Rising in the World
A Tale for the Rich and Poor
By Timothy Shay Arthur, 1848
Illustrating integrity of purpose, and high moral principle in life.
Two young men of nearly equal abilities, left college at the same time. Their names were Lawrence Dunbar and Lloyd Hudson.
Mr. Dunbar, the father of Lawrence, was a retail grocer in Philadelphia. He had, in early life, received but few educational advantages; and, in consequence thereof, saw many opportunities for rising above his condition, pass unimproved. Fully sensible of the advanced position which a liberal education gives to every man, he determined that no expense, in his power to meet, should be spared — in order to have his son thoroughly furnished in everything required to place him side by side in the race for wealth and distinction with the best in the land. To this end, he used the utmost economy in his family, in order that he might be able to send his son to college. In doing this, he was unjust to the sisters of Lawrence; who were neither taught music nor dancing, nor, in fact, anything for which the father had to pay a single dollar. The advantages afforded by the public schools were deemed ample for them. Upon the son, Mr. Dunbar lavished all that he could spare, as an investment that would pay well at some future day.
Near neighbor to Mr. Dunbar, lived an industrious, intelligent watchmaker, named Hudson, whose family consisted of a son and two daughters. Mr. Hudson saw quite as clearly as did Mr. Dunbar, the great advantage which every young man possesses, who is blessed with a liberal education: and it had been his intention, from the first, to give his son every opportunity in his power for acquiring information. But, in considering the son, he did not disregard his daughters.
Lloyd Hudson and Lawrence Dunbar were entered at college, for a four years' course, at the same time. They had grown up together as boys, and were pleased at the prospect of going through their higher studies together.
At college, the characters of the young men began to harden into more permanent forms than they had before assumed, and to show distinctive features. Home influences and precepts, uniting with hereditary tendencies, gave to each its peculiar modification.
During the whole time that they remained at college, the young men, though unlike in disposition, were particular friends, and often conversed together of their future prospects. One of these conversations, held only the day previous to their starting for home, after having completed their course, will give some idea of the difference which existed between them.
"There is no time to be lost now," remarked young Dunbar. Here we are, twenty years of age, and the study of a profession yet to be entered upon. You, strangely enough, talk of medicine."
"Why do you say, strangely?" asked Hudson. "There must be physicians, as well as lawyers and merchants."
"And so there must be cobblers and tinkers. You have talents and education, Lloyd, and if you properly apply them, will rise in the world. Every man should look to this."
"What do you mean by rising in the world?"
"Becoming rich and distinguished. At the bar, a man of talents and force of character, may rise to eminence in a few years. Eminence in the legal profession brings wealth as a necessary consequence. In mercantile pursuits, the same road to wealth and honor is open. But to what can a poor physician look forward?"
"There are many eminent physicians."
"Eminent for what? For making pills and plasters?"
"Eminent for usefulness," said Hudson, calmly.
"Usefulness!" Dunbar uttered this word with manifest contempt. "My ambition does not lie in that direction. I am not a 'saint'."
"To be eminently useful, is the highest distinction attainable. What are great wealth or brilliant talents, if not applied to a good purpose?" replied Hudson. "I will read you a passage in the last letter I received from my father on this very subject, to show you how he thinks — and I must own that I think with him." And the young man drew a letter from his pocket, and read —
"Having completed your collegiate course, your next step, my son, is to decide upon the calling you mean to pursue. In coming to this decision, let me admonish you to look well to the motives which prompt your choice. If you feel a selfish regard to your own advancement in the world — then struggle against and repress it! For, though by this you may attain wealth and a name, it will never bring you happiness, and that highest of all honors, the reputation of having accomplished some good for your fellow men. Have, therefore, in choosing a profession, regard to the good you may be able to do — as well as to the good to yourself which you wish to obtain.
"You have spoken of medicine. There are ways in life which lead more certainly to wealth; and there are avenues to distinction more easily trodden. But if your mind turns towards the medical profession, with anything like a desire to enter into it — I will not speak a word against your choice. You will find it an arduous calling, but one in which you can do much good; and one in which your own character may be purified and elevated. You will rise into eminence — true eminence — here, as well as in any other pursuit; for I know you have the required ability, and I believe you are not under the dominion of merely selfish purposes."
"All that is very good in the abstract," returned Dunbar; "but few, if any, can carry out in life the unselfish purposes from which your father expects you to act. It is not in us. Now, I think my father understands human nature, and the springs of human impulses better than your father does, and as you have given me the benefit of your parental suggestions, I will give you the benefit of mine;" and the young man drew a letter from his pocket and read:
"I have been weighing with great deliberation what you say about the choice of a profession, and, like you, am not yet able to decide which is best. At the bar, you will rise in the world, and gain distinction as a man of talents; while in mercantile pursuits, you will attain wealth and the elevation in society which its possession always gives. In either profession, if you are patient, sagacious, and persevering — your talents and education will carry you up to a high place. Now as to which of the two conditions is most desirable, I am hardly able to determine.
"Wealth gives great advantages and great power; while eminence in a profession like the law opens a wide field to ambition, at the same time that it ensures ample means, if not extensive wealth. When we meet, we will consider these matters together, and arrive at some certain conclusion. There is no time to be lost."
"Now, all that, I can understand," said young Dunbar. "But I must own that what your father says finds no response in my bosom. I suppose a doctor may be very useful to his fellows, but who thanks him for it, or even pays his bills, moderate as they may be, without grumbling? As for me, I don't see any particular pleasure that I would derive from devoting myself to the good of others, and especially in so slavish a calling as that of the physician. And it's my opinion that you will be sick of it before you are ten years older."
"As to that," replied Hudson, "I do not expect to find all plain sailing — let me adopt whatever pursuit I may. Medicine I incline to as a profession, though not because I can be more useful in it than I can be in any other; for every regular calling in life regards the common good, and in each and all of them, men may engage with unselfish motives; but because it suits my temper of mind, and I can see clearly how in the practice of it, I can attain the requisite external things I need, at the same time that I can be of great use to my fellows. As for the ambition to rise in the world to a distinguished position, of which you speak, I must own that I do not feel as strongly as you do, its impulses. That I shall rise just as high as I deserve, there is not the least doubt, and with this conviction, I am content to enter upon the life-toil that is before me, with patient confidence that all will come out right in the future."
"Too solemn a philosophy for me, Lloyd," returned Dunbar. "I feel the spurs of ambition already piercing my sides. I am resolved to rise in the world! I know that I possess the ability, and I mean to tax it to the utmost. As for other men's good, let them take care of that themselves. I shall seek my own, well convinced that if I do not, there will be no one to seek it for me."
"To regard the good of others, while we seek our own — is by no means a difficult thing," replied Hudson. "This is a truth which I have been taught by my father from the first. Indeed, he has ever sought most earnestly to impress it upon my mind."
"He is not anxious to see you rise in the world?" said Dunbar.
"Most anxious; for, he says, the higher I rise — the more extended will be my sphere of usefulness. But when he speaks of rising in the world, he means something more than the mere attainment of wealth, or honorable distinction in the eyes of men."
"What more can he mean?"
"No man truly rises in the world, he says, who does not overcome and rise above the evil and selfish passions of his nature. There is an internal as well as an external elevation; and the latter without the former, is, in his estimation, more of a curse, than a blessing. To rise internally as well as externally — we must regard the good of others as well as our own good, in all the acts of of our lives. Can you not see this?"
"Dimly — that is all."
"Even that is something."
"But it is altogether impracticable. A kind of Utopian philosophy — beautiful to look upon, but impossible to introduce into real life."
"Not at all, Lawrence. I believe that my father strictly regards the good of others in every business transaction!"
"He has that reputation certainly, and, I will believe, justly. I have heard my father say, that he was the most honest and unselfish man he had ever known. But, look at the result. Your father has attained neither wealth nor eminence, though a man of good mind."
"The reason is plain. Lack of education, and early opportunity. But we have just what he lacked."
"Well, Lloyd," returned Dunbar, "all that I have to say on this subject is, that if you have any fancy for this looking after other people's affairs — I have not. I think I shall find just as much as I can well do, in looking after and taking care of my own interests. My father has set his heart on seeing me rise in the world, and has sacrificed much to that end; he shall not be disappointed, unless the Fates are against me. I mean to rise. If I fail in my purpose, the fault shall not lie at my door."
"And I mean to rise also," said Hudson, in a calm, yet firm voice. "All these severe and prolonged studies which I have entered into and passed through, cannot remain unproductive in my mind. They will give me the power of self-elevation; and that power I intend calling into full requisition. What the particular result will be, I cannot tell, nor am I in any concern about it. That all will come out right, both in regard to myself and others, I do not doubt."
Law was finally decided upon as the profession for Lawrence Dunbar, and he was placed in the office of an attorney named Harker. At the same time, Lloyd Hudson commenced the study of medicine.
To sustain these young men for two or three years longer, required sacrifices to be made at home. The father of Dunbar had already unjustly deprived his daughters of many advantages, in order to provide for the elevation of the family through the eminence to be acquired by the son; and now he proposed that they should learn trades, in order to support themselves, and relieve him of the burden of their maintenance.
Ellen, who was a year older than Lawrence, and Mary, who was two years younger, accordingly went to learn trades soon after Lawrence entered upon his legal studies. The one became a cloak-maker, and the other a tailoress. Six months of apprenticeship proved sufficient to qualify Ellen and Mary to take care of themselves. After that time, they went out into families to sew, and were rarely at home except on Sundays. Although not fairly dealt by — the two girls did not murmur, nor was their affection for their brother at all diminished. In fact, the common purpose of the family was one in which Ellen and Mary took their appropriate share, and felt their allotted interest.
To Lawrence, was committed the task of elevating and giving to the family a name, and it was their duty, as well as pleasure, to aid in all ways possible. So they felt, and so they acted. The acquiring of a trade, and the maintenance of themselves, in order that the expense of supporting Lawrence, until able to support himself, might be the more easily borne — were not matters of necessity, so much as they were matters of choice, after the suggestion as to what would be best for them to do, had been made by their father. That is, Mr. Dunbar did not say that they must learn trades and support themselves; but merely suggested it, as a relief to himself, more heavily burdened with expenses than he could well bear. He well knew that a hint would be sufficient. Had he not, a command would have done what a word accomplished.
It did not take more than a year for Lawrence to rise high enough to feel superior to all his family — father, mother, and sisters; and to allude to the former as the "old man" and the "old woman." His fine talents and superior education made him a favorite with his legal preceptor, who took pleasure in introducing him to people moving in a much higher sphere, and into families where there was a degree of elegance and refinement far beyond what he had been used to seeing. He next began to be ashamed of Ellen and Mary, who were without any polite accomplishments, and degraded to the position of mere seamstresses; and this, too, when they generously supplied him with pocket-money out of their hard earnings!
At twenty-two, Lawrence Dunbar was admitted to practice. The attorney under whom his studies had been conducted, saw what was in him.
"We shall hear of that young man yet," he said, in allusion to his student, while conversing with a member of the profession on the day Lawrence was admitted to the bar. "He has got it in him, if ever a young lawyer had. Shrewd, acute, ardent, and ambitious; there is nothing in the way of his rising in the world. Ten years from this time, and he will be on the Bench, or in the Halls of Legislation."
"If not too scrupulous about the means necessary to be used."
"I believe him to be perfectly honorable, in the general acceptance of the term. No doubt he will look to his own interests. He would be a fool if he did not."
"Any man is. But, you know, there are some people who are troubled with very tender consciences, and who are exceedingly careful in stepping along, lest they tread upon somebody's toes. Of course they make but slow progress; if, indeed, two steps backwards are not taken to every one forwards."
"Dunbar, if I understand his character aright, is not troubled with any such tenderness of conscience. He will let people take care of their own toes."
"So I should think, from what little I have seen of him. Would you not do well to associate him with you in your larger practice? You have had his assistance so long, that I would think you could hardly do without him."
"Just what I have been thinking about. It would give him a chance, and really take nothing from me; for I have more practice than I can attend to properly. And besides, I feel a pride in the young man, and want to see him distinguish himself. His talents must not be hidden under a bushel."
In a day or two, the lawyer who had been his preceptor, said to Lawrence —
"Have you found an office to suit you?"
"Not yet," was replied. "I have seen two or three, but do not like the locations."
"You are still determined to commence your profession in this city?"
"Oh, yes. I have no ambition to be a mere country lawyer. I feel that I have talents, and I wish to give them an appropriate sphere."
"You mean to rise in your profession?"
"I do, in spite of all difficulties."
"Your progress will be slow at first."
"I am aware of that. But I have patience, and can 'bide my time.' I shall not be so foolish as to attempt to run before I can walk, and thus incur the risk of stumbling. But I will be content to creep, then walk, and afterwards run."
"Wisely resolved. Above all things, hold fast to the spirit of patience. Impatience clouds the mind, and leads, inevitably, to mistakes. In the profession you have chosen, you will need a cool head and a firm heart. The one you will find as requisite as the other."
"Of that I am convinced. Indispensable to success, especially in law, is a certain sternness as well as firmness of purpose. It will not do to give place to amiable weaknesses, or deferences to the feelings and interests of others. This would be to look back after having once grasped the plough. As for me, I am not made of such yielding stuff. My very life-purpose is to rise, and I mean to make all else bend to that purpose."
"Keep to this, Lawrence, and your success is certain. You have expressed right sentiments. Whoever looks to rising in the world, must lay aside what you have justly called 'amiable weaknesses,' and prepare, with a sternness of purpose, for the attainment of his ends. I have been thinking about you for a day or two, quite earnestly, and have finally concluded to offer you a share in my business, which you know is large, if you care about accepting it. In fact, I hardly see how I can do well without you. Associated with me, you would have the opportunity of at once coming forward in the argument of causes of great importance, and thus gaining public attention. How does my proposition strike you?"
"How else than favorably could it strike me? No hesitation or reflection is needed on my part. Without any statement of the terms of the association, I accept your proposition."
The terms which the lawyer proposed, and which were approved, were a fifth of the proceeds of his practice from the day a joint interest was arranged between him and his former student.
This arrangement made Lawrence at once independent of his family. The fact of independence, the moment it existed, brought the feeling of independence, and with this came a lighter estimation of the sacrifices that had been made for him, and the benefits received by him. Some time before this he had grown cold towards his sisters, whose lack of gentility and polite accomplishments made them, in his eyes, inferior and beneath him. Instead of devoting a part of his income to their maintenance, and to the completion of their defective education (especially in the case of his youngest sister, who had not yet reached her twentieth year,) he thought only of himself, and looked upon the money he was earning as one of the levers he was to use in elevating himself. He gave place in his mind to no "amiable weaknesses." He understood too well, what was due to himself.
When Lawrence Dunbar came home from college, he had very different feelings towards his sisters. He went with them into company, and was, to some extent, proud of them, for they were good looking, dressed with taste, and had as much intelligence as any of the young ladies with whom they associated. He had not yet seen enough of society to enable him to make the disparaging contrasts that arose in his mind a year later. Among the friends of his sisters was a young girl named Mary Lee, to whom Lawrence was introduced soon after he came home from college. She was an orphan, and lived with an aunt who had a small income. This aunt, who was much attached to Mary, had spared no expense that she could afford in the education of her niece, who was a very beautiful girl, and highly accomplished for one in her condition.
With this lovely and accomplished young creature, Lawrence Dunbar was enamored, almost at first sight. She seemed a worthy object of his regard, and one who would grace any social position to which he might attain. No very long time passed before he was so deeply in love with her, that words were scarcely necessary to assure the maiden of the fact. Her heart easily yielded. When he ventured to breathe the sentiment that was in his heart, tears of joy sprang into her eyes as a glad response. Though her lips uttered no sound, the young man read the looked-for answer in her countenance.
There were few purer or better hearts than that which beat in the bosom of Mary Lee. For so selfish and worldly-minded a man as Lawrence Dunbar promised to be, she was too good. Her love could never fix itself upon his moral qualities. It was the appearance of all excellencies of character which she saw in him whom she loved, and loved as deeply as if it were real, because she thought it real.
About a week after Mary Lee had heard from the lips of Dunbar the heart-thrilling confession of his love, she sat alone, near the close of a mild evening in June, with Lloyd Hudson, who of late had become more frequent in his visits. For Lloyd, she entertained a feeling of respect, amounting almost to deference. There was an air of thought, and deportment of sobriety about him, that while it did not exactly repel her — interposed between her and him a delicate reserve, which made their fellowship more polite than familiar.
On the occasion to which we refer, Lloyd was even more thoughtful and sober than usual. Something seemed to oppress him, and take away his ability to converse with even his accustomed freedom. At last, he took, suddenly, the maiden's hand in his, and before she had time to recover from the surprise occasioned by the unexpected movement, said —
"Mary, answer me frankly one question. Is this hand free?"
"It is not, Mr. Hudson!" she replied, withdrawing it from his.
"Not free!" he ejaculated with surprise, while the blood rushed to his face. "Can I have heard you aright?"
Mary Lee did not insult the young man by haughty and half-triumphant scorn. She was too generous, too kind in her nature, and felt too deep a respect for him to do that. Hers was not even coldness in manner, but a gentle, yet firm avowal that another had sought and won her love.
For days and weeks, for months and it might be said for years, did Mary remember at times, and with strange feeling, the look which the young man cast upon her, as snatching her hand and imprinting a kiss upon it, he turned suddenly away and fled from her presence.
Alone — amid books, mortars, vials, and the more startling appendages of a doctor's office — sat the young student, whose suit had been rejected. The volumes over which he had been poring were closed; the anatomical preparations laid aside; the theory and practice of medicine alike forgotten. He sat with his head bowed down; his whole attitude one of deep dejection.
"It is folly to give way thus," he said, arousing himself. "Her heart and her hand are already pledged to another, and can, therefore never be mine. How little did I dream of this! Sweet girl! How can I give up the dear hope of one day calling her my own! But it must be done. Who can be my fortunate rival?"
As this last sentence was uttered almost aloud, the door of the office opened, and his friend Lawrence Dunbar came in.
"What has come over you, Lloyd?" he said, as soon as he had looked into Hudson's face. "One would think you hadn't a friend in the world."
"I am not so badly off as that comes to, I hope; though I cannot say that I feel very bright. But you look as if you were in the best possible humor with yourself and everybody else."
"And so I am; and I have cause to be, Lloyd! I have something to tell you, as a friend, which I think will gratify you exceedingly."
"Ah! What is it?"
"I have wooed and won the sweetest maiden in the city."
"Yes, as young as I am — too young, as nine out of ten of our greybeards would say — I have settled that most important matter, and infinitely to my satisfaction. Now, who do you think the maiden is? You know her. Guess! You will approve my choice, I'll wager a sixpence."
"I cannot guess," replied Hudson, a sudden suspicion of the truth flashing over his mind, and causing his pulses to throb more quickly.
"It is Mary Lee!"
The utmost effort of Hudson was required to keep from betraying undue disturbance at this communication.
"Now don't you approve of my choice?" asked the friend, gaily. "Have I not shown taste?"
"I think you have."
"You think I have! Why don't you go into heroics about it, and say what you really believe. If you had come with a similar communication, I would have wrung your hand half off. She's a charming girl, isn't she?"
"Don't talk like a parrot! Can't you invent some expression of admiration?"
"She needs no praise from me, Lawrence," replied Hudson, speaking with gravity. "I have always looked upon her as the pride of her gender."
"Well, but gravely said. I think she will grace any circle into which she may be thrown — don't you?"
"I certainly do."
"Of course, I mean to rise in the world far above my present position. That, you know, I have settled long ago; and my wife must be one who can rise with me. It would not do to have a wife who felt more at home in the kitchen, than in the parlor; or who would not be a fit associate for ladies of any rank. I am much mistaken in Mary if she will not grace any circle into which I may be able to introduce her."
There was a something in the way this was uttered by Dunbar, which caused an indignant emotion to rise in the bosom of Hudson. He did not make a reply, and his friend went on.
"Of course, I must look to this. No matter how much I might have loved Mary, if I had perceived in her anything that led me to doubt her being able to support the dignity and character of a refined lady — I would have passed her aside."
"You are quite cool about the matter," remarked Hudson, with a slight manifestation of disturbance in his voice. He felt impatient, and could not entirely control himself.
"A cool head and a warm heart — that is my motto."
"Your head is cool, certainly," he said aloud.
"And do you doubt the warmth of my heart?"
"I didn't say so."
"But am I not to infer that, from what you do say?"
"I would not like to say that your heart was not warm, Lawrence; but I will remark, that your very cool head is apt to chill the blood so much, that the heart cannot restore it to a healthy temperature."
"As to that, I prefer a cool head, rather than a heart so warm as to soften the brains," replied Dunbar. "I go for cool heads, you know."
"And I prefer warm hearts," replied Hudson.
"Which makes the difference between us. A few years will show which is best. I will just say, however, in passing, as we happen to be on the subject and speaking a little freely, that I think your defect lies just were you have indicated it. Your feelings are too generous. Your heart is too warm. You think too much of others — and too little of yourself. This will not do, if you expect to rise in the world. All these amiable weaknesses must be laid aside as hindrances."
"If that is the price of elevation in this world — then I do not wish too rise," said Hudson.
"It is, you may depend upon it," his friend replied.
"A position that I must doubt."
"If you continue to doubt it, you will remain where you are."
"And I shall be content, if elevation is to be purchased at the price you name."
"You're a foolish fellow, Lloyd!"
"Time will show that. I expect to rise upon my system, as much as you expect to rise upon yours."
"Time, as you say, will show."
"I am willing to trust in time.''
"And so am I."
The sober mood in which Dunbar found his friend, was in no way congenial to his feelings, and he did not long oppress the young student with his presence.
"And it is upon him that Mary — sweet Mary Lee! has thrown herself away," murmured Hudson, when he was again alone. "He does not love her as I love her — he cannot! Ah, me! So the world goes." And he bent his head again down upon the table from which he had raised it when Dunbar came in.
It was some days before the young student could sufficiently compose his mind to resume, with anything like his former ardor, the study of his profession. That a change had passed over him, was noticed by all his friends, but no one knew the cause. His secret was locked in his own bosom.
After he had parted from Mary Lee, the maiden retired to her chamber, and sitting down with a sigh, fell into a deep reverie. As to what she thought and felt, we cannot say; but her face was not as bright and happy as it had been for many days before.
The fact of the engagement of Dunbar with Mary Lee soon transpired, and reached the young man's family before he had thought it proper to acquaint them with what he had done. To his surprise, he found that his father was by no means pleased with this step. He had no particular objection to the young lady, so far as matters personal to herself were concerned; but to her condition, he had a very decided objection.
"You have committed a most flagrant mistake!" he said, manifesting strong displeasure, "and have marred your future prospects more than you dream. A young man of any ambition is a fool to think of marriage before he is twenty-eight or thirty. He establishes his position first; he writes his name so high that all can read it, and then makes his selection of a wife from the hundreds whose hands are ready to grasp the one he outstretches. Six or seven years from this time, wealth and high connections may easily be secured by marriage. Lawrence! I thought better of you. What is Mary Lee? How will a marriage with her advance your interests in the world, or help to place you higher?"
Dunbar had never thought of this. For once, the warm heart had gained the advantage over the cool head. It was his first error of this kind — and it was the last. He did not argue the matter with his father, nor attempt to palliate what he had done. The mistake he had committed was too palpable at the first glance. A few words had made this as clear as daylight. Mary was poor; she could not, therefore, aid him in his upward struggle by the strong elevating power of wealth. She was humble and unknown, and could not advance his interests by connecting him with an influential family, or introducing him into a higher circle than the one in which he was moving.
After the interview with his father, for whose opinions he always had great respect, Dunbar felt sober. He acknowledged that he had indeed fallen into an error, even while the maiden's image impressed itself warmly upon his heart. That she was worthy to rise with him, he had been fully satisfied; but he had not yet advanced far enough in the world's selfish wisdom, to understand that there was a higher truth to be learned on this subject. His father's words revealed this to his approving reason.
"But it is now too late," he said to himself, as he sat dreaming over the subject some hours afterwards, with his law books open, but unread, before him. "The engagement has been entered into, and cannot be broken. All I can do is to make the best of it. Mary is a lovely girl, and worthy to be loved. I might get a rich wife — but none so good, none so pure, none so truthful. I must only struggle the harder. They shall see that I can rise, even in spite of this drawback."
These were his first thoughts and purposes. But the reflection of what he had lost, kept haunting him; and the involuntary contrast between Mary, portionless and unknown, and some beautiful heiress, highly accomplished and highly connected — kept arising and dimming the maiden's image which had been stamped upon his heart.
No very long time passed before Mary Lee perceived something in her lover that inwardly disturbed her. There was a change of some kind in him. He came as often, stayed as long, and uttered as many tender words — but still there was a change. He appeared the same, and yet her heart had an instinct that he was not the same.
The manner of old Mr. Dunbar, after the discovery of his son's folly, as he called it, was colder and more reserved than before. He was disappointed, and had lost, to some extent, confidence in his son. If, in the outset, he could commit such a fatal mistake, what surety was there for the future? "None at all," he said to himself. "He will start aside at every false allurement!"
About twelve months after Lawrence Dunbar had entered upon the study of law, his preceptor, who took a fancy to him from the first, paid him the compliment of inviting him to his house to spend an evening on the occasion of his having company. A little to his surprise, for he had not expected that, the young man found himself in a brilliant party, with beauty, fashion, and the evidences of wealth all around him. Mr. Harker, his patron, took pains to introduce him pretty freely, of which favor the young man judiciously availed himself. Among the ladies, there was an air of self-possession, elegance, and refinement, such as he had never before met. He regarded them with scarcely concealed admiration; and not without drawing contrasts between them and the unimposing, gentle, yet beautiful Mary Lee. The contrast was not favorable to his betrothed. He felt that she was inferior to the brilliant women who flashed around him; and that a marriage with her must retard, rather than accelerate, his upward movement.
From this party, Dunbar went home feeling both elated and depressed. He had taken a step upward, and this elated him; but the upward movement made him painfully conscious that there was a rope around his neck, and a weight attached to it.
"Why did I act with such haste? Why did I commit this folly?" he said, scarcely reflecting upon the import of his words. His true feelings had clothed themselves in true thoughts in a moment when he was off his guard.
Shame reddened his cheek, but did not silence the utterance within him. As yet, the thought of violating his marriage contract had found no place in his mind. That was a baseness still to be developed. He could regret the folly that had united him, by an honorable pledge, to one now considered below him — but the thought of violating that pledge, had not presented itself.
From this time, Mary was conscious of a change. The evidences were too palpable to be mistaken. Dunbar spoke to her of the party, and of the brilliant ladies whose presence graced it, with an admiration that caused, she hardly at first knew why, a feeling of soberness. To her, he was changed from that time; and with a consciousness of change, came a suspicion of the cause; for, in conversation, he sometimes betrayed enough of his real aspirations to reveal to her quick instincts, more than the truth.
Still, his visits were as constant as before; and his heart, when left to its own better impulses, was true to its first love. Months passed, and the young man's circle of new acquaintances grew wider and wider. Through the partial kindness of Mr. Harker, who omitted no opportunity for introducing his student to people of standing in society, he found himself gradually making friends and associates of an entirely different class to those he had been in the habit of meeting. Attractive as he had at first deemed Mary Lee, he was fated to see her attractions waning before more brilliant young ladies of a fashionable education, and fashionable habits and manners. Thus the sun of his love grew dimmer and dimmer, until it ceased to shine upon his heart with the radiant warmth of earlier days.
Mary appeared to change. He asked himself, sometimes, what there was about her that could have won his admiration. Her beauty was tame, compared to what he saw every day; and in mind, manners, and accomplishments — she was incomparably below dozens of young ladies of whose acquaintance he could boast.
At last, from being cold and reserved towards Mary, he began to neglect her. Weeks would sometimes be allowed to intervene between his visits. The thought of breaking his engagement with her, at first repulsed, was now seriously entertained; and as soon as entertained, reasons fully sufficient to justify the step were discovered. There were, of course, difficulties in the way, and he felt troubled. But there was too much at stake to give place to long continued irresolution. Before a year after his introduction into a higher circle of acquaintance had expired, his mind was fully made up to cast aside the loving heart which would have been true to him through life.
The youngest sister of Lawrence was much attached to Mary Lee, and met her frequently. It did not escape her eyes, that there was a change in her brother, and that Mary was unhappy. But the cause of that change had not occurred to her. That both her father and mother disapproved the selection which Lawrence had made, she was too well aware; but she approved it with all her heart, for she knew better than they did, and could better appreciate the virtues of his betrothed.
One evening Mary Dunbar called upon Mary Lee, and surprised her in tears. Drawing her arm about her neck, she tenderly inquired the cause of her affliction. Mary Lee tried to evade the question, but the sister of Lawrence, connecting the unhappiness of Mary with her brother, pleaded so strongly for her confidence, that she could not resist the earnest desire she had to utter what was in her mind.
"Lawrence is not what he once was!" she said, her tears flowing afresh.
"He is changed, but not to you, I hope," returned the sister.
"Yes, to me," replied Mary, after she had recovered herself enough to speak in a quivering voice. "I fear that he has ceased to love me. Weeks have passed since he was here."
"Yes, weeks. And when he does come, he is so cold and reserved — that his presence chills me!"
"Cold and reserved to you?" Mary spoke with surprise.
"And now, Mary," the maiden said, forcing down her feelings and speaking calmly, "have you any suspicion of the cause?"
"As I live, none," was the earnest reply.
"But I have."
"Then tell me, freely, what you think," said the sister.
"Either he is won by another, or — "
"Won by another, Mary! He is not so base as that. You wrong my brother!"
"God grant that I do! But he is changed to me, that I know. He has ceased to love me as he did; that, too, I know. As to the cause, it matters not, perhaps. Enough that I am no longer loved."
The face of the unhappy girl was pale, her eyes full of tears, and her lips quivering. Mary Dunbar did not reply for some time; for she did not know what to say. At last she looked up from the floor, and was about speaking, when a servant came to the door of the chamber in which they were sitting, and said that Mr. Dunbar was in the parlor.
"Know the cause this night, Mary," said the sister, rising. "Do not let him go without the fullest explanation of his changed manner towards you. I will retire; you need not mention that I was here."
The two friends parted, one to go home to her father's house and there await her brother's return, to whom she meant to speak freely as soon as she could see him — and the other to meet her estranged lover.
After parting with Mary Dunbar, Mary Lee spent nearly ten minutes in the effort to school her feelings so as to meet Dunbar without betraying the deep disturbance under which she was laboring. She then descended to the parlor.
"How do you do, Mary?" the young man said, as she entered the room, rising, and advancing do meet her. He smiled and extended his hand; but his smile was cold, and his manner constrained. Mary was equally cold and restrained. She allowed him to take her hand, but without returning the slight pressure he gave. Dunbar made no allusion to the fact of his not having visited her for an unusually long space of time.
"Have you been well, Mary?" he asked, in such a marked tone of indifference as caused a spot on the maiden's cheek suddenly to burn.
"Well, I thank you," she said, formally. Their eyes met, and remained fixed for a moment, then both fell to the floor.
"You do not look very well," remarked Dunbar, speaking with evident embarrassment.
Mary uttered no reply. There was a silence of some moments; then she said, with some firmness of tone —
"It is some time since you were here, Mr. Dunbar."
"Yes," he replied, "it is. About four weeks I think."
"A few months ago you did not allow so long a time to pass without seeing me." Mary's eyes were fully upon him, and their glance firm and penetrating.
"True," he replied. "I had more leisure on my hands then. But — "
The fixed look of the maiden, which seemed as if reading his very thoughts, disturbed him. He paused, stammered, and let his eyes fall to the floor.
"Lawrence Dunbar!" said Mary, in a quick, emphatic voice, "speak out plainly! There is, of course, a reason for your prolonged absence, and your present coldness. That reason, I have a right to know, and I claim an avowal of it now."
Lawrence still exhibited embarrassment, and made one or two ineffectual attempts to speak.
"You have ceased to love me!" said Mary.
"I — I — Mary. No. I — I can never cease to lo — love you. But — "
"But what?" The maiden's voice was quick and sharp, while her eyes, usually so mild in their expression, flashed with an indignant light.
"A marriage contract is a serious matter, and should not be entered into, except after the maturest deliberation. I see now that in the ardency of youth, I mistook mere passion for — "
"Lawrence Dunbar! Say no more. You are free, if that is what you want."
"I — I, Mary! Do not doubt that I loved you sincerely. But a wide interaction with the world, and — "
"Say no more! Say no more, in Heaven's name! I have told you that you were free!"
"But I would not part in anger, Mary. If I erred it was from weakness. Your beauty, your grace, your loveliness of charac — "
"Silence!" And the maiden, always so gentle and loving, stamped her foot imperiously.
"Silence! I will hear no more. Enough that you wish to be free. Go!" — her voice softened — "Go! And may you never feel — "
The maiden lost the self-control which, by a powerful effort, she had thus far been enabled to maintain. Her utterance was choked, and the tears came gushing from her eyes. Quickly turning away, she left her false lover alone in the room where their exciting interview had been held. Dunbar hurried from the house in no very happy frame of mind, yet feeling that a weight had been taken from his bosom. He was no longer betrothed in marriage to one who would have hindered his upward movement. He was free, and, even in his shame, rejoiced in his freedom.
When Mary Lee entered her own chamber, her face was ashy pale, her eyes almost fixed, and her frame quivering with agitation. She had just sufficient strength to reach her bed, and sink down upon it with a moan of anguish. It was after midnight before she arose from her prostrate position, and then it was merely to lay aside her outer garments, and sink back again upon the bed in helpless abandonment of feeling.
Instead of returning to the family with whom she was engaged as seamstress, Mary Dunbar, when she left her friend, went to her father's house, and there waited until her brother came home, which he did not long after. Her mind was made up to speak to him freely on the subject of Mary Lee.
"Can I say a few words to you alone, Lawrence?" she asked. And they withdrew from the rest of the family.
"On what subject?" the young man asked, as soon as they were alone.
"Mary Lee is the subject," she said, fixing her eyes steadily upon him.
The color mounted to his face as he replied —
"What of her?"
"You have not visited Mary for some time."
"You are mistaken; I saw her tonight."
"Though for the first time in several weeks. I saw Mary this evening also, and found her greatly distressed at your neglect and coldness."
"She will complain of it no more."
"Why?" quickly asked the sister.
"Because she no longer has a right to complain."
"Lawrence! What do you mean?"
"I don't know, Mary, that I ever gave you authority to interrogate me in regard to my actions."
"Though, by virtue of the love I bear you as your sister, I claim the right to do so in the present case." Mary spoke firmly. "It is no light thing, Lawrence," she continued, "to trifle with a young heart. Mary did not seek you. It was you that sought her; you that — "
"Mary," said the young man, interrupting her, "though I deny your right to question me in regard to my conduct, I will explain to you, although I have little hope of making you hear reason. My love for Mary Lee was a mere boyish imagination. She was bright and beautiful to my inexperienced eyes; and, in a moment of weakness, I committed the folly of asking her hand in marriage. Our father was justly displeased at this; and no very long time passed, before I saw clearly enough that I had done wrong, that a marriage with her would mar all my worldly prospects."
"How?" inquired Mary.
"To plod along in the humble sphere in which I was born, is not my intention. I mean to rise in the world as high, if possible, as the highest. Already I can perceive the upward movement. When I marry, therefore, I must choose one who can aid in my elevation. Wealth, high connections, superior education, and accomplishments — are indispensable. These Mary Lee cannot bring me, and, therefore, she can never become my wife. This is settled."
"Have you not entered into a solemn contract? Is not your honor pledged?" said Mary, in a deep, earnest voice.
"No contract exists, no pledges remain, I am free."
"And my brother has done this!" said Mary. "Lawrence, the day will come when, for this baseness — I can call it by no better name — when, for this baseness, you will repent. And this is your rising in the world! Oh! what a price to pay for elevation! Love, truth, honor — all trampled under foot. Faith broken — hearts crushed — hopes blighted. If this is the bud and blossom — what will be the bitter fruit?"
The young man was much disturbed. But, in his "upward movement," he had already begun to feel contempt for his humble, unaccomplished sisters, who had suffered wrong for his sake, and his spirit could ill brook a reproof from one of them.
"From this moment, Mary," he said, speaking with a contracted brow, and in an offended tone, "let your lips be sealed in silence on this subject. What I have done is done, and I do not repent. It was a strong trial, and I suffered in it. But the trial is past. The separation, good for both of us, has taken place. We shall not meet again, I think, for our ways are diverging; if we do meet, it will be as strangers. Good night!"
And the young man turned suddenly from his sister and left the room.
Even before Hudson succeeded in getting his diploma, Dunbar had come before the court in a case of great importance, and made quite an impression on the public mind. His argument was reported. On the day his report appeared in the newspapers, something brought to his mind his old friend and college companion, whom he had not met for nearly a year. He did not analyze very carefully, the feeling which induced him to look in upon Hudson; if he had, he would have discovered something like a desire to exhibit his rising greatness, and cause him to appreciate the contrast between them. He found Hudson engaged in preparing his thesis to be submitted to the professors of the Medical College at an approaching examination of students.
"Ah! How are you, my old friend?" he said, in a mirthful, off-hand manner, as he met Hudson. "I was passing through, and thought I would just look in and see if you were yet alive. What are you about? Haven't you graduated yet?"
"Not yet; but if fortunate, I shall have my diploma in a week or two," returned Hudson.
"And then I shall see what can be done in the way of making a beginning in the world."
"Do you expect to remain in this city?"
"I have not yet determined that question. It is probable that I may go South."
"More chance there for you, I would think. It is too healthy here. I truly believe there are as many doctors as sick people in this goodly city."
"Though not so many lawyers as rogues and scoundrels," returned Dunbar, with a smile; "therefore the more chance for you."
"Just it. The fact is, Lloyd," and Dunbar slapped the student upon the shoulder, "if it was not for the sins and iniquities of the people, I don't know what you or I would do. We should make great allowance for them, don't you think so?"
"We should do all in our power to lessen the amount of evil and suffering in the world." replied Hudson.
"And starve for our pains. If there were no cheating and roguery in the world — what would become of all the lawyers? and if there were no sickness — what would become of the doctors?"
"They would find some better employment, I hope. I am not afraid but that I would get along quite as well, if not better, than under the present system of things."
"I am very well satisfied as it is. By the way, did you see the report of my argument before the court, in the case of Holton vs. Nix?"
"Well, what do you think of it?"
"It was ingenious."
"Yes, ingenious in making the worse appear the better reason."
"The highest compliment you could pay me. We had the worse side of the case."
"So I perceived."
"And, in spite of it, succeeded in gaining for our client."
"And doing a great wrong!"
"I have nothing to do with that. My duty was to my client. I was bound to gain his cause for him, and I did so."
"At the expense of truth, justice, and integrity!"
"If you please to say so. That comes under the head of abstract morals. But with such abstractions, lawyers have nothing to do. We are bound in conscience to take care of our client's interests. He commits them to our hands, and honor and honesty demand that we should protect them by every means in our power."
"Not by unfair means," said Hudson.
"If your client's course is not sound — how can you sustain it by just arguments? You must divert the attention of the court from the true point at issue, and take advantage of every defect or error of your opponent to make his good cause appear a bad one. Here lies the test of a truly good lawyer. I see no great credit that a man deserves for gaining a perfectly plain case. Anybody ought to do that. It is in the bad cause which the lawyer shows his real power."
"And this is legal integrity!" said the student.
"No, Lawrence Dunbar, I will not credit it! The lawyer may be the guardian of rights, and yet remain true to himself. Believe me you have mistaken the true character of the profession."
"There can be but two sides to a question — a right side and a wrong side. And one of these a lawyer has to argue. If he is on the wrong side, how is he to do justice to his client and not violate what you would call legal integrity?"
"True," said the student, "there is, to every question in dispute, a right side and a wrong side; but where the right and where the wrong lies, is not so easily determined. What the lawyer has to do is to advocate or defend his client's rights, nothing more. This is his use in the community; and when he goes beyond it, he goes beyond what his client has a right to demand — or he a right to give. Depend upon it, Lawrence — and you must pardon my plain utterance of what is in my mind — the lawyer who permits himself to use unfair means to gain a client's cause, will not find it a hard task to continue his client's cause year after year, in order, if possible, to swell the amount of his fees."
"I don't know that you are far out of the way," was the young man's unblushing avowal. "In fact, that is done every day. I know a young lawyer who has yet had but two cases of importance, and he nurses them well, I assure you. They afford him a very comfortable support. Now would not he be a fool to close up these cases in a week, when it is the easiest thing in the world to continue them for a year or eighteen months? Do you blame him?"
"I do, for he is not an honest man!"
"He's not a saint, I will admit. But, as to honesty, there are different opinions about that. I, for one, don't blame him. If people are the fools to go to law, they must expect to lose some of their surplus feathers."
"Would you do so?"
"Certainly I would — and I am doing it. Mr. Harker, with whom I am now professionally connected, as you are no doubt aware, has a large business. He is a good lawyer, but never possessed the tact which some other men have of making the most of his cases. It will be my business to reform this, and I have already commenced it."
"Does he not object?"
"He? No indeed. He is pleased at it. Why not? It will put money into his pocket as well as mine. My interest in his business is worth now at the rate of two thousand dollars a year, but before a twelvemonth passes, I will make it equal to three thousand dollars."
"By nursing cases?"
"Yes, by that; and also by infusing more energy into all our business. I am bound to go up, you know. That is my ambition. If anybody is fool enough to bend his head for me to place my feet upon his shoulders — you will not find me hesitating about making good use of the opportunity. Do you blame me?"
"Yes, I certainly do."
"Because the means of rising that you propose to yourself, I do not believe to be just."
"It's the custom in our profession, and he who neglects to fall in with it, will be apt to remain in status quo."
"I must still doubt that. Had I chosen law for a profession, instead of medicine — I would have tried the honest course."
"And remained a poor devil of a lawyer all your life," said Dunbar, a little rudely. The plain words of his old friend had touched him a little, indifferently as he treated them.
"As to the result — I never think of that," returned Hudson. "I ask myself, 'Is it right?' and trustfully await the outcome. I feel that I have talents, and I believe that if we possess ability and use it faithfully for the good of others, we shall have our reward — if in nothing else, an approving conscience."
Dunbar tossed his head with a slight air of contempt, as he said —
"How soon do you expect your profession, conducted on your principles, to give you an income of two thousand dollars a year?"
"I don't know that it ever will."
"And can you be content with that, or less than that?"
"With whatever comes — I will strive to be content."
"And even say, thank God for nothing! if nothing comes."
There was something insolent in the young lawyer's manner which was felt by Hudson, and against which his fine spirit rebelled.
"One thing is plain," he said, speaking in a voice changed from its former tone, and looking somewhat sternly at Dunbar, "that you and I have different principles, and that these lead us in the present, and will lead us in the future — into different practices. There is no harmony between these principles — and therefore, can be no sympathy between us. It is therefore better, perhaps, that we should not meet — for we cannot meet as friends."
"As you please," said Dunbar, with an offended air, rising as he spoke. "I rather think I shall lose nothing. Good day!"
"Good day," returned Hudson, bowing with cold politeness.
And thus the two young men parted. They met for a brief season, but to sunder their friendship forever.
The day on which Lloyd Hudson was to pass his examination, was one of considerable interest and anxiety at home. Old Mr. Hudson, equable in temper as he was, found it impossible to fix his mind upon business, or to give it anything beyond the most formal attention. The mother and sisters spent most of the time sitting in each other's rooms, and talking of Lloyd. The girls — Martha and Ella — were expectant about the result; but Mrs. Hudson had her fears.
The usual dinner hour did not bring the young student.
"I thought it would have been all over before this," said Mr. Hudson, as they gathered around the table. "But the work of examination is, doubtless, slow. There is a large class this year."
"What if he should be rejected?" remarked the mother.
"We won't think that possible," said Martha. "I am sure Lloyd is well prepared. No one could study harder than he has studied."
"But to think of five or six learned professors examining a young student."
"That is one side of the case," said Mr. Hudson, "and the other is, that they will examine him on the very points they have taught him. They will ask him no questions, the answers to which they have not before given him over and over again in their lectures, and which he has not seen in books. I think we may safely believe that Lloyd is fully prepared for the trial, and will pass through it with credit to himself and honor to the school."
Just then the door was thrown open, and Lloyd walked in with a face whose brightness told the story of his success.
"All right, I see!" said the father, while his heart bounded as lightly as a boy's.
"Yes, all right, father," returned Lloyd. "The professors did me the honor to say that I passed the best examination of any who preceded me."
The mother and sisters could not restrain their joy, but starting from the table, expressed the gladness they felt by warmly embracing the son and brother.
"And now, my son," said old Mr. Hudson, as they were all together that evening, "having passed successfully through your long day of preparation for future usefulness in the world, the question as to the next step comes up. What are your thoughts in respect to the future? Have you turned your eyes in that direction?"
"I have thought a good deal of the future," replied the young man, but without arriving at any definite conclusion. Of course I wish to consult you on the subject. Up to this time I have been entirely dependent upon you for everything. This must now cease, and I must, hereafter, depend upon my own exertions, which, at first, will meet with but poor returns. The first thing to determine will be, where to locate myself."
"Where but in this city?" said the mother, quickly. "You will not go away from Philadelphia."
"A young physician has but a poor chance in a large city like this, mother," replied Lloyd. "I might sit in my office for years without getting practice sufficient to support me. But in some country town in the West or South, I will doubtless find an opening of sufficient importance to enable me to sustain myself."
"All that involves serious considerations," remarked Mr. Hudson. "As Lloyd says, he ought now to sustain himself; but if, in the nature of things, this cannot be done without too great a sacrifice, he must be sustained for a time longer. A practice in this city, if it can be made, will be worth securing, even at considerable cost, for in a city like Philadelphia, a physician of eminent abilities may rise into a much more distinguished position, and be much more useful, than he can in a small country town, where everything is circumscribed."
"I am afraid you overrate my ability, father," said the young man, with the modesty he felt. "Eminence in the medical profession in a city like this, is attained only by the few."
"By the few, my son, who, to good natural abilities, add untiring industry and patient thought. You may rise high if you will; but all the hindrances lie with yourself, and may be overcome. If you deem your studies at an end when you get your diploma, then you will not rise above a mere plodding physician, who is retrograding every year, instead of advancing. But, if you remain a student, and, year after year, add to your stock of information, at the same time that you endeavor to make all practical — eminence will come as a natural result."
"That I know, as yet, nothing, I am deeply conscious," replied Lloyd. "No one, therefore, can feel more sensibly than I do the necessity for continuing the study of my profession with unremitting assiduity; and not only of what directly appertains to it, but of all that has an indirect bearing upon it. As to the eminence, I am content to let that come, if ever it does come, as the consequence of well directed efforts."
"That is the true spirit, my son," replied Mr. Hudson. "Think not of eminence as the end of your exertions, but rather as a consequence which may or may not flow from them, but which, if it ever does come, will give you the ability to be more widely useful. If this is your spirit, I incline to the opinion that you had better remain in Philadelphia, where the field is wider, and the opportunities greater."
"But I cannot think of burdening you longer. It would not be right."
"It will be right if done in the right spirit, my son," replied the noble-minded watchmaker, who, though in humble circumstances, had a noble nature. "What we do should not be in sole reference to ourselves. Our acts ought to have some reference to the good of others. I believe that it will be right for me to help you for one or two or three years, until you are able to support yourself, for, thereby, you will the more surely rise into a high and useful position. The sacrifice on my part will be small, compared to the good attained."
The unanimous voice of the family was in favor of Lloyd's remaining in Philadelphia, and living at home as before. It would be better for him, in the end, to do so, he believed; but still, the thought of burdening his father weighed upon his mind, and kept him for some time undecided. When alone with him, his sisters urged strongly his giving up all thought of removing from the city. To Martha he said, about a week after he had received his diploma, and while the subject was yet in agitation, in answer to the question, "Why will you think of leaving us, brother?"
"Because I cannot make up my mind to depend upon father any longer. His business, I have heard him say, is not so good as it was; and, besides, he is growing old, and needs freedom from labor, rather than heavier burdens. I feel, sister, that it would not be just."
To this Martha did not reply for some moments. She, too, felt that her father's duties were too severe for him, and rather wished to see them lightened instead of increased.
"It is true what you say about father," she remarked. "He ought not to be more heavily burdened than he is, and he need not be. Ella and I have talked the matter over, and decided that we will take a few scholars and teach them music until you — "
"Never!" ejaculated the young man firmly. "I will not listen to such an arrangement."
"Why not, Lloyd?"
"You and Ella become music teachers for the purpose of supporting me, who ought to support you? No — no! Don't breathe it to me again. I will go South."
"My brother will hear reason," said Martha, calmly.
"There is no reason in that," replied Lloyd, impatiently.
"And why not? All agree that it will be best for you to remain here. The difficulty in the way, is the slowness with which a practice is acquired in a large city like this, and the inability of a young physician to support himself for a year or two. Ella and I, in love and duty, agree to do a certain thing, right in itself — as right as to practice medicine — in order to sustain our brother, a young physician, until he can sustain himself. Can he, upon any just plea, refuse to let us be co-workers, in affection, with him in his honorable elevation. Will he do violence to our love and sisterly pride? Will he abandon his home, because the voice of false pride is louder than the voice of reason and love? No! Our brother will not so lightly esteem our offering. He will not trample it under his feet!"
"Martha! Martha!" exclaimed the young man, "you must not urge me thus. You paralyze, instead of giving strength to my judgment. My sisters teach music — to support me! Away with the thought!"
"False pride, false independence, Lloyd. It is nothing else. We have the time and the ability; and whether you accept what we propose or not, whether you go or stay — we shall do as we said. Our father demands our consideration, and he shall have it. Long enough has he been burdened for our support. But, oh! how much sweeter would be our tasks, how much lighter our duties — if you would still consent to make home glad with your presence."
Martha spoke with great tenderness; and she saw that her words made an impression.
"Please say that you will remain with us, brother," she continued. "Home will not seem like home to any of us when you are gone. Do not be the first to break the circle, when no real necessity for doing so exists."
The young man was silent, yet much disturbed.
"I will think about it a little longer," he said, in an agitated voice. "At present I will only say, that this unexpected manifestation of affection by you and Ella has touched me deeply. May it meet its just reward."
"The reward is in your hands, brother. Do not withhold it," returned Martha.
"Be silent, sister. You throw my thoughts all into confusion," said Lloyd, in a tender yet rebuking voice. "How am I to decide as to the right course for me to take, when you bear down my feelings at this rate? I must think more about it. I think alone. What I conscientiously believe to be right — that I will do, and do it though all the world opposes."
"In determining what is right for you to do, I will merely say," remarked the sister, "that if you admit into your counsels any suggestions from false pride — your conclusions will be in great danger of having in them a tincture of error. If there is any bias of feeling, let it be given by love — and not pride."
"Father, I cannot! You may call it a weakness; I will even acknowledge that it is. But to let my sisters support me by hard labor, is more than I will permit. Let me go South. I will find some place where my services are needed. It will be better than to sit down idly here to wait for a practice that may be years in coming."
"Martha and Ella will do what they say, altogether independent of your movements, and I approve their determination. All of us should be usefully employed. They have the time and the ability, and are wise to give them both a right direction. But, independent of all that, here is a home for you. The burden of your presence, my son, will be far lighter than the burden of your absence. Do not go then. I shall be unhappy if you leave us so causelessly."
The reasoning of his father Lloyd had withstood, but could not resist an earnest appeal like this, made with a lip that trembled and a voice that had lost its uniform steadiness.
"Let it be as you wish," he said, in a low tone. "I trust that all will be right. If you feel the burden too heavily, you will say so. As quickly as I can, I will relieve you."
There were cheerful hearts in the dwelling of the watchmaker, when it was known that Lloyd had yielded, and was to remain.
An office was immediately secured, and Doctor Hudson put up his sign. He did not expect any practice at first, and, therefore, was not disturbed because he received none. Anatomy and surgery had attracted most of his attention while a student, and to the perfecting of skill in these, he gave the principal portion of his time and attention now. He attended all the hospital operations of consequence, and assisted the surgeons in the performance of their difficult and often dangerous tasks. His devotion to this branch of his profession, amounting almost to enthusiasm, did not escape the notice of those with whom he was thereby brought into contact. He was often alluded to by surgeons of high standing, when he deemed himself scarcely noticed by them.
One day the professor of anatomy in the school from which he had received his diploma, called upon him. It was nearly a year after he had opened his office, and at a time when he was beginning to feel discouraged about a practice. The professor soon made known his business.
"Doctor," he said, "our instructor of anatomy is not half so capable as you are, nor is he a great favorite. I would prefer you a hundred times, and so, I believe, would every student in the school. Now it so happens that he has been called away for a couple of weeks, and someone must be had in his place during his absence. I wish you to fill it. This will give you a chance to exhibit your superior skill, and so far make in your favor, that it will be an easy matter to have him displaced and you appointed in his stead, some few months hence."
"Excuse me, doctor," replied Hudson, "but I cannot meet your wishes under that view of the case. Dr. Somner is a good anatomist and demonstrates quite well. I would not, for the world, have him displaced to make room for me. If I rise — it must not be at the expense of another's downfall."
The professor looked astonished, for a moment or two, at this unexpected reply. He then said:
"I believe you are right, doctor. Forgive me for having made a proposition so repugnant to the honorable principles you hold. I see that I erred. My anxiety to have the very best talent in every department of our school, has led me to think of means not altogether as fair as they should be. Still, there must be someone to teach the class while Doctor Somner is away, and I know of none so capable of doing it as yourself. I must, therefore, beg of you to reconsider your prompt decision of the matter, and consent to serve the class for a couple of weeks."
"Indeed, Doctor," returned Hudson, "I cannot change the resolution I have declared. It would not be right for me to do so. I could not feel in any degree of freedom. Why did not Doctor Somner name someone to take his place?"
"So he did."
"Doctor Davidson. Just think of it! Why, I doubt if he remembers enough of his anatomy to tell the difference between a sinus and a foramen."
"You underrate him, doctor," said Hudson. "Davidson will give a very fair demonstration."
"And you, one a thousand times better."
"I doubt that. But, waiving this question, doctor, it is impossible for me, under the circumstances, to meet your wishes. The fact that Doctor Somner has named Dr. Davidson, settles the matter definitively. If, in any other way, I can serve the school, it will give me pleasure to do it."
"While I cannot but regret your decision, think as I will about it," returned the professor, "I must do you the justice to say, that I am constrained to honor your principles. Few men would have resisted the temptation. It would be better for the world, perhaps, if there were more like you."
When Hudson mentioned at home what had occurred, there was not one who did not express a warm approval of his conduct.
"It is only what I expected of you, Lloyd," said the father. "Be ever true to right principles, and you will be true to yourself. You need not be concerned about the outcome."
Two weeks from the day, Doctor Hudson received a visit from the professor of anatomy — that individual called upon him again.
"You are probably aware," he said, "that the father of Doctor Somner, a physician of large practice in Boston, is dead. It was his illness that made the absence of Somner necessary."
"Yes, I have heard it," returned Hudson.
"You may not have heard, however, that Somner is to remain in Boston, and take up his father's practice?"
"That intelligence has not before reached me."
"It is true, nevertheless. I received a letter from Somner to that effect yesterday. This morning, at a meeting of the Faculty, I made known his decision, and brought forward your talents and anatomical skill as fitting you in a peculiar manner to take his place. You were appointed without a question, and by a unanimous vote. Let me congratulate you on the occasion, as I have already congratulated the school. An honor has been worthily conferred. You can now accept the chair, and feel yourself fairly entitled to it."
"For your kindness — I feel truly gratified," replied Hudson, showing more emotion than he wished to exhibit. "I accept the appointment, and will endeavor to discharge the duties appertaining to it to the best of my ability."
"Which will leave us no cause of complaint."
"When am I expected to take charge of the responsibility?"
"Immediately. Doctor Davidson has already been informed of your appointment, and will give place to you after today."
"Very well. I will be at my post in due season."
Nothing could have happened more accordant to the young man's wishes than this. Besides giving his abilities full scope, it secured him an ample income, considering his habits of strict economy, as there were nearly a hundred and fifty students in the class, and the instructor's fee was forty shillings.
The first thing he did, after communicating his good fortune at home, was to insist that Martha and Ella should give up their scholars. To this, however, they promptly objected, as they had a large number of pupils, and were receiving more than five hundred dollars each per annum. The marriage of Martha to a worthy young man, a few months afterwards, settled the matter, however, as she was concerned; but Ella continued her useful and profitable employment.
"Too slow — too slow. I must go up faster. Harker gets the lion's share of reputation and profit. It is time there was some new arrangement."
Dunbar was alone, and walking uneasily about. Five years had passed since his co-partnership with Mr. Harker, and still his interest in the business was only a fifth, although by his efforts he had increased the practice and income of the office. True, he had accumulated about ten thousand dollars, which he was using in such a way that netted him from fifteen to twenty per cent, annually.
In the meantime, his sisters had married honest and industrious mechanics, and for thus degrading him — had been virtually disowned. He never even paid them the compliment of a visit, and if he met them by chance, treated them with chilling formality. Old Mr. Dunbar still kept his grocery, but the expense of sustaining his son for so many years had sapped the foundation of his business, and he now found himself involved in debts which he saw no hope of paying. Still he struggled on, without assistance or sympathy from his unnatural child, who, by the diversion of ten or fifteen hundred dollars from his own selfish projects, might have relieved his parent from a burden under which he felt himself sinking.
For some time, he had been dissatisfied with the share of profit he obtained in the business of the office. Harker, who felt a pride in his old student, had taken pains, from the first, to push Dunbar forward in all important cases; and by this means gave him prominence which, alone, he would not have gained for twenty years. This great advantage, with a fifth of the profits of the business, Harker had considered ample remuneration. His own expenses were very large; for both himself and family were expensive in their habits. While Dunbar, upon one-fifth of the practice, was saving at least two thousand dollars a year — Harker usually spent all he made, and was, in fact, notwithstanding an income of over ten thousand dollars per annum, a poor man.
"I think I can stand alone," Dunbar continued, uttering his thoughts aloud as he walked the floor of his office. "There are at least half a dozen of our clients of whom I am sure, and out of them, if I manage it right, I can get at least as much as the whole of my present income."
While thus meditating, a stranger entered, and asked if either Mr. Harker or Mr. Dunbar was in.
"My name is Dunbar," said the young attorney, bowing.
"Ah! Then you are the one I wish to see. I have a claim against a distant relative, involving a large amount of property, out of which I have for a long time been unjustly held, and for the recovery of which I have determined to appeal to the law. The terms I have to propose to counsel, are a fee of ten thousand dollars if successful — and nothing if unsuccessful."
Dunbar made careful inquiries as to the nature of the claim, and took two or three days for examination into its foundation and the law bearing upon it. He was satisfied from this investigation that the claim was, to some extent, founded in justice; and there were strong points in the case, which gave hope of a successful outcome.
In the course of his conference with the individual who wished to prosecute this claim, Dunbar found that he put much more confidence in his ability than he did in that of Mr. Harker, and once or twice inquired whether Mr. Harker would object to any legal advantage that it might be found necessary to take. A few days reflection decided the mind of Dunbar, and he said to his client, whose name was Malcolm —
"I have been for some time meditating a separation from Harker, and have, at length, determined upon taking that step. If you will defer the opening of this suite for a couple of months, I will be ready to undertake it myself, and prosecute it with undivided energy."
"Nothing could be more agreeable," returned Malcolm. "I will defer the matter as you suggest." And so it was deferred until Dunbar could arrange and settle all that appertained to his contemplated dissolution with his old preceptor, who received his proposition with astonishment. Nothing that Harker could say had any effect upon Dunbar. His mind was fully made up for a separation, and it took place accordingly.
From all that appears, this was an unwise act for Dunbar; but he had thoughts and intentions in regard to the new case, expressed to none. What these were, will appear in the end.
As soon as the young attorney launched from the shore in his own boat, he took up the important case that had been offered to him, and made a vigorous demonstration upon the party in possession of the property to be litigated. Of course there was a defense, which was entrusted, as he had shrewdly anticipated from his knowledge of the party concerned, to an attorney of tact and shrewdness, with principles just about as ethical as his own. The two legal gentlemen entered into close conference from the first, though to all appearances, they were almost as hostile as their respective clients.
Before commencing a suit, Malcolm, who had a small business, by means of which he was barely able to support his family, had made sundry efforts to compromise his claim. He had even offered to take a sum as small as thirty thousand dollars, although the amount in dispute was over one hundred thousand. But all such overtures were rejected. No sooner, however, was the suit commenced, and the terms upon which Dunbar had undertaken its prosecution known, than an offer was made to Malcolm to settle the matter by paying him the sum he had previously demanded. This fact, he immediately communicated to his lawyer, and asked if he had not better accept the proposition.
"Accept it?" returned Dunbar, with well-assumed surprise. "No! Nor even double the amount! Your case is as clear as noon-day. I have already stated it to two of our judges, and they agree with me that you have everything on your side. The very fact that an offer to compromise has been made, shows that the defendant's counsel has been acute enough to see the weak parts of his case, and to advise the course that has been taken. He's as timid as a rabbit, at any rate; and a mere old woman at the bar. I am astonished at his being employed in a case involving so much."
Thus assured, Malcolm declined the offer.
That evening the plaintiff's and defendant's lawyers met at the office of the former.
"Have you seen Malcolm?" was the first question asked.
"Yes," replied Dunbar. "He was here this morning."
"And wanted to settle the matter, I suppose."
"Oh, yes. He was warm at first, but I soon satisfied him that it would be folly to do so. I suppose you might induce your client to offer six or forty thousand dollars in order to get a clear title to his remaining property."
"Yes, I think that might be done. It will be easy for me to show him that the chances are two to one against him, if he permits the suit to go on."
"The easiest thing in the world. When do you see your client?"
"I shall see him early tomorrow."
"You think, then, that we might get something like thirty thousand dollars out of him?"
"Yes. But it will not do to let the matter be settled before some heavy costs are made to accrue, which Malcolm will have to pay off before he can begin de novo, after I throw you out on a demurrer, and which, of course, he will not be able to settle."
"That is all understood, of course. What I don't like in this matter, is being thrown out of the case on a demurrer, a circumstance that is never creditable to a lawyer. I may gain fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, but will not my reputation as an acute lawyer suffer too severely? I sometimes think it will."
"A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush. A chance like this does not occur every day."
"I am well aware of that."
"Money is power, you know. With plenty of money, you may set the world at defiance."
"But I don't call fifteen or twenty thousand dollars plenty of money."
"Though a very important sum in the process of accumulation."
"Yes, there is no doubt of that. I think," Dunbar added, after reflecting for some moments, "that some less apparent defect might be substituted for the one I have admitted, and which would not reflect so strongly upon my lack of legal acumen."
"And by doing so, jeopardize the result."
"I am safe for ten thousand, you know; and I am not sure that I ought not to be satisfied with that and the reputation success in this case will give me."
"If you were absolutely certain of success, then what you say has some force. But, of that, you are by no means sure. We have all the money on our side, and can oppose you with any required force of counsel; and even in the case of a decision adverse to our interests, meet all the costs, and go up with an appeal. You could not settle this matter in two or three years, if we give you battle in good earnest, as we certainly shall, and then the result is doubtful. None know better than you and I, how little calculation is to be made on the decision of Courts."
Dunbar did not reply to this; but sat with his eyes fixed upon the floor. His companion after a few moments, resumed —
"My fee in this case is to be five thousand dollars if successful, and one thousand if I fail. If I throw you out on the demurrer, and thus completely kill Malcolm, I will get my five thousand, of course. I can therefore afford, if we get thirty thousand dollars out of old Harrison, to let your share be twenty thousand, and take ten myself. How will that do?"
"It looks rather better, I must confess," said Dunbar; "and it shall stand so, if you can arrange all upon the terms proposed."
"I will accomplish it without doubt, unless I have mistaken my man."
This settled, the friends in iniquity parted.
Lawrence Dunbar was far from feeling easy in mind about this affair. Not that he was troubled by anything his conscience ventured to suggest, for that spoke in such low whispers that the words rarely arose to an audible murmur. But he was fearful lest he was playing too high. Two individuals, at least, would know him to be a scoundrel, and the knowledge of that fact, with indubitable proofs thereof, he did not think safe in anybody's hands. But the temptation had proved too strong for him, and he was committed to an extent that made it doubtful whether to retreat was not more perilous than to advance.
Thus it is that evil blinds her votaries. It is easy to walk in the plain path of rectitude; but few can tread the devious ways of the wrong-doer, without bewilderment at some point, and doubt whether to go forward or seek to retrace the steps that have been taken.
Five years had not passed over the head of Lawrence Dunbar without advances being made by him in certain quarters for the purpose of securing an advantageous matrimonial alliance. That was something of which he never for a moment lost sight. Three times had he met with signal failures; but a renewed effort, and in a new quarter, promised a somewhat better result.
A young lady named Henrietta Merton, said to be worth sixty or seventy thousand dollars in her own right, made her appearance in fashionable circles a few months before the time Dunbar thought it wise to dissolve the business relation that had for some years existed between him and Mr. Harker. Miss Merton was from Baltimore, and had come to live with a relative, a widow lady, residing in Philadelphia. About her personal appearance, there was nothing attractive; neither were her manners agreeable, nor her conversation intelligent and interesting. Two or three fortune hunters approached, as soon as her money-value became known, but there was something about her which instinctively repulsed them.
As Miss Merton was a near relative of a certain very distinguished citizen of Maryland, and had connections of standing and wealth in Philadelphia, her introduction into fashionable circles was direct. Dunbar was not long in finding her out; nor did he allow space for much hesitation before becoming her devoted admirer. The young attorney was handsome and agreeable; and everyone spoke of him as possessing talents of a high order that would inevitably carry him up to a distinguished position. His attentions were of the most flattering kind — and Miss Merton was flattered by them. The conquest was easier than Dunbar had expected. The lady's heart was won at the first assault. After having gained the prize, the lawyer began to think more seriously about the value, and to feel a desire to know something more certain on that head. Common report set down the fortune of Miss Merton at seventy thousand dollars. It might be more or it might be less; but to no prudent investigation ventured upon came any satisfactory answer. It would not do to press the matter too closely, lest, by some means, his affection for the lady's money instead of herself, should get wind and be breathed into her ears. The understanding in regard to her wealth was so general and decided, that Dunbar felt pretty well satisfied that he had gained a prize in the matrimonial lottery.
A more intimate association with Miss Merton, after the engagement had taken place, made Dunbar acquainted with points in her character which were by no means agreeable. She possessed a strong self-will; had very contracted views of everything, and was passionate in the extreme.
Whatever her money might do for him, it was soon clear to his mind, that, personally, she would reflect no light upon him in society. Take her all in all, she was the most uninteresting and unattractive woman he had ever known. To this conclusion he was reluctantly forced, in less than three months after his betrothment.
But from her, to her sixty or seventy thousand dollars, his thoughts would turn, and then he always breathed more freely. He was anxious for the time to come when that pretty little fortune would be fully within his possession.
"Add that to what I already have," he would sometimes say, "and I think I may not fear to shake my fist in the world's face and bid it defiance."
The young attorney would have named an early day for the marriage, but the lady was in no hurry. The ensuing spring, she thought quite time enough. It was then midsummer. Delicacy forbade his urging the matter, and so he submitted to lie out of her handsome fortune for six or eight months, with as good a grace as possible.
The lawyer of old Mr. Harrison called upon that gentleman on the morning following his interview with Dunbar.
"He has declined the proposition," said Harrison, as soon as the attorney appeared.
"Has he, indeed?"
"Yes. Here is his note, declaring it his intention, under advice of counsel, to prosecute the matter to a decision."
"He has good counsel, and will, doubtless, run us hard, though I by no means consider the case desperate. If a compromise could be effected, however, I cannot but think it would be the wisest for us to accept it."
"But how is it to be brought about?''
"Every man has his price."
"So I hold."
"And this Dunbar among the rest."
"No doubt of it."
"He is to get ten thousand dollars if he succeeds in establishing his client's right in the property you hold."
"So I understand."
"It is the fee, and nothing else, that binds him to Malcolm."
"Then you think Dunbar has a money-price."
"I am sure of it. Could anything but the money of Miss Merton tempt him into a marriage contract with her, which I am told has actually been formed."
"You must be in error," said Mr. Harrison, with a look of surprise.
"No, I believe not."
"With Miss Merton?"
The old gentleman indulged himself for a moment or two in an inward laugh or chuckle, and then said —
"Well, how are we to manage this sharp young attorney, who has arrayed his artillery in such a formidable style?"
"By paying him better for losing Malcolm's suit, than Malcolm pays him for gaining it."
"Aha! is that your game? And you think this can be done?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"You think he can sacrifice his client if so disposed."
"Oh, yes. By the introduction of some defect in his bill, he can put it in my power to throw him out of court on a demurrer."
"But that will not settle the matter. Malcolm can order him or some other lawyer to begin de novo with an amended bill."
"True; but before that can be done, the costs must all be paid. They may be made so heavy that Malcolm will find himself in no condition to settle them. Then, by executing what little he has, under an order of the court for the recovery of costs, we may break him up root and branch and so get rid of him in that way."
"You're a sharp set of boys," said old Mr. Harrison. "And I rather think a man's a fool to allow you to get him into your hands. If I'd paid this Malcolm the twenty-five thousand dollars he originally asked, I would have been wise. Now I shall think myself well off, if I escape with a loss of double that sum."
"I won't be so bad as that, I guess. I am very sure that an offer of twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars will completely silence all scruples of conscience that Dunbar may happen to have, and fully satisfy his avarice."
"Twenty-five or thirty, indeed! I agree with you that he has his price, and a pretty high one it is, by the way. He must be more reasonable than that."
"Shall I feel his pulse?"
"Oh, yes. It will do no harm to know how it beats."
"A precious set of rascals!" exclaimed Harrison, after the lawyer had left him.
"This Dunbar is the man I once heard Harker prophesy would rise in the world. And he is rising sure enough. At this rate of elevation, he will soon be out of sight of all honest men. But he's keen if he gets ahead of me in this affair. If I am not mistaken, I can play off a card upon him that he little dreams is in my hand. And as for my own keen attorney — I will take good care never again to venture on the ocean of law with him as my pilot. The man who would propose a bribe — would take one."
"I have felt his pulse," said the lawyer of Harrison, sententiously, as that gentleman entered his office, and leisurely seated himself, a few days afterwards.
"Well. How does it beat?"
"Healthily as we could wish. He is not adverse; but, as I supposed he would do, fixes his price high."
"He must have thirty thousand dollars."
"The devil he must! You did not go wide of the mark when you named the price that would buy him."
"No. It seems that I was correct. I thought I knew him pretty well."
"Then for thirty thousand dollars guaranteed to him in case we make good our defense through a flaw in his bill — he will so frame his bill as to leave room for a demurrer?"
"Yes. That is what he assents to."
"Very well; we understand him clearly. Now what is your opinion? Shall we pay him this large sum to give us the case, or shall we push on, and try to get it in spite of him?"
"I am clearly of opinion," replied the lawyer, "that we ought to plough with Malcolm's heifer, seeing that he is ready to bend his neck to the yoke. It will cost something, but it makes so much sure."
"Very well. You can arrange the matter with Dunbar. At the proper time, I will be ready to fulfill my part of the contract."
"He is not willing to act as proposed, unless he has the most ample security that the amount specified will be forthcoming," said the lawyer, slightly hesitating as he spoke.
"Ah! I suppose not," replied Harrison. "Let him name the security he wants, and I will see if I cannot satisfy him."
"Very well. That is all he asks."
"Tell him," said Harrison, "to be sure that the flaw in the bill is palpable. It would be folly for him to undertake the matter and not do it well."
"I will myself see to that," replied the lawyer.
"How soon will the case come up?" asked Harrison.
"The longer we can keep it off, the better."
"By that means we shall accumulate heavy costs, which will have to be settled before a new bill can be filed."
"Ah! Yes, I see."
"I hardly think we shall get an argument on the demurrer before six or nine months."
"So long? I wish it could be earlier."
"There is too much at stake to hurry the matter."
"True. I must leave all to your better judgment."
The lawyer and his client parted, each thinking that he understood the other fully; but both were a little mistaken in this.
Filled, by the positive assurance of his lawyer, with the hope of success, Malcolm, in a few months, became so much occupied with his suit that he neglected his business, which, at best, gave his family but a poor support. A large fortune was almost within his reach, and he could think of nothing but the near prospect of grasping it. What were the pennies, the tips, and the levies that came in so slowly over his counter, compared with property worth, at the lowest estimate, one hundred thousand dollars? No wonder that he felt contempt for his petty business, and neglected it.
Some time before the lawyers were ready to have the case called up for trial, Malcolm was beginning to feel sorely, the effects of his lack of attention to business. Several small bills had to lie over, thereby hurting his credit, and preventing him from keeping up a selling stock of goods.
Conscious that he was committing an error in allowing his mind to be so diverted from his business, Malcolm strove hard with himself to correct an error, but without effect. His eyes could not rest upon his own dry stubble-field — for looking at the golden grain waving in fields beyond.
At length creditors began to be urgent for their money; business grew worse and worse, and there was a prospect of a crisis in his affairs before any decision would be had upon his suit.
"Mr. Dunbar, I wish this matter hurried to an outcome," he said to his lawyer about six months after the suit had commenced. "If it is not, I shall be forced to accept Harrison's offer of twenty-five thousand dollars. I have more than half regretted fifty times since, that I hadn't closed with it."
"Are your circumstances so pressing?" inquired Dunbar.
"Indeed they are. There are three or four suits against me. I have the writs in my pocket. It is no use to defend them, for I have no defense to make. The claims are just. If I do not get relief soon, what little I have will go into the hands of the sheriff."
"That is bad," returned Dunbar, in a voice of sympathy. "But don't give up so easily, I can save your effects for you."
"What are your goods and furniture worth?"
"Two thousand dollars, I suppose. My stock has got very low. The fact is, I have thought so much about this suit against Harrison — as to neglect my business. For these financial embarrassments, I have only myself to blame. I was a fool, but couldn't help it."
"You think they would bring two thousand dollars under the hammer, if fairly sold?"
"I hardly think they would bring that under the hammer."
"Two or three hundred, then?"
"O yes; readily."
"Very well. I will lend you three hundred dollars on your note on demand. This will make me your creditor. You can then confess judgment on the note, and I will issue an execution and sell you out by the sheriff before anyone else can get a judgment against you."
"Sell me out by the sheriff!" exclaimed Malcolm, with a look of surprise. "What difference will that make? It is this breaking up, root and branch process, that I wish to avoid."
"That is just what I want to do for you. I wish to save you. You don't understand, I see, the nature of an amicable sale by the sheriff."
"No, I certainly do not. Never having had anything to do with that gentleman, I am not familiar with all his proceedings."
"I will explain. By the laws of this State, no assignments of property for the benefit of particular creditors are legal. But by the same laws, the creditor who can first get out his execution sweeps off everything, provided his claim is as large as the proceeds of the property sold. This enables a debtor to give precedence to whomever he pleases by a confession of judgment. Of course there must be a sale of the property, but then it can be conducted in such a way as to attract very little attention. Leave the thing in my hands, and I will see that even your next door neighbor shall not know it. Of course, I do not mean to touch your property. My object is to secure you in its possession."
"But there must be public advertisements and handbills?" said Malcolm.
"I know. But the advertisement can be inserted in some country paper where no citizen will ever see it."
"But the handbills? To make it legal, they must be posted."
"Granted. But the law doesn't specify the number. Two will answer."
"It certainly requires them to be put up in public places."
"Very well. The sheriff's office is a public place."
"It can be seen there."
"Not if the face is to the wall; or if someone pulls it down in half a minute after it is put up. The law requires the bills to be put up, but doesn't say how long they shall remain up."
"A bell will have to be rung, and a bill put up on the premises."
"Yes. But the bell can be rung in the alley at the rear of your house. Or a few strokes of it made on the opposite side of the street, and no one be the wiser for it. As to the bill, the poster, who understands all this, will put it up a little after daylight, when there is no one in the street. Before he is out of sight, it can be torn down by a person employed for the purpose. For fifteen or twenty dollars, all this can be managed to a charm."
"I never heard of this before," said Malcolm, opening his eyes with astonishment.
"It is done every day," replied the lawyer.
"The men about the sheriff's office understand it all perfectly."
"Still, if anybody buys the goods, they must be delivered."
"That doesn't follow. You can get a friend to bid in everything in my name. He must bid very low, so that the entire amount of sales shall not exceed three hundred dollars. After that, I will settle all with the sheriff, and you can go on as before. The sale can take place in the room back of your store, and even your wife upstairs need not know it. All you have to do will be to furnish the deputy-sheriff with a correct list of what is to be sold. You can call a whole row of shelves a lot, to be struck off at a single bid, and he will go through all the forms of a sale in a low voice, and the clerk and customers in your store will be none the wiser."
"And that's the way it's done!" said Malcolm. "I have often wondered how people who were broken up root and branch, managed to retain their furniture, for instance."
"It is by the aid of friends, through an amicable sale."
"I did not expect this act of kindness from you, Mr. Dunbar," said Malcolm, now recollecting the deep obligation under which the lawyer was placing him. "When it is in my power, I hope to make you feel that I am grateful. What is done must be done, I suppose, immediately."
"Yes. For if it is not all over before judgments are obtained and executions issued by those who are suing — some trouble may be given, although the sale could not be prevented."
"I am ready to have the matter as speedily arranged as possible."
"Very well. If you will draw me a note on demand for three hundred dollars, I will hand you my check for that amount. Tomorrow, when you will call, the confession of judgment can be made. Things will go on smoothly enough after that. Leave it all in my hands. I can manage these underlings of the law to a nicety. In due time I will notify you how to act."
The thing proposed by the lawyer was done. Malcolm was quietly sold out by the sheriff — and Dunbar got legal possession of all the goods in his store and furniture in his house.
"I think I shall be able to manage him now," he said to himself, with a cold and heartless sneer, "should he prove troublesome. Harrison will hear no more from him after this suit is lost. What fools some men are!"
After the sheriff's sale had taken place, Malcolm tried to fix his mind more intently on his business, but he found this almost impossible. The argument in his suit against Harrison was to come on at the next term, only two months off, and his anxiety about the result kept his thoughts in such a continued state of excitement, that he injured rather than benefitted his business by whatever was done to advance it.
One day he called upon Dunbar, to ask how the matter was progressing. He found the lawyer looking very serious.
"How do things look now?" he asked.
"Bad, I am sorry to say."
Malcolm turned pale.
"What is the matter?" he asked, anxiously.
"The defense has filed a demurrer to our bill."
"The defense has taken exception to a trifling informality, upon which we may be thrown out of court. It is the merest trifle in the world; but it is a lawyer's business to make a mountain out of a molehill, and Harrison's counsel is good at that work."
"And what then?"
"It is impossible to say what then."
"Can we not begin again with an amended bill?"
"Not unless all the costs that have accrued are paid; and they will be heavy."
"It is impossible now to tell. I shall immediately prepare an answer to this demurrer, and have it argued at the earliest possible day. I have strong hopes of satisfying the court that it is a very unimportant informality, in no way affecting the main question, and thus secure a hearing on the bill itself."
"And if successful in this, what is your opinion now as to the result on the main question?"
"Not quite so favorable as it was," replied Dunbar, with some gravity. "The defendant has some strong points to urge, and will bring forward proofs to substantiate his title, which we had no idea were in existence."
"Indeed!" Malcolm's face had a look of blank astonishment.
"I am sorry to find that it is so. They are working hard to defeat us, and will leave no stone unturned. Harrison, you know, has all the money on his side, and money is powerful."
Poor Malcolm went home feeling most wretched. Up to this point, all his expectations had been of the most expectant character. Now his hopes were dashed to the earth, and he saw not only the golden harvest he had expected to reap left, in all probability, for the sickle of another — but his own unfruitful field in danger of passing out of his possession.
"Fool that I was!" he muttered to himself, as he walked home from the lawyer's office. "I should have taken Harrison's offer, in spite of Dunbar!"
"Why not take it as it is!" said his wife to him, after he had mentioned to her the new aspect assumed by the case, and expressed again his regret at not having compromised when it was in his power.
"Sure enough! I will see Harrison this very hour. He offered fifteen thousand dollars. Two will have to go to Dunbar, I suppose; but that will leave us fifteen thousand dollars, and upon this we can make a fair start, and get on very well. Yes, I will see him at once!"
"Do. It is your best course. I have no faith in these lawyers. When a man once goes into their hands, they snap their fingers at his judgment."
"True enough. Yes, I will see Harrison and take his offer."
Old Mr. Harrison was sitting in his counting-room, looking over a newspaper, and feeling in a pleasant state of mind, when his relative, who had commenced a suit in the hope of dispossessing him of his property, entered. The brow of Harrison contracted the moment he saw him. Malcolm felt embarrassed, but entered at once upon the business of his visit.
"I have concluded," he said, "to accept your offer to compromise this suit."
"The devil you have!" returned Harrison with a sneer.
"You made the offer some months ago, and I declined under advice of counsel, although my own wish was to accept it. Now, I have determined to act upon the dictate of my own judgment, and without consulting him."
"You are too late, my friend," replied Harrison. "Your case isn't worth that!" snapping his fingers. "As far as right is concerned, you have no more claim upon my property — than I have upon that of John Jacob Astor. To save trouble and vexation, I was willing to buy you off at your own price; but you refused to take your own stipulation, and now I mean to stand the outcome. I suppose you are aware of the beautiful position in which your lawyer has placed your suit before the court?"
"I am aware that your lawyer has taken exception to the terms of the bill; but I am not at all sure that the court will attach any weight to these exceptions. But, even if our bill is thrown out, it is an easy matter to amend it, and begin again."
"Not so easy as you may imagine. I happen to know all about that. I rather think, after we settle you on the demurrer, that we shall hear no more about your claim."
"Then you will not compromise?"
"No, not for half the sum you name!"
"Good day," said Malcolm, turning quickly away.
"Good day," and Harrison lifted his newspaper, and resumed its perusal.
In due time, the argument on the demurrer took place, and the court decided against the bill as informal. Malcolm was present during the contest, and could not help being struck with the weakness of his own counsel's position and arguments, and the tact, force, and ingenuity of the defense. He saw, before the matter was submitted to the court, that he would have but little chance; and he was not deceived.
After the decision had been made, he called to see Dunbar, in no very happy frame of mind.
"You must begin again," he said, peremptorily. "They never would have stopped at a demurrer, if they hadn't been afraid to try the case on its own merits."
"Are you prepared to settle the costs?" asked the lawyer, cooly. "Because there is no beginning de novo until that is done."
"How much are they?"
"Somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred dollars."
"It is too true. The defense has done everything in its power to accumulate costs, and they are heavy."
"Fifteen hundred dollars!" Malcolm's face was pale, and his lips trembled. "Then all is, indeed, hopeless! Mr. Dunbar!" he resumed, with some energy, after a brief pause, "in simple justice you ought to pay these costs, and resume the prosecution on an amended bill."
"Ah! And why so?" There was something insulting in the attorney's manner, which aroused the feelings of his client."
"You are to blame for losing the suit, and, in common justice, should make good what your ignorance or neglect has lost!"
"Ignorance or neglect!" exclaimed Dunbar, his face instantly suffused. "Do you know whom you are addressing?"
"I think I ought to know by this time," returned Malcolm, who was fast losing control of himself. "I am talking to a lawyer who has lost me an important suit, through a flaw in his bill, of which the merest legal novice would be ashamed."
"You will repent this," said Dunbar, setting his teeth closely together. "I never pass by an insult from friend or foe."
"I can never repent knowing you more bitterly than I now do."
"You are mistaken," coolly replied Dunbar, who had regained his self-possession. "You will repent it far more bitterly."
There was something so full of meaning in the way this was uttered, that Malcolm was startled by it. At that moment he remembered that all he had in the world, could be swept from his possession in a moment by the lawyer, whose property, by virtue of a sheriff's sale, it really was. Conscious, at the same time, of the folly of provoking a man who had him so fully in his power, he withheld the insulting retort that was on his lips, and turning away abruptly, left the office.
Malcolm was sitting in his store on the next day, brooding over his unhappy condition, when a sheriff's officer came in, and informed him that Dunbar had ordered a sale of everything in a week, and that the store must be immediately closed, and the key delivered into the officer's hands. Remonstrance was of no avail. The order was imperative, and the officer executed a portion of it by closing the windows and doors with his own hands. As the family could not leave the premises forthwith, a watchman was stationed in the store and dwelling to see that nothing was removed.
For a few hours, Malcolm was completely paralyzed. He saw himself hopelessly ruined, and his family reduced in a single moment to poverty. After the first shock had subsided, his mind again became active, and indignation at the conduct of the lawyer set him to thinking whether it were not in his power to circumvent him. Not being able to hit upon any plan, for Dunbar was holding him as if with the grip of a bear, he determined to consult a lawyer, muttering to himself as he came to this conclusion —
"Fight dog with dog! It's the only way."
So with a fee in hand he went to a lawyer and stated his case.
"He's got you in his power, certainly," the lawyer said; "but as the sale will not take place for a week, you might have some things removed. There would be no injustice in this, for his claim was only three hundred dollars, and your goods, you say, are worth at least fifteen hundred, all of which are legally his."
"But he has a sheriff's watchman on the premises."
"Indeed! That is bad. Still, the thing can be managed, though it must be done adroitly. What kind of a man is the watchman?"
"A good-natured Irishman, who can never get done expressing his sympathy for me."
"He's short and stout, and fifty years old, at least?"
"I know him very well. There will be no great difficulty in managing him. He goes home to his dinner, I suppose, about twelve o'clock."
"Yes, every day, and is gone an hour."
"Very well. At eleven o'clock tomorrow, ask him to go out with you and get something to drink. He will go. Manage to keep him at the tavern until after twelve o'clock, and then he will go home for his dinner instead of going back to your house. That, you see, will give you two hours. Previous to this, you must arrange with a friend to come with a furniture wagon or two, while you are treating the watchman, and remove some of your most valuable things to where Dunbar will never find them. This can be done every day, until little remains behind of any value. Of course you will take care to diminish the show of goods as little as possible, so as to give the watchman an excuse for not seeing what is going on."
"You don't mean to say that he will understand the game we are playing?" said Malcolm.
"Certainly I do. A sheriff's watchman is no fool, whatever he may seem to be. Of course you will put a dollar or two into his hand before you retire with your family, and leave him in full possession, saying to him that it is but a just remuneration for the consideration he has had in making his presence so little offensive to yourself and family, when it might have been far otherwise."
"And you really think all this can be done?" said Malcolm, scarcely crediting the lawyer's affirmation.
"Certainly it can, if you choose to carry it through."
"Choose!" ejaculated Malcolm. "I think I will choose. The cursed villain! I would go through fire and water to circumvent him. He knew he was about losing my case, and his fee into the bargain, and he thought he would get something out of me for his trouble."
"You do just as I recommend, and you can save nearly all your goods and furniture."
"I will follow your advice to the letter," replied Malcolm, as he shook the lawyer's hand, and hurriedly left his office.
"Another trick of the profession," he said, to himself as he walked homeward. "Nothing like misfortune to make a man acquainted with the subtleties of law, and the rascalities practiced in its execution!"
When Dunbar came to sell the goods and furniture of Malcolm, he realized, after paying all fees and expenses, one hundred and sixty-five dollars! When he demanded this sum from the sheriff, that officer showed him a rule of the court in favor of Malcolm's landlord for one hundred and fifty dollars, amount of rent due. So the lawyer got fifteen dollars for his three hundred!
While the events detailed in the last few chapters were progressing — the time for Dunbar's marriage with the wealthy Miss Merton was drawing near. A handsome house was taken in Arch-street, at a rent of eight hundred dollars per year, and furnished at an expense of nearly ten thousand. The young attorney had a great idea of style, and was anxious to make an impression on the public mind. The fact that he was rising in the world, he wished all to know, and he thought that with one hundred thousand dollars, he could make quite an impression. The one hundred thousand dollars was to be made up by his future wife's fortune, his share of the thirty thousand dollars to be received from Harrison for betraying and ruining his client, and by what he had already accumulated.
The wedding occasion was to be celebrated by a large party given by the aunt of Miss Merton, at which the most fashionable people in the city were to be present.
Long before this period, Dunbar had removed from his father's house as too obscure and humble for one of his standing, and for three or four years boarded at a large hotel in Chestnut-street. He did not go home very often, and when he did, there was something in his manner that affected his parents disagreeably. Evidently he felt as much contempt for their low condition and ignorance — as he felt pride in his own elevation.
In thinking of the large wedding party to be, and of the crowd of great and fashionable people who were to be there, he could not help feeling unpleasant at the idea of having such plain, common-looking people present as his parents, and especially under the acknowledgment of bearing so important a relation to him. As to his sisters, they had degraded themselves in his eyes, and he had no thought of inviting them and their "vulgar husbands." He was under no obligation, he felt, to do that.
"You will, of course, be at the wedding," he said to his father and mother, about a week before the event named was to take place. His tone belied his words. If he had said," Of course you will not be at the wedding" — the words and tone would have been in true correspondence.
"I suppose we ought to be there," replied old Mr. Dunbar, a little coldly, "I hardly think there are any who have a better right."
"You will invite Ellen and Mary," said the mother.
"I can't invite them, without inviting their husbands, and I certainly shall not introduce them to my friends as brothers-in-law."
"And why not, please?" asked the father, with some sternness of manner.
"Low, vulgar mechanics — among the first people of the city? I must beg to be excused." And the young attorney drew himself up proudly.
"They are honest and honorable men; characters not too plenty even among your first people, as you call them." There was an indignant expression in the old man's voice.
"I don't care what they are, father. They occupy one position — and I another. I never approved of my sisters marrying them, and never will. I never intended to have any interaction with them, and never will. That matter, I settled long ago. I shall not invite them to my wedding, nor insult Mary and Ellen by inviting them alone."
"You are an unnatural brother!" said Mrs. Dunbar, speaking with great warmth. She could no longer control her indignant feelings. She well knew the worth of Ellen and Mary, and the excellence of the men they had married. From both she received, at all times, the most affectionate attentions, while her son Lawrence had, for years, treated her with neglect or ill-concealed contempt.
"You may think of me as you please, mother," replied the young man, in a light insulting manner. "But I know what is due to myself and to my standing in society, and shall not be tempted to forget it. It is no fault of mine, that my sisters degraded themselves."
"Silence!" exclaimed the old man, sternly, "I will not hear language so false and insulting. They have not degraded themselves. They cannot! Better children than are Mary and Ellen, no parents ever had. I wish we could say as much for our son, for whose sake they were deeply wronged. To elevate you, Lawrence — they were depressed; and now you spurn them with your foot contemptuously. Truly have you risen in the world — risen above all that is just, noble, and honorable! Thus is our folly, thus is our injustice to those good girls, your sisters, repaid!"
"If you can receive me at home in no better spirit, I shall remain away." This was said coldly and deliberately.
"Cockatrice! Leave!" said the father, passionately.
Lawrence Dunbar turned suddenly on his heel and left the house.
"That was too harsh, father," said Mrs. Dunbar to her husband, as the tears fell slowly over her time-marked face.
"I don't know. Such language from a child stings worse than the fang of a serpent. I could not bear it."
"He will hardly come home again."
"Let him stay away then. His visits have never been frequent nor pleasant. He has come in mere shame at his neglect whenever he has come, and rarely went away without insulting us in word or manner. Our hope was that he might rise in the world, and we denied ourselves and wronged our daughters, that he might have the fullest opportunity; and thus he repays us!"
Old Mr. Dunbar did not see that the fruit of his son's mature life, was but a legitimate growth from seeds he had at first planted in his mind. He had been taught to look at eminence in the world as an end, and not as the means to a higher end — usefulness to mankind. The son was to rise; but he was not taught that discrimination as to the means of rising must be used. The end was the main thing, and whatever means were considered favorable to its attainment, were adopted without a moment's hesitation. But he did think of Mary Lee, and how different it must have been, if she had become the wife of his son.
The mirthful wedding took place without the presence of a single member of Dunbar's family. The interview with his parents had disturbed the lawyer a good deal, but, upon the whole, he was not sorry it had occurred. If the old people were going to hold on to his sisters and their husbands — then a separation would have to take place at any rate, and the earlier, he felt, the better.
Among others present at the wedding was Mr. Harrison, who had been able, just three days before, to throw Malcolm's case out of court by means of the defect which Dunbar had purposely left in his bill. The latter observed, with some surprise, that Harrison was on the most intimate and even familiar terms with his bride. On inquiry, he was found to be an old and intimate friend of his bride's father, and her legal guardian. This surprised him more, and did not make him feel altogether comfortable. On the very day before, he had received thirty thousand dollars from Harrison, for playing false to his client, he had given the old man a receipt, the tenor of which he thought peculiar, but which Harrison insisted upon having before paying the money. It was as follows:
"Received of Malcolm Harrison, the sum of thirty thousand dollars in full of all demands, past, present, and to come, it being understood that the parties know each other too well ever to venture upon any new transactions. Lawrence Dunbar."
Dunbar thought, that in case any new transactions should ever occur, he could take good care to get the pay before any service was rendered. The receipt was made less objectionable than one expressing the true nature of the transaction would have been.
"Of course I owe you nothing now, I never shall owe you anything," said Harrison, as he folded the receipt and placed it carefully in his pocket. "If, at any time hereafter, you should happen to stumble upon a claim against me, don't think of presenting it, for I pledge you my word, if you do, that I will shake this receipt in your face and bid you defiance. The day may come, young man, when you and I will know each other better — or rather when you will know me better than you now do. As for you, I believe I understand your character pretty well, and cannot refrain from telling you that I think you the most vile scoundrel I ever met."
"I will not compliment you so much as to be angry at that fine speech," returned Dunbar, with great composure. "As far as scoundrelism is concerned, I apprehend that we stand somewhere upon the same level."
A bright spot burned instantly on the old man's cheek, but he did not lose his self-command, and merely answered —
"Time will show that," and waived the lawyer to retire.
The discovery that this man was the guardian of his wife, could not, in the very nature of things, be very agreeable to Dunbar. It caused, instantly, sundry ugly suggestions to arise in his mind, that by no means added to the joy of his wedding night.
"Thank God that she is off my hands," said old Mr. Harrison to his wife, as they returned from the festive scene, "and that she has another guardian."
"You've had trouble enough with her," returned the wife.
"Yes; and but for her father's sake, I would have been tempted long ago to place her property in her hands, and have nothing more to do with her."
"Her husband appears like a very fine young man."
"She's quite as good as he is. I think them well matched."
"Suppose he should, by any means, hear of her improper conduct. Would not the consequence be bad?"
"He can't hear much worse of her, than she can hear of him. She never was guilty of direct impropriety of conduct that could touch her moral character, although there is no telling what she would have done, had there not been, always, the most careful guardianship over her. If we had not brought her to Philadelphia when we did, I'm afraid she would have been lost!"
"It's a relief that she's married, certainly."
"Isn't it; even if only married for her money, which I hear her husband sets down at seventy thousand dollars."
"He'll find himself mistaken!"
"Won't he! As bitterly as ever a man did."
So much for the prospect of happiness in the married life of Lawrence Dunbar.
We must now glance back for a few years, and bring up the history of other characters in our story.
As instructor of anatomy, Dr. Hudson soon stood high in the school of medicine in which he had been chosen to occupy that position. All who came in contact with him, were as much struck with his extreme modesty, as with his wide intelligence on all subjects nearly or remotely connected with his profession. As an anatomist, he was seen to be greatly in advance of his predecessor, and to his demonstrations, the class even paid a closer attention than they did to the lectures of the professor himself.
To surgery, Hudson gave a large share of his attention. Before he had been six months in the school, he performed one of the most difficult operations known in medical annals. A report of this was made by a professional man who was present to one of the newspapers, from whence it was copied into the several medical journals of England and America. The notoriety which this case gave to Dr. Hudson, brought him immediately before the public, and established his reputation as a surgeon. From that time, his practice began to assume some importance; and although very young for a surgeon, he had a number of very important cases entrusted to his care.
The temptation to use the knife Hudson found, as all young surgeons do, very strong. But he set it down as a rule, never to use the knife where there were hopes of a cure without it.
"The surgeon's skill," he would say," does not lie so much in the use of the knife — as in his ability to cure without its use. The knife is only a last resort."
The number of cures that he made of cases upon which he was called to operate, without the "last resort," endeared him to many who had shrunk with terrible fear from the knife. They were, ever after, his fast friends, and spoke of him on proper occasions in the warmest manner.
A rapid increase of practice was the natural consequence of this. His youth and modest demeanor, prejudiced many against him as a physician; but none who once employed him, wished to give him up; for they felt, after seeing him a few times in the sick chamber, that he not only understood what he was about, but was governed by highly conscientious principles in the discharge of his professional duties. There was a sphere of goodness, as well as intelligence about him, distinctly perceived by all who came in contact with him.
From that time he began steadily to rise externally, as he had been rising internally since the period when, in freedom and reason, he took charge of himself as a man.
The heartless abandonment of Mary Lee by Dunbar, involving a shameless violation of the marriage contract, was a fact well known to Doctor Hudson, and was in his mind when, on his last meeting with the rising attorney, he intimated his wish that their friendship should cease. Notwithstanding he found the heart of Mary in the keeping of another when he applied for her hand, Hudson could never cease to feel towards her, as he felt to no others. All hope of her ever becoming his wife, had been abandoned; but still her image remained, and in dreams she came to him with her loving voice and gentle smile.
More than a year passed after the abandonment of Mary by her false lover, and in that time Hudson had not once met her, as she went into company very rarely. He heard her sometimes spoken of as much changed.
The rising reputation of Doctor Hudson extended his circle of friends, and gained for him introductions into a grade of society rather above what he had been used to. To say that he was altogether at home here would be an error, as he felt, for a time, a degree of restraint which took away the pleasure of social interaction. In the society of ladies, especially young ladies, Dunbar had been free almost to rudeness; Hudson was chargeable rather with the opposite extreme. Wherever he went, however, he made the most favorable impression, for it was only necessary to be in conversation with him for a short time, to recognize a mind of superior order, tempered and subdued by the nicest sense of honor — honor in its truest acceptation — and humble views of himself.
We do not mean that the refinements and elegancies of life that he met with in this higher grade, were repugnant to him. But they were what he had not been used to; and therefore, he felt, for a time, an unpleasant restraint, and a fear lest he should ignorantly violate some mode or form deemed essential to polite fellowship. It did not take him very long, however, to feel at ease, for he was a gentleman from principle, and soon understood that there was little danger of his going wrong.
Many bright eyes looked upon the young physician, and many sweet lips wreathed in smiles for him. But no eyes appeared so bright as those of Mary Lee — no face so full of innocent loveliness as the remembered face of the sweet maiden who had captivated his young affections.
As time went on, and success, at first so far in the distance, and seeming as if it would never approach, was no longer a matter of doubt — Doctor Hudson, instead of withdrawing himself from his family, was more drawn into it. His oldest sister was married to a very estimable man, a clerk in Market Street, and his youngest sister still continued giving instruction in music. He made it a point to go with Ella into company, whenever it was practicable to do so, and to attend her to places of public amusement.
One night a concert was given at the Musical Hall, by a celebrated violinist, and Hudson mentioned to a young physician during the day his great desire to hear the performance.
"Suppose we get tickets and go," was replied.
"That is what I have thought of doing," returned Hudson.
"I propose that we invite the Misses Harling to go with us. They are charming girls, and extravagantly fond of music. I can take Kate — and you Flora. It's just the opportunity for improving our acquaintance, and making it more familiar. You know their attractions are of a most substantial kind."
"I intend going with my sister," replied Hudson. "She is quite as fond of music as they are, and will enjoy this concert exceedingly."
"Your sister! Indeed!" The young man thought a moment, and then said —
"I believe you are right, doctor; and I will profit by so good an example, and take my sister. The fact is, we young men are too indifferent about our sisters. I stand reproved, and thank you for the reproof."
It gives me pleasure to hear you speak so, doctor," said Hudson, warmly. "As you say, sisters are too much neglected by young men, who, instead of making them their companions, seek companions anywhere else, and leave them at home, or to go with young men of whose characters very often they know nothing."
"It is too true, and I confess myself guilty of the fault. But I will mend it from this time, and go to see the Misses Harling on some other occasion."
This young physician rose much higher than he had stood before, in the estimation of Hudson. His name was Baldwin. He had a fair practice for so young a man, and was generally well esteemed. Hudson's love of anatomy and surgery attracted Baldwin, and his good qualities made him seek his friendship. While he admired his talents, he highly esteemed him as a man.
The tickets for the concert were bought, and Ella gladly accompanied her brother, for whom she had the tenderest and most confiding affection. They had not been seated long in the concert room, before Hudson noticed Doctor Baldwin enter unaccompanied by anyone. He came down the aisle, and seeing Hudson, near whom was a vacant seat, came and sat down in the bench just before him, turning round and bowing as he did so. His eyes rested on the face of Ella for a moment or two, and were then withdrawn. In a little while he leaned over towards Hudson, and said —
"I am not so fortunate as you. My sister happened to have an engagement."
He then looked at Ella, and again at Hudson, as much as to say, "Why don't you introduce me?"
But Hudson, although prepossessed in his favor, did not yet know him well enough to be willing to make him acquainted with Ella, and therefore gave him no introduction.
Many times during the evening did Doctor Baldwin turn around to speak to Hudson, and on such occasions he made it a point to obtain a good look at Ella. When she made any remark to her brother on the performance, his ear was bent towards her, and strove to take in every word.
"She's a sweet girl," he said to himself. "I had no idea that Doctor Hudson had a sister like that. No wonder he takes her to concerts. Confound it! Why doesn't he introduce me? I'm sure I've asked him to do so, as plain as looks can ask."
Not long after the performance commenced, Hudson happened to turn his eyes to the side of the room, when they rested upon a young, somewhat pensive face, and a pair of dark blue eyes, fixed earnestly upon him. The face was as familiar as that of his own sister, yet not until he had withdrawn his eyes from something fascinating in the gaze of this person, did he remember who the lovely stranger was. No, we will not say stranger either, for it would not do to call Mary Lee a stranger.
The eyes of Hudson again turned towards the maiden who had captivated his young affections. She was still looking at him, but beneath his earnest gaze, her eyes drooped slowly, until their brightness was veiled by her long dark lashes. She did not lift them again for some moments; when she did so, Hudson withdrew his gaze, and forced himself to look at the performer, although he scarcely distinguished a note of his music for fully five minutes at least. Then he could not refrain from a glance at Mary. She, too, was looking at the performer, but in a little while she turned her head, and their eyes again met. Hudson noticed what he thought a slight flush upon the maiden's face; but he was not sure. Many times during the evening, their eyes met in the same way, although Hudson tried to prevent it, and she evidently did the same. But somehow or other, they were not successful. How it was with Mary, the young physician did not know — but in him the concert was an unintelligible jumble of musical sounds.
Doctor Hudson slept but little that night for thinking of Mary Lee. He recalled the fact of his having applied for her hand and tried to remember her exact look, tone, and words, when she informed him that her affections were pledged, with her hand, to another. Nothing of personal dislike had been manifested, but rather kindness and respect. As for his own feelings, they had never changed.
On the next evening, after having thought about little else during the day, Hudson determined upon a visit to Mary, and if his reception were such as to encourage him to do so, to renew the offer he had made some two years before.
Slight embarrassment was exhibited at the meeting on both sides. But both soon recovered their self-possession, and entered into a pleasant conversation. More than ever, was Hudson charmed with the sweet girl. He asked her to sing and play for him, and she played tunes that she had often played for him, and sang favorite songs that she had sang for him in other, but well-remembered days. All the warmth of the young man's old passion returned. Before he left the maiden that night he had, a second time, made the offer of his love, with a much more favorable result.
In two years from the time Doctor Hudson was appointed to the instructor's chair, his income from practice and the school had risen to twenty-five hundred dollars per annum. This was amply sufficient to make the step of marriage a prudent one. Already had his family received Mary Lee as his future bride, and already was she loved by his mother with a tenderness nearly equal to that felt for her own daughters. All were happy in anticipation of the joyous event, which was celebrated at the house of Mary's aunt, in the presence of a small company whose warm hearts were full of the sincerest wishes for the future happiness of Doctor Hudson and his lovely bride.
A few medical friends, for whom he entertained a high respect, were invited by Hudson to be present. Among these was Doctor Baldwin, who made it the occasion of getting better acquainted with Ella, to whom, a short time before, he had gained an introduction. He was charmed with her intelligence, good taste, good sense, and right modes of thinking and expression.
"With your permission, doctor," he said to Hudson a few days afterward, "I must follow up my acquaintance with your sister. I was really charmed with her. Pardon me for making so free as to say so."
"Ella is a very good girl," replied Hudson; "but whether you would find her society as attractive as you suppose, is more than I can tell. You are aware, I presume, or perhaps you are not, that she is engaged in teaching music, and has been for some years?"
"No, I was not aware of that," said Dr. Baldwin, evincing a slight degree of surprise.
"Yes," said Hudson, calmly. "She considers it right to support herself, and does so."
"Then it is more a matter of principle than necessity?"
"It is now, though it was hardly so at first. But as I have spoken of it, I might as well tell the whole story. You have asked to become better acquainted with Ella, and I will afford you the opportunity. My father, who is, as you are already aware, a watchmaker, understood well enough the advantages of education to give me every opportunity in his power. He sent me to college until I was twenty years of age, and then supported me while I studied medicine, which was for two years longer. As soon as I got my diploma I proposed going South, knowing but too well, that if I remained here, in the effort to get a practice, I would have still to burden my father, who could ill bear it. But to this, not a single member of the family would listen. My father said no — my mother said no — my sisters said no. But I was firm. I could not believe it just any longer to depend upon my father, who was getting old.
"Seeing that I was unmoved by all that could be urged, my good sisters proposed teaching music as a means of adding to the income of the family, and thus enabling me to remain without its bearing so heavily upon my father."
"Noble girls!" ejaculated Dr. Baldwin.
"But I rejected the proposal instantly. Pride, or something else in me, took fire at the idea of my sisters teaching music to support me. I would not hear of it. They said that it would make no difference whether I remained in Philadelphia or went away — that their minds were made up to take music students and support themselves; and affirmed that music teaching, so far from being disgraceful, was quite as honorable as practicing medicine. Upon this, my father, who had only reasoned with me before, approached me on the subject with such a moving appeal, and such exhibition of feeling, that I could no longer resist. I remained. The girls commenced giving lessons, and, no matter how much they affirmed to the contrary to save my feelings, supported me for a year, when I received my present appointment. Since then, my oldest sister has married, and Ella continues her professional duties, and has students in some families where I have patients. I have long urged her to give them up; but she says that she is usefully employed, and is happier than if she were idle."
"You're proud of her, doctor, aren't you?" said Baldwin with enthusiasm.
"I love her," was Hudson's feeling reply.
"And well you may. The earth bears but few like her upon its surface. I must know her better, doctor, with your permission, as I said before."
"We shall all be happy to receive your visits, doctor," replied Hudson. "You will find us plain people, but with hearts, I trust in the right place."
"I believe you. The fact is, doctor, you have taught me a good many lessons, from which I have profited; and you teach me still. That expression of yours, 'hearts in the right place,' is full of meaning. We are too apt to look at the exterior, and to judge mainly from that. But our first effort should be to find out whether the heart is in the right place or not."
Doctor Baldwin did not make it long before he formally visited Ella at her father's house. The more intimately he knew her, the more was he charmed with her loveliness of character, and captivated by the natural grace of her manners. There was a time, and that not very long before, when he would have smiled at the idea of visiting the daughter of a mechanic. His father had been a merchant, and, in dying, had left his family with a moderate income, that was found, with the exercise of some prudence, to be fully sufficient for their support. Baldwin had two sisters — one married, and the other, about the age of Ella, unmarried. They had been well educated, and used to the elegancies of refined society. Nearly all who are thus raised, have certain false views of social life, something more or less artificial and conventional about them: and this was the case with the sisters of Dr. Baldwin, as well as with most of the young ladies he had happened to meet. Ella Hudson, with equal refinement of feeling, intelligence, and true accomplishments, was so independent in matters of right, so free from everything false, affected, or merely conventional — that he almost wondered at, while he admired her.
"The best specimen of a woman I have yet seen," he said to himself, after a few familiar visits, "and if she and I don't know each other better, it shall not be my fault."
And they did know each other better, and were better pleased with the acquaintance, the more intimate it became. The result was an offer of marriage, which the maiden, well pleased, accepted.
Doctor Baldwin was by no means sure that his family would approve his choice. In fact, he expected objections when he announced the fact of his engagement to the daughter of a watchmaker, unless he could manage, by some means, to get them acquainted with her before they understood the relationship existing between them. This, however, was a matter not likely to occur, as their spheres of association were altogether different. As the sister of Doctor Hudson, she would stand a little higher; but then Doctor Hudson himself had not yet emerged far enough from obscurity, to reflect much respectability upon his sister, especially while she, pursuing her own independent course, continued the exercise of her profession as a music teacher. One day Dr. Baldwin called with his sister to see a young lady acquaintance, who moved in fashionable circles, and who had rather more false pride, false notions, and contempt for what she was pleased to call vulgar — than usually falls to the lot of even fashionable people. While they sat chatting with her in the parlor, the street door bell rang, and the young lady said —
"My music teacher, I presume."
Baldwin and his sister arose.
"Oh, sit still — sit still. She can wait," said the young lady. "It doesn't matter at all."
"Who is your teacher?" asked Miss Baldwin.
"Miss Hudson. Do you know her?"
"No, I never heard of her."
"She's the daughter of old Hudson, the watchmaker."
"Is she a good teacher?"
"Yes, one of the best lady-teachers in the city."
Just then the door opened, and the subject of remark entered the parlor. Doctor Baldwin bowed to her familiarly as their eyes met; and she, smiling brightly, bowed also, and then passed quickly into the back parlor, where she seated herself near the window, and taking up a book, bent her head over it with her face so turned away from the company in the other room, that they could not see it. For a moment or two Baldwin, who was taken all by surprise, debated the question whether he should introduce his sister to Ella or not; but he wisely decided that it was not a fitting opportunity, and could be only attended with unpleasant consequences.
The familiar way in which Baldwin and her music teacher had greeted each other, rather surprised the young lady, and caused her to look wonderingly at the doctor for an instant. The sister, too, thought it strange.
"Do you know that Miss Hudson?" she asked, as they walked homewards.
"Yes, very well," he said.
"Indeed! How do you know her?"
"She is the sister of Dr. Hudson, whom you have seen once or twice at our house."
"And he's a son of the old watchmaker, is he?" There was a slight expression of contempt in the young girl's voice.
"He's the son of as honest and honorable a man as ever lived, and is himself an honor to the profession, and will one day be among its brightest lights."
The brother spoke warmly.
"And through him, I suppose, you got acquainted with the sister."
"Rather say, in spite of him, for he was in no haste to introduce me."
"Why did you wish to be introduced?"
"Because I thought her a charming girl."
"A music teacher, and the daughter of an old watchmaker! Why, brother! What has come over you?" There was marked contempt in the sister's voice. "What would Miss Elbert think of this?"
"What difference to me would her thoughts make? None, I assure you. Ella Hudson is far superior to Miss Elbert in everything. There is no comparison between them!"
"Edward, are you crazed?" exclaimed the sister.
"Far from it, Clara. I was never more in my right mind than I am now; and never more in earnest. I have for some time wanted to talk to you on this very subject, but no fitting opportunity before occurred."
"About what subject, brother? I am all amazement!"
"About my preference for Miss Hudson."
"No, not preference — regard."
"No. — Love."
Astonishment kept the sister mute for some moments. Then she said, appealingly —
"Surely, Edward, you do not think of subjecting your family to such a deep humiliation."
"No, sister, certainly not. The old watchmaker's daughter will reflect honor upon any family whose name she bears; for she is one among a thousand."
"Oh, Edward! what will our mother say? How will our mother feel?"
"Clara," said the brother, speaking seriously, "is there anything wrong, abstractly, in being a watchmaker?"
"I did not say there was."
"Or in teaching music?"
"No; not wrong."
"May not a watchmaker be as much a gentleman as a physician?"
"I suppose so."
"Then, in the fact of being a watchmaker, there is nothing that should make one man less esteemed than another man, no better than he is, who follows a profession. Both are useful employments, and so far as they are concerned, he who most faithfully and honestly discharges the duties of his calling, and his social and domestic obligations — is the best man, let the world think and say what it pleases. And not only the best man, but the best friend a man who wants one can choose. So much for the watchmaker. And the same may be said of the music teacher. I don't know that there is any greater honor in receiving musical instruction than there is in imparting it. The general impression is, that the preceptor is superior to the scholar, just in the degree that knowledge is considered superior to ignorance."
"But that doesn't show that you ought to go below your own sphere in society and marry a music teacher, Edward."
"In marrying, sister," replied Baldwin, "a man takes a companion for life, and, therefore he should select one whose qualities and character are of a substantial kind, and promise to last through life. Don't you think so?"
"Certainly. Everybody admits that."
"Very well. Suppose I, for instance, see two ladies, for each of whom I feel a preference above others, and wish to select one of them for my wife. One, I find, has been raised in what is called the best society; the other in what is called an inferior grade. Both are equally well educated; or, if there is any difference, it is in favor of the latter. The former has many conventional ideas of right and wrong, and is governed more by them than she is by her own clear sense of propriety: she is very apt to hesitate before doing a thing, and ask the question, What will people say? or, What will be thought of this? The other is free from mere conventional trammels, and is governed in all her acts, by her own clear intuitions. She does not hesitate before she acts, except to ask, Is this right? Will this injure another? Now, admitting each to possess equal personal attractions, which of the two ought I to choose? Which would make me the most faithful and sustaining companion in the journey of life?"
"The latter, of course," replied the sister without hesitation.
"But, Edward, you draw a case that has no counterpart," urged Clara.
"There you are in error. It has its counterpart. Ella Hudson is as far superior to any young lady that I ever met in fashionable circles. As for Miss Elbert, she is far less refined, lady-like, and accomplished than Ella Hudson, and far less worthy the love of any man."
"You speak strongly, Edward."
"I do; and I mean all I say. Come, sister! lay aside a weak prejudice which is unworthy of you, and consent to go with me and be introduced to this excellent young lady. You must know each other, and the sooner it takes place, the better. I shall need your aid in breaking down our mother's prejudices, which have no better foundation than yours."
Clara was silent. The last appeal of her brother had bewildered her mind. If what he said of Miss Hudson were really true, her natural good sense told her that Edward was right. But the prejudices of society were strong in her mind, and caused it to turn with unconquerable repugnance from the idea of intimate companionship with a music teacher, who was the daughter of a poor watchmaker.
"Will you go with me to see her, Clara?" asked Baldwin.
"Why should I do so?" she replied.
"Have I not said?"
"Surely, brother, you do not mean what you say."
"I surely do, Clara. Already there exists a marriage contract between this charming woman and myself. Before long she will hold to you, the relationship of sister. Know her, then, that you may love her as a sister. Know her for yourself, that you may rightly appreciate her worth, and aid me in introducing her to our mother's regard."
Clara was too much surprised, and, in fact, confounded, to know what to do or think. As to calling upon Ella, she was not prepared for that. She wanted time for reflection. Her natural repugnance to doing so, was very strong.
As soon as Doctor Baldwin and his sister had retired, the young lady upon whom they had called to make a morning visit, went into the back parlor and said to Ella, who was still bending over the book —
"I'm ready for my lesson now, Miss Hudson."
Ella laid aside her bonnet, and went to the piano with her pupil.
"You are acquainted with Dr. Baldwin," said the latter.
Ella replied by a simple affirmative.
"Where did you meet him?"
"At my brother's wedding." Ella's manner expressed her wish that no further questions on that subject might be asked. But her superior and better bred pupil, paid no regard to that.
"Your brother, Dr. Hudson? Ah! yes. Whom did he marry?"
"A Miss Lee."
"Lee! To what family did she belong? One of any note in the city?"
"I never felt interest enough in the subject to ask," replied Ella, rather coldly. "She was an orphan."
"Then you don't like her very much."
"Don't like her!" Ella's bright eyes were instantly in the face of her questioner. "I could not love my own sister better!"
The young lady felt the rebuke. She would have been as passive to all impressions as marble, had she not.
"I suppose you have never met Miss Baldwin?" she said, after a pause.
"She was with him this morning."
Ella made no answer; but there was a warmer place upon her cheek. No more was said upon the subject.
When Ella Hudson went home that afternoon, after having given the various lessons required of her for the day, she had some different thoughts in regard to what she ought to do, than had before obtained a place in her mind. It occurred to her, that the position in which she now stood to Dr. Baldwin, made it incumbent upon her to have some regard to his feelings, as well as to the prejudices of his family, with whom she was soon to come into intimate relationship, and with whom she could not but desire to be united in affection. The prejudice existing in certain grades of society against all females who are engaged in useful employments, she well knew; and as this was a prejudice arising from a false education, and as she was to be introduced by marriage among those with whom this prejudice existed, she rightly concluded, after looking at the subject in this light, that it was best for her, as no real necessity existed for her continuing her duties as a music teacher, to give them up at once. For Doctor Baldwin to meet her, as he had done that morning, could not, she felt, but be unpleasant to him. And for his sister to meet her in the same way, could not fail to strengthen, rather than remove, prejudices in regard to her.
Perhaps, for the first time in her life, Ella saw that the prejudices of others are, under certain circumstances, to be regarded, and that expediency is not always a departure from right.
When her lover called upon her that evening, he said —
"I mentioned you to my sister today. She was with me at Miss Elbert's."
Ella looked at him without replying.
"As I expected, she was greatly astonished. The idea of my marrying a music teacher, seemed at first dreadful to her. But I made some little impression on her false ideas, though not as much as I could wish. If she could only once meet you and know you, all would be right. But the force of prejudice is very strong at present. Do you not think that it would be right for you to make some effort, even some sacrifice, to remove this prejudice?"
"I do, certainly."
"Your present calling is one that you must soon lay aside; and, besides, there exists no necessity for your following it. Occurrences like that of today, are likely to happen frequently, and will hinder what I so much desire — the affectionate reception of you by my family. My mother and sister have true hearts, and when they know you, they will love you tenderly. But they have prejudices, the result of false education, which stand in the way of their knowing you. Now, ought you not, who see so clearly, to respect their prejudices, and do what you can to remove them?"
"Without doubt. I have already been reflecting on the subject, and have come to the determination to give up all my scholars immediately."
"Yes. In justice to you and to your family, I think this ought to be done."
"Glad indeed, am I, Ella, that you have come to this conclusion! What you have been doing, enobles rather than depresses you in my eyes, and will in theirs when they come to know you as I do."
In a few weeks the prejudices of Miss Baldwin, under the constant assaults of her brother, were so far broken down, that she consented to call with him and see Ella. As the doctor had expected, she was more than pleased with her, although the meeting was necessarily attended with a good deal of formality and reserve. A second visit enabled the young ladies to approach nearer, and understand each other better.
Clara Baldwin, from being pleased, soon became charmed with the lovely girl — and no longer wondered that her beauty, grace, intelligence, and worth, had captivated her brother. She could not but acknowledge in her own heart that, for her sister, she would far prefer Ella to any one of the mirthful, fashionable girls with whom she was acquainted. There was so much goodness about her — so much regard for others and giving up of self. The old watchmaker likewise rose in her estimation, after a few meetings with him; and the mother of Ella proved to be something more than the vulgar woman she had set her down in her imagination. She could not help observing and being charmed with the natural love which distinguished the interactions of one member of the family with another. It was not ostentatious — not assumed — but came as the just expression of the good will each bore to the other. Of the wife of Doctor Hudson, she could never get done talking to her brother.
"She will grace any circle," she said.
"She will be called to grace the most intelligent and accomplished circle in the city, or I am mistaken," returned her brother.
"Because her husband will undoubtedly rise as high as any man of talents ever rose in this city. He is as sure to go up as the sun is to rise in the morning."
"Do you think so?"
"I know so. I would not be surprised to see him in the chair of professor of anatomy and surgery before five years. It may take place in less than that time. If the present incumbent in the school where he now is, were to be removed from any cause tomorrow, I believe he would be chosen to succeed him."
"Is he so highly appreciated as that?"
"Yes, and by the very men who will have the power to elevate him when the right time comes."
The mother of Doctor Baldwin was connected with a family of some note in the State, upon which fact she built up a pretty high estimate of her own importance. For everything low and vulgar, she had a most decided contempt, and would almost as soon be guilty of a crime, as a breach of etiquette. Her son had good reason to fear there would be some difficulty in the way of reconciling her to his marriage with a poor music teacher, when she had more than once expressed, in his hearing, the hope that he would not forget the advantages which his professional standing, as well as his family connections, gave him in a matter of this kind. It was, in fact, the mother's wish that her son, in marriage, should, above all things, seek to better his fortune. He had himself entertained that idea; but in a conversation he one day held with Doctor Hudson, was led to see that a man could not commit a greater folly, than to make any consideration predominate over personal qualities in marriage.
How best to break the matter to Mrs. Baldwin was a subject of a good deal of reflection. At last, as time was pressing, Doctor Baldwin ventured upon the bold and above-board measure of telling his mother the whole story of his acquaintanceship with Miss Hudson, and of the engagement of marriage that had followed. The mother was overcome with astonishment and indignation. The noble independence and affectionate self-denial which Ella had practiced, though portrayed by Baldwin in the warmest colors — made no favorable impression upon the proud woman's feelings, while the fact that she was the daughter of a poor mechanic, and obliged to teach music for a living — was magnified almost into a crime. Nothing that her son could urge, in the least reconciled her.
"Don't talk to me about her, Edward!" she exclaimed passionately. "The low-born creature shall never darken my door!"
This was more than Baldwin could bear, and to keep from making some retort that he would afterwards regret having uttered, he turned quickly away and left her presence. When they next met, both were cold and silent. Clara remained altogether neutral for the present, deeming it best to keep silence while her mother's mind continued in a state of over-excitement.
On the next day, invitations were received by the family to attend a party that was to be given by a physician who was much esteemed in the community for his character, standing, and high professional attainments. Doctor Baldwin, who happened to be one of his intimate personal friends, immediately called upon him, and asked if he had included Doctor Hudson and his wife in the number of his guests.
"I have not," he said. "Our families have never met under any circumstances. But I highly esteem the doctor, and shall be happy to send him and his lady an invitation. Do you know his wife?"
"Very well. She is a beautiful and accomplished woman."
Doctor Baldwin then gave this physician a full history of Dr. Hudson's family, and of the fact of his having been so charmed with Ella as to fall in love with her and make her an offer of his hand.
"I hardly think your mother will approve of that," said the physician.
"No," replied Baldwin. "So far from approving, she is incensed beyond measure, calls her a low-born creature, and says she shall never cross her door."
"Then I would say that you are in rather an unpleasant dilemma."
"I am. And I want you to help me out of it, if possible."
"A thing that I shall be very ready to do, if you will point out the way. I have seen this Miss Hudson several times in families where I visit professionally, and have heard her spoken of as a girl of no ordinary character. You wish her invited, of course?"
"Yes, that is what I was coming to. I want her not only invited, but I want you to show her particular, even marked attentions."
"Very well. I understand what you are after. All shall be done as you wish. I think we shall make your mother change her opinion a shade or two."
And the physician smiled.
Before evening, Doctor Hudson received a note requesting the pleasure of Doctor and Mrs. Hudson's and Miss Ella Hudson's company at the house of Doctor Sullivan. The compliments of Doctor and Mrs. Sullivan were expressed, of course. Though a little surprised, all the parties invited made preparations to go to the party.
When the evening came, Dr. Baldwin went with his mother and sisters. Since the first mention of the subject which had caused such an expression of indignation by Mrs. Baldwin, not a word of reference had been made to it. There was, of course, coldness and reserve between the mother and the son.
The party proved to be a large one; and at least one half of those present were strangers to Mrs. Baldwin.
"Who is that on Dr. Sullivan's arm?" she asked of her daughter, about an hour after her arrival at the scene of pleasure. The doctor was conducting to the piano a plain, but tastefully attired young lady, in whose sweet young face there was something that to Mrs. Baldwin seemed particularly attractive.
Clara turned her eyes towards the lady, but instead of answering her mother's question, said —
"She's a stranger to most people here, I rather think."
"Some relative of the doctor's, perhaps," remarked the mother.
By this time, the young lady was at the piano, around which a small circle immediately gathered. She touched the keys delicately, yet with ease and confidence, and after running her fingers over them for a few moments, struck the air of a popular and favorite song, which she sang with fine effect.
"Beautiful! beautiful!" said Mrs. Baldwin, speaking to Clara. "I think I never heard a sweeter voice. I wonder who she can be? Do you know?" and she turned to a lady at her side.
"I do not, madam," replied the lady. "I don't remember ever to have seen her before."
The young lady sang one or two more songs, and then rose from the piano, and was received upon the arm of Doctor Sullivan, who treated her with marked politeness. After conducting her to a seat, he introduced two or three gentlemen who came forward, and leaving them to entertain her, went to look after other guests who required his attentions.
"She sings exquisitely, doctor," remarked a gentleman who encountered Doctor Sullivan as he was moving away from the lady.
"Delightfully," was replied.
"But, doctor, my daughter tells me that she is her music teacher."
"That's one side of the case," returned Doctor Sullivan. "The other is, that she is the sister of Doctor Hudson, who is destined to be one of the most eminent surgeons in the country; and is, so far as herself is concerned, a lady in every sense of the word, and one that I feel proud to number among my guests. The world would be better, my friend, if there were more in it like Miss Hudson."
"Is she a woman of education."
"She is highly educated, I am told by Doctor Baldwin, to whom she is engaged in marriage"
"Engaged to Doctor Baldwin!" exclaimed the friend.
"Yes, I have it from his own lips. She has given up her music teaching — a calling that she followed more from her love of independence and usefulness, than from any necessity to do so — in view of her marriage with the doctor."
"Well, I'm astonished! I must own, however, that he is a man of taste and good sense."
"In which I perfectly agree with you."
The two men separated, and Doctor Sullivan passed on to another part of the room. When cotillions were formed, Doctor Sullivan led out Ella, and danced the first set with her.
"How gracefully she moves," remarked Mrs. Baldwin to Clara, who had declined dancing, she having her own reasons for wishing to keep beside her mother. "I wonder who she is? Nobody that I have asked, knows her."
"What makes you notice her so particularly, mother?" asked Clara. "There are many other young ladies in the room whom you have never seen before. And some quite as beautiful as she is."
"But none with just such a face. It is so youthful and innocent, yet so womanlike in its tone. Several times I have found her eyes fixed intently upon me, with an expression that I felt, but could not understand. There are others as lovely, and few who do make a more brilliant appearance; but none who have such a natural unconscious grace."
"Really, mother," said Clara, smiling, "you have grown an enthusiast. If you were a young man, I think this would be a case of love at first sight."
"If I were a young man, and about to fall in love at first sight with anyone in this room, it would be with her," said the mother, smiling in return.
"I saw Edward sitting by her side a little while ago, and looking into her face as if he had forgotten that there was anybody else in the room."
"Edward! Is it possible? Does he know her?"
"He was conversing with her. It would be no matter of wonder, if he feels as you do, if he were to fall in love with her."
"Pray Heaven he may!" said the mother warmly.
Just then the cotillion dissolved, and Mrs. Baldwin saw her son receive the young lady from Dr. Sullivan, conduct her to a seat, and take his place beside her. She looked into his face with a familiar expression, and he seemed to be perfectly at home with her. At the same moment, Doctor Sullivan came up to Mrs. Baldwin and her daughter, and the former said to him —
"What charming young lady is that you were dancing with just now? She is an entire stranger to me."
"She is a charming girl, sure enough," returned the doctor. "Shall I introduce her to you?"
"If you please, doctor. I will take it as a favor."
Doctor Sullivan went over to where Ella was sitting, and said to her that Mrs. Baldwin would be happy to make her acquaintance. Ella arose and took the doctor's arm, while her lover, with some few tremors about his heart, moved to another part of the room from which he could carefully observe them.
"Let me introduce you to my excellent young friend, Miss Hudson," said Doctor Sullivan, presenting Ella. He purposely spoke the name so indistinctly that Mrs. Baldwin did not clearly make it out, and she was too well-bred to ask to have it repeated. Clara and Ella exchanged a look of intelligence that the mother did not observe.
"My daughter," she said, as the doctor, after seating Ella by her side, turned away. The young ladies bowed to each other, and smiled cordially.
For half an hour Mrs. Baldwin conversed with her future daughter-in-law on many subjects, and found her quite as interesting in reality, as she was in appearance; and when someone claimed her hand for a dance, she let her go with reluctance. By this time, there were a good many in the room who knew that Ella was engaged to be married to Doctor Baldwin, for the information volunteered by Doctor Sullivan had spread with considerable rapidity.
"I really must congratulate you on your future daughter-in-law," said a gentleman to Mrs. Baldwin, whose standing in society was altogether as high as her own. "She is decidedly the most charming girl in the room. Edward has shown uncommon good taste and good sense. There are not a few who would have been fools enough to pass her by, because she had once taught music, but Edward's independence has stamped him, in my estimation, as a man. May both be as happy as they deserve to be."
Someone touched the speaker on the arm, and he turned away without observing the blank look of astonishment that settled upon the face of her he addressed.
"What does he mean, Clara?" asked the mother, in a low, earnest whisper, turning to her daughter with a bewildered air.
"He means," replied the daughter, calmly, "that this lovely young girl, with whom every one is so charmed, is none other than Ella Hudson, and the betrothed of Edward."
"It cannot be!" returned the mother.
"It can be, and is, mother. And the fact seems to be well known in the room — it has just been alluded to as a matter of course — I think it will be much the wiser course if you show no surprise and no disapprobation at the discovery you have made, but rather resolve to receive this sweet, accomplished, lovely-minded young girl into your affections, as you would receive your own child. That she is worthy thus to be received, even you cannot now for an instant doubt."
"No, Ella, I cannot doubt it," returned the mother, after a pause of some moments for hurried reflection. "I did not dream that the humble music teacher and daughter of a poor watchmaker, could be so love-inspiring a creature as this. That Edward was attracted by her, is no longer a matter of surprise. I forgive him from my heart."
Not many minutes passed before Clara had found out her brother, and communicated the entire success of his plan for breaking down their mother's prejudice. He was the happiest man in the room.
Much sooner than even his warmest friends anticipated, did Doctor Hudson rise to the professorship of anatomy and surgery; his predecessor having vacated the chair in consequence of some misunderstanding among the faculty, in which an implied censure was permitted to rest upon him.
Shortly after rising into this position, which greatly increased his income, Doctor Hudson, who had since his marriage continued to reside in his father's family, took a handsome house in Walnut Street, and commenced housekeeping in a style appropriate to his condition and standing in the profession. At the same time, he proposed to his father to give up his business, and live at ease for the rest of his life. But to this, old Mr. Hudson positively objected. "Let me remain independent, my son," he replied, "while I have in me the ability to be independent; and let me serve my appropriate use in the community, as you are serving yours, while I am able to do so. I shall have a clearer conscience and be happier. When my ability fails, then it will be time enough for me to give up, and I will do it cheerfully."
The doctor tried to argue the matter with his father, but it was of no use. Mr. Hudson was not to be moved. He knew that he would be happier going on in the old way. It was too late in life to enter into a new occupation, or to learn the art of doing nothing — a wearisome employment at best.
Much as Doctor Hudson wished to see his father give up all business, and live for the remainder of his life at ease — his judgment could not but approve the decision he made.
The elevation of our young doctor to the chair of anatomy and surgery, was received by the profession and the public with marked approbation. The newspapers and medical journals spoke of the appointment as honorable both to the school and the individual who had been elected to fill the professorship.
In the city, Doctor Hudson was at this time well known to the public by his eminent skill as a surgeon, and to the profession abroad by reports of successful and difficult operations which he had performed, but much more through the many able communications from his pen, which had appeared from time to time in the medical journals.
Some time before the occurrence just referred to, Ella had become the wife of Dr. Baldwin, and already the fact of her having been only a music teacher was nearly forgotten, or, if remembered, was thought of as honorable to her independent spirit, rather than as an exception to her standing in society.
It was rather a severe trial to the pride of Mrs. Baldwin to come into such near relationship with a poor old watchmaker and his wife, as the marriage of her son with Ella necessarily brought her, and at her first meeting with them, it required the exercise of a good deal of self-denial to treat them with anything more than cold politeness. It did not take her long, however, to understand that she was not in the company of an ignorant, vulgar-minded woman, when she sat by the side of Mrs. Hudson; but with one of her gender whose mind, if not fashionably educated, had delicate perceptions of right and wrong, great penetration, and sound sense. It would not do, she felt, to assume any air of importance with her, from having moved in a different sphere, for this would not elevate but rather lower her in the estimation of Mrs. Hudson, for whom, in spite of herself, she felt a rising sentiment of respect. The father of Ella was a man of a character much more strongly marked than she had expected to find, and she noticed that men of education and known attainments, when they engaged in conversation with him, paid great deference to his remarks, and treated him with as much respect as they did any one.
"If he would only give up that old shop of his," Mrs. Baldwin said to her son, shortly after his marriage, "he could come into genteel society, and no one would ever suspect that he had been a mechanic. I wonder Doctor Hudson doesn't go to housekeeping in a handsome way, and take the old folks to live with him."
"It is his intention to do so as soon as he thinks his income sufficient for the purpose," replied Baldwin.
"Isn't it sufficient now?" asked the mother.
"He thinks not; and I suppose he ought to be the best judge in the case. But if I am not mistaken in the character of his father, he will find the old gentleman altogether opposed to such an arrangement. I have heard him say, that he considered every man in duty bound to pursue some useful employment so long as he had a sound mind and a robust body; both of which he possesses. Mr. Hudson is too independent in his habits of thinking and feeling, to consent to give up his business, while he can work at it; at least such is my opinion."
Mrs. Baldwin could not understand this; and when the fact proved the truth of the son's prediction, she was outraged at the old gentleman's "perverseness" as she called it.
But as time went on, and Mrs. Baldwin saw that her family had suffered no real disgrace, as far as she could distinguish, by the marriage of her son into that of the watchmaker — she became more reconciled and indifferent. Mrs. Hudson did not, as she at first feared would be the case, thrust herself at all unsuitable times, and on all unsuitable occasions, into her company. The fact was very different. Mrs. Hudson gave her no trouble in this respect; for she was by no means strongly prepossessed in her favor, and did not enjoy her society well enough to seek it very often.
Scarcely had the honeymoon passed after the wedding of Lawrence Dunbar — which took place a few months after the elevation of Doctor Hudson to the chair of anatomy and surgery in the school — before the young lawyer's restless desire to know something in regard to his wife's fortune, led him to ask her some questions on the subject. He was informed that Mr. Harrison, her guardian, had the entire charge of her property, and would give him all information on the subject.
"Of course the guardianship will now cease," said the husband; "since the law places in my hands, all the powers that were conferred upon him."
"I presume it will," returned the wife, speaking indifferently.
"Shall I see him?" asked Dunbar.
"If you please." Still in a tone of indifference.
"What is the amount of your property; do you know?"
In spite of his effort to ask this question without evincing any particular interest in the answer, he could not help betraying, to some extent, what he really did feel; but whether his wife perceived it or not, was hard to tell.
"I never knew exactly," she replied, "but I think it was originally twenty-five thousand dollars. I suppose it has increased a little, as I have never drawn as much as the interest."
"Twenty-five thousand dollars!" exclaimed Dunbar, thrown off his guard. "Only twenty-five thousand dollars!"
"And please, how much did you suppose it was?" asked the startled wife, through whose whole frame, the words of her husband thrilled. She was instantly aware that he had been attracted by the hope of securing a large fortune — and as instantly she felt a strong sense of indignation. Her pride was aroused, and pride with her, was an overmastering passion.
Dunbar saw that he had betrayed himself, and he also saw, by the expression of his wife's face, that he had committed an offence not likely to be soon forgiven.
"I was informed that it was more," he said, speaking with forced calmness.
"By whom, please?" Mrs. Dunbar's eyes flashed, and her voice was angry in its expression.
"Not by you, certainly."
"If you had inquired of me, there would have been less likelihood of your being led into error," said his wife, with an ill-concealed sneer, that made the very blood boil in the veins of Dunbar.
"Twenty-five thousand dollars!" he muttered to himself a few moments after, as he hastily left the presence of his excited and angry bride.
"And is it for such a paltry sum, that I have sold myself to this she-devil?"
He checked himself suddenly, in very shame, and repeated with much bitterness —
"Twenty-five thousand dollars! I can make that any year by cutting my cards aright!"
It was many hours before the lawyer could think with any calmness, upon the new aspect which his affairs had suddenly assumed. For his wife, dislike and disgust assumed the place of a forced regard, which he had entertained for her, as the representative of a handsome fortune. When he met her, on returning to his elegant home — she was cold, haughty, and reserved in her manner towards him. Her head was not bowed in bitterness of spirit at the discovery she had made, but was held erect; and she looked at him with a stern, rebuking, imperious gaze, which aroused the worst passions within him. Neither of them referred to the morning's interview.
On the next day, Dunbar's mind was made up to go to old Mr. Harrison, and know the truth. He could bear the suspense no longer. Accordingly, he called to see him the first thing in the morning.
"I learn from my wife," he said, "that you are her guardian."
"I am. I was appointed under her father's will to take charge of her property, and to pay it over to her husband if she ever married."
"What is the amount of this property?" asked Dunbar.
"Twenty-five thousand dollars were left to her by her father at his death; the balance of his large property went to some distant relatives. Harriet's fortune has, in my hands, increased to thirty thousand dollars."
"Was she his only child?"
"Why did he not leave her more?"
"He had his own reasons, I presume," returned Harrison coldly.
"The thirty thousand you hold, is to be paid to me, I understand."
"The will requires me to pay to the husband of Harriet the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, with any interest accruing therefrom not already paid to the said Harriet. You are her husband, and of course you are entitled to her fortune."
"Yes, that is plain enough. When will you be prepared to arrange it?"
"That I have already done," replied the guardian, coolly.
"Already done! I do not understand you, Mr. Harrison."
"Did I not pay you thirty thousand dollars a few weeks ago?"
"Yes, but not on this account."
"And did you not then give me a receipt in full of all demands, past, present, and to come?"
The face of Dunbar became pale, and his lips quivered.
"Was it just in you, sir," he said sternly, "to take that advantage of my ignorance of your relation to my intended wife?"
"Was it just in you, sir," returned Mr. Harrison, with equal sternness, "to take a bribe for the betrayal of your client, whose cause you might have gained?"
"It was as right as for you to offer it." retorted Dunbar.
"You are answered," said the old man, coldly. "I have your receipt, and mean to hold it against you."
"But do you think I will not cite you before the court to answer in this matter?" returned the lawyer. "The receipt was fraudulently obtained and cannot stand. Its very tenor expresses its character. I will swear that you refused to pay me a sum of money due, unless I would sign the receipt you have produced."
"Very well, Mr. Dunbar, I will meet you, and require you to show, that this receipt was not intended to cover an anticipatory payment of this very legacy belonging to the woman who was to become your wife in a few days. What other transaction involving so heavy an amount would lie between us? This will, of course, be asked, and I will leave you to answer it to the satisfaction of the court; and I will take good care that the answer be fully reported for publication in the daily press."
Harrison looked the young lawyer in the face steadily, while he slowly repeated these sentences in a firm voice —
"I don't see that it will place you in any more favorable light than it will me," said Dunbar, after a moment's reflection. "If you are willing to brave public opinion — I think I needn't shrink from it."
"As you please," returned the old man, indifferently. "I rather think I shall be able to make out a plain case for myself. So, if you intend going to law about this business, I hope you will begin at once, and be done with it."
"I am to understand, then, that you will not settle the estate of your ward according to the provisions of her father's will?"
"No — you are to understand that I have already settled it, and that I hold your receipt for the full sum thereof."
"A thing that I deny."
"A man may deny anything he pleases, and especially a man like you, who would betray, for gain, the interests of his client. No doubt your practice would vastly increase after the beautiful exposure that will be made when you sue for your wife's estate. You are the young man I heard it prophesied, some years ago, would rise in the world. Truly you are going up with astonishing celerity."
"Mr. Harrison, I will bear insult from no man! not even from one as old as yourself," said the lawyer, passionately.
"Do I insult you? I presumed that you would take what I said as a compliment. But if you don't like my plain way of speaking, I think you had better leave me. I have no wish for a continuance of your company. I know you too well."
At this retort, the lawyer turned on his heel and left the presence of the man who knew him all too well.
"The biter got bit that time. I thought I would be too sharp for him," said Harrison, smiling inwardly.
If ever a man was completely foiled in his purposes and dashed down to the very earth, that man was Lawrence Dunbar. Of the thirty thousand dollars received from Harrison, ten thousand had been paid to the opposing attorney as his accomplice in iniquity, leaving him but twenty thousand dollars as the entire fortune of his wife. This was a very different state of affairs from that which his imagination had been picturing. Seventy thousand with his wife, twenty thousand from old Harrison as the price of his integrity, and fifteen thousand dollars already earned and saved, would have made one hundred and five thousand dollars. Instead, he was worth just thirty thousand dollars, and ten thousand of that was locked up in costly household furniture that had already lost its beauty in his eyes.
As to entering into a contest with Mr. Harrison, that he did not for a moment contemplate. It could not be done without an exposure ruinous alike to his character and prospects. The very thought of it made him shudder. It was bad enough that a man who entertained such a hearty contempt for him should be in possession of such a blasting secret, which, if even a whisper of it got upon the wind, would wither up his legal reputation and blast his hopes like the hot breath of a sirocco. He was in no mood to meet the wife he had insulted by a betrayal of his base regard for her property, instead of her person. The air of his richly-furnished parlors, as he entered them, was cold; the house itself seemed deserted, and oppressed him with a feeling of desolation. He did not seek his wife; for he had no wish to come into her presence. He thought of her with something akin to loathing. And this was scarcely five weeks from the wedding day!
At tea time they met; cold, reserved, and even haughty in their demeanor towards each other. The wife felt that she had received an unpardonable insult, and the husband felt that he had been deeply wronged. All hope of bettering his fortunes by matrimony, was now gone. He was united to one who was, to use his own words, a beggar. She had no attractions of beauty of which he might be proud; and no excellencies of character to win his esteem or love. But, cold, repulsive, self-willed, and passionate — she united in her person all those qualities which repel and estrange a man.
The subject of her fortune was never again alluded to by them. She asked no questions — and he made no communication touching the matter. But Mr. Harrison took the pains to call upon her, and inform her that he had paid to her husband thirty thousand dollars, in accordance with the provisions of her father's will, and that he was no longer her guardian.
Poor Malcolm, after escaping from the clutches of Dunbar, sold off all the goods and household furniture which he had removed to the best possible advantage, and calling together his creditors, gave them a history of his misfortunes, and divided among them the sum of one thousand dollars — all that he had received from the sale of what he had been able to save. It liquidated but thirty-three percent of his debts. He had previously secured a clerkship paying a small salary. In consideration of his honesty in doing what was in his power, in this his last extremity, his creditors voluntarily signed him a full release from the balance of their claims against him.
One evening, a few days after this had taken place, Mr. Harrison called upon him at his boarding house. They met alone in the public parlor. Mr. Harrison was kind in his manner, but Malcolm was smarting yet too severely from the consequences of the late suit, to feel in any mood for a cordial reception of his relative.
"Malcolm," said the old gentleman, after they were seated, "from my attorney who defended the late suit that you brought against me, I learned some facts that I never knew before. I always believed my title to the property I hold to be clear, and never could imagine upon what just ground you claimed to contest it. But your attorney discovered, or you discovered it to him, a matter of which I have always been ignorant, and which gives color to the opinion you have so pertinaciously held in regard to your rights in my estate. That you have some right in it, I think may be the case, though certainly not to the extent you have imagined. I have little doubt that, if you had not been thrown out of court on a demurrer, the court would have given you some twenty or thirty thousand dollars. This is my own lawyer's opinion."
"Then," said Malcolm, "it is clearly my duty to begin again."
"I would advise you to try another lawyer, if you do."
"Why so?" asked Malcolm.
"Because the one you had, took a bribe to introduce to the court a defective bill."
"You are jesting," said Malcolm.
"No," replied Harrison, quietly; "I am entirely in earnest. My lawyer suggested that Dunbar could be bought over to our interests, and I took it into my head to see if he really was in earnest. Sure enough, Dunbar named thirty thousand dollars as the price he would take to introduce a defect in his bill, that we might throw you out of court, saddled with costs so great that you could not pay them, without which it would be impossible to begin again."
"And this was done?"
"You paid him thirty thousand dollars to defraud me?"
"I loaned him that much out of his wife's fortune — or, rather, his wife to be."
"I don't understand you."
Harrison explained all that matter, and then added —
"From the moment I was satisfied that you had any rights in my estate, I determined to grant them, let them be what they would. I was only half satisfied on this head, when I offered you the twenty-five thousand dollars which you declined. I now believe that thirty thousand dollars are all to which you are entitled, and that I am willing you shall have, if you will take it and settle the matter forever."
Malcolm could hardly believe that this was said in earnest. When satisfied that it was, the delight he felt was almost beyond expression.
Harrison was perfectly sincere in all this. It was what he intended when he bargained with Dunbar for the admission of a flaw in his client's bill. He was a man of thoroughly honest principles, but eccentric in some things. The boldness of the proposition made by his lawyer was so startling, that he told him to go on, merely because he was curious to see if such bold-faced iniquity could be practiced by a member of the bar. Before he agreed to pay the sum named, he understood the relationship that existed between Dunbar and his ward, and conceived the idea of making him pay his own bribe, which he succeeded so well in doing. He ran some little risk, certainly; but he was a pretty shrewd man in his calculations, and rarely went very far wrong.
On the day after the interview with Mr. Harrison, Malcolm called at the office of Mr. Dunbar. The lawyer met him with a scowl upon his brow.
"I have one or two things to say to you, friend Dunbar," said Malcolm, seating himself. He spoke in a very cool manner. "In the first place, I believe a pretty large bill of costs accrued in the late suit against Harrison, and that I stood charged with the same."
"Your memory is certainly accurate in the matter," returned the lawyer, with insult in his tone and manner.
"That bill I wish you to settle in full," returned Malcolm, in a firm voice. "There is another matter," he continued, "that I wish also settled. During the progress of the suit, unnecessarily delayed as you know, my business became involved, and finally, by your direct agency, was entirely broken up. I am in debt on that account about two thousand dollars, which I wish you also to settle for me, and to do it forthwith."
"Mr. Malcolm, will you leave my office instantly!" said the lawyer, smothering his excitement under a calmness of tone, and rising to his feet as he spoke.
"Don't get excited, Mr. Dunbar," replied Malcolm, retaining his seat. "This is a business of some importance and needs coolness in its settlement. I have demanded nothing but what is right, and nothing but what I mean to have. I will give you until tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock to deliberate upon the matter, and then if you do not present me with the clerk's receipt for that bill of costs, and with two thousand dollars to pay off my debts — I will instantly commence a suit against you and Harrison's lawyer for a conspiracy to defraud me, in which something about a demurrer will come out that will not be very pleasant to you or to him, as you both too well know."
Dunbar sank down in his chair as if suddenly deprived of strength, while the perspiration started upon his forehead.
"For heaven's sake! what do you mean?" he exclaimed, taken so completely by surprise as to be thrown off his guard.
"Simply what I say," replied Malcolm, as coolly and firmly as at first. "I have heard from Mr. Harrison, all about the bribe you accepted, and received out of your own pocket. So you needn't imagine that I am trying to frighten you with a bugbear. Pay the loss you have occasioned me — and I be done with you forever; if not, I will obtain damages. Tomorrow at four o'clock I will call, and if you are prepared to make all right — well; and if not — well; at least so far as I am concerned. Good day."
And Malcolm retired from the office of Dunbar, leaving the attorney more than half stupefied, yet in the fullest possession of every word that had been uttered.
When Malcolm called on the next day at the hour named, he received all that he had demanded.
The star of Lawrence Dunbar's rising fortunes, had already reached its point of culmination — as young as he was, and possessed of brilliant talents and a mind well stored with professional lore — and was now beginning its rapid descent. He had erred in supposing that, separated from Mr. Harker, he could take a high position at the bar. In this, he had overrated himself. Only a few petty cases came into his hands besides the case of Malcolm, which he managed so badly. The flaw left in his client's bill in this case was so palpable, that the whole bar expressed astonishment at the glaring oversight. It hurt his reputation seriously.
But, when a whisper of the truth began to be heard, first here, then there, and then everywhere among those who knew him, his star set in the horizon of Philadelphia. So flagrant a violation of all honest principles, met its just rebuke. He stood alone. No man of honor and respectability showed him any attentions or passed him the compliment of an invitation to his house. There was a ban upon him; so much so that men pointed at him in the streets and related the story of his affair with old Mr. Harrison. In less than a year, there was a public sale of his elegant furniture in Arch-street, and he moved somewhere South with his wife. Of his domestic felicity, nothing need be said. Enough can be imagined.
The history of this young man, as far as we have traced it, and much further beyond this point it is not our intention to go, exhibits the result of selfish ambition, acting upon a mind unsustained by sound principle. To rise in the world was the end with him. Thousands start with that end, and rise to a certain height; but rarely attain a distinguished position, for the reason that they are met at almost every step with temptations to deviate more or less from strict rectitude, in order to rise faster than would otherwise be the case, and thus invariably defeat the object they have in view. There is in the public mind, a certain degree of virtue, which will not tolerate known wrong actions. In fact, the public well-being depends upon integrity in the community, and every man — and therefore instinctively condemns all departures from just principles in others, because he feels that such acts done to him would be wrong.
On the other hand, a virtuous man is esteemed by all, both good and bad, for all feel that their interests are safe in his hands. If he possesses equal ability to serve the community, with another man in whose principles no faith is had — he will, as a natural consequence, rise above that man. And there is no danger of his falling back from any eminence which he may gain; because it is a real elevation from the force of internal principles acting upon his external conduct, and the force that elevated him is all-potent to sustain him in his elevation.
To rise truly in the world, is to rise internally as well as externally. If a man, while he is rising into eminence in any pursuit, is really growing corrupt and base — be admitting evil counselors into his mind and acting from their suggestions — he is not truly rising, but is actually in the descending scale, and will, either in this life or the next, find his right position. No man is truly elevated, who is not truly good. He may occupy an imaginary height; he may think himself great, and men who do not know what is really in him, may call him great; but true greatness is inseparable from that benevolence which regards the common good.
While Dunbar was fixing his mind upon the attainment of wealth and professional distinctions as ends — Doctor Hudson was seeking with untiring industry to perfect his knowledge of medical science by reading, observation, and experiment; not so much as the means of rising in the world — as from a desire to increase his skill and gain a wider circle of influence. It would not do to say that he was free from selfish ends; no man is free from them. But he understood that to be governed by selfish considerations was wrong, and he never permitted himself, when he was conscious that such considerations were prominent in his mind, to act from them. Thus instead of coming more and more under the dominion of blind selfishness — he was daily rising superior to its enticements. He was truly rising in the world — rising in intelligence and usefulness, and rising above the corrupt and debasing tendencies of our evil nature. And his family rose with him. No one was depressed, that he might be elevated; no one pushed aside, that his way might be clear.
Only three times did Lawrence Dunbar and Doctor Hudson meet, after they had started on their race for eminence. Once in the office of the student, as already related. The second time they met was a few weeks after the marriage of Dunbar with the heiress.
A large party was given by a wealthy family, in which Doctor Hudson had rendered eminent services in his profession. The doctor was highly esteemed by every member of this family, who knew his worth as a physician and as a man, and sought every opportunity to express the estimation in which they held him. His name and that of his lovely wife were among the first on the list, and the names of Dunbar and his wife among the last. Dunbar was invited for his wife's sake, who happened to be known to some members of the family. Doctor Baldwin and his wife were also in the number of guests.
Not long after Doctor Hudson and his wife had entered, they saw Dunbar come into the parlors with a lady richly dressed upon his arm, and walk in some state amid the mirthful company.
"Can that be his wife?" remarked Mrs. Hudson, when she at last got a fair view of the lady's face.
"I presume it is," replied her husband. "Did you ever see a more repulsive countenance?"
"One less homely, is rarely met," returned Mrs. Hudson, still looking intently into the lady's face."
"But she has wealth, and is well connected, as the phrase is. These, no doubt, cover a multitude of defects."
"They do not seem to have covered them in this case," said Mrs. Hudson, with a quiet smile, as she drew her arm closer within that of her husband. "At least they are very apparent this evening."
"She has her good points, no doubt," remarked the doctor. "All people have. We may not always determine the whole character from the face. Very good people sometimes have very homely countenances."
"Yes, that is true," said Mrs. Hudson. "But no woman whose heart was unselfish — no woman with a gentle, loving spirit — ever had a face like that!"
It took an hour at least for the different individuals of the company to get familiar with the various parties present, and to know what strangers and what acquaintances were there. Before this, Dunbar had noticed, with some surprise and without any particular increase of pleasure, that Doctor Hudson and his wife and sister were among the guests. He had never heard of the marriage of Ella with Doctor Baldwin, whose social standing he well knew.
"What young lady is that?" he asked of a friend, affecting not to know who Ella was.
"The charming woman on Doctor Baldwin's arm?"
"I mean the lady on the doctor's arm."
"That's his wife."
"Oh, no; you are in error. That cannot be his wife. If I mistake not, she is the daughter of old Hudson, the watchmaker. But how she found admission here, passes my comprehension."
"You are right as to her being the daughter of Hudson," replied the friend.
"Then she is not the wife of Doctor Baldwin."
"Yes, she is his wife; and he is as proud of her as if she were a queen; and, from all I can learn, justly so. She is a charming woman. I have met her several times during the year in large companies, and find that she is a favorite with all who know her. The doctor has shown himself to be a man of good taste."
"Incredible," returned Dunbar. "I remember Ella Hudson well enough, but never saw in her anything so charming."
"I don't know about what she was," said the friend; "but I do know, that she is at this present time as lovely, intelligent, and accomplished a woman as there is in this room, and as general a favorite. See! half a dozen gentlemen, whose taste even you will not dispute, have gathered around her and her husband, and you may observe that more than half their attention is directed to her."
"What is thought of Dr. Hudson's wife?" asked Dunbar. "I presume you know her."
"Oh yes. And if she were my sister, I could not more highly esteem her. She is not so generally attractive as Mrs. Baldwin; but all who come near to her are won by the sweetness of her character, and charmed by the half-retiring grace of her manner. She is one in a thousand, and is so considered by all who know her. As for her husband, I consider him one of the most fortunate of men in having secured so loving and lovely a companion for his journey through life."
The eyes of Dunbar turned, involuntarily, towards that part of the room where his wife sat, alone. One glance was sufficient. His gaze was quickly withdrawn. A sigh, but half repressed, struggled up from his bosom, and he turned away from the individual with whom he was conversing. He had already heard too much. What his thoughts were, it would be hard to tell. As he moved across the room he encountered Dr. Hudson and his wife. The two men looked at each other for an instant, but did not speak. They had not met before for years.
"If he has risen above his old conditions," said Mrs. Hudson, leaning towards her husband, "he has certainly not risen into happiness."
"No man does, who acts from an utter disregard of others," replied the doctor. "Dunbar started in life with the avowed determination to rise; and to rise on the most thorough selfish principles. What his exact elevation, as regard external things, may be, I do not know; but I have heard it whispered that he has at least been sadly disappointed in the amount of his wife's fortune. As to her character and disposition — I presume they were scarcely taken into the account; although he will, without doubt, find them of more serious importance than he at first imagined."
It seemed to Dunbar that he could turn no way during that unhappy evening, without seeing either the wife or sister of Doctor Hudson; and he never saw them without an involuntary assent to their loveliness — as contrasted with the woman to whom he had united himself for life. They were led to the dance by men of character, standing, and education, and were ever receiving attentions which any woman present would have felt to be complimentary in a high degree — while, with all her wealth and high connections, his wife sat neglected, except by those who felt for her some personal interest.
Dunbar likewise observed that Doctor Hudson was noticed by almost every one — and, for the first time, learned that he had recently been elevated to the chair of anatomy and surgery in one of the medical schools. There was something positive about this — a real elevation that could not well be called in question — while he perceived that his own position was as yet equivocal, and that, think as highly of himself as he might, he could not force others to do honor to his greatness.
The young attorney went home that night with feelings of humiliation deeper than he had ever known.
Once again did the two men meet. It was not many years later. Doctor Hudson was just preparing to leave his office one afternoon about five o'clock, when a grey-headed man, plainly dressed, came in. He immediately recognized him as old Mr. Dunbar.
"Doctor," he said, with a good deal of agitation in his manner, "I want you to come to my house immediately."
"Is anything serious the matter?" asked Dr. Hudson.
"Yes, sir, very serious. My son arrived in the cars from Baltimore this afternoon, in a terrible condition. He has been shot, and stabbed in two places. How, why, or when — I have not yet been able to learn. He was brought in by two men, to whose account I did not half listen, before hurrying off for surgical aid. The bullet is still in his chest. Oh, Doctor! come with as little delay as possible."
Doctor Hudson inquired the direction, and promised to be at his house in half an hour. Soon after the unhappy father left, he took a case of instruments, and stepping into his carriage, drove to the residence of old Mr. Dunbar. The old man still kept a small grocery, through which the doctor passed into a poorly furnished room, and then up a dark stairway to a chamber over the store. Everything bore the stamp of poverty. At the door of the chamber he met the father and mother, the latter weeping bitterly, and the former with a face of deep distress.
"Doctor," whispered the old man, "I'm afraid all is hopeless. But we will trust in your skill for all that human aid can do."
Doctor Hudson entered the room, and stood beside the bed where his patient lay, feeling sadder than he had felt for a long time. There was the well-known face of his old friend and school companion; but white, and thin, and painful in its expression. The breath came feebly through his lips, and the motions of his chest were scarcely perceptible. He laid his finger upon his wrist, but the pulse was so low in the artery, if it beat at all — that he could not find it.
A slight examination of his injuries was now made. There were two deep wounds between the ribs on the right side, inflicted with a knife or dagger, and a gun-shot wound on the left chest. The bullet had struck the sternum, glanced upwards at an angle, and entered among the muscles of the left axilla or arm-pit, where it still remained, deeply imbedded. There was already considerable inflammation of all the wounds, which had received but temporary dressings. As for the patient, his mind was completely obscured. He noticed no one, and uttered nothing more than an occasional groan.
Any attempt to remove the bullet, at present, was considered too hazardous to be made. Slight dressings were applied to the wounds, and the best means used for allaying the inflammation.
Before Doctor Hudson left the house, one of the men who had brought the wounded man to Philadelphia came in, and from him were obtained the following facts:
About a month previous to the sad catastrophe from which Dunbar was suffering, he received an anonymous letter, charging upon his wife improprieties of conduct, and naming the individual with whom she was said to be too familiar. Long before this, all vestiges of regard for his wife, if there had ever been any in his mind, were extinguished. And it was the same with her. They had ceased to treat each other with anything more than the coldest politeness. Notwithstanding this, Dunbar was all on fire at the intelligence of his wife's misconduct. He did not go immediately to the man who was accused of doing him a deep injury, but waited until he was satisfied, by personal observation, that the accusation was just. The mode of retaliation then sought, was to go to the office of this individual with a pistol and a whip, and under the muzzle of a loaded pistol to whip him as long as he had strength to lift his hand. This was his intention, but he failed in carrying it out.
On entering the office of the man who had injured him, he locked the door, and throwing the key from the window, drew his pistol and his whip, and with a bitter oath struck the betrayer of his wife a severe blow. But he had miscalculated his opponent when he supposed that he would tamely submit to blows even under the muzzle of a pistol. He happened to be himself armed, and instantly drew a pistol. Both fired at the same instant. The bullet of Dunbar did not reach its mark; but he received the bullet of his adversary in his left arm-pit. Still furious, he struck three or four blows with his whip, when he fell from two stabs with a dagger in the right side. When those who had been alarmed by the noise of the affray burst open the door, Dunbar was lying on the floor weltering in his blood. The other had escaped from the window and fled. On removing the wounded man to his room at the hotel where he boarded, his wife was nowhere to be found. When this was mentioned to him, he cursed her through his clenched teeth, and asked to be immediately removed to Philadelphia to the house of his father, which was done.
Some time before this, he had fallen in with a company of gamblers, and been stripped of every dollar he was worth. As a lawyer, he had sunk into a mere quibbler, and his practice was chiefly confined to magistrate's and prison cases.
"Fallen! hopelessly fallen!" said Doctor Hudson, as he rode thoughtfully homeward.
When he next saw his patient, the change that had taken place told him but too plainly the sad truth that life was rapidly waning. Science and skill were of no avail in his hands. He could not hold back the grim monster, when he came with his fatal message.
The young man died — died a violent death in the very prime of life — with blighted hopes, corrupt principles, and a ruined character. And he came home to die. He breathed out his last breath in the presence of those he had wronged, despised, and insulted — himself fallen and degraded. It was a sad ending of all his bright anticipations.
It is almost needless to say that Doctor Hudson's upward movement was steadily continued. That it would be so, was in the nature of things. There are few more distinguished and useful men in the country, than he is at the present time. And he is beloved as well as honored by all who know him. He is truly great and truly good, for his elevation has been internal as well as external.