The True Path, and How to Walk Therein
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
To make the vision clearer, and the way plainer for all who are seeking the true path is the purpose of this volume. The editor has sought through means of allegory, sermon, essay, and lighter narrative to lead the earnest thinker into a just appreciation of social and moral duties for no man can walk safely through this world, who, through neglect of these, lives in cold indifference to his neighbor's good.
The true path is the path of self-denial; yet none enter this path who do not, sooner or later, find that the way is smoother than was expected, and that instead of leading through a desert land, it winds pleasantly amid flowers and greenness.
Our Daily Life
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
The idea is very general, that the ordinary duties of life are not favorable to the highest developments of character; and we often hear it said, how much we might learn, and how much good we might do if we only had the leisure time. People think that all our time is wasted in supplying the ever-recurring needs of the body; those base physical needs eating and drinking and clothing. We accomplish nothing. It is like pouring water into the sand. The round of yesterday is the round of today, and will be the round of tomorrow. And thus life passes; and, when the month or the year has completed its circle, we are just where we commenced; we have nothing to show for all our toil and care.
Who has not felt so? and who has not, at some time, envied those who seem to have the leisure time to cultivate their minds to help forward plans of public and general interest? Who has not wished that they could be Howards, or Frys that they might devote their lives to the welfare of their fellows?
And then again, there is a deep-seated feeling that the time, strength, and thought we devote to these temporal things is so much abstracted from the spiritual and eternal; and thus there is a perpetual conflict between what we must do or starve and what we think we ought to do; or, in common phrase, between the world and God. The consequence is, we perform the greater part of our duties as slaves; these duties are task-work imposed upon us by the hardest of task-masters, necessity. And, what is still worse, we divest ourselves of the very strength which we need; we put off our heavenly armor, throw away our weapons of heavenly temper, and descend naked and nerveless into the conflict with base cares, strong necessities, physical needs and desires.
This feeling of incompatibility between higher and lower duties, has no doubt led thousands to leave the common duties of life, and give themselves up to seclusion, to contemplation, and prayer. But all these mistakes are founded in false notions of religion, of the real nature of natural duties, and the designs of Infinite Wisdom in making them necessities.
We are planted amidst these cares, as the seed is planted in the ground; and for the same reason, that we may come in contact with, and gain access to, the very materials necessary for our growth. These cares, these common duties and employments, are the very stuff out of which the web of life is woven; and the analogy between the growth of the seed and our own development is most perfect.
Our life is rooted in natural things; not to lie dead and buried beneath them, but to grow up out of them, and to be rendered stable and abiding by them. The seed cannot grow, unless it is planted; it will dry up or decay; neither can goodness, unless it matures into act. One may weep over fictitious woes, and indulge in idle fancies of what he would do, if he were not bound down to the earth by burdens and cares. But there is no goodness in such thoughts and visions; they never bear any fruit.
I acknowledge that we often enslave ourselves unnecessarily. Vanity, and avarice, and pride, and ambition, and envy impose burdens upon us, and make slaves of us. They rob us of our strength, our time, and our golden opportunities. But, after making all due allowances for these, the principle remains the same.
If the Creator, in his wisdom, had seen fit, He might have so formed us that we should need no clothing, and no food, and no habitation. But, in his wisdom, He has so formed us, and placed us in such circumstances, that we need all of these; and our highest duties, and noblest life, grow out of these very necessities. They were made conditions of our being, that they might become the instruments of a higher life. There is nothing in them incompatible with the highest culture, and the loftiest attainments in spiritual life. Every natural use is designed to be the basis of a spiritual use which is to be rooted in it, and grow out of it. And the highest wisdom consists in changing these natural things into spiritual; in making our common duties, our every-day employments, those which grow out of the needs of the body, the life of the family, the church, and society, of friendship, and the relations of the individual to communities, and nations the embodiment of heavenly affections. We must anoint them with the precious ointment of unselfish love. That will preserve them from decay, inaugurate them into new life, and give to that which is as fleeting as shadows, and which seems born only for the present something of permanence and immortality.
The ancient chemists searched long for the philosopher's stone, whose magic power would change the baser metals into gold; and for an elixir of life, which would arrest the progress of decay and make man immortal. They searched long and laboriously for it; they explored the secrets of nature, decomposed and compounded her elements, and sought far and near for that which lay within them.
This unselfish love is the power which transmutes everything into gold, and distills from the lowliest uses, the very elixir of life.
Let us not pass this by as a mere figure of speech, for it is a great truth, and it has an intimate bearing upon the happiness and highest well-being of all. The most of our time is necessarily occupied with duties which seem temporary and unrelated to our highest wants and aspirations. If we could see that they are the very materials out of which the noblest and truest life is built up we would all be more contented with our lot, and would use the opportunities we have to better advantage. We are all too prone to overlook or undervalue the means we have and to wish for some great occasions, or extraordinary opportunities.
Our Heavenly Father has not dispensed his favors so unequally as we often suppose; as He has furnished air, light, and water, heat and food, the great elements essential to our physical life, in such measures and forms that there can be no monopoly of them; so he has given to us the means necessary to lay the foundation and commence the superstructure of our spiritual life, in fuller measure than we often think.
There is no useful employment which does not afford the means and opportunities for the formation of a virtuous and excellent character. The youth of either gender, whether at home or abroad, at school or at a trade, as a clerk or apprentice, or student of a profession, has the means of forming the noblest virtues.
There is at all times, an occasion for exact truthfulness and fidelity the foundation of all the virtues. There are difficulties constantly occurring which tax the patience and perseverance, and which call forth all the energies. There are unpleasant duties to perform, causes of irritation and trouble, which tax our adherence to principle and self-control. There are constant opportunities for the exercise of forbearance, kindness, affection, self-culture, generosity, self-denial, modesty, respect to superiors, obedience, true loyalty, and indeed the whole catalogue of the virtues.
If we follow the youth, until he has entered upon the duties of adult life, we find the materials for the highest uses more abundant. There is no virtue which is not called into requisition in the family circle. In the marriage relation, there is room for the exercise of every excellence which brightens the life and gives zest to the happiness to the relationship the most patient forbearance, the gentlest kindness, the strictest justice, the purest innocence, the most loyal fidelity, and the most unselfish affection. And when you add to this relation the helplessness of infancy, the sweet innocence of childhood where is there a more favorable condition for the exercise of the noblest qualities of man or woman? It is not in the council chamber, or senate, or executive chair; it is not as leader of armies, and conqueror or ruler of nations. There is no more favorable condition on earth for the growth of Christian virtue than in the everyday domestic life.
But these relations do not end in the domestic life. Each family is linked to others. There are social duties of a more general nature, which call for their appropriate virtues. Besides, there is the business. As a mechanic, merchant, or laborer, or as a professional man; as a competitor in the arena of life for the same honors or emoluments; as the master and employer; as the builder of houses and engines, and all manner of production; as the artist and artisan; as a buyer and seller every man can make his business instrumental to the highest ends of life.
There is no virtue embraced within the circle of God's requirements, which we all may not find occasion to practice in everyday life; and to confirm the principles of heavenly life by practice, is the very object for which we live in the natural world, and are planted, as it were, in the soil of so many duties and cares. Every workshop, and store, and office, and domestic hearth, should be consecrated to these high purposes; they should be anointed with the holy oil of love, and the love of usefulness and thus they will be inaugurated into a higher office, and will become the representatives of the noblest qualities, and be the instrumental means of attaining them.
So long as we look to ourselves, in our relations to others all employments become service, slavery. Our domestic relations are cares, and anxieties, and a weary round of profitless labor; our daily employments are so many tasks, imposed upon us by hard necessity, and we aim to avoid them as much as possible. Hence so many strive to gain the reward without performing the labor? And he who receives the most for the least service, is considered the most fortunate. Possessions are deemed the real good, without much regard to the means by which they are obtained. But possessions acquired in this way, have no living connection with us; they are but dead carcasses which have not been embalmed, and they will return to dust.
But the person who performs his duties from the love of being useful to others, anoints them with the precious spikenard, and changes them from cares and anxieties, and perplexities, and slavish toil into gifts and pleasures, into peace and rest, into strength and virtue, and true holiness.
The farm and workshop, store and office, and domestic hearth of such a worker become a temple consecrated to the holiest uses, and he himself, though covered with the smoke of the forge, or hardened and soiled with honest industry becomes a priest offering acceptable worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords. The very instruments of his labor are changed into forms of spiritual beauty, into vessels of gold and silver, fashioned after the similitude of heavenly affections, and made receptive of their life. The fleeting is changed to the permanent, the temporal becomes eternal, and the mere inanimate matter, the dead wood and stone, and merchandise are changed into living, spiritual substances. Men long for real and substantial. Here it is! the very stuff of which it is woven, is strewn around our pathway, as thick as the stones in the paved streets. Whatever we love with an unselfish affection lives, becomes a part of our being, and is as deathless as our souls!
Our Life Romance
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
"Yes! yes! Everything is as beautiful as I could desire it! Every precious object takes a hue from the rose glow of my life!" and very gently was the foot-fall of Ada Ward pressed into the velvet carpets of her bridal home; very soft were the glances that rested upon the rich and graceful furniture, as though it were capable of making a part in her strange and wonderful happiness! for the mysteries wrought in the quiet soul by love, are ever new, and more than strange and wonderful to the possessor of the enchanted life. And so the light figure of Mrs. Graham Ward, for the twentieth time, had been flitting from room to room, beginning at the top of the great house; her heart pronounced a benediction on everything, and when she stood within her magnificent parlors, her lips spoke the thoughts sleeping within.
"Yes!" she murmured, smilingly, "I believe if I did not look every day at all these things, and almost touch them that I would think myself in some delirious, blissful dream. But I am awake, and Graham is my husband, and this beautiful home is as fresh to me as the love-lighted world I have come to dwell in. Ah! many dreams I have had, but no wandering in delicious dream-land ever equaled this: dim prophecies haunted me a faint idea I had of the love that was to illuminate my soul and I must be to Graham all that he is to me sunshine! life! breath! Ah! I dare not tell him all my thoughts; he is so much older than I; and yet for all the world, I would not have him a day younger, for I could not feel that repose, that blessed assurance in looking up to him.
"And this is my boudoir!" she continued, entering a charming little room where the softened light fell through embroidered curtains, and lighted up with more brilliant touches the flowers her own hand had placed on the broad window-sill then the same magic light struck out a richer crimson on her little favorite rocking-chair, and sought its rest upon warm crimson roses in the carpet. A dainty work-basket stood upon a zephyr table filled with pretty pretenses to industry, and two or three delicate notes of congratulation and love from "the girls;" intimate friends to whom her heart clung, and for whom she wished a happiness equal to her own.
Ada took her seat, and still looked around her; she did not care to sew, she was too happy to need the ministry of the choice authors in the book-case before her but a new thought struck her she would talk with her own soul, she would begin a journal, and keep imperishable the burning thoughts which rose, wave upon wave, within her this unparalleled romance that came with such a glory to her young, girlish spirit, should be impressed upon paper, where in future years she could go to it, and live it over again, and know that it really happened. And so she drew pens and paper from the secretary, and in the afternoon shadows and the golden lights she wrote, and wrote, and poured forth the eloquence that welled up from her heart. While her pen was busy, and her cheek glowing, a timid hand rapped at her door.
"Oh, Betsy!" she exclaimed, a little impatiently, "what have you come here for?"
"But, mistress, dear!" said the girl, "if I only could get you to write a little word to my brother for me, I would be so thankful."
"I will; but not now, Betsy. I am busy now!"
"Oh, but Miss Ward, I want to send it for him."
"Well, Betsy, haven't I said that I am busy now?" And Ada closed the door, but her heart smote her for a moment before she went on weaving together her life romance. Poor Ada! she was too happy to lend a listening ear to others' hopes and wishes. Graham came home and entered the boudoir, where his wife, lovelier than ever, met him with outstretched hands, and eyes that half sought to hide their love-shining; he pressed the sweet mouth uplifted for his evening kiss, and passed his arm around her waist.
"Is tea ready, my dear?" he asked. "I will see! Must you go out tonight, Graham?"
"Yes! a man of business must be at his post, my dear!" and he pushed back the curls from her brow, and kissed it.
Ada left the room, and her husband stood musing alone. He was a man of thirty-five, with a handsome, haughty face, where a something reckless and imperative, not to say selfish, could be traced.
"A very pretty little creature she is, and she loves me so devotedly! A very pleasant thing it is to have such a pretty little wife to welcome me, and such a handsome fortune with her!" and the glances Graham cast around were very different from Ada's. "I intend to make the little thing happy but then it must be done in a reasonable way. I can't think of giving up my evenings to be spent here alone. I'll do it sometimes, though."
Here Ada appeared, and laying her hand on her husband's arm, went with him to tea.
When he had gone, she sought her favorite room again, and from the window watched the twilight shadows.
A familiar carriage stopped at the door, and her mother's face looked from it, and smiled a mother's love. Ada hastened to the front door, and received the beloved visitor with kisses and embraces.
"Come into my sanctum, mother; this is such a dear, precious room, the very quintessence of my Eden home!" and her sweet, happy laugh, went like music to the fond mother's heart.
"Let me take off your bonnet, mother darling, and here, sit in my own little chair, and let me sit on this cushion isn't it pretty? and lay my head on your lap, and tell you, oh! so much! I never can tell you how happy I am. Do you know, mother," and she raised her head and looked into the beautiful, soft eyes above her, "do you know, mother, sometimes I think I shall not, cannot live very long, for this wild intense love must burn my heart out but I don't care; I care for nothing, nothing but this happiness it is enough; it swallows up my being. I could not love Graham more, and yet every hour I love him better. Mother, do you think that other people do, can love as I do? is it as beautiful to them?"
"Yes, my darling; there are thousands of hearts telling the same story today!"
"Oh, bless them! blessings on them in their happiness!"
"And blessings, all holy blessings on those who are walking in dark and dreadful paths, without any joy to help them through their lot! The happy-hearted should send their sunshine to these."
"Oh, yes!" murmured Ada; "but who can turn from their Heaven, to look on such burdensome pictures? Oh! mother, I am very, very selfish. I cannot bear that anything should break in upon this enchantment. I have almost forgotten that a day of reckoning will come. I am wicked, I know, but I want no better Heaven than I have!"
"My poor child! my poor child!" and a gentle hand stroked Ada's hair, while glistening tears fell upon it.
"Why do you say 'poor child,' mother?" asked Ada, raising her eyes, where unquenchable love and hope seemed to dwell. "Say instead your rich and happy child!" and with smiles she drew down the beloved face and kissed away the drops. "Mother, dear, I feel within me the assurance that this happiness must be immortal. Oh! if Heaven is as blessed as my own Heaven, I shall ask no more!"
"But, dear child, it will not be as beautiful unless you learn to be an angel here, and look with a true and tender love on others, besides those whom your own happiness is bound up in."
"Ah, true!" answered the young wife, and poor Betsy's imploring face came before her. "Mother, will you excuse me a few moments?" she asked, rising hastily.
"I must go myself, dear. I have stayed longer than I intended. Try tomorrow to call on poor Kate Suthington, and comfort her. You heard that Henry Williams had married in Europe?"
"No. Oh! Kate, dear Kate!"
"Well, good-bye, darling. Come and see us very soon."
"Yes, yes. Good-bye."
Ada bent her steps to the kitchen, and there she found Betsy sitting by the table, with her apron over her face, crying.
"What is the matter, Betsy?" she asked, very kindly.
"I am afraid the vessel will sail in the morning, and my brother cannot come over in it, unless I send the money to him in a letter."
"Is it too late, do you think?" and a great pang of self-reproach went through the heart of the young mistress.
"Perhaps not," answered the girl, with a look of hope.
Ada ran to her room, and brought utensils for writing, which she rapidly used. Then, after enclosing the money, she sealed the letter, saying,
"Now hurry, Betsy. Here is sixpence to get into the omnibus. You will reach the place in time."
But Betsy did not reach the place in time. She was half an hour too late, and her young brother, as well as herself, suffered from the sickness of hope deferred many long weeks, because the fair young bride, amid her joys, had not yet learned the beautiful life-lesson of serving others.
* * * * * *
A year, fraught with experience, has passed away, silently dropping into the book of life its records; and Ada Ward is within her favorite room. The broad moonbeams slant across the carpet, and fall upon the form lying there in the abjectness of despair. A pale cheek is pressed to the cushion. Ada has that day buried her little babe and cold, black, ghastly shadows envelop her; colder and blacker than they might have been, because her husband, finding it so gloomy at home, has gone out for a walk.
"Oh, that it should be I!" she groaned, wringing her clasped hands, and pressing them upon her heart, as though she would quiet its great agony. "If I could die! If I could only die! Oh, that such woe should come to me! My glorious temple of love has been broken dashed to pieces eternally! I must live years, ages, in this blackness of darkness day after day pressing my hands upon my heart to keep it from bursting! If only we were parted, I think I could endure it better; but to gaze in his face and read no love there; to receive with a grave, repressed face, his acts of politeness; to know that I cannot charm him; that there is no winsome light in my eyes to him; nothing precious in my smile; to have no words pass between us, except those which are necessary; and to see often more smiling words addressed to others, than to me. Oh, my Father! why may I not die? Am I so unlovely, so unworthy of love? Is there no grace in me?
"My mother, my mother! oh, to lay my head on her sheltering bosom! She would weep her soul away to know that her cherished child was an unloved wife. It would strike to the core of my father's heart, to hear the cold words spoken to his 'little bird,' as he used to call me. I am no one's little bird now, only a miserable, blasted wretch, with the elixir of life forever dried up in my veins, and burning ashes heaped on my heart.
"Little babe! My little angel! you, too, are taken from me! If you were here, soft tears might perhaps allay this aching. If your dimpled hands could be laid upon my brow, I would think God was merciful to my pain but He has left me no joy, no blessing! He has bereaved me awfully, cruelly. He has forgotten to be gracious. Ah! that I were stronger; that I could argue with the Almighty. I did not ask for the breath of life and it is hateful to me now. Oh, this madness, this dreadful rebellion at my lot! This fearful life, without hope, and without God in the world! If only I could sleep, sleep on and get some rest, and grow resigned, and wear a placid face, and quietly tread my way downward to the grave! Perhaps I could bear up better if my health were as strong as it used to be. Oh! my Father and my God, forgive me! Be merciful to your wretched, lost, abandoned child! Shelter me until the storm be over-passed! I will endeavor to bear my cross, to wear my crown of thorns."
This battle with life went on in Ada's soul for months. Sometimes the evil and sometimes the good triumphed; most frequently, a cheerless despair dwelt within her. She saw nothing lovely, nothing to be desired on earth; but she wore a quiet face, and fulfilled the duties of wife and housekeeper. Friends thought she seemed rather pensive since the death of her babe, and not much inclined for society. Her husband thought she had grown to be "excessively sober." He did not remember in whose power it lay to dispel that soberness, or that he had freely and solemnly promised to study her happiness before that of any other mortal. Ada's soft eyes lighted with love when her parents were with her, more tender and caressing than ever; and she tasked herself to the utmost to be as cheerful as their Ada used to be. A thousand sweet and graceful acts of devotion, she performed for them; it was such a comfort to her to anticipate a want. Poor, forlorn one! this was one little fruit of her great sorrow. One day, when her parents had parted with her after a day's visit, her father remarked, earnestly,
"I think, dear, our Ada grows more angelic and thoughtful of our happiness every time we see her. She was always a lovely child, but not as she is now. Have you observed it, Mary?"
"Oh! yes," and the wife looked into her husband's beaming face with a smile, but a tear fell unobserved on her work. The mother remembered that her darling never told her now, how happy she was. When her head lay on her lap, she sometimes said,
"Mother, dear, tell me of all that is noble in life; how we may be purified by sorrow; it was a sorrow to lose my little babe."
And, with fast falling tears, the mother would talk, and Ada would weep quietly, very quietly and softly, until there was no bitterness within her. Then she would go to her splendid home, and with gentle patience give Betsy her accustomed lessons in reading and writing. When her head reposed on her pillow on such nights as these, the recording angel wrote, "Another deed of love is born from her great sorrow."
Ada rarely realized this. She realized that the gaunt demons of unbelief and despair were seeking after her soul, and that they had made a desolation there, and tempted every slumbering evil, while they had withered her every flower.
But the months went on, still silently dropping their records into the book of life, until another year had completed its cycle. Ada had sought her retreat after a busy day, and with a pensive smile had drawn forth her life romance. Thus she wrote
"When these quiet evening hours come, and I am alone, a tide of great and irrepressible regret rushes through my soul. Sometimes it is terrible in its useless, devouring might and again it flows more quietly and dreamily. I often fear the bird of resignation will never fold its wings above my heart. I shall never be really happy again; perhaps, alas! never content and capable of gratitude for the sad gift of existence. I wish to be; none know, but myself, how great are my efforts to banish the memories of that golden, gleaming vision, and to enter heartily into all that is about me. I think the greatest woe is past; that I have drank all that is most bitter in my life's cup; yet it seems very sad to know that the sweetness was all drained before; is all gone! hopelessly gone! Yet I ought to be thankful that it is less dreadful to exist; that I do not momently 'draw the breath of fear,' as I did when my self-deception was being dissolved; thankful that I know it is vain to make those heart-breaking efforts to win back that love; yes, thankful that I am in no suspense; sick no longer from hope deferred; in no new despair when his capricious tenderness vanishes into coldness.
"Certainly I know what to rely upon. I know that it is best for me to interest myself in others' welfare, to think as little of him and of myself as possible, as far as it is consistent with every duty. Another reason I have to be thankful my anger towards him has ceased; my burning, maddening sense of injury. I have simply made a mistake. I thought he loved me for what I was; he probably thought he loved me somewhat, too; but it was only that my face was new, and bright with joyousness and love for him. It would, I think, have been the same with any other little maiden he had married. Then it is some consolation, that I spare another young and noble heart from this quiet breaking. Why should it not be I, as well as any other? Yes, I know that I can bear it, and perhaps it makes me a comforter to the suffering ones. Ah! I love them in their pain with a tenderness so infinite, compared with what it used to be. Today I went to see Kate Suthington. Ah! that her love should still have power to tear her heart like a vulture; she bears up before others with a noble dignity, and Henry Williams is a weak and erring man to her view, now; he has lost the key with which he unlocked a soul too noble for him. But in her own words
"'Oh, Ada! that the world should have lost its loveliness; that I should only have learned what happiness, beauty, life were to have lost them!'
"Then I talk to her from my soul's depths. I cast about to find some recompense for all this, and I believe words of great faith and wonderful hope break from my lips; words which charm me with some deep, strange, all-powerful feeling that God is doing all things well. I feel serene and very peaceful after this, when Kate lays her head on my bosom, folds her arms around me, and says,
"'You do me good, Ada! Yes, there may, there must be a something deep in all this, that we cannot see; perhaps when the ground has been broken and ploughed more deeply gold may be found.'
"Then we take out our sewing, and talk of the books we have read, or one reads to the other, and we part with a cheerful glow thrown over our souls from this friendship."
* * * * * *
Five years later, one serene afternoon found Ada Ward within her favorite room. No outward changes of great consequence had befallen her, except that the furniture was not so fresh. One might have thought but a day had passed. Her lovely face was more spiritual; more assured and earnest in its expression; in her eyes, a world of trust and deep hopefulness might be found. At this moment they beamed upon Kate Suthington with a loving, laughing, triumphant look.
"Ah, Katy darling!" she said, "there is not a happier mortal on earth than you, as traitoress as you have been to your first love; and this new husband of yours, has he erected another Eden in your life?"
"Perhaps so," answered Katy, with a soul-illumined smile.
"And you have learned to believe with me, that the pain of life may be transition, but that happiness is a real entity; something that shall come some day to the earnest spirit; perhaps here; perhaps not until our life has opened amid the everlasting beauty."
"I believe it; and should I lose it again, I would simply wait, and strive to work diligently, that others, as well as myself, might gain their greatest good."
"It is very beautiful to see great happiness," said Ada, softly; "it is a pledge of our life in Heaven, and a revealing of what our natures are capable of. It enables us to measure God's love better, and gives us a glimpse of something divine."
After Kate had gone to her happy home, Ada wrote in her journal as follows:
"Katy darling has been here this afternoon; dear Katy, sweet Katy, happy Katy. I think she has no idea of the degree in which she brightens my life; it used to give me a pang when I saw happiness, such as mine was, one brief while but it is so different now; it gives me a glow of such heartfelt pleasure. I say to myself, 'Not yet, a wise Father permits it to them; but you know your own heart, and God knows that you may need a discipline very different from theirs; but be patient and grateful the joy is coming.' Oh! sometimes I feel a boundless hope and rapture when I look up to God, and realize the great love with which He has ordered my lot. I think I never would have taken a broad glance at life never would properly have fitted myself for the eternal world if this world had been as happy as I wished it. How differently do I write in this, my life romance, from what I expected to, when I began it! But with all its sad experience, I have found a wealth in life which makes me often wonder. I have wept with gratitude that this priceless gift has been given me, that it will never have an end. Oh! wonderful to live amid fresh recurring joys, forever; such as no pen can describe; to be bathed in love, and ever performing deeds of love! To be able, every day of my life, to strive, with God's help, to perfect and beautify my life, and sometimes to be able to arouse others to this noble strife!
"Ungrateful that I was I once felt that my life was a blasted one. What does it signify if one suffers? I sometimes ask myself when the cross is folded to my heart heavily. I learn very soon that 'He who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed shall doubtless return again, bringing his sheaves with him!' There are so many quiet pleasures given me, I look upon them sometimes as all extras. I think that this is the world where the battle must be fought, and yet so many little joys to cheer us. Eternally shall I thank God that he has taught me to fight this conflict that the morning of my day was sorrowful, in order that a ripening eternity should be joyful. This morning I went to see one of my sick neighbors she had lost a beloved husband. I said what I could to comfort her, but she answered,
"Ah! Mrs. Ward, I could speak to you, as you do to me, if I were young, rich, happy, one of the favored of the earth!"
"I said that even I might make myself miserable, if I forgot what blessings I had and that the 'favored of the earth, were not always the favored of Heaven.' But she would listen to nothing of this her vision was bounded to a few fleeting years they were life to her she had no soaring hopes beyond. I came away thinking I was very rich, because I hoped I had an investment for a dearer, nobler life yet I will try to open a vein of comfort for this afflicted one perhaps she may in time believe how earnestly I desire her good. I meet with so many noble spirits, and often these dear ones confide to my ear, heart-stories full of interest and pathos, and it is a holy pleasure to weep and wonder, and forget my own heart-story for the while, or only remember what of worth has survived it. When I read books that go to my heart, I feel that, 'Life is richly worth living for!' It is true that my days are very much of one color, and household love does not bless me within my own home yet it is noble to strive to be faithful amid all this, and to hope I am still of some use. My little life romance is of a gray shade, but it is only the first chapters I am writing here it will be finished, where? In Heaven, I hope! Finished? Ah, never! Its beauty shall increase, its glory of life shall be too dazzling to be written with an earthly pen; nevertheless, the romance shall go on, and never reach its end, in the world that is eternal!"
Ada had written her last chapter on earth. The sunshine that awoke her, was amid the Everlasting Beauty. When she had put away her writing materials, a strange pain shot through her heart; and before she could leave the room, it had ceased to beat!
Fruits of Sorrow
I was recovering from a long illness. Reclining upon my couch, with its carefully arranged pillows and snowy drapery, I enjoyed to the utmost, the sensation of renewed life which, with increasing strength, thrilled through every vein. The sashes were raised, and through the closed blinds came the soft breath of a June morning, bearing on its invisible wings, the mingled perfume of a thousand flowers. On a table within reach of my hand, stood a vase filled with rare exotics, and by my side sat the dear friend who had brought this beautiful offering.
I never tire of gazing on flowers; but now something inexplicable attracted my attention to the countenance of Lucy Latimer a countenance which, notwithstanding her thirty-five years, still wore a calm and mournful beauty. Upon her features beamed their usual sweet and benevolent smile, yet at intervals a convulsive spasm distorted the small mouth or contracted the broad, fair brow, and I thought that, more than once, a bright tear glistened in her downcast eye.
For the first time the thought flashed across my mind that there might be "a story" connected with the life of Lucy. I had known her from my childhood, and her course had been ever the same. She had few pleasures, but many duties. She had literally gone about doing good. A true sister of charity, wherever misfortune came in the extensive circle of her influence she was seen binding up the broken heart, and pouring the oil of consolation upon the bruised spirit. For all ailings, mental or physical, she had a ready sympathy. From the couch of the sufferer, hurried by some devouring pestilence to the confines of eternity she shrank not, while life remained. She smoothed the pillow of the consumptive, and held the cooling draught to fever-parched lips; and, above all, her warnings and her prayers often led their object to exclaim, in true penitence and submission, "Not my will, O Lord, but may Yours be done!"
Did a fond mother bend in agony over the form of her departed darling? Lucy's gentle soothings brought comfort to her sorrowing heart. Did some young wife see the husband of her heart's choice, the father of her little ones, stricken in his prime, and borne away to the silent tomb? the soft voice of Lucy awakened her to present duties, and reminded her of the loving care of Him who is the "Father of the fatherless, and the widow's God." In short, she who had been an only child, and was now an orphan, seemed never to feel the lack of kindred; for she was the daughter, the sister, the beloved friend of all who suffered.
"Dear Lucy," said I suddenly, after a long silence, during which all these thoughts had passed in review before me, "you are very sad today, and I know by the dreamy look of your eyes, that it is some sorrowful memory of the past which thus disturbs you. Will you not tell me what it is? You have never spoken to me of your past life; yet I remember having heard my mother say, long ago, that your youth had been blighted by some fearful misfortune. If it is not too painful, will you tell me about it? I feel that I can sympathize with you, though, before this illness, I have hardly known sorrow or pain."
Lucy's face was turned from me as I spoke; but when I concluded, she arose, and approaching the bed, stooped and kissed me. Then, without saying a word, she buried her face in the pillow, and gave way to an uncontrollable burst of tears. Surprised and grieved that I should have caused such pain to that dear friend, who, under all previous circumstances, had seemed calm and self-controlled, I mingled my tears with hers, beseeching her forgiveness, and endeavoring to soothe her by the gentlest words. But the repressed sorrows of years, had found vent in tears which could not at once be checked. After a long time, however, her sobs ceased, and when, at length, she raised her face, nothing but the mournful expression of her moistened eye told of the conflict which, of late, had raged so fiercely in her soul.
"Forgive, my dear young friend," said she, "these tears which may have seemed to reproach your kindness. On this day, the anniversary of my bitter trials, a word recalls their memory; but believe me, your gentle expressions of sympathy alone could have unsealed the fountain of my grief. But I will tell you the story of my youth, and then you will cease to wonder at my occasional hours of sadness or even violent grief.
"When the month of June, 1832, was ushered in, I, like you now, was young, and lived with my parents in a luxurious home; but, unlike you, I had one great sorrow. I had been long engaged to William Alleine, a young clergyman, who had devoted his life to the work of a missionary. We were to have been married on the first of June, and to have gone out to India as missionaries. But William was in declining health. A cold, taken during the previous winter, while in the exercise of church duties, had preyed upon a delicate constitution, and it was now feared that that scourge of northern climates, consumption, had marked him for its prey. At the time appointed for our marriage and embarking, he was too ill to leave his room, and the ship sailed without us.
"You may well believe that it was a bitter trial to this noble young man, full of earnest enthusiasm in the cause he had espoused, to be thus cut short in a career which promised to be one of more than ordinary usefulness. But he bowed meekly to his Maker's will, with scarcely a murmur at the blighting of all his hopes. But with little of his child-like confidence in our heavenly Father I rose in fierce rebellion at this unexpected disappointment. Alas! how little did I dream of the sorrows yet in store for me! or how soon my proud heart would be humbled by repeated afflictions!
"William's father lived at Southbridge, six miles from my own home, and there, at an early hour, I was summoned on the 16th of June. William was very ill, the old servant said. He had broken a blood-vessel in his lungs during the previous night, and, believing that his hours were numbered, he earnestly desired to see me.
"I had returned from Southbridge but a few days before, and left him apparently better so much so, that we had planned a quiet marriage as soon as he would be able to ride over to us. For this I was, if possible, more anxious than himself, that I might gain the sweet privilege of being his constant nurse. Thus when I saw Mr. Alleine's carriage drive to the gate, I ran eagerly down the path, expecting to see dear William alight from it. Judge then of my disappointment at the intelligence I received.
"Making my preparations with tearful haste, I was soon on my way, and anxiously urging greater speed. The journey seemed interminable, but we arrived at last, and springing from the carriage, I soon stood by the bedside of my dying William. The bed, for freer circulation of air, was drawn to the center of the room. Opposite to it was the vine-covered window which opened into the garden, from whence rose the perfume of countless flowers, the busy hum of bees from the quaint old bee-hive in its sunniest nook, and the song of birds from out the branches of the magnificent Chestnut trees which, even in the sultriest noon, threw their cooling shadows upon the house. Without, all was life and joy; within, gloom and the shadow of death"
"There lay William, but how changed! The pallid brow, the sunken eye, the labored breath all told how swift were the strides which the destroyer was taking with his victim. But a holy calm sat on brow and lip, for to him death had no terrors. A bright smile beamed on his pale face as he saw me, and he feebly raised his arms to clasp my neck as I knelt beside him and wept with grief that would not be controlled.
"'Weep not, my beloved one,' he said, in feeble accents; 'mourn not, my Lucy, our parting will not be long, and we shall meet above. Gladly would I have lived to have passed the years with you here; but God wills otherwise, and let us not repine. Grieve not, Lucy, that He is so soon taking me from this world where poison lurks in every cup, where danger follows our footsteps in every path, and where the blight of sin is on all we hold most dear.'
"With a violent effort I controlled the manifestations of my sorrow. But it was his office to cheer me; the words of the dying, infused courage into the heart that was so soon to be left alone. But few more words passed between us, for, exhausted by the violent hemorrhage and long suffering, he needed sleep to refresh him for the farewells which soon must take place. I passed my arm beneath his head, and, after a glance of undying affection from those glorious eyes which had always beamed with love for me he closed them in a soft slumber, as peaceful as an infant's upon its mother's bosom. His sleep was long, and when he awoke, the shadows of evening were falling, and the honeysuckle at the window had filled the room with the rich fragrance that twilight dews always win from its perfumed chalices. It seemed the fitting incense to bear the pure soul to Heaven.
"This slumber had been refreshing, and William was able to converse with his parents and every member of the household. Never will anything connected with that evening fade from the memory of those who stood around that death-bed, and listened to his inspired words. His glorious intellect, almost cleared from the dull film of mortality, grappled with ideas seemingly too great for human utterance; and his words fell upon the ear solemnly, as 'oracles from beyond the grave.' Never had the lamp of his affections burned brighter. As dear, exceedingly, as the loved ones who now surrounded him had ever been, in this hour words failed to express his affection for them. And as his eye, full of love, wandered over the circle, each felt that the bond which connected our spirits was one which would endure to all eternity. He spoke at intervals for several hours, but at length fell into a quiet slumber, and all, except his parents and myself, departed to seek repose. He awoke again at midnight, and with kind consideration, entreated his aged and grief-worn parents to seek the rest which they so much needed.
"'Lucy will remain with me,' he said, in answer to his mother's remonstrances; 'she is young, and will not feel the loss of sleep, while watching will make you ill, mother. And do not fear to leave me, for Lucy is the gentlest and kindest of nurses.'
"Left alone, hours of sweet communion ensued between myself and William. He seemed much better. He felt, as he said, no pain, and at times his voice rang out full, clear, and harmonious, as in health. He spoke of our early love, hallowed as it was by many pleasant memories, and besought me not to allow the current of my affections, thus suddenly checked, to return and create bitterness at their source; but, rather, that I should permit it to flow out in widening channels, till it should embrace all who needed love or kindness, and till its blessed waters should create fresh fertility in desert hearts, and cause flowers to bloom by desolate firesides. His apparent ease lulled me into security, and I almost hoped his life would be prolonged. At any rate, his words gave me courage to live and perform my appointed work, and to await with patience, our reunion in Heaven.
"After a time, he was silent, and lay motionless and with closed eyes. Alarmed by his death-like stillness, I arose and knelt beside his pillow to listen to his breathing. He moved slightly as my lips touched his, and murmured, as I thought, a few incoherent words of prayer.
"I remembered no more, till I awoke with a startle an hour after, and found the gray light of early dawn struggling with the dying flame of the lamps in the room, and the morning breeze blowing chill through the open windows. But colder still was the cheek against which mine rested. I sprang to my feet, and gazed earnestly at the pale, upturned face. Alas! it was the face of the dead!
"Oh, the agony of that moment! With a wild, thrilling shriek, the wail of a breaking heart, I sank fainting upon the floor!
"It was a long time before consciousness returned, and then my first thought went back to that dying scene. I attempted to rise, but still faint, I fell back upon the pillow. But, after a time, strength returned, and I arose and returned to William's room. A long, white object lay in the center of the room, for hours had passed and his remains had been prepared for the grave. It was long before I could summon courage to look upon the face of the dead; but at length I raised the snowy linen that covered it, and all my wild, rebellious feelings were rebuked by the calm and placid smile which rested upon those features, to which even death could not impart rigidity. It told of peace and perfect joy, and, as I gazed, there grew in my soul a sweet calm and resignation.
"I sat many hours with the grief-stricken parents, beside that shrouded form. Noon came and passed, and the day was waning to its close, when a messenger arrived from my home, and I was summoned from my mournful vigil to meet him in the hall. He was a stranger, but his face expressed sympathy.
"'It grieves me much, Miss Latimer,' said he, 'to be the bearer of unpleasant tidings, more especially as I have just learned the sad event which has occurred here.
But I am directed by Dr. Sutemeyer to summon you to your parents, who are both attacked by the cholera, which, within the last twenty-four hours, has appeared in our city. My carriage is at the door, and I will return as soon as you are ready.'
"I listened like one entranced. William dead and my parents perhaps dying! Yet I had left them in health but a day ago. I must fly to them, yet could I leave the dear remains of William? But I thought of his words of the preceding night, and they gave me courage. With desperate calmness, I ascended to the room of death, pressed my last kiss on William's cold brow, bade farewell to the bereaved parents, and in a few moments found myself retracing the road I had traveled yesterday on a similar errand.
"Such was the wild tumult of my thoughts, that I scarcely noted the lapse of time before I reached my home. The sun had set, and in the dim twilight, the house looked very desolate. There were no lights in the windows, no sounds from the open doors, for all had fled on the first alarm of the pestilence. In the hall I was met by Dr. Sutemeyer. He was our family physician; I had known him from my childhood, and never before had he met me without a smile. But now he looked grave and very sad, and I knew that my fears had not exaggerated the reality. I would have rushed past him, but he detained me.
"'Tell me,' said I, 'if they live. Let me go to them at once. Do not retain me!'
"But the good doctor still held my hand.
"'Summon all your fortitude, my dear child,' said he. 'Can you bear to hear that your father is dead?'
"'My father!' I shrieked. 'Oh, do not tell me he is dead! And my mother! let me go to them. Do not detain me! I will be calm, indeed I will!' I continued, as I saw the look of hesitation on the good doctor's face.
"His strong arm aided me up the staircase, and in a moment more, I stood beside the corpse of my beloved father. Still cold and pale he lay, whom but two days since I had left in perfect health. Could it be that his pious, loving smile would never rest on me more, or his kind voice greet my ear?
"But a moment I lingered there, for he was beyond my aid, and my mother's moan smote my ear reproachfully from the next room. In vain I sprang to her relief; in vain I called her by every endearing name; in vain were all my cares. An hour after I entered the house I was an orphan! During all the watches of that terrible night, I sat alone by the dead bodies of my parents utterly alone, for even the good doctor had departed to the bedsides of new sufferers. In the early morning they were laid in the churchyard, and when I returned to my splendid but now desolate home, I felt that no tie now bound me to my race.
"For days and weeks, the dull apathy of despair rested upon my soul, and I wandered about my once cheerful home without aim or employment. During all this time, the disease which had made me an orphan, was walking with fearful strides over the land. Our beautiful city had, become one vast charnel-house. Day and night the death-carts with their dreadful burden went on their mournful way to the burying-places. Happy firesides were fast becoming desolate, and, at length, the universal wail of sorrow pierced even the dull apathy which had fallen upon me. I roused myself, and went forth among the sick. I stood, day by day, by the bedside of the pestilence-stricken. I wiped the death-sweat from pallid brows; I bathed the convulsed limbs; I prepared the healing draught and many an eye gazed upon me with gratitude in the hour of suffering. I found my reward springing up amidst my exertions, for, in ministering to the sufferings of others my own were lessened. I blessed the dying words of William, which had pointed me to an antidote to my own grief, so unselfish, and so complete.
"At length the summer of 1832 drew to its close, and the pestilence raged no more among us. But my attendance upon the sick had introduced to my notice many cases of want. My sphere of duty was ample, nor has it ever lessened, and I still find my happiness in contributing to that of others. My days and years glide calmly on, and I await in patience, the time when I shall rejoin my loved ones in a world where there is neither sorrow nor parting."
She ceased but her simple story had left its impression. I drew from it juster views of life and human responsibility. It has left me wiser, if not better, and so I trust it will leave my readers.
How to Be Happy
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
I will give you several good maxims which may help you to become happier than you would be without knowing them. But as to being completely happy that you can never be until you get to Heaven.
1. The first is, "Try your best to make others happy."
"I never was happy," said a certain king, "until I began to take pleasure in the welfare of my people; but ever since then, in the darkest day, I have had sunshine in my heart."
2. My second rule is, "Be content with little." There are many good reasons for this rule. We deserve but little; we require but little; and "Better is a little, with the fear of God, than great treasures and trouble therewith."
Two men determined to be rich, but they set about it in different ways; for the one strove to raise his means to his desires while the other did his best to bring down his desires to his means. The result was, the one who coveted much, was always repining while he who desired but little, was always contented.
3. My third rule is, "Look on the sunny side of things." The skipping lamb, the singing lark, and the leaping fish, tell us that happiness is not confined to one place. God, in his goodness, has spread it abroad on the earth, in the air, and on the waters.
Two aged women lived in the same cottage; one was always fearing a storm, and the other was always looking for sunshine. Hardly need I say which it was wore a forbidding frown, or which it was whose face was lighted up with joy.
Formation of Character
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
Most people are averse to close thinking and personal investigation. They would rather rely on others, and follow the beaten track, than strike out new paths, and aim at greater progress and higher attainments. It is the part of indolence and imbecility servilely to copy others, and to remain satisfied with walking in their steps, instead of soaring into higher regions, and taking wider views.
Much depends on early education in regard to the future intellectual efforts of children. If they are furnished with everything the young heart can desire if every gratifying object is placed around them, and there is nothing left for the exercise of their own powers their minds will be feeble, and never acquire the vigor necessary for extensive usefulness.
Parents often greatly mistake in providing too many playthings for their children. They appear to think that, by heaping around their little ones a multitude of toys, they shall add to their enjoyment and expand their minds. But the more a child has of these things the more restless he becomes. He throws aside one after another his playthings, and is almost equally dissatisfied with whatever is placed within his reach. He has too many objects; they are a burden to him, and render him fretful and uneasy.
Even the child derives his highest pleasure from doing something for himself. Give him a few articles, and let him add others by his own invention; let him try what he can do, and see that his efforts have accomplished something, and he will be delighted and stimulated to renewed exertion. The boy who has made but the crude imitation of a ship, a cart, or a house, will be more cheerful and happy than he would have been, by the most costly and brilliant toy. But, what is of far more importance, his mind has received a new impulse; it has acquired new vigor, and is better prepared for other efforts.
It is by a succession of these infantile attempts, by an almost infinitude of trials to imitate the sterner realities of adulthood, that the mind gathers strength, develops its powers, and rises to the highest attainments. The pyramids of Egypt, it has been said, were built by the successive strokes of the pick-axe and the chisel; and the mightiest intellect is formed by a gradual process from the imbecility of infancy. Its progress may not be observable for a time, like the coral rock built up from the bottom of the ocean; but it ultimately rises above the waves, and becomes an island, adorned with verdure and beauty. So the childish intellect, by its own action, rises above the common level, becomes an ornament to society, and a blessing to the world.
Could you have seen, in childhood, any one of the self-made men who have honored the country and the age in which they lived you would have found him left to his own resources. His self-formation commenced with the first buddings of reason and imagination. So it was with Franklin, Sherman, and others. Their humble origin shows that they were not surrounded with a profusion of splendid toys. Their minds were daily acquiring fresh impulse and increased energy from the very circumstances of destitution in which they were placed. What Webster, the great statesman and careful observer of human nature, says of older scholars, is equally applicable to children: "Costly apparatus and splendid cabinets have no magical power to make scholars. As a man is in all circumstances, under God, the master of his own fortune so he is the maker of his own mind. The Creator has so constituted the human intellect, that it can only grow by its own action, and thereby it will certainly and necessarily grow. Every man must, therefore, educate himself."
Let parents improve the clue here given, and apply it to the training of children. Assist them in their crude endeavors to do something for themselves. Furnish the means and they will soon learn to apply them in accomplishing their purposes.
They should early be taught that they have a character to form, on which depends their own happiness, the esteem of friends, and, above all, the approbation of their Maker and Redeemer. They can soon learn that there is no pleasure like that of doing right, of being kind, generous, and thankful for favors shown them. He who would have friends, must show himself friendly, and there are innumerable occasions recurring daily for the exercise of the best and noblest affections.
A child should love to please and oblige others, and should love to do good. This should be his element, the very air he breathes, the rejoicing of his heart. He is amiable and lovely, just in proportion as he exhibits good-will and kindness, and a regard for justice and rectitude. And he is an object of pity, to be pointed at by the finger of scorn, when these traits are lacking, or the opposite ones displayed.
His character is himself his dispositions, affections, and general conduct. It is that which he will carry with him in future life, and which will shape his destiny. He can easily be made to realize its importance, and how much it depends on himself. Parents must look after their children, when away from under the parental roof. Their eye must follow them to the village school, and they must see what influences are operating there for good or evil, and what are the restraints under which they are placed.
It is surprising how much mischief they will learn, in a short period, from wicked companions, and how much they may do to corrupt the minds and morals of others. They should be made to realize their individual responsibility, while mingling with their associates, and that they are accountable for their conduct in company, equally as when alone. Each individual is singled out and marked by the all-seeing One, and the sins of youth may cause regret and remorse at a future day.
The formation of character demands the study of the Scriptures, with a view to their precepts and examples. It requires the cultivation of the heart the moral affections as well as the intellect. It involves improvement in external deportment, in ease, propriety, and manly behavior, in consulting the feelings of others, and in often yielding our convenience to theirs. Courtesy is a great ornament, and next in importance to the first principles of knowledge.
Children should early be taught self-government. They must learn to govern their temper and passions, and not be left as the "horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with a bit and bridle." It is shameful and ruinous to allow them to fly into a rage, and give way to violent passion, when unexpectedly disappointed in regard to an anticipated enjoyment. Whenever such ill temper is manifested, they must be called to an account, whatever other business is on hand, and must be taught its exceeding sinfulness and its destructive consequences to themselves.
Self-government is essential to all true peace and happiness; it is essential to the quiet of families and communities, and to all civil freedom. A free government cannot exist where the people have not learned to govern themselves. Anarchy and despotism will ensue, and the masses must be controlled by the strong arm of absolute power. A vigilant, an all-pervading police, or a standing army, must accomplish what the people might easily do for themselves.
Children must be made to control their temper. This may be a difficult task; it may require a long course of discipline; but the object is worth all the care and effort it may cost. Washington well understood its importance when he said, "I can more easily govern the American army than my passions!" But he had them in subjection, and the world admired his self-possession and unruffled temper in the most trying circumstances. Scarcely a greater blessing can be conferred upon a child, than the ability to govern himself in the fear of the Lord in every situation.
The young should be taught to rely on their own efforts in their studies. They must use the utmost endeavors to solve a difficult problem, or investigate an abstruse subject, before resorting to others for assistance. They must learn to clothe their thoughts in their own language. It may not be as learned and elegant as that of the most accomplished writers; but one idea expressed in their own way, is more improving and worth more than the copying of whole pages from other authors. By giving utterance to their own feelings and conceptions, they are preparing to become the future ministers of the gospel, the eloquent advocates at the bar and in the senate. They acquire the habit of thinking for themselves, and thus become qualified for taking a part in the great enterprises of the day, and pushing forward the movements which are to renovate the moral world.
Let it not be thought that this self-reliance is inconsistent with a proper sense of dependence on God. All our powers are given us by the Creator to be employed for His glory in accomplishing the purposes of holy living. They must be improved diligently by us, while realizing our entire dependence on God. "Without me," says the Savior, "you can do nothing." He only who quietly and with child-like simplicity submits himself to God, accomplishes the end of his existence, and enjoys lasting security and peace.
Blessed Are the Beloved!
Yes, it is a bitter world and how few there are who love us! Sometimes we meet one whom we feel 'twere bliss to live for to die for! a look from whose eye is joy; a tender word from whose lips is Heaven; and yet a careless word, an idle jest uttered in a merry mood, a little mistake has power to part us!
How few there are who love us! So few that we cannot spare one from out the number! It is said that "blessings brighten as they take their flight;" and so with friendships, so with loves we prize them most as they leave us.
When such a treasure, which has almost become a part of our being, goes from us, how sad! It is like the losing of a queen's crown diamonds; like missing the rarest jewels from a necklace; like the shattering of an exquisite vase, which can never be replaced.
There can be no greater grief, than to be shut out from the shelter of a beloved one's heart; a Hagar thrust out into the wilderness; an outcast sent forth to wander in the wide, wide outer world! And then, when the bitter words have been spoken; when affection has been turned to coolness; when we sit down alone, enwrapped in the mantle of pride and scorn, with the dead ashes lying scattered upon the desolate hearthstones of our hearts oh! it is like dying!
Oh ! you who love and are beloved, clasp close your treasures! Allow nothing, envy, malice, the whispers of slanderers, the voice of Fame, the love of gold, or anything else, to part you! Life is, by far, too short to waste in bickerings; the world is cold enough, without our adding to its desolation. Love is too precious, to be lost lightly! Rather bear and forbear; forgive and forget; cast from you the evil, and only gather up the good than lose one jot of affection!
"It is better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all!"
There must come partings for all! The grave must lie between! Some day, the earth will fall heavily upon the coffin wherein you have buried your heart; the sods will press down the dear head which has lain upon your bosom; the daisy and violet will bloom above the lips which have so often met your own, and then could you bear to think that you had wronged your trust, slighted
their love and cast it from your heart or that pride, or
the love of gold, or fame, had parted you?
Ah, no, no! It were far better then to be able to say, "I loved him always!" "I never gave him a harsh word!" than to bind the mocking wreath of Fame around an aching brow, or clasp dazzling jewels over a desolated heart.
Yes, Love is "the only treasure!" Neither power, Fame, gold, gems, nor the applause of a world can satisfy the heart. They may indeed charm and cheat for a season but at last, like the apples of Sodom, they turn to ashes in our grasp.
There is no truer earthly bliss, than the priceless blessing of Love. Happy they who win it! Thrice blessed are the beloved!
The Genii of the Gold Mines
"Can gold calm passion, or make reason shine?
Can we dig peace or wisdom from the mine?
Wisdom to gold prefer; for 'tis much less
To make our fortune than our happiness." Young.
David Winters sat by the fireside one cold blustering night. His arm-chair was drawn up within a few feet of the crackling wood fire, and he felt in a very comfortable, drowsy contemplative mood. What did he care, if the wind shook the casement and rattle the doors, as though it would break through into his snug parlor? He only gazed complacently around upon the comfortable arrangements of his fireside, and relapsed into a fit of musing. Mr. Winters was not what one might call rich in this world's goods. He had his comfortable house, a few acres of good tillable land, good barn, well filled with livestock, a smart sprinkling of hens, ducks, and geese; and he had another thing which he prized as of far greater value than all the rest a good wife and two children a boy and a girl. My reader will perhaps say, learning this, "Is he not contented with his lot? can he wish for any greater riches?"
I am very sorry to say, dear reader, that he was not. He was blessed with health in his family, a loving spouse, and an easy, independent life yet he was not satisfied. Some of his neighbors had been to the land of gold, and returned with well-filled purses. He had taken the infection, and wanted to visit that land himself. Visions of "mountains of gold," gold dust, and golden ingots, filled his brain.
Mary, his wife, sat on the opposite side of the hearth, turning her spinning-wheel and converting the shining flax into tough thread, which in turn was to be converted into garments for David Winters Junior, who was at that time enjoying himself in a delicious sleep beside his mother.
"Mary," said Mr. Winters, suddenly breaking the silence, and striking his open hand upon his knee, as if he had an idea in his head a singular idea, "Mary, do you know what I was just thinking of?"
"Not me, David how would I know, unless you were thinking how much more wood it would take to melt the old "
"Pshaw, Mary! nonsense," broke in David, not waiting for her conclusion, "I was just thinking how much money, how much gold would satisfy me."
"Gracious! David, what a man you are! Haven't you got everything comfortable around you; everything nice and convenient? and can't you be satisfied? Well, how much did you think would make you contented?"
"I thought, Mary, that if I had all I could place in the half bushel measure, I would be nearly satisfied; and, that if I had all I could put in this room, I would be perfectly satisfied!"
"Dear me! what an avaricious man you are, David! You'll never be contented, I'm afraid, if nothing less will satisfy your craving for wealth. I heard you tell Mr. Wilson today, that you had made up your mind to go to California. You were not in sober earnest, were you, husband? Oh! I know you weren't! How could you leave little David, Jeannette, and me?"
A tear trembled in the good woman's eye, and the hand that guided the flaxen thread shook nervously. She tangled the yarn around the spindle her hands then fell to her side, and her head sank upon her bosom.
"Oh! don't cry, Mary," said David, almost repenting his ambition. "When I come back with a heap of money, you will be as glad to help dispose of it as anybody. Don't cry, Mary!"
An hour passed, and the old clock recorded it in its musical chimes. Mrs. Winters had resumed her spinning, and David sat in his chair almost asleep. The wheel buzzed merrily, the fire crackled cheerily, the old cat upon the hearth stretched herself lazily, and David's eyelids almost closed together, as he began to enter into dreamland.
As he sat there gazing into the bright fire upon the glowing coals he saw a slight movement among them, and a little fellow, all covered with dust and ashes, leaped out on to the hearth and shook himself. When David's eye first discovered him, he was not certainly bigger than a man's thumb, and might have been mistaken for a coal of fire, he was so red in the face. Gradually, he seemed to expand in form and limb, until his figure could hardly stand beneath the ceiling of the room. As the figure increased in size, his face grew redder and redder, until it grew warm around him, and David felt uncomfortably warm. He did not feel at all alarmed in the presence of the giant creature, but involuntarily inquired who he was.
"I am the Genii of the Gold Mines," said he, looking down upon David with his great yellow eyes. "I am the spirit of the mines, and have it in my power to make you rich. I can show you where the main treasure lies, and teach you how to gain immense quantities of gold."
"And what do you require of men in return for this information?" said Mr. Winters.
"I only require that they should give me full sway over their bodies and souls give themselves entirely to my service, the remainder of their lives. When I call they must answer; when I command they must obey; and when death summons them hence their souls are delivered up to my guardianship."
"Is that all? Truly, some men hazard as much, and in the end get nothing. Show me the treasure, sir, and I'll comply with your stipulations. Give me 'gold galore,' and I'll serve you through life, and deed over to you my spirit after death!"
A smile curled the red Genii's lip, and he immediately disappeared in the coals, from whence he came. David sat by the fire some minutes, impatiently awaiting the return of the Genii. He had almost persuaded himself that it was all a dream, and that the Genii would never return, when a beautiful girl appeared before him, as if by magic, with golden hair and the deepest blue eyes, the pearliest teeth and the most bewitching little smile that he ever saw. She opened her ruby lips, and in a mellow flute-like voice, which thrilled his very heart, she said,
"Mortal, you see before you a servant of the Genii of the Mines. I am called Flora. I am sent to conduct you to the presence of my master!"
"Lead on," said David, bewildered with her beauty, "lead on, and I will follow."
She placed her dark blue eyes steadily upon his for a moment, glided toward him, and placing one finger upon his forehead, she retreated toward the fire-place. David did not leave his chair, but it seemed to glide along, as if upon ice, in the same direction. Thus, as if in a mesmeric sleep, he entered the glowing grate. A moment, and all was dark. Still he felt the impress of the finger upon his forehead, and that he was passing through the atmosphere at a rapid rate. Soon there appeared in the distance, a light as of a glimmering star. It grew rapidly larger and larger, and brighter and brighter, until the dazzling light blinded his eyes. He stood in the presence of the Genii when he again looked around him, and his guide had disappeared. He stood in an immense cavern, whose sides, roof, and floor were of solid, massive golden rock.
"Frail mortal, you stand in the main treasure-chamber, from whence comes all the gold of earth," said the Genii. "Look around, and feast your greedy eyes upon the millions of millions that are here deposited. You can never but once come to it. Sign these writings, and then choose your manner of taking a share of gold from these walls."
David seized the pen and subscribed his name to the Deed. The letters traced were of a dark red color.
"There, that will do," chuckled the Genii; "you are mine, mine, Mine! heart, soul, and body! ha! ha! ha!" and he almost shrieked a laugh. The echo was caught up and resounded from each corner and point of the immense cavern. It was dreadful awful. The perspiration started from every pore, and David most heartily wished himself out of the place.
"How much gold will satisfy you?" said the Genii, fixing his yellow eyes upon his, as though he would read his innermost thought.
"Would you be satisfied with as much as you could raise from the floor?"
Now be it known, David was not a man who might be called small or weakly. He once prided himself very much upon his bodily strength, and the enormous weights he could lift. So the proposition of the Genii was in his favor.
"Yes," answered he. "Give me all I can lift, and I will be satisfied."
"Let it be so. You shall have your wish." The Genii seized an iron instrument, and commenced digging the gold from the wall. His blows fell thick and fast. Presently a large lump of the precious metal was detached. He threw aside the instrument, and from a chest nearby, took a stout linen bag, apparently capable of holding two bushels of grain.
"Now," said he to David, who stood amazed, "I will make you acquainted with my further conditions." David did not answer, for he was glad to do anything to get himself out of the present predicament.
"You can take this bag," resumed the Genii, "and place in it as much of the metal as, in your best judgment, you think you can lift. If you over-estimate your strength, and get more gold than you can lift, you shall have none, but shall be sent back to your family worse than when you left them. If you do lift it, it shall be yours. My servants shall escort you home, and a conveyance shall be furnished for your treasure."
David took the sack, and began filling it with the largest and brightest pieces. At first he thought he would limit his desires, and be sure not to put in more than he could lift. As he handled the precious lumps he became more and more excited, until he had no command over himself. The bag was about half filled, and he desisted a moment. The idea of having so much gold stimulated him to prepare for immense exertion, in order to lift it.
"One more lump," thought he, and added it to the pile.
"Oh! one more will not make it much heavier."
Another lump was added and yet another. The bag was placed in a convenient position, and he paused over it to take breath before he tried the lift. He did not have the slightest doubt but he could raise it, so excited had he become. He stooped, grasped the mouth of the sack in both his brawny hands, and raising himself slowly, steadily, but with all his strength, he essayed the task. He strained, he tugged with all his might; he exerted every muscle; the blood rushed to his brain he saw more stars than revolve in the firmament; but it was all in vain. The obstinate load would not budge a hair's breadth.
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the demon, and his face glowed with a brighter glow. "You did not raise it! But try once more, and then if you do not raise it ha! ha!" Again the echo was caught up as if by a myriad of fiends, and the cavern was filled with the laugh.
Once more David Winters grasped the sack. This time, with the determination to raise it or die in the attempt. When he was lifting with the utmost of his strength, the solid linen of the sack parted in twain, and David, losing his balance, fell heavily upon the floor. The Genii raised another, "Ha! ha! ha!" and again it echoed through the cave.
"Lost! lost! lost!" cried David, and awoke!
"Bless my heart, David! what is the matter? Here you've been tugging and pulling at the arm of your chair, and now you've pulled it clean off, and fallen on the floor. Oh! what is the matter?"
David rubbed his eyes and looked around.
It was all a dream!
He related his dream to Mary that night, but said not a word about going to California, as in fact he never did afterwards. Several days passed before he recovered from the severe contusion on his head from the fall.
The moral of this simple sketch is obvious. When a man is comfortably located, having a home and a family, and with a fair income he is not justified in leaving all, to seek more gold afar off. Like the hero of this dream, in doing so, he may not gain anything there, but lose everything he has at home.
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
Aw old farmer lay upon his death-bed. He had lived an honest, pure, and blameless life, and therefore awaited death with calm resignation.
He cast his eyes about him the house was old, yet well built it was filled with the comforts supplied by a moderate income. His lands were well-tilled and rich in a summer verdure.
The old man pondered how his old companions had grown wealthy, built fine houses, and bought herds and jewels.
As the first shudder of death crept over his soul, he called unto his bedside three daughters, all young, fair, and sensible.
"My beloved ones," he whispered, "I have passed my youth and later years in endeavoring to find the best way to live I have found it in moderation. You, I cannot expect to be satisfied with my experience. You shall judge for yourselves.
"When I commenced to grow rich, I looked around me. Some friends had become wealthy in advance. They bought and built, added luxuries to comforts and replaced comforts with show. They were never satisfied but always grasping, hoping, wishing for more. I owned my farm. My business was prosperous. I founded a scheme I then believed the height of wisdom. I dug a trench in my cellar and placed therein all my overplus funds. It is astonishing how fast they multiplied; but I cared not for them. I had the means of living like my neighbors, and this rendered me satisfied.
"I feel now that this gold could have done much good in the world. I have retained bread from hungry mouths, and clothing from suffering bodies. We have no right to hoard money justice and right require that it be constantly passing and exchanging, that the poor may catch a glimpse of it, or the necessities it brings them. I leave to you, my children, the distribution of my earnings. Take it each one seek the happiest life."
Soon after, the old man expired.
His daughters truly grieved for so estimable a parent. Three years after his death, they sat alone in the sitting room. The sun shone through the elm branches, and imaged a shower of golden coins upon the painted floor.
Reichen, the eldest, gazed upon them musingly.
"Sisters," she exclaimed, starting from a revery, "the great wealth our father left us, still lies buried in the earth. His last wish is unfulfilled. Let us this day choose our path and follow it. We can divide the gold, take each her portion, and commence a search for happiness."
"I agree," replied Parnassa. "What do you say, little sister?"
"Our father's wish should be fulfilled," answered the youngest.
"Let us then make our choice," cried the enthusiastic Reichen.
"Commence then; you are eldest."
"Well, I will seek the rich and fashionable, the lovers of fun and frolic, the leaders of mirth. They have always appeared to me happy as the day is long."
"And you, Parnassa," said the younger.
"I will remain here in our old home. I will seek for knowledge and fame. Those whose name trembles on every lip with praise, must be supremely happy. I will exchange all my gold for a laurel wreath."
"You choose, little sister."
"I would try a lower path a descent is often happier than an ascent. It is easier to rise than fall."
The sisters shook their heads and answered, "You have chosen badly, Poverina. Reconsider, there is yet time." But she smiled faintly and was steadfast. All that week, they passed in counting and dividing the gold; and the next week in making preparations for their departures.
One bright morning Reichen, dressed in silks and jewels, stepped into an elegant carriage; her gold was in handsome trunks in the carriage; a liveried servant held the reins, and another closed the door. As far as the other two could see her, her mirthful bonnet-plumes waved in the air, and her laced pocket handkerchief fluttered a last farewell.
An hour after little Poverina, in a gray hood and coarse blue gown, passed out on foot. She dragged behind her a little wagon filled with her share of the treasure, and covered ostensibly with carrots and cabbages for the market.
Parnassa watched the last fold of her dress, as she turned down the hill, and, wiping away her tears, cried, "Now for books, books!" and went into the house, closing the door after her.
* * * * *
Ten years had passed since the sisters parted. The day had arrived upon which they had agreed to meet once more. In the old homestead all was unchanged, but that it looked grayer and more neglected. In the well-remembered sitting-room, all wore a different aspect. Statues filled the niches, flowers breathed odors commingled books lay upon chairs, tables, and window-seats books everywhere. At a desk filled with writing materials sat Parnassa, a laurel wreath was upon her brow; but that brow was ashen, and the eyes beneath it dim and lustreless.
The door opened, and a strange figure entered; a woman bowed and shrunken. Her still luxuriant hair was threaded with silver, and shone through the artificial ringlets. The rouge upon her cheek and lip, the carefully-pencilled eyebrow and richly-fashioned robe, could not conceal the ravages of dissipation, or the meager form, grown old before its time.
"Reichen!" cried Parnassa.
"Parnassa!" replied the mummy; and the sisters exchanged embraces in silence too wonder-stricken for words.
At this moment, a little gray hood peeped in at the door. The face therein was fresh and youthful, the form round and the step elastic. Were not the cheeks much paler than of yore, the sisters would have thought that Poverina had not changed in the least since their separation.
"Sisters," she cried, hastening to greet them, "God has permitted us all to live to meet once more, blessed be His name!"
When they were composed, they seated themselves, and prepared to recount each their progress toward happiness during their ten years' search.
Parnassa, being the one who remained at home, and believing her life less eventful than her sister's, commenced
"When my tears had ceased to flow at your departure, I came into the house, and taking a quantity of gold, sent it, with a list of books, to the city. By the next day, a large car of these valuables arrived. I had shelves placed around my room, and filled them. I then procured one thousand reams of paper, four gallons of ink, and a huge box of pens.
Thus supplied, I commenced writing and reading, leaving to Hanna the domestic avocations. I spared myself neither time nor pains. I wrought early and late. I lost sleep, took no exercise, and scarcely allowed myself time to partake of my meals.
"When my first work was finished, with many hopes and misgivings, I published it. It pleased the public, that public whose name is legion, and whose voice is life or death. That public, so feared by a debutante authoress, was pleased to shower upon me golden opinions. They cried for my name. It was given. I was inundated with invitations and congratulations. I wrote again and again. I drank a full measure of fame but in the empty goblet found no solace. I had worked, toiled, eight years for this laurel wreath but when it became mine, and action was no longer necessary to secure it, life was all a blank page. Money filled the old vault in the cellar, but all was lonely. There was no one to love me no one for me to love. Unsatisfied I lived and longed to die, hoping, in another life, to find that rest I longed for. My health is impaired from constant sedentary habits and late vigils. I must now care as much for my ailing body, as I have heretofore neglected it.
"I hope, dear Reichen, that your history will not be so sad in its termination. With me the belief lies that there is no happiness on this earth. The labor is here, the happiness in Heaven."
Reichen shook sadly her withered head.
"I drove far away from you, my sisters, to a distant city. I stayed at the largest and most imposing hotel in appearance. The splendor of the interior of this house, quite dazzled me. There were many articles that I did not know the use of, nor did I ever learn that they were put to any useful purpose. At the table, I met ladies in elegant attire. There was a preponderance of jewelry about them, and appropriate selections for different forms and complexions. At the table, I was handed 'a bill of fare.' I think I am right in the term. There were many French words thereon, quite puzzling to one unacquainted with the language, but I managed to get through the courses very well until I arrived at the dessert. A gentleman beside me had a dish of a most delightful appearance, and I wished for some also. But, study my bill as I would, there was nothing that read as that appeared. I made, however, a bold stroke; and, pointing to an unpronounceable name, I requested a waiter to bring me some of that. It was a failure. I tried another and another; but, at length, frightened at the untouched dishes surrounding me, I desisted, and left the table.
"Having nothing to do but to amuse myself and assist many others, with whom I became acquainted, in passing the time as rapidly and giddily as possible, we walked out. I dressed as they did, in a most peculiar style. My robe of heavy silk dragged upon the ground. The day was muddy, and, to avoid being thrown down, I followed the example of those I met. I gathered my robe in my hands, displaying not only my elaborately embroidered skirts, but the new-fashioned gaiters then in vogue. I suspected, afterwards, that many of the ladies, accustomed to long robes, held them on high for the especial purpose of displaying their high-heeled Chinese shoes; for they were so dear in price as to enable ladies only to purchase them. My bonnet was a Lilliputian, and stuck on to the back of my head with a wafer. My mantle was embroidered in Paris, and represented, in crimson thread, a family seal a lion rampant on green fields, thirteen crosslets, and a turbot's head. I carried in my hand a 'lachrymal,' made of cobweb, just patented.
Thus equipped, I walked or rode daily. Our carriages were made of a species of quicksilver, so shining and glasslike that they mirrored the poor wretched beings who, with naked feet and shrunken forms, crawled by. I used to notice the poor much, when I first went there, but I imagine, afterward, they did not frequent the fashionable streets, for I do not remember seeing them. Our coachmen were clothed in livery, with the most magnificent furs wrapped about them. Each one endeavored to surpass the others in equipage, and thus many thousands were placed in the hands of wealthy financiers.
"Sometimes, a poor woman ventured to accost us, begging for aid; but most of the ladies would be so shocked at her lack of manners, or knowledge of the language, that they frowned upon her in contempt. Some advised her to wear better shoes; but, when the half-frozen wretch asked how she could obtain them, cried, "Work, work! Is the woman crazy?"
"The wretched creature turned her eyes to Heaven, and passed on.
"I will give you an idea of our manner of passing time. We all rose late, and threw on a rich morning robe and elaborate cap. The one who appeared in the greatest disorder was pronounced to be in the most charming dishabille. We talked over much gossip and nonsense at our meals, lounged in the parlor, looked at the late fashions, or read any work that was quite the style (for you know one likes to be thought to be literary, without the trouble of being so). I generally skimmed over the story, then I asked the opinion of those who had read it carefully, and adopted their opinion, generally remembering the language in which it was given.
"At eleven we rode called later shopped, met at lunch to gossip, raved over goods, and gave as much trouble as we could, consistently with politeness. Our afternoons were engaged in joyous amusements. Our evenings passed at the opera, theater, or any other fashionable places. When any celebrity lectured, we heard him. But we liked only the stars that were fixed planets; those that were rising, or those likely to set, we never troubled ourselves about.
"Parties were our great abominations, yet we never missed one, and dressed ourselves in rivalry as well as our coachmen. We wore long trains in the evenings, and might have been taken for peacocks by a casual observer. Having been called 'angels without wings,' we determined to have them (the wings). Emulating Mercury's cap, we wore our hair puffed out to the last degree, filling all the spaces with green-ribbons.
"Had the flowers bloomed within our heads rose-leaves of thought, and lily-bells of charity, might have dropped from our lips, equal to the 'pearls and diamonds' of the fairy tale. Here we smiled and chatted, danced, sang, played cards, and drank wine, returning to our homes at a very late hour of the night.
"It is needless to say, my dear sisters, that in this happy life, I enjoyed myself to perfection at first. But, after awhile, quarrels ensued. One friend spoke evil of another; some were less discreet and prudent than I could have wished. I became fatigued there was nothing new to engage in. I was restless and unhappy. As my health gave way, my beauty faded.
"When our prescribed limit of time drew near, I was not sorry to return to my childhood's home. No one regretted my loss. I had no friend. I am firmly convinced, that as in these joys I found no happiness that there is no such reality. It is a chimera of the brain. One imagines they have found it often but time disenchants them. As for me, I detest it. I have lost health in seeking it. There is nothing in the future for me. I can look back upon nothing which gives me comfort. Life is a stubble-field death a desert. Now you tell us about yourself, Poverina."
"Be not disturbed, my beloved Reichen," cried the tender Poverina, embracing her.
"It is never too late to learn goodness. When I left you, Parnassa, looking with tearful eyes down the road after me, I, too, journeyed to the city. I hired a cosy room in a small plain house. I hid my gold in the hearth, and started forth ostensibly to sell my little produce. Ah, sisters, how many wretched forms I met; not unhappy with lack of extravagances, but the lack of necessities staring them in the face driving them, they knew not, cared not where, to drown them. I wished to help all, but I waited to look well.
"The little children cried to my heart the most imploringly those sent by parents to steal or beg, beaten by them, if unsuccessful, and fed alcoholic drinks if they brought in gains; those who have no childhood, but were born old old in cunning and guilt. These little fire-brands, I plucked from the burning. I built a house for them, tore them from their unnatural parents. I employed poor but educated girls to teach and oversee them. Daily I added to my number.
"Then I took by the hand the erring and intoxicated. I pointed toward a ray of escape; I watched over them, and when the cavern of despair ceased to cover them, and they stood in the free air, men and women, they blessed God and wept.
"I walked with the poor I was of them. I toiled, suffered, grieved, and endured with them. I could always relieve. God knows, how I would have felt, had I been unable to do so! I had my own pleasures, too, which they had not. I read passed stolen hours with intelligent friends interchanged confidences and hopes. When labor was numbing to my faculties, I sought some congenial amusement. When my gold had vanished, more poured in. I received contributions, and with economy and judgment it sufficed. I tore myself with pain from my beloved ones, to fulfill our compact. I have a monitor here," she continued, placing her hand upon her heart, "who bids me to prepare for a long journey. I, sisters, have found happiness on earth, in doing good, in constant occupation in following in the footsteps of Him, who has said, 'I was hungry and you fed me; naked and you clothed me.' I have lived I leave in the hearts of many, my monument. I die in peace with all, assured of becoming happier in the next world than in this."
Here lived the sisters, all awaiting the angel of death.
Parnassa, cold, haughty, and passive, received in silence death's summons.
Reichen, peevish, fretful, and despairing, gazed at her own image in death's polished scythe, as she was mowed into the outer field.
Poverina, smiling, patient, and hopeful, hailed with joy the rustle of his wings, and rose, with a song of praise upon her lip, into the glorious light of Heaven!
Filial Love Rewarded
"You are too parsimonious, Henry!" said Mr. Dumas to one of his clerks, as they were together in the counting-house one morning: "give me permission to say, that you do not dress sufficiently genteel to appear as clerk in a fashionable store."
Henry's face was suffused with a deep blush, and, in spite of his endeavors to suppress it, a tear trembled on his manly cheek.
"Did I not know that your salary was sufficient to provide more genteel habiliments," continued Mr. Dumas, "I would increase it."
"My salary is sufficient, sir," replied Henry, in a voice choked with emotion, but with that proud independence of feeling which poverty had not been able to divest him of. His employer noticed his agitation, and immediately changed the subject.
Mr. Dumas was a man of wealth and benevolence; he was a widower and had but one child, a daughter who was the pride of his declining years. She was not as beautiful as an angel, nor as perfect as a Venus; but the goodness, the innocence, the intelligence of her mind shone in her countenance, and you had but to become acquainted with her, to admire, to love her. Such was Caroline Dumas, when Henry first became an inmate in her father's house. No wonder he soon worshiped at her shrine no wonder he soon loved her with a deep and devoted attention and, reader, had you known him, you would not have wondered that his love was soon returned, for their souls were congenial; they were cast in virtue's purest mold. And although their tongues never gave utterance to what their hearts felt yet the language of their eyes was too plain to be misunderstood. Henry was the very soul of honor; and although he perceived with pleasure that he was not altogether indifferent to Caroline, he felt as though he must control the passions which glowed in his bosom. I must not endeavor to win her young and artless heart, thought he I am penniless, and cannot expect that her father will consent to our union he has ever treated me with kindness, and I will not be ungrateful.
Thus he reasoned, and thus heroically endeavored to subdue what he considered an ill-fated passion. Caroline had many suitors, and some who were fully worthy of her; but she refused all their overtures with a gentle and decisive firmness. Her father wondered at her conduct, yet could not thwart her inclination.
He was in the decline of life, and wished to see Caroline happily settled before he left the stage of existence. It was not long before he suspected that young Henry was the cause of her indifference to others. The evident pleasure she took in hearing him praised; the blush that overspread their cheeks whenever their eyes met, all served to convince the old gentleman, who had not forgotten that he was once young himself, that they felt more than common interest in each others welfare. He forbore making any remarks on the subject, but was not so much displeased, as penniless Henry would have imagined.
Henry had been about a year in his service. Dumas knew nothing of his family; but his strict integrity, his irreproachable morals, his pleasing manners all conspired to make him esteem him highly. He was proud of Henry, and wished him to appear as respectably as anyone. He had often wondered at the scantiness of his wardrobe, for, although he dressed with the most scrupulous regard to neatness, his clothes were almost threadbare. Mr. Dumas did not wish to think that this proceeded from a niggardly disposition, and he determined to broach the subject, and if possible, ascertain the real cause this he did in the manner before related.
Soon after this conversation took place, Mr. Dumas left home on business. As he was returning, and riding through a beautiful village, he alighted at the door of a little cottage and requested a drink. The mistress, with an ease and politeness which convinced him that she had not always been the humble cottager, invited him to enter. He accepted her invitation and here a scene of poverty and neatness presented itself such as he had never before witnessed. The furniture, which consisted of nothing more than was necessary, was exquisitely clean, so that it gave a charm to poverty, and cast an air of comfort on all around. A venerable-looking old man, who had not seemed to notice the entrance of Mr. Dumas, sat leaning on his staff; his clothes were clean and whole, but so patched that you could scarcely have told which had been the original piece.
"This is your father, I presume," said Mr. Dumas, addressing the mistress of the house.
"It is, sir."
"He seems to be quite aged."
"He is in his eighty-third year; he has survived all his children except myself."
"You have once seen better days?"
"I have my husband was wealthy; but false friends ruined him he endorsed notes to a large amount, which stripped us of nearly all our property, and one misfortune followed another, until we were reduced to complete poverty. My husband did not long survive his losses, and two of my children soon followed him."
"Have you any remaining children?"
"I have one, and he is my only support. My health is so feeble that I cannot do much, and my father being blind, needs great attention. My son conceals from my knowledge, the amount of his salary, but I am convinced that he sends me nearly all, if not the whole amount of it."
"Then he is not with you?"
"No, sir, he is clerk for a merchant in Philadelphia."
"Clerk for a merchant in Philadelphia! What is your son's name?"
"Henry Ware!" reiterated Mr. Dumas, "why he is my clerk! I left him at my house not two weeks ago."
Here followed a series of inquiries, which evinced an anxiety and solicitude that a mother alone could feel to all of which Mr. Dumas replied to her perfect satisfaction.
"You know our Henry," said the old man, raising his head from his staff.
"Well, sir, then you know as worthy a lad as ever lived. God will bless him for his goodness to his old grandfather," he added in a tremulous voice, while the tears ran down his cheeks.
"He is a worthy fellow, to be sure," said Mr. Dumas, rising and placing a well-filled purse in the hands of the old man. "He is a worthy fellow, and shall not lack friends."
"Noble boy," said he, mentally, as he was riding alone, ruminating on his late interview, "noble boy he shall not lack wealth to enable him to distribute happiness. I believe he loves my girl, and if he does, he shall have her and all my property in the bargain!"
Filled with this project, and determined if possible to ascertain the true state of their hearts, he entered the breakfast room the next morning after his arrival home.
"Do you know that Henry is about to leave us to go to England, and try his fortune?" he carelessly observed.
"Henry about to leave!" said Caroline, dropping the work she held in her hand, "about to leave us and going to England!" she added, in a tone which evinced the deepest interest.
"But what if he is, my child?"
"Nothing, father, nothing; only I thought we would be rather lonesome."
"Tell me, Caroline," said Mr. Dumas, tenderly embracing her, "tell me do you not love Henry? You know I wish your happiness, my child. I have ever treated you with kindness, and you have never until now hid anything from your father."
"Neither will I now," she replied, hiding her face in his bosom. "I do most sincerely esteem him; but do not for worlds tell him of it, for he has never said it was returned."
"I will soon find that out, and without telling him, too," replied the father, leaving the room.
"Henry," said he, as he entered the counting-house, "you expect to visit the country shortly, do you not?"
"Yes, in about a month."
"If it would not be inconvenient," rejoined Mr. Dumas, "I would like to have you defer it a week or two longer."
"It will be no inconvenience, sir, and if it will oblige you, I will wait with pleasure."
"It will most certainly oblige me, for Caroline is to be married in about five weeks, and I would not miss having you attend the wedding."
"Caroline to be married, sir!" said Henry, starting as if by an electric shock, "Caroline to be married! can it be possible?"
"To be sure it is but what is there amazing in that?"
"Nothing, sir, only it was rather sudden rather unexpected that is all."
"It is rather sudden, to be sure," replied Mr. Dumas; "but I am an old man, and as the man of her choice is well worthy of her, I see no use in waiting any longer, and am very glad you can stay for the wedding."
"I cannot stay, sir, indeed I cannot!" replied Henry, forgetting what he had previously said.
"You cannot!" rejoined Mr. Dumas, "why, you said you would."
"Yes, sir, but business requires my presence in the country, and I must go."
"But you said it would put you to no inconvenience, and that you would wait with pleasure."
"Command me in anything else, sir, but in this respect I cannot oblige you," said Henry, rising and walking with rapid strides across the floor.
Poor fellow! he had thought his passion subdued; but when he found that Caroline was soon so irrevocably to become another's the latent spark burst forth in an unextinguished flame; and he found it in vain to endeavor to conceal his emotion.
The old gentleman regarded him with a look of earnestness. "Henry," said he, "tell me frankly, do you love my girl?"
"I will be candid with you, sir," replied Henry, conscious that his agitation had betrayed him, "had I a fortune such as she merits, and as you, sir, have a right to expect I would think myself the happiest of men, could I gain her love."
"Then she is yours!" cried the delighted old man; "say not a word about property, my boy; true worth is better than riches. I was only trying you, Henry. Caroline will never be married to any other than yourself!"
The transition from despair to happiness was great. For a moment, Henry remained silent; but his looks spoke volumes. At last, "I will not deceive you, sir," said he; "I am poorer than you suppose I have a mother and grandfather, who are "
"I know it, I know it all, Henry," said Mr. Dumas, interrupting him. "I know the reason of your parsimony, as I called it, and I honor you for it. It is that which first put it into my head to give you Caroline she will be yours, and may God bless you both."
Shortly after this conversation, Henry avowed his love to Caroline, and solicited her hand, and it is needless to say he did not solicit in vain. Caroline would have deferred their union until the ensuing spring, but her father was inexorable. He had told Henry that his daughter was going to be married in five weeks, and he would not forfeit his word. "But, perhaps," added he, apparently recollecting himself, and turning to Henry, "perhaps we shall have to defer it, after all, for you have important business in the country about that time!"
"Be merciful, sir," said Henry, smiling, "I did not wish to witness the sacrifice of my own happiness!"
"I am merciful," replied the old gentleman, "and for that reason I would not wish to put you to the inconvenience of staying. You said that you would willingly oblige me, but you could not, indeed you could not."
"You have once been young, sir," said Henry.
"I know it, I know it," replied he, laughing heartily; "but I am afraid that too many of us old folks forget it however, if you can postpone your journey, I suppose we must have a wedding."
We have only to add, that the family of Henry was sent for, and the nuptials solemnized at the appointed time; and that, blessed with the filial love of Henry and Caroline, the old people passed the remainder of their days in peace and happiness.
It is part of the arrangements of Providence, that every man should labor in some way or other; that either with his brain, or by means of his bone and muscle he should bring out all the capabilities that are in him; that, in short, he should prove himself a man.
If we needed proof of this, we might find it in the fact that man, when he first comes into the world, is the most helpless of all animals. They are more or less fitted to enter at once on their life. The bird finds himself clothed with feathers, the sheep with wool, the dog with hair, without any thought or exertion on their part. Man, on the contrary, must provide himself with clothing; he must, by hunting, fishing, or labor of some sort, procure food for himself. We see that he is compelled to labor, if he is to stay upon the earth at all.
Thus there is no escape from it: we must work, or accept the alternative die! To many people, this appears to be a grievance, or injustice. Have they ever asked themselves the question, whether it is really so? whether their opinion is sound or unsound? Until they have done that, they have no right to complain.
But what is the fact? The answer is, that labor is not a curse, but a blessing; that the necessity under which we all lie to exert ourselves, is a something for which we have to be thankful. Consider only: what would we be without labor? Look at those countries which produce the fruits of the earth with scarcely any toil or trouble; the people are not only indolent, but they are incapable of exertion. Their faculties are, as it were, benumbed. They lack manhood; and not unfrequently have no spirit of greatness or generosity. The more nature does for them the less will they do for themselves. Like the boys who bribe their more diligent schoolmates to help them with their tasks they are always at the bottom of the class. Nothing short of an earthquake will rouse them; and then they will rush out into the streets and pray to the saints, instead of trying to prop the falling walls. If they would work as well as pray it would be all the better for them. Constant summer is very pleasant; but if constant summer makes people lazy, they might do well to try the effect of a winter.
On the contrary, look at countries where it is not always summer; where frost and snow, and fog and cloud, come at times to alter the face of nature or the state of the atmosphere. What a manly, vigorous race the natives are! They have to bestir themselves stoutly, if they wish to live with ease or comfort. To what do we owe our roads, canals, bridges, railways, telegraphs, and other great constructions? To labor. Labor provided the means; and hand-labor, directed by brain-labor, wrought the work. Had labor not been going on for hundreds of years within our borders, it is very certain that we would not be in the position that we now are. Labor has been brought to such a pitch that, though we cannot have perpetual summer, we can have, of course, as it pleases Providence, perpetual comfort. And what is more, our faculties are developed, our abilities are made the most of, and there is no enterprise too great for us to undertake.
Labor being a good on a great scale, it follows that it is a good on a small scale. If a whole nation is benefitted, so is each individual of the whole benefitted also. What polishing is to the diamond, such is labor to the man. Labor leads on from thought to thought, from endeavor to endeavor each advance being but the step towards another. Perfection is the object aimed at; and, as far as is permitted to human skill and ingenuity, many of the results of our labor are perfect.
It is not to be denied that, in certain cases and conditions of society, men may have to labor too much; but this fact does not disprove the other fact, that a man cannot labor without being the better for it. Occupation, whether of body or mind, is, far more than many of us are willing to believe a prime means of happiness. Do you doubt the fact? Look well at the first person you see who has really nothing to do; the chances are a thousand to one, that you will find him to be in some way or other a very miserable being.
Many who read these lines will remember times when they have risen in the morning weary and dispirited, when life seemed to have no relish. But, being obliged to work, they have found as the work went on, that the cloud which hung about their minds disappeared, that cheerfulness and hope came back again; and still as they continued, so did their contentment increase. There is great virtue in labor; it is a noble means of exercise; and Plato, the philosopher, said that exercise would almost cure a guilty conscience.
"In all labor there is profit," says the wise man. Of course, he meant honest labor; and the man who does his duty honestly and diligently in his vocation, steadily following up the duty which lies immediately before him, such a one adds worth to his character and dignity to his manhood, and, while promoting his own interests, subserves the welfare of others.
The Search for Happiness
On a fine couch in a room which plainly evinced the wealth and luxury of its occupant, sat, or rather reclined, a maiden of apparently about eighteen summers, absorbed in deep and somewhat anxious thought.
Few who gazed upon the exceeding beauty of her countenance, and marked its usually joyous expression, would have dreamed that a cloud ever passed over her young heart. Indeed, there was nothing to mar her earthly happiness. The only and idolized child of wealthy parents her slightest wishes were regarded or even anticipated. All around her was as beautiful as a dream of fairy land, in her own dear home; and when she mingled in the mirthful crowd, her wealth and loveliness gave her that precedence which, in spite of her better judgment, was gratifying to her heart.
And yet, the fair Eveline was not always happy. There were moments when her soul yearned for an indefinable something which she felt that neither rank nor beauty could bestow. A desire to fulfill more perfectly the object of her being, to allow her thoughts and affections to expand beyond the routine of selfish pleasures in which her daily life was passed had taken possession of her mind, and in the solitude of her own room she often passed sad hours of reflection, unsuspected by her mirthful companions, or by the fond parents who so tenderly watched over her.
"Happiness!" she would sometimes exclaim. "What is it? The shadow men do indeed possess but not the reality. That is beyond our reach. It belongs not to mortals. Why then, am I thus dissatisfied? Why this continual striving for what I may not hope to gain?
With her mind oppressed with these reflections, Eveline slept upon the couch where she had thrown herself that she might indulge them undisturbed. We say she slept, but can that state be called sleep, where the soul, freed for a brief season from its earthly fetters, enters into dreamland.
While Eveline was thus apparently sleeping in her own room, she found herself in a garden, the surpassing beauty of which far exceeded anything that she had ever seen on earth. Flowers of the most varied and brilliant hues were breathing forth the most delightful perfumes; birds of the richest plumage filled the air with their melody as they sported among the foliage of the trees; fruits of delicious flavor hung temptingly within her reach; the very air that she breathed seemed to sparkle in the brilliant light, like a thousand diamonds; while the sound of the waters falling from the numerous fountains, came upon the ear with a refreshing coolness.
For a moment Eveline gazed with astonishment and delight upon the lovely scene before her, but again a feeling of sadness stole over her, and she murmured aloud,
"And yet all this beauty does not constitute happiness it is but the shadow. Where is the substance?"
As she said this, a voice gently replied,
"The substance produces the shadow, fair maiden. The lovely objects around you do not, indeed, give happiness, but those interior principles, those thoughts and affections, those active endeavors, of which all these things are but as types or representatives they constitute happiness; they are the substance, the reality for which you seek."
"Explain this still farther," cried Eveline, as she turned in the direction of the voice, and saw standing by her side a shining one clad in garments of the most dazzling whiteness.
Again the angel replied,
"There is a certain latent vein in the affection of the will of every angel which draws his mind to the doing of something, and by this, the mind is tranquillized and made satisfied with itself; this tranquility and satisfaction form a state of mind capable of receiving the love of usefulness from the Lord; from the reception of this love is heavenly happiness. This is the origin of all our joys; from this, as from a fountain, various delights are perpetually gushing forth, and in their final end, surround us with what is externally beautiful and lovely.
"In the world in which you dwell, the internal and external are, alas, but too seldom in unison. Mortals are often surrounded by all the luxuries which earthly riches can procure, while the interiors are closed against the heavenly joys which their Creator and Father is continually striving to impart; and those who possess heavenly riches are often found among the naturally poor and lowly; but true happiness in the natural world as well as in the spiritual, must proceed from the internal love which I have described. The love of usefulness, can alone fill that void which you have so painfully felt. Without this, the external delights around you are cold and lifeless."
With deep humility and attention, Eveline listened to the words of her heavenly instructor, and in thoughtful accents she repeated,
"The love of usefulness. What is its nature, and how may I obtain this one essential of true happiness?"
"By living no longer for yourself alone. Learn to regard the rich gifts which God has seen fit to bestow upon you, personal loveliness, uncommon talents, wealth in abundance as instruments in your hands for ministering to the welfare of others. Even in the cultivation of your own mind, the love of usefulness may still be your ruling end, for the knowledge which you acquire, renders you a more fitting medium for imparting good to your fellow-beings. Go forth among the sad ones of the earth. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, whisper consolation to the afflicted, lead the sinner to repentance. This is the blessed mission which has been assigned to me, and intense is the joy which I derive from its fulfillment. Even now, I am summoned to the world of mortals. Accompany me, and I will show you at least one form of usefulness."
With delight Eveline yielded herself to his guidance, and in a moment the scene changed from heavenly bliss to earthly wretchedness. In a miserable hovel, an almost heart-broken mother was weeping over her suffering babes. The father had, some months since, been removed to the eternal world, and her utmost exertions were insufficient to maintain herself and the four little ones dependent upon her. The winter's wind was whistling loud and shrill around her dwelling; the snow lay piled at her door; but there was no glowing fire upon the hearth around which the widow and the orphans could cluster, unheeding the storm outside. All was dark and desolate. The last stick had been burned, the last cinders scraped together, and now nothing remained but to draw close to each other, and, sheltered by the scanty covering which the poor mother had thrown around them, to look to death as a release from their sufferings. Many hours had elapsed since a morsel of food had passed their lips, and when at length the despairing woman had resolved to beg rather than to allow her children to perish, she had been harshly repulsed by the first person to whom she applied, and, sick at heart, had crept back to die with her loved ones.
Tears fell fast from Eveline's eyes as she gazed upon this scene of misery. "Oh, give them instant relief," she cried. "Little did I imagine, that such destitution existed. Delay not a moment, or it will be too late."
"Earthly mediums are necessary," replied her heavenly guide. "It is not granted to us to give material aid. Spiritual comfort I have already imparted. Look now at the sufferers."
The mother kneeled beside her babes and prayed earnestly to the God of the widow and the fatherless, and she received into her soul, that peace which no earthly suffering can take away.
"Our Heavenly Father has heard us," she exclaimed joyfully. "I feel that we shall yet be saved. Have courage, my children; help draws near!"
Even as she spoke, Eveline found herself still hand in hand with her spirit friend in a cheerful, pleasant little parlor, where, in a social circle around their bright fire, sat a father, mother, and five lovely children. All was joy among this little group, and, though not surrounded by the luxuries of wealth, they were evidently in possession of every comfort. The youngest child sat upon his father's knee; the elder ones clung around him, begging for one more pleasant story, while the mother looked upon her treasures with a happy, loving glance, which told the gladness within.
"Why are we here?" asked Eveline, reproachfully. "The widow and her orphans are left to die."
"Not so," was the reply. "I came but to seek an instrument of good."
The angel bent toward the father, and, unseen by all but Eveline, breathed a few words in his ear. A shadow of thought passed over his brow, and, for a few moments, he remained silent, unnoticing the caresses of his children. At length he arose, and gently placed the babe in its mother's arms, saying,
"This is a hard night for the poor, dear Mary. I think I will seek out some of the sufferers."
"Not tonight, Edward," urged the wife. "It is so cold and stormy. Wait till morning."
"I may then be too late. There is great misery even in our own neighborhood. I noticed a wretched hovel today which I am told contains a widow and four little ones. I was prevented from visiting them before I returned home, but I feel strongly impelled to see them before I sleep. Fill a small basket with nourishing food, and seek not to detain me. It is good to be mindful of the poor."
"My mission here is ended," whispered the angel. "The sufferers have found a friend. Come forth again. We will stand by the bed of sickness and death. I have there a labor of love to perform."
In an instant, they stood in a darkened room, where a young maiden lay extended on that bed from which she was to rise no more. One glance at her countenance showed that death had marked her, and before many hours had passed, would claim her for his own. In silent anguish, the fond parents bent over the idol of their affections. Eagerly they listened to the broken words which escaped her lips. There was sadness in the tones of her voice as she murmured some expressions of endearment to those around her. Life was to her bright and beautiful the passage to the world of immortality was dark and gloomy and she looked not beyond. Was there no kind friend to raise her thoughts to those realms of bliss, of which the beautiful in this world is but as a dim outline or shadow? Was there none to speak of the infinite love of her Heavenly Father, who saw fit thus early to call her to Himself? Alas! no. All were too much absorbed in their own grief. They sought not to rise with the departing spirit to her new and glorious home; but, by their overpowering sorrow, rather strove to draw her back to earth.
"Here, there is indeed a great work to be done," said the angel. "To the sick girl, I may myself draw near, for the veil which obscured her mortal vision, is partially removed. See, she sleeps. I will approach and minister to her needs. Remain where you are. You, too, are invisible to mortal eyes. Listen to the instructions of him who through my agency will speak consolation to the hearts of the bereaved parents. Already he draws near."
As the spirit spoke, Eveline looked and beheld a venerable old man entering the room. His benevolent countenance wore an expression of the tenderest pity and commiseration as in soothing accents he addressed the afflicted ones. He entered fully into their grief, and descended with them into the dark valley. But gradually he led them to look beyond to rise above the clouds which had gathered around them to look upon death as the messenger of life, immortal life. The frail and perishable body was indeed to be laid aside but the freed spirit would rejoice in glory.
The sufferer awoke, but all was changed around her. The mother bent over her, whispering words of faith and hope; the father clasped her hand in his, and breathed an earnest prayer; her own thoughts and feelings were no longer sad and earth-bound. She looked upward to her heavenly home; perfect peace was in her heart, a radiant smile played upon her lips. She breathed a few words of happiness and love, and calmly sank to rest, like a wearied infant upon its mother's bosom.
With intense interest Eveline stood gazing upon this scene, when a light touch aroused her.
"Come forth," whispered her guide. "Other ministering spirits will now fill my place. My duty calls me elsewhere."
They stood together in a quiet churchyard. Around them were the monuments which affection rears to the memory of departed friends. It was the twilight hour, and the most profound stillness reigned. At length Eveline heard a low moan; and, seated on a new-made grave at a short distance from her, she saw a lady, somewhat past the prime of life. At first she bowed her head in silent agony, and her powerful emotion seemed almost to rend her feeble frame. Then raising her eyes to Heaven, she exclaimed in the most piercing accents of bitter grief:
"All gone! husband and children, father, mother, and friends. Not one link left to bind me to earth! Nothing left to love! Why, then, am I permitted to remain? Why may not my struggling spirit burst its bonds, and join the loved ones who have gone from me? Oh God! look upon me in my affliction. Leave me not thus alone."
"Poor woman!" murmured Eveline; "how great is her affliction! Gladly would I draw near to her, and endeavor to console her, or at least mingle my tears with hers; even sympathy is sometimes consolation."
"It is, indeed," replied the angel, with an approving smile; "but a medium is already provided. Look to the right of the lady, near the white stone. What do you see?"
"A lovely child," answered Eveline, "quietly sleeping with her head upon the turf which covers another grave of recent date."
"She slumbers not," returned the angel. "She is listening intently to the words of her whose sorrows have so strongly excited your pity. She, too, has suffered. That grave contains the mortal remains of her late only surviving parent; and the little one also feels friendless and alone in the wide world. See, she rises and draws nearer to the lady."
As she spoke, the child quietly approached the still weeping mourner. Tears, not for her own sorrows, but for those of another, were on her cheeks; and, placing her little hand within that of her companion in affliction, she said, endearingly,
"You need not be alone. I will love you, and stay with you always."
"Who are you, my child?" was the astonished reply; for the step of the little one had been unheard upon the soft grass, and the lady knew not of her presence, until she felt the gentle pressure of her hand.
"I am an orphan. My name is Ellen. My dear father died many months ago, and now my mother has gone too. They laid her body in that grave where you see the white stone, and I love to sit upon it and think of her. She lives in Heaven now. She used to bid me not to weep, but to think of her and love her, and try to be a good child until my Heavenly Father should take me home; and I do try, but there is no one to speak kindly to me now, and teach me to be good. They give me food and clothes, but they do not kiss me and love me, and call me their own darling child, as my poor mother used to do. You have nothing to love. Will you not love me?"
"I will, indeed, sweet one," replied the lady, clasping the little girl in her arms. "Our Heavenly Father has sent you to me to comfort me in my grief. I will watch over your tender years, and be a mother to you. My life will no longer be without an object. Another bud of immortality is entrusted to my care."
Eveline still lingered, but the angel whispered,"It is enough; my task is ended. New duties await me."
The night was dark and fearful on the tempestuous sea, and high on the mountain waves, a pirate vessel rode proudly on its course. Eveline shrank closer to the side of her heavenly protector, as she stood with him among that fierce crew; but his gentle words soon reassured her.
"Recollect that we are invisible to mortal eyes," he said. "Nothing can harm you. Even here, there is a work of love to be performed."
"Surely, not to these wicked men!" exclaimed Eveline. "Nothing of Heaven could find admission into their hardened hearts."
"There is one among their number who may yet be saved," replied the angel. "True, his deeds have been bloody and fearful, but a glimmer of light still remains. A pious mother watched over his infant years, and the remembrance of her gentle teachings still steals over his mind like some long-forgotten dream, awakening tender emotions, checking for the moment his evil course, calling upon the sinner to repent and return once more to the path of virtue. Behold him just before us. Mark well his countenance. Even in its fierce lineaments, you may discern an expression which tells of better things. A change is about to take place with him. I must draw near to him in his sleep, and endeavor to touch some tender chord of memory."
The pirate's nightly watch was ended, and, unheeding the danger around him, he slept securely. His dreams were of his childhood's home. Once more he was an innocent boy, and, kneeling by his mother's side, he lisped his evening prayer. Alas! years had gone by since words like these had passed his lips. Her soft hand was upon his head as in days of yore, and her mild countenance gazed lovingly upon him as she repeated these words: "For this, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."
The storm had passed with the shadows of night, and the morning dawned bright and beautiful. The vessel now lay at anchor on the shores of a lovely but uninhabited island. For a few hours the crew were at liberty to tread on land once more, and gladly did they avail themselves of the privilege.
Still keeping near to the object of his mission, the angel stood with Eveline in a thick grove, in the midst of which the waters of a bubbling spring came gushing up with a delightful coolness.
The pirate threw himself upon a mossy bank, and seemed for a time lost in deep and painful reflection. The perfect stillness of that little spot, so beautiful to one whose eye had long been accustomed to nothing but the vast expanse of waters, with the deep green foliage of its graceful trees, the fragrant breath of the brilliant flowers awakened feelings which had long been a stranger to his heart. His dream came vividly to his mind. With wonderful distinctness, the home of his childhood was before him.
Nearer and nearer drew the ministering spirit, still holding Eveline by the hand.
"Must you still work through earthly mediums?" she whispered. "Surely there are none on this lonely island who can minister to a diseased mind."
"No human being, indeed," the spirit replied; "but the Creator of the universe has many mediums of good. Even in inanimate nature, the fragrant flowers, the waving leaves, the gurgling waters all may become messengers of hope and consolation to those who are bowed down by affliction, or who have wandered far from the right path. But see! yonder comes the present messenger of peace;" and as he spoke, Eveline beheld a beautiful dove fluttering slowly through the air, until she perched upon a tree overhanging the spring.
Absorbed in his own bitter reflections, the pirate marked her not, until she sent forth her sweet mournful notes of love. Another chord of memory was touched. The sinner could bear no more; he wept like a little child, and, kneeling on that lonely spot, poured out his heart in prayer.
Then solemnly he vowed to join no more the wicked band who had led him so far in the sinful way. He would remain in strict concealment until the vessel set sail, trusting in Providence to open the way for him to leave the island, and dwell once more among his fellow men.
"It is enough," said the angel; "my present mission is ended. Return with me to my heavenly home."
In an instant, they stood once more in that beautiful garden where Eveline had first beheld her friend and guide. New beauties now surrounded him. Trees, birds, and flowers, had acquired a loveliness surpassing anything which Eveline could have imagined to exist; and the angel himself seemed encompassed by a light and splendor unobserved before.
"It is but the form of the happiness within," he said, in reply to the maiden's look of surprise. "The works of love which I have been permitted to form, have given me the most interior delight, and therefore everything around me glows with new beauty.
"You must now return to the material world which is yet your dwelling-place. Bear in your heart the lesson which you have learned. Live no longer for yourself. In every act of your life, have regard to the good of others. Happiness will be yours, for you will find delight in use, and this is the only source of true heavenly happiness. Farewell."
The angel disappeared, and in her own room, Eveline awoke to ponder on her dream.
Of those who have wandered far from the hearth-stone of home; who dwell beneath the stranger's roof, or in a strange land speak kindly. You are sitting by your own fireside; brightly shines the firelight; kind and cheerful are the faces gathered about you old, familiar faces they are the wind moaning through the trees, shaking the casement, or rumbling down the chimney; brings to your heart no lonely homesick feeling. You have heard it in those very places since you were a child, and the sound has something pleasant about it. But as you recall the faces and forms of those far away speak kindly.
They may be sweltering beneath the burning rays of a tropical sun; swarthy faces are perchance the only ones they look on, not one they have ever known or loved, and their hearts may be turning to far distant ones, and fainting under their weary load. Then, oh, speak kindly.
Speak kindly, for another wanderer may be in the far away north, where the bitter winds are howling and shrieking over the wide and desolate waste, snow-clad and cold. God grant that the streams of kindness and affection in the heart are not chilled or frozen by contact with a selfish, uncaring world.
Speak kindly of your sailor friend on the tempestuous ocean, tossed hither and there by the restless wave. And even if he did deserts his father's fireside for the rough deck and crude hammock, the green fields of his native land for the blue ocean, you perchance do not know of all that passed in that home before he left it; you do not know of all the troubled thoughts that went surging through that restless, unsatisfied heart. Judge not, I beg you.
Perchance in some crude home on the far off prairies of the West, sits by the hearth-stone, one you loved long ago. Cold words may have been spoken before she left you, and even at the parting there may have been no clasp of hands, no farewell kiss or kind word; but dwell not on that, think and speak alone of the hours when you loved each other. Breathe her name kindly now.
Speak kindly of the erring. They have been sorely tempted, else they would have never wandered so far from the path of rectitude. Don't you think that their conscience is enough to punish them for their misdeeds, without adding bitter unfeeling words? Oh! remember these few short words, "forgive, as you would be forgiven." Try to forget all that is not pleasant of others. Forget their faults for you are not without your share.
Speak kindly of the absent they may be tossing on a sick-bed, longing for some kind hand to smooth their pillow, or hold the cup to their fevered lips.
Death's angel may have summoned them, and hands of strangers laid their cold forms in the grave beneath a foreign sky. It matters little where our bones are laid, for our death-slumber will be a dreamless one. But when we are gone, I would have you speak kindly. And not alone kindly of all, but kindly to all.
To the parents who watched and guarded your helpless infancy with tender care; in whose dark locks, time has wreathed the snow flakes, and whose smooth brows are furrowed by care and sorrow; pain not their loving hearts by one unkind word, for it will sink deeply and rankle long.
Speak kindly to the brothers and sisters about you; they will not be with you always, but when they go out in the wide world, let them carry with them the memory of gentle, loving words from your lips.
To the one you have chosen to bear you company to the end of your life journey speak kindly always. Let not frowns come to darken the sanctuary of your home; no unkind words with their endless echo be spoken there.
Speak kindly to the stranger, far from home and kindred. A kindly word falls on his ear, as sweetly as the music heard in dreams. But unlike the dream sounds, it will live on in years to come, and sound as plainly in that heart as when it first fell from your lips.
And the old beggar that crosses your threshold, and with quivering voice asks for a crust of bread, or a shelter from the storm oh! I beseech you, speak kindly to him. "Weary, friendless, and forsaken," he wanders on, but like you he was once young, and perchance happy. The old man has snowy hair like your own father, and you would weep at the thought of his being thus desolate and alone. You speak gently to him, so speak to the old beggar. It is but a little time, the brief years we are to remain here, and life has enough to teach us which is sad and sorrowful without harsh words from those around us. A few more years, and the sods we now walk so self-confidently over, will be piled above our pulseless hearts!
I ask no other memorial when I am gone, than to have those who knew me when living, say that I always used kind words. They are easily spoken, and the heart soon grows to feel what the lips let fall.
Speak kindly always; and the echo of those words will come to your own soul, waking into life a beautiful melody there.
The Merchant's Son
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
A young man of fine appearance was pacing slowly and thoughtfully up and down the parlors of his father's house. The clear, softened light of the full moon streamed in upon the furniture, and revealed occasionally the expression of his countenance, which was serious. Once in a while a smile broke over his features, as he appeared briefly to yield to the play of imagination.
"So I am indeed twenty-one!" he said, musingly; "this is the day I have looked forward to, from boyhood, as the period when I should be as free as the wind. What are my objects of pursuit? What have they been? Oh, Fame! I could die if your silver trumpet would ring out her loudest blast for me. I will be no mediocre character; I will either play a conspicuous part on the world's great stage or I will sink into nothingness.
"I have been an obedient son to a father who means well, but judges wrongfully of me. He has kept me cooped up in a counting-room, lest, as he says, I should become a simpleton or a poet. I have borne it silently, although it galled me to the quick. God forbid that I should have pained his heart, before I had a man's right to act in freedom to cut out my own path in the world! And yet and yet" the young man's lip curved bitterly, as he paused a moment, "he has drawn the reins almost too tight. I have not been allowed the choice of doing what I like. Money money money, when will the time come that it will not be worshiped? I hate it. I hate that grasping after gold. How can an immortal soul so far forget its high destiny, as to make the clutching of golden coins the great aim of existence? But there are thousands who seem fit for nothing else!"
Arthur Griswold seated himself on the sofa, passed his hand through his hair repeatedly, sighed profoundly, muttered something about the generality of people being such idiots then he leaned his head back against the wall in silence.
"But money is a fine thing after all!" he said, half smiling, as after a long pause he resumed his train of thought. "It is well I can clutch a little myself just now; I fear father, when he learns my resolution, will request me to keep my distance from his coffers. Let it be so! I think I can get along. Yes, my life of close study shall soon commence; and then what shall my glorious future be? Great as a poet's dream! There is a power within me; but alas! it is a smouldering spark which may never burst forth into a flame, and light up clearly the 'chambers of my imagery.' Such thoughts shall not be indulged! I will! Those two little words shall be the beacon stars, to lead me forward to the accomplishment of my purposes. Difficulties shall vanish before the might of a strong will. To resolve and to accomplish shall be one thing with me!"
"Why, Arthur, are you all alone?" said the soft, musical voice of Lucy Griswold, as she entered the room. She seated herself on the sofa next to her brother, and rested her lovely head confidingly upon his shoulder.
"I was all alone, dear," he replied.
"Indulging in beautiful imaginations, I suppose?" suggested Lucy.
"Not remarkably beautiful."
"Well, then, come stand by the window, and look out upon this poetic sky. If imagination does not wave her wand for you, just banish earthly thoughts, and rove anywhere and everywhere, as I do, at such a lovely hour."
"I will, to oblige you," answered Arthur, leading her to the window, and kissing her pure brow with a kind brother's deep affection. That fair young girl was the only one to whom he poured forth the yearning aspirations of his soul. Her sweet influence breathed over his spirit like a balmy air, and hushed it into quietness. She was almost an idol to him; she understood, appreciated, and sympathized with him; while all her actions seemed to be a living prayer that he would become pure and good.
And yet she was rather a wayward, mischievous being, when she took it into her head to be so. The spirit of mirth peeped out of her laughing eyes somewhat too often, as her grave grandmother assured her. But she was silent now, as well as Arthur. It was, indeed, the hour for imagination to give reins to her darling reveries for the bewitchery of romance to steal into the heart. You could, under its power, have rolled back the tide of time, and have planted your footsteps in great Rome you could have gazed up at her softly-brilliant sky, revealing her thousand splendors. You could have reveled in the once sunlit streets of ancient Pompeii, or have trod the classic ground of Greece. The past might have been before you, or the sunny future, with its rainbow hopes, its glorious dreams, its flowers of love and gladness flung at your feet. Hope, delicious hope, the mirthful intruder, the wild deluder she would have stolen on the wings of the softly-dreaming air she would have poured her laughing light upon your bosom, as the zephyr plays over the unfolding petals of the sun-kissed rose.
All this might have happened if you were young, dear reader; for people strangely forget these romping imagination-flights, if care but presses her good-for-nothing fingers upon the bounding heart. Youth! how blessed you are, with your fresh, glad thoughts, your bewitching dreams, breathing their spell over the untrammelled heart! How do you roam over every sunny spot, and make all things bright with the touch of your own fairy wand! All things happy will be possible to you all things wished for will surely press into your service, begging to entwine around your brow the garland of a proud, bright destiny! How do you laugh, when the aged lip of experience would foretell you a tale of your own blighted hopes! Clouds and sunlight you have known; but the April smile ever forced back the impetuous tear, and bade you see how the shining drops freshened the beauty of earth and sky. Your heart is free; and, if ever the mist comes, it looks upward and around, and smiles to see the sunshine breaking, and bringing back to you all your clustering joys.
Why may not the heart be always young, though wrinkles drive away the smoothness from the brow, and take from the lip its rosy hue though silver threads the shining locks, and beauty departs from the wasting features? May not the undying soul retain its youth, as long as we are blessed with our faculties? May it not grow stronger and greater, as it nears its everlasting goal? May not its capabilities for happiness increase by a proper use of the gifts which God has bestowed, by careful culture, by refreshing from the dews of Heaven? Surely, surely, it may be so!
We drive from us our youth of soul. Storms come, but to clear away the darkness, and to show us depths within, that Heaven may fill with joy. Then let our course be onward. Still be our dreams bright and joyous; still let hope cast her halo around us, still let her be a mirthful intruder, but chasten her gently if she is the wild deluder of earlier days. Bid her not tell you of selfish visions. Ask her to breathe a fond spell over all you love, over every breaking heart, over the whole broad earth, which bears not a soul that you love not. Tell her the whole world is yours, that all God's people are your brethren and sisters. Whisper her to raise her throne in every downcast bosom, though she should forsake yours.
Will she forsake you? Oh, no! Your heart shall be more light than when your naive childhood was most full of innocent joy; more happy shall you be, than when earlier youth was thrilling you with its gushing gladness.
After long indulging in revery, Arthur roused himself, and related all his plans and projects to his sister. He was to break off all connection with his father's business, and enter college immediately.
"But, Arthur, what will father say? This thing is very sudden to him; he is not prepared for it."
"That I cannot help, Lucy. If I had spoken of it before, it would only have taken from his enjoyment."
"Well, I don't know what to say about it; I think you ought to be a student; and, if you feel that you are doing right, don't be checked by anything or anybody. I will do my prettiest to soften father's displeasure."
"I know that, Lucy."
The next morning, with a firm but slow step, young Arthur entered his father's counting-room.
"Well, Arthur," exclaimed the merchant, "you are twenty-one now. You have not as much ambition in regard to business as I wish you had. You don't seem to care whether you become one of the firm or not; but you have always performed your part promptly."
"I have no wish to become a partner, father."
"Why not?" questioned Mr. Griswold, in a disappointed tone.
"I am of age now, father," said Arthur, speaking with an effort. "I never intend to be a merchant."
"I am sorry to disappoint your wishes, sir, by the course I have decided upon; but you are aware that the idea of being a merchant was always repugnant to me."
"I thought you had overcome that boyish notion."
"I must say, Arthur Griswold, that you have acted very ungenerously; very little as I ever thought a son of mine would act." There were a few moments of stern silence; Mr. Griswold's lip was firmly compressed, and the severity of deep anger was in the steady gaze which he riveted upon his son's countenance. "I should at least have thought you could have been frank enough to have prepared me for this."
"It was from no lack of frankness, sir, that I did not speak of it. I knew that your views and mine differed on many points. My future course was firmly decided upon and I was fully aware that you would not approve of it; I had failed too many times in trying to change your opinion. My only reason for not telling my plans, was to avoid opposition, and any uneasiness on your part, until the time actually arrived."
"I am deeply obliged for your tender care," said Mr. Griswold, bowing, with a curving lip. "I suppose a longer conference is not necessary."
"Not if it is unpleasant to you, father." Arthur possessed a true poet's soul in one respect, at least; his heart was warm with strong affections he was as sensitive as a woman in feeling. After one long, eager look at his father's face, he slightly inclined his head, and left the counting-room.
"Don't look so melancholy, Arthur!" exclaimed Lucy, running out in the hall to meet him on his return. She had been watching for him, to hear how her father received the unexpected and unpleasing news of his decision.
"Even worse than I expected worse than I expected," said Arthur, entering the parlor, and throwing himself into a chair. He remained some moments lost in deep thought, his face bent forward, and resting on his hands. Lucy eyed him, and bethought herself that it would never do for him to yield to discouraged feelings. Dropping on her knees before him, with playful grace she drew away his hands, and, looking up in his eyes, with a smile at once inquisitive and tender, said, "Eve's curiosity brother of mine. Tell me all that he said, and all that you said."
Arthur related every word of the brief conversation that had passed; then, with some bitterness, he said, "I knew that father would be both disappointed and displeased, but I certainly had no idea that he would think my conduct unworthy."
A slight, quick flush of indignation passed over Lucy's face, but she replied gently, "He doesn't understand you, Arthur."
"And never will."
"He shall understand you in one respect," said Lucy, with an expression of proud determination, as she rose from her kneeling position. "He shall understand that your heart is as worthy and generous a one" she paused, for she was not in the habit of telling people their good qualities, when she thought they already possessed as much knowledge on the subject as would answer their purposes. She resumed cheerfully, "Constant dropping will wear away a stone, so I will drop a good word for you in father's ear at the most propitious moments; and never fear but what his displeasure will be displaced by deeper affection than ever. You will be thought of more leniently in your absence. So don't let gloomy thoughts disturb you an instant. When shall you leave us?"
"In about a week."
"So soon?" and the young girl immediately descended from her elevated position as comforter. She burst into tears, and then it was her brother's turn to cheer and console. It was on the tip of her tongue to say, "Don't go!" but she held back the words.
The evening before young Arthur's departure had arrived, the brother and sister were again alone in the parlor, sitting by the window. It was a calm starlight evening, and there was a sad quiet in the hearts of both. The merchant had not spoken one word of harsh reproach to his son, since the disclosure of his determination, but there was a measured politeness in his manner which fell chillingly upon the warm heart of Arthur. The hearty joke and cheerful approving laugh, had been banished from the family circle during the past week. The sweet glad eyes of Lucy had not wandered around with a glance of merry meaning. Mrs. Griswold was an affectionate mother, but she was not remarkably tenacious of any views of her own; she thought just as her husband did, and, therefore, sighed profoundly over Arthur's strange whim.
"Lucy," said Arthur, in a low tone, "have there never been times with you, when you felt as if there was an immensity hanging upon a present moment felt as if there was coming a change, a turning of your destiny?"
"I have felt so," replied the young girl; "and changes have come, but perhaps no outward changes. External changes are nothing, compared to the turning of the soul's destiny. Arthur, dear Arthur!" and she clasped his hand with fervent feeling, "you are going from home now you will have no mother and sister to bless you, and awaken your gentlest sympathies. Would to Heaven that my prayers could change you!"
"Change me!" said Arthur, almost starting; "how, Lucy?"
"You are entering life as millions do, full of ambitious dreams, eager to bind the wreath of fame around your brow. It seems a glorious thing to you, to be called great. But your aims are far below the dignity of an immortal soul. Be great, Arthur, whether anyone knows it or not. Rule your own spirit with the stern, steady rod of truth. Shrink from no ordeal which may develop and try the strength within you. Turn every incident of your life, to some good purpose. Believe and trust that God's Providence will guide you better than you can lead yourself. Let your fellow-creatures have cause to bless you, whether their praises meet your ear or not."
"God grant I may become all you ask, my own Lucy!" Arthur answered solemnly. "If I do not realize your hopes, it will be no fault of yours. You have been a protecting angel to me; you have been always ready to bear with and comfort me, when others blamed. You have been the only human being who ever sympathized with me fully and frankly."
"And what have you been to me, Arthur?" asked his sister affectionately. "You have always been a lion in my cause. I have often thought you took my part, when I deserved a scolding."
"Then we arrive at the very evident fact, that we are two wonderfully excellent beings!" said Arthur, laughing.
"Exactly so!" was the smiling reply.
Hour after hour glided by unnoticed, for Arthur and Lucy were too deeply engaged in serious conversation to heed the flight of time. They dwelt upon their childish days, and then turned to the deeper and stronger impulses which had been developed, as each succeeding year rolled on. A half-regretful tenderness was in their hearts, as they realized that they were indeed entering life though its cares and strong responsibilities would sink heavily upon their spirits there could be no shrinking back to their childhood. For every wrong action committed, they themselves were responsible; they could not with light-hearted carelessness throw the blame upon older people, or pass it idly by. Though the brother and sister were both naturally mirthful, and perhaps a little wild still there was a vein of deep thoughtfulness in the character of each, which often called upon them to pause and reflect.
The right influence of that loving sister was felt; it was with holier emotions awakened in his bosom with pure and high resolves that the young votary at the shrine of Fame parted from his sister that night.
"Farewell, Lucy," said Arthur, turning to his sister the next morning, after he had bidden his parents adieu. He clasped her hand tightly in his own, and spoke in a choked voice. She cast herself in his arms, and the sobs which she had tried hard to repress under the stern eye of her father, burst forth unchecked. "Weep for me when you are alone, darling, if you will, and pray for me," whispered Arthur. "I will yet become all you desire. Father shall yet know that I do not act from the idle whim of an weak boy. Lucy, dear Lucy! tell me once more that you bless me before I go forth into the world." The young man had commanded himself by a strong effort; but now he bowed his head upon his sister's shoulder, and wept like a child. An expression radiant with affection flitted briefly over Lucy's fair young face, as she replied, in a low tone of tremulous sweetness, "I do bless you, Arthur. I shall always. Oh, may our Father above smile upon you!"
It was with a strong heart and a determined will, that Arthur Griswold engaged in his studies. But the ways of Providence are not like our ways. Often our most arduous efforts bring but little to pass; yet we should not repine, for, if we have done all we can do that little is just as much as it should be. Not so felt the young student. Five years had passed over his head since he had begun to walk in the path marked out by himself. Where were his dreams of ambition his visions of grandeur? Where were the thoughts he had sent out into the world, hoping to make deep echoes in a thousand hearts? They had gone forth indeed, the cherished idols of his imagination but where was the sympathy he was to meet with? He found it not; and not until he saw how heedlessly his poems were passed by, did he realize the value he had placed, almost unknowingly to himself, upon the smiles of a thoughtless multitude.
He had entered into no profession; and, as each slow year had traveled on, the young poet had hoped with all the ardor of an enthusiastic spirit, that fickle fortune would yet reward his literary efforts. His habits had greatly changed since he had left the counting-room for the study; his time was not methodically employed; he was often sad and depressed. And yet he raised his heart upward, and endeavored to do well. Apparently he had not improved, but in reality he had been learning good but painful lessons. Bitter trial had taught him to look upon the world, upon men and things, as they are not as they seem. Lucy was still the same fond sister; his mother's smile was kind but tremulous, for she thought her poor Arthur was sadly changed. His father never reproached him; he was sometimes pleasant and cheerful with him, but it was not the frank cheerfulness of other days. The warm, hearty grasp of the hand, the cheering words from a father's lips, "Well done, my boy!" were no longer his own.
Since the day he left home for college, his father's house had never been his permanent residence. One soft evening at twilight, Arthur sat alone in his chamber, watching the faint stars as they came out in the pale blue sky. A light, caressing breeze lifted the hair from his white forehead, as he leaned back against the window-frame, in deep musing. His thoughts were somewhat sad, and yet there was more strength in his heart than he had known in a long time. He had that afternoon been in the society of his sister, and the influence of her gentle soul was still upon him. She had married, but old affections were as dear to her as ever. She had strongly urged upon him the necessity of an active and useful life and he was glad to hear her speak thus, for his own views had been changing fast, of late.
It was five long years before the dazzling bubble of worldly fame had lost to him its hues of radiant light. With something like a smile playing over his lip, he mused, half aloud, "I have indeed been pursuing a bubble even if I had obtained it, it would have burst in my grasp." He leaned his head upon his hand, and over his thoughtful features a deeper shade fell. He cast a retrospective eye upon the past it seemed almost a waste; with a sigh, he murmured, "I fear I have been self-deceived I have not looked my motives in the face. I have endeavored to delude myself with the idea that I was trying to benefit others by the outpourings of my brain, when at the bottom I most deeply yearned for applause it was that which my selfish soul craved. Such dreams shall no longer be mine;" and, bowing his head, the young poet struggled in silence with the feelings within.
About an hour after, he arose from his seat by the window, and lighting a lamp, he placed himself at his writing-table and opened his long-neglected journal. Before writing, he breathed forth a deep and silent prayer. His eyes were upraised, full of light, and the rich glow of beautiful thought upon his countenance was tempered by the quiet repose on his closed lips. Taking a pen, he wrote as follows:
"June 20th. What satisfaction in a dying hour, can be as substantial as the remembrance of a well-spent life? We must combat with ourselves, and gently aid others. What is life's lesson? To learn what we are and then to conquer. Oh, God! give me a stern spirit to go forth unflinchingly, developing the life you have given me. Aid me to trample on the clinging reveries which entwine around my heart; they come almost imperceptibly, and, like links in a chain, they will not be broken and parted. Banish from my soul the enervating weight of idle, brooding feeling. Grant that I may be frank with my own heart! May it at last grow pure beneath your searching eyes. Is not your good providence over me now, guiding every minute action and thought? may I realize it may I trust in You! Guard me from wandering from your fold. Give me an earnest love of usefulness, a willingness to labor in anything which duty bids. Fill me with humility and heavenly charity may I exert a pure influence on this world! Would that my spirit was strong as a martyr's, and as meek as a babe's!"
After thus briefly noting down his thoughts, Arthur sought the repose he needed after the excitement of deep and strong emotion. He was strengthened by what he had written; for to bring out good thoughts in a tangible form, both soothes and strengthens.
Ten years more rolled by, and our poet had become a lawyer of eminence. He had entered the profession and he had labored faithfully; he was, what is rarely seen a lawyer at once successful, upright, and useful.
One cheerful day in autumn, a multitude was hastening to the court-house in our city, to listen to a case which had excited much interest. Justice was on one side wealth on the other. Griswold had given his services, where he could hope for but little reward, to the weaker party. With generous uprightness, he had turned aside from the tempting offers by which the rich man had sought to gain his efforts in a bad cause. His reply was, "I am governed in my actions by truth, not money, sir."
But if there was not a spirit of truthfulness on the side opposed to Griswold, there was talent and eloquence, and over the multitude, they had their sway. The deep hum of applause that arose as Arthur's opponent seated himself with a somewhat triumphant air, caused a shadow to fall upon his noble heart. He slowly arose, with a dignified manner, and a calm strength expressed in his countenance. At first his words were somewhat measured, but as he proceeded he gathered might and force; his large, dark eye kindled brilliantly, and his usually pale cheek glowed, as he poured forth with burning eloquence, the words of truth and justice. There was a living power in all he uttered, which caused that breathless assembly to lean forward, and listen with a thrill. Truth is always powerful; if eloquently supported, it is irresistible with those who have one spark of honesty in their nature to be appealed to; and, thank Heaven! there is much honesty in this wicked world of ours.
The fascinating spell of the former speaker was broken; the plain, cutting words of sober truth had torn away the veil arranged with such skillful art. Suffice it to say, that Griswold gained the case. He retired almost exhausted, and, amid many enthusiastic congratulations, he hurried on to leave the crowded court-room.
"Arthur!" exclaimed a familiar voice, when he had nearly reached the door. He turned, and a white-haired old man grasped his hand and wrung it, while big tears of joy rolled down his furrowed cheeks. "My noble boy! God bless you!" were the choking words which burst from his father's lips.
"Father!" and the heart of the son swelled with more blessed feelings at those few words, than he had known in years. Placing his father's arm upon his own, they left the court-house; and they both felt that their cup of joy was full. Lucy and her husband met them upon the pavement. Arthur sprang forward, and clasping the extended hand of his sister, he looked upon her uplifted countenance with a smile; and yet it was mingled with a strange emotion. She glanced a moment upon her father's happy face, then raising her eyes again to Arthur's, she burst into tears of joy.
"Dear Arthur!" was all she could say.
The happy party bent their steps towards old Mr. Griswold's family mansion, and there Arthur met a joyful mother's smile.
"Well, my boy!" exclaimed Mr. Griswold, giving his son a hearty slap upon his shoulder, "I have learned one lesson today, and that is, that you were never cut out for a merchant!"
Tell of Their Virtues
While we are allied to poor humanity, do not tell of their faults, but of their virtues let us speak. It is one of the most common occupations of women when they sit down together, to discuss the characters of others. Some, in refined and elegant language, brand the worthy and deserving with base designs and false actions. Others, in the coarse language of the gutter, consign their victims to shameful places. Both classes of lady-slanderers, dip in the same gall, with only this difference; that one uses a fine camel's hair pencil the other, a shoe-brush.
How often in forming a new and apparently desirable acquaintance, when casually speaking of someone outside, have we been pained by thoughtless and vituperous remarks!" Very true, but did you know she was so bad a housekeeper?" or "Were you aware that she has a temper which she cannot command? or a husband whom she tries to manage?"
Now it is an evident fact that all have their faults and is it not equally certain, that all have their virtues? A certain person may not be an industrious worker but feel the influence of her sunny smile!
See how the cold warm in her presence, and the sad forget their sadness. Another may have a quick temper, and say bitter things; but when the pillow is crumpled by a feverish head, and feverish hands are tossed outside the coverlet, behold her, forgetting self in her eagerness to alleviate suffering; making cooling drinks for the parched lips, and softening the dread visitant by her gentleness. Another lacks in something else, but she ministers to the poor, and the needy call her their friend. Seek the angel side, dear reader it is always to be found.
No matter how poor, how wretched, nor apparently forsaken of good there is an angel side. The carrion crow scents the vile carcass afar off, and with the instinct of his nature seeks and makes it a part of himself. So we, when we seek out the deformities of our neighbors to prey upon them, imbibe the contagion of those faults and render ourselves less pure. We should set our faces as a flint against scandal we should but do we? If we listen with pain, is it not also in silence? And if we are silent, do we not virtually seal our approbation to what is said? Could we not, if so minded, in that firm and quiet and yet ladylike manner which cannot offend, decline to hear gossip of our neighbors? Instead of that, is it not too often a sweet morsel? Do we not join our censure? Do we not hunt in the corners of memory, to bring to light some trifling corroboration of the affair? And then, worse than all, do we not too often consent to be the petty second or third hand retailer of the sweet and scandalous item?
Thus confidence is destroyed, and self-respect weakened. We cannot feel in the presence of that friend, whose enemy we have become inasmuch as we did not defend her. She may have charming qualities, but the shadow of slander has fallen upon them. We are on the alert to interpret every action by the language of the foe whose bitter words have poisoned the fount of confidence. We have allowed ourselves to look at flaws, and consequently we search for them. What is a name on the church books, or a good standing in society in the eyes of God if we have not the law of kindness in our tongues? Nothing, and less than nothing. The divine spirit by which we are taught that charity covers a multitude of sins, can see in all our pretensions, only the tinkling brass and sounding silver, and He will judge us accordingly.
Oh! that womanly spirit that always finds something sweet to say of others how seldom do we meet with it! And yet it is here, bubbling somewhere from some fresh hearts like a perennial spring. Almost too good and gentle for a viperous world, but ripening and perfecting for Heaven. Let us imitate such spirits; let us emulate them, and strive to see which of us can vie most successfully with each other, as we speak of our friends and neighbors, in telling of their virtues!
New Aims in Life
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
"But there is within the human mind an active and powerful principle, which awakens the dormant faculties, lights up the brain, and launches forth to gather up from the wide realm of nature, the very essence of what every human bosom pines for, when it aspires to a higher state of existence, and feels the insufficiency of this world." Mrs. Ellis.
"Louisa, are you almost ready?" asked a young lady, raising her eyes from the book she was reading, and glancing at her friend, who stood before the mirror of her dressing-room, preparing to go out.
"I shall not be long, Catharine," was the reply, made in a sweet voice. "I'm afraid that book doesn't interest you much, for you look at me, yawn, then read a few moments, in regular rotation."
"Do I? Well, I don't know what I do, and what is worse, I can't find out what I want to do. I believe I have got that fashionable illness, boredom; so I have called this afternoon to take you out walking in Broadway with me. That is the proper and fashionable remedy, is it not?"
"I believe it is in vogue; as for its propriety I leave that to your own judgment."
"O, I don't care for punctilious proprieties! if I can be amused by watching a thousand different countenances, and thus killing time, it is all I ask."
"It may be all you ask, but is it all you ought to ask?"
"No moralizing, if you please; I came that you might impart to me a little of your gaiety. So don't be serious, and make me feel more doleful than I do at present."
"Have you any real cause for unhappiness, Kate?" Louisa inquired, turning round and scanning closely the countenance of her friend.
"No cause, except what everyone has, or might have. Everybody thinks I am very happy; I have kind parents, wealth, and liberty to spend my time as I may choose. I have you, dear Louisa! yet my soul asks for something more. Will its cravings ever be satisfied?
Louisa did not answer, but an expression of sadness went over her countenance. It was the first time Catharine Bloomer had ever, in the slightest degree, given vent to her real feelings. The friends had generally been mirthful and cheerful in each other's society. Now the face of Catharine was touched with melancholy; her fine, proud features, were softened and subdued. She was silent for a while, then arousing herself, she rose and approached her friend, saying, in her usual careless tone, "Louisa, I really believe you are a little vain; I wonder how long you have stood before that glass, pulling your bonnet this way and that, to make it set straight and look pretty."
"A singular kind of vanity," Louisa retorted, with a smile, "for I was scarcely conscious of what I was doing."
"You want me to believe that speech, do you, you vain little gipsy?" said Catherine, touching her chin, with an air of playful fondness.
"Yes, I want you to believe it, and I further desire you to retract your words, or we will surely have a duel."
"Suppose we have a duel, then, by way of variety. Here is my challenge;" and, stooping down, Catharine picked up a tiny satin slipper that was peeping from beneath the bureau.
"I accept your pledge, most noble knight," replied Louisa, seizing her slipper. After flinging it in a corner, she threw her arm around her companion's waist, and said, as she led her from the room, "Now I am ready to go out in Broadway, and fight as befits a valiant lady chevalier. But, Catharine, to be serious do you think I am vain?" For a moment the young girl addressed was silent, her lips closed firmly in thought. Presently she answered, with a frank decision,
"Yes, I think you are." After a moment's pause, she added, "You know we entered into a compact to tell each other our faults, when we noticed them."
"Yes," was the brief and somewhat cold reply. They gained the street, and walked about half a block without speaking. Louisa was slightly hurt, and the deep glow of mortification was upon her cheek. But she was an affectionate girl, and loved her friend too well to feel more than a momentary coldness towards her. She broke their unusual silence by pressing Catharine's hand, and saying, "Thank you! you are a true friend. Whenever you think I betray any vanity please tell me of it. I am sure I desire to get rid of all my faults."
"I know it. I would be a different person, perhaps, if my desires were as active as yours always are. I see my own faults and the faults of my neighbors. But, in regard to myself, I am indolent careless. Just give me enjoyment, and I suppose I am too indifferent whether my faults or virtues are called into action. You never tell me of my faults, Louisa, except the single one of sarcasm; I am sure I have a thousand more than you."
"Well, I think it is very hard to listen with patience and right feeling, to one who is pointing out our faults. Do you know, Kate, I was almost indignant, when I found you were in earnest about my vanity. It is so very agreeable to have your friends think you are just perfect."
"Do you think so?" laughed her friend, shaking her head a little.
"Don't you? Is praise and admiration disagreeable to you? I thought you were proud of your gifts. I have seen your eye flash with pleasure, when your mental superiority was felt and acknowledged."
Catharine answered by an impatient "pshaw!" and thus the subject was dismissed. By this time they had reached the house of an acquaintance. Louisa paused, and, laying her hand upon Catharine's arm, said, "Suppose we give Mrs. Belcher a call? she would not like it, if she knew we passed her house without stopping in."
"Just as you please," returned Catharine; "I am perfectly indifferent."
"You are in a strange mood just now," Louisa replied, as they ascended the steps; "not very complimentary to Mrs. Belcher, I must say."
"I tell the truth even if I am not very complimentary. The society of Mrs. Belcher never adds one whit to my enjoyment; why should I be otherwise than indifferent? I wish society was so organized that we would never be obliged to say all sorts of pretty things about the weather, fashions, etc., to people for whom we don't care a fig. It almost makes me sick to rattle on an hour or two, about things in which I have no interest whatever. I would rather be alone, fifty times, than with such people. I wish there was a little more independence in the world."
"Quiet, my dear!" said Louisa, touching the shoulder of her friend, on hearing a hand on the knob of the door. They were speedily ushered into the elegantly furnished parlors of Mrs. Belcher, where they were left alone for a time.
"I feel very fluent this morning," playfully remarked Catharine, throwing herself on the sofa; "I presume you have observed it, friend Louisa. I could mount this sofa, at the shortest notice, and deliver an extempore lecture on the evils of visiting uncongenial acquaintances."
"Kate, you are too bad!" returned Louisa, trying to suppress a smile. "I have a good long lecture to give you, and you shall have it, depend upon it. Now promise me you will be a good girl during this call, and not act as if you were perfectly unconscious of all that is said. Be a good listener. I don't ask you to talk much. You appear like a different person when you care to please, and when you do not."
"I promise anything to please you. But, then, afterwards I shall argue with you, until you come over to my side of the question, and "
"How?" interrupted Louisa.
"Why, this is my doctrine. I don't approve of spending hours in visiting and receiving people who are the very opposites of ourselves, in tastes, dispositions, and everything else which makes social fellowship delightful. Why can't we cut short such acquaintance, and mingle only with those more congenial? It would be better for us. I hate this vapid, fashionable society."
"You know we should not regard our own happiness entirely, in the company we go in."
"Yes, yes, I know that. But we confer very little happiness where we are not happy ourselves."
"It is selfishness which prevents us from being glad that we can give pleasure to anyone. You know, if you should exert yourself, you could impart a great deal of pleasure even to the class of people you speak of. Don't yield to what you consider silly in them, only so far as you may, by this means, turn them your own way, to more sensible things."
"I can't take the trouble, Louise; it is out of the question. I can't stem the torrent, when it is so little worth stemming. So I fall in with it or pass by."
The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Belcher. "Ah! ladies, good morning! how are you?" she exclaimed, tripping lightly into the room. "Very happy to see you. Charming day, is it not? I intend to go out shopping before this fine weather is over. Can't you take off your hats, young ladies, and stay to dinner?"
The visitors politely excused themselves. "O, Stewart has got some of the sweetest muslins!" the lady went on to say. "They are splendid for dresses. Have you seen them?"
"No, we have not," answered both the girls.
"Well, I can't find out whether straw hats or silk are going to be worn most. Do you know, Miss Bloomer?"
"I really do not," the young lady replied, looking intently in Mrs. Belcher's face, and speaking in a slow, puzzled tone, as if her ignorance was cause for serious and thoughtful anxiety. Louisa bit her lip, to keep from smiling. Mrs. Belcher then turned to Miss Hollman, and said, "My milliner says straw will be worn most, but I don't like to run the risk of making a purchase on her assurance alone. What do you think?"
"I can't tell, I am sure. I have not thought much about it." There was a short pause, which Catharine broke by saying, "Shall you leave the city early this summer, Mrs. Belcher?"
"I shall leave in July for the Springs. I would surely die if I were not there. I wonder who will lead the fashions this year? I would like to know."
"Perhaps you will, Mrs. Belcher," suggested Catharine, gravely.
"O, no!" replied the lady, with a pleased smile. "I suppose I must be satisfied with having been the belle before I was married."
"Ah! were you ever the belle?" questioned Catharine in real astonishment, for she had not imagined the uninteresting face of the lady before her had ever belonged to a bright particular star.
"When such things are past, young ladies, we feel free to talk about them. Yes, I was the belle at Saratoga for several summers." No reply was made to this. Each of the visitors had intuitively decided in her own mind that Mrs. Belcher had only been the belle in her own dreams. After a little more conversation, the young ladies arose to go. "Well," said Mrs. Belcher, as they stood in the hall, "don't you incline to think that straw hats will be worn most?"
"It is highly probable they may," returned Louisa.
"Wouldn't you think they would, Miss Bloomer?"
"I think they will be worn a great deal."
"Then you would advise me to get straw, instead of silk?"
"That is my advice," was the reply of Catharine, who thus hoped to bring the tantalizing discussion to an end.
"And what do you say?" the fashionable lady then appealed to Louisa.
"I say, be guided entirely by your own taste, Mrs. Belcher. I would rather not advise, in such matters."
"O, I never blame anybody that advises me, let the consequences be what they may! So tell me your candid opinion."
"I must be excused. You will excuse me, won't you? We must go now; good-day!"
The damsels hurried off, as if they expected every moment to be called back, in order to sit in judgment upon new bonnets.
"I'm positively nervous!" said Catharine, hurrying along the street with quick, impatient steps. "Do tell me, Louisa, what earthly good that call has done? I am sure you must agree with me now, that there is no use in visiting such harassing people. I feel really fidgety after it. This is the last time I go there."
"I don't think Mrs. Belcher would benefit anyone very much, I must confess," replied Louisa. "And I will further say, I don't think you would either, just now."
"Indeed, Miss Hollman! I'm very grateful."
"But Mrs. Belcher is an exception to the generality of people," Louisa said, after a brief smile at her friend's remark. "She rattles on at such a desperate rate, you can't say much; and whatever subject you may introduce, she dismisses it with the utmost nonchalance, if it does not suit her taste, and spins her own top again. She seems to possess a mind in which nothing will sink; you can only strike the surface, which sends everything back with a rebound. Yet we know there are germs of goodness in her, as well as in other people."
"Of course, I suppose so," was Catharine's half-indifferent reply.
"Still," pursued Louisa, "it must be our duty to keep within the sphere of the best people, unless we are sure we may not be influenced by others more than we can influence. I am perfectly willing, and even desirous, to lessen an intimacy with Mrs. Belcher, as far as we may without exciting unpleasant feelings in her."
"Nonsense!" returned Catharine; "if won't hurt her, if her indignation is a little roused. Her sphere, as you call it, and mine don't agree, I can assure you. There are some people I always leave in a somewhat fretted state of mind, even if nothing has occurred but what appeared perfectly pleasant. The desires of my heart don't harmonize with every one. I have often only had one good look at a person, and my feelings have gone forth in glad friendship, which has grown a thousand times warmer on acquaintance. Again, I have met a person daily for months, and have felt little more interest than if an article of furniture had fallen in my way. I act upon such impulses."
"That is not to say you act rightly. But wait until we get home, free from the noise of these rattling carriages; then we will have a talk!" They quickened their pace.
"Catharine," said Louisa, seriously, when they were again seated in her dressing-room, "you told me of a fault this morning; now let me tell you of one; and listen to me without any bursts of impatience. You are very gifted, and you know it. You are brilliant; you joyfully pour out the riches of your mind, where you know you will be appreciated and admired. But those who cannot sympathize with you mentally, you treat with an indifference which, in my opinion, springs from selfishness."
Catharine's proud lip curved at this charge. The impetuous blood rushed over her face, and retreated again, before she made her calm reply: "Why do you think it springs from selfishness?"
"Because you only try to please where you will win admiration from a superior mind. You never try to make a feeble heart lighter and stronger by your gifts."
"It is only a noble intellect that can arouse my slumbering powers a weak one cannot bid its treasures flow forth. Perhaps you are right; perhaps I am selfish. I know I am. I am a strange being, I suppose;" and Catharine's voice grew sad. "I sometimes feel as if my powers are bound in as if I am nothing. It is only when I touch a chord in some gifted heart which vibrates with a strangely-joyful thrill and tells me what I am full of stifled, unsatisfied aspirations of glorious thoughts, which seldom, too seldom, meet an echo then I learn what I might have been if placed in a congenial atmosphere, if allowed to commune with kindred and higher spirits. The society I go in chokes up both heart and mind; what wonder is it that I am as I am? Day after day this ceaseless monotony; when I taste the cup of mental joy, it is only to regret afterwards that it was dashed away. My God! must it always be thus?"
The young enthusiast paused; the glow of her cheek had deepened, and, as she raised her eyes upward filled with the light of strong feeling, a hot tear fell. Both were silent for a time, with upspringing thoughts busy at their hearts.
Catharine went on more calmly: "I have sometimes wished that I was a gentle being, formed to soften and bless, to be beloved by everyone. I yearn for sympathy to be appreciated I ask for one deep draught of the joy of Heaven. And then again a flood of bitterness, such passionate bitterness, falls upon my soul. Intellect and feeling! Yes, they are called gifts, blessed gifts what have they made life to me? What is life but a web of pain and care and crushed feelings a bright spot so rarely seen? Am I as happy "
The young girl stopped without finishing the sentence, and, leaning forward, burst into a flood of passionate tears. The deep flush that had crossed her listener's cheek while she was speaking, the tears that sprung to her eye, and the quiver of the lip she tried to render firm, showed that the words of Catharine had stirred up in her bosom feelings which once might have responded more quickly. Seating herself on a low stool at her friend's feet, she buried her face in her hands a moment; then raising it, she pleaded in her low, earnest voice:
"Catharine, O, Catharine, for your own sake, don't feel so. You do not look upon life as you should. You see all through your own perverted vision; you are morbid in your feeling. You garner up a world of intense bitterness and spend it upon your own aching heart. I have felt so, and sometimes, even now, that some fountain of bitter waters is unsealed, and I see only darkness around me, mirrored from the darkness within. But we must let our sympathies go out to others, and for others; we must not bring all to ourselves. We must look upward for the light upward forever; and the radiance of Heaven will not fail to be poured upon our spirits. With hearts made strong by pure thoughts and sweet affections we will go forward cheerfully and steadfastly. We must not ask, how much of joy will be poured into my bosom? But rather, how much of God's love may my heart shed abroad among my fellow-creatures? Whose sorrows may I soothe whose joys may I increase? We should bless God for his gifts, and use them not selfishly, but gratefully for all."
When Louisa ceased speaking, Catharine clasped her hand tightly in her own, and kissing her cheek, said, in a choked voice, "Bless you, my friend! I will try to look upward."
How sweetly those words fell upon the ear of Louisa! with what a thrill of mingled joy and sadness she heard Catharine's softened sobs, and felt the frequent pressure of her hand in token of gratitude for her gentle consolation! A vein of holier thought and feeling was touched in Catharine's heart; her bitter emotions she wept away; and from the altar of her inmost soul there went up a prayer that she might no longer waste and turn into a curse, what the Father of Light had given her so bountifully in his infinite love.
"What have I ever done to make one human being better or happier?" she asked sadly.
"You have made me happier, dearest," replied her companion, a tear trembling in her eye and a smile breaking gently over her features. "Your better nature is active now. You will yet be all you are capable of being; your influence will be exerted in the best and noblest of all charities the awakening of pure thoughts in slumbering hearts the strengthening of faint resolves."
"Ah! Louisa," said Catharine; and her subdued face suddenly lit up with an expression of flashing hope and joy. A smile, with a volume of bright, unspoken meaning in it, parted her lips. "If I could but stir up in other hearts the feelings you have stirred in mine if in other hearts I could but aid to stop the current of ungrateful bitterness, and wake the sweet emotions that flow from higher and purer fountains if the influence of my soul could go forth as yours does, only to strengthen the tie that may bind us to Heaven! But I am too hopeful my own heart is yet an untamed wilderness. O! will it ever be otherwise? I tremble for my weakness."
"God is our refuge and strength," replied the gentle Louisa.
By this time, the shadows of twilight had fallen, a haziness had breathed over the few golden clouds which lingered in the west, and the blue sky had taken a more dreamy tint. The young girls parted affectionately, with an assurance of soon meeting again.
"Ah! my dearest, how do you do?" cried Miss Hollman, flinging open the door of her friend's room, and giving her a hearty greeting, a few weeks after the foregoing conversation. "Well, it looks oddly enough to see you busy over anything but a book or something of the kind. What little girl is this?" she lowered her voice, and looked at a pretty child who was deeply engaged in sewing on a dress for her own little person.
"My protιgι," replied Catharine, smiling; "she is the daughter of our washerwoman, and I am sewing for her. Look at my forefinger! The way it is scratched pronounces me a creditable seamstress, I'm sure."
"Very!" said Louisa, laughing; "but tell me of this sudden strange activity. You used to say you never would trouble yourself with sewing, unless you were obliged to do it."
"I know it," returned the new seamstress, shaking her head. "But I have made better resolves, and I intend to follow them out. I shall conquer my indolent habits. You set me to thinking the other day, Louisa, and I have made up my mind to live a life of usefulness. I may not pass out of the world without having performed my part. By employing my hands, and calling into exercise my best feelings I hope to grow better and happier. You know, with me a thing is no sooner decided upon, than it is done, if possible. What do you think I am going to do now?"
"Educate that child?"
"Yes, don't you approve the plan? She is a bright, affectionate little thing, and her mother is poor, to destitution."
Louisa threw her arm around Catharine's neck, and gave her a heart-warm kiss. "Don't give up, my dear girl!" she said earnestly.
"O, no! I am happier now than I have been in a long time. Everything is sunny to me now. Rainbow tints touch all. A thousand blessings are showered upon me; how could I speak so bitterly, when I have kind, affectionate friends? How much more I shall try to do for their happiness than I have done! If we would only do all the good which Providence throws in our way, how many beautiful spots we could look back to in after years!
"But I am an enthusiast, Louisa; all comes to me so glowingly. My aims in life are fixed now, I hope. I have triumphed, but I have had many prayers and tears and struggles since I last saw you. It has been a hard thing for me to resolve to yield up my daydreams, my idle feelings, my talents, my all to better purposes than my own amusement. But now now it seems a sweeter thing to pour out my sympathies, to make others joyful; it is a blessed power. We do not realize what we are, the pure happiness we are capable of, until we feel thus. It seems so delightful to me to be full of plans, eager and interested, like other people. I am as full of romance as ever, but I shall look on life, and weave around real incidents the charmed spell. I shall no longer fly from the common-place, but I will breathe over it the poetry of kindly affections. I shall not selfishly avoid the society of all but a chosen few. I shall observe and study; I shall do anything everything to wake up my mind from its lethargic dreams. I will keep a journal to watch over my wayward heart, and note down my resolutions and short-comings. It shall benefit me by being my confessional, and it shall uplift me with its own unequaled pure romance. Now haven't I as great a tact for creating sources of happiness as I had, a few weeks ago the talent for discovering miseries! I shall yet be a happy creature, and a useful one, too, I hope."
Louisa listened to this gush of happy feeling, with a smile beaming from her blue eyes, and softening every feature. Never had the dear voice of Catharine sounded so sweetly musical. Her own experience, though brief, told her that clouds followed the joyful sunshine; but it also told her that those clouds would break again, and from the bosom of the heavens, a flood of yet purer light would descend; she sought not to dampen the ardor of her friend by reminding her of the changeful states of mind to which we are subject, the hours of stern conflict with feelings and motives which we thought we had abandoned entirely. She had seldom seen Catharine's strength of character thoroughly roused, but it had sometimes flashed forth with a light that assured her it could burn brightly and steadily, if principle, undying principle, were but there to feed the flame.
Casting aside these reflections for the present, she yielded with her friend to that delicious freshness and childhood of the heart which all must have felt for a time at least. She rummaged among the books on education lying on Catharine's table, sometimes laughing and jesting about her new dignities, and again entering into a serious discussion. At last, to little Susy's great delight, she took her dress from her, and, occupying her vacated seat, began to sew with a charming energy. When the protιgι had Catharine's permission to disappear, Louisa said, gayly, "Why, Kate, we are as happy as queens here, in our capacity of seamstresses. So you are really going to give that little bright-eyed damsel a first-rate education; going to take the whole charge of her! Is she very smart?"
"Yes, and generous and sweet-tempered. I shall not waste any accomplishments on her; but I shall cultivate and strengthen her mind, and see that the best affections of her nature are called forth, as a matter of the first importance."
"O! you will make a charming teacher; you talk like a book. Who would have thought a wild, careless girl like you, could speak so judiciously on such a subject?"
"Ah! indeed," said Catharine, with her hearty, mischievous laugh, "these wild girls don't get the credit of even being in their sober senses. I suppose my acquaintances will think I am loony, as the Scotch say. Well, be it so! I can be laughed at but I can't be moved."
"We would be in a pretty bad plight, if we depended on the opinions of our friends entirely, instead of our own convictions of duty," remarked Louisa.
As weeks rolled on, Catharine was fretted, worried, and tormented with little Susy. Hasty words sometimes sprang to her lip, but the strong, upright will came off conqueror in the end. She went into society with a different spirit.
"Such a delightful time we will have tonight!" were the eager words that escaped her lips, as she and Louisa were tripping along Broadway one afternoon; "we must not stay long at Mrs. Belcher's; I hope she is not very sick."
"O! I hope not," answered Louisa; then taking up the subject that most occupied her thoughts, she exclaimed, in a lively tone, "I shall have just the kind of company you like, the talent and genius, and you shall be the star. I won't have to coax you to be bright tonight, will I?"
"Oh, be quiet" said Catharine, with a laugh and a blush; "I don't like flattery. But here we are; now we must not stay long."
"No, indeed! a quarter of an hour, at most. I have lots of business at home; but, as Mrs. Belcher expressed a wish that we should call on her, I think we ought."
"Certainly, I think so too." In a few moments, the young girls stood by the sick-bed of the fashionable lady. Her face was pale and thin, and wore the sad, thoughtful look sickness and sorrow can give to the merriest or most inexpressive countenance.
"Ah! I am glad you have come," she said, extending her little white hands to the girls as they approached her; she smiled kindly as each, in turn, bent over her and kissed her. "Bring your chairs here close by me. I am so lonely. All my friends just send to the door to inquire after me. I knew you would not be careful to avoid a sick-bed, so I sent for you. The greater part of the time I only see my nurse."
"We had not heard of your sickness before," said Louisa.
"I thought not."
"Is your husband out of the city?" Catharine inquired thoughtlessly; she had heard some vague rumors about Mr. Belcher, but had forgotten them.
"No, O, no!" was the brief reply; but in that tone, and in the expression that crossed Mrs. Belcher's face, the young girls read volumes. Her husband was a gambler, and his wife had learned it but three weeks before, when he started suddenly for the South. Her kindhearted visitors stayed longer than they had intended; they felt that they had lightened the tedious hours of the invalid.
"We will come and see you often," said Catharine, tenderly.
"As often as you want us," Louisa added, with a sweet, sad smile.
"I can't bear to have you leave me, dear girls," Mrs. Belcher said, in a half-pleading voice. "I don't expect to sleep all this weary night. If one of you could only stay with me? But I would not ask it."
"I wish we could," answered Louisa. Catharine was silent; her heart throbbed with sudden disappointment. She thought of the pleasure she had been anticipating. It came before her with glowing vividness, arrayed in the sunny warmth with which imagination prepares us for expected enjoyment. And then she thought of the kindness by which she might soothe the neglected wife. There was a powerful struggle in her bosom the good triumphed. Speaking to Mrs. Belcher in rather a low tone, she said, "Louisa expects a number of friends at her house tonight. She of course cannot be excused, but I will stay with you, and read to you, or amuse you the best I can."
"Thank you!" exclaimed Mrs. Belcher, gratefully; "but perhaps you intended to spend the evening at Louisa's?"
"I am going to spend it here now, at all events," Catharine replied, with her own peculiarly decided willful smile.
"I wish it was convenient for me to stay, too," said Louisa, as she pressed Mrs. Belcher's hand at parting. Then turning to her friend, who had approached the window, she said, in an undertone, "Ah! Catharine, my pleasure is gone, too. I shall think of you all the time; so lonely, and I will be where all is gaiety." The pitying drops actually started in Louisa's eyes.
"March home as fast as you can go," said Catharine, in the same low voice, leading her companion to the door, and dashing away a tear that came in spite of a smile.
"You unman me, you charming little baby. Just look here!" and she pointed to a crystal drop that was rolling with "solemn gait and slow" down her cheek. Louisa disappeared, with a mischievous light chasing away her pathetic tears. Catharine moved around the invalid's bed; and deep, gentle affections came clustering about her heart. She felt happy in the consciousness of having done right; her half-pensive smile, and tender voice, was a balm to the wounded spirit of the sufferer. She led the conversation along gently to subjects most adapted to give consolation to the sick and sorrowful.
Gradually and slowly, she opened in Mrs. Belcher's heart the good and tender feelings, so long hidden under the smile of prosperity, on the callousness of worldly cares and pleasures. With the coloring of her own sun-bright imagination, she spoke of life and its true aims. She cheered her desolate bosom with uplifting hopes and thoughts. And the weary sick one listened earnestly, as Catharine touched a chord in her bosom no kind being had ever sought to touch before; she felt that she had friends here, and a friend in our Father in Heaven. As more hallowed sympathies were gently offered a more soothing sadness breathed over her spirit. Tears coursed slowly and silently down her pale face. With a gush of feeling, Catharine leaned forward, and folded her arms around her slender form, as if that might protect her from sorrow. She pressed her lips upon her forehead, and her own warm, kind tears fell, and mingled with those of the invalid.
The hope she had expressed to Louisa, had come to pass. In that lonely bosom, she had awakened to a sad yet sweet music the string that could vibrate to hopes higher than those of earth. When morning bathed all in its welcome light, did that young girl regret her act of self-denial? Let those who have had a similar experience answer. To change the whole current of our thoughts and feelings is not the work of a moment, yet there must be a time when that work must commence. With Mrs. Belcher it had just begun; and through the influence of Catharine and Louisa, she became, in time, not brilliant nor gifted, but what all may become gentle, upright, and useful.
Angels with Us Unawares
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
"Dear mamma, I love you," says the baby-boy, clasping his white arms lovingly about her neck, and receiving her kiss in return. Helpless little creature! It will be long indeed, before he will realize a mother's self-denying tenderness, her concern about his future, her pain when he suffers, her regret when he does wrong, and her happiness when he does well.
She does not tell him now, that with aching head and weary fingers, she has watched him through long days and nights of illness, when death seemed hovering over his pillow, ready to snatch him away, if even for one moment she forgot her charge; and with what agonizing earnestness she prayed, "O! Father, spare him, if consistent with Your will!"
She does not tell him now, for he is too young to comprehend, even in a measure, the height and breadth and depth of maternal love. He only knows her bosom is his pillow, her arms his shield, and that from her hands, his hourly needs are supplied.
But if it comes to be his lot to gaze upon her sweet face, cold in the drapery of death, to miss her smile, and long in vain for her caress; then, when others part his silken hair, without the accustomed kiss; when others take him coldly by the hand, and lead him to his cradle-bed, and hear his infant prayer, as a mere act of duty; then, while their careless "good-night" is still chiming in his ears as a bitter mockery; then he will fling out his tiny arms, and clasp the empty air in search of that soft hand which lingered so lovingly about his pillow, and realize that "an angel" has been with him "unawares."
"Thank you, father!" says the young girl, bounding away with her hand clasped upon the means with which to purchase some elegant article of dress, forgetting in her wild happiness how much she is already indebted to him. Little does she realize the toil and anxieties of that noble-hearted man, standing up as a tower of defense between his helpless ones, and the crude, jostling crowd, and baring his own broad bosom to all life's pelting storms, content if he can but shelter them.
"My daughter." There is a meaning in those words whose depths she will never fathom until another sentence falls like ice upon her ear, and freezes the blood in her veins: "He is dead!"
Then, when she misses his kindly greeting, when he no longer fills her pleading hand; when she would turn back from the cold friendships of the world, sick at heart for the love she has wasted upon the ungrateful; then, when there is no fond, paternal bosom, to which she may fly in her day of adversity, she will realize O! how bitterly! that "an angel" has been with her "unawares."
"Oh that I now had a father!" bursts from her quivering lips, as she remembers all his goodness; and she nerves herself anew for the stern conflict of life.
"My brother!" The fraternal tie may be loosened by unkindness, or remembered lightly, as in different paths we go out into the world, each struggling for individual success. But there are times when that word calls up a gush of tenderness, as we look back to youth's halcyon hours, when we walked hand in hand with him, who held us by an earnest clasp, and whose kiss was unpolluted by flattery or selfishness.
We may have thought hardly of that brother, but if the stranger dares to whisper anything against his name, how the indignant blood tingles in our veins stranger, beware!
He lies low in the churchyard. We cover his faults with the mantle of charity, and comparing his love of long-ago with the world's fictitious friendships say his errors were of the head, rather than the heart; he was, indeed, as "an angel unawares."
The husband goes before the wife, smoothing the rough places and pushing aside the thorns from her path; he shields her from the stare of lust, and blunts the edge of every pain and grief by those soft, balmy utterances, known only in the vocabulary of affection; and she leans upon his strong arm, unaware of all his self-denial for her sake.
But when that strong arm is palsied in death, when the eyes which beamed on her so lovingly are closed forever, and the lips which never chided her are pale and mute then she realizes his worth as she never could before, and gazes with tearful earnestness into the blue abyss, as if to arrest those "lessening wings" in their upward flight, and whisper in the ear of the departed the thankfulness, which until now had found no utterance.
The wife there is no treachery there no deceit. How her smile of welcome dissipates the cloud of care which has clung to her husband's brow all day! How softly she parts away the toil-dampened locks from his temples, and kisses away their last lingering throb of pain!
The heart, man knows, is all his own is to him a priceless gem; but never until those orbs, which turn to his with love and reverence, are hidden away in the gloom of the narrow long-home, does he appreciate as he should the presence of her who was sent of heaven, "an angel unawares."
That friend a creature of blended weaknesses and virtues not all selfishness, not all unselfishness; but the pressure of his hand is earnest, his smile is not a lie. You have trusted him, and he has not betrayed you. You have gone to him in the hour of trial, and he has advised you for your best good. He has spoken your name with respect, and cheered you with words of hope, when your heart was faint almost unto death. In him you have a priceless treasure. Well may you bow your head and weep, if he has fallen before you in the battle of life; for there will be times in the future when you will yearn to lay your head upon his shoulder, and pour into his sympathetic ear your tale of wrongs and griefs; and then will come again the consciousness that he has passed away, and, God help you! you search in vain through life for his living counterpart.
There are "angels with us unawares" in all the relations of life, but, alas for our stupidity! We seldom realize their presence until they have gone to their long-homes.
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
Knowledge is power! And this power every young man who makes a good use of his spare moments may obtain. These spare moments accumulate into hours every day, and the further aggregate makes days and weeks in each year days and weeks which might be devoted to an earnest and successful improvement of the mind. We introduce with these few words, the following sketch:
A lean, awkward boy came one morning to the door of the principal of a celebrated school, and asked to see him. The servant eyed his poor clothes, and thinking he looked more like a beggar than anything else, told him to go around to the kitchen. The boy did as he was bidden, and soon appeared at the back door.
"I would like to see Mr. Webster," said he.
"You want a breakfast, more like it," said the servant girl, "and I can give you that without troubling him."
"Thank you," said the boy, "I would have no objections to a bit of bread, but I should like to see Mr. Webster, if he can see me."
"Some old clothes, may perhaps you want," remarked the servant, again eyeing the boy patched trousers. "He has none to spare, he gives away so many," and without minding the boy's request, she went away about her work.
"Can I see Mr. Webster?" again asked the boy, after finishing his bread and butter.
"Well, he's in the library; if he must be disturbed, he must; but he does like to be alone sometimes," said the girl in a peevish tone. She seemed to think it very foolish to admit such an ill-looking fellow into her master's presence; however, she wiped her hands, and bade him to follow. Opening the library door, she said,
"Here's somebody, sir, who is dreadful anxious to see you, and so I let him in."
I don't know how the boy introduced himself, or how he opened his business, but I know that after talking awhile, the principal put aside the volume which he was studying, and took up some Greek books and began to examine the newcomer. The examination lasted some time. Every question which the principal asked, the boy answered as readily as could be.
"Upon my word," exclaimed the principal, "you certainly do well!" looking at the boy from head to foot over his spectacles. "Why, my boy, where did you pick up so much learning?"
"In my spare moments," answered the boy.
In that answer, how much was included! Few become either learned or eminent, who do not make a profitable use of their spare moments. For, if these spare moments are wasted in self-indulgence, they enervate the mind, rendering it less efficient in its tasks when duty requires it to act. It is generally believed that the mind gains strength, after severe labor, by seasons of entire inactivity. There is, we think, an error in this. More real strength, we are sure, will be acquired by the employment of other faculties, while those needing repose are permitted to rest.
Or, Luxuries Lost and Happiness Won
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
It was a pleasant day in June, the month of roses, when the young earth seems to send on the balmy air a whispered thanksgiving to Heaven for her rich and gentle beauty. The fresh foliage grows brighter as the sweet breath of the summer wind plays among the leaves, and sportively kisses the fragrance from the lovely flowers, wafting it over the green meadows and quiet plains.
At the open casement of a little white cottage, two young girls were seated; one sewing, the other reading aloud, yet often pausing to utter the elevating thoughts the volume suggested. They were about the same age, and might number some eighteen years. The reader was very beautiful. Her dark hair was arranged with exquisite taste around her finely formed head, and a Grecian braid confined the shining ringlets which would have shaded too closely the white intellectual brow. Her usually proud face was now soft and yielding as a child's in its look of confidence and love. A thoughtful tenderness dwelt in her large black eyes, as they rested on her friend, while a faint smile stole over her lip, telling how hushed was every unholy feeling, and betraying a heart full of sisterly affection.
Her companion, who possessed no beauty except that which is reflected from a pure heart, was seated on a low chair by her side, and as she raised her gentle countenance to that of her friend, it wore a look of almost spiritual loveliness.
The intimacy between Ellen Wilson and her beautiful friend, commenced at school. The latter was wealthy and talented, and therefore received the homage of her companions, which was probably rendered to her "acres of charms;" for even children learn to hold "filthy lucre" in the same estimation as their elders.
Gertrude Saunders was the only daughter of a rich merchant, a native of England, who had early come to this country, where he married a poor, but beautiful and intelligent girl. His wife lived but a few years after her marriage, and Gertrude was a stranger to a mother's care from the age of three years. Mr. Saunders, wholly absorbed in money-making, cultivated none of the gentler affections. He possessed that calculating spirit, which so often chills the love of a young heart.
As the fair girl grew towards womanhood, she yearned for a friend who might appreciate the deep feelings known only to her own soul. The sweetness and sincerity of Ellen's manners, combined with her intelligence, won Gertrude's admiration; and the fact that the friendless orphan showed less eagerness than anyone else to become intimate with her, and always wore an air of gentle self-respect when they met, perhaps impelled the proud heiress to sue for the friendship of one who was regarded by many young ladies of the institution, as too poor to be blessed with their familiarity.
Since they had left school, Gertrude resided in the city, where she shone in the courts of fashion, as a "bright particular star." Rich, beautiful, and highly gifted she met with adulation at every step, and although she received it with apparent indifference, its flattering breath fell upon her too haughty spirit like a grateful incense. She had few female friends among her fashionable acquaintances, for close observation had taught her, that she must seek for friendship where luxury and self-indulgence had not enervated the intellect, and put to silence the low, sweet murmurings of affection that would gladly breathe over the soul like the music of Heaven.
Gertrude possessed strong feelings, and many noble qualities; but these were often thrown into the shadow by one great fault pride. When she left her luxurious home in the city, and found herself in the simple white cottage where Ellen dwelt in her grandmother's family, this blemish in her character apparently vanished, and the affections of her better nature gushed forth; new thoughts found entrance in her bosom, and she felt a desire to put away every evil thing within her, and become gentle and unselfish as her companion.
How great is the influence of a friend! and how important that we should select only those whose influence will deepen in our hearts, the little goodness that may have found root there, instead of choking it with weeds of hasty and evil growth!
There was now in the communion of the friends, a deeper interest than ever; a sadness they had never known before; they were about to be separated for two long years, and what changes might not occur before they met again? Many times their eyes filled with tears, as they dwelt with lingering tenderness on the happy hours they had spent together, which had given so bright a glow to their existence. Yet, though such reflections might lessen the pain of separation, still it was pain.
A wealthy aunt of Ellen's, whose health idleness and dissipation had rendered delicate, had persuaded her husband that it was necessary for her to cross the ocean, and sojourn in a foreign climate, in order to recover her lost bloom. It was decided that they should be absent two years, and Ellen had been invited by her aunt to accompany her as a companion. With the delighted curiosity of a young girl, she consented, and when she could forget the endearments of home, her heart beat high with enthusiasm as she anticipated the time when her feet should press the classic soil of Europe.
The day of separation at length came, and the rosy light of morning streamed in the chamber occupied by the friends. They had risen early, and hour after hour slipped away as they felt the luxury of being alone for the last time, and pouring out their full hearts to each other. But the time drew near, and, with arms drawn closely around each other, they knelt at the bedside, and the fervency of that last prayer hung over their spirits long after the ocean had divided them.
Two years passed away, and during that time, the heart of Gertrude Saunders had grown familiar with deep trials of its own. Her father had imbibed the spirit of speculation, and, as was the case with many others, instead of increasing his wealth it tore from his grasp, all that he possessed. The love of money was his ruling passion, and when he discovered that his riches were lost beyond recall, he felt a blow from which he never recovered. His energies seemed to leave him entirely, and he sank into a low, desponding state of mind, which necessarily impaired his bodily health. Gertrude was called upon to bear the death of her father, soon after the loss of that wealth which she had not known how to value, until it was taken away.
When Ellen Wilson returned to her native land, her manners yet frank and simple, and her heart still glowing with the same warm love towards the beautiful girl she had left with prospects so fair Gertrude was poor, lonely, and an orphan. She had no near relatives to offer her a home, and many people she thought were interested in her, proved cold and indifferent when she most needed friends. Pride impelled her to shrink from everyone she had known in prosperity even those who might and perhaps would have aided her. The unhappy girl obtained a boarding place in a retired part of the city, and, with bitterness in her bosom, sought and with difficulty procured some employment in plain sewing, which barely defrayed her most urgent expenses.
Buried in loneliness, she brooded morbidly over the events which had so changed the whole world to her. Yet, amid all her gloomy thoughts and dark forebodings, when her mind reverted to Ellen, a ray of hope visited her, and the desolate girl longed for the time when she might be cheered by the affectionate kindness of that gentle being. No sight she more desired than, "That face of faithful friend fairest when seen in darkest day."
At last her wishes were gratified. On her return, Ellen eagerly sought Gertrude's humble residence. With a beating heart, the long-absent one ascended the stairs that led to the chamber of the once rich heiress. Her trembling hand was laid upon the latch, and yet she lingered to still the emotions which thrilled her bosom. She listened to hear if anyone was within, but no sound met her ear. Again her fingers pressed the latch; it yielded to her touch, and with a noiseless step, she entered the room. Gertrude sat sewing, apparently buried in painful thought. Her face was pale and thin, and tears gushed into the eyes of her gentle visitor as she paused a moment, unobserved, and marked the change which suffering had wrought in those beautiful features.
"Oh! Gertrude!" broke huskily from her lips. And with a faint scream of joy, the astonished girl sprang from her chair, and the long-parted friends were clasped in each other's arms. They wept long together, and their hearts communed more deeply than if words had broken that blessed silence. When they had seated themselves, Gertrude said, in a low tone,
"We expected changes, dear Ellen, when we parted, but I little dreamed that I would know so much wretchedness. My best feelings are wasted by sorrow; and everything that was good and beautiful in my spirit, is withered and dead. One deep, warm, kindly feeling found a dwelling-place in my bosom; I could weep over the troubles of others but now, I am changed; there is nothing left of my former self. Oh! Ellen, you will find nothing in me to love" and the wretched girl leaned her head on the shoulder of her friend, and gave way to a flood of passionate tears.
Ellen replied only by drawing her arm more fondly around her, and brushing the hair from the hot brow of the weeping girl, upon which she pressed her lips, while her own tears fell fast. How eloquent, then, was that silent caress, the lingering lips upon the forehead!
When Gertrude had ceased weeping, Ellen broke the silence by saying,
"Everything appears darker than it really is, dearest. If you will, you may be happy again. Your best feelings are not wasted; you are beginning to know yourself. Circumstances have developed the evil feelings which appear new to you, yet you possessed them before, although they were never called into action. Now that you are aware of their existence, dear Gertrude, overcome them and you will be purer and happier than if they yet remained in their unconscious slumber. The green spot in your soul is not withered; dark clouds have hidden it, and you think the fierce tempest has laid all waste. There was an object in that wild storm; it was to purify that chosen spot, and protect it from greater ills.
"Try to be resigned to what God has ordered, Gertrude, and forget your own sufferings in efforts to be useful to others; then the sun of true happiness will break in upon your spirit with its pleasant warmth, refreshing the new and delicate germs of goodness, that they may be strengthened by future storms and outlive them. When happiness depends on external things it must ever rest on a broken reed. To be real, it must spring from love and gentleness within; then its clear light of purity and joy may be shed with blessings upon the hearts of others. Every evil thing that is banished from our bosoms, renders our reform easier; and it is true that if it is our constant aim to become better, that God will strengthen us, and impart to us pure thoughts and heavenly affections."
"Ah! Ellen!" returned Gertrude, with a faint smile, "I almost imagine that you an angel. I can feel that you are good and pure, and if I could always be with you, I think I might learn what true happiness is."
She leaned her head upon her hand for some moments, lost in deep and earnest thought; her brow knit at times, but there was no bitterness in her look. At length, the troubled expression vanished, her slightly quivering lip grew firmer, and in a voice low and tremulous with its weight of new-born, elevated feeling, she said,
"I know it is easier to resolve, than to follow a resolution under all circumstances; yet, if I may have strength from above, my life shall no longer be wasted in idle repinings. If I cannot impart happiness to others, my spirit may at least learn not to cast a gloom. But how can I always resist despondency? How can I stifle every selfish emotion? Ah! Ellen, it is no slight thing to change our very natures!"
"It is the work of a lifetime, dear Gertrude, yet do not be discouraged; if we do the best we can, God will assist us. But now let me turn to another subject, and tell you some good news; you must give up this sewing which confines you from six o'clock in the morning till near midnight. My home shall be your home!"
"But," interrupted Gertrude, "I cannot be dependent; and even if I were willing, the addition of one would be felt in your family."
"You mistake me," said Ellen, "we are not to be idle. A good school is very much needed in our vicinity, and if you will consent, we will take upon ourselves the office of school madams. I think we can soon get accustomed to teaching of children. What is your opinion?"
Tears sprung into the eyes of Gertrude, as she replied,
"You are not compelled to labor, Ellen, and it is only for my sake that this school is proposed. Tell me, would you have thought of it, if I yet possessed the luxuries I once did?"
"Well, I suppose not," answered her friend, with a frank and playful smile, "so I am indebted to you for the brightest idea that ever entered my dull cranium. But we shall be perfectly happy, I am sure, Gertrude; we can be together every day, and we must make our duties, a source of pleasure."
A smile, grateful, yet tender and subdued in its loveliness passed over the face of Gertrude; a fountain of purer feelings was opened in her heart, and it thrilled with new-born hopes, and yet was chastened with a pensive fear, lest her late despondency might banish her half-sad, yet sweet emotions.
Night warned Ellen to depart, and the fair girls separated with the pure halo of unselfish friendship around them.
A few weeks afterwards, on a little house in a certain town, a new sign might be seen, bearing these words, "School for Young Ladies." Within, a pleasing scene was presented.
In one corner our friend Ellen was seated, her sweet countenance bright with happy feelings. She was gently encouraging to greater efforts in spelling, half a dozen female urchins, who were grouped around her. The innocent children clung to her, and looked up in her kind face with that confidence they always manifest towards those who treat them with uniform tenderness.
Not far distant, Gertrude directed a class in painting, and only those who are familiar with the pencil can tell with what anxious delight she marked the improvement of one pupil in a favorite piece, or how she longed to seize the brush and with a few careless touches, remodel a landscape another poor girl was half-discouraged over. The face of the lovely mistress wore a look of cheerful dignity. One word, spoken in a kind, affectionate tone, was sufficient to gain implicit obedience to her commands; and the warm interest she manifested towards all under her care, rendered her beloved with all the children.
Every day, when the school was dismissed, the young teachers sallied forth, their steps impeded by some rosy-cheeked damsels, who invariably sued for the honor of taking their hands and walking by the "madams."
Experience taught Gertrude that the power of being useful and making others happy gave her a far more abiding joy than she had ever felt when surrounded by luxury, and seeking only self-gratification. A closer intimacy rendered the friends more deeply attached, and no blight ever marred the beauty of their perfect friendship.
Or, Luxuries Lost and Happiness Won
The Duties of Brothers and Sisters
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
Mrs. Farrar, in her excellent "Young Lady's Friend," makes the following observations, which are particularly commended to elder sisters:
The important relation which sisters bear to brothers cannot be fully appreciated, without a greater knowledge of the world and its temptations to young men than girls in their teens can be supposed to possess. And therefore I would beg you to profit by my experience in this matter, and to believe me when I assure you, that your companionship and influence may be powerful agents in preserving your brothers from dissipation, in saving them from dangerous intimacies, and maintaining in their minds a high standard of moral excellence.
If your brothers are younger than you, encourage them to be perfectly confidential with you; win their friendship by your sympathy in all their concerns, and let them see that their interests and their pleasures are liberally provided for in the family arrangements. Never disclose their little secrets, however unimportant they may seem to you; never pain them by any ill-timed joke; never repress their feelings by ridicule; but be their tenderest friend and then you may become their ablest adviser.
If separated from them by the course of school or college education, make a point of keeping up your intimacy by full, free, and affectionate correspondence. And when they return to the paternal roof, at that awkward age between youth and manhood, when reserve creeps over the mind, like an impenetrable veil, allow it not to interpose between you and your brothers. Cultivate their friendship and intimacy with all the kindness and tenderness you possess; for it is of unspeakable importance to them, that their sisters should be their confidential friends.
Consider the loss of a ball or party, for the sake of making the evening pass pleasantly to your brothers at home as a small sacrifice; one you should unhesitatingly make. If they go into company with you, see that they are introduced to the most desirable acquaintances, and show them that you are interested in their conducting themselves well.
If you are so happy as to have elder brothers, you should be equally assiduous in cultivating their friendship, though the advances must of course be differently made. As they have long been accustomed to treat you as a child, you may meet with some repulses when you aspire to become a companion and a friend; but do not be discouraged by this. The earlier maturity of girls, will soon render you their equal in sentiment, if not in knowledge, and your ready sympathy will soon convince them of it. They will be agreeably surprised, when they find their former plaything and messenger become their quick-sighted and intelligent companion, understanding at a glance what is passing in their hearts; and love and confidence on your part will soon be repaid in kind. Young men often feel the lack of a confidential friend of the softer gender, to sympathize with them in their little affairs of sentiment, and happy are those who find one in a sister.
Once possessed of an elder brother's confidence, spare no pains to preserve it; convince him, by the little sacrifices of personal convenience and pleasure which you are willing to make for him, that when you do oppose his wishes, it is on principle and for conscience' sake. Then will you be a blessing to him, and, even when differing from you, he will love and respect you the more for your adherence to a high standard.
So many temptations beset young men, of which young women know nothing, that it is of the utmost importance that your brothers' evenings should be happily passed at home, that their friends should be your friends, that their engagements should be the same as yours, and that various innocent amusements should be provided for them in the family circle. Music is an accomplishment chiefly valuable as a home enjoyment, as rallying around the piano the various members of the family, and harmonizing their hearts as well as voices, particularly in devotional strains. I know no more agreeable and interesting spectacle, than that of brothers and sisters playing and singing together, those elevated hymns which gratify the taste and purity of the heart, while their fond parents sit delighted by.
I have seen and heard an elder sister thus leading the family choir, who was the soul of harmony to the whole household, and whose life was a perfect example of those virtues which I am here endeavoring to inculcate.
Let no one say, in reading this chapter, that too much is here required of sisters, that no one can be expected to lead such a self-sacrificing life; for the sainted one to whom I refer, was all that I would ask any sister to be, and a happier person never lived. "To do good and make others happy," was her rule of life, and in this she found the are of making herself so.
Sisters should be always willing to walk, ride, visit with their brothers, and esteem it a privilege to be their companions. It is worth while to learn innocent games for the sake of furnishing brothers with amusement and making home the most agreeable place to them.
If your brothers take an interest in your personal appearance and dress, you should encourage the feeling by consulting their taste, and sacrificing any little fancy of your own, to a decided dislike of theirs. Brothers will generally be found strongly opposed to the slightest indecorum in sisters; even those who are ready enough to take advantage of freedom of manners in other girls, have very strict notions with regard to their own sisters. Their fellowship with all sorts of men enables them to judge of the construction put upon certain actions, and modes of dress and speech, much better than women can; and you will do well to take their advice on all such points.
Brothers and sisters may greatly aid each other in judging of their friends of the opposite gender. Brothers can throw important light upon the character and merits of young men, because they see them when acting out their real natures before their comrades, and relieved from the restraints of the drawing-room; and you can, in return, greatly assist your brothers in coming to wise and just conclusions concerning their female friends. Your brothers may be very much indebted to the quicker penetration of women into each other's characters, and saved by your discernment from being fascinated by qualities that are not of sterling value.
But, in order to have the influence necessary to such important ends, you must be habitually free from a spirit of detraction, candid in all your judgments, and ever ready to admire whatever is lovely and good in your own gender. If, when you dissent from your brother's too favorable opinion of a lady, he can with any justice charge you with a prejudice against her family, or a capricious dislike of her your judgment, however correct, will have no weight, and he will be very likely to become not only the lady's champion, but her lover.
If your brothers have received a classical education, and are studiously inclined, you may derive great assistance from them in the cultivation of your own mind, and bind them still closer to you in the delightful companionship of literary pursuits.
I have been told by men, who had passed unharmed through the temptations of youth, that they owed their escape from many dangers, to the intimate companionship of affectionate and pure-minded sisters. They have been saved from a hazardous meeting with idle company by some home engagement, of which their sisters were the charm; they have refrained from mixing with the impure, because they would not bring home thoughts and feelings which they could not share with those trusting and loving friends; they have put aside the wine-cup and abstained from stronger drinks, because they would not profane with their fumes the holy kiss, with which they were accustomed to bid their sisters good-night.
The duties of sisters to each other are so obvious and well understood, that it will be needless to enter fully upon them here. If your heart is right towards God, and you feel that the great business of life is the education of your immortal spirit for eternity you will easily bear with the infirmities of others, because you will be fully impressed with a sense of your own. And, when you can amicably bear and forbear, love will come in, to soften every asperity, heal every little wound, and make a band of sisters "helpers of each other's joy."
A few cases may arise, in the most harmonious families, wherein sisters may not fully understand each other's rights, and may therefore ignorantly trespass upon them. Such, for instance, as where one of the family is very fond of reading, and wishes to have a certain portion of her time uninterruptedly given to that employment, and a sister keeps interrupting her by conversation, or appeals to her for aid in some lesson or piece of work. Sometimes a great reader is made the butt of the rest of the family for that very valuable propensity, and half her pleasure in it destroyed by its being made a standing joke among her brothers and sisters.
Sisters should as scrupulously regard each other's rights of property, as they would those of a guest staying in the house; never helping themselves without permission to the materials, writing implements, drawing apparatus, books, or clothing of each other. It is a mistake to suppose that the nearness of the relationship, makes it allowable; the more intimate our connection with any one, the more necessary it is to guard ourselves against taking unwarrantable liberties. For the very reason that you are obliged to be so much together, you should take care to do nothing disagreeable to each other.
Love is a plant of delicate growth, and, though it sometimes springs up spontaneously it will never flourish long and well, without careful culture; and when I see how it is cultivated in some families, the wonder is, not that it does not spread so as to overshadow the whole circle, but that any sprig of it should survive the crude treatment it meets with.
Genuine politeness is a great fosterer of family love; it allays accidental irritation, by preventing harsh retorts and crude contradictions; it softens the boisterous, stimulates the indolent, suppresses selfishness, and, by forming a habit of consideration for others, harmonizes the whole. Politeness begets politeness, and brothers may be easily won by it to leave off the rude ways they bring home from school or college. Never receive any little attention without thanking them for it, never ask a favor of them but in cautious terms, never reply to their questions in monosyllables and they will soon be ashamed to do such things themselves. You should labor, by precept and example, to convince them that no one can have really good manners abroad, who is not habitually polite at home.
Elder sisters exert a very great influence over the younger children of a family, either for good or for evil. If you are impatient, unfair in your judgments, or assume too much authority you injure the tempers of these little ones, make them jealous for their rights, and render your own position a very unpleasant one. Whereas, if you are patient and kind, and found your pretensions to rule, not on your age, but on truth and justice the younger children will readily allow your claims.
Young children are excellent judges of the motives and feelings of those who attempt to control them; and, if you would win their love, and dispose them to comply with your reasonable requests, you must treat them with perfect candor and uprightness. Never attempt to cheat, even the youngest, into a compliance with your wishes; for, though you succeed at the time, you lessen your influence by the loss of confidence which follows detection.
With every disposition to treat the younger ones kindly, elder sisters are often discouraged by what they consider the over-indulgence of their parents towards the younger members of the family; but where this complaint is well-founded, much is still in their power. They can, by judicious conduct, do a great deal to counteract the bad effects of this parental fondness, and make the little ones ashamed to take a mean advantage of it. The very indulgent are seldom just; now children value justice and strict adherence to promises, more than indulgence, and you may mold them to your will by the exercise of those higher qualities.
It is the duty of elder sisters to take a lively interest in the education of the younger children, and to use all the advantages which they have received, for the benefit of those who are coming forward in the same line. They should aid their parents in the choice of schools, and ascertain what is actually learned at them. Where circumstances render it necessary that the elder children should assist in teaching the younger ones, it should be done cheerfully; not as a duty merely, but as a useful discipline. Some writers upon education consider teaching others as the best and most effectual way of learning one's self. It has been said, that we are never sure that we know a thing thoroughly until we have taught it to another.
If the duty of teaching has its advantages, it also has its dangers; it is a very fatiguing occupation, and ought not to occupy too much of a young person's time. Where this is required of a daughter, other home-duties should be remitted, and her day should be so apportioned as to leave her ample time for exercise and recreation, or the labor may prove injurious to her health. It is very seldom that one, who has never attempted to teach others, can duly appreciate the labor of it; and a father so circumstanced, will sometimes think that as many hours may be given to it as he gives to his business; but this is a great mistake. Nothing is so heavy a tax on mind and body, as the act of communicating knowledge to other minds; and the more intelligently and lovingly it is done the greater is the fatigue.
This duty should not be allowed to interfere with the further progress of the young teacher, for though it may be useful to go over old ground, with those who are learning, she should still be careful not to narrow her mind down to the standard of their habits; but refresh and invigorate it, at the same time, by exploring new fields of literature.
Those who are not called upon to teach younger brothers and sisters, may yet do them great good by exercising their minds in conversation, and by communicating useful information to them in their daily fellowship. The reverse of this I have sometimes observed with sorrow. I have seen amiable and well informed girls act towards these little ones, as if they were not at all responsible for the impressions they made on their tender minds. They would mislead a young inquirer by false information, and consider it a good joke; or they would harrow up young and susceptible minds by frightful stories, which, though amusing at the time, could not fail to send the little dears trembling to bed, afraid of the dark, and unable to sleep for terror. Where, however, the elder children have been properly trained by the parents, such mistakes cannot occur; and where they have not, it would require a volume to do justice to the subject.