like the genii of
old; and yet, if you let slip the talisman only for a moment, what
terrible advantage it will take of you! and you will confess that
steam has some claims both to the beautiful and the terrible. For our
own part, when we are down among the machinery of a steamboat in full
play, we conduct ourself very reverently, for we consider it as a
very serious neighbourhood; and every time the steam whizzes with such
red-hot determination from the escape valve, we start as if some of
the spirits were after us. But in a canal-boat there is no power, no
mystery, no danger; one cannot blow up, one cannot be drowned, unless
by some special effort: one sees clearly all there is in the case—a
horse, a rope, and a muddy strip of water—and that is all.
Did you ever try it, reader? If not, take an imaginary trip with
us, just for experiment. "There's the boat!" exclaims a passenger in
the omnibus, as we are rolling down from the Pittsburg Mansion House
to the canal. "Where?" exclaim a dozen of voices, and forthwith a
dozen heads go out of the window. "Why, down there, under that
bridge; don't you see those fights?" "What! that little thing?"
exclaims an inexperienced traveller; "dear me! we can't half of us
get into it!" "We! indeed," says some old hand in the business; "I
think you'll find it will hold us and a dozen more loads like us."
"Impossible!" say some. "You'll see," say the initiated; and, as soon
as you get out, you do see, and hear too, what seems like a
general breaking loose from the Tower of Babel, amid a perfect
hailstorm of trunks, boxes, valises, carpet-bags, and every
describable and indescribable form of what a Westerner calls
"That's my trunk!" barks out a big, round man. "That's my bandbox!"
screams a heart-stricken old lady, in terror for her immaculate
Sunday caps. "Where's my little red box? I had two carpet-bags and
a—My trunk had a scarle—Halloo! where are you going with that
portmanteau? Husbard! husband! do see after the large basket and the
little hair trunk — oh! and the baby's little chair!" "Go
below—go below, for mercy's sake, my dear; I'll see to the baggage."
At last, the feminine part of creation perceiving that, in this
particular instance, they gain nothing by public speaking, are content
to be led quietly under hatches, and amusing is the look of dismay
which each new-comer gives to the confined quarters that present
themselves. Those who were so ignorant of the power of compression as
to suppose the boat scarce large enough to contain them and theirs,
find, with dismay, a respectable colony of old ladies, babies,
mothers, big baskets, and carpet-bags already established. "Mercy on
us!" says one, after surveying the little room, about ten feet long
and six high, "where are we all to sleep to-night?" "O me! what a
sight of children!" says a young lady, in a despairing tone. "Poh!"
says an initiated traveller; "children! scarce any here; let's see:
one—the woman in the corner, two— that child with the bread and
butter, three—and then there's that other woman with two—really,
it's quite moderate for a canal-boat: however, we can't tell till
they have all come."
"All! for mercy's sake, you don't say there are any more coming!"
exclaim two or three in a breath; "they can't come; there is
Notwithstanding the impressive utterance of this sentence, the
contrary is immediately demonstrated by the appearance of a very
corpulent elderly lady, with three well-grown daughters, who come
down looking about them most complacently, entirely regardless of the
unchristian looks of the company. What a mercy it is that fat people
are always good-natured!
After this follows an indiscriminate raining down of all shapes,
sizes, sexes, and ages—men, women, children, babies, and nurses. The
state of feeling becomes perfectly desperate. Darkness gathers on all
faces. "We shall be smothered! we shall be crowded to death! we can't stay here!" are heard faintly from one and another; and
yet, though the boat grows no wider, the walls no higher, they do
live, and do bear it, in spite of repeated protestations to the
contrary. Truly, as Sam Slick says, "there's a sight of wear
in human natur'."
But, meanwhile, the children grow sleepy, and divers interesting
little duets and trios arise from one part or another of the cabin.
"Hush, Johnny! be a good boy," says a pale, nursing mamma, to a
great, bristling, white headed phenomenon, who is kicking very much
at large in her lap.
"I won't be a good boy, neither," responds Johnny, with interesting
explicitness; "I want to go to bed, and so-o-o-o!" and Johnny makes
up a mouth as big as a teacup, and roars with good courage, and his
mamma asks him "if he ever saw pa do so," and tells him that "he is
mamma's dear, good little boy, and must not make a noise," with
various observations of the kind, which are so strikingly efficacious
in such cases. Meanwhile, the domestic concert in other quarters
proceeds with vigour. "Mamma I'm tired!" bawls a child. "Where's the
baby's night-gown?" calls a nurse. "Do take Peter up in your lap, and
keep him still." "Pray get out some biscuits to stop their mouths."
Meanwhile, sundry babies strike in "con spirito," as the music-books
have it, and execute various flourishes; the disconsolate mothers
sigh, and look as if all was over with them; and the young ladies
appear extremely disgusted, and wonder "what business women have to be
travelling round with babies!"
To these troubles succeeds the turning-out scene, when the whole
caravan is ejected into the gentlemen's cabin, that the beds may be
made. The red curtains are put down, and in solemn silence all, the
last mysterious preparations begin. At length it is announced that
all is ready. Forthwith the whole company rush back, and find the
walls embellished by a series of little shelves, about a foot wide,
each furnished with a mattress and bedding, and hooked to the ceiling
by a very suspiciously slender cord. Direful are the ruminations and
exclamations of inexperienced travellers, particularly young ones, as
they eye these very equivocal accommodations. "What! sleep up there! I won't sleep on one of those top shelves,
I know. The
cords will certainly break." The chambermaid here takes up the
conversation, and solemnly assures them that such an accident is not
to be thought of at all; that it is a natural impossibility—a thing
that could not happen without an actual miracle; and since it becomes
increasingly evident that thirty ladies cannot all sleep on the lowest
shelf, there is some effort made to exercise faith in this doctrine;
nevertheless, all look on their neighbours with fear and trembling;
and when the stout lady talks of taking a shelf, she is most urgently
pressed to change places with her alarmed neighbour below. Points of
location being after a while adjusted, comes the last struggle.
Everybody wants to take off their bonnet, to look for their shawl, to
find their cloak, to get their carpet-bag, and all set about it with
such zeal that nothing can be done. "Ma'am, you're on my foot!" says
one. "Will you please to move, ma'am?" says somebody, who is gasping
and struggling behind you. "Move!" you echo. "Indeed, I should be very
glad to, but I don't see much prospect of it." "Chambermaid!" calls a
lady, who is struggling among a heap of carpet-bags and children at
one end of the cabin. "Ma'am!" echoes the poor chambermaid, who is
wedged fast, in a similar situation, at the other. "Where's my cloak,
chambermaid?" "I'd find it, ma'am, if I could move." "Chambermaid, my
basket!" "Chambermaid, my parasol!" "Chambermaid, my carpet-bag!"
"Mamma, they push me so!" "Hush, child; crawl under there, and lie
still till I can undress you." At last, however, the various
distresses are over, the babies sink to sleep, and even that
much-enduring being, the chambermaid, seeks out some corner for
repose. Tired and drowsy, you are just sinking into a doze, when
bang! goes the boat against the sides of a lock, ropes scrape, men
run and shout, and up fly the heads of all the top shelf-ites, who
are generally the more juvenile and airy part of the company.
"What's that! what's that!" flies from mouth to mouth; and
forthwith they proceed to awaken their respective relations. "Mother!
Aunt Hannah! do wake up; what is this awful noise?" "Oh, only a
lock!" "Pray be still," groan out the sleepy members from below.
"A lock!" exclaim the vivacious creatures, ever on the alert for
information; "and what is a lock, pray?"
"Don't you know what a lock is, you silly creatures? Do lie down
and go to sleep."
"But say, there ain't any
danger in a lock, is there?"
respond the querists. "Danger!" exclaims a deaf old lady, poking up
her head, "what's the matter? There ha'n't nothin' burst, has there?"
"No, no, no!" exclaim the provoked and despairing opposition party,
who find that there is no such thing as going to sleep till they have
made the old lady below and the young ladies above understand exactly
the philosophy of a lock. After a while the conversation again
subsides; again all is still; you hear only the trampling of horses
and the rippling of the rope in the water, and sleep again is
stealing over you. You doze, you dream, and all of a sudden you are
started by a cry, "Chambermaid! wake up the lady that wants to be set
ashore." Up jumps chambermaid, and up jumps the lady and two children,
and forthwith form a committee of inquiry as to ways and means.
"Where's my bonnet?" says the lady, half awake, and fumbling among
the various articles of that name. "I thought I hung it up behind the
door." "Can't you find it?" says poor chambermaid, yawning and rubbing
her eyes. "Oh, yes, here it is," says the lady; and then the cloak,
the shawl, the gloves the shoes, receive each a separate discussion.
At last all seems ready, and they begin to move off, when, lo!
Peter's cap is missing. "Now where can it be?" soliloquizes the lady.
"I put it right here by the table-leg; maybe it got into some of the
berths." At this suggestion, the chambermaid takes the candle, and
goes round deliberately to every berth, poking the light directly in
the face of every sleeper. "Here it is," she exclaims, pulling at
something black under one pillow. "No, indeed, those are my shoes,"
says the vexed sleeper. "Maybe it's here," she resumes, darting upon
something dark in another berth. "No, that's my bag," responds the
occupant. The chambermaid then proceeds to turn over all the children
on the floor, to see if it is not under them, in the course of which
process they are most agreeably waked up and enlivened; and, when
everybody is broad awake, and most uncharitably wishing the cap, and
Peter too, at the bottom of the canal, the good lady exclaims, "Well,
if this isn't lucky! here I had it safe in my basket all the time!"
and she departs amid the—what shall I say?—execrations?— of the
whole company, ladies though they be.
Well, after this follows a hushing up and wiping up among the
juvenile population, and a series of remarks commences from the
various shelves, of a very edifying and instructive tendency. One
says that the woman did not seem to know where anything was; another
says that she has waked them all up; a third adds that she has waked
up all the children too; and the elderly ladies make moral reflections
on the importance of putting your things where you can find
them—being always ready; which observations, being delivered in an
exceedingly doleful and drowsy tone, form a sort of subbass to the
lively chattering of the upper shelf-ites, who declare that they feel
quite wide awake—that they don't think they shall go to sleep again
to-night—and discourse over everything in creation, until you
heartily wish you were enough related to them to give them a scolding.
At last, however, voice after voice drops off; you fall into a most
refreshing slumber; it seems to you that you sleep about a quarter of
an hour, when the chambermaid pulls you by the sleeve: "Will you
please to get up, ma'am; we want to make the beds." You start and
stare. Sure enough, the night is gone. So much for sleeping on board
Let us not enumerate the manifold perplexities of the morning
toilet in a place where every lady realizes most forcibly the
condition of the old woman who lived under a broom: `All she wanted
was elbow room." Let us not tell how one glass is made to answer for
thirty fair faces, one ewer and vase for thirty lavations; and, tell
it not in Gath! one towel for a company! Let us not intimate how
ladies' shoes have, in the night, clandestinely slid into the
gentlemen's cabin, and gentlemen's boots elbowed, or, rather, toed
their way among lady's gear, nor recite the exclamations after
runaway property that are heard. "I can't find nothin' of Johnny's
shoe!" "Here's a shoe in the water pitcher—is this it?" "My
side-combs are gone," exclaims a nymph with dishevelled curls!"
"Massy! do look at my bonnet!" exclaims an old lady, elevating an
article crushed into as many angles as there are pieces in a minced
pie. "I never did sleep so much together in my life," echoes a
poor little French lady, whom despair has driven into talking English.
But our shortening paper warns us not to prolong our catalogue of
distresses beyond reasonable bounds, and therefore we will close with
advising all our friends who intend to try this way of travelling for pleasure, to take a good stock both of patience and clean towels
with them, for we think that they will find abundant need for both.
There is one way of studying human nature, which surveys mankind
only as a set of instruments for the accomplishment of personal plans.
There is another, which regards them simply as a gallery of pictures,
to be admired or laughed at as the caricature or the beau ideal
predominates. A third way regards them as human beings, having
hearts that can suffer and enjoy, that can be improved or be ruined;
as those who are linked to us by mysterious reciprocal influences, by
the common dangers of a present existence, and the uncertain ties of
a future one; as presenting, wherever we meet them, claims on our
sympathy and assistance.
Those who adopt the last method are interested in human beings, not
so much by present attractions as by their capabilities as
intelligent, immortal beings; by a high belief of what every mind may
attain in an immortal existence; by anxieties for its temptations and
dangers, and often by the perception of errors and faults which
threaten its ruin. The two first modes are adopted by the great mass
of society; the last is the office of those few scattered stars in the
sky of life, who look down on its dark selfishness to remind us that
there is a world of light and love.
To this class did
He belong, whose rising and setting on
earth were for "the healing of the nations;" and to this class has
belonged many a pure and devoted spirit — like him, shining to
cheer—like him, fading away into the heavens. To this class many a
one wishes to belong, who has an eye to distinguish the
divinity of virtue, without the resolution to attain it; who, while
they sweep along with the selfish current of society, still regret
that society is not different—that they themselves are not
different. If this train of thought has no very particular application
to what follows, it was nevertheless suggested by it, and of its
relevancy others must judge.
Look into this schoolroom. It is a warm, sleepy afternoon in July;
there is scarcely air enough to stir the leaves of the tall
buttonwood-tree before the door, or to lift the loose leaves of the
copybook in the window; the sun has been diligently shining into
those curtainless west windows ever since three o'clock, upon those
blotted and mangled desks, and those decrepit and tottering benches,
and that great armchair, the high place of authority.
You can faintly hear, about the door, the "craw, craw" of some
neighbouring chickens, who have stepped around to consider the
dinner-baskets, and pick up the crumbs of the noon's repast. For a
marvel, the busy school is still, because, in truth, it is too warm
to stir. You will find nothing to disturb your meditation on
character, for you cannot bear the beat of those little hearts, nor
the bustle of all those busy thoughts.
Now look around. Who of these is the most interesting? Is it that
tall, slender, hazel-eyed boy, with a glance like a falcon, whose
elbows rest on his book as he gazes out on the great buttonwood-tree,
and is calculating how he shall fix his squirrel-trap when school is
out? Or is it that curly-headed little rogue, who is shaking with
repressed laughter at seeing a chicken roll over in a dinner-basket?
Or is it that arch boy with black eyelashes, and deep, mischievous
dimple in his cheeks, who is slyly fixing a fishhook to the skirts of
the master's coat, yet looking as abstracted as Archimedes whenever
the good man turns his head that way? No; these are intelligent,
bright, beautiful, but it is not these.
Perhaps, then, it is that sleepy little girl, with golden curls and
a mouth like a half-blown rose-bud? See! the small brass thimble has
fallen to the floor, her patchwork drops from her lap, her blue eyes
close like two sleepy violets, her little head is nodding, and she
sinks on her sister's shoulder; surely it is she. No, it is not.
But look in that corner: do you see that boy with such a gloomy
countenance—so vacant, yet so ill-natured? He is doing nothing, and
he very seldom does anything. He is surly and gloomy in his looks and
actions. He never showed any more aptitude for saying or doing a
pretty thing, than his straight white hair does for curling. He is
regularly blamed and punished every day, and the more he is blamed
and punished, the worse he grows. None of the boys and girls in school
will play with him, or if they do, they will be sorry for it. And
every day the master assures him that "he does not know what to do
with him," and that he "makes him more trouble than any boy in
school," with similar judicious information, that has a striking
tendency to promote improvement. That is the boy to whom I apply the
title of "the most interesting one."
He is interesting because he is
not pleasing; because he has
bad habits; because he does wrong; because he is always likely to do
wrong. He is interesting because he has become what he is now by
means of the very temperament which often makes the noblest virtue. It
is feeling, acuteness of feeling, which has given that countenance its
expression, that character its moroseness.
He has no father, and that long-suffering friend, his mother, is
gone too. Yet he has relations, and kind ones too; and, in the
compassionate language of worldly charity, it may be said of him, "He
would have nothing of which to complain, if he would only behave
His little sister is always bright, always pleasant and cheerful;
and his friends say, "Why should not he be so too? he is in exactly
the same circumstances." No, he is not. In one circumstance they
differ. He has a mind to feel and remember almost everything that can
pain him; she can feel and remember but little. If you blame him he
is exasperated, gloomy, and cannot forget it. If you blame her, she
can say she has done wrong in a moment, and all is forgotten. Her mind
can no more be wounded than the little brook where she loves to play.
The bright waters close in a moment, and smile and prattle as merry as
Which is the most desirable temperament? It would be hard to say.
The power of feeling is necessary for all that is noble in man, and
yet it involves the greatest risks. They who catch at happiness on
the bright surface of things, secure a portion, such as it is, with
more certainty; those who dive for it in the waters of deep feeling,
if they succeed, will bring up pearls and diamonds, but if they sink
they are lost forever!
But now comes Saturday, and school is just out. Can any one of my
readers remember the rapturous prospect of a long, bright Saturday
afternoon? "Where are you going?" "Will you come and see me?" "We are
going a fishing!" "Let us go a strawberrying!" may be heard rising
from the happy group. But no one comes near the ill-humoured James,
and the little party going to visit his sister "wish James was out of
the way." He sees every motion, hears every whisper, knows, suspects,
feels it all, and turns to go home more sullen and ill-tempered than
common. The world looks dark—nobody loves him—and he is told that
it is "all his own fault," and that makes the matter still worse.
When the little party arrive, he is suspicious and irritable, and,
of course, soon excommunicated. Then, as he stands in disconsolate
anger, looking over the garden fence at the gay group making
dandelion chains, and playing baby-house under the trees, he wonders
why he is not like other children. He wishes he were different, and
yet he does not know what to do. He looks around, and everything is
blooming and bright. His little bed of flowers is even brighter and
sweeter than ever before, and a new rose is just opening on his
There goes pussy too, racing and scampering, with little Ellen
after her, in among the alleys and flowers; and the birds are singing
in the trees; and the soft winds brush the blossoms of the sweet-pea
against his cheek; and yet, though all nature looks on him so kindly,
he is wretched.
Let us now change the scene. Why is that crowded assembly so
attentive—so silent? Who is speaking? It is our old friend, the
little disconsolate schoolboy. But his eyes are flashing with
intellect, his face fervent with emotion, his voice breathes like
music, and every mind is enchained.
Again, it is a splendid sunset, and yonder enthusiast meets it face
to face, as a friend. He is silent— rapt—happy. He feels the
poetry which God has written; he is touched by it, as God meant that
the feeling spirit should be touched.
Again, he is watching by the bed of sickness, and it is blessed to
have such a watcher! anticipating every want; relieving, not in a
cold, uninterested way, but with the quick perceptions, the
tenderness, the gentleness of an angel.
Follow him into the circle of friendship, and why is he so loved
and trusted? Why can you so easily tell to him what you can say to no
one else besides? Why is it that all around him feel that he can
understand, appreciate, be touched by all that touches them?
And when Heaven uncloses its doors of light— when all its
knowledge, its purity, its bliss, rises on the eye and passes into the
soul, who then will be looked on as the one who might be envied—he
who can, or he who cannot feel?
"Few, save the poor, feel for the poor;
The rich know not how hard
It is to be of needful food
And needful rest debarr'd.
Their paths are paths of plenteousness,
They sleep on silk and down;
They never think how wearily
The weary head lies down.
They never by the window sit,
And see the gay pass by,
Yet take their weary work again,
And with a mournful eye."
L. E. L.
However fine and elevated, in a sentimental point of view, may have
been the poetry of this gifted writer, we think we have never seen any
thing from this source that ought to give a bet ter opinion of
her than the little ballad from which the above verses are taken.
They show that the accomplished authoress possessed, not merely a
knowledge of the dreamy ideal wants of human beings, but the more
pressing and homely ones, which the fastidious and poetical are often
the last to appreciate. The sufferings of poverty are not confined to
those of the common, squalid, every-day inured to hardships, and
ready, with open hand, to receive charity, let it come to them as it
will. There is another class on whom it presses with still heavier
power: the generous, the decent, the self-respecting, who have
struggled with their lot in silence, "bearing all things, hoping all
things," and willing to endure all things, rather than breathe a word
of complaint, or to acknowledge, even to themselves, that their own
efforts will not be sufficient for their own necessities.
Pause with me a while at the door of yonder small room, whose small
window overlooks a little court below. It is inhabited by a widow and
her daughter, dependant entirely on the labours of the needle, and
those other slight and precarious resources, which are all that remain
to woman when left to struggle her way "through this bleak world
alone." It contains all their small earthly store, and there is scarce
an article of its little stock of furniture that has not been thought
of, and toiled for, and its price calculated over and over again,
before everything could come right for its purchase. Every article is
arranged with the utmost neatness and care; nor is the most costly
furniture of a fashionable parlour more sedulously guarded from a
scratch or a rub, than is that brightly-varnished bureau, and that
neat cherry tea-table and bedstead. The floor, too, boasted once a
carpet; but old Time has been busy with it, picking a hole here, and
making a thin place there; and though the old fellow has been followed
up by the most indefatigable zeal in darning, the marks of his
mischievous fingers are too plain to be mistaken. It is true, a kindly
neighbour has given a bit of faded baize, which has been neatly
clipped and bound, and spread down over an entirely unmanageable hole
in front of the fireplace; and other places have been repaired with
pieces of different colours; and yet, after all, it is evident that
the poor carpet is not long for this world.
But the best face is put upon everything. The little cupboard in
the corner, that contains a few china cups, and one or two antiquated
silver spoons, relics of better days, is arranged with jealous
neatness, and the white muslin window-curtain, albeit the muslin be
old, has been carefully whitened, and starched, and smoothly ironed,
and put up with exact precision; and on the bureau, covered by a snowy
cloth, are arranged a few books and other memorials of former times,
and a faded miniature, which, though it have little about it to
interest a stranger, is more precious to the poor widow than
Mrs. Ames is seated in her rocking-chair, supported by a pillow,
and busy cutting out work, while her daughter, a slender,
sickly-looking girl, is sitting by the window, intent on some fine
Mrs. Ames, in former days, was the wife of a respectable merchant,
and the mother of an affectionate family. But evil fortune had
followed her with a steadiness that seemed like the stern decree of
some adverse fate rather than the ordinary dealings of a merciful
Providence. First came a heavy run of losses in business; then long
and expensive sickness in the family, and the death of children. Then
there was the selling of the large house and elegant furniture, to
retire to a humbler style of living; and, finally, the sale of all the
property, with the view of quitting the shores of a native land, and
commencing life again in a new one. But scarcely had the exiled
family found themselves in the port of a foreign land, when the father
was suddenly smitten down by the hand of Death, and his lonely grave
made in a land of strangers. The widow, broken-hearted and
discouraged, had still a wearisome journey before her ere she could
reach any whom she could consider as her friends. With her two
daughters, entirely unattended, and with her finances impoverished by
detention and sickness, she performed the tedious journey.
Arrived at the place of her destination, she found herself not only
without immediate resources, but considerably in debt to one who had
advanced money for her travelling expenses. With silent endurance she
met the necessities of her situation. Her daughters, delicately
reared, and hitherto carefully educated, were placed out to service,
and Mrs. Ames sought for employment as a nurse. The younger child
fell sick, and the hard earnings of the mother were all exhausted in
the care of her; and though she recovered in part; she was declared
by her physician to be the victim of a disease which would never
leave her till it terminated her life.
As soon, however, as her daughter was so far restored as not to
need her immediate care, Mrs. Ames resumed her laborious employment.
Scarcely had she been able, in this way, to discharge the debts for
her journey and to furnish the small room we have described, when the
hand of disease was laid heavily on herself. Too resolute and
persevering to give way to the first attacks of pain and weakness, she
still continued her fatiguing employment till her system was entirely
prostrated. Thus all possibility of pursuing her business was cut off,
and nothing remained but what could be accomplished by her own and
her daughter's dexterity at the needle. It is at this time we ask you
to look in upon the mother and daughter.
Mrs. Ames is sitting up, the first time for a week, and even to-day
she is scarcely fit to do so; but she remembers that the month is
coming round, and her rent will soon be due; and even in her
feebleness she will stretch every nerve to meet her engagements with
Wearied at length with cutting out, and measuring, and drawing
threads, she leans back in her chair, and her eye rests on the pale
face of her daughter, who has been sitting for two hours intent on
"Ellen, my child, your head aches; don't work so steadily."
"Oh no, it don't ache
much," said she, too conscious of
looking very much tired. Poor girl, had she remained in the situation
in which she was born, she would now have been skipping about, and
enjoying life as other young girls of fifteen do; but now there is no
choice of employments for her—no youthful companions— no
visiting—no pleasant walks in the fresh air. Evening and morning, it
is all the same; headache or sideache, it is all one. She must hold
on the same unvarying task; a wearisome thing for a girl of fifteen!
But see, the door opens, and Mrs. Ames's face brightens as her
other daughter enters. Mary has become a domestic in a neighbouring
family, where her faithfulness and kindness of heart have caused her
to be regarded more as a daughter and a sister than as a servant.
"Here, mother, is your rent-money," she exclaimed, "so do put up your
work and rest a while. I can get enough to pay it next time before
the month comes around again."
"Dear child! I do wish you would ever think to get anything for
yourself," said Mrs. Ames; "I cannot consent to use up all your
earnings, as I have done lately, and all Ellen's too: you must have a
new dress this spring, and that bonnet of yours is not decent any
"Oh no, mother; I have fixed over my blue calico, and you would be
surprised to see how well it looks; and my best frock, when it is
washed and darned, will answer some time longer. And then Mrs. Grant
has given me a riband, and when my bonnet is whitened and trimmed it
will look very well. And so," she added, "I brought you some wine this
afternoon; you know the doctor says you need wine."
"Dear child! I want to see you take some comfort of your money
"Well, I do take comfort of it, mother. It is more comfort to be
able to help you than to wear all the finest dresses in the world."
Two months from this dialogue found our little family still more
straitened and perplexed. Mrs. Ames had been confined all the time
with sickness, and the greater part of Ellen's time and strength was
occupied with attending to her.
Very little sewing could the poor girl now do, in the broken
intervals that remained to her; and the wages of Mary were not only
used as fast as she earned, but she anticipated two months in advance.
Mrs. Ames had been better for a day or two, and had been sitting
up, exerting all her strength to finish a set of shirts which had been
sent in to make. "The money for them will just pay our rent," sighed
she; "and if we can do a little more this week—"
"Dear mother, you are so tired," said Ellen, "do lie down, and not
worry any more till I come back."
Ellen went out and passed on till she came to the door of an
elegant house, whose damask and muslin window-curtains indicated a
Mrs. Elmore was sitting in her splendidlyfurnished parlour, and
around her lay various fancy articles, which two young girls were
busily unrolling. "What a lovely pink scarf!" said one, throwing it
over her shoulders and skipping before a mirror; while the other
exclaimed, "Do look at these pocket-handkerchiefs, mother! what
"Well, girls," said Mrs. Elmore, "these handkerchiefs are a
shameful piece of extravagance. I wonder you will insist on having
"La! mamma, everybody has such now; Laura Seymour has half a dozen
that cost more than these, and her father is no richer than ours."
"Well," said Mrs. Elmore, "rich or not rich, it seems to make very
little odds; we do not seem to have half as much money to spare as we
did when we lived in the little house in Spring-street. What with new
furnishing the house, and getting everything you boys and girls say
you must have, we are poorer, if anything, than we were then."
"Ma'am, here is Mrs. Ames's girl come with some sewing," said the
"Show her in," said Mrs. Elmore.
Ellen entered timidly, and handed her bundle of work to Mrs.
Elmore, who forthwith proceeded to a minute scrutiny of the articles;
for she prided herself on being very particular as to her sewing.
But, though the work had been executed by feeble hands and aching
eyes, even Mrs. Elmore could detect no fault in it.
"Well, it is very prettily done," said she; "what does your mother
Ellen handed a neatly-folded bill which she had drawn for her
mother. "I must say, I think your mother's prices are very high," said
Mrs. Elmore, examining her nearly empty purse; "everything is getting
so dear that one hardly knows how to live." Ellen looked at the fancy
articles, and glanced around the room with an air of innocent
astonishment. "Ah!" said Mrs. Elmore, "I dare say it seems to you as
if persons in our situation had no need of economy; but, for my part,
I feel the need of it more and more every day." As she spoke she
handed Ellen the three dollars, which, though it was not a quarter
the price of one of the handkerchiefs, was all that she and her sick
mother could claim in the world.
"There," said she; "tell your mother I like her work very much, but
I do not think I can afford to employ her, if I can find any one to
Now Mrs. Elmore was not a hard-hearted woman, and if Ellen had come
as a beggar to solicit help for her sick mother, Mrs. Elmore would
have fitted out a basket of provisions, and sent a bottle of wine, and
a bundle of old clothes, and all the et cetera of such
occasions; but the sight of a bill always aroused all the
instinctive sharpness of her business-like education. She never had
the dawning of an idea that it was her duty to pay anybody any more
than she could possibly help; nay, she had an indistinct notion that
it was her duty as an economist to make everybody take as
little as possible. When she and her daughters lived in
Spring-street, to which she had alluded, they used to spend the
greater part of their time at home, and the family sewing was commonly
done among themselves. But since they had moved into a large house,
and set up a carriage, and addressed themselves to being genteel, the
girls found that they had altogether too much to do to attend to
their own sewing, much less to perform any for their father and
brothers. And their mother found her hands abundantly full in
overlooking her large house, in taking care of expensive furniture,
and in superintending her increased train of servants. The sewing,
therefore, was put out; and Mrs. Elmore felt it a duty to get
it done the cheapest way she could. Nevertheless, Mrs. Elmore was too
notable a lady, and her sons and daughters were altogether too
fastidious as to the make and quality of their clothing, to admit the
idea of its being done in any but the most complete and perfect
Mrs. Elmore never accused herself of want of charity for the poor;
but she had never considered that the best class of the poor are those
who never ask charity. She did not consider that, by paying liberally
those who were honestly and independently struggling for themselves,
she was really doing a greater charity than by giving
indiscriminately to a dozen applicants.
"Don't you think, mother, she says we charge too high for this
work!" said Ellen, when she returned. "I am sure she did not know how
much work we put in those shirts. She says she cannot give us any more
work; she must look out for somebody that will do it cheaper. I do
not see how it is that people who live in such houses, and have so
many beautiful things, can feel that they cannot afford to pay for
what costs us so much."
"Well, child, they are more apt to feel so than people who live
"Well, I am sure," said Ellen, "we cannot afford to spend so much
time, as we have over these shirts, for less money."
"Never mind, my dear," said the mother, soothingly; "here is a
bundle of work that another lady has sent in, and if we get it done
we shall have enough for our rent, and something over to buy bread
It is needless to carry our readers over all the process of cutting
and fitting, and gathering and stitching, necessary in making up six
fine shirts. Suffice it to say that on Saturday evening all but one
were finished, and Ellen proceeded to carry them home, promising to
bring the remaining one on Tuesday morning. The lady examined the
work and gave Ellen the money; but on Tuesday, when the child came
with the remaining work, she found her in great ill-humour. Upon
re-examining the shirts, she had discovered that in some important
respects they differed from directions she meant to have given, and
supposed she had given, and, accordingly, she vented her displeasure
"Why didn't you make these shirts as I told you?" said she, sharply.
"We did," said Ellen, mildly; "mother measured by the pattern every
part, and cut them herself."
"Your mother must be a fool, then, to make such a piece of work. I
wish you would just take them back, and alter them over;" and the
lady proceeded with the directions, of which neither Ellen nor her
mother, till then, had had any intimation. Unused to such language,
the frightened Ellen took up her work and slowly walked homeward.
"Oh dear, how my head does ache!" thought she to herself; "and poor
mother, she said this morning she was afraid another of her sick
turns was coming on, and we have all this work to pull out and do
"See here, mother!" said she, with a disconsolate air, as she
entered the room; "Mrs. Rudd says, take out all the bosoms, and rip
off all the collars, and fix them quite another way. She says they
are not like the pattern she sent; but she must have forgotten, for
here it is. Look, mother! it is exactly as we made them."
"Well, my child, carry back the pattern, and show her that it is
"Indeed, mother, she spoke so cross to me, and looked at me so,
that I do not feel as if I could go back."
"I will go for you, then," said the kind Maria Stephens, who had
been sitting with Mrs. Ames while Ellen was out. "I will take the
patterns and shirts, and tell her the exact truth about it: I am not
afraid of her." Maria Stephens was a tailoress, who rented a room on
the same floor with Mrs. Ames—a cheerful, resolute, go-forward
little body, and ready always to give a helping hand to a neighbour in
trouble. So she took the pattern and shirts, and set out on her
But poor Mrs. Ames, though she professed to take a right view of
the matter, and was very earnest in showing Ellen why she ought not to
distress herself about it, still felt a shivering sense of the
hardness and unkindness of the world coming over her. The bitter tears
would spring to her eyes, in spite of every effort to suppress them,
as she sat mournfully gazing on the little faded miniature before
mentioned. "When he was alive, I never knew what poverty or
trouble was," was the thought that often passed through her mind; and
how many a poor forlorn one has thought the same!
Poor Mrs. Ames was confined to her bed for most of that week. The
doctor gave absolute directions that she should do nothing, and keep
entirely quiet. A direction very sensible indeed in the chamber of
ease and competence, but hard to be observed in poverty and want.
What pains the kind and dutiful Ellen took that week to make her
mother feel easy. How often she replied to her anxious questions "that
she was quite well, or that her head did not ache much;" and
by various other evasive expedients the child tried to persuade
herself that she was speaking the truth. And during the times her
mother slept, in the day or evening, she accomplished one or two
pieces of plain work, with the price of which she expected to
surprise her mother.
It was towards evening when Ellen took her finished work to the
elegant dwelling of Mrs. Page. "I shall get a dollar for this," said
she; "enough to pay for mother's wine and medicine."
"This work is done very neatly," said Mrs. Page, "and here is some
more I should like to have finished in the same way."
Ellen looked up wistfully, hoping Mrs. Page was going to pay her
for the last work. But Mrs. Page was only searching a drawer for a
pattern, which she put into Ellen's hands, and after explaining how
she wanted her work done, dismissed her without saying a word about
the expected dollar.
Poor Ellen tried two or three times, as she was going out, to turn
around and ask for it, and before she could decide what to say she
found herself in the street.
Mrs. Page was an amiable, kind-hearted woman, but one who was so
used to large sums of money, that she did not realize how great an
affair a single dollar might seem to other persons. For this reason,
when Ellen had worked incessantly at the new work put into her hands,
that she might get the money for all together, she again disappointed
her in the payment.
"I'll send the money round to-morrow," said she, when Ellen at last
found courage to ask for it. But to-morrow came, and Ellen was for
gotten; and it was not till after one or two applications more that
the small sum was paid.
But these sketches are already long enough, and let us hasten to
close them. Mrs. Ames found liberal friends, who could appreciate and
honour her integrity of principle and loveliness of character, and by
their assistance she was raised to see more prosperous days; and she,
and the delicate Ellen, and warm-hearted Mary, were enabled to have a
home and fireside of their own, and to enjoy something like the return
of their former prosperity.
We have given these sketches, drawn from real life, because we
think there is, in general, too little consideration on the part of
those who give employment to those in situations like the widow here
described. The giving of employment is a very important branch of
charity, inasmuch as it assists that class of the poor who are the
most deserving. It should be looked on in this light, and the
arrangements of a family be so made that a suitable compensation can
be given, and prompt and cheerful payment be made, without the dread
of transgressing the rules of economy.
It is better to teach our daughters to do without expensive
ornaments or fashionable elegances; better even to deny ourselves the
pleasure of large donations or direct subscriptions to public
charities, rather than to curtail the small stipend of her whose
"candle goeth not out by night," and who labours with her needle for
herself and the helpless dear ones dependant on her exertions.
OLD FATHER MORRIS. A SKETCH FROM
Of all the marvels that astonished my childhood, there is none I
remember to this day with so much interest as the old man whose name
forms my caption. When I knew him he was an aged clergyman, settled
over an obscure village in New-England. He had enjoyed the anvantages
of a liberal education, had a strong original power of thought, an
omnipotent imagination, and much general information; but so early
and so deeply had the habits and associations of the plough, the farm,
and country life wrought themselves into his mind, that his after
acquirements could only mingle with them, forming an unexampled
amalgam, like unto nothing but itself.
He was an ingrain New-Englander, and whatever might have been the
source of his information, it came out in Yankee form, with the
strong provinciality of Yankee dialect.
It is in vain to attempt to give a full picture of such a genuine
unique; but some slight and imperfect dashes may help the imagination
to a faint idea of what none can fully conceive but those who have
seen and heard old Father Morris.
Suppose yourself one of half a dozen children, and you hear the
cry, "Father Morris is coming!" You run to the window or door, and
you see a tall, bulky old man, with a pair of saddle-bags on one arm,
hitching his old horse with a fumbling carefulness, and then
deliberately stumping towards the house. You notice his tranquil,
florid, full-moon face, enlightened by a pair of great, round blue
eyes, that roll with dreamy inattentiveness on all the objects
around, and as he takes off his hat, you see the white curling wig
that sets off his round head. He comes towards you, and as you stand
staring with all the children around, he deliberately puts his great
hand on your head, and with deep, rumbling voice inquires,
"How d'ye do, my darter? Is your daddy at home?" "My darter"
usually makes off as fast as possible in an unconquerable giggle.
Father Morris goes into the house, and we watch him at every turn,
as, with the most liberal simplicity, he makes himself at home, takes
off his wig, wipes down his great face with a checked
pocket-handkerchief, helps himself hither and thither to whatever he
wants, and asks for such things as he cannot lay his hands on, with
all the comfortable easiness of childhood.
I remember to this day how we used to peep through the crack of the
door, or hold it half ajar and peer in, to watch his motions; and how
mightily diverted we were with his deep, slow manner of speaking, his
heavy, cumbrous walk, but, above all, with the wonderful faculty of hemming which he possessed.
His deep, thundering, protracted a-hem-em was like nothing else
that ever I heard; and when once, as he was in the midst of one of
these performances, the parlour door suddenly happened to swing open,
I heard one of my roguish brothers calling, in a suppressed tone,
"Charles! Charles! Father Morris has hemmea the door open!" and
then followed the signs of a long and desperate titter, in which I
But the morrow is Sunday. The old man rises in the pulpit. He is
not now in his own humble little parish, preaching simply to the
hoers of corn and planters of potatoes, but there sits Governor D.,
and there is Judge R., and Counsellor P., and Judge G. In short, he
is before a refined and literary audience. But Father Morris rises;
he thinks nothing of this— he cares nothing—he knows nothing, as
he himself would say, but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He takes
a passage of Scripture to explain; perhaps it is the walk to Emmaus,
and the conversation of Jesus with his disciples. Immediately the
whole start out before you, living and picturesque: the road to Emmaus
is a New-England turnpike; you can see its milestones— its
mullen-stalks—its toll-gates. Next the disciples rise, and you have
before you all their anguish, and hesitation, and dismay, talked out
to you in the language of your own fireside You smile—you are
amused—yet you are touched, and the illusion grows every moment. You
see the approaching stranger, and the mysterious conversation grows
more and more interesting. Emmaus rises in the distance, in the
likeness of a New-England village, with a white meeting-house and
spire. You follow the travellers— you enter the house with them; nor
do you wake from your trance until, with streaming eyes, the preacher
tells you that "they saw it was the Lord Jesus! and what a pity
it was they could not have known it before!"
It was after a sermon on this very chapter of Scripture history
that Governor Griswold, in passing out of the house, laid hold on the
sleeve of his first acquaintance: "Pray tell me," said he, "who is
"Why, it is old Father Morris."
"Well, he is an oddity—and a genius too! I declare!" he
continued, "I have been wondering all the morning how I could have
read the Bible to so little purpose as not to see all these
particulars he has presented."
I once heard him narrate in this picturesque way the story of
Lazarus. The great bustling city of Jerusalem first rises to view, and
you are told, with great simplicity, how the Lord Jesus "used to get
tired of the noise;" and how he was "tired of preaching again and
again to people who would not mind a word he said;" and how, "when it
came evening, he used to go out and see his friends in Bethany." Then
he told about the house of Martha and Mary: "a little white house
among the trees," he said; "you could just see it from Jerusalem." And
there the Lord Jesus and his disciples used to go and sit in the
evenings, with Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus.
Then the narrator went on to tell how Lazarus died, describing,
with tears and a choking voice, the distress they were in, and how
they sent a message to the Lord Jesus, and he did not come, and how
they wondered and wondered; and thus on he went, winding up the
interest by the graphic minutiæ of an eyewitness, till he woke you
from the dream by his triumphant joy at the resurrection scene.
On another occasion, as he was sitting at a tea-table unusually
supplied with cakes and sweetmeats, he found an opportunity to make a
practical allusion to the same family story. He spoke of Mary as
quiet and humble, sitting at her Saviour's feet to hear his words; but
Martha thought more of what was to be got for tea. Martha could not
find time to listen to Christ: no; she was "`cumbered with much
serving'— around the house, frying fritters and making
Among his own simple people, his style of Scripture painting was
listened to with breathless interest. But it was particularly in those
rustic circles, called in New-England "Conference-meetings," that his
whole warm soul unfolded, and the Bible in his hands became a gallery
of New-England paintings.
He particularly loved the Evangelists, following the footsteps of
Jesus Christ, dwelling upon his words, repeating over and over again
the stories of what he did, with all the fond veneration of an old
and favoured servant.
Sometimes, too, he would give the narration an exceedingly
practical turn, as one example will illustrate.
He had noticed a falling off in his little circle that met for
social prayer, and took occasion, the first time he collected a
tolerable audience, to tell concerning "the conference-meeting that
the disciples attended" after the resurrection.
"But Thomas was not with them." Thomas not with them! said the old
man, in a sorrowful voice. "Why! what could keep Thomas away?
Perhaps," said he, glancing at some of his backward auditors, "Thomas
had got cold-hearted, and was afraid they would ask him to make the
first prayer; or perhaps," said he, looking at some of the farmers,
"Thomas was afraid the roads were bad; or perhaps," he added, after a
pause, "Thomas had got proud, and thought he could not come in his old
clothes." Thus he went on, significantly summing up the common
excuses of his people; and then, with great simplicity and emotion, he
added, "But only think what Thomas lost! for in the middle of the
meeting, the Lord Jesus came and stood among them! How sorry Thomas
must have been!" This representation served to fili the vacant seats
for some time to come.
At another time Father Morris gave the details of the anointing of
David to be king. He told them how Samuel went to Bethlehem to
Jesse's house, and went in with a "How d'ye do, Jesse?" and how, when
Jesse asked him to take a chair, he said he could not stay a minute;
that the Lord had sent him to anoint one of his sons for a king; and
how, when Jesse called in the tallest and handsomest, Samuel said "he
would not do;" and how all the rest passed the same test; and at
last, how Samuel says, "Why, have not you any more sons, Jesse?" and
Jesse says, "Why, yes, there is little David down in the lot;" and
how, as soon as ever Samuel saw David, "he slashed the oil right on to
him;" and how Jesse said "he never was so beat in all his life!"
Father Morris sometimes used his illustrative talent to very good
purpose in the way of re-buke. He had on his farm a fine orchard of
peaches, from which some of the ten and twelve-year-old gentlemen
helped themselves more liberally than even the old man's kindness
Accordingly, he took occasion to introduce into his sermon one
Sunday, in his little parish, an account of a journey he took; and how
he was very warm and very dry; and how he saw a fine orchard of
peaches that made his mouth water to look at them. "So," says he, "I
came up to the fence and looked all around, for I would not have
touched one of them without leave for all the world. At last I spied a
man, and says I, `Mister, won't you give me some of your peaches?' So
the man came and gave me nigh about a hat full. And while I stood
there eating, I said, `Mister, how do you manage to keep your
peaches?' `Keep them!' said he, and he stared at me; `what do you
mean?' `Yes, sir,' said I; `don't the boys steal them?' `Boys steal
them!' said he; `no, indeed!' `Why, sir,' said I, `I have a whole lot
full of peaches, and I cannot get half of them"'—here the old man's
voice grew tremulous—"`because the boys in my parish steal them so.'
`Why, sir,' said he, `don't their parents teach them not to steal?'
And I grew all over in a cold sweat, and I told him `I was afeard they
didn't.' `Why, how you talk!' says the man; `do tell me where you
live?' Then," said Father Morris, the tears running over, "I was
obliged to tell him I lived in the town of G." After this Father
Morris kept his peaches.
Our old friend was not less original in the logical than in the
illustrative portions of his discourses. His logic was of that
familiar, colloquial kind, which shakes hands with common sense like
an old friend. Sometimes, too, his great mind and great heart would be
poured out on the vast themes of religion, in language which, though
homely, produced all the effects of the sublime. He once preached a
discourse on the text, "the High and Holy One that inhabiteth
eternity;" and from the beginning to the end it was a train of lofty
and solemn thought With his usual simple earnestness, and his great,
rolling voice, he told about "the Great God— the Great
Jehovah—and how the people in this world were flustering and
worrying, and afraid they should not get time to do this, and that,
and t'other." "But," he added, with full hearted satisfaction, "the
Lord is never in a hurry; he has it all to do but he has time enough,
for he inhabiteth eternity." And the grand idea of infinite leisure
and almighty resources was carried through the sermon with equal
strength and simplicity.
Although the old man never seemed to be sensible of anything
tending to the ludicrous in his own mode of expressing himself, yet he
had considerable relish for humour, and some shrewdness of repartee.
One time, as he was walking through a neighbouring parish, famous for
its profanity, he was stopped by a whole flock of the youthful
reprobates of the place:
"Father Morris! Father Morris! the devil's dead!"
"Is he?" said the old man, benignly laying his hand on the head of
the nearest urchin, "you poor fatherless children!"
But the sayings and doings of this good old man, as reported in the
legends of the neighbourhood, are more than can be gathered or
reported. He lived far beyond the common age of man, and continued,
when age had impaired his powers, to tell over and over again the same
Bible stories that he had told so often before.
I recollect hearing of the joy that almost broke the old man's
heart, when, after many years' diligent watching and nurture of the
good seed in his parish, it began to spring into vegetation, sudden
and beautiful as that which answers the patient watching of the
husbandman. Many a hard, worldly-hearted man— many a sleepy,
inattentive hearer—many a listless, idle young person, began to give
ear to words that had long fallen unheeded. A neighbouring minister,
who had been sent for to see and rejoice in these results, describes
the scene, when, on entering the little church, he found an anxious,
crowded auditory assembled around their venerable teacher, waiting for
direction and instruction. The old man was sitting in his pulpit,
almost choking with fulness of emotion as he gazed around. "Father,"
said the youthful minister, "I suppose you are ready to say with old
Simeon, `Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for my
eyes have seen thy salvation."' "Sartin, sartin," said the old
man, while the tears streamed down his cheeks, and his whole frame
shook with emotion.
It was not many years after that this simple and loving servant of
Christ was gathered in peace unto him whom he loved. His name is fast
passing from remembrance, and in a few years, his memory, like his
humble grave, will be entirely grown over and forgotten among men,
though it will be had in everlasting remembrance by Him who
"forgetteth not his servants," and in whose sight the death of his
saints is precious.