Stories for Parents
by Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
Our business life absorbs so much time and thought, that the best interests of our children are often seriously neglected. Worldly well-being is regarded as the primary thing, and the well-being of children comes in, as a consequence, for a less earnest consideration. The perusal of this volume, the author believes, will have the effect to make many who love their little ones at home, think of and for them with a wiser consideration.
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
"That boy needs more attention," said Mr. Green, referring to his oldest son, a lad whose wayward temper and proclivity to vice demanded a steady, consistent, wise, and ever-present exercise of parental watchfulness and authority.
"You may well say that," returned the mother of the boy; for to her, the remark had been made. "He is getting entirely beyond my control!"
"If I only had the time to look after him!" Mr. Green sighed as he uttered these words.
"I think you ought to make more time for a purpose like this," said Mrs. Green.
"More time!" Mr. Green spoke with marked impatience. "What time have I to attend to him, Margaret? Am I not entirely absorbed in business? Even now I should be at the store, and am only kept away by your late breakfast."
Just then the breakfast bell rang, and Mr. and Mrs. Green, accompanied by their children, repaired to the dining-room. John, the boy about whom the parents had been talking, was among the number.
As they took their places at the table, he exhibited certain disorderly movements, and a disposition to annoy his younger brothers and sisters. But these were checked, instantly, by his father, of whom John stood in some fear.
Before the children were more than half done, Mr. Green laid his knife and fork side by side on his plate, pushed his chair back, and was in the act of rising, when his wife said —
"Don't go yet. Just wait until John is through with his breakfast. He acts dreadfully the moment your back is turned."
Mr. Green turned a quick, lowering glance upon the boy, (whose eyes shrank beneath his angry gaze,) saying, as he did so —
"I haven't time to stay a moment longer. I ought to have been at my business an hour ago. But see here, my lad" — addressing himself to John, "there has been enough of this antics. Not a day passes that I am not worried with complaints about you. Now, mark me! I shall inquire, particularly, as to your conduct when I come home at dinnertime — and, if you have given your mother any trouble, or acted in any way improperly — will take you severely to account. It's outrageous that the whole family should be kept in constant trouble by you. Now, be on your guard!"
A moment or two, Mr. Green stood frowning upon the boy, and then retired.
Scarcely had the sound of the closing street-door, which marked the fact of Mr. Green's departure, ceased to echo through the house, before John began to act as was his custom when his father was out of the way. His mother's remonstrances were of no avail; and, when she finally compelled him to leave the table, he obeyed with a most provoking and insolent manner.
All this would have been prevented, if Mr. Green had taken from business just ten minutes, and conscientiously devoted that time to the government of his wayward boy and the protection of the family from his annoyances.
On arriving at his store, Mr. Green found two or three customers therein, and but a single clerk in attendance. He had felt some doubts as to the correctness of his conduct in leaving home so abruptly, under the circumstances; but the presence of these customers satisfied him that he had done right. Business, in his mind, was paramount to everything else; and his highest duty to his family he felt to be discharged, when he was devoting himself most assiduously to the work of procuring for them the means of external comfort, ease, and luxury. Worldly well-doing was a cardinal virtue in his eyes.
Mr. Green was the gainer, perhaps, of half a dollar, in the way of profit on sales, by being at his store ten minutes earlier than would have been the case, had he remained with his family until the completion of their morning meal. What was lost to his boy by the opportunity thus afforded for an indulgence in a perverse and disobedient temper, it is hard to say. Something was, undoubtedly, lost — something, the valuation of which, in dollars and cents, it would be difficult to make.
Mrs. Green did not complain of John's conduct, to his father, at dinner-time. She was so often forced to complain, that she avoided the task whenever she felt justified in doing so; and that was, perhaps, far too often. Mr. Green asked no questions; for he knew, by experience, to what results such questions would lead — and he was in no mood for unpleasant news. So John escaped, as he had escaped hundreds of times before, and felt encouraged to indulge his bad propensities at will — to his own injury and the annoyance of all around him.
If Mr. Green had no time in the morning or through the day to attend to his children — the evening, one might think, would afford opportunity for conference with them, a supervision of their studies, and an earnest inquiry into their conduct and moral and intellectual progress. But such was not the case. Mr. Green was too much wearied with the occupation of the day, to bear the annoyance of the children; or, his thoughts were too busy with business matters, or schemes of profit, to attend to the thousand-and-one questions they were ready to pour in upon him from all sides; or, he had a political club to attend, an engagement with some merchant for the discussion of a matter connected with trade, or felt obliged to be present at the meeting of some society of which he was a member. So, he either left home immediately after tea, or the children were sent to bed in order that he might have a quiet evening for rest, business reflection, or the enjoyment of a new book.
Mr. Green had so much to do and so much to think about, that he had no time to attend to his children; and this neglect was daily leaving upon them ineffaceable impressions, which would, inevitably, mar the beauty of their after-lives. Particularly was this the case with John. Better off in the world was Mr. Green becoming every day — better off as it regarded money; but, poorer in another sense; poorer in respect to home affections and home treasures. His children were not growing up to love him intensely, to confide in him implicitly, and to respect him as their father and friend. He had no time to attend to them, and rather pushed them from him, than drew them towards him, with the strong chords of affection. To his wife, he left their government; and she was not equal to the task.
"I don't believe," said Mrs. Green, one day, "that John is learning much at the school where he goes. I think you ought to see after him a little. He never studies a lesson at home."
"Mr. Elden has the reputation of being one of our best teachers. His school stands high," replied Mr. Green.
"That may all be," said Mrs. Green. "Still, I really think you ought to know, for yourself, how John is getting along. Of one thing I am certain, he does not improve in good manners nor good temper, in the least. And he is never in the house between school-hours, except to get his meals. I wish you would require him to be at the store during the afternoons. School is dismissed at three o'clock, and he ranges the streets with other boys, and goes where he pleases from that time until night."
"That's very bad," — Mr. Green spoke in a concerned voice, "very bad. And it must be stopped. But, as to having him at the store, that is out of the question. He would be into everything, and keep me in hot water all the while. He'd like to come well enough, I do not doubt; but I can't have him there."
"Couldn't you set him to doing something?"
"I might. But I haven't time to attend to him, Margaret. Business is business, and cannot be interrupted."
Mrs. Green sighed, and then remarked —
"I wish you would call on Mr. Elden, and have a talk with him about John."
"I will, if you think it best."
"Do so, by all means. And besides, you should give more time to John in the evenings. If, for instance, you devoted an evening to him once a week, it would enable you to understand how he is progressing, and give you a control over him not now possessed."
"You are right in this, no doubt, Margaret."
But reform went not beyond this verbal acknowledgment. Mr. Green could never find time to see John's teacher, nor feel himself sufficiently at leisure, or in the right mood of mind, to devote to the boy even a single evening.
And thus it went on from day to day, from month to month, and from year to year, until, finally, John was sent home from school by Mr. Elden with a note to his father, in which idleness, disorderly conduct, and wicked habits were charged upon him in the broadest terms.
The unhappy Mr. Green called immediately upon the teacher, who gave him a more particular account of his son's bad conduct, and concluded by saying that he was unwilling to receive him back into his classes.
Strange as it may seem, it was four months before Mr. Green "found time" to see about another school, and to get John entered therein; during which long period, the boy had full liberty to go pretty much where he pleased, and to associate with whom he pleased. It is hardly to be supposed that he grew any better for this omission by his father.
By the time John was seventeen years of age, Mr. Green's business had become greatly enlarged and his mind was still more absorbed therein. With him, gain was the primary thing; and, as a consequence, his family held a secondary place in his thoughts. If money were needed, he was ever ready to supply the demand; that done, he felt that his duty to them was, mainly, discharged. To his wife, he left the work of the children's wise direction in the paths of life, their government and education — but she was inadequate to the task imposed.
From the second school at which John was entered, he was dismissed within three months, for bad conduct. He was then sent to school in a distant city, where, removed from all parental restraint and admonition, he made viler associates than any he had hitherto known, and took, thus, a lower step in vice. He was just seventeen, when a letter from the principal of this school conveyed to Mr. Green such unhappy news of his son — that he immediately resolved, as a last resort, to send him to sea. And this was done, spite of all the mother's tearful remonstrances, and the boy's threats that he would escape from the vessel on the very first opportunity.
And yet, for all this sad result of parental neglect, Mr. Green devoted no more time nor care to his children. Business absorbed the whole man. He was a merchant, body and soul. His responsibilities were not felt as extending beyond his store and his counting-room, further than to provide for the worldly well-being of his family. Is it any cause of wonder that, with his views and practice, it should not turn out well with his children; or, at least, with some of them?
At the end of a year, John came home from sea — a rough, tobacco-chewing, cigar-smoking, alcohol-drinking, overgrown boy of eighteen, with all his sensual desires and animal passions more active than when he went away — while his intellectual faculties and moral feelings were in a worse condition than at his separation from home. Grief at the sad change, oppressed the hearts of his parents; but their grief was unavailing. Various efforts were made to get him into some business, but he remained only a short time in any of the places where his father had him introduced. Finally, he was sent to sea again. But he never returned to his friends. In a drunken street-brawl, which occurred while he was on shore at Valparaiso, he was stabbed by a Spaniard, and died shortly afterwards.
On the very day this tragic event took place, Mr. Green was rejoicing over a successful speculation from which he had come out the gainer by five thousand dollars. In the pleasure this circumstance occasioned, all thoughts of the absent one, ruined by his neglect, were swallowed up.
Several months had elapsed since John had been sent back to sea. Mr. Green had returned home, well satisfied with his day's business. In his pocket was the afternoon paper, which, after the younger children were in bed, and the older ones out of his way — he sat down to read. To the telegraphic column, his eyes turned. There had been an arrival in Boston from the Pacific, and almost the first sentence he read was the news of his son's death. The paper dropped from his hands, while he uttered an expression of surprise and grief which caused the cheeks of his wife, who was in the room, to turn deadly pale. She had not power to ask the cause of her husband's sudden exclamation; but her heart, which ever yearned towards her absent boy, instinctively guesses the truth.
"John is dead!" said Mr. Green, at length speaking in a tremulous voice.
There was, from the mother, no wild burst of anguish. The boy had been dying, to her, daily, for years; and she had suffered, for him, worse than the pangs of death. Burying her face in her hands, she wept silently, yet hopelessly.
"If we were only blameless of the poor child's death," said Mrs. Green, lifting her tearful eyes, after the lapse of nearly ten minutes, and speaking in a sad, self-rebuking tone of voice.
When those with whom we are in close relationship die, how quickly is that in memory's book turned on, in which lies the record of unkindness or neglect! Already had this been turned for Mr. Green, and conscience was sweeping therefrom the dust, which well-near obscured the handwriting. He trembled, inwardly, as he read the condemning sentences that charged him with the guilt of his own son's ruin.
"If we were only blameless of the poor child's death!"
How these words of the grieving mother smite upon his heart! He did not respond to them. How could he do so at that moment?
"Where is Edward?" he inquired, at length.
"I don't know," sobbed the mother. "He is out somewhere almost every evening. Oh! I wish you would look to him a little more closely. He is past my control!"
"I must do so," returned Mr. Green, speaking from a strong conviction of the necessity of doing as his wife suggested, "If I only had a little more time — "
He checked himself. It was the old excuse — the rock upon which all his best hopes for his first-born had been fearfully wrecked! His lips closed, his head was bowed, and, in the bitterness of unavailing sorrow — he mused on the past, while every moment the conviction of wrong towards his child, now irreparable, grew stronger and stronger.
After that, Mr. Green made an effort to exercise more control over his children; but he had left the reins loose so long, that his tighter grasp produced restiveness and rebellion. He persevered, however, and, though Edward followed too closely the footsteps of John, yet the younger children were brought under beneficial restraints. The old excuse — lack of time — was frequently used by Mr. Green, to justify neglect of parental duties; but a recurrence of his thoughts to the sad ruin of his oldest boy had, in most cases, the right effect — and, in the end, he ceased to give utterance to the words, "I haven't time." He never again fell into neglect of his children, from believing that business demanded his undivided attention.
The Temptation; Or, Who Is to Blame?
Mr. and Mrs. Algeron had resolved to give the first large "party of the season." They were rich, and could afford to lead off in splendid style — and this they intended to do.
"It is time our invitations were out," said Mrs. Algeron to her husband, about ten days before the evening fixed for the brilliant affair, "someone may get in advance of us."
"Very true. Well, suppose we make out a list at once, and have our cards ready to send by tomorrow afternoon."
"I think we should delay no longer. First, then, comes Mr. and Mrs. Turner, their son and beautiful daughter Grace."
"Of course. They give a new interest to the social circle this winter. Grace I think is one of the loveliest young creatures I have ever seen."
"She is indeed a sweet girl. So modest, yet so free from weakness. So accomplished and intelligent, and yet so gracefully retiring. I look upon her as a model for our daughters."
"I have thought, sometimes, when I have seen her more than usually animated in conversation, that she resembled Margaretta," said the father, alluding to his oldest child, a gentle girl of eighteen summers.
"I have also thought the same," replied Mrs. Algeron, while a fond maternal smile passed over her face. "Our Margaretta is a dear, good girl, and everyone thinks her beautiful."
"If as good as she is beautiful."
"As a child, she has ever been to me all I could wish," Mrs. Algeron returned, while her voice trembled, and her eyes grew dim with affection's tears. A brief silence followed this remark, and then she added, with a smile, though a bright drop glistened on her eyelash as she spoke —
"We cannot hope always to keep the dear girl with us. She will be wooed and won in the bloom and beauty of early womanhood, and taken from us at the moment our love has grown deeper and purer than ever."
"I think of that daily," said Mr. Algeron, in a voice of tender interest. "We cannot hope, as you say, long to keep her with us. She will be wooed and won — but by whom? That is the doubtful question! Of all the young men I have seen, there is but one to whom I could resign that sweet child without a sigh — and that one is Henry Turner. He is worthy of her hand."
"And she of his," added the fond and partial mother.
"I believe so."
"We must only hope for the best. They will be thrown much into each other's company this winter, and be drawn together, I trust, by mutual attraction. But who shall we invite next? Let me see."
"Oh, yes — they must come next."
"But what about Sidney Markland? You know he has acted very badly during the summer?"
"True — but we cannot pass him by. It would be a direct offence to the family," said Mrs. Algeron, thoughtfully.
"It would, no doubt. But his character is so bad, and his principles so loose, that I feel a most unconquerable reluctance to inviting him."
"But you know he is so handsome and accomplished, and adds so much to the life and enjoyment of a company. I really don't see how he could be spared, under any circumstances. Apart, however, from that, I could not think of wounding his sister and mother by so marked a reference to his recent bad conduct. It must be galling enough to them as it is."
"Yes, galling enough. But," resumed Mr. Algeron, "it is a question in my mind how far we are justified in admitting a person like Sidney Markland into the social circle. Conduct like his should meet the penalty of instant exclusion from virtuous society."
"If he stood alone, this could and ought to be done," replied Mrs. Algeron. "But he is the son of Mr. Markland, and we cannot exclude him. To his family, it would be a mortal offence. Think, now, if he were our own son, how we would feel to have him driven from good society. I am sure that I could not bear it."
"It would be, I know, a hard trial. Still, if one of my sons would act the base part that Sidney Markland has acted — I would have no right to complain if all the world shunned him. Look at poor Mrs. Spencer! I never meet her, that my heart does not ache for her. I never meet her that I do not utter an involuntary malediction upon the destroyer of her peace."
"Still, you must acknowledge that her daughter Sarah was equally to blame with the young man."
"I know nothing of the circumstances attending the case. I only know that he has robbed a poor widowed mother of her child, and made that child a curse instead of a blessing to the world. I know, moreover, that he is a most vile and abandoned character — a sophistocated villain — a black-hearted destroyer of innocence!"
"Don't — don't speak so hastily," said his wife, deprecatingly; "Sidney is but a very young man."
"So much the worse. A deliberate villain at his age, gives a wretched promise for the future. The fact is, he ought to be excluded from virtuous society. He is a dangerous man — a serpent with a charming eye — and a poisonous fang! I really think, now that I begin to reflect more seriously upon the subject, that we ought not to invite him. We will give the first party. Let us set the example of excluding the wicked and unprincipled. If we invite him, we assume the responsibility of introducing to the young and virtuous daughters of our friends, a man whose character and habits we detest — a man with whom we would no more trust our own child, than we would trust her with a demon. Let us stand up with virtuous integrity and put the ban upon him. It is full time that the social atmosphere was purified from the pestilent breath of such men as Sidney Markland!"
"I feel the force of all you say," was the reply of Mrs. Algeron, "but still, I do not think that we ought to assume the responsibility of which you speak."
Mr. and Mrs. Markland would never forgive us. Nor do I believe we would be sustained in the course you propose. Let somebody else act first in this matter — somebody not so intimate as we are with the Marklands."
"Well, let it be as you think best," was the acquiescing reply of Mr. Algeron, more than half willing, as his temporary enthusiasm subsided, to get rid of the responsibility he had been, a moment before, for assuming.
Sidney was, therefore, included in the card sent to the Markland family, when the invitations went out.
A beautifully embossed card, in a fancy envelope, was left at Mr. Turner's on the day following that on which the Algerons had concluded to send out their invitations. It contained "Mr. and Mrs. Algeron's compliments," etc. etc., all in due form. Mrs. Turner was holding it in her hand, as she sat near the window, in a musing attitude, when her husband came in about the hour of twilight, from his counting-room. He was a merchant who had moved to Philadelphia from New York about a year before. Mrs. Turner handed him the card without speaking. He looked at it, smiled, and handed it back to her, remarking as he did so,
"We must go, of course."
"Oh, certainly. But the principle of action we have laid down for ourselves will, doubtless, be severely tried."
"Well! Let the trial come — we must bear it with patient firmness. We have carefully weighed the whole subject, and our resolution is the result of a deliberate conviction, that it is the only safe course for ourselves, and the only honest one towards others."
"Yes, of that I am satisfied. Our social atmosphere needs purification."
"Indeed it does. No conduct, however heinous — no principles, however false and dangerous, are considered sufficient to exclude any one from our social circles — if wealth or family connections are thrown into the opposing scale. Is it any wonder, then, that year after year, our sweet young maidens, because they are reputed rich, are wooed and won by specious scoundrels, and their hearts crushed or broken before the warm flush of youth and beauty has faded from their cheeks? There is hardly a family among us, whose peace has not been destroyed from this very cause. And have we any guarantee that our dear child will not become the prey of some designing wretch, who may have the power to win her innocent, unsuspecting heart? None at all, as society is now constituted! A friend invites our daughter to his house, and at the same time invites a young man because he is respectably connected, who is as base as evil indulgences can make him. They are consequently thrown together. He wins her heart, because he wishes to make a wealthy marriage — and then breaks that heart! He cares nothing for her, but for the wealth and standing which she brings him. Gaining these, what is she to him but an encumbrance; or, at best, but a necessary evil? Would that this picture were a false one! But it is, alas! too true — and the contemplation of it makes my heart ache."
"That vile young man, Sidney Markland, I am very much afraid, will be countenanced still, for the sake of his family," remarked Mrs. Turner.
"Most probable. We can hardly depend upon the Algerons to exclude him. They are rather too much disposed to go with the mass. And besides, they are on terms of intimacy with the Marklands. Well! if he is at their party — we will have to retire with Grace. Our minds are made up to that."
"Mine is, certainly. As painful as such a course will be, I see no other for us to take."
"There is no other. We must protect our child, at all hazards. And, more than this, seeing as we do, clearly, the dangerous effects which flow from the present state of things, we would be false to our social trust, did we not set our faces against it. Someone must lead the way in this matter — and why not we?"
"Side by side with you, I am willing to stand," returned Mrs. Turner, firmly. "Clearly do I see that it is our duty, as members of society, to set our faces against all social evils. Is there a worse one than this evil of exposing our daughters to the corrupting influence attending upon association with young men of bad character?"
"None. And is it not astonishing that any parent is to be found indifferent on this subject? Astonishing that so few think of the dangers which beset their daughters? And still more astonishing that any, when once warned of danger, should continue criminally indifferent? Look at the sad case of Sarah Toner. Poor girl! how often my heart has ached for her! Urged by a sense of duty, I openly declared to her father my conviction of the danger she ran, in being permitted to attend parties where Sanford was a guest. He admitted that the young man was a most despicable character, but could not be convinced that there was any danger of his forming an intimacy with Sarah. The result proved not only his lack of true sagacity, but of true affection for his child — for true affection for a child seeks to guard it from danger. A wise parent knows that dangers lie all around; and a wise parent is ever active in warding them off!"
"As in New York," said Mrs. Turner, "so in this city, I fear that we shall stand almost alone."
"We shall, for a time — but, as in New York, our firm stand will doubtless have the effect to open the eyes of a few. That result will be worth the effort, and more than worth it. A little center will be formed; that center will gather the few who can see clearly, and have the conscientiousness to act firmly. Like the leaven hidden in three measures of meal — the principles from which this little center acts, will, as time progresses, spread widely — will, I trust, leaven the whole lump. There is in society a common-sense perception of right; especially of right principles, that are protective in their operations — to them I look confidently."
In due time, the evening for the party at the Algerons came round. It was eight o'clock when the carriage of Mr. Turner drove up, containing, besides himself, Mrs. Turner and their son and daughter. When they entered the spacious parlors of Mr. and Mrs. Algeron, they found assembled a large and brilliant company of the most wealthy and fashionable people in the city. All was mirthful confusion and unrestricted social fellowship. Grace, being a special favorite with her young friends, was soon drawn away from her mother's side. She was standing near a table upon which were thrown some choice engravings, with one arm around the waist of Margaretta Algeron — when a young man of peculiarly attractive appearance approached, and with a most winning smile, and an air of perfect self-possession, began turning over the prints and making allusions to them — which evinced no ordinary taste in regard to works of art. From these, he gradually led off the thoughts of his auditors, and introduced other subjects. He spoke of books, and quoted brief, but eloquent passages from popular authors, all in some way pertinent to the animated scene around them. In a little while he had joined the promenade, with Grace and Margaretta upon his arms, both of them listening with pleased interest to his attractive conversation.
As soon as Mr. Turner entered the rooms, he looked carefully around to see if Sidney Markland was there, determined to retire instantly with his family, if that young man made one of the company. But he did not see him, and the weight upon his feelings was removed. It was about an hour after, that, following a pause in an animated conversation into which he had entered with a gentleman, he alluded to young Markland, and declared his determination, as a matter of principle, not to remain in any company where he was an invited guest.
"Then you cannot remain here," was the reply, "for Sidney Markland is now present."
"Are you certain?" asked Mr. Turner in a changed tone.
"I am. It is not ten minutes ago I saw him in the other room, with your daughter upon his arm!"
Mr. Turner's heart bounded with a sudden and painful throb, as he quickly arose to his feet, and passed into the other parlor. What he had heard was indeed too true! There stood Markland, with Grace upon his arm, who was listening with a beaming face to his words, that, whatever they were, seemed to her peculiarly pleasing. Mr. Turner's first impulse was to separate them instantly, and, with open indignation, throw the young man aside, as he would a venomous serpent from the path of his child. But the dictate of prudence prevailed. Quietly retiring into the room he had just left, he sought his wife amid a group of ladies, and drawing her aside, whispered in her ear the startling news. Mrs. Turner did not hesitate a moment. She was quickly by the side of Grace, and, bowing coldly to Markland, asked him to excuse her daughter. She then passed with her out of the rooms, without attracting observation.
It was nearly half an hour before anyone missed them — long before that time, they were in their own home. To Grace, this seemed a strange proceeding, until her mother, after she was alone with her in their chamber, told her that the young man she had been conversing and promenading with was Sidney Markland, and that her father had determined not to remain in any company where he was invited.
"No — but surely, mother, you must be mistaken. That was not Sidney Markland."
"Who was it, then?"
"I don't know; he was not introduced to me. But he was a different kind of a person from young Markland, I am sure."
"Not at all different, my dear — for he it was, himself. An accomplished, handsome, intelligent, attractive young man — but, at heart, thoroughly corrupt."
This to Grace seemed inexplicable. She had never before met the profligate son of Mr. Markland, although she had frequently heard of him. Her idea of his personal appearance and manners, had conformed almost entirely with her impression of his moral character. It seemed to her, now, impossible that one so interesting — indeed, so really fascinating — as was the young man who had been holding her ear for nearly an hour, could be the base wretch he was represented. Sidney Markland was an object of her detestation; but she could not think of her brilliant companion of that evening with any feeling of dislike.
The silence and too apparent incredulity of Grace troubled Mrs. Turner exceedingly. She felt more deeply than ever, the dangers which lurked in every path in social life for her child — for the child of every parent — while no lines of moral distinction were drawn; but where the mere factitious addition of wealth or family made the passport into any circle. She did not, however, press the subject on the mind of Grace further than to assure her that she had been in company with none other than the young profligate, whose course of conduct for two or three years past had been such as to justly exclude him from virtuous society.
The brother of Grace, a young man of twenty-two, who had been carefully educated, and carefully guarded by his father, did not know of his sister's withdrawal by her parents from the company, until nearly ten o'clock. Mr. Turner glanced hastily around for him when about leaving, but not observing him did not care to look very closely. He would explain matters more fully on the next day, and then leave him, as he was of mature age, to act in freedom, according to the dictates of his own mind. He had fallen, soon after his entrance, into the company of Margaretta Algeron. She had been his favorite for some time past. Now she seemed more interesting than usual. In her society the moments flew by unnoticed; and he was unconscious that he had been monopolizing too long one of the most charming girls in the room, until Sidney Markland came up, and with his easy, polite assurance, said,
"Come, come, Mr. Turner! This won't do! Here you've been playing the agreeable to Miss Algeron for an hour past, while some half-dozen of us young fellows have been watching for a chance to speak to her. Allow me, if you please, to take your place — turn about, you know, is fair play."
Turner perceived in Margaretta a slight movement that indicated her approval of Markland's words, so flattering to herself, and, bowing with a forced smile, relinquished her. This was the first intimation he had that Markland was in the room. He immediately went in search of his sister; but not finding her readily, he looked about for his father and mother. They were not to be found either. The truth instantly crossed his mind. His first impulse was to retire likewise. But the interest he felt in Margaretta caused him to linger for an hour longer, during most of which time she was in the company of Markland, whose conversation seemed to be peculiarly attractive. He then left the mirthful assemblage, and went home with more than usually troubled feelings, the reason of which he could hardly explain to himself.
"Ah! good morning, Sid!" said a friend of young Markland's to him familiarly, as they met in Chestnut Street, one morning, about ten days after the party at Mr. Algeron's. "You are stirring early!"
"Yes. There is game abroad!"
"Indeed! Then you're on another scent? But take care you do not bark up the wrong tree."
"Never fear. I don't often make mistakes."
"And your game?"
"Is worth catching, I can assure you."
"No doubt. But who is she?"
"One of the sweetest girls in town. A prize, let me tell you, if there is any virtue in beauty and booty."
"And you are dull. Haven't I told you about the conquest I made at the last party?"
"Oh, yes! Miss Algeron. But what do you mean?" The friend looked grave as he asked this question.
At this, Markland laughed gayly for a moment or two, and then said, with a more serious tone and manner,
"I mean all fair, of course. Margaretta Algeron is of age and so am I, and I have therefore as perfect a right to win her heart and gain her hand as any one. And what is more, I intend doing it."
"Why, then, meet her in Chestnut Street? Why not go, like a man, to her father's house?"
"Because, as you know, circumstances alter cases. There has been an attempt made by that meddlesome old rascal, Turner, to get up a cry against me, on account of my little indiscretion with Sarah Spencer. Do you know that he actually left Mr. Algeron's house, with his wife and daughter, the moment the understood that I was there!"
"Yes — he did. And, I have been told, avows his determination not to attend, nor permit his family to attend, any social company where I am an invited guest!"
"Preposterous! He must be insane!"
"Not he. He's a cool-headed, determined old fellow, and will do just what he has said, to the letter."
"What does he mean?"
"Simply, that young-bloods like you and I, who have the independence to go our own road, in spite of old-fashioned morality, are to be prohibited from good society."
"It's true. And what is more, I'm cursedly afraid he'll get too many to sympathize with him. He'll prove a kind of leader to some, no doubt. But I think I can neutralize the effect of all this. I have already induced my old folks to send out invitations for the next party. This will take place before Turner's leaven can spread very far, and then, all who attend will feel it too delicate a matter to make an exception in my case when the family is invited out. Do you understand? Let the Turners draw their heads into their own turtle-shells, if they like to. Who cares?"
"You've outwitted them fairly," returned the friend, laughing.
"So I think. But we shall see. On the second evening following Mr. Algeron's party, I called and spent an hour with Margaretta, much to her delight. That I could readily see. But I have been there three times since, and she has been 'engaged'! I can understand that? Of course I can. Day before yesterday, I met her in Chestnut Street. We walked together for a couple of hours, during which time I readily got from her an admission that, if her wishes had been consulted, the excuse about being engaged would never have been made. I needed no more. It was, I saw, all easy work, so far as she was concerned. Yesterday we met again, and this morning she promised to come out early."
"Well, she is a lovely girl," remarked his companion.
"She is, without doubt. But there is one who takes my fancy even more than pretty Margaretta."
"Grace Turner. She is truly an angel! I had her in quite a fair way at the party, when her mother came up, looking as cross as an old bear, and asked me to be kind enough to excuse her daughter. I suppose she had just discovered my presence. I have not set eyes on Grace since that moment. If I thought there was any chance for her, I would let her brother have Margaretta, and think it a good bargain. You ought to have seen how cleverly I snatched Margaretta from Harry Turner at the party. Ha! ha! He had been sticking as close to her as a leech all the evening. I saw this — but didn't care, so long as I had the willing ear of his sister Grace. But when that chance was gone, I was taking care to make a due impression on the second best; and so I went up boldly, and cut him out with a cool impudence that you would have called quite refreshing. He tried to look daggers at me — but, do you think I cared? No! Curse him! If he attempts to cross my path, I'll call him out and shoot him! But see! There's my little charmer, looking as bright as a May morning, and as sweet as a bunch of roses! Good-bye, and take care of yourself."
And so saying, young Markland turned away abruptly, and crossing the street, met Margaretta Algeron, with an ease, self-possession, and graceful politeness, that charmed anew her young heart.
"You look troubled, dear," said Mr. Algeron, on meeting his wife, that evening. "Is anything the matter?"
"I feel troubled," was the reply in a serious voice. "The Marklands give the next party, and the invitations have already gone around."
"The Marklands? It isn't possible!" And a dark shadow passed over Mr. Algeron's face.
"Yes — it is too true. And, what is worse, we shall have to go. We cannot hold back, now. But my heart trembles for the consequences."
"It is now clear that we were wrong in not acting out our sober convictions in regard to Sidney Markland," Mr. Algeron said. "If we had excluded him, as he ought to have been excluded — he would never have had the opportunity which that occasion gave him, of ingratiating himself into Margaretta's good opinion, as he has too evidently done. There is no calculating, now, the consequences of that lack of resolution on our part, which prevented us from acting right from a clear conviction of right. It was our duty to have considered the well-being of society — to have acted for the general good as well as for our individual welfare — to have guarded our neighbor's household treasures, as well as our own. But, we were afraid to stand up, in the simple dignity of true principles — to do right for the sake of right. And upon our own heads, is threatened to be visited, the penalty of our lack of that moral courage which sustains everyone in true courses of action. How different was the conduct of Mr. and Mrs. Turner! Can either of us blame them for promptly withdrawing their daughter from an atmosphere poisoned by the breath of a man like young Markland? No! I, for one, honor their firmness, and approve their conduct!"
"But, perhaps, we are, after all, giving ourselves unnecessary fear," Mrs. Algeron suggested. "Henry Turner seems a good deal interested in Margaretta. I noticed that he was with her, on the night of the party, more than with anyone else; and you know he has called here twice since to see her."
"Yes — I know that. But Margaretta is young, and not capable of seeing far below the surface. The brilliant conversation and attractive manners of Markland will make a more ready impression upon her — than possibly can the calm, dignified, somewhat cold exterior of the other. I observed her closely at the party, and saw her eye brighten, and the whole expression of her face kindle with a new animation, when Markland came up to her and Henry Turner, and, with the ease and polite grace of a Chesterfield, took her away from him."
"And you say Margaretta seemed pleased?"
"Oh, yes! It appeared to me that she was like one passing from a frigid atmosphere, into a warm room."
Neither of the now unhappy parents of a fondly loved child, whom their own lack of firmness and failure to adhere to just principles of action had placed in imminent danger, spoke for some time. Each became lost in painful thought; and each was vainly searching about for some way of escape from the dilemma in which they found themselves. At length, Mr. Algeron said, respiring deeply as he spoke —
"There is but one way. And that is to imitate Mr. Turner. That he is right, all must admit — and all do admit, except such as feel a bearing of his conduct upon themselves or families, in some degree, intimate or remote."
"But that is impossible now," returned Mrs. Algeron, gloomily. "We gave the first party, and invited all the Markland family. They give the second. Now, with what kind of grace can we decline going to their house, on their son's account!"
"Do you wish to see your child the wife of Sidney Markland?" Mr. Algeron asked, with a sudden and bitter emphasis.
"No!" was the quick reply. "I would rather see her dead!"
"Then, is any sacrifice too dear which will save her from such a fate?"
"No! none that we have a right to make."
"Haven't we a right to stay away from all companies contaminated by Sidney's presence?"
"I suppose we have."
"Then let us be true to our trust. We have committed one error. Timely caution may prevent its proving a fatal one — fatal to our peace — fatal to the happiness of our child. Why should we hesitate a moment, when there is so much at stake?"
"We should not," was the half-reluctant admission of Mrs. Algeron.
"Then we must not. Let us meet all the trifling consequences of a firm adherence to a right course. The way of duty, is the only way of safety."
When excited, Mr. Algeron was a man who felt strongly and thought clearly. At other times, he was led by the general customs of the society in which he moved, and inclined to be influenced by the good opinions of others. He was now strongly excited by the vivid perception he had of his child's danger. But this excitement soon wore off, and he began to waver in his mind as to whether it would do for them to pass by the invitation of the Marklands. Finally, after much anxious thought and discussion, it was concluded to attend the party, with their daughter. But to let it be the last, if there were any appearances of too close an intimacy between the young couple.
In the mean time, the mother fully exposed to Margaretta the despicable character of Sidney Markland, as a guard against his advances. Little did they think, that even at the very time they were thus endeavoring to protect her from the fowler's snare — that she was entangled almost inextricably in its meshes! But it was, alas! too true. They had opened the door for the tempter to enter.
Fully aware of what they were doing, and, after reflection on the subject, they had deliberately said to the destroyer of innocence, "Come in among us!" And he had come. They hoped to guard their own child from his allurements. But she had been first won by them. And already her young heart had thrilled to words of tenderness and love. In vain, then, did Mrs. Algeron endeavor to paint Sidney Markland in his true colors. The heart of the daughter rejected the picture, as a counterfeit presentment of one who could not be the wretch her mother would gladly make her believe him to be. At the first disparaging allusions to him, she ventured a mild defense. But this she saw reasons to waive. Her silence, however, took nothing from her good opinion of her traduced lover — for such he had ventured to declare himself on their third meeting in Chestnut Street.
On the day previous to the evening on which the Marklands' party was to take place, Mr. Turner came into the store of Mr. Algeron, and asked for a private interview. As soon as he was alone with Mr. Algeron, he said,
"You must pardon me, my dear sir, for the liberty I am about to take. But I am a father, and, therefore, I feel with every father, and cannot see a maiden in danger and keep silent with a clear conscience."
"My dear sir! What do you mean?" exclaimed Mr. Algeron, with a look and tone of alarm.
"Are you aware that your daughter is to be found, almost every day, in Chestnut Street, in company with Sidney Markland?"
"Impossible!" ejaculated Mr. Algeron, turning pale.
"It is too true, sir. I have seen them together three times within the past week, myself, and have heard others allude to the fact. Were it my daughter, I would thank the man who told me, with my whole heart — and I have therefore done to you — just as I would wish to be done by."
"I can hardly believe it!" said Mr. Algeron, mournfully, as he laid his head upon his hands, in momentary bodily prostration from the sudden and painful shock occasioned by this distressing news, "that my daughter has thus deceived us. It is so unlike her. From her earliest years she has acted towards us without disguise."
"But have you had no reason to suspect that something was wrong?"
"We knew that the young man wished to visit her, for he has called some three or four times at our house. But since his first visit, we have not permitted Margaretta to see him. Strange! that in the course of a single evening, he should have made so indelible an impression upon her mind."
"He is, perhaps, one of the handsomest and most fascinating young men in this city. As much confidence as I have in my own daughter, I would no more trust her — young, innocent, and susceptible, in his company — than I would with a devil! He seems to possess the power of charming, like a serpent. It was because you invited him to your house, that I left it with my family, as soon as I discovered that he was there. And, even in the short time my child was present, he found his way to her side. Already had I made up my mind that I would mingle in no social circle where he was invited to come."
"Would to Heaven I had acted as wisely!" said Mr. Algeron, with bitterness. "I saw as clearly as you did, the necessity of excluding that young man, and all like him — but had not the moral courage to act out my clear convictions of right. Dearly, it seems, I am about to pay for my criminal weakness!"
When Mrs. Algeron, to whom her husband communicated, immediately, the painful news he had learned from Mr. Turner, opened the matter to Margaretta, the maiden replied only by a flood of tears, confirmatory of the truth of the allegation. But she made no effort to justify herself, nor could her mother extort from her a promise not to see the young man again. She was deeply distressed, but not penitent in regard to her conduct. The only thing she said, was in reply to a sweeping declaration in regard to Markland's character.
"He is not the wretch you would have me believe him, mother."
This was uttered in a firm tone of voice.
"He is without honor, principle, or any shade of moral honesty!" returned Mrs. Algeron, warmly.
"To me he is honest, mother — towards me, his intentions are honorable. I can judge him no farther."
There was, in the manner in which this was said, a something which caused Mrs. Algeron to cease further remonstrance. She felt that it would be worse than useless, and tend to confirm Margaretta in her mad infatuation. Leaving her alone in her chamber, she sought her husband and related to him the result of her interview. Never had either of them, in all their previous lives, found themselves in such a strait — never had any affliction which had befallen them, so utterly prostrated their mental energies — so deeply wounded them as this. And, added to their pain of mind, was the rebuking consciousness that they alone were to blame for the whole of this. That all the wretchedness which must inevitably be their daughter's portion, if she should finally wed, in spite of them, this profligate young man, who was altogether incapable of truly loving one like her — must be chargeable to them!
The only thing they could now do was to take such judicious courses, to prevent their daughter from again meeting young Markland, as seemed best calculated to effect that end, and trust to time to efface the impression he had made upon her feelings.
Of the brilliant company that graced the splendid parlor of the Marklands, neither themselves nor daughter formed a part. Sidney looked through the bright group of female loveliness, in vain for her whom he had determined to win. Her heart he already possessed, as he knew by her own frank confession. Her hand must next come. On that he had resolved. At first, he was attracted by her sweet beauty — then he was stimulated in the pursuit by the evident determination of Mr. and Mrs. Algeron to keep him from associating with her — and confirmed in this by her own innocent confessions of the truth in regard to both her own and her parents' feelings.
"The Algerons are not here, Kate," said he to his eldest sister, after the evening had more than half worn away, and he had become satisfied that they would not come.
"Sure enough, Sid! I wonder what can be the meaning of it?" Kate returned, in some surprise.
"I think I know," replied the young man, compressing his lips, and looking grave.
"Explain it to me."
"I will, tomorrow."
"Why not now?"
"It will take too much time; and besides, I wish to have a talk with you, alone, in regard to a matter in which I feel a deep interest."
"Does it concern Margaretta Algeron?"
"It does. But here comes two or three pretty chatterboxes, and I am in duty bound to entertain them. Tomorrow, I will have a long talk with you."
"And now, brother, what have you to say to me?" was the interrogation of Kate, as she took a seat beside Sidney Markland, about ten o'clock the next morning. Her face wore a serious expression.
"I wish to talk to you about Margaretta Algeron, sis."
"Well. What of her?"
"In a word, then, I love her."
"You are not the man to make a girl like Margaretta happy," was the firm reply of the sister, who was older than Sidney by several years.
"The devil, I am not!"
"No, brother, seriously, you are not. Your habits of life and your general estimate of our gender must be radically changed — before you can make any sensitive, pure-minded, confiding woman happy. I speak earnestly and seriously, because I feel so. Though you are my brother, I must say, that you are not a man capable, at present, of loving as she needs to be loved — a girl like Margaretta. You would break her heart in a year!"
"How madly you talk, Kate!" exclaimed Sidney, impatiently rising and taking two or three rapid turns upon the floor. "Do you think me utterly depraved? Is there no good in me? I can bear such a judgment from the world. But to be estimated so meanly by my own sister, who ought to know me better — I feel to be unkind, indeed."
"Sidney!" replied Kate, rising and walking by his side. "You are my brother, and, as such, I love you. But I am not, and do not wish to be, blind to your faults. I have shed many a bitter tear on your account. Your irregular habits, your unsettled principles, your impatience of just restraint — have cost me many a sorrowful hour. For a sister to bear all this, is hard — but how much more so for a wife? Especially if she is so young, so gentle, so confiding, so pure-minded as Margaretta Algeron. Sidney! I would rather see that sweet maiden in her burial-clothes, than decked in bridal garments — if you were the one about to lead her to the sacrificial altar!"
"Surely you are beside yourself, Kate!" the brother replied, with ill-restrained impatience. "I love Margaretta tenderly — as I never loved any living creature before — and I can and will make her happy."
"Does she know of this?"
"From my own lips."
"Where, and when?"
The young man hesitated, and for a moment looked confused, while his sister regarded him with a steady eye and compressed lips.
"Did you tell her so, in her father's house?"
"Did you address her, with her father's consent?"
"No! Had I waited for that, I never would have addressed her. He is strongly prejudiced against me."
"Too justly, alas!" was the sad response of Kate, her voice slightly broken.
"From my own sister, I had hoped for a less severe judgment," the young man returned, in a tone that showed him to be a good deal hurt.
"Your sister can only love you sincerely and truly for your virtues, Sidney. Your vices, she hopes ever to detest. Would you have my words only from the teeth outward? Would you be flattered by my lips, while my heart judges you with a harsh judgment? I trust not! Be a man! Let the truth come to you, even if it divides the very bones and marrow of your moral being."
"I have nothing to hope from you, I see," the brother said, after musing for some time. "I had hoped differently. Margaretta Algeron must and shall be mine, in spite of all opposition!"
"Will you ask her of her father?" inquired Kate.
"And if he does not give his consent?"
"I will take her in spite of it!"
This was said with a half-angry determination of manner, which left the sister little to hope for, in regard to her influence over him. She did not attempt to question him further, or to make any more appeals to him. He walked the floor in deep thought for some time, and then turned abruptly away, and left the house.
He came and went as usual for several days, maintaining towards Kate a rigid silence in regard to the subject of their late interview. During that time, he had spent a large portion of each day in walking Chestnut Street, in the hope of meeting Margaretta. But this hope was disappointed. On the evening of the fifth day, he called at the house of Mr. Algeron, and asked an interview with that gentleman. As soon as he met him, and had been received with the most cold and formal politeness, he said —
"I come, Mr. Algeron, to ask the privilege of formally addressing your daughter."
"Strange that you should not thought of doing this before!" replied Mr. Algeron with ill-concealed irony.
"I do not understand you, sir!"
"Why did you not come frankly and openly, like a man, and say this to me before — instead of meeting my child clandestinely, and endeavoring to steal away her young affections?"
"On what authority do you charge me with such conduct, sir?" the young man asked in a firm and decided tone.
"On the authority of those who have seen you walking with her, almost daily — while I had not the remotest suspicion of the fact!"
"Was there harm in walking a few squares with your daughter, if I happened to meet her in the street? If so, I am not alone in this offence against you — nor are you the only father I have sinned against."
"Well, well! To bring this matter to a close at once," said Mr. Algeron, impatiently, "you cannot have my consent to address Margaretta! In this I am decided."
"It will then, I suppose, be useless for me to urge reasons why you ought to change your mind?"
"Entirely so! I am in earnest in what I say!"
Sidney Markland arose at this, bowed formally, and left the house.
From that time Margaretta was guarded with the utmost vigilance, at the same time that the appearance of leaving her in freedom was preserved as far as it was possible to do so under the circumstances. She was never permitted to go out alone. At first she was greatly distressed; and did little else but sit alone in her room and weep. This continued for some weeks, when there was a gradual change for the better. She grew more cheerful, and mingled, as she had formerly done, with the family. Still, there was an abstract and dreamy manner about her, that troubled the hearts of her parents. It was too evident that she was not happy.
One evening, near the hour of retiring, about two months from the time Markland had formally asked for her hand and been refused, she lingered about her father with a more than usually affectionate manner, and seemed half reluctant to part from him. At length she drew her arms about his neck, and laid her young cheek tenderly to his. Then, slowly withdrawing herself, and leaving a tear glistening upon his face, she retired to her chamber, bearing with her his fervently uttered blessing.
"God keep you, my sweet child!" he murmured, as he dashed the moisture from his own dimming eye.
When Margaretta entered her chamber, she carefully locked her door, and, seating herself by her bed, bent over, and buried her face in a pillow. She remained in this attitude for nearly an hour, when she slowly arose, the tears resting on her cheeks, that had become pale, and, going to her drawers, commenced taking out her clothes. She had not proceeded far in this, when her feelings overcame her, and she leaned her head down upon the bureau by which she was standing, and sobbed violently. From this state, she aroused herself with an effort, and went on with her strange employment, which consisted in taking from her drawers a portion of her clothing, and tying it up into two large bundles. This completed, she sat down by a table and tried to write a note. But for a time the tears blinded her eyes, so that she could not see — and when her vision became clear, her hand trembled too much to fulfill the dictates of her mind. At last, she accomplished her task, a brief note was written and addressed —
"To my dear father and mother."
It ran as follows:
"Do not be alarmed when you find that I have left my home, and forsaken the father and mother whom I love so deeply and so tenderly. Do not be angry with your child! Do not cast her off for this rash act. You know not the anguish of mind she suffers in taking such a step. But she cannot obey your wishes, without being miserable — neither can she violate them, without exquisite pain. In a little while, she will come back, a humble suppliant for your forgiveness and your love, without which she cannot live. Dear parents! Judge me not too harshly. Do not be angry with me. I cannot bear the thought of your displeasure. I love you, oh! how tenderly! I would sacrifice anything for your happiness, which I could sacrifice without my heart's breaking in the effort. Again I say, do not be angry with me. Do not determine to cast me off from your love. This would be too severe a punishment of one whose heart asks for you a blessing both night and morning. But, oh! forgive your child!"
After folding this with trembling hands, Margaretta threw a cloak over her shoulders, drew on a tight bonnet, and, taking up her bundle, moved towards the door. Pausing, with her hand upon the lock, she listened for some moments, to hear if anyone were stirring in the house. She heard, or imagined that she heard, a sound. This caused her to wait for nearly half an hour longer, during which time she sat almost as still as death — her feelings sometimes wrought up to a pitch of excitement which threatened temporarily to unsettle her reason, and then subsiding into half unconsciousness. At the expiration of this time, strong doubts in regard to the step she was about to take came suddenly into her mind, producing a most violent agitation. She arose, moved towards the door and placed her hand upon, it; but she seemed held back by a strong invisible arm. Warmings, almost audible, seemed whispered in her ear — along with urgings to go on as she had begun. Wild confusion reigned in her mind for many minutes, during which time she stood irresolute, with her hand upon the door.
At length, she grew calmer, and with this calmness, came back the strength of her rash purpose. Slowly she opened the door, after having extinguished her light, and stepped out into the dark passage. At that instant, the hall-door bell rang violently, the noise ringing up the passage, and penetrating every chamber. Margaretta shrank back, quickly, into her room, her heart throbbing audibly, and stood for some minutes at her half-open door. In a few moments, she heard a movement overhead — then a servant came grumblingly down-stairs, and proceeded to the front-door. She listened eagerly, but could hear no voice. Soon the door was closed with a heavy jar, and the half-asleep servant returned, indicating his progress by running first against a chair, then half-overthrowing a hat-rack, and then striking himself heavily on some forgotten corner.
At last he paused, and she could hear him tapping at her father's door. This was opened — a word or two passed, and then the servant went up again to his room in the attic. A suspicion flashed across her mind, that all might not be right. This was confirmed, in a few minutes, by hearing the doors of her father's and mother's chamber open, and someone commence ascending the stairs. Quick as thought, she threw her bundles, with her bonnet and shawl, under the bed, felt for the letter she had left upon the table, and securing it, jumped into her bed, and drew the clothes up tightly about her neck, closing her eyes at the same time, and pretending sleep. By the time this was accomplished, her chamber-door opened, and her mother came in with a light in her hand. She paused, and glanced around for a moment. Then coming up to the beside, she passed the light two or three times before the closed eyes of her daughter, who lay, apparently, in a profound slumber. After this, the mother quietly withdrew.
All this had passed, to Margaretta, like a dream; and, as if but half awake, her bewildered mind acted so incoherently, that it was a longer time before she could realize perfectly, the true position she occupied. By degrees, however, she recovered a distinct consciousness of her situation. The thought that in all this she was not acting alone — that Markland was anxiously awaiting her — caused her at length to rise from the bed, and again make preparations to leave her father's house. All was dark within, except the feeble light that came into her window from a sky lit up with its thousands of twinkling star-gems. Allowing about an hour to elapse from the time her mother had visited her chamber, she once more stepped forth, and stealthily moved along the dark passages and down the stairs. Her way was past her father's door. It seemed to her, as she drew near, that she could not go by it — that she could not thus leave him who had watched over her from infancy with such tender care, and go forth to cast the rich treasures of her young heart at the feet of a stranger. Her mother, too, whose bosom had so often and so long pillowed her head — whose arm had so long been around her — how could she turn away from her, all heedless of her solemn warnings — and take the path she had told her was so full of danger? Struggling with such thoughts and feelings, she moved on, until she was opposite that chamber she dreaded so to pass. At that instant, its door was thrown open, letting forth a blaze of light, and her father stood before her. She startled back in alarm, looked at him for an instant with a pale, frightened face, and then sank to the floor insensible!
About two hours previous to the time when Margaretta Algeron left her chamber, and attempted to escape from her father's house — an exciting scene was passing in one of Mr. Markland's parlors, between Sidney and his sister Kate. He had communicated to her his intention of running away, that night, with the infatuated Margaretta.
"No — no, brother! You intend no such thing!" said Kate, in a quick, decided voice.
"Yes, but I do. And what is more, I want you to go with me, and wait in the carriage while I meet her as she escapes from the house. We will then go to the minister's; after which, I wish to bring her here."
"I shall do no such thing, Sidney!" was Kate's resolute answer.
"You will not?"
"No! I will not! Nor, if in my power to prevent it, shall that foolish girl become your wife!"
"You cannot prevent it, even if you were mad enough to make the attempt. I will carry her off, within two hours, in spite of everyone."
"Sidney! you must not!" Kate said, in a voice anxious and appealing. "You do not, you cannot love Margaretta, as one like her needs to be loved. You will as surely break her heart — as you wed her! I say this with pain; but the truth is extorted from me by your rashness. In your determined pursuit of her, you have been stirred on by selfishness — not by a pure, high-minded, generous passion for a lovely maiden. The prize, when gained, will be like the butterfly so hotly followed by the eager boy — its loveliness will be more than half diminished. In a little while, you will regard her only as a burden — not as a blessing."
"A compliment to her, at least," the brother replied, with a sneer. "Then you don't think her good enough for me? That alters the position of affairs materially."
"Sidney! You understand me well enough. You are not, at least for the present, capable of making a woman, I ought to say, a foolish child — like the one you are about to carry off from the arm and bosom of her mother, happy. You have not been charmed by her virtues — virtuous and innocent though she is — nor has she been moved to love you and confide in you, from a calm appreciation of your moral qualities — "
"Moral qualities, the devil! You make me sick, Kate! Don't preach after that fashion to me. But say, once for all, will you, or will you not go with me, and receive the girl, after I carry her off?"
"I have already told you no, Sidney!" Kate replied, in a husky, choking voice.
"Then I can find someone who will — and no hard matter either!" And thus saying, the young man turned abruptly away and left the house.
Kate did not move from the position in which he had left her for nearly ten minutes. At length, she arose quickly, as if a certain course of action had been decided upon, and sprang up the stairs into her chamber. Seating herself at her writing-table, she penned hastily the following note:
"Mr. Algeron: Within an hour, an attempt will be made by Sidney Markland to run away with your daughter. I, his sister, have endeavored, but in vain, to dissuade him from his purpose. He is bent upon its accomplishment. There is, therefore, but one course left to me, and that is, to warn you of the impending danger before it be too late. Say to Margaretta, from me, the sister of the man into whose hands she had so rashly determined to place her happiness — that he is not worthy of her. That he will as surely break her heart with neglect, infidelity, and unkindness, as he gets power over it as a husband. I say this with painful reluctance — but I am a woman, and I feel for woman's wrongs — and did I not speak now, I would be unworthy the name of a woman. He thinks lightly of our gender. We are but toys for his idle hours — the playthings for his amusement. Heaven knows how ardently I wish that this were not so — that he was truly worthy of a hand like that of your child, whom I would take as a sister to my bosom, with a feeling of pure affection."
After writing this, Kate wrapped herself up warmly, assuming a partial disguise, and quietly descending the stairs, left the house and went with rapid steps in the direction of Mr. Algeron's residence. Just before she reached it, she passed a carriage standing in the street, near which were two men in close conversation. One of them she instantly recognized as her brother. She had to go very near to them, and her heart trembled lest she should be discovered, and prevented from putting her design into execution.
"I ought to know that girl," said Markland to his companion, after Kate had passed them. "There is something exceedingly familiar about her."
"So it struck me," was the reply. "She seems in considerable of a hurry, I would say. Out on some case of life and death, perhaps!"
Sidney did not remark further in regard to her, but stood thoughtful for nearly a minute. Then he said, in a quick, and alarmed tone —
"Curse her! It cannot possibly be that incorrigible sister of mine, mad enough to attempt to defeat our scheme!"
And he started forward, gaining, by a few rapid strides, the corner of the street around which Kate had turned. The house of Mr. Algeron stood far down the square, nearly to the next street — it could easily be distinguished by the light of a brilliant gas-lamp which stood immediately in front of it. Sure enough, the female who had passed them, stood in the door!
"It is Kate, by my life!" he ejaculated, springing forward with a quicker pace.
Kate saw him coming, and her heart trembled lest he should gain the spot where she stood before her summons could be answered. She listened anxiously, but no sound within indicated the approach of anyone — and without her brother was only the distance of a hundred feet away. Onward he came, at a rapid speed — only the breadth of the street divided them; and still the door remained closed, and no sound reached her eagerly listening ear.
"Too late! Too late!" she murmured sadly to herself. At that instant, just as her brother's foot cleared the curbstone nearest her, the door slowly opened.
"Take this to Mr. Algeron instantly!" the excited girl said, thrusting the note she had written into the hand of a servant, and then, to cut off the possibility of her brother's gaining possession of it from the bewildered servant, she drew the door to heavily, her heart bounding with a feeling of relief as she heard the quick fall of the dead-latch. At the same moment, the hand of Sidney clutched her arm with a heavy grip.
"Rash girl! What have you done?" he said in a quick excited whisper.
"My duty!" was the calm reply of the noble-hearted maiden, as she looked him steadily in the face.
Sidney still held her arm with a firm grasp, and seemed ready to hit her. He was terribly excited, and scarcely knew what he was doing.
"If you were not my sister, I would murder you as soon as look at you! How dare you cross my path in this way?" he said, grinding his teeth, and glaring at her fiercely. Then he jerked her from the door with sudden violence, which caused her to fall heavily upon the pavement, where she lay motionless for a few moments, uttering a low moan, that she evidently struggled to suppress.
The wild excitement of passion under which Sidney had labored, subsided in an instant. Bending over Kate, he endeavored to raise her; but the moment he touched her arm, she gave a cry of pain. It was broken! And he had broken it!
Seriously alarmed, the young man next endeavored to lift her up, by grasping her waist tightly with both hands. When on her feet, she leaned heavily against him, unable, from sudden physical prostration, to sustain her own weight. But she gradually recovered, and, supported by her brother's arm, walked slowly in the direction of the carriage, suffering most excruciating pain.
"Drive slowly to Doctor Cooper's!" Sidney said to the driver, as soon as Kate had reached and entered the carriage.
"No! — no! Take me home," interposed his sister.
"Do as I tell you!" was the peremptory order of the brother. And the driver mounted his box and proceeded slowly, but in the required direction.
It was in vain that the suffering girl implored to be taken home. Sidney was firm in his determination to have the arm first examined and set by a physician. How he would act after that, he had not yet determined. He had not yet had time for reflection. In a little while, they drew up to Doctor Cooper's. Kate at first refused to leave the carriage; but a firmly expressed determination to take her out by force, if she did not come of her own will, prevailed over her. The doctor had retired for the night. But the case was urgent, and he had to attend it.
Kate sat with her veil drawn closely about her face, when the doctor entered. The sleeve of her dress was quickly ripped open, and her arm examined. The extent of the injury sustained was soon apparent in a fracture of one of the bones of the right forearm. In falling, she had endeavored to save herself by catching upon her hand, and the concussion had snapped the bone. The doctor said but little until he had carefully set the broken bone, during which operation, Kate fainted. After the arm had been properly bandaged, and Kate had recovered her consciousness, the doctor asked, very naturally, how the accident had happened.
"That is of no consequence, sir!" was Sidney's evasive reply.
"I don't know, young man; it may be of consequence for anything I can tell. Adventures of this kind — "
"We wanted only your professional services," quickly interrupted Sidney, "nothing more! These have been rendered, and now, if you will name your fee, I will pay you and retire."
Doctor Cooper was a firm and decided man. He knew Sidney Markland very well, and knew him to be a profligate, and unprincipled. His sister, he had never met, and therefore had no idea that the female he had brought in so deplorable a condition, bore to him that intimate relationship. But he saw plainly that he governed her movements compulsorily, and that was enough to prompt him resolutely to interfere.
"I cannot permit you to retire with this young lady, sir, until I know something of the causes which produced so painful an injury to her," he said firmly, moving to a position that placed him between Sidney and the door.
"Do not tempt me to punch you?" the young man said, his face growing dark with instantly excited passion, as he spoke. "Come," he added, taking hold of Kate, and drawing her towards the door, "and you, sir, stand aside!"
Doctor Cooper stepped back quickly a few paces — closed the door, and, locking everyone in, put the key into his pocket. This was done with an air of calm deliberation that showed him to be fully in earnest.
There was a momentary breathless silence — the sharp "click" of a pistol-lock was heard, as Sidney drew a weapon from his pocket, and presented it to the bosom of Doctor Cooper.
"Stand aside!" he said, in a deep husky voice. "I am not in the mood to be trifled with!"
"Oh, brother!" exclaimed Kate, catching hold of his arm, "for God's sake, stop!"
"And is this your sister?" ejaculated Doctor Cooper, in a changed voice, slowly turning and unlocking the door.
"Confusion!" muttered the young man between his teeth, letting the hand that held the pistol fall to his side. Then striding out of the room — he left the house and his sister alone with the physician.
The few questions he addressed to Kate were only answered by a request to be taken home immediately. This was at once complied with. Doctor Cooper went with her, and accompanying her to her father's house.
The first intimation the family had that Kate was anywhere but in her own room, was her appearance with the doctor, in the condition we have described her. The whole house was in consternation at the calamity that had befallen her under circumstances so mysterious, and yet all unexplained, except so far as the doctor's story went. Kate remained silent to every question, until the physician had retired, and she was alone with her father and mother. Then she related, even to the most minute particulars, all that had occurred that night. Mr. and Mrs. Markland could only approve the self-sacrificing, magnanimous conduct of their daughter. Their hearts ached for their firstborn — the early hope and promise of their house. But now the thorn of their prodigal son, made restless their nightly pillow. They waited for his return, even until day-dawn, with feelings that none but the parents of such a son can imagine. But the morning broke coldly and cheerily — and he was still away.
It was nearly an hour before Margaretta recovered from the state of insensibility, into which the sudden apparition of her father had thrown her. When consciousness returned, she buried her face in the pillow of the bed upon which she had been laid, and sobbed and wept with convulsive violence. Nothing was said to her. Her father retired from the room, and her mother laid herself down beside her, with the intention of spending the night there. In the course of half an hour, Margaretta fell off to sleep, and did not awaken until long after daylight. Her mother was sitting by her side, and looking into her face with an expression of tender concern, when she opened her eyes. The poor girl burst into tears, and turned her face away. But Mrs. Algeron took her hand, and said, in an earnest but affectionate voice,
"Thank God, my dear child, that you have been saved, by His kind interposition — from a lifetime of heart-aching wretchedness. Listen to this note, which we received last night, at midnight, from the hand of Sidney's sister. A sister, and especially such a sister as Kate Markland, would not write a note like this, were she not impelled to do so by a most imperative sense of duty."
"Did Kate Markland write that?" Margaretta asked, in a tone of surprise, turning toward her mother, as she finished reading.
"She did. Look at it yourself," and she handed Margaretta the note. The unhappy girl read it through, and then heaving a deep sigh, or rather groan, turned her face slowly to the wall, and closing her eyes, through the quivering lashes of which stole out the compressed tears, lay silent, but in deep thought. Now that the rash step she was about to take with such made precipitancy had been prevented — she could not help feeling, especially after reading the note from Kate, a silent aspiration of thankfulness that she was still safely in her father's house. And yet toward Sidney, her heart went forth in feelings of deep tenderness. He had won her girlish affections — those exquisitely tender, immature, and ardent emotions, which are first awakened in a maiden's bosom; and these clung to him like the vine's first embracing tendrils, to the stem which lifts it up joyfully from the earth to drink in the sunbeams.
About ten o'clock, Mr. Markland, the father of Sidney, called to see Mr. Algeron. They held a long and somewhat painful interview, in which Mr. Markland related all that Kate had told him in regard to the occurrences of the night previous.
"And now," said he, on concluding his brief narrative, "believe me, Mr. Algeron, that it would pain me equally with yourself, to see my unhappy boy as the husband of your gentle child. He could not, and would not make her happy. The most careful precaution should be used on your part to prevent him again seeing her — though I know not, since the incident of last night, which must become public to a certain extent, that he will again attempt to lead her off. He has not yet returned home, nor do I know where he is."
"Is Kate well enough to receive a visit, and converse?" Mr. Algeron asked, after a thoughtful silence of some moments.
"She is not. She has a great deal of fever this morning, and is in much pain. The doctor says she must be kept very quiet."
"Then, of course, we cannot take Margaretta to see her."
"Not immediately. But as soon as she can bear company, it would, I think, be well to let them have an interview. In the mean time, a history of last night's events will no doubt have a good effect."
In this, Mr. Markland was not mistaken. The narrative shocked Margaretta very much, and, what was better, gave to her thoughts a new direction — though it did not, of course, extinguish her affection for Sidney, whose image still held the uppermost place in her heart.
Sidney did not make his appearance at home until the second day after his ineffectual attempt to carry off Mr. Algeron's daughter. Then he came in and went out as usual — but moody and silent. He neither asked after Kate, nor went near her chamber. She, poor sufferer, did not recover speedily. The strong excitement under which she had labored, caused a violent fever to follow the setting of her arm, which lingered about her system for some time, preventing that speedy union of the bones which follow where the health of the body is good. The cause of her illness could not be concealed, and soon the most exaggerated stories were floating about, none of which reflected a very favorable light upon her brother.
Gradually, the general detestation in which he was held, began to have a deeper and deeper influence upon Margaretta. It would have been strange if all the means used to poison the mind of one so young, even against so fascinating a lover, should not have had some effect. But especially beneficial in weaning her mind away from him, were the earnest appeals of his own sister, as soon as she had sufficiently recovered to visit her.
It was about six weeks from the time the exciting incidents just detailed occurred, that Mr. Turner said to his wife, as they sat one evening conversing,
"This exclusion of ourselves from society is not right; and yet, we have had full warning of the danger that exists in social life, under its present forms."
"And a warning that we dare not pass unheeded," replied Mrs. Turner.
"True. But is it not our duty, instead of withdrawing from society, to make an effort to introduce some beneficial reforms?"
"Perhaps it is."
"I think so; and am willing to make the trial. Suppose we invite company, but upon the principle of excluding all young men whose characters are known to be bad. Are you willing to stand up with me in this?"
"I am perfectly willing."
"Then let us appoint an early evening, and send out our notes of invitation. In the mean time, I will converse freely with Mr. Algeron, who, of course, is ready to sanction such a proceeding now, and also with as many others as I think prepared for such a step. The common sense of everyone must approve it. All that is needed, I am sure, is someone firm enough to lead the way."
True to this just determination, Mr. and Mrs. Turner sent out their notes of invitation at an early day. Only a few of these were prohibitive in their character — as, for instance, that sent to the Markland family, which specified by name, those who were invited — and three others, sent to families that were unfortunate enough to have one member each, not worthy to mingle in virtuous society; which were worded in like manner. To two of these families, the exclusion proved a deep offence. But the others could not help but acknowledge that there was a true principle governing the conduct of Mrs. Turner, and approved it, though painful to their feelings.
The party at the Turners', which was well attended, and proved a delightful one to all present, was quickly followed by another at Mr. Algeron's, upon the same exclusive principle, and this by a third, under like restrictions. Grace Turner and Margaretta Algeron attended all these, and many others during the close of that season. The latter gradually recovered from her disappointment, though it was a long time before she could even think of Sidney Markland without a quicker throb of her heart. He never attempted to throw himself in her way afterwards. Driven, by his evil courses, from the circle in which he had mingled for years, he abandoned himself more and more to vulgar and degrading vices, until he became lost to all sense of shame — and lay like a dead weight upon the heart of his family.
Henry Turner, who had felt much drawn towards Margaretta, and whose attentions to her early in the fall had been lightly treated — soon ceased to show her more than ordinarily polite civilities. Her decided preference for a man like Markland made him think but lightly of her — and still more lightly, after the attempted elopement, with its sequel, had transpired. But when he again came into familiar contact with her, he could not help feeling an awakening admiration, although he struggled against it, and argued against her on the score of her blind and weak infatuation in regard to a man whose vile habits should have made every pure-minded woman shrink from him with instinctive aversion! Time wore on, and the season of festivities passed away, during which the parties were mainly conducted upon the exclusive principle which Mr. and Mrs. Turner had been first to establish. All saw that it was right. And even those upon whom it bore hard, or at least upon some members of their families, could not but acknowledge that, into virtuous society — virtue should be the passport.
Wealth and family connections impart no moral qualities, and, therefore, these alone should never give admission to a man of bad character into our social circles. Is not this a self-evident truth to every mind? If not — if it requires the practical operation of a principle to make its nature apparent — let the incredulous open their eyes and look around them. Let them read over the social histories of the first circles in our city for twenty years past — and if it does not give them the heartache, then are they callous indeed. And why does it present so painful a picture? There have been too few social restrictions! No man's daughters are safe, even in so called "good society." Need we again repeat the truth — that society has not been hedged around as it should have been — that virtue has not been the passport?
But to return, and briefly wind up our story. During the ensuing summer, Grace and Margaretta, who had always been fond of each other, became very intimate. This intimacy was not, at first, pleasing to Mr. Turner, who did not think the daughter of Mr. Algeron a fair companion for his child, after the exhibition of her character which the events of the winter had presented. And yet he never saw her, that his prejudice did not, in some degree, give way. She was modest, retiring, intelligent, and accomplished. Above all, she even reminded him of his own child. When together, they looked like sisters, and by strangers were often thought to bear that relation to each other.
Fall and winter again came around; and with the festive season, came also to Mr. Turner and some others, a consciousness that they had a social duty to perform. The restrictions of the preceding year had been felt by every parent as a protection for his child; but so much are the majority of people slaves to the tyranny of custom, that, unless they can find a leader to take the odium and responsibility of innovation — they will go on in the old track, be the threatened danger ever so great. So it would have been in this instance, had not Mr. Turner and Mr. Algeron been firm in leading off upon the exclusive system. Twice, during the season, this beneficial rule was broken by people too weak to offend in certain quarters; but the prompt withdrawal from their companies, by Mr. Turner and a few who imitated his example, of their families — effectually checked the spread of such a dangerous precedent. During this winter, Henry Turner was thrown more than ever into Margaretta's society, and, in spite of his efforts to struggle against his feelings, he could not help feeling for her a growing preference — in fact, a warm regard. Still, the Markland affair troubled him. He could not tell how far her feelings were still committed in that direction; and, indeed, the idea that she now or had ever entertained an affection for one like him, gave him a momentary aversion to her. But this grew weaker every day.
As for Sidney Markland, he was running his downward course with insane velocity. Having now no external inducements for an pretension of virtue and propriety — he let his true character speak forth freely in all his actions — which were often too gross violations of decency to bear a record here.
One morning, towards the ensuing spring, Margaretta sat glancing over a newspaper, when her eye fell upon the following paragraph, under the head of city news:
"SKIRMISH — AND JUST PUNISHMENT. An affair came off in one of our public streets, yesterday, which, though involving a breach of the law, we can hardly find it in our heart to condemn. Most of our citizens who have occasion to go into Chestnut Street, have noticed a bearded, haughty, moustached fellow, named Markland, of no very enviable notoriety. For a year past, he has wisely confined his adventures to a class of people in whom the public take no particular interest. But recently be stepped beyond this boundary, and dared to offer an insult to the sister of a young man well known in our first circles. The consequence was a public beating, which every virtuous mind must approve. It is said to have been well laid on, and in the presence of a large number of people, not one of whom interfered to check the brother's honest indignation."
Margaretta still sat with the newspaper in her hand, when Grace Turner came in.
"Read that, Grace," she said, pointing to the paragraph, while her cheek glowed and the moisture dimmed her eyes.
Grace read it over hurriedly, and then looked into the face of her friend inquiringly.
"Nightly do I thank my Heavenly Father," said her gentle friend, "that He so mercifully prevented me from throwing myself away upon that wretched young man. I shudder, sometimes, when I have a more than usually vivid consciousness of the danger I have escaped. How blind and mad I was! It seemed as if I were in the center of a charmed circle, and impelled by an invisible power in one direction! Reason was powerless. The earnest entreaties and solemn admonitions of my parents did not linger in my mind a moment. They were scattered like autumn leaves in the breath of a tempest."
"I thank God for your escape, and also for my own," Grace replied earnestly. "I, but for the firmness of my parents in withdrawing me from the circle contaminated by his presence, would have been in a like danger with yourself. He sought my side early on the evening of the first party at your house, and held my delighted attention for nearly an hour. I never heard so musical a voice — I never felt so sudden an attraction. Truly he was a skillful charmer! It has since come to my ear that he first determined to win my heart — and then claim my hand. The prompt action of my father protected me. You, consequently, were the next selected victim. But, thank Heaven! we have both escaped! We are both free!"
Innocent were the heart-warm tears which mingled, as the lovely maidens embraced each other tenderly.
"I have a word for your ear," Grace said, in a whisper, half withdrawing herself, yet still clasping her arms about the neck of Margaretta. "Will you become my sister-in-law?"
The maiden started, paused a moment, and then turning toward her companion, half revealed her blushing face, while she imprinted a fervent kiss upon her lips. Then burying her face in her bosom, she wept anew, but her tears were tears of exquisite joy.
Need we longer hold the reader's attention? or tire him with an account of the last mirthful party of the season — a bridal party — where Margaretta was the blushing bride, and Henry Turner the worthy claimant of her hand? No! Enough has already been said. As for Grace, her father's judicious care over her has not been in vain. She, too, has found one worthy to win her and wear her. Mr. Turner is a happy man, and he deserves to be.
Obedience in Children
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
I was visiting a lady, not long since, for whom I have a particular regard. She is intelligent, vivacious, and exhibits none of those little faults which spring from inordinate self-love, and which are always so destructive of pleasant social fellowship. But she has two marked defects of character — lack of order and firmness. These were seen particularly in the habits of her children. She has two little girls and a boy, children of fine dispositions, and who have a full share of their mother's spirits. As their government was not orderly, there was nothing orderly about them; and as my friend was not firm and consistent in her management — they were by no means obedient.
I was sitting in the parlor with Mrs. Carver, (that is my friend's name,) on the occasion referred to, when Johnny, a bright little fellow, who had seen some four or five summers, came rushing in quite rudely, and crying at the top of his voice,
"Mother! mother! I want some of the peaches I saw Jane put in the closet just now."
"Why, Johnny! Is that the way for you to come into the parlor when I have company?" said Mrs. Carver, in a rebuking tone, while the color rose to her face. "I am ashamed of you. Go and say hello to Mrs. Elmwood."
But Johnny thrust both thumbs into his mouth, cast his eyes to the floor, and leaned back heavily against his mother.
"Come, sir! Go and say hello to the lady, this minute. I won't have such silly actions in any little boy of mine. There, now! Go at once and say hello to Mrs. Elmwood."
The mother pushed the child towards me as she said this, while he held heavily back. I reached out my hand and took his, drawing him, as I did so, towards me, and saying in an encouraging voice,
"Oh, yes; Johnny will come and say hello to me, and kiss me, too."
I attempted to kiss him as I said this, but the little urchin shrank back, and drew his head down upon his bosom in such a way that I could not succeed in accomplishing my design.
"I declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Carver, in an impatient half-mortified voice, "if ever I saw such a set of disobedient children as mine are! They have no more breeding than if they were so many heathen. I try to teach them manners, but it's of no use."
Then speaking to the little boy, she added —
"Go out of the parlor this minute, you unmannerly creature, you, and don't show your face here again this afternoon!"
Johnny went slowly towards the door, where he stopped, and leaning against it, with one finger in his mouth, and his head still crouched upon his bosom, rolled his eyes upwards in order to see across the room, and said, sulkily —
"I want some of them peaches!"
"Well, you can't have any, for being such an unmannerly boy. Peaches are for well-behaved, good children."
Johnny lingered a few minutes, swinging himself around one side of the door-frame, and then disappeared.
"The fact is, my children mortify me to death, sometimes. I can't beat good manners into them," remarked Mrs. Carver. "I see children who can behave like little men and women; but it isn't the case with mine. And I don't think it's my fault, either. I try my best to teach them to be polite and act as they ought to do. But it's no use. It seems in them to be rude and uncouth. I can wash the pig — but it is a pig still. Oh, dear! I get discouraged sometimes."
"You, Johnny! Bring back those peaches!" was heard cried, at this moment, from the dining-room, by a servant, simultaneously with which came the rapid pattering of Johnny's feet, as he descended the stairs, laughing loudly and triumphantly, while,
"Didn't I get them? Ha! ha! Didn't I get them? ha ha!" echoed through the house.
"Now isn't it too much!" ejaculated my friend. "That Johnny is the most persevering little rebel I ever saw. Nothing will prevent him from accomplishing his end. If he is of the same disposition when he gets to be a man, he'll get along poorly in the world, and no mistake."
"Didn't you tell him that he couldn't have any peaches?" I made free to ask, for my friend was some twenty years my junior, and permitted me to speak quite plainly to her.
"No, I don't think I did."
"Oh, yes, you said that he could not have any for being so unmannerly."
"So I did! Well, never mind. He's got them now, and I don't wish to set the house in a roar, which will be the case if I were to take them from him."
"But think, my dear Mrs. Carver," said I, "of the effect upon him of this act of disobedience."
"I hardly know which would be worse: spoiling his temper — or permitting him to be disobedient sometimes. If I were to take the peaches from him now, he wouldn't get done crying for three hours! The fact is, I don't believe in being too strict with children, and seeing every little thing they do. I am satisfied that that would have a bad effect."
"We should always see direct acts of disobedience, and never pass them over."
"If I were to do that, I would be constantly punishing my children. They never mind, unless forced to do so."
Just then, Johnny came to the parlor-door, with a peach in his hand, and exclaimed, in an exulting voice,
"Aha! I have them! Aha!"
"You — !" and the mother started forward with a threatening look. Johnny scampered off, laughing as loud as he could.
"The saucy dog!" said Mrs. Carver, smiling. "How can I punish him? He is such an impudent rogue."
I did not like to say much to her, as I was a visitor. But I could not smile in return. To see such bad treatment of a child, made me feel serious. Johnny was a fine boy; bright, playful, and generous; but his mother's lack of order and consistent firmness were ruining him.
My friend talked much of her children, and I endeavored to throw in occasionally a word of good advice, but it didn't do much good. The error in the mode of governing her children was radical. She had not laid down certain primary principles as true, and certainly to be carried out. Impulse ruled her, more than reason. There were times when she did see in clear light, a better course than the one she was pursuing; and then she would act upon truer principles. But these were evanescent states. They quickly passed away and gave place to old habits of poor parenting.
Towards evening her husband came in. He is an excellent man, but deeply immersed in business. The cares of his household, he gives up entirely to his wife. He has no time to attend to the children, and does not attempt to govern them at all. How far I think him in error here, I need not say. He is accountable for his wife's bad management, almost as much as if it were his own. I do not see how any father can think more of his business than of his children, and be blameless; or how any father can, with a clear conscience, leave the sole care of rightly training up his little ones to a wife who is not qualified to give their young minds that bent which will fix them in true and orderly habits.
Mr. Carver came in towards evening, and, until tea was announced, I passed the time with him in very pleasant conversation. He found leisure to read a good deal, even of the lighter works of the day; but had not time rightly to direct the habits of his children.
When the tea-bell rang, there was the sound of scampering feet from three different parts of the house, and loud cries of delight from as many children. When we entered the tea-room, Johnny and his two sisters were already seated at the table, and one of the girls had a piece of bread on her plate, and was helping herself to butter.
"Jane!" exclaimed Mrs. Carver, in a reproving tone.
Jane finished helping herself to the butter, and then sat back in her chair, without showing any consciousness of having acted wrong.
"Give me some cake," cried Johnny, reaching his hand over the table, as we all sat down.
Mrs. Carver gave him a piece of cake, and then commenced pouring out the tea.
"I want my tea before Jane," said the spoiled little urchin, in a loud voice. "Shall not I have mine first?"
"Oh, yes. Anything, if you will only be quiet," returned the mother.
This I thought a fair beginning, and composed myself to look on and observe, expecting, certainly, that I should have a rare specimen of table etiquette among children. And I was not disappointed.
"Then give me some of that preserved ginger," responded Johnny.
"Come, sir, be quiet!" said the father, but he did not seem to be much in earnest. At least, the child did not regard his words as of any consequence. He certainly did not obey them.
"I want some ginger!"
"Do, father, give that child some of the ginger, if it's only for peace's sake."
The ginger was accordingly supplied.
"There, now, you didn't give me my tea first," cried Johnny, as his mother handed me a cup of tea; "and you said you would."
"Johnny! If you don't take care, I will send you away from the table," replied Mrs. Carver. "Now, don't let me hear another word from your head."
While his mother was saying this, Johnny was rising upon his feet, and, with his hands upon the table, leaning over, and about to reach for something that had attracted his eyes.
"Sit down, sir!" The mother spoke with some decision, but more impatience.
Johnny slowly sank back in his chair, whimpering,
"You said you'd give me my tea first, and you didn't."
"Do, Jane," remarked Mr. Carver, "give the child his tea, or we shall have no peace with him."
"Poor fellow! he's sleepy and fretful. The days are too long for him to keep up without a nap," said the mother apologetically, as she poured out a cup of milk and water, which was served to Johnny next.
"You didn't give it to me first," was the child's response to this accommodating act, drawing himself back, and pouting out his lips.
"Well, never mind, Johnny. I forgot. Drink it, that's a good child, and then this lady will tell her little boy what a fine fellow you are. You are a man. Sit up, now, like a man."
But Johnny kept his pouting look and position. Mrs. Carver proceeded to wait upon the rest of the table.
"You didn't put any sugar in my tea," said Helen, the oldest, about seven years old, in a fretful tone. "You never make my tea sweet enough."
"Helen!" and her mother looked reprovingly at her.
"You don't ever do it, mother!" continued the child.
Mrs. Carver added another lump of sugar to Helen's cup.
"Give me another lump," cried little Jane.
It was tossed into her cup of tea.
"There, now! I didn't want it in my tea." This was said with a snarling look and tone.
"Where did you want it, please?"
"Why, I wanted it in my hand."
"Here, take this, then." A lump of sugar was given to Jane.
"I want a lump of sugar to eat, too," now cried out Helen. "Give me one, mother."
The request was granted. By this time, Johnny had began to recover a little from his sulky humor. He bent forward to the table, and, after putting his spoon in his tea, and before tasting it, cried out,
"You haven't sweetened my tea!"
"Yes, I did, Johnny. I put a large lump into it."
"No, you didn't." He began to cry.
"I tell you I did, Johnny. Taste it."
"No, you didn't."
"Well, there! Take that." Another piece of sugar was thrown across the table. "I hope you will be quiet now."
But that was a vain expectation. Johnny put the lump of sugar into his cup, and then, in a crying voice, said,
"You gave Helen and Jane a lump of sugar to eat."
"Oh these children! They really seem bewitched," exclaimed Mr. Carver, in despair. "Here's a piece for you to eat, also. Now, don't let me hear another word out of your mouth."
In the hope of settling the impatient, exacting, fretful child for the rest of the meal, the father helped him to everything upon the table that he said he wanted, filling his plate with double the quantity that it was possible for him to eat. This was no sooner done, and the child forced to be satisfied, than Helen broke forth, with —
"I wish, mother you would make Jane push her chair away from mine. She always crowds right up against me at the table."
"Jane, do push your chair farther off from Helen's. There is room enough." Mrs. Carver spoke fretfully.
"There, will that do!" said Jane, angrily, drawing her chair far away from that upon which Helen was seated, and getting on to the very corner of the table.
Then came importunities from the two little girls for various things. They would eat neither bread, biscuit, nor rusk — but must be helped first to the richest cake, and also to the sweetmeats. In this they were indulged, evidently for the sake of peace. In about five minutes, tolerable quiet was gained, but not sufficient for pleasant conversation. There were constant interruptions and annoyances, especially from Johnny, who was in a most obnoxious humor. Both Mr. and Mrs. Carver were worried and mortified by the conduct of their children.
"If you speak again, Helen, I will send you from the table!" the mother at length said, in a calm, determined voice.
In less than a minute, Helen's voice drowned every other one at the table.
"Helen!" said Mrs. Carver, looking steadily into the child's face, "do you remember what I said just now?"
Thus actually calling the attention of Helen to the fact that she was about to break her word.
Helen was silent again; but only long enough for her mother to half finish a remark she had commenced making to me.
"Will you be silent, as I tell you?" stormed the mother.
There was a calm; soon, however, interrupted by a loud bawl from Johnny.
"What is the matter with you?" asked Mrs. Carver.
"Jane went and took a piece of my cake," cried the child, with open mouth, stuffed so full that the crumbs dropped out into his plate.
"Jane, give him back his cake."
"I didn't take it, mother."
"Yes, you did take it," cried Johnny, louder than before.
"I only took a teenty tawnty little piece."
"Why did you touch it at all? Go away from the table."
"Do you hear? Go downstairs, this moment!"
Jane descended from her chair slowly, began to cry, and left the room bawling at the top of her voice. In a little while, her cry ceased, and in two minutes from the time she left, she was back again, uninvited, and in her place at the table. The only notice of this act of disobedience was —
"Don't let me see you touch anything in Johnny's plate again! You know that he won't bear it."
Thus the meal progressed, and finally came to a conclusion. To me it was a most unpleasant scene. I think I never saw children act so rudely in my life, or appear less under parental control.
I returned to the parlor with Mr. Carver, after tea was over, leaving the mother to contend with the children until she could induce them to go away from the table. Although they had been eating steadily on from the time the tea-bell rang, they seemed, when we had concluded our meal, as little disposed as ever to quit.
"I'm afraid my wife hasn't the best government in the world," remarked the husband to me, as we reached the parlor. "I am sure, children might be taught to behave more orderly. I tell her so, sometimes; but she says, very justly, perhaps, that if I had the care of them, I would not find the task so easy a one as I imagined."
I did not like to speak in very broad terms of disapprobation of a young wife to her husband, and so I only replied in some generalities respecting the management of children. From this, the subject took a turn into a more pleasant theme, which continued for about ten minutes. Then we were forced to pause from hearing a storm among the children overhead. All three were crying as loud as they could scream, and Mrs. Carver was scolding at the top of her voice. As a finale to the whole, Helen, Jane, and Johnny were severely spanked and sent to bed. This produced the desired effect — it put a quietus on them for that day.
"Well, I declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Carver, entering the parlor with a glowing face a few minutes afterwards, "if I don't have an impossible time of it! Every night I have to go over just this scene. The children get tired out, and fretful, and then nothing can please them. I try my best to have patience, but they worry me out. They distress me to death with their contentions. There seems not to exist a particle of love between them. Each looks upon the other as a rival. It may be all my fault, but certainly I don't see it, if it is. I think of them all the time, and do my best to make them happy."
"Perhaps you do not prescribe just rules, and compel an implicit obedience to them?" I ventured to suggest.
"I hardly think it right to govern children by fixed rules. There should be exercised towards them great forbearance, and they should often be excused for faults," was my friend's reply.
"As to rules," I returned, "they should be few and plain, and founded upon right principles. To these, absolute obedience should be exacted."
"Name a rule such as you approve," said Mrs. Carver.
This was putting me in rather a delicate position. But my young friends knew me well, and I could be free with them. So I replied,
"The first and most important law should be this: prompt and unmurmuring obedience to every parental command. When the father or mother gives a direction — the child should be required unhesitatingly to obey it. On no account should he be permitted to think that there is the least possibility of disobedience, without punishment."
"I hardly think there is such a rule in operation here," remarked Mr. Carver, smiling, and looking at his wife.
"No, that there certainly is not. And I would like very much to see the one who could carry it out! I must confess that it is not in my power. Were I to punish for every act of disobedience — I should be at it every hour in the day!"
"Perhaps," I suggested, "after a few times, they would think obedience far preferable to punishment."
"I don't know, but I doubt it. They couldn't live, if they hadn't a little of their own way. And, at any rate, I do not think it the best treatment towards children to beat them right down. I have seen such, in my time. Little, dejected-looking, spiritless creatures, afraid to speak above their breath."
"The happiest family I ever saw was the most orderly," I replied. "A child no more thought of disobeying a direction of the father or mother — than of jumping from a window."
"No doubt the parents were very happy in having a quiet house. But what of the children?"
"They were cheerful, and full of life. Not one of them showed fear or unpleasant restraint while with their parents; but only respect and affection."
"They must have been of a very different breed from mine; that's all I have to say," returned Mrs. Carver. "I'll defy anyone to mold my children into such a shape. It can't be done!"
I smiled incredulously, and then asked —
"Have you ever thought of the outcome of obedience?"
"Oh, certainly. It makes a very comfortable time for the mother, and everybody else about the house."
"No, but the use to the child himself?" I said.
"The use to the child? Why, no, I can't say that I have."
"That is the most important question, depend upon it, Mrs. Carver."
"Suppose you give us your views upon the subject," said the husband.
"With pleasure," I returned, "although my own ideas have not been as well digested as I could wish. For what purpose are children born into the world?"
"To grow up into men and women, and be happy, if they can," replied Mrs. Carver.
"Think again. Cannot you imagine some higher end?" I said.
"To go to Heaven, and live there forever," was added.
"That is coming nearer to the point, my dear friend," was my answer; "much nearer. Earth is designed to be a school for Heaven. As parents, our duty is to do all in our power to further this great design; to develop this latent capacity. The state here is merely a preparatory one. That which begins at the time we leave our earthly existence, is our true state, which will endure forever! This premised, I will endeavor to show you the great use there is in exacting strict obedience from children. Think, then, how important is the parental relation, and what vital consequences depend upon it!"
My words, or rather the reflections they awakened, threw a deep shadow over the spirits of my friends. They both sat with their eyes upon the floor for some time, in silence. At length, with a sigh, Mr. Carver remarked,
"I am seriously afraid that we are not forming in the minds of our children, vessels for the reception of obedience either to civil or spiritual law."
"If Mrs. Elmwood's doctrine is true, I am sure we are not," was his wife's reply. "As to obedience, there is nothing of it in our children. I never saw any children so perverse in this thing as they are. If they were engaged in the most interesting play, and I were to tell them to go on with it, I am sure they would stop. I have only to give a command — to inspire them with a spirit of disobedience."
"The picture is too true," the husband said, gloomily.
"You may depend upon it," I ventured to say, plainly, "that it is your own fault. If you had, from the first, required obedience, it would be remembered now, without a murmur. I never saw the child that I could not make regard my commands, if he knew I had the authority to require obedience. When a child once learns to regard all your words as spoken in earnest — he submits without a murmur."
"I am sure I speak in earnest," said Mrs. Carver.
"What I mean by 'in earnest,' is with the fixed resolution to be obeyed. A mere tone of voice is nothing. It is the way in which a child understands what you say. 'If you do that, I will skin you alive,' I heard a mother say to her child. She spoke earnestly enough. But the child didn't believe her, as was evidenced from the fact that he was engaged in doing the very thing she had forbidden him to do, not five minutes afterwards. If she had merely said to him — 'You must not do that, my son,' and he had known from previous experience that he could not disobey without certain punishment, it would have been enough."
"But my mind revolts at punishment. There seems to me to be something brutal in beating children all the time."
"So there is, Mrs. Carver," I returned. "I am no more an advocate for beating children than you are. There are many ways to punish a child besides the rod. A child may be undressed and put to bed in a room by himself hours before night; or be kept from the table with the family; or punished by various privations of desired things."
"You saw how outrageously my children acted at the table tonight. How would you go about preventing a repetition of similar conduct?"
"By being rigidly obeyed in every just command."
"But that is too vague," returned Mrs. Carver. "Be more specific."
"I will try. Take that restless little Johnny of yours to begin with. Tomorrow morning, I would be sure to have all three of the children with me in my chamber, or in the nursery, when the breakfast-bell rang. Then I would make them all three walk out to the breakfast-room, quietly. You can easily do this, by taking Johnny's hand yourself, and causing Helen and Jane to walk behind you. Seat all the children yourself, with a grave face, and in a formal manner, and then take your own place. Your error is in permitting them to rush to the table before you get there. This little movement of yours will have its effect upon them, and cause them to look at you with a slight degree of expectation or wonder. No doubt, by the time you have commenced putting sugar and cream in the cups, Johnny will be calling out for something, and perhaps the other children also. But keep cool. Allow nothing like impatience to arise. Think only of the good of your child, and how you shall best promote it. Ask, calmly, his father to help him to what he needs. This will be done. You hand him his cup of milk and water. It does not suit him, perhaps. He wants more sugar. You tell him that you have given him enough. Then he begins to cry. Ring the bell, and when a servant appears, say, 'Johnny, you must stop crying, and drink your tea, or you will be taken from the table.' Of course, he will not stop crying. Then be sure to have him taken away, no matter how loudly he screams; and do not, by any means, let him appear at the table during the meal.
"The effect of this upon the other children will be good. You will have little trouble with them at that meal. At dinner-time, come with a fixed resolution to act with Johnny in a precisely similar manner. See that all again come quietly and in an orderly manner to the table. Perhaps the little fellow will try the matter over again. If he does, as you value his welfare, send him away; and continue doing it until he gives up. After that, your task will be comparatively an easy one, if you will let him see and feel, that you mean always just what you say. Persevere with him, and with all the rest, and you will have as orderly and obedient children as are to be found anywhere. You have good elements to work with."
"I see the truth of what you say, and feel its force," Mrs. Carver returned.
"Then there is but one course before you, and that is to do your duty. You cannot shrink from that, without jeopardizing your own soul, and the souls of your children. Let the ground for the implantation of good seed in after-life, be formed in parental obedience. Make your children know that your word is law. Lay your positive commands upon them as little as possible, but when you do so — be obeyed at all risks."
This and much more I said to my friend and her husband, especially urging him to give more thought and attention to the moral well-being of his children. When I went away, I was satisfied that my words had made a good impression.
A few weeks afterwards, I spent another afternoon and evening with my young friends. My surprise and pleasure were great at noticing a most remarkable change, for so short a time, in the children. Especially was this apparent at the tea-table. Johnny was a little restless, and seemed, as I thought, disposed to take some advantage of my presence. But his mother's eye frequently rested upon his with a steady, meaning look, and caused him to keep quiet. Towards the conclusion of the meal, he committed some impropriety, not necessary to mention — but of a kind that should always cause a child to be sent away. The bell was promptly rung, and the servant who answered it directed to take Johnny away and put him to bed. "And now remember, Johnny, if you scream while Ellen is putting you to bed, you will not be allowed to sit at the table with us tomorrow morning," said Mrs. Carver, firmly.
Johnny was taken from the table sobbing, but he did not scream aloud. His mother looked after him earnestly. It was a hard trial for her, I could see.
"You are getting along bravely," said I, in an undertone of encouragement.
"Much better than I expected. But it is a very hard trial."
Nothing more was said on the subject during the time that we remained at the table. Helen and Jane had shown a little disposition to be unruly, but the prompt visitation made on their brother's fault completely settled them.
After tea, Mrs. Carver gave me a history of her efforts to bring about a state of order and obedience. I found that the trial had been a severe one indeed. But, from a clear sense of duty, she had persevered, and her efforts had been crowned with far more success than she could have dreamed of.
"Are your children less happy than before?"
I asked. "Has a closer discipline broken down their spirits?"
"Oh! no — not by any means. They are far happier than before. They do not quarrel as much as they did, and are not half so fretful."
"The result of order and judicious restraint," said I.
"No doubt of it. I could not have believed that a little firmness and decision on my part would have produced so great a change as has taken place. It strikes me with wonder. Not for the world, would I relinquish strict discipline. It is indeed to my whole family a blessing."
I have frequently since visited my friends, socially and familiarly. She has not relaxed discipline. Her children are growing up polite, orderly, and obedient. The mother looks more cheerful, and the father takes a lively interest in his children.
The Prodigal Son!
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"You won't forget your mother, William?" Mrs. Enfield said, pushing aside the clustering locks from the fair brow of her boy, and imprinting thereon a fervent kiss.
"Forget you, dear mother! Oh, no! I cannot forget my kind, good mother. How could I ever cease to remember her and love her?"
"And yet, William," the mother added, with something sad in her tone, "it is no strange thing for a son, as he goes out into the world, and mingles in its excitements — to esteem lightly the deep affection and unchanging interest of a mother's heart. You are but twelve now, and you leave us tomorrow for college, never again, perhaps, to make one of the home-circle. New scenes, new companions, new pleasures will be yours; and, unless you guard your heart, your mother's image may grow dim therein. Then guard that heart, my boy, for your mother's sake."
Tears were in Mrs. Enfield's eyes, and her son wondered that she should feel thus and talk thus. He loved her tenderly, and could not imagine why a question of that love's continuance could stir in the heart of his mother.
"I can never forget you, mother — I can never cease to love you!" he replied, with tenderness and fervor. "I will write to you often, and think of you always. If others, as they grow up, forget their home — it cannot be so with me. How could I ever cease to love you, as I now do?"
"I will trust you, William. My heart tells me that I may trust you!" Mrs. Enfield said, in a changed tone, and again impressed her lips upon the high, white forehead of her boy.
On the next day, William Enfield left his home and his mother, and entered one of the collegiate institutes of the country, more than two hundred miles away from his homestead. A new world was, indeed, opened to him — but its wonders dimmed not by contrast, the home affection. Almost every week he wrote to his father, or his mother, and his letters were full of earnest and true love of the dear friends from whom he had been separated. But he dreamed not of the deep and intense fervor of that affection which burned for him in the heart of his mother with an inextinguishable flame. Day and night she thought of him, and morning and evening prayed that no ill might harm her boy. The world she knew was full of evil — and the snare of the fowler laid in many places to catch the young and unwary. That evil thoughts and evil affections should ever rule her now innocent boy, were ideas that made her heart ache. Yet she could not conceal from herself the danger that must lurk in his path and hover over him continually.
"I often wish we had kept William at home," she said one day to her husband, a man of a strong and decided cast of mind. "We have many good schools in the city, and some of high standing. I cannot but think that it would have been much better to have paid as much regard to the keeping of his moral life unspotted — as to the providing for the high degree of mental attainments that we desired for our boy. If his affections are not wisely guided — they will mar and pervert all his intellectual attainments."
"Do not fear for him," the father replied. "I have observed his character closely, and am well convinced that it is the right course to throw him, as young as he is, upon the world — that he may feel its unkindness, its selfishness, its heartlessness, and learn to contend with them early. I fear less their effects upon him — than the enervating influence of home to one of his gentle and affectionate nature. He is to be a man, and must be prepared to meet the world as a man, and take a man's place in it."
"You know much better than I do, no doubt," Mrs. Enfield replied, meekly; "still I cannot but have these thoughts and feelings."
"They are the weaknesses of a mother's heart; the over-fond yearnings of an intense affection; and they are natural. Still, they must suffer violence."
"With all my anxiety for William, I must confess that one selfish feeling predominates over all the rest," Mrs. Enfield said, after a pause.
"And what is that?" asked the father.
"The anxious fear lest he should cease to love me with the tenderness that I know he now bears towards me."
"Do not give way to such thoughts. They are but active principles of unhappiness in your mind," Mr. Enfield said. "William would be unworthy the name he bears, and unworthy the love of so devoted a mother — did he ever love you less than he loves you now. But this cannot be. Do not, then, give way to such vain thoughts and feelings. It is injustice to him, and injustice to yourself."
At the end of the first collegiate term, William came home, to spend three weeks with his parents and his dear little sister Florence, just completing her seventh year. He had improved much even in that short space of time. He was more manly and self-possessed; and there was about him something of the dignity of independent thought. The father saw all this with a pride that he could not conceal; the mother looked deeper, and scanned, with the penetrating insight of affection — the change that had passed upon his moral nature. That there was a change, the modulation of the first uttered word told her as plainly as if she had marked his every action for days; but its exact nature, she could not tell. He did not seem to love her less; nay, she felt sure that his love was altogether unchanged.
The brief period of vacation quickly passed, and William again left his home, and with far less of reluctance than he had at first experienced. He had begun to entertain an affection for the new condition of life into which he had been thrown, and, as this affection increased — the excellence and attractiveness of home faded from his mind. During the next term, his letters, from having been weekly, fell off in frequency, and he deemed once a month often enough to write.
Mrs. Enfield noted this change with an instinctive fear. It indicated to her, that home affections were being superseded by others, which might be good or evil.
Again William came back to spend a few weeks. He was now thirteen, and a fine, intelligent boy, improved in every way. Even the mother forgot her fears in her pride, as she pressed him to her heart.
And thus time wore on. Every six months, William came home and spent a few weeks with his parents, but never long enough for the mother to become familiar with and apprehend fully, the changes which time and the freedom of a college life had wrought in her child. Mr. Enfield was satisfied with the rapid advancement which had been made in the various branches of education by William, and looked forward with an emotion of pride to the time when the name of his son would be distinguished and honored in the world. He thought not of looking deeper, and, indeed, in the brief periods allowed for fellowship during the few weeks of vacation, there was too much pleasure in meeting, to leave room for serious scrutiny into the principles of action which were, as a matter of course, beginning to be developed in the mind of William. Painful, indeed, were then the surprise and mortification which he experienced, when it came upon him, with the startling suddenness of a clap of thunder from a serene sky — that his boy had been expelled the institution, where he had been for six years — instead of bearing off, as he had proudly hoped, its highest honors.
A brief glance at William Enfield's college-life will explain the painful fact just alluded to. After the third year of his attendance at the literary institution where he was pursuing his studies, a fondness for social fellowship led him to become one of a club of young men whose love of fun and frolic was the annoyance of the whole faculty, as well as of the quiet inhabitants of the village in which the institution was located. He did not join them, at first, in any of their unlawful acts, but contented himself with making one of their number when these wild doings were the subjects of exulting discussion.
Still, he sympathized with the reckless spirit of those in whose society he took pleasure, and hesitated to partake in their mischief, only because he feared the consequences. Thus, he consented to wrong. And let every reader lay this truth up in his heart, that, whenever he takes pleasure in seeing another do what is evil — it is a proof that he would himself do the same evil, if it came in his way, and there were no external restraints to prevent him. To delight in witnessing others commit wrong actions, is an evidence that we would ourselves commit similar wrongs, were we not afraid of the loss of reputation, or something else that we value.
It was not many months, however, before William Enfield could not only join his companions in their wild mischief, but enjoy them with as keen a relish as any. These consisted in annoying the other students in various ways; such as locking their room-doors and hiding the keys; or locking them in their rooms, so that they could not get out when the breakfast or supper-bell rang; destroying their books; disturbing their sleep; and a thousand other unkind acts, which no really noble-minded boy or young man will engage in — for they are acts committed at the expense of the comfort and happiness of others. Then they made it a standing rule of their club, to let no professor in the institution, no matter how just and amiable his character might be, pass unmolested for a longer period than one month at a time; nor was any single law established by the faculty, to remain unbroken for a longer period.
Every week, too, the rules of the club said, some quiet inhabitant of the village must be disturbed. Sometimes a board would be placed over the top of a chimney, and the inhabitants of the house almost suffocated before the cause of the sudden smoking could be discovered. Bells were rung; signs taken down and changed; families roused in the middle of the night by hurried messages from pretended sick relations, or by fearful cries in the street. The ingenuity of some twenty young men, whose talents for this kind of work increased by exercise, was constantly on the alert for new sources of annoyance to the other students, the faculty, or the villagers. And so secretly were all these things conducted, that the effort to discover the perpetrators was in vain.
In meeting frequently to plot mischief, these young rebels were often at a loss for amusements, and, to make the time pass pleasantly, as they alleged, cards were usually introduced, and among other acquired evil habits, was added, finally, that of gambling — for the simple playing of cards for amusement, was by far too spiritless an occupation for such wild young fellows. A stake had to be introduced — or there would be no fun at all in the game. Of a keen and ready intellect, William Enfield soon became the leader of the club; for those of a less active mind naturally fell into a position of subordination. The love of power and influence added their incitements to the mind of the foolish young man, thus early ambitious of evil instead of good — and he was fast acquiring a position that was dangerous to any who might occupy it.
So great at last became the annoyance of this "Dare-Devil Club," as it was called, that a considerable reward was offered by the faculty for the detection and conviction of anyone of the members in unlawful acts. The penalty was to be immediate expulsion from the institution. This being the case, another step was taken in evil, and that was, to swear each member, by a profane use of that holy book, the Word of God, to the profoundest secrecy. And now, the rules of the club were so changed as to extend the regular periods of annoyance, and thus make the danger of detection less, for not one of them had any wish to be expelled.
Gambling, in consequence, became a more frequent resort. In this, William Enfield grew more and more expert every day, and as he indulged in the delight of winning the money of his fellow-students, the generous impulses of his nature became more and more deadened, until he could take the last dollar from a poor young man who had weakly and wickedly risked the hard-earned pittance of a kind father — sent to meet his expenses — and not feel one throb of human sympathy.
Thus, from small beginnings, result important aggregates of evil. The first departure from the strict law of rectitude, though small, and, to the youth, seeming but an innocent departure — was like the first shooting up from the earth of a noxious weed, that looked as fair as the healthful plants springing around it. But, as in the one case, so in the other, a beginning had been made, and towards that beginning, as to a center, tended, by a law of nature, the principles which were to nourish and invigorate. A germ of good is met by the affinities which like principles of good have for each other; and a germ of evil is met by the affinities of evil principles. Thus, both tend onward towards maturity by an immutable law. How great, then, the danger of giving life to the smallest thought of evil, by bringing it down into action!
Let those who are just entering upon life, and are yet innocent, keep this thought ever before them. Let them beware of the first deviation. It never occurs without the quick perception of wrong, which is the best safeguard that youth can have, becoming less tender and acute. But to proceed.
William Enfield had attained the age of nearly eighteen years, and had, during that time, far surpassed any student in the institution. He spent at home the last vacation preceding his final removal from college, preparatory to entering upon some business or profession; and left with his mother's blessing upon him. His sister Florence, now grown up to a tall girl of thirteen, received her brother's parting kiss with the fond hope that soon he would return to be near her always. She dreamed not, that beneath the calm brow and polished exterior of her brother, were hidden evil passions which were soon to work anguish of mind and sad estrangement. Mrs. Enfield's perceptions were all too sensitive not to discover that there was something about her son, manly, handsome, and generous as he seemed — which was not right. She was troubled, she knew not why; and often chid herself for entertaining vain fears. But no reasonings could quiet her vague and uncertain forebodings.
When William returned to college, he entered with a deeper zest into his former reckless companionship.
"Old Peterson," he said, one evening, to the members of the club, alluding to the president of the institution, "has had a long respite. We must stir up his blood a little."
"We have exhausted every good trick," remarked one of the club. "Cannot you, Enfield, devise something notable, which shall make a nine-days' wonder to the whole college?"
"Yes, Enfield must do it!"
"He is the chap for it," went round the circle. And then a formal vote was taken that William should plan some scheme, transcending all that had yet been done, for its keen annoyance of the head of the Faculty.
"If I must, I must," he said. "My time is nearly up, and I ought to do something to make the 'Dare-Devil Club' venerate the name of their president."
On the next evening the club were assembled, but in a different room, for it was a law of their organization never to meet in the same room more than once a month. Enfield was busy in the preparation of some strange mixture, and all the rest were looking on with eager interest.
"What is it?" asked one.
"You shall soon see," William replied. "The old lady, Madame President, you know, is nervous, as they say. A little shock sometimes does wonders in these affections."
"Well?" inquired half a dozen of his companions, as Enfield paused.
"Wait a while, and you shall see."
And then all was curious interest in the preparations made by Enfield for the evening's frolic. He had procured a large glass, upon the top of which he was arranging a small cup holding about a pint, so that by drawing upon a small cord it could be made to turn over and empty whatever it might contain into the large bell-shaped vessel below. This all ready, he fastened the apparatus to the end of a long pole, and then poured a quantity of the oil of turpentine into the large glass.
"All ready now," he said, rising, "forward, march, for the president's quarters!"
It was past eleven o'clock, and the night was exceedingly dark, when the party sallied forth, observing, as they went, a profound silence. The windows of the chamber in which the president of the institution slept were about fifteen feet from the ground, and fronted the broad college-lawn. Under these, the party soon halted, when Enfield, with three or four to assist him, retired behind an angle of the building with a dark lantern, and proceeded to finish the arrangements.
"But what are you going to do?" asked one of the few who now attended him.
"You shall soon see," Enfield said, drawing a vial from his pocket. "This is nitric acid, of the highest power," he continued, as he proceeded to fill the small cup suspended on a pivot over the glass containing the oil of turpentine.
At once the truth flashed upon the minds of his companions, whose knowledge of chemistry made them familiar with the effect produced when these two substances are brought into contact with each other.
"I wouldn't do that!" said a young man in a decided tone, straightening himself up, and looking Enfield steadily in the face.
"Why wouldn't you?" asked the latter.
"Because Mrs. Peterson is in ill health, and in an exceedingly nervous condition. It might cost her her life!"
"Nonsense!" exclaimed one or two; "she would be a hard subject to kill."
"But," remonstrated the first speaker, "it would be cruel to frighten anyone in such a way. A strong man would be exceedingly alarmed, much more a weak woman, in ill health, with her whole nervous system out of order. Indeed, indeed, I would not do it."
"Dick Miller has grown wonderfully tender-hearted all at once," said one, sneeringly.
"I have a mother in ill health," he replied, in a tone of feeling. "I could not bear that anyone should treat her with so much cruelty."
There was a brief pause after this remark, during which William Enfield thought of his own mother. Her image came up before him with a chilling distinctness, as he had last seen her, drooping with infirmity, and startling at any sudden noise or unusual occurrence; and for a moment he wavered.
"We'll send Dick Miller home to his mamma!" broke in one with a sneering laugh, and instantly the image of Enfield's mother faded from his mind, and he said, in a clear determined tone —
"All ready now!"
There was no further remonstrance or opposition, and the party was soon under the window close to which slept the president and his invalid wife. The vessels containing the oil of turpentine and nitric acid were then elevated on the pole, and brought on a plane with the window; the pole on such an angle that the holder of it was at some distance from under the apparatus. When all was ready, Enfield carefully drew the cord, and the contents of the vessel containing the acid were poured upon the oil of turpentine. Instantly ensued a slight explosion, and then the whole place was lit up with a strong glare, while brilliant sparks with light explosions were emitted in all directions from the substances so suddenly ignited by coming in contact. A wild prolonged scream from within answered this mad exploit, and then the vessels were dashed to the ground and each of the party retired, precipitately and in silence, to his own room.
All that night, and for most of the ensuing day, the wife of President Peterson lay in nervous spasms, from which she finally recovered, with her system more shattered than ever. The whole institution was in a state of feverish excitement; and there was a united and determined effort to discover the actors in this daring and cruel outrage. And they were discovered; Enfield, among the rest, identified as the leader, and publicly expelled the institution.
And now came the moment of reflection. William knew that his father would suffer a mortification of the profoundest kind at this result, and he knew also that he was stern and unrelenting to a fault. Instinctively he took the direction of home, in company with a young man from the South, who was leaving the institution under the same disgrace.
"Are you going home?" asked his friend and companion in evil deeds thus early entered into.
"I am afraid to go home, Tomkins; my father will never forgive me, and I cannot bear the distress of my too kind and good mother."
"Then what do you think of doing?"
"I do not know," was answered in a desponding tone.
"Come with me."
"Where are you going?"
"To seek my fortune. Like you, I cannot think of going home."
"I can play a pretty good game of cards, and so can you. There is enough to do in this line, in the South and Southwest."
Thus sang the tempter. William was not altogether depraved, and, for a brief season, the struggle in his mind was powerful. But he had already consented to gamble at college, and it was more from the idea of becoming a known gambler, that he shrank — than from any instinctive virtuous horror of the vice. He consented — wrote a brief but farewell letter to his father and mother and sisters, begging their forgiveness, but alleging that, since he had so disgraced himself and them, he would never see their faces again.
We will not attempt to picture the chilling anguish which fell upon the heart of the mother, as this letter followed the official announcement of the expulsion of her son, for such unfeeling and cruel conduct, from one of the oldest literary institutions in the country. We must draw a veil over it.
We cannot, in the limits to which we must confine this sketch, trace step by step, the downward career of William Enfield. For a space of nearly five years, he continued a course of wicked conduct, and became known in the South as a most heartless and abandoned gambler. So callous had he grown in regard to the feelings of his friends at home, that towards the close of that period, he frequently wrote to his father for money; thus keeping afresh and smarting, wounds that would not heal. No notice, however, was taken by the father; but the mother's heart was not steeled towards the son of her love. Secretly she would answer these letters, and enclose money; imploring him, by all the love he bore her — to come home, and be to them all that he once had been. These were sometimes like arrows to his soul — but they wrought no change.
At the end of about five years after his expulsion from college, with shattered health, and a growing disgust for his profession, he went over to the island of Cuba, and there entered a corps of engineers. Fortunately, he was here thrown into contact with men of virtue and principle. Gradually his health became renovated, and, what was much better, the moral tone of his mind began to strengthen with something of that energy which is derived from good resolutions. Every day he began to think more and more of his mother. The good lessons which she had taught him in childhood, would frequently come up before his mind suddenly, and with a vividness which would startle and pain him by their contrast with the evil of his life.
One night, he was awakened by a dream, the effect of which could not be shaken off. He thought that he was at home; and that it seemed as though he had never been exiled from that home by evil actions. He sat by the side of his mother, as he had sat in former years, and listened to her voice with the same pleasure that he had listened to it in former times. But suddenly her face grew very pale, and she leaned back, faintly, in her chair. "She is dead!" exclaimed his father, bursting into the room, "and you are her murderer!" Instantly the idea of his dream changed, and he saw himself as the prodigal of virtue; the blight upon the heart of her who had borne him, and nourished him, and loved him with a yearning tenderness which was unutterable. The shock awoke him. Sleep sealed not again, his eyelids, during the remaining dark watches of that night. All the next day he was thoughtful and serious, and, on the morning of the next, took passage in a ship bound for the United States.
It was about six weeks from the day when William Enfield left the island of Cuba, that Mr. and Mrs. Enfield, and Florence, now a beautiful young woman, were seated in their parlor. Mr. Enfield was reading, while the mother, now a drooping invalid, unable to sit up but a few hours at a time, sat in her easy-chair, her mind all absorbed in thoughts about her still dear though absent and wandering child. Every day she thought of him; nay, every hour; but now her mind was all absorbed in pondering upon his wayward life, and the mirror of her imagination pictured, with a distinctness which veiled every other object, the image of her child.
Suddenly the door was thrown open, and a young man of fine appearance, though with a sad, pale face, entered. The mother startled, the father rose to his feet hastily, and Florence stood still, where she had been arranging some flowers, and looked with a strange wonder upon the sudden apparition.
"Mother! father! Behold your son! Can you, will you forgive me?" And he fell upon one knee, and covered his face with his hands, still at a distance from them.
Mr. Enfield drew himself up sternly, and turned partly away; but the poor mother, unable to rise, stretched out her hands, and murmured —
"William! — William! — oh, my boy! my boy!" while tears gushed from her eyes, and streamed upon the floor.
For a few moments, the young man remained thus, no one speaking, no one offering to touch his hand or raise him. He heard, indeed, the low, and to him sweet, forgiving murmurs of his mother's voice. But all else was to him still and stern.
"Dear father!" whispered Florence, coming to Mr. Enfield's side, and clasping his arm, "see! he is weeping. Tears come not from an unrepentant heart. Oh, father, forgive him!"
Slowly Mr. Enfield turned towards the young man still kneeling. One look sufficed to melt down his feelings. As the tears fell like rain through his fingers; Mr. Enfield remembered his penitent words, and then nature gave way. With an impulse that he could not restrain, he sprang towards him, and lifting him up, embraced him, while his own tears mingled with those of his penitent son.
Who can tell the delight of that mother's heart, when she again entwined her arms around her boy, and did so with an assurance, which was as strong as a voice from Heaven to her spirit, that her son was truly the returning prodigal!
And William Enfield did not again destroy by wrong-doings, the new hope thus suddenly kindled in the hearts of his parents and sister. From that hour, he was all they could desire.
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
It is but rarely that fathers are entirely satisfied with the men chosen by their daughters for husbands; and the father who has but one daughter, is, in most cases, fated to peculiar trials in this particular. The suitor for her hand must have more than human perfection, if he pleases in everything.
Mr. Freeland had three sons, and an only daughter. Effie was, of course, tenderly beloved by her father; the more so, as she was his youngest child, and had grown up a most lovely young woman — lovely in mind as well as person.
That Effie would, sooner or later, have a lover; and that this lover would be more to her than even her father, Mr. Freeland knew very well, or ought to have know. But, when such a thought intruded itself upon his mind, he thrust it aside with jealous displeasure. Still, for all this, young men could not help being attracted by the charming girl, nor help showing that they were so attracted. But of all the candidates for her favor, none pleased the fancy of Mr. Freeland, when thought of as the future husband of Effie — and such a thought would now and then arise.
One day, while Mr. Freeland was alone in his office, a young attorney, named Elliot, who had a few weeks before, been admitted to the bar, called in to see him. This young man was boyish in his appearance, considering his age, and had never attracted much notice from Mr. Freeland, although he had often seen him in the office of a Counselor with whom he had frequent business fellowship.
"Well, Edward," said Mr. Freeland, indifferently, and without rising, as the young man came in.
Elliot looked slightly embarrassed, and his voice was not marked by its usual steadiness, as he said, "I would like to speak a word with you, Mr. Freeland."
"Very well, take a chair — what can I do for you?"
The young man sat down, still exhibiting a lack of self-possession, and some time elapsed before he spoke. Then he said, as with a sudden and forced effort, "Mr. Freeland, I am, and have been for some time, sincerely attached to your daughter, and I now ask for the privilege of addressing her."
Had a bombshell exploded in the room, or his house tumbled down over his head, Mr. Freeland could not have been more astounded than by this declaration.
"I wish to act honorably and above-board,"
Elliot was going on to remark, when Mr. Freeland, whose face instantly reddened, arose from his chair, and pointing to the door, said, in an angry and insulting tone, "Please walk out of my house!"
The young man did not pause for a second invitation of the kind. He possessed a nice sense of honor and had a sensitive spirit. The first brought him thus formally, to ask of the father the privilege of addressing his daughter, before he had signified to her the sentiment that was in his heart; and the second caused him to shrink away from the touch of rudeness and insult. As young as he was, and even boyish in his appearance, there was a stratum of pure gold in his character, and his mind was one gifted with more than ordinary native ability. He felt that the germs of success were in him, and that sooner or later he would play his part on the world's arena. But Mr. Freeland saw only his unimposing exterior, and permitted a feeling of contempt to find a place in his mind. The presumption of asking for the hand of his daughter outraged him beyond all forbearance, and led him, as has been seen, to treat the young suitor with most unjustifiable rudeness, not to call it even by a harsher name.
Edward retreated with his mind in a perfect whirl, and left Mr. Freeland little less disturbed in feeling. Hiding himself in his office, he there tried to compose himself for reflection. Pride, anger, and even a feeling of revenge, were all aroused in his mind, and for a season he moved about his little room in a high state of excitement. He sat down and penned a note to Mr. Freeland, in which he reproved him for his conduct in terms which, while they were perfectly just, made him still more angry with the young presumptuous.
It so happened, that by some accident, this note dropped from the pocket of Mr. Freeland, and came into the hands of Effie, thus letting her into a secret of which she was before ignorant; for though Elliot loved her, he had not yet whispered the story in her ears. The letter was intelligible to her mind. It told of his affection, and rude repulse.
The next time the young couple met in company, Elliot made it a point to avoid Effie as much as possible. But every time his eyes turned to where she was, he found her looking at him, and with an expression of tender interest on her face, that his heart did not fail to interpret aright. He correctly inferred that she had by some means learned the application he had made, and that she was by no means indifferent to the sentiment he had avowed on the occasion.
Elliot was far from being so unworthy the hand of Effie, as Mr. Freeland, deciding without reflection, had supposed. He had judged him from mere appearances, and condemned him without knowing what was in him.
Perceiving, after one or two meetings with Effie, like the one just referred to, that so far from being indifferent to him, he occupied really the first place in her feelings, and adjudging her father as entitled, by his ungentlemanly conduct, to no further consideration or respect — Elliot yielded to the genuineness of the sentiment felt for the charming girl, and drew to her side whenever an opportunity offered, regardless whether Mr. Freeland happened to be present or not.
The displeasure of Effie's father was great when he saw this, and he immediately sought, by disparaging remarks, to create in the mind of his daughter, a prejudice against the presumptuous suitor. Effie heard him in silence, but with a manner which told him too plainly, that his words made no impression. Then, unable to act calmly in the matter, he angrily forbade her, on pain of his strong displeasure, having any interaction with the young man whatever.
This was folly, and Mr. Freeland ought to have known it. Such conduct only adds fuel to a flame like that enkindled in the young girl's bosom. A week did not elapse before the lovers were thrown into each other's society, and met as before. The father was present — maddened by such an entire disregard of his feelings and wishes, he took another step, marked by still greater folly than any he had yet taken in regard to the matter. He called at Elliot's office, on the next day, and threatened to cowhide him in the street, if he even knew him to speak to his daughter. To this the young man replied, by ordering him peremptorily to leave his office, and in doing so, exhibited a fiery determination that, to some extent, changed the estimate which Mr. Freeland entertained of his character. A personal collision would, most likely, have taken place, had not an individual entered the office at the moment, when Mr. Freeland prudently retired.
On that very evening, young Elliot met Effie at a party, where her father and mother were present, and danced with her. Yet, for all this, Mr. Freeland did not attempt the personal violence he had threatened. It was well he did not, for the high-tempered, resolute young man, had armed himself, and, in the blindness of his anger, might have used his deadly weapon.
Thus, under most unhappy auspices, began the intimacy of Elliot and his future bride. Both were worthy of each other, and the former was in every way worthy to assume toward Mr. Freeland, that relation he had sought to form in the most open and honorable manner. But a foregone conclusion in regard to the young man's character, which had its basis in a mere prejudice, closed the mind of Mr. Freeland to anything like a calm investigation of his merits, and the indignant manner with which Elliot flung back the insult he had offered him the moment there was an opportunity of doing so, fixed his dislike of him in to angry resentment.
Meantime, disregarding all opposition, the young couple met whenever opportunity offered. The very fact of opposition, led the way to an early declaration of his sentiments on the part of Elliot, which were unhesitatingly responded to by Effie. A regular correspondence then commenced, and frequent meetings at the house of a mutual friend ensued. This went on for about a year; at the close of which period, Elliot removed to the city of New York, there to take part in the business of a well-established attorney, whose large practice required him to call in aid. He had met Elliot frequently, and seeing the ability that he possessed, made him highly advantageous offers, which were immediately accepted. About six months after his removal, Mr. Freeland received from him the following note:
SIR, — My marriage with your daughter will take place on the 20th of this month. It will rest with you to say, whether the ceremony shall be performed at your house or not.
Although fully aware that such an event would take place sooner or later, Mr. Freeland was almost maddened at what seemed the cool defiance of this note. Taking it in his hand, he went to his daughter, and assuming that it was sent as a gross insult, made to her a most passionate appeal on the strength of this assumption. But Effie was immovable.
Could it be otherwise? She saw all that was excellent in her betrothed, and knew that in deference to her wishes and feelings, he had sent the letter to her father.
Opposition being hopeless, Mr. Freeland, for the sake of appearances, yielded to the wishes of every member of his family, all of whom saw with a clearer vision than he did, and consented that the marriage of his daughter would take place at home. Tearfully did Effie urge both her lover and father to become reconciled to each other, before the nuptial rites were solemnized. But neither was in a state to make overtures. Elliot felt that he had been grossly insulted without cause, and Mr. Freeland was not going to make any concessions to a "presumptuous, beardless boy." And so the rite was said, and the daughter passed away from the home of her father, whom she loved fondly, without his blessing on her married life.
Neither the husband nor the father of Effie, was disposed to yield a position when once taken, and this made their estrangement entire. They did not speak, nor look at each other on the occasion of the wedding; and when Elliot, on the eve of his return to New York, received from the arms of her father his weeping bride, he did so with an averted face.
Five years passed, and yet there was no reconciliation. In that time, in conjunction with his partner, Elliot had conducted three or four suits of great importance in the New York courts, to a successful outcome, and in doing so, had attracted attention as a young lawyer of singular ability and great promise in his profession. He had proved, in every way, that Mr. Freeland had misjudged him, and in throwing him off with contempt, had committed one of the most serious errors of his life. A few times Effie had visited her father, for whom she had a most tender affection, but she loved her husband deeply and devotedly, and she knew how worthy he was of such love; and she could not feel like going often, where his presence would be unwelcome.
But for this sad estrangement, Effie would have been one of the happiest of women. That, however, marred every pleasure, and threw a perpetual shadow across the sunshine of her life. Often she urged her husband to such a reconciliation; but on that subject, he always heard her with evidences of impatience, and she at length ceased to refer to it at all.
Ever since their children were old enough to enter into and enjoy a scene of social festivity, Mr. and Mrs. Freeland had given them a little entertainment on New Year's night. As they grew older, this entertainment took a higher character, and after the marriage of Effie's brothers, they constituted a sort of family reunion. Since Effie passed from under the paternal roof as the wife of Elliot, her place had been vacant at the annual reunion. But, though absent, she was with the loved ones of her old home in spirit.
Why he had a always found Effie in tears on New Year's night, her husband could not tell. He did not know of these dear reunions, hallowed by the earliest and tenderest associations. The first time this occurred, they had a few friends to tea; missing Effie from the parlor longer than seemed proper under the circumstances, her husband sought her in her chamber, where he found her lying upon the bed weeping. Failing in the effort to rally her spirits, he was at length compelled to ask their company to excuse her for the evening, as she had become suddenly indisposed. On the next New Year's day, Effie's thoughts were again turned towards home. With a strong effort she kept up her spirits through the day, and received the complimentary calls of the season; but when evening came, she was unable longer to control her feelings, and again hid herself in her chamber to think of home and weep. It was the same on the third year, and also on the fourth. Her husband thought it very strange; though he inquired earnestly for the cause, Effie concealed it in her own bosom.
As New Year's day once more approached, Elliot thought he saw the spirit of his wife again begin to droop.
"What can it mean?" said he to himself, thoughtfully. While yet musing on the subject, accident threw in his way an open letter directed to Effie, and seeing that it was from her mother, he felt constrained to read it. It was as follows:
"My Dear Effie: In two weeks, New Year's night will be here again. We meet, as of old, but not with our old feelings. To me, these reunions have become inexpressibly sad — yet, for the sake of those who gather about us, I put on a cheerful face. But I think only of you, my dear, dear absent one! And it is so with your father. After all have gone, we sit together and weep in silence. And must this be so again? Effie, my child! It seems as if I could not bear it. I am growing older, and my heart gets softer as the years press me down. And it is so with your father. I often hear him breathing your name in sleep. He was wrong towards Edward, and he knows it. But he is a proud man. I have heard him say that Edward was an ornament to his profession. Oh! if Edward would only yield a little! He should reflect that, for an only daughter, a father might well feel a jealous pride; and that, if it led him into error, it is not a sin past forgiveness. I am sure, if Edward would only make the first advance step — all would be reconciled. Ah, me! that so much unhappiness should spring from the error of a moment. We are not happy, and you cannot be. I have urged your father to write to Edward. He says nothing in reply. I sometimes hope he will do so. But, I know his spirit, and I fear he will break rather than bend.
"Oh! if we could only have you with us on the coming New Year's night, how happy we would be. Your dear little Flora, you say, grows sweeter every day. Oh, how we do want to see her! When I read to your father what you said of her in your last letter, he burst into tears and left the room. If Edward will not accompany you, will you not come yourself, with dear, sweet Flora, and make us happy for once?"
The reading of this letter touched Mr. Elliot deeply, and turned his thoughts into a new channel. He now understood, fully, the reason why his young wife had been so much dispirited on every New Year's night since their marriage. A few days after reading the letter, he said to her —
"Effie, I have business in Philadelphia next week. How would you like to go on there with me, and spend a few days?"
"I would like it very much, Edward," said Effie, her face instantly brightening.
"Would you take Flora along?"
"Yes. Mother has not seen her since she was six months old."
"Very well. We will go on next Thursday morning. Friday is New Year's day, and you will thus escape the annoyance of receiving calls."
The sober face that Effie had worn for several days, was changed to one of brightness. Still, there yet remained a pressure upon her heart. She would see her father and mother, and others whom she tenderly loved, but she could not join in the annual family reunion, because, in doing so, she would have to be separated from her husband; and to that, she would not consent. It was on her lips a dozen times, to urge Edward, once more, to seek to heal the breach which existed; but, ever as she came to the point, her heart failed her. Many times she thought that she would place her mother's letter in his hands; but a doubt of the result would cause her to hesitate.
At last, the Thursday of her departure came, and they started for Philadelphia, taking with them little Flora, who had nearly entered her fifth year. Effie had written to her mother that she was coming, and had given the letter to her husband to mail. From some cause, however, he had neglected doing so, or else the letter had miscarried, for, on the evening of the day on which their daughter left New York, Mr. and Mrs. Freeland sat alone, talking of her, the mother wondering why Effie had not written.
"I am almost sorry," remarked Mrs. Freeland, "that we set out to have the children at home tomorrow night, as usual. These used to be the happiest seasons; but they are so to me no longer. I lose more than half the joy experienced in seeing those who are present — for thinking of the one who is absent."
A deep sigh was the only answer made by Mr. Freeland. He felt that he had been most to blame for the misery they had all endured for years. He had, in a moment of angry false judgment, flung from him, with biting insult — the lover of his child, and that lover, as proud as himself, had indignantly resented the outrage, and up to this day there had been no reconciliation.
He sighed, and remained silent. It was hard, he thought, if he was to be punished through life with unforgiveness. And he thought, too, that if he would only make a single advance towards Edward — all might be at once and forever reconciled. Yet he was not fully prepared for that. Edward had repelled insult with insult; and since that time, had maintained a cold and repulsive exterior; and he did not see how, at his age, he could stoop to one so young.
Another deep sigh struggled up from his bosom, as his mind came to this old view of the case.
Just then, someone was admitted by the servant, and the sound of feet was heard in the hall. A moment more, and Effie entered, leading a beautiful little girl by the hand. Close behind her was Elliot, looking as calm, kind, and self-possessed, as if no angry feelings had ever found a place in his bosom. He could not have come at a more favorable moment.
"Edward!" exclaimed old Mr. Freeland, rising quickly, and passing his daughter, that he might first offer the hand of reconciliation to her husband.
"Edward! Edward!" His voice trembled, "Let us forget the unhappy past!"
The young man grasped the extended hand.
"It is forgotten!" said he.
"I wronged you, Edward."
"Have we not agreed to forget the past?" interrupted the young man, smiling.
At that moment, Effie threw herself, weeping tears of joy, upon the bosom of her father, murmuring —
"Oh! I am so happy!"
Little Flora was in the arms of her grandmother, and wondering what all this sudden excitement could mean, and why a lady she did not remember to have seen before, should hug her so wildly to her bosom, and half smother her with kisses.
The day that followed was, indeed, a happy New Year to all; and the reunion that then took place was the most joyful they had ever known.
So ended the strife of passion — the angry estrangement of years; the feeling, but little less than hatred, which had kept asunder those who possessed all the qualities requisite to a lasting friendship.
A tornado destroys in a minute what it may take years to restore; and so it is with the tempest of anger. Let us be careful how we misjudge; and far more careful how we allow that misjudgment to influence our actions.
Origin and Destiny
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
Among those who aspired to the hand of Laura Woodville, was a young man named Percival, whose father, a poor day-laborer, had, by self-denial through many years, succeeded in giving him an education beyond what was usually acquired at that time by those in the lower walks of life. When sixteen years of age, an attorney of some eminence, who perceived in the lad more than ordinary ability, took him into his office, and raised him to the profession of law. At the time of which we write, Percival, who was twenty-five years old, had already obtained some reputation at the bar, having conducted, to a successful issue, several very important cases.
Mr. Woodville, to the hand of whose daughter, as has just been said, Percival aspired, was a merchant in rather reduced circumstances; but connected with certain old families more distinguished for aristocratic pride, than virtues. This connection was the more valued in consequence of the loss of wealth through disasters in trade and the inability to keep up those external appearances which dazzle the multitude, and extort the homage of weak minds.
Laura, a beautiful and highly accomplished girl, was a favorite in all circles, and there were many among the wealthy and fashionable who, for her personal attractions alone, were ready to approach and offer the homage of a sincere affection.
Among these suitors, was a young man named Allison, whose family had, in the eyes of Mr. Woodville, everything to render a marriage connection desirable. But Laura never encouraged his advances in the least; for she felt for him a strong internal repulsion. He was wealthy, accomplished, attractive in person, and connected, both on his father's and mother's side, with some of the oldest, and, so called, "best families" in the State. These, however, were not, in her eyes, attractions sufficiently strong to induce her to overlook qualities of the heart. Already, in her contact with the world — had she been made to feel its hollowness and its selfish cruelty. For something more than mere fashionable blandishments — had her heart begun to yearn. She felt that a true and virtuous friend, was a treasure beyond all price.
While this state of mind was in progress, Laura met Henry Percival. A mutual regard was soon developed, which increased until it became a deep and sincere affection. In the mean time, Allison, confident from his position, became bolder in his advances, and, as a preliminary step, gave Mr. Woodville an intimation of his views. The old merchant heard him gladly, and yielded a full consent to the prosecution of his suit. But perceiving what was in the mind of the young man, Laura shrank from him, and met all his advances with a chilling reserve that was not for an instant to be misunderstood. In the mean time, Percival daily gained favor in her eyes, and was at length emboldened to declare what was in his heart. With ill-concealed pleasure, Laura referred the young man to her father. As to the outcome of the reference, she had well-grounded fears.
The day which followed this declaration, was one of anxious suspense to Laura. She was alone, late in the afternoon, when her father came into the room where she was sitting. She saw instantly what was in his mind — there was a frown on his face, and she knew that he had repulsed her lover.
"Laura," said he, gravely, as he sat down by her side, "I was exceedingly surprised and pained today, to receive from a young upstart attorney, of whose family no one has ever heard, an offer for your hand, made, as was affirmed, with your consent. Surely this affirmation was not true?"
A deep crimson flushed the face of Laura, her eyes fell to the floor, and she exhibited signs of strong agitation.
"You may not be aware," continued Mr. Woodville, "that Mr. Allison has also been to me with a similar application."
"Mr. Allison!" The eyes of Laura were raised quickly from the floor, and her manner exhibited the repugnance she felt. "I can never look upon Mr. Allison as more than a friend," said she, calmly.
"Laura! Has it indeed come to this?" said Mr. Woodville, really disturbed. "Will you disgrace yourself and family, by a union with a vulgar upstart from the lower ranks — when an alliance so distinguished as this one is offered? Who is Percival? Where is he from? What is his origin?"
"I regard rather his destiny, rather than his origin," replied the daughter; "for that concerns me far more nearly than the other. I shall have to tread the way my husband goes — not the way he has come. The past is past. In the future lies my happiness or misery!"
"Are you beside yourself?" exclaimed the father, losing his self-command before the rational calmness of his child.
"No, father," replied Laura; "not beside myself. In the moral principles which govern Mr. Allison, I have no confidence; and it is a man's principles which determines the path he is to tread in life. On the other hand, I have the fullest confidence in those of Mr. Percival, and know where they will lead him. This is a matter in which I cannot look back to see from whence the person has come; everything depends on a knowledge as to where he is going."
"Do you know," said Mr. Woodville, not giving the words of his child the smallest consideration, "that the father of this fellow, Percival, was a day laborer in one of old Mr. Allison's manufacturing establishments? A mere day-laborer!"
"I have heard as much. Was he not an honest and honorable man?"
"Madness, girl!" ejaculated Mr. Woodville, at this question, still further losing his self-control. "Do you think that I am going to allow my child, who has the blood of the Hamilton's, and Madison's, and Woodville's in her veins — mingle it with the vile blood of a common laborer? You have been much in error if, for a moment, you have indulged the idle dream. I positively forbid all interaction with this Percival. Do not disobey me, or the consequences to yourself will be of the saddest kind!"
As her father ceased speaking, Laura arose, weeping, and left the room.
A deep calm followed this sudden storm which had fallen from a summer sky. But it was a calm indicative of a heavier and more devastating storm. Laura communicated to Percival the fact of her painful interview with her father, and at the same time made him understand that no change in his views was to be expected, and that to seek to effect a change, would only be to place himself in the way of repulse and insult. Both of these, the young man had already received.
A few months later, and, fully avowing her purpose, Laura left the house of her parents and became the wife of Percival. A step like this is never taken without suffering. Sometimes it is wisely, but more often unwisely taken — but never without pain. In this case, the pain on both sides was severe. Mr. Woodville loved his daughter tenderly, and she felt for her father a more than common attachment. But he was a proud and selfish man. The marriage of Laura not only disappointed and mortified him, but made him angry beyond all reason and self-control. In the bitterness of his feelings, he vowed never to look upon nor forgive her. It was all in vain, therefore, that his daughter sought a reconciliation; she met only a stern repulse.
Years went by, and it remained the same. Many times during that long period did Laura approach her old home; but only to be repulsed. At last, she was startled and afflicted by the sad news of her mother's death. In the sudden anguish of her feelings, she hurried to her father's house. As she stood with others who had gathered around, gazing upon the lifeless form of her dead parent, she became aware that the living one had entered the room, and, to all appearance, unconscious of her presence, was standing by her side. A tremor went through her frame. She felt faint and ready to drop to the floor.
In this season of deep affliction, might he not forgive the past? Hope sprung up within her. In the presence of the dead, he could not throw her off. She laid her hand gently on his. He turned. Her tearful eyes were lifted in his face. A moment of thrilling suspense! Pride and anger conquered again. Without a sign of recognition — he turned away and left the chamber of death.
Bracing herself up with an intense struggle, Laura pressed her lips to the cold brow of her mother, and then silently retired.
During the time that intervened from his marriage up to this period, Mr. Percival had been gradually rising in the confidence, respect, and esteem of the community, and was acquiring wealth through means of a large practice at the bar. As a husband — he had proved most kind and affectionate. As a man — he was the very soul of honor. All who knew him held him in the highest regard.
After the death of his wife, Mr. Woodville fell into a gloomy state of mind. His business, which had been declining for years, was becoming less and less profitable; and to increase his trouble, he found himself progressing toward financial embarrassment, if not bankruptcy. The man whom of all others he had wished to see the husband of his daughter, Mr. Allison, married a beautiful heiress, and was living in a style of great elegance. He met the brilliant bride occasionally, and always with an unpleasant feeling.
One day, while Mr. Woodville was walking with a gentleman, they passed Mr. Allison, when his companion said —
"If that man doesn't break his wife's heart within five years, I shall think she has few of woman's best and holiest feelings."
"Why do you say that?" asked Mr. Woodville, evincing much surprise.
"In the first place," replied the friend, "a man with bad principles is not the one to make a right-minded woman happy. And, in the second place, a man who regards neither virtue nor decency in his conduct — is the one to make her life wretched."
"But is Allison such a man?"
"He is, to my certain knowledge. I knew him when a boy. We were schoolmates. He then gave me evidence of more than ordinary natural depravity; and from the training he has received, that depravity has been encouraged to grow. Since he became a man, I have had many opportunities of observing him closely, and I speak deliberately when I say that I hold him in exceedingly low estimation. I am personally cognizant of acts that stamp him as possessing neither honor nor, as I said before, decency; and a very long time will not, probably, elapse, before he will betray all this to the world. Men like him indulge in evil passions and selfish desires — until they lose even common prudence."
"You astonish me," said Mr. Woodville. "I cannot believe your words. He belongs to one of our best families."
"So called. But, judged by a true standard — I would say one of our worst families."
"Why do you say that?" asked Mr. Woodville, evincing still more surprise.
"The virtues of an individual," replied the gentleman, "make his standard of worth. The same is true of families. Decayed wood, covered with shining gold, is not so valuable as sound and polished oak. Nor is a family, raised by wealth or any external gilding into a high social position, if not possessed of virtue — half so worthy of confidence and esteem as one of less pretension, but endowed with honorable principles. The father of Mr. Allison, it is well known, was a gentleman only in a Chesterfieldian sense. A more hollow-hearted man never existed. And the son is like the father — only more depraved!"
Mr. Woodville was profoundly astonished. All this he might have known from personal observation, had not his eyes been so dazzled with the external brilliancy of the people condemned, as to disqualify them for looking deeper, and perceiving the real character of what was beneath the brilliant gilding. He was astonished, though not entirely convinced. It did not seem possible that anyone in the elevated position of Mr. Allison, could be so base as was affirmed.
A few months later, and Mr. Woodville was surprised at the announcement that Allison's wife had separated herself from him, and returned to her father's house. Various causes were assigned for this act, the most prominent of which was infidelity. Soon after, an application for a divorce was laid before the legislature, with such proofs of ill-treatment and the shocking depravity of conduct, as procured an instant release from the marriage-contract.
By this time the proud, angry father was beginning to see that he had, probably, committed an error. An emotion of thankfulness that his child was not the wife of Allison, arose spontaneously in his bosom; but he did not permit it to come into his deliberate thoughts, nor take the form of an uttered sentiment.
Steadily the change in his outward circumstances progressed. He was growing old, and losing the ability to do business on an equality with the younger and more eager merchants around him, who were gradually drawing off his oldest and best customers. Disappointed, lonely, anxious, and depressed in spirits, the conviction that he had committed a great mistake was daily forcing itself more and more upon the mind of Mr. Woodville. When evening came, and he returned to his silent, almost deserted dwelling — his loneliness would deepen into sadness; and then, like an unbidden but not entirely unwelcome guest, the image of Laura would come before his imagination, and her low and tender voice would sound in his ears. But pride and resentment were still in his heart, and after gazing on the pensive, loving face of his child for a time — he would seek to expel the vision. She had degraded herself in marriage. Who or what was her husband? A low, vulgar fellow, raised a little above the common herd! Such, and only such, did he esteem him; and, whenever he thought of him, his resentment toward Laura came back in full force.
Thus it went on, until twelve years from the time of Laura's marriage had passed away; and in that long period the father had seen her face but once, and then it was in the presence of the dead. Frequently, in the first years of that time, had she sought a reconciliation; but, repulsed on each occasion, she had ceased to make approaches. As to her husband, so entirely did Mr. Woodville reject him, that he cast out of his mind his very likeness, and, not meeting him, ceased actually to remember his features, so that, if he had encountered him in the street, he would not have known him. He could, and had said, therefore, when asked about Percival, that he "didn't know him." Of his rising reputation and social standing, he knew but little; for his very name being an offence, he rejected it on the first utterance, and pushed aside rather than looked at any information regarding him.
At last, the external affairs of Mr. Woodville became desperate. His business actually died out, so that the expense of conducting it being more than the proceeds — he closed up his mercantile history, and retired on a meager property, scarcely sufficient to meet his needs. But scarcely had this change taken place, when a claim on the only piece of real estate which he held was made, on the allegation of a defective title. On consulting a lawyer, he was alarmed to find that the claim had a plausible basis, and that the chances were against him. When the case was brought up, Mr. Woodville appeared in court, and with trembling anxiety watched the progress of the trial.
The claim was apparently a fair one, and yet not really just. On the side of the prosecution was a subtle, ingenious, and eloquent lawyer — and Mr. Woodville saw with despair that all the chances were against him. The loss of this remnant of property would leave him utterly destitute. After a vigorous argument on the one side, and a feeble rejoinder on the other, the case was about being submitted, when a new advocate appeared on the side of the defense. He was unknown to Mr. Woodville. On rising in court, there was a profound silence. He began by observing that he had something to say in the case before it closed, and as he had studied it carefully and weighed with due deliberation all the evidence which had appeared — he was satisfied he could show cause why the prosecution should not obtain a favorable decision.
In surprise, Mr. Woodville bent forward to listen. The lawyer was tall in person, dignified in manner, and spoke with a peculiar musical intonation and eloquent flow of language, which marked him as possessing both talents and education of a high order. In a few minutes he was perfectly absorbed in his argument. It was clear and strong in every part, and tore into very tatters, the subtle chain of reasoning presented by the opposing counsel. For an hour he occupied the attention of the court. On closing his speech, he immediately retired. The decision was in Mr. Woodville's favor.
"Who is that?" he asked, turning to a gentleman who sat beside him, as the strange advocate left the floor.
The man looked at him in surprise.
"You don't know him?" said he.
Mr. Woodville shook his head.
"His name is Percival."
Mr. Woodville turned his face partly away to conceal the sudden flush that went over it. After the decision in his favor had been given, and he had returned home, wondering at what had just occurred, he sat musing alone, when there came a light tapping, as from the hand of a child, at his door. Opening it, he found a boy there, not over five or six years of age, with golden hair falling over his shoulders, and bright blue eyes raised to his own.
"Grandpa!" said the child, looking earnestly into his face.
For a moment the old man stood and trembled. Then stooping down, he took the child in his arms, and hugged him with a sudden emotion to his heart, while the long sealed fountain of his feelings gushed forth again, and tears came forth from beneath the lids that were tightly shut to repress them.
"Father!" The eyes were quickly unclosed. There was now another present.
"My child!" came trembling from his lips, and Laura flung herself upon his bosom.
How changed to the eyes of Mr. Woodville was all, after this. When he met Mr. Percival, he was even more surprised than in the court-room at his manly dignity of character, his refinement and enlarged intelligence. And when he went abroad, and perceived, what he had never before allowed himself to see, the high estimation in which he was held by all in the community, he was still further affected with wonder.
In less than a year after this reconciliation, Mr. Percival was chosen to a high office in the State; and within that time, Mr. Allison was detected in a criminal conspiracy to defraud, and left the commonwealth to escape punishment.
So much for origin and destiny. Laura was right; it concerns a maiden far more to know where her lover is going, than whence he came; for she has to journey with him in the former, and not the latter way.
What's in a Name?
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
A most important event had occurred in the family of Mr. Pillsbury; and event long looked for with strange and doubtful feelings. Mr. Pillsbury, in his station, hardly knew what to do with himself; and Mrs. Pillsbury was so happy that she did nothing but smile all the time. She would have laughed outright at least a dozen times an hour, so exceedingly joyful did she feel, had it not been for a certain grave-faced, matronly personage, whose business it was to see that she did not get over-excited about anything, and thus endanger her health. But we are getting no nearer to what we are trying to say, than when we began. So we shall have to come bolt out with the truth, in plain, understandable English, and tell the reader that Mrs. Pillsbury had a baby. Being the first baby that had appeared in the family, of course it was the dearest little darling that ever blessed a mother's delighted eyes.
What a sensation did the little stranger's advent create! What new hopes and feelings were awakened! How the minds of the parents enlarged with higher views of their responsibility in life! They had never been so happy; had never regarded each other with so tender a love as now pervaded their bosoms. An hour, and, sometimes, two hours earlier than usual, would the father return from his store in the evening, and for no other reason than to gratify the desire he felt to see the baby. He was far more punctual at dinner-time than he had been, and rarely ever went out at night. Before the baby came, Mr. Pillsbury had acquired rather a bad habit of spending his evenings away from home.
The first few weeks that followed the baby's appearance were paradisaical in their peace and joy; and there is no telling how long this delightful state would have remained, had not the question been daily asked, by new and old visitors —
"What's its name?"
"Haven't you named the baby yet?"
"How do you call the little dear?"
And so on, in a hundred varied ways.
"Name it William," said one. "Call it Edward," suggested another. "Oh! Ferdinand is such a beauty of a name — call him Ferdinand," urged another. And so it went on, until almost every in the whole catalogue had been brought forward.
But, of all the names that had been offered or suggested to her own mind, only one was considered by the mother as worthy of her baby. As for your common, unmeaning Johns and Henrys and Peters — she could not tolerate them. Mr. Pillsbury had different views.
"Give the child a good plain name. One that he will never be ashamed of as a boy or man. William is an excellent name; so is Henry; so is Edward; and so is Alfred. In fact, there are dozens of names, any one of which will sound as musical as a flute in a week's time."
But Mrs. Pillsbury shook her head in a most positive way at all these suggestions. No common Dicks, Toms, Bills, or Neds for her. On this subject she was, I am sorry to admit, positively rude, at times, to her husband. If she didn't say outright, she thought, "I reckon it's my baby; and I'll have some say in naming him." The "some" proved in the end, to be all the "say."
There was one name, it has been admitted, worthy, in the mind of Mrs. Pillsbury, to distinguish her baby from all other babies. Mrs. Pillsbury was a pious woman, and every Sabbath, when she could get to church, she sat under the teachings of the excellent and beloved person, King Crabtree. In her eyes, earth had never seen such a man as the good Mr. Crabtree; and, as name is significant of quality, Crabtree always fell upon her ears with a peculiar music, and brought to her mind images of things good and beautiful. To every suggestion of a name by her husband, of course Mrs. Pillsbury shook her head.
"What then, will you have him called?" at last asked Mr. Pillsbury, in despair.
"King Crabtree!" replied the young mother, firmly.
"Oh, dear!" There was pain in the expression of Mr. Pillsbury's voice. "Why, Emeline! Are you really beside yourself?"
"Not by any means," said the lady, drawing her lips firmly together. "I speak the words of truth and soberness. I wish him named King Crabtree, after our dear, good pastor."
"Horrible! horrible! Crab — tree — King! Why not call him Black Panther, or Snapping Turtle, at once, and be done with it? Oh, no, no, no! I'll never give in to that — never!"
Mrs. Pillsbury had but one answer to make to this — but one weapon with which to fight her battle. A plentiful shower of tears came gushing over her cheeks, and turning her face from her husband, she commenced grieving and sobbing most piteously. Poor Mr. Pillsbury felt that the odds were against him. He already saw his beautiful boy with the millstone, King Crabtree, hung about his neck, and his heart sank within him. As for the parson, he had never been one of Mr. Pillsbury's favorites. In fact, he had little faith in him. But, in the eyes of Mrs. Pillsbury, and the major part of the ladies of his congregation, he was little less than a saint. Already some half a dozen young urchins had been named King Crabtree, and there was a fair prospect of a dozen more being blessed with the same beautiful name.
Well, the father stood out as long as a mortal could well endure the various influences brought to bear upon him. At last he withdrew his positive refusal to have the baby named after the good parson — and the baby had his name.
It was a long time before Mr. Pillsbury could say "Crabtree," although he heard the word sounded in his ears as often as fifty times a day. The best he could do was to "King" the little fellow, and that went terribly against the grain. But the child grew hourly more beautiful and interesting to the father, and by the time he was three years old, he almost forgot the unmusical name he bore, and could say "Crabtree" with the rest, and feel no unpleasant jarring of his nerves.
As for young King Crabtree, he had no fault to find with anyone on the subject of his name during the years of babyhood, nor for a certain period of time after the days of jacket-and-trousers came. To him, Crabtree was as good as any other name, and a little better, for it meant himself, and he entertained for himself, quite naturally, we must admit, a particularly good opinion. But, as his mind opened and he began to understand the meaning of words, and, moreover, began to come in contact with boys at school, he was made sensible that there was something wrong.
One sharp-witted lad called him, in a deriding way, "Crab," — another dignified him with the title of "Parson Crabtree," and a third cried after him, as he passed homeward from school, "Hallo there, Mr. Landcrab!" Grieved are we to record the fact, but it must be told — young King Crabtree Pillsbury had not fully attained the age of seven mature years, when he scandalized the name of the good parson after whom he had been called, by using the carnal weapons of fists and feet in kicking and cuffing a chap a year older than himself, for calling him "Crab-apple."
"Oh, Crabtree! Crabtree!" exclaimed the grieved mother, when she learned the fact, "what will our good parson say, when he hears this of you? You, who bear his name! Oh! it is dreadful!"
"Served the young rascal right!" murmured Mr. Pillsbury, aside. "Glad he's got some spirit in him. Hope the parson will hear it."
As for Crabtree himself, the reproof of his mother did not make a very deep impression, as was plain from the fact that, while she talked, he kept jerking his head over his left shoulder in a threatening way, and saying, "He called me 'Crab-apple,' so he did! and I won't stand it! The boys are always calling me names, so they are."
"What do they call you?" asked the mother."
"Why they call me 'lobster,' and 'crab,' and 'Parson Crabtree,' and everything."
"Just as I expected. Confound the name!" grumbled Mr. Pillsbury, in a low voice: not so low but that his words reached the ears of his wife, who cast upon him an offended look. As soon as they were alone, she tried to read him a little lecture, but he broke the ceremony short, by declaring that Crabtree was an awful name, and would curse their child through life.
"Beelzebub is nothing compared to it," he added by way of making his denunciation emphatic.
There was no way to meet this but by the old method of tears. As soon as Mr. Pillsbury saw the approach of these, he made a hasty retreat.
Long before Crabtree attained his twelfth year, he was known as the most fiery young belligerent in the town. It took a boy who could bear to stand a good blow, or one far over the size of this pugnacious lad, to venture upon the experiment of saying "crab," "lobster," or "parson," within reach of his ears.
"I'm sorry to hear bad accounts of you, my lad," said Parson Crabtree to the boy, in the presence of his mother.
Crabtree hung his head and bit his finger-nails.
"I'm told that you have a fight with some of the boys at school almost every day. This is very wicked. Why do you do this?"
"The boys won't let me alone," replied Crabtree, looking up.
"Won't let you alone?"
"What do they do to you?"
"They call me Parson Crabtree."
"Call you Parson Crabtree!" exclaimed the minister, a little taken by surprise.
"Well, they call me that, too; but I don't see any cause to fight about it," said the parson, recovering himself.
"But I'm not a parson! And then they call me 'king-crab,' and 'land-crab,' and 'lobster,' 'crab-apple,' and everything. If they'd let me alone, I'd let them alone; but they won't."
The parson said no more on the subject. Something struck his mind at the moment, and he addressed himself to Crabtree's mother, on a matter concerning the welfare of the church.
For the first time, a dim impression that an error had been committed, stole into the mind of Mrs. Pillsbury. She saw that the name of her boy was, to some extent, at the bottom of his quarrelsome temper. "Quarrelsome" was the word that she, as well as others, applied to the boy's disposition to resent the many insults and indignities he almost daily suffered. Lads not half so amiable by nature, nor with half the good qualities he possessed, who were so fortunate as to be the only Charles, or Henry, or William, got on well enough. No one charged them with being quarrelsome. The fact was, they had little or no provocation. With half as much to provoke them as Crabtree suffered, they would have doubled their fists with the most hearty good-will.
Yes, the error was dimly seen. But, by the time King Crabtree reached his fifteenth year, it was seen far more clearly. For some time previously, a few "enemies" of Parson Crabtree, as they were called, had hinted at certain scandalous things, most disgraceful to the minister and the church. Once the parson had boldly demanded of his congregation that said allegations should be investigated; but his friends in the church said, that they prudently enough concluded, that the least said about a charge like the one offered against the parson, the better. And so all remained quiet for a time.
But, the "enemies" of the parson continued to grow bolder, and to gain daily in numbers. Things of a scandalous and wicked nature were boldly alleged to have been done by the gentleman; and hints of an intention to cite him before the civil courts were at length thrown out. The good people of his congregation could not longer shut their ears to what was passing. Common decency required them to sift the matter to the bottom; and so the leading and official men were called, the parson cited to appear, and witnesses, said to know of his delinquencies, called in and examined. Some pretty hard stories were told by some of the latter; but, as they were generally based upon what Mr. or Mrs. Such-and-such-a-one said, the eloquent parson, by virtue of his peculiar oral abilities, backed by tears at pleasure, succeeded in making it believed that he was a falsely persecuted and deeply injured man. He was fully acquitted of the evils laid to his charge.
This was a great triumph to the parson's friends. Still, the tongue of scandal was not hushed. Fretted at this, threats of prosecution for defamation of character were made; but these did not produce the silence expected. Two or three members of the congregation, who took the matter most seriously to heart, were actually about instituting proceedings against one of the busiest of their minister's defamers, when the whole town was electrified by the news that Parson Crabtree had been cited to appear before one of the civil courts, to answer for crimes of a most heinous character. What these crimes were, or at least a part of them, delicacy forbids us to state. But they were minutely detailed in evidence before the court, and spread, in newspaper reports, all over the country. The position of Parson Crabtree, not only as a preacher of the gospel, but as the author of one or two religious books, made him a conspicuous object to all. There was not a newspaper-reading man, woman, or child, in the whole country, who did not become familiar with his name and the offences charged against him.
The trial lasted for weeks, during which time the public mind, everywhere, continued to be greatly excited. At last, the court summed up the evidence, and the case was left with a jury of twelve men, four of whom were members of the parson's own congregation. In ten minutes, a unanimous verdict of "guilty" on all the charges was found; though the wretched criminal, under the influence of a false humanity, was recommended to the mercy of the court. Upon this recommendation, however, the court did not see that it was right to act. The position, standing, and influence of the culprit, rather increased than lessened the guilt of his offences. He was, therefore, sentenced to pay a certain amount of damages, and to be imprisoned at hard labor for the term of three years.
At the age of sixteen, the son of Mr. Pillsbury was sent to college. He entered as K.C. Pillsbury.
"What do these initials represent?" asked the president, on receiving the lad, and making a minute of his name. There was a slight hesitation, and then the boy replied —
"Indeed! Ah? I'm sorry you haven't a better name. I suppose you were called after that rascally parson who flourished in your town so many years?"
King said yes, though he was sorry for it.
"Of course, it's no fault of yours, my lad," returned the president, encouragingly. "And as long as you have to carry the name about you, let it be your business to redeem it from disgrace."
This was a much harder task than the president supposed, at the moment he made the suggestion. A name once disgraced, and in a public and scandalous manner, cannot be redeemed in a single generation; often not in ages. It was soon known among the students that the newcomer's name was King Crabtree. Some said he was the parson's nephew; and others declared that he was actually the parson's son. Certain little persecutions followed, which fretted the boy's temper, and made him so unhappy that in six months he went home, and stubbornly refused to return to college.
His parents, who intended him for one of the learned professions, were greatly troubled at the perverseness of their son's temper. But neither threats, remonstrances, nor persuasions were of any avail. He remained firm to his declaration. Daily he was becoming more and more morbidly sensitive to the disgrace attached to his name; and rather than bear for a month longer what he had suffered at college, he would go to sea as a common sailor. This state of his feelings, he was bold to declare. It made not the slightest impression on him for his mother or father to say —
"Don't be so weak and foolish, King," — even they had dropped the Crabtree; "be more manly."
But young Crabtree knew where the shoe pinched; and felt the slightest pressure thereon as painful.
About this time, a good opening occurred in a shipping-house, in the town. A clerk had been sent out as a supercargo, thus leaving a vacancy in the establishment, which the partners were desirous of filling with a smart, intelligent lad. The situation was a most desirable one, and some friends of Mr. Pillsbury suggested to him that it was just the place for his boy, and said they would speak to Mr. Green, the principal member of the house, if he desired it. The father was much pleased at this prospect, and so was his son, when he heard of the place. Mr. Green was accordingly spoken to on the subject, and said that he would like to see the lad. So, King was sent to the store.
"You're the son of Mr. Pillsbury?" said the merchant, when the lad introduced himself.
"Yes, sir," was modestly replied.
"You're a fine-looking lad. And so you would like to be a merchant?"
"Well — let me see — what is your name?"
The color mounted to the boy's face, as he half stammered out —
"King Crabtree Pillsbury."
"King Crabtree. Hum — m — m. Rather an unfortunate name!"
The boy remained silent. Mr. Green sat and thought for some moments. Then he said —
"Very well, my lad. I will think about you. There are half-a-dozen applicants for the place, and we will not decide about it for a week to come."
The boy departed with a weight upon his feelings. He was satisfied that he would not get the place.
"I've seen Mr. Pillsbury's son," said Mr. Green, on meeting, shortly afterward, one of the individuals who had interested himself in the boy's favor.
"How do you like him?"
"Fine, smart-looking boy; but he has a dreadful bad name."
"Bad name! I never heard of it. Who says so?"
"Himself. Can you have a worse name than King Crabtree?"
"It may be prejudice; and, probably is; but I couldn't have anyone around me with that name. Besides, I understand the boy's mother is distantly related to the old rascally parson after whom she called her child."
"I never heard that."
"I reckon it will be found true. Be this, however, as it may, I can't take the lad. I never could like him or trust him with that name, and it's no use to try the experiment. His parents had better have drowned him at birth."
Mr. Pillsbury never guessed the reason why Mr. Green did not take his son; but King Crabtree understood it fully. For a year the unhappy boy loitered away his time, and then, almost in despair, accepted a place as mail-packer, in a printing-office, at a dollar a week. But he did not stay long in this situation. Some light remark about his name caused him to assault a small lad in the office, and this caused his dismissal. Disgusted and disheartened with everything, the poor lad next set his heart upon going to sea. This was opposed until opposition were itself out. Then he was permitted to go on board a vessel trading to South America. On the first voyage he behaved himself so well, that the captain took him for his clerk, in which capacity he sailed three times to Rio and back. During the last voyage home, one of the men took occasion, several times, to be rude to Crabtree. Repeating this rudeness in a more aggravated form than usual, one day, the young man caught up a handspike, and, in the heat of the moment, knocked the sailor down. The blow was heavier than Crabtree intended to give, and the result more disastrous than he expected. One of the sailor's arms was broken, and he was severely bruised by his fall over a piece of wood which lay on the deck.
As soon as the vessel arrived in port, the sailor made complaint against Crabtree, who was arrested and placed on trial. The prosecutor made out a very clear case, and the young man was found guilty of the assault charged. The court ordered him to pay five hundred dollars damages, and to suffer an imprisonment of sixty days.
"Were this your first offence, King Crabtree Pillsbury," said the judge, in passing sentence, "your age, and the provocation alleged to have been received, would have inclined the court to visit your conduct with a lighter penalty. But though young in years, you come before this court as an old offender. In the hope that you may be led to change your evil courses, I give you sixty days imprisonment, as a time for sober reflection."
Utterly confounded by such a declaration on the part of the judge, the unhappy young man was taken from the court-room and conveyed to prison. The captain with whom he had sailed, and who was much attached to him, was present during the trial, and at its conclusion. He was no less confounded than Pillsbury, at the strange assumption of the judge. As soon as the court adjourned, he called upon the judge, and said to him —
"You appear to be laboring under some error in regard to the young man you committed to prison?"
"What young man?" inquired the judge. "The one arraigned on the charge of beating a sailor?"
"In what respect?"
"You spoke of him as an old offender."
"And so he is. Already he has been before this court twice, for outrages on the rights of others."
"King Crabtree Pillsbury!"
"Depend upon it, you are in error, Judge."
"Oh, no! Do you think I could ever forget that name, rendered infamous by a certain parson who is still, I trust, in the penitentiary?"
"Are you certain that the offender of whom you speak was named Pillsbury?"
The judge thought a few moments.
"Not absolutely certain," he replied. "But surely there cannot be found another man on the face of the earth with such a name?"
"It is barely possible, Judge. Of one thing I am very sure, my clerk has not been before this court, nor any other in the United States, within the time you mention."
"You are positive of that?"
"The docket of cases tried will show," said the judge.
Accordingly there was an examination made, when it turned out that the previous culprit was named King Crabtree Parker. He was from the same town with Pillsbury, and had been named in compliment to the good Parson Crabtree. His name had doubtless proved his ruin.
This discovery altered the case entirely. The unhappy young man was brought before the court, and the sentence commuted to a fine of one hundred dollars.
"And now, young man," said the judge, in dismissing him, "take my advice and petition the legislature to change your name; for, depend upon it, while you bear the one you now have, no good can ever find you in this world. It is as bad as the mark upon the forehead of Cain."
This piece of advice was acted upon by Pillsbury immediately. The legislature being in session, he sent up a petition, and in less than four weeks he was plain John Pillsbury. From that time he felt like a new man, and when he wrote his name, he did so without the sense of disgrace that had for years haunted him like a blasting specter. He became more cheerful, and companionable, and more confident as he looked into the future. In a year or two, he became mate of the vessel, and, in a few years afterwards, on the captain's retiring, was elevated to his place. About this time he married. On the birth of his first child, its young mother had a fancy to name the boy after an uncle for whom she had a warm affection, and proposed to call him Lloyd Erskine.
"No, no," said the father most positively, "let it be Tom, Dick, or Harry, just as you please. Any plain, common name is good enough, and will carry him safely through life. But I wouldn't call a child of mine after the angel Gabriel."
"Why not?" innocently inquired the wife.
"Simply because, if the angel Gabriel were to fall and disgrace his name, my boy would have to bear a part of the stigma. No — no. Never name a child after anybody; for all are human, and therefore liable to fall into evil. Benedict Arnold was once thought to be an honorable man; and, during this period of his life, some relative or friend may have called a child after him. If so, how deeply disgraced must that second-hand bearer of the name, Benedict Arnold, have felt through his whole life. No — no. Let it be plain John, William, or Edward, as you desire; but nothing more."
And so the child was called John Pillsbury. We will simply remark, in conclusion, that, unlike his father, he was never ashamed of his name.
Seeing about It
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
I once spent a few days in the family of a much esteemed friend, who had an interesting boy, between seven and eight years of age. One morning as the father was about leaving for his store, little Edgar came running after him, crying —
"Father! father! won't you buy me some paints and a paint-brush?"
"I'll see about it!" the father quietly replied.
"Oh! father is going to buy me a box of paints," exclaimed Edgar, dancing back into the house, almost as happy, in anticipation, as if the box were actually in his hands.
"What are you going to do with your paints?" I asked of the little fellow, drawing him to my side.
"I'm going to paint all the pictures in my coloring book, and make them look so beautiful!" said he, "I wish it wasn't so long until dinner-time. But I'll wait."
"Yes, you must wait patiently. We cannot always have what we want in a moment."
"Father could send them home by John; I wish I had asked him to do so. But I'll wait." And the little boy strove to be as patient as possible.
As often as every half-hour, at least, during the morning, Edgar came to me to talk about the box of paints his father was going to bring home.
"I wish it was dinner-time," he would sometimes say, or, "Isn't dinner-time a long while coming?"
All Edgar's usual modes of passing the hours happily, were neglected. He could think of nothing but his paint-box.
"It's one o'clock!" he cried, bursting into my room, where I sat reading, as the clock struck the hour he had named. "Father comes home at two. Aren't you glad I'm going to get my paint-box soon?"
"Yes, very glad, Edgar."
"So am I. I wonder how large a box he will buy? Henry Thomas has one so big, (measuring nearly twelve inches in length with his hands,) and ever-so-many brushes. He can paint elegantly. You ought to see the flowers he painted; they looked just like real ones."
"Can you paint a flower yet?"
"Oh, no. I haven't learned. But I am going to learn. I mean to ask father to send me to a drawing-school."
Four or five times during the next hour, Edgar came into my room to talk about his box of paints. For more than a quarter of an hour before the usual time for his father to return, he was at the window, and there remained, patiently, on the look-out for him. At length I heard him crying out, "Father is coming! father is coming!" — and running wildly down-stairs.
The little fellow had talked to me so much about his paint-box, that I felt almost as much interest as he did, and could not help leaving my room and going down to see and enjoy his pleasure, on receiving it.
"Where is my paint-box? Give me my paint-box, father!" cried Edgar, eagerly seizing hold of my friend, as he came up the steps.
"What box, child?" returned the father, coldly. "I don't know anything about your paint-box."
"The paint-box you promised me you would buy. Where is it, father? In your pocket?"
"I didn't promise to buy you a paint-box."
"Oh, yes, you did, father!" The tears were springing to the child's eyes. "Don't you know I asked you this morning to get me one?"
"I believe you did, Edgar; but did I say I would buy it for you?"
"You said you would see about it, father."
"That is one thing, and promising to buy the box another. I haven't had time to see about it, Edgar."
This was said with an air of indifference that to me was inconceivable. The disappointed child shrank away, and went quietly up-stairs to his mother, into whose lap he laid his face, sobbing most bitterly.
"What is the matter, my dear?" asked his mother.
The child made no answer.
"Edgar, what ails you, my son?"
But the boy's heart was too full. He could not speak.
"Why don't you say what is the matter?"
The mother's voice had changed from its first expression of tenderness. Still there was no answer.
"Don't come crying to me, unless you can tell me what ails you." And Edgar was pushed away.
The child felt that injustice had been done to him, and the repulse of his mother made him angry. His low, distressed cry changed to one of anger.
"Edgar, what are you crying about? I never saw such a boy! You are always crying about something!"
This had no favorable effect. The tones in which it was spoken were fretful, and these excited, rather than soothed the child. He went away from his mother's side, and leaned against the wall, still continuing to cry, but with more bitterness.
"Edgar, stop crying!"
The mother spoke with authority, and stamped her foot, to give emphasis to what she said. But her words had no effect.
"Look here, Edgar! If you don't stop instantly, you shall be shut up in the closet, and kept there until after dinner!"
The poor child's disappointment had been so great, that he felt indifferent about everything. If his mother had expressed sympathy and spoken kindly, it would have soothed and comforted him. But her words, and the tones in which they were uttered, aroused angry feelings, which made him stubborn. The threat of punishment had no effect; he still cried on.
"Aren't you going to stop?" This was the last angry appeal; and it might as well not have been made. It had no effect whatever.
Being now out of all patience, Edgar's mother seized him by the arm, and, thrusting him into a dark closet, shut the door. His crying instantly ceased. His anger was changed into grief. He had been wronged, and he felt it keenly. Laying his little head upon a pillow that was on the floor of the closet, he sobbed himself to sleep, and was found there when the door was opened about an hour afterwards.
"Where is Edgar?" asked my friend, looking towards his vacant chair at the dinner-table, after we were all seated.
"He has been a naughty boy, and cannot come to the table today," replied the mother, smiling, as she glanced towards me.
"What has he been doing?" asked my friend.
"He came up to me, crying, a little while ago, and would neither tell me what ailed him, nor stop his noise. I persuaded and threatened, but all to no purpose; and had, at last, to shut him up in the closet. He is a very self-willed boy. When he once gets set out, there is no doing anything with him."
My friend said nothing. What he thought, I do not know: but I have very good reasons for believing that he did not for a moment imagine that he, and he alone, was to blame in the matter. When he told Edgar, in reply to his request for a box of paints, that he would see about it, he did so by way of getting off from the child's importunity. From that moment he thought no more about it. Not so with the child. He fully believed that his father had promised to buy him what he so much desired, and, confiding in this promise, he expected to get the box of paints upon his return home, at dinner-time. But he was sadly disappointed, and was too young to bear the disappointment.
So little had Edgar's father thought of what his child asked of him, and so little notice did he take of the effect produced by his failure to get the paints, that it did not occur to him that Edgar had been crying from the disappointment. The mother was, of course, entirely ignorant of the cause of her son's unhappiness. It is true, he had talked to her about the paint-box he was to get when his father came home to dinner: but she had so many matters of interest to which her daily attention was called, that she never thought about any of them longer than ten minutes at a time. The child's crying she attributed to some trifling crossing of his temper, and she did not feel at all disposed to humor him.
I saw all this, and it grieved me deeply. But my position was such that I could say nothing. About two hours after I had left the dinner-table, as I was about going out for a walk, I found Edgar sitting on the front door-steps. He was alone, and was looking at some children playing in the street. He did not show any disposition to join them. As I passed him, he looked up at me with a sober face. I did not speak to him, for I did not know what to say. Once or twice, I turned back to look at him — his eyes were following me.
"Shall I buy him a box of paints?" I asked myself. "Will it be right?"
For some time, I argued these questions, and finally determined that I would risk gratifying the child. His father, I felt quite sure, had given the matter so little thought, and was so entirely ignorant of the effect produced by his failure to buy the paint-box, that he would not look upon my act as an officious one, meant to rebuke him.
I came back sooner than I had intended, with the paint-box in my possession. Edgar still sat where I had left him. His mother came to the door just as I placed my foot upon the step to enter. She greeted me pleasantly, and then said —
"Edgar, why don't you go out and play with the children? There's William Ellis, and Mary Miller, and Thomas Gray, who all love to have you play with them. Go, my son."
"I don't want to play," replied Edgar, looking up into his mother's face. "I would rather sit here."
"Sit there, then. You are a strange child, sometimes."
There was petulance rather than tenderness in the mother's voice. The boy sighed, and remained sitting where he was.
"It's a very hard matter to get along with children," remarked my friend's wife. "You never know how to take them. One moment they are on the mountain top, and the next in the valley. Yesterday, it was next to impossible for me to keep Edgar away from those children, and now he cares nothing about them. It seems as if all their moods and tempers were ever in direct opposition to your wishes or feelings. Yesterday, I did not want him to go into the street, and then nothing else would suit him. Today, I would rather he would amuse himself with the children; but he chooses to sit moping at the door. It requires a great deal of patience to get along with children; much more than I possess."
I did not assent to the last part of the sentence uttered, although, from all that I had seen, I was very well satisfied of its truth.
"I have no doubt," I made answer, "that it is one of the most difficult things in the world to understand the dispositions and feelings of children, and so to act as not to do violence to what is good in them. Their varied moods and tempers are not always mere impulses; they depend upon what we would consider, if we knew all, adequate causes. Subjected, as they are, entirely to others — possessing no abstract freedom of their own — they must be constantly meeting with checks and disappointments. We know how little able we are to encounter such things without disturbance, although our reason is matured, and we can understand causes, and although much experience in life has tended to sober our feelings and give us some support in a rational philosophy. Reflecting thus, we ought not to be surprised at anything we see in children; but should rather seek to understand the reason why they are at any time disturbed."
"But suppose, as was the case with me today, you are not able to draw from the child what it is that disturbs him — how are you to act?"
"I am not able to answer that question," I replied, smiling. "Circumstances always alter cases."
"It is very easy to theorize — one of the easiest things in the world. But it is quite another thing to practice."
To this remark, I had nothing to say. I tacitly admitted its truth. At the same time I could not help feeling that the practice of some people might be better than it was, by a great deal.
"Come up-stairs and see me, Edgar," said I to the boy, after I had changed the subject of conversation with his mother, and chatted with her a little while longer.
The child arose quickly, and walked by my side up-stairs and into the chamber I occupied. Although I did not mean that it should be so, yet I saw, from Edgar's manner, that my voice had betrayed the secret that I had something for him. I had no opportunity, therefore, for surprising him.
"I have got a little present for you, Edgar," said I, drawing forth a small package enclosed in paper.
"What is it? A paint-box?" eagerly asked the little fellow, his face brightening.
"Yes, a paint-box. How do you like it?"
I had by this time taken off the envelope and displayed the box. I really thought the sight of it would set the child wild with delight. He seized it in his hands and fairly hugged it. Then, drawing off the lid, he counted over each paint, and handled and tried the brushes.
"Let me go and show it to mother," said he, and away he ran, crying to his mother that I had given him a box of paints.
"Artless, innocent childhood!" I could not help saying, "how brief is your remembrance of wrong!"
His mother had punished him because he had cried from the severity of his disappointment in not getting his expected box of paints; but this was all forgotten now.
After the box was shown to his mother, Edgar went into the dining-room to paint, and we saw and heard no more of him until tea-time. When his father came home. Edgar was as eager to show his prize to him as he had been to his mother.
The incidents of the day made me thoughtful. I had always entertained for my friend a very high opinion; and had especially esteemed him for his goodness of heart and benevolence. But the circumstance I have just related caused doubting questions to arise. Was it possible for a man of true benevolence to act towards his confiding child with such culpable indifference? I could not reconcile my previous opinion with the fact that had just transpired. They were at variance with each other.
The more I thought about the matter, the more I felt disturbed.
"Can it be possible?" I at length asked myself, "that my friend is naturally a selfish, bad-hearted man — who takes upon himself, in common society, pretenses of virtue?"
"No — no — this cannot be," was my mental answer. "His worst fault must be thoughtlessness."
On the next day, I happened in at my friend's store. While I sat reading a newspaper, and he was busy at his desk, a little girl, rather poorly clad, came in, and said something to him in a low, earnest tone. My friend hesitated, and the child spoke more earnestly. He then asked two or three questions, to which he received answers.
"Very well, I will see about it," he said with a smile.
The little girl seemed satisfied, and went away.
"Your little visitor was quite importunate," I remarked.
"Yes," he replied. "Her father used to work for me. He is an honest, industrious man, but has been sick for some time. He is getting better, however, and now wants me to speak to one of my neighbors about a situation in his store. I told her that if her father would send her, it would do just as well. But she said he wished me to go particularly, for he knew, if I spoke for it, that I could get it for him."
"And so you promised to see about it?" said I, letting my voice rest, with some emphasis, upon the last words of the sentence.
"Yes — I could do no less," he replied, not observing that I had used his own words.
I felt strongly inclined to call my friend's attention to the fact of his having spoke in the same way to Edgar, but could not see my way exactly clear to do so, just then.
Two days afterwards, while I was again sitting in my friend's store, the same little girl came in. Before she had time to speak, my friend said —
"I declare! I have entirely forgotten you! But wait a minute, and I will go and see about it at once."
The child looked disappointed, but sat down quietly. My friend put on his hat and went out. In a little while he came in, and said to her —
"Tell your father that Mr. Peterson says that he would have given him the situation with pleasure, if he had applied earlier, but that it was now filled."
The little girl looked into my friend's face for some time, with what seemed to me a sad expression, and then went slowly away.
"Really, I must blame myself for not having gone at once to see about the situation for this poor man. If I had gone yesterday, I might have secured it for him."
"It's a pity, certainly," I ventured to remark.
"It is, indeed. I really feel bad about it. But, the fact is, he ought to have sent direct to Mr. Peterson and not to have asked me to speak to him."
"No doubt, he believed that you would have more influence, and thus make his application more certain."
"Yes. But the result has shown differently."
"It would have shown differently if you had seen Mr. Peterson immediately."
"But I didn't; and there I was to blame. It can't be helped now, however. I am sorry, and that is as much as I can say."
We talked some time on the subject, I improving an opportunity that offered to call his attention to the sad disappointment his thoughtless promise to see about a box of paints for Edgar had occasioned the little boy. He was surprised and astonished at what I said; and seemed deeply grieved at the pain his child had suffered and the wrong that had been done to him. So little had he thought about what he had said to Edgar, in reply to his request, that it had by this time retired so far from his memory, that it was recalled with considerable difficulty.
We were yet conversing, when a man entered the store, and came slowly back to the little room in which we were sitting. He walked with a feeble, tottering step.
"Why, John, is this you? I am glad to see you out. How are you getting along?" said my friend, the color rising to his face as he spoke.
The man did not smile in return, but knit his brow, compressed his lips, and looked up sternly.
"I am really sorry, John," said my friend, speaking with much apparent confusion, "that I couldn't get that place for you. Mr. Peterson said that he would have taken you with pleasure, if the application had not come too late."
An expression of impatience, mingled with something like contempt, flitted over the man's pale face. He was evidently struggling hard with himself to keep from speaking out too plainly what was in his mind. At length he said, in a subdued but earnest tone —
"Sir, it may be only right for me to let you know, that, in neglecting to see about the situation for me, as you promised you would do, you have put it out of my power to get bread for my family. They have only had potatoes to eat for many days. No one can earn anything but myself, and I have been sick for some weeks and unable to work. If you had told my little girl that you could not apply to Mr. Peterson for me, I would have hobbled out myself. But you promised to see about it, and I rested satisfied that it would be done. Perhaps I was wrong in presuming to trouble you; but I always considered you a kind-hearted man, and believed it would give you pleasure to do me a good turn."
The brows of my friend contracted in anger. Although the man's manner was not insolent, yet the fact of his calling to take him to task, chafed his feelings. He was about making some harsh reply, when the man, feeling, perhaps, that he had, in the excitement produced by the news brought back by his little girl, been led to act improperly, and yet, feeling unwilling to apologize for what had already transpired, turned away, and walked from the store as fast as his feeble steps would carry him.
My friend looked at me, and I looked at him. It was some time before anything was said.
"I shall have to correct this fault of mine," he at length remarked, with a long inspiration after uttering the sentence. "I am too much in the habit of saying I will see about a thing, without really thinking that the words amount to a promise. John's manner has irritated me; but I suppose I must make every allowance for one in his circumstances. He must have a situation. I will get him one somewhere, immediately, if I have to furnish the wages and let his labor go for nothing. But he must not know that I have anything to do in it."
Before two hours had passed, a storekeeper in the neighborhood sent for John, and engaged him as a porter. He inquired very kindly of him as to how long he had been sick, and what were his circumstances, and then offered him a month's wages in advance. The agency of my friend in this, John more than suspected, for he came before night and apologized for what he had said in the morning.
In spite of all my reasoning on the subject, I could not think so highly of my friend as I did before I had the privilege of spending a short time in his family and observing him in his every-day relationships. The amiability of temper and sincerity of manner which he always displayed whenever I saw him, made me consider him one of the best of men I had ever met. But now he stood on the common plane, with faults such as were possessed by common men.
I hold up his peculiar failing as a mirror into which others who are like him may look, and see something of their own character, by reflection.
The Iron Will
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"Fanny, I've but one word more to say on the subject. If you marry that fellow, I'll have nothing to do with you. I've said it — and you may be assured that I'll adhere to my determination."
Thus spoke, with a frowning brow and a stern voice, the father of Fanny Crawford, while the maiden sat with eyes bent upon the floor.
"He's a worthless, good-for-nothing fellow," resumed the father; "and if you marry him — you wed a life of misery. Don't come back to me — for I will disown you the day you take his name. I've said it, and my decision is unalterable!"
Still Fanny made no answer, but sat like a statute.
"Lay to heart what I have said, and make your choice, girl." And with these words, Mr. Crawford retired from the presence of his daughter.
On that evening, Fanny Crawford left her father's house, and was secretly married to a young man named Logan, whom, in spite of all his faults, she tenderly loved.
When this fact became known to Mr. Crawford, he angrily repeated his threat of utterly disowning his child; and he meant what he said — for he was a man of stern purpose and unbending will. When, trusting to the love she believed him to bear for her, Fanny ventured home, she was rudely repulsed, and told that she no longer had a father. These cruel words fell upon her heart, and ever after rested there, as an oppressive weight.
Logan was a young mechanic, with a good trade and the ability to earn a comfortable living. But Mr. Crawford's objection to him was well-founded, and it would have been much better for Fanny if she had permitted it to influence her; for the young man was idle in his habits, and Mr. Crawford too clearly saw that idleness would lead to dissipation. The father had hoped that his threat to disown his child would have deterred her from taking the step he so strongly disapproved. He had, in fact, made this threat as a last effort to save her from a union that would, inevitably, lead to unhappiness; but having made it, his stubborn and offended pride caused him to adhere with stern inflexibility to his word.
When Fanny went from under her father's roof, the old man was left alone; the mother of his only child had been many years dead. For her father's sake, as well as for her own, did Fanny wish to return. She loved her father with a most earnest affection, and thought of him as sitting gloomy and companionless in that home, so long made light and cheerful by her voice and smile. Hours and hours would she lie awake at night, thinking of her father, and weeping for the estrangement of his heart from her. Still there was in her bosom an ever-living hope that he would relent; and to this she clung, though he passed her in the street without looking at her, and steadily denied her admission, when, in the hope of some change in his stern purpose, she would go to his house and seek to gain an entrance.
As the father had predicted, Logan added, in the course of a year or two, dissipation to idle habits, and neglect of his wife to both. They had gone to housekeeping in a small way, when first married, and had lived comfortably enough for some time; but Logan did not like work, and made every excuse he could find to take a holiday or be absent from the shop. The effect of this was an insufficient income. Debt came, with its mortifying and harassing accompaniments, and furniture had to be sold to pay those who were not disposed to wait. With two little children, Fanny and her husband moved into a cheap boarding-house, after their things were taken and sold.
The company into which she was here thrown, was far from being agreeable; but this would have been no source of unhappiness in itself. Cheerfully would she have breathed the uncongenial atmosphere, if there had been nothing in the conduct of her husband to awaken feelings of anxiety. But, alas! there was much to create unhappiness here; idle days were more frequent, and the consequences of idle days more and more serious. From his work, he would come home sober and cheerful; but after spending a day in idle company, or in the woods hunting, a sport of which he was fond — he would meet his wife with a sullen, dissatisfied aspect, and, too often, in a state little above intoxication.
"I'm afraid your son-in-law is not doing very well, friend Crawford," said a plain-spoken Quaker to the father of Mrs. Logan, after the young man's habits began to show themselves too plainly in his appearance.
Mr. Crawford knit his brows, and drew his lips closely together.
"Has you seen young Logan lately?"
"I don't know the young man," replied Mr. Crawford, with an impatient motion of his head.
"Don't know your own son-in-law — the husband of your daughter?"
"I have no son-in-law — no daughter!" said Crawford, with stern emphasis.
"Frances was the daughter of your wedded wife, friend Crawford."
"But I have disowned her. I forewarned her of the consequences, if she married that young man. I told her that I would cast her off forever, and I have done it!"
"But, friend Crawford, you has done wrong."
"I've said it — and I'll stick to it!"
"But you have done wrong, friend Crawford," repeated the Quaker.
"Right or wrong, it is done, and I will not recall the act. I gave her fair warning; but she took her own course, and now she must pay the consequences. When I say a thing — I mean it. I never eat my words."
"Friend Crawford," said the Quaker, in a steady voice, and with his calm eyes fixed upon the face of the man he addressed, "you were wrong to say what you did; you had no right to cast off your child. I saw her today, passing slowly along the street; her dress was thin and faded, but not so thin and faded as her pale young face. Ah! if you could have seen the sadness of that countenance. Friend Crawford, she is your child still; you cannot disown her."
"I never change!" replied the resolute father.
"She is the child of your beloved wife, now in Heaven, friend Crawford."
"Good-day!" And Crawford turned and walked away.
"Rash words are bad enough," said the Quaker to himself; "but how much worse is it to abide by rash words, after there has been time for reflection and repentance."
Crawford was troubled by what the Quaker said, but more troubled when he saw his daughter's husband a few minutes afterwards, as he walked along the street, supported by two others, so much intoxicated that he could not stand alone. And in this state, he was going home to his wife — to Fanny.
The father clenched his hands, set his teeth firmly together, muttered an imprecation upon the head of Logan, and quickened his pace homeward. Try as he would, he could not shut out from his mind the pale, faded countenance of his child, as described by the Quaker, nor help feeling an inward shudder at the thought of what she must suffer on meeting her husband in such a state.
"She has only herself to blame," he said, as he struggled with his feelings. "I forewarned her; I made her understand clearly what she had to expect; my word is passed. I have said it, and that ends the matter; I am no childish trifler. What I say — I mean."
Logan had been from home all day, and, what was worse, had not been, as his wife was well aware, at the shop for a week. The woman with whom they were boarding came into her room during the afternoon, and, after some hesitation and embarrassment, said —
"I am sorry to tell you, Mrs. Logan, that I shall need you to give up your room after this week. You know I have had no money from you for nearly a month, and, from the way your husband goes on, I see little prospect of being paid anything more. If I was able, for your sake, I would not say a word; but I am not, Mrs. Logan, and therefore must, in justice to myself and family, require you to get another boarding-house."
Mrs. Logan answered only with tears. The woman tried to soften what she had said, and then went away.
Not long after this, Logan came stumbling up the stairs, and, opening the door of his room, staggered in and threw himself heavily upon the bed. Fanny looked at him a few moments, and then crouching down, and, covering her face with her hands, wept long and bitterly. She felt crushed and powerless. Cast off by her father, wronged by her husband, destitute and about to be thrust from the poor home into which she had shrunk, faint and weary — it seemed as if hope were gone forever. While she suffered thus, Logan lay in a drunken sleep. Arousing herself at last, she removed his boots and coat, drew a pillow under his head, and threw a cover over him. She then sat down and wept again. The tea-bell rang, but she did not go to the table. Half an hour afterwards, the landlady came to the door and kindly inquired if she would not have some food sent up to her room.
"Only a little bread and milk for Henry," was replied.
"Let me send you a cup of tea," urged the woman.
"No, thank you. I don't wish anything tonight."
The woman went away, feeling troubled. From her heart, she pitied the suffering young creature, and it had cost her a painful struggle to do what she had done; but the pressing nature of her own circumstances required her to be rigidly just. Notwithstanding Mrs. Logan had declined having anything, she sent her a cup of tea and something to eat; but they remained untasted.
On the next morning, Logan was sober, and his wife informed him of the notice which their landlady had given. He was angry, and used harsh language towards the woman. Fanny defended her, and had the harsh language transferred to her own head.
The young man appeared as usual at the breakfast table, but Fanny had no appetite for food, and did not go down. After breakfast, Logan went to the shop, intending to go to work, but found his place supplied by another journeyman, and himself thrown out of employment, with but a single dollar in his pocket, a month's boarding due, and his family in need of almost every necessity. From the shop he went to a tavern, took a glass of liquor, and sat down to look over the newspapers and think what he should do. There he met an idle journeyman, who, like himself, had lost his job. A fellow feeling made them communicative and confidential.
"If I was only a single man," said Logan, "I wouldn't care. I could easily shift for myself."
"Wife and children! Yes, there's the rub," returned the companion. "A journeyman mechanic is a fool to get married."
"Then you and I are both fools," said Logan.
"No doubt of it. I came to that conclusion, in regard to myself, long and long ago. Sick wife, hungry children, and four or five backs to cover; no wonder a poor man's nose is ever on the grindstone. For my part, I am sick of it. When I was a single man, I could go where I pleased, and do what I pleased; and I always had money in my pocket. Now I am tied down to one place, and grumbled at eternally; and if you were to shake me from here to the Navy Yard, you wouldn't get a sixpence out of me. The fact is, I'm sick of it!"
"So am I; but what is to be done? I don't believe I can get work in town."
"I know you can't; but there is plenty of work and good wages to be had in Charleston or New Orleans."
Logan did not reply, but looked intently into his companion's face.
"I'm sure my wife would be a great deal better off if I were to clear out and leave her. She has plenty of friends, and they'll not see her want."
Logan still looked at his fellow journeyman.
"And your wife would be taken back under her father's roof, where there is enough and to spare. Of course she would be happier than she is now."
"No doubt of that. The old rascal has treated her shabbily enough. But, I am well satisfied that, if I were out of the way — he would gladly receive her back again."
"Of this there can be no question. So, it is clear that, with our insufficient incomes, our presence is a curse rather than a blessing to our families."
Logan really admitted this to be true. His companion then drew a newspaper towards him, and after running his eyes over it for a few moments, read:
"This day, at twelve o'clock, the copper-fastened brig Emily, leaves for Charleston. For freight or passage, apply on board."
"There's a chance for us," he said, as he finished reading the advertisement. "Suppose we go down and see if they won't let us work our passage fee out."
Logan sat thoughtful a moment, and then said, as he arose to his feet —
"Agreed. It'll be the best thing for us — as well as for our families."
When the Emily sailed, at twelve o'clock, the two men were on board.
Days came and passed, until the heart of Mrs. Logan grew sick with anxiety, fear, and suspense. No word was received from her absent husband. She went to his old employer, and learned that he had been discharged; but she could find no one who had heard of him since that time. Left thus alone, with two little children, and no apparent means of support — Mrs. Logan, when she became at length clearly satisfied that he for whom she had given up everything had heartlessly abandoned her, felt as if there was no hope for her in the world.
"Go to your father, by all means," urged the woman with whom she was still boarding. "Now that your husband has gone, he will receive you."
"I cannot," was Fanny's reply.
"But what will you do?" asked the woman.
"Work for my children," she replied, arousing herself, and speaking with some resolution. "I have hands to work, and I am willing to work."
"Much better go home to your father," said the woman.
"That is impossible. He has disowned me — has ceased to love me or care for me. I cannot go to him again; for I could not bear, as I am now, another harsh repulse. No — no — I will work with my own hands. God will help me to provide for my children."
In this spirit, the almost heart-broken young woman, for whom the boarding-house keeper felt more than a common interest — an interest which would not let her thrust her out from the only place she could call her home — sought for work, and was fortunate enough to obtain sewing from two or three families, and was thus enabled to pay a light board for herself and children. But incessant toil with her needle, continued late at night and resumed early in the morning, gradually undermined her health, which had become delicate, and weariness and pain were the constant companions of her labor.
Sometimes, in carrying her work home, the forsaken wife would have to pass the old home of her girlhood, and twice she saw her father at the window. But, either she was so changed that he did not know his child, or he would not bend from his stern resolution to disown her. On these two occasions she was unable, on returning, to resume her work. Her fingers could not hold nor guide the needle; nor could she, from the blinding tears that filled her eyes, have seen to sew, even if her hands had lost the tremor that ran through every nerve of her body.
A year had rolled wearily by since Logan went off, and still no word had come from the absent husband. Labor beyond her bodily strength, and trouble and grief that were too severe for her spirit to bear, had done sad work upon the forsaken wife and disowned child. She was but a shadow of her former self.
Mr. Crawford had been very shy of the old Quaker who had spoken so plainly to him; but his words made some impression, though no one would have supposed so, as there was no change in his conduct towards his daughter. He had forewarned her of the consequences if she acted in opposition to his wishes. He had told her that he would disown her forever. She had taken her own way, and as painful as it was to him, he had to keep his word — his word that had ever been inviolate. He might forgive her; he might pity her; but she must remain a stranger. Such a direct and flagrant act of disobedience to his wishes was not to be forgotten nor forgiven. Thus, in stubborn pride, did his hard heart confirm itself in its cold and cruel estrangement. Was he happy? No! Did he forget his child? No! He thought of her and dreamed of her, day after day, and night after night. But — he had said it, and he would stick to it! His pride was unbending as iron.
Of the fact that the husband of Fanny had gone off and left her with two children to provide for with the labor of her hands, he had been made fully aware, but it did not bend him from his stern purpose.
"She is nothing to me," was his impatient reply to the one who informed him of the fact. This was all that could be seen. But his heart trembled at the news. Nevertheless, he stood coldly aloof, month after month, and even repulsed, angrily, the kind landlady with whom Fanny boarded, who had attempted, all unknown to the daughter, to awaken sympathy for her in her father's heart.
One day, the old Quaker, whose plain words had not pleased Mr. Crawford, met that gentleman near his own door. The Quaker was leading a little boy by the hand. Mr. Crawford bowed, and evidently wished to pass on; but the Quaker paused, and said —
"I would like to have a few words with you, friend Crawford."
"Well, say on."
"You is known as a benevolent man, friend Crawford. You never refuse, it is said, to do a deed of charity."
"I always give something when I am sure the object is deserving."
"So I am aware. Do you see this little boy?"
Mr. Crawford glanced down at the child the Quaker held by the hand. As he did so, the child lifted to him a gentle face, with mild, earnest, loving eyes.
"It is a sweet little fellow," said Mr. Crawford, reaching his hand to the child. He spoke with some feeling, for there was a look about the boy that went to his heart.
"He is, indeed, a sweet child — and the image of his poor, sick, almost heart-broken mother, for whom I am trying to awaken an interest and take a collection. She has two children, and this one is the oldest. Her husband is dead, or what may be as bad, perhaps worse, as far as she is concerned, dead to her; and she does not seem to have a relative in the world; at least, none who thinks about or cares for her. In trying to provide for her children, she has over-tasked her delicate frame, and made herself sick. Unless something is done for her, a worse thing must follow. She must go to the almshouse, and be separated from her children. Look into the sweet, innocent face of this dear child, and let your heart say whether he ought to be taken from his mother. If she has a woman's feelings, must she not love this child tenderly; and can anyone supply his mother's place to him?"
"I will do something for her, certainly," said Mr. Crawford.
"I wish you would go with me to see her."
"There is no use in that. My seeing her can do no good. Collect all you can for her, and then come to me. I will help in the good work cheerfully," replied Mr. Crawford.
"That is your dwelling, I believe," said the Quaker, looking round at a house adjoining the one before which they stood.
"Yes, that is my house," returned Mr. Crawford.
"Will you take this little boy in with you and keep him for a few minutes, while I go to see a friend some squares off?"
"Oh, certainly. Come with me, dear." And Mr. Crawford held out his hand to the child, who took it without hesitation.
"I will see you in a little while," said the Quaker, as he turned away.
The boy, who was plainly, but very neatly dressed, was about four years old. He had a more than usually attractive face; and an earnest look out of his mild eyes, that made everyone who saw him, his friend.
"What is your name, my dear?" asked Mr. Crawford, as he sat down in his parlor, and took the little fellow upon his knee.
"Henry," replied the child. He spoke with distinctness; and, as he spoke, there was a sweet expression of the lips and eyes, that was particularly winning.
"It is Henry, is it?"
"What else besides Henry?"
The boy did not reply, for he had fixed his eyes upon a picture that hung over the mantle, and was looking at it intently. The eyes of Mr. Crawford followed those of the child, which rested, he found, on the portrait of his daughter.
"What else, besides Henry?" he repeated.
"Henry Logan," replied the child, looking for a moment into the face of Mr. Crawford, and then turning to gaze at the picture on the wall. Every nerve quivered in the frame of that man of iron will. The falling of a bolt of lightening from a sunny sky could not have startled and surprised him more. He saw in the face of the child, the moment he looked at him, something strangely familiar and attractive. What it was, he did not, until this instant, comprehend. But it was no longer a mystery.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked, in a subdued voice, after he had recovered, to some extent, his feelings.
The child looked again into his face, but longer and more earnestly. Then, without answering, he turned and looked at the portrait on the wall.
"Do you know who I am, dear?" repeated Mr. Crawford.
"No, sir," replied the child; and then again turned to gaze upon the picture.
"Who is that?" and Mr. Crawford pointed to the object that so fixed the little boy's attention.
"My mother." And as he said these words, he laid his head down upon the bosom of his unknown relative, and shrank close to him, as if half afraid because of the mystery that, in his infantile mind, hung around the picture on the wall.
Moved by an impulse that he could not restrain, Mr. Crawford drew his arms around the child and hugged him to his bosom. Pride gave way; the iron will was bent; the sternly uttered vow was forgotten. There is power for good in the presence of a little child. Its sphere of innocence subdues and renders impotent, the evil spirits that rule in the hearts of selfish men. It was so in this case. Mr. Crawford might have withstood the moving appeal of even his daughter's presence — changed by grief, labor, and suffering as she was. But his anger, upon which he had allowed the sun to go down — fled before her artless, confiding, innocent child. He thought not of Fanny as the willful woman, acting from the dictate of her own passions or feelings; but as a little child, lying upon his bosom — as a little child, singing and dancing around him — as a little child, with, to him, the face of a cherub, and the sainted mother of that innocent one by her side.
When the Quaker came for the little boy, Mr. Crawford said to him, in a low voice — made low to hide his emotion —
"I will keep the child."
"From it's mother?"
"No. Bring the mother, and the other child. I have room for them all."
A sunny smile passed over the benevolent countenance of the Quaker, as he hastily left the room.
Mrs. Logan, worn down by exhausting labor, had at last been forced to give up. When she did give up, every long-strained nerve of mind and body instantly relaxed; and she became almost as weak and helpless as an infant. While in this state, she was accidentally discovered by the kind-hearted old Quaker, who, without her being aware of what he was going to do, made his successful attack upon her father's feelings. He trusted to nature and a good cause, and did not trust in vain.
"Come, Mrs. Logan," said the kind woman, with whom Fanny was still boarding, an hour or so after little Harry had been dressed up to take a walk — where, the mother did not know or think, "the good Quaker who was here this morning, says you must ride out. He has brought a carriage for you. It will do you good, I know. He is very kind. Come, get yourself ready."
Mrs. Logan was lying upon her bed.
"I do not feel able to get up," she replied. "I do not wish to ride out."
"Oh, yes, you must go. The pure, fresh air and the change will do you more good than medicine. Come, Mrs. Logan. I will dress little Julia for you. She needs the change as much you do."
"Where is Henry?" asked the mother.
"He has not returned yet. But come! The carriage is waiting at the door."
"Won't you go with me?"
"I would with pleasure — but I cannot leave home. I have so much to do."
After a good deal of persuasion, Fanny at length made the effort to get herself ready to go out. She was so weak, that she tottered about the floor like one intoxicated. But the woman with whom she lived, assisted and encouraged her, until she was at length ready to go. Then the Quaker came up to her room, and, with the tenderness and care of a father, supported her down stairs, and when she had taken her place in the vehicle, entered with her youngest child in his arms, and sat by her side, speaking to her, as he did so, kind and encouraging words.
The carriage was driven slowly, for a few squares, and then stopped. Scarcely had the motion ceased, when the door was suddenly opened, and Mr. Crawford stood before his daughter.
"My poor child!" he said, in a tender, broken voice, as Fanny, overcome by his unexpected appearance, sank forward into his arms.
When the suffering young creature opened her eyes again, she was upon her own bed, in her own room, in her old home. Her father sat by her side, and held one of her hands tightly. There were tears in his eyes, and he tried to speak; but, though his lips moved, there came from them no articulate sound.
"Do you forgive me, father? Do you love me, father?" said Fanny, in a tremulous whisper, half rising from her pillow, and looking eagerly, almost agonizingly, into her father's face.
"I have nothing to forgive," murmured the father, as he drew his daughter towards him, so that her head could lie against his bosom.
"But do you love me, father? Do you love me as of old?" said the daughter.
He bent down and kissed her; and now the tears fell from his eyes and lay warm and glistening upon her face.
"As of old," he murmured, laying his cheek down upon that of his child, and clasping her more tightly in his arms. The long pent-up waters of affection were rushing over his soul and obliterating the marks of pride, anger, and the iron will that sustained them in their cruel dominion. He was no longer a strong man, stern and rigid in his purpose; but a child, with a loving and tender heart.
There was light again in his dwelling; not the bright light of other times; for now the rays were mellowed. But it was light. And there was music again; not so joyful; but it was music, and its spell over his heart was deeper, and its influence more elevating.
The man with the iron will and stern purpose was subdued, and the power that subdued him was the presence of a little child.
Power of Kindness
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"Tom! Come here!" said a father to his boy, speaking in tones of authority.
The lad was at play. He looked towards his father, but did not leave his companions.
"Do you hear me, sir?" spoke the father, more sternly than at first.
With an unhappy face and reluctant step, the boy left his play and approached his father.
"Why do you creep along at a snail's pace?" said the father, angrily. "Come quickly, I need you; when I speak, I like to be obeyed instantly. Here, take this note to Mr. Smith, and see that you don't go to sleep by the way. Now run as fast as you can go."
The boy took the note; there was a cloud upon his brow. He moved onward, but at a slow pace.
"You, Tom! is that doing as I ordered? Is that going quickly?" called the father, when he saw the boy creeping away. "If you are not back in half an hour, I will punish you!"
But the words had little effect. The boy's feelings were hurt by the unkindness of the parent; he experienced a sense of injustice, a consciousness that wrong had been done him. By nature, he was like his father — proud and stubborn; and these qualities of his mind were aroused, and he indulged in them, fearless of consequences.
"I never saw such a boy!" said the father, speaking to a friend who had observed the occurrence. "My words scarcely made an impression on him."
"Kind words often prove most powerful," said the friend. The father looked surprised.
"Kind words," continued the friend, "are like the gentle rain and the refreshing dews; but harsh words bend and break like the angry tempest. Kind words develop and strengthen good affections, while harsh words sweep over the heart in devastation, and mar and deform all that they touch. Try him with kind words; they will prove a hundred-fold more powerful."
The latter seemed hurt by the reproof, but it left him thoughtful. An hour passed away before his boy returned. At times, during his absence, he was angry at the delay; but the words of remonstrance were in his ears, and he resolved to obey them.
At last, the lad came slowly back with a cloudy countenance, and reported the result of his errand. Having stayed far beyond his time, he looked for punishment, and was prepared to receive it with an angry defiance.
To his surprise, after delivering the message he had brought, his father, instead of angry reproof and punishment, said kindly, "Very well, my son, you can go out to play again."
The boy went out, but was not happy. He had disobeyed and disobliged his father, and the thought of his troubled him. Harsh words had not clouded his mind, nor aroused a spirit of reckless anger. Instead of joining his companions, he went and sat down by himself, grieving over his act of disobedience. While he thus sat, he heard his name called.
"Thomas, my son!" said his father, kindly.
The boy sprang to his feet, and was soon beside his father.
"Did you call, father?"
"I did, my son. Will you please take this package to Mr. Long for me?"
There was no hesitation in the boy's manner; he looked pleased at the thought of doing his father a service, and reached out his hand for the package. On receiving it, he bounded away with a light step.
"There is power in kindness," said the father, as he sat musing, after the lad's departure. And even while he sat musing over the incident, the boy came back with a cheerful, happy face, and said, "Can I do anything else for you, father?"
Yes, there is the power of kindness. The tempest of anger can only subdue, constrain, and break; but in love and gentleness there is the power of the summer rain, the dew, and the sunshine.
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
"It's just as you raise them," said Mr. Warner, in his dogmatic way. "I don't believe in a boy's taking to a hammer, and a girl to a doll, from an instinct of nature. Girls are different, because they are educated differently; there is no other law in the matter."
"My experience," said a lady, who made one of a little company numbering about half a dozen, and she spoke in a quiet way, "leads me to a different conclusion. Each gender has a use in society peculiarly its own; and from the earliest childhood, impulses pointing thitherward may be seen. Gentle, tender, and loving are the uses of woman — and for these she is fitted by God. Hardier, rougher, bolder is man — because he is designed by God for a different sphere of life. The boy takes the hammer, the whip, or any other plaything that is noisy, or calls for the exercise of strength and action; while the girl as naturally busies herself with her doll, or her cups and saucers."
"Simply," replied Mr. Warner, "because you provide a hammer and whip for the one — and a doll for the other."
"No," returned the lady, "the cause lies deeper than this. It is radical. How is it with your own little Anna? She is here today."
"She never had a doll in her life; I will not permit such a thing to come into my house. I wish to develop the strength — not the weakness of her character." And, as Mr. Warner spoke, he threw a glance upon his wife, which said, plainly enough, "This wouldn't be so, if you had your way."
"Oh!" remarked the lady, "then you are trying to warp her character to suit your own theory. You are not willing to let it develop naturally, and, as I would say, healthfully."
"I wish to give it a strong and healthy development."
"Then it must grow from inward elements. If you warp it, as you are certainly doing — you will weaken and deform — instead of producing beauty, health, and strength."
"So you think," said Mr. Warner, a little rudely. Opinionated men are very often rude to ladies.
"Yes, I think so," replied the lady, not seeming to notice the man's rude manner.
"Where is your dear little girl?" asked one of the company, a little while after, addressing Mrs. Warner.
"She's playing about the garden. I saw her from the window a few minutes ago."
"It would be a pleasant experiment," said the lady with whom the child's father had held the controversy, "just to take a look after Anna, and see what she is doing. I'll warrant that the girl's instincts are predominant in her acts. You'll not find her dragging up the flowers, nor throwing stones at the birds, nor even digging in the dirt."
"You'll probably find her racing about with the boys," said the father.
"We'll see; come!" and the lady started for the door. The company followed her out. Anna was not in the garden among the flowers, nor romping with the boys.
"Anna!" called the mother. They listened, and her sweet, young voice was heard faintly answering. Guided by the sound, she was soon discovered by those in search of her.
"What is she doing?" asked Mr. Warner, who did not at first see her distinctly.
"Playing mother," replied the lady with whom he had held the controversy; and she spoke in a tone of triumph.
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Warner.
"See for yourself."
"The little rascal!" exclaimed the father, affected with pleasure, in spite of himself, by what he saw.
Anna had found a cap belonging to the lady at whose house they were visiting, and, with this drawn upon her head, was nursing a rabbit with the earnest fondness of a mother.
The ladies caught the happy child in their arms, and almost devoured her with kisses, while Mr. Warner escaped back into the house to re-arrange his forces for a new battle on his favorite hobby-horse.