Timothy Shay Arthur
In this little volume, the author has not attempted to lay down any regular system of domestic education. His object has been to present leading principles — partially brought out into real life to give them a force beyond mere didactics — from which every thoughtful mother may deduce principles for specific application in her own family. The book is rather a series of domestic pictures than a sustained narrative. This latter character could not have been given to it, without a sacrifice of much that the author wished to present. He hopes that it will be useful. He is sure that it will be so, if read aright.
Summer had passed away, and autumn had verged on towards winter. Instead of a brief, sultry twilight, there were long evenings, and pleasant gatherings of the family circle. Care looked more cheerful; there was a light on the wan cheek of Sickness; and Labor sung merrily as she turned her wheel.
His daily labors ended, James Hartley returned home on such an evening — his step light, his mind clear, and his spirits buoyant. Scarcely a year had passed since the wreck of his worldly prospects; but in that time, the reacting strength of a manly character had lifted his bowed head, and fixed with confidence his steady eye. But this result would have taken place slowly and imperfectly under other circumstances and different influences from those with which he was surrounded. He owed much to the cheerful temper and hopeful spirit of his wife. So far from murmuring at the change in their prospects, or, permitting her husband to murmur — every allusion to this change was accompanied by Anna Hartley with expressions of thankfulness that all of the real blessings were left them.
"We have more than enough for all our needs," she would say, "And besides, we have each other, and our dear little Marien. Do you think we have reason to complain? No — you cannot. Our cup is not empty — it is full to the brim!"
As was ever the case, a smile of welcome greeted Hartley on entering his pleasant home. But it seemed to him, after the smile had died away, that there was a thoughtful expression upon Anna's brow. This grew distinct to his eye, as he observed her face more carefully.
"Is Marien asleep?" he asked, soon after he came in.
"Yes. She was tired, and went to sleep early. I tried to keep her awake until you came home, but she was so drowsy and fretful, that I thought it best to put her to bed."
"Dear little creature!"
"She is a sweet child."
"A sweeter one cannot be found. As she grows older, how much delight we shall take in seeing her mind expand, and become filled with images of all that is lovely and innocent. As the twig is bent — so is the tree inclined. Anna, all we have to do is to bend this twig aright. Heaven's rain and sunshine will do the rest."
"To bend it aright may not be so easy a task as you suppose, James."
"Perhaps not. And yet it seems to me, that a wise course of government, carefully pursued, must produce the desired result."
"To determine wisely, is not always in our power. Ah, James! It is that thing of determining wisely, which gives me the greatest concern. I believe that I could faithfully carry out any system of government, were I only well satisfied of its being the true one. But, so conscious am I, that, if in the system I adopt there be a vital error, the effect will be lastingly injurious to our child, that I hesitate and tremble at every step. The twig which shoots forth, unwarped by nature, pliant and graceful, may be trained to grow in almost any direction. But our child is born with an evil and perverse will — a will thoroughly depraved."
"That I do not like to admit; and yet I believe it to be too true."
"Alas! it is but too true, James. It needs not Scriptural Revelation to tell us this. Already the moral deformity we have entailed upon our child, is showing itself every day. How shall we correct it? How shall we change it into beauty? I think of this almost every hour, and sometimes it makes me feel sad. It is easy to say, 'Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined' — but it is not so easy a thing to bend the human twig as you will. There is great danger of creating one deformity in the effort to correct another; or of checking, in its flow, the healthy sap by undue pressure. And still further; our own states of mind, from various causes, are ever changing, and from these changes result obscurity, or a new direction of our thoughts. What seems of the first importance today, is not so considered tomorrow, because other ideas are more distinctly before our minds and throw things of equal importance into obscurity. Our own uncorrected hereditary evils are also in our way, and hinder us from either seeing aright or doing aright."
"You are disposed to look at the gloomy side of the picture, Anna," replied her husband, smiling. "Suppose you take a more encouraging view."
"Show me the bright side, James. I will look at it with pleasure."
"There is a bright side, Anna — everything has a sunny side; but I do not know that it is in my power to show you the sunny side of this picture. I will, however, present to your mind a truth that may suggest many others of an encouraging nature. Into right ends — there flows a perception of true means. Do you not believe this?"
"I have the best of reasons for believing it to be true."
"Can there be a higher or holier end than a mother's, when she proposes to herself the good of her child?"
"I believe not."
"Into that end will there most assuredly be an influx of wisdom to discover the true means. Do not despond, then. As your days — so will your strength be."
Anna sighed heavily, but made no reply for some moments. She was too deeply conscious of her ignorance of the true means, to feel a profound confidence in the practical bearing of the principles that her husband had declared, and which reason told her were true.
"It is easy to theorize," she at length said. "It is pleasant to the mind to dwell upon true principles, and see how they apply in real life. But, it is a different matter when we come to bring down these theories ourselves. There is in us so much that hinders — self love, indolence, pride, and a thousand other things — come between our good purposes and their accomplishment."
"True. But, on the side of good resolutions, is One who is all."
"Right, my dear husband! — Right!" exclaimed Anna, interrupting him. "He who is for us — is more than all who are against us. If I can only fix my confidence, like an anchor to the soul, upon Him — all the rough places of peevish nature will be made even — light will break in from a dark sky — -I shall see clearly to walk in right paths!"
"Ever let us both strive to fix our confidence upon God," responded Hartley in a low but earnest voice. "If we do so, we shall not find our duty so hard to perform as at first sight it may appear to us. We must keep our minds elevated above all mere worldly and selfish ends — and seek only the highest good for our offspring."
"The highest good — Yes, that must be our aim. But do we agree as to what is the highest good?"
"An important question, Anna. If we do not agree, our task will be a difficult one. What do you call the highest good?"
Anna mused for some time.
"The highest good — the highest good — " she murmured abstractedly. "Is it wealth? — Honor? The love and praise of men? — The attainment of ill earthly blessings? — No — no! These can only continue for a time. This life is a brief season at best — a mere point in our existence — a state of preparation for our real and true existence. In seeking the highest good of our child, we must look beyond the bounds of time and space."
"If we do not, Anna, our seeking for the good of our child will be in vain. But, after determining which are the best interests of our child, the next great question is: How shall we secure them? Thousands have decided as we have, but alas! how few have been able to secure the right means. A Christian education I know to be the only true education. All others must fail. But what is a Christian education? It is in the wrong determination of this question, that so many fail."
"Can you determine it, James?"
"Not so well as you can. But do you not agree with me in the conclusion I have stated?"
"Assuredly I do. The Christian religion is nothing more than heavenly order, and involves in it the true relation of the creature and the Creator. It is not the abstract, dark, austere and repulsive something that so many make it; a thing of pharisaical sanctity and unmeaning observances. No — no. Religion clothes herself in garments of light, and wears upon her brow a sunny smile. All who look upon her as she really is, must love her."
"Truly said, for she is the very embodiment of beauty. But, how few there are who see her and know her."
"Too few indeed."
"Still, Anna, we are dealing but in generals. How are we to educate our child upon religious principles?"
"First of all, we should, as I have already endeavored to do, impress upon her mind the idea of God, and that he loves her, watches over her, and protects her from harm. This is easily done. No idea is so readily conveyed to a child's mind as that of the existence of God as a good Being. When I talk to Marien, as young as she is, about God, she will look me steadily in the eyes, and listen with the most fixed attention. She cannot yet speak her thoughts, but I know that she more than half comprehends me, and that in the tender and most impressible substances of her mind, I am fixing ideas that can never be eradicated. As she grows older, and her mind expands, I shall not only teach her to regard the good of others, but instruct her in the right means of promoting it. The whole Law and the Prophets hang upon the precept: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart — and your neighbor as yourself.' Here is the starting point in all religion. With this fundamental doctrine, must all other doctrines square. To love God — is to live according to his commandments; and to love our neighbor — is to seek his good — his highest good. If we live only for ourselves, and regard only ourselves, we live a false and irreligious life, and cannot be happy. No matter what doctrines we profess — no matter by what name we call ourselves — if we do not seek the good of others we are irreligious."
"With what truth may it be said — There is none good — no, not one," remarked Hartley, as his wife ceased speaking. "How easy it is to see the truth of a precept, and declare it; but how hard a thing is it to live according to the tenor of that precept."
"Yes — and how easy it is to talk about the education of our child, but how almost impossible will it be for us to accomplish the important task," replied Anna. "Already do I find myself at a loss how to meet and correct certain evil tendencies thus early apparent in our dear little one. These will grow stronger as she grows older. I cannot remove them — all I can do will be to prevent their attaining sufficient strength to rule in her mind, at the same time that I seek to sow the seeds of opposite good principles, that when she comes to mature age, and the great struggle commences — which takes place with everyone, she may have the means of a sure conquest. If we could remove the evil tendencies with which our children are born — our duties would be lighter, for we could then work with more confidence. But this we cannot do. Each one has to do it for himself, when he comes to mature age. He has then to fight against the evils in himself, and when from right motives he does this, the Lord will remove them. All we can do for our child, is to keep, as far as it is in our power, her evils quiescent, and fill her mind with active principles of goodness. These will be weapons and armor in the strife that must take place, sooner or later. Fighting with these, she must come off conqueror."
Chapter 2.Beginning Right
This was the first serious conversation that had taken place between Mr. and Mrs. Hartley on the subject of the education of their child. As their thoughts became more and more steadily directed to the subject, they saw their duty clearer and clearer. At least, such was the case with Mrs. Hartley, for her's was the task of making the first impressions upon her child's mind — the first and most lasting impressions. Upon the character of the mother depends, almost entirely, the future character of the child. No matter how wise and good the father may be, his influence will do but little — if opposed to that of an injudicious mother. Take ten instances where men have risen from humble stations into eminence — and nine of these at least will be found the result of a mother's influence. Her love is special; it is more concentrated — and the more we love an object, the more accurate becomes our perception of the means of benefitting that object.
The father is, usually, all absorbed in the pursuit of a business or profession by which to secure the temporal good of his family, and has little time, and too often less inclination to devote himself to his children. When he retires into his family, his mind seeks rest from the over excitements of the day, and he is unprepared to give to his children judicious instruction, or to administer wise correction. He cannot adopt a system, and regularly carry it out, because he is with them only for a short time each day, and cannot know their characters thoroughly, nor the means that best react upon and keep their evils quiescent. Upon the mother devolves, therefore, of necessity, the high and important duty of molding the characters of her children — of impressing them for good or evil — of giving them true strength for their trials in after life.
Sensibly did Mrs. Hartley feel this. The path of duty lay clearly defined before her, and she shrunk not from walking therein. Love for her child, and high Christian principles, were her prompters — those Christian principles were a reverence for God, and a purified love of the neighbor. It was a religion that showed itself less in external acts of piety (though these were never omitted) than in a holy and blameless life — an upright walk and a chaste lifestyle. Her charity consisted in the faithful performance of all known duties — the filling up of her measure of usefulness in the sphere where Providence had placed her.
Her first efforts with her child, as reason began to dawn, were the best a mother can use. She sought to impress upon the mind of her little Marien one idea. Among the first words she taught her to say, were, "Good God in Heaven." And she always uttered these words with a quiet, thoughtful face, and pointed upwards. Soon, the answer to "Who loves little Marien?" would be "Papa." "Who else?" "Mamma." "Who else?" "Good God in Heaven."
At every step she endeavored to fix more deeply this impression. The lisped prayer on retiring to bed was never omitted.
The next effort she made was to counteract the selfish tendency of the child. She began with teaching her that she must love God — and the second step was to cause her to regard the good of others.
If her husband, from the very nature of his occupation, could not aid her much in the practical application of right means, he was ever ready to confer with her, and to aid her in discovering these means. They thought much, and conversed much together upon the subject.
"The hardest thing I have to do, is to cause Marien to obey me," said Mrs. Hartley, as they sat conversing about their child, one evening after she had been put to bed.
"No doubt of that," replied her husband. "And yet obedience is, of all things, most necessary. In the young mind must be formed vessels into which principles of action that are to govern in manhood, can flow. Obedience to parents forms in the mind vessels that become recipients of obedience to civil laws, without which all social order would be destroyed — and, by an easy process, obedience to law changes, as the mind rises into higher and better states, into obedience to divine laws. Obedience to these laws involves all the rest. A good Christian is of necessity a good citizen. He does not obey the laws as penal enactments, but because they are founded upon a just regard to the good of the whole. From this view of the subject, may be seen the importance of securing the implicit obedience of our children. We cannot hope to make this so perfect that they will always regard our injunctions when absent; but the consciousness that every act of disobedience, if known, will meet with some correction, cannot fail to have a restraining effect, and will cause civil laws to be obeyed until the mind is so far elevated as to observe them, from a regard to their sacredness as means of securing the good of the whole."
"This view of the subject," remarked Mrs. Hartley, "causes me to feel, more than I have yet felt, the necessity of obedience in children. I did not see its important bearing upon social order before — nor how it was the only means of leading our children to what is so much desired, obedience to divine laws, when they become responsible beings."
The three great things to attain, as seeming of most importance to Mrs. Hartley, in the education of her child, were to impress fervently and truly upon her mind a just idea of God; to give her an unselfish regard for her neighbor; and to insure perfect obedience. To do all this was a great work, and hard, almost impossible she often felt, to accomplish. But she strove unweariedly after the attainment of her end — too unweariedly, I had almost said — for she interfered with the freedom of her child — checked too often its innocent outbursts of exuberant feeling — saw too much — and let be seen too fully by her child, the bonds with which she sought to hold her. The effect was, consequently, bad, for the rebound of her young spirits, when away from her mother, were too strong. Instead of being happiest with her mother — she was happiest when she could escape from her presence.
Mrs. Hartley saw all this, and it grieved her deeply. But the cause she did not clearly perceive. Before, however, the evils of an over-rigid system had progressed too far, the birth of a second child divided her care and affection, and gave to Marien a real something which she could love understandingly.
Chapter 3.Means and Ends
As month after month passed on, and Clarence, the latest born of Mrs. Hartley, began to exhibit some signs of his real disposition, the parents perceived that it was very different from Marien's. The first-born was quiet, and easily controlled; but the boy was full of life, and showed very early a resolute will, and passionate temper. Before he had completed a year, he had caused his mother many an anxious hour, and drawn from her eyes many a tear. From his sister, he was disposed to take everything, and if his exacting spirit were not immediately gratified in its desires — he would scream violently, and sometimes throw himself passionately upon the floor.
In the first year of her brother's life, Marien had changed a good deal. As young as she was, her mother endeavored to interest her in his favor — to lend him her play things when awake, and to rock his cradle when he was asleep, and do many little things for him within her ability to accomplish. To the exacting, imperious temper of the child, Marien was much inclined to yield. To have permitted her to do so, would have been the easiest course for Mrs. Hartley to pursue. But this she saw would be to injure both the children. Were Marien to give up everything to Clarence, it would be impossible for the mother to impress upon his mind the idea that others had rights as well as himself — rights that he must not violate.
It took some weeks after Mrs. Hartley began to teach her child this important lesson, before she seemed to make any impression. After that, the simple declaration, "This belongs to Marien," caused Clarence to yield at once. The achievement of so much gave the mother great encouragement. It was fruit to her labor, and the ingathering even of so small a harvest was delightful.
As the boy added month after month and year after year to his age, his strengthening peculiarities of disposition became sources of constant annoyance to his mother. What could be tolerated in the child of two and three years, was not to be endured with patience in the boy of five and six. Lack of order and cleanliness were among the faults that worried her almost as much as his stormy temper, selfishness, and a disposition to domineer over his sister, who remained still too much inclined to yield rather than contend with him. In spite of all her efforts to control herself, these things so disturbed the mind of Mrs. Hartley, that she would at times speak fretfully, and even passionately to the boy. Whenever this was the case, she could see that the effect was bad. She reached nothing in her child — took hold of nothing in his mind by which she could turn him to good. It was a mere external force, which moved him just so far, and that against his will.
Unhappy, for hours and days, would the mother be whenever she thus lost her self-command; and long and deep would be her self-communings, and earnest her resolutions to conquer the evils in herself that were reacting so injuriously upon her child.
"I am not fit to be a mother," she would sometimes say to her husband during these seasons of depression. "I lack patience and forbearance, and it seems, every other virtue required for one in my position. That boy, Clarence, tries me, at times, beyond endurance! And yet, when my mind is calm and my perceptions clear, I can see that he has very many good qualities, and that these really overbalance the evil. His intellect is remarkably quick, and there is a manliness about him but rarely seen in children of his age."
"Persevere, Anna — persevere," were usually her husband's encouraging words. "You are doing well. If anyone can mold aright the disposition of that wayward child, it is you. I only wish that I had half your patience and forbearance."
Time passed steadily on. Another and another babe saw the light, until five bright-eyed children filled their home with music and sunshine. When her care was lavished upon a single child, the mother had both mind and heart full. Now her duties were increased five-fold, but she did not feel them to be greater than at first. It seemed to her, when she had but one babe, that there was not room in her heart for another — but now she found that there was room for all. Each had its appropriate place.
Alike in some general features, these five children were, in particulars, as unlike as possible. Marien, the eldest, was a sweet-tempered girl, ten years of age. Clarence had improved much under the careful training of his mother, though he was still rude, self-willed, and too little inclined to regard properly the rights and comforts of his brother and sisters. Henry, next younger than Clarence, was altogether opposite in character. Timid, bashful and retiring, he had little confidence in himself, and was too much inclined to lean upon others. Fanny, a laughing little fairy thing, making the house musical with her happy voice; and Lillian, the babe, filled up the number of Mrs. Hartley's household treasures.
Nearly twelve years had passed since their marriage, and yet neither James Hartley nor his wife were very strongly marked by time. He had a more thoughtful, and she a more earnest expression of countenance. Their external condition had improved. He had again entered into business, though not with the flattering promises that before encouraged him to hope for a speedily attained fortune; but he was in a surer way to earn a living at least.
During this time, both the father and mother of Mrs. Hartley died, and a maiden aunt, the sister of Anna's mother, had become a member of their household. The puritanical prejudices, narrow views, and constant interference of this woman with Anna's management of her children, were a source of great trial. Aunt Mary had no patience with the wayward Clarence — while she petted and indulged Henry to a degree that was really injurious to a child of his particular disposition. Remonstrance was of no avail; for Aunt Mary imagined that her age and relationship entitled her to all the control in the family she chose to assume. She could not understand that Anna, "the child," as she usually spoke of her, had rights and responsibilities as a parent, with which she ought not to interfere. All this was beyond her comprehension.
Aunt Mary was a strict church-going member. A regular Sunday religionist. She seemed to regard everything outside of a church as profane. There was sin in a pink ribbon, and carnal-mindedness in a blue bonnet. All amusements were considered by her as offences against God. To attend a ball, or dance, was to insure the soul's perdition. Aunt Mary was not one of those who, while they hold peculiar and strict notions, have the good sense to keep quiet about them where they know their declaration not to be agreeable. She deemed it her duty to preach from the housetop, so to speak, on all occasions; and to declare to the children that many of the very things taught them by their parents were wrong. When Marien and Clarence were first sent to dancing school, Aunt Mary preached upon the subject, in season and out of season, for nearly a month.
"You will ruin your children, Anna!" she would say. "Isn't it a shame to think that a mother will have no more regard for her little ones."
"How will dancing ruin them, Aunt Mary?" Mrs. Hartley would sometimes ask in a quiet tone. "I cannot, for my life, see any evil in motions of the body, made to accord with good music."
"Dancing is one of Satan's most cunning devices to lure the soul to ruin!"
"How is it, Aunt Mary? I cannot understand in what the evil lies. Is there anything in music opposed to the Ten Commandments? Do the Ten Commandments forbid dancing?"
"You reason like a little simpleton, as you are," returned Aunt Mary, peevishly. "The Bible forbids dancing!"
"I never saw it, and I believe I have read that good book very carefully. It does say, that there is a time to dance."
"It is wicked to quote Scripture, with the intention of perverting its meaning," replied Aunt Mary, warmly.
"I know that. But I am not so sure that I have done so. The Bible certainly says that there is a time to dance."
"Not in the sense that you pretend to understand it."
"Because it is wicked to dance, and the Bible never teaches us to do what is wicked!"
"Oh! oh!" returned Anna, laughing, "You are like a great many other good people, Aunt Mary. You first call a thing good or evil to suit some notion of your own — and then make the Bible prove it whether it will or not! A convenient method, I own, but it doesn't suit my common sense notions. But to be serious with you, aunt — we send our children to dancing school from conscientious motives."
"Conscientious motives! Humph!"
"It is true. "We are satisfied that all external graces and accomplishments are so many aids to moral culture. If selfish and worldly-minded people pervert them to selfish and worldly purposes — that is an evil for which they alone are responsible. Shall I, just because a glutton makes himself sick on dainty food — refuse to eat anything but the coarsest bread? Or, just because my next door neighbor furnishes her house richly that her taste may be admired — refuse to have a carpet upon my floor, or a mirror in my parlor? It is the end for which a thing is done, which makes it evil or good, aunt. All good gifts are from Heaven. All evils which exist — are perversions of good."
"Do you mean to say that the end justifies the means?" asked Aunt Mary, quite fiercely.
"I do, if the means are good!"
"What am I to understand by that? You seem to be talking riddles."
"Good means never violate the laws of either God or man. You may always be sure that the end is bad, if the means used in its attainment are so. But to come back to the point from which we started. We can see no harm in music and dancing, abstractly considered."
"But their effects, Anna. Cannot you see their injurious effects upon young people."
"What are they?"
"They make them vain and frivolous, and wean their minds from better things."
"I always find that my children say their prayers as earnestly in the evening of the day they have taken their dancing lesson, as on any other. And, sometimes, I think with a more tender and grateful spirit."
"I shudder to hear you talk so, Anna. You are trifling with holy things. Dancing and praying — Ugh! It makes my very blood run cold!"
"I don't see, Aunt Mary, that any good can grow out of these discussions," remarked Anna, gravely. "The responsibility of our children's education rests with James and myself. Our guide is his Scriptural Revelation, accompanied by the reason that God has given us. These teach us that it is right to bring out into ultimate forms, all that is innocent in our children. Their buoyant spirits are ever causing them to throw their bodies about in every imaginable attitude. Is it not much better to teach a boy like Clarence to dance gracefully to good music, than to let his excessive flow of animal spirits lead him to turn summersaults, stand on his head, or contort his body until it is deformed — and to let the peevishness of an unhappy temper subside in a similar amusement? We, after much careful reflection, have determined that is best."
"But all amusements are sinful, Anna. How can you reconcile that with your duty to your children."
"As I have often said before," replied Mrs. Hartley, "I do not believe that all amusements are sinful. My opinion is that one person may commit more sin in going to church — than another in going to a ball-room."
"It is the motive from which a thing is done that makes it good or bad," resumed the niece. "If I go to a ball with a right motive, and that I can do — my act is much better than the act of one who goes to church to be seen and admired; or, as too many go, with a pharisaical spirit."
"It's no use to talk to you!" Aunt Mary said, pettishly. "You and James are as set in your ways as you can be. I pity your children — that's what I do. If ever they come to anything, it will be more from good luck than anything else. As to their ever caring about religion, I give up all hopes. Mark my words, Anna, the day will come when you will repent of this folly. Young folks think old folks fools; but old folks know young folks to be fools. Remember that."
Contentions like these did not change in the slightest degree the system which Mr. and Mrs. Hartley had adopted. They believed that their children would be more useful as members of common society after they arrived at mature age, if endowed with every accomplishment of mind and manners, than if rude and uncultivated, except in the higher and sterner qualities of the intellect. As to the absurd notion that such accomplishments were inconsistent with true religion, they were well assured that, without such accomplishments, religion lost more than half of its means of acting for good in common society.
Chapter 4. The Secret of Governing Children.
Very soon after Mrs. Hartley assumed the responsible position of a mother, she became sensible that she had really more to do in the correction of what was wrong in herself — than in her children. To remain calm at their disobedience, and kind when duty called her to administer correction, was next, it seemed to her, to impossible. A calm admonition she always saw did more good than an energetic one — and grief at her child's disobedience was ever more effective than anger. But anger was too ready to lift its distorted visage, and she mourned over this tendency with a real sorrow, because she saw that it exerted an unhappy influence, especially upon the self-willed, excitable Clarence.
"I believe I have discovered a secret," she remarked to her husband, while they sat conversing one evening, about the time that Clarence attained his third year.
"What is that, dear?" he asked.
"The secret of governing my children easily."
"A great secret that. But are you sure you are right?"
"I think I am. It is to govern myself."
Mr. Hartley smiled.
"I believe it is the only true way," returned his wife.
"And so do I, Anna. But the government of ourselves is not so easy a matter."
"I am well aware of that. No one, it seems to me, can try harder than I do to control my feelings when Clarence does wrong. But I cannot do it once in ten times that I make the effort. When I do succeed — the task of correction is easy and effectual. A word, mildly but firmly uttered, or a look, is all that is required. The child seems at once subdued. I am sometimes astonished at so marked a result, from what seems so small a cause."
"That you succeed once even in ten efforts, is certainly encouraging."
"It inspires me with the hope that I shall yet conquer myself, through the power sent me from God above. The earnest love I feel for my children, shall give me resolution to persevere."
The manner and words of Mrs. Hartley touched her husband.
"For their sakes, persevere, dear Anna!" he said with emotion.
"I will," was her tearful answer — the drops of pure feeling were dimming her eyes.
"There is still another reason why both you and I should resist every evil tendency of our natures," said Mr. Hartley. "We are well convinced, that our children can have no moral perversions which are not inherited from their parents."
"It is, alas! but too true. How sad the reflection that we entail a curse upon our offspring!"
"Sad indeed. But what is our duty?"
"A very plain one," returned Mrs. Hartley. "To resist evil in ourselves, and put it away — that our future offspring, should God add to the number of our jewels, may learn from us tendencies to good instead of tendencies to evil. This is the way in which we can care best for our children. The forms of all uncorrected evils in ourselves must, by the immutable law that everything produced bears the likeness and has the qualities of the producing cause — be in our children; and there is enough and more than enough surrounding everyone to excite his latent evils. Every wrong temper, every selfish feeling, that we conquer in ourselves — is just so much gain of good for our children."
"Yes, to subdue our own evils is the only sure way to correct them in our children. We weaken them in their transmission, and are in better states to correct them when they begin to appear."
How very few there are who think on this subject as did Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. Parents will indulge in all the evil tempers and dispositions of their sinful nature — they will nourish envy and pride, hatred, malice, and all manner of selfishness — and yet wonder at their existence in their children! They will indulge these evil things themselves — and yet be angry at their children, who have no motive for curbing their passions or hiding what they think or feel. It is not to be wondered at, that so few parents are successful in the government of their children — when it is seen that they have not learned to govern themselves.
From this time, both Mr. and Mrs. Hartley felt a new motive for striving after the correction in themselves of all moral evils and attitudes. The result was good. Mrs. Hartley found herself growing more patient and forbearing. She was able to stand, as it were, above her children — so as not to be affected by their wrong tempers and dispositions with anything but an earnest and unimpassioned desire to correct them. Her love was guided by right reason, instead of being obscured by anger, as had often been the case.
Having fairly set forth the principles of action which governed Mrs. Hartley in the management and education of her children — let us introduce her more fully to the reader, that she may be seen in the active effort to perform well a mother's part. The period already named, twelve years from the time of her marriage, will be the best for our purpose.
Chapter 5. A Mother's Influence.
"There come the children from school," said Aunt Mary, looking from the window. "Just see that Clarence! He'll have Henry in the gutter. I never saw such a boy. Why can't he come quietly along like other children. There! — now he must stop to throw stones at the pigs. That boy will give you the heartache yet, Anna."
Mrs. Hartley made no reply, but laid aside her work quietly and left the room, to see that their dinner was ready. In a few minutes, the street door was thrown open, and the children came bounding in, full of life, and noisy as they could be.
"Where is your coat, Clarence?" she asked, in a pleasant tone, looking her oldest boy in the face.
"Oh, I forgot!" he replied cheerfully, and turning quickly, he ran downstairs, and lifting his coat from where, in his thoughtlessness, he had thrown it upon the floor, hung it up in its proper place, and then sprung up the stairs.
"Isn't dinner ready yet?" he said, with fretful impatience, his whole manner changing suddenly. "I'm hungry."
"It will be ready in a few minutes, Clarence."
"I want it now. I'm hungry."
"Did you ever hear of the man," said Mrs. Hartley, in a voice that showed no disturbance of mind, "who wanted the sun to rise an hour before its time?"
"No, mother. Tell me about it, won't you?"
All impatience had vanished from the boy's face.
"There was a man who had to go upon a journey. The coach was to call for him at sunrise. More than an hour before it was time for the sun to be up, the man was all ready to go, and for the whole of that hour he walked the floor impatiently, grumbling at the sun because he did not rise. 'I'm all ready, and I want to be going,' he said. 'It's time the sun was up, long ago.' Don't you think he was a very foolish man?"
Clarence laughed, and said he thought the man was very foolish indeed.
"Do you think he was more foolish than you were just now for grumbling because dinner wasn't ready?"
Clarence laughed again, and said he did not know. Just then Hannah, the cook, brought in the platter with the children's dinner upon it. Clarence sprang for a chair, and drew it hastily and noisily to the table.
"Try and see if you can't do that more orderly, my dear," his mother said, in a quiet voice, looking at him as she spoke, with a steady eye.
The boy removed his chair, and then replaced it gently.
"That is much better, my son."
And thus she corrected his disorderly habits, quieted his impatient temper, and checked his rudeness — without showing any disturbance. This she had to do daily. At almost every meal she found it necessary to repress his rude impatience. It was line upon line, and precept upon precept. But she never tired, and rarely permitted herself to show that she was disturbed, no matter how deeply grieved she was at times over the wild and reckless spirit of her boy.
On the next day, she was not very well. Her head ached badly all the morning. Hearing the children in the passage, when they came in from school at noon, she was rising from the bed where she had lain down, to attend to them, and give them their dinners, when Aunt Mary said,
"Don't get up, Anna. I will see to the children."
It was rarely that Mrs. Hartley let anyone do for them what she could do herself, for no one else could manage the unhappy temper of Clarence. But so violent was the pain in her head, that she let Aunt Mary go, and sunk back upon the pillow from which she had arisen. A good deal of noise and confusion continued to reach her ears, from the moment the children came in. At length a loud cry and passionate words from Clarence caused her to rise up quickly and go over to the dining room. All was confusion there, and Aunt Mary out of humor, and scolding prodigiously. Clarence was standing up at the table, looking defiance at her, on account of some interference with his strong self-will. The moment the boy saw his mother, his countenance changed, and a look of confusion took the place of anger.
"Come over to my room, Clarence," she said in a low voice; there was sadness in its tones, that made him feel sorry that he had given vent so freely to his ill temper.
"What was the matter, my son?" Mrs. Hartley asked, as soon as they were alone, taking Clarence by the hand, and looking steadily at him.
"Aunt Mary wouldn't help me when I asked her."
"She would help Henry first."
"No doubt she had a reason for it. Do you know her reason?"
"She said he was youngest." Clarence pouted out his lips, and spoke in a very disagreeable tone.
"Don't you think that was a very good reason?"
"I've as good a right to be helped first as he has."
"Let us see if that is so. You and Marien and Henry came in from school, all hungry and anxious for your dinners. Marien is oldest — she, one would suppose, from the fact that she is oldest, would be better able to feel for her brothers, and be willing to see their needs supplied before her own. You are older than Henry, and should feel for him in the same way. No doubt this was Aunt Mary's reason for helping Henry first. Had she helped Marien?"
"Did Marien complain?"
"No one complained but my unhappy Clarence. Do you know why you complained? I can tell you, as I have often told you before. It is because you indulge in very selfish feelings. All who do so — make themselves miserable. If, instead of wanting Aunt Mary to help you first, you had, from a love of your little brother, been willing to see him first attended to — you would have enjoyed a real pleasure. If you had said — 'Aunt Mary, help Harry first,' I am sure Henry would have said instantly — 'No, Aunt Mary, help Clarence first.' How pleasant this would have been; how happy would all of us have felt at thus seeing two little brothers generously preferring one another."
There was an unusual degree of tenderness, even sadness in the voice of his mother, that affected Clarence. But he struggled with his feelings. When, however, she resumed, and said —
"I have felt quite sick all the morning. My head has ached badly — so badly that I have had to lie down. I always give you your dinners when you come home, and try to make you comfortable. Today I let Aunt Mary do it, because I felt so sick. But I am sorry that I did not get up, as sick as I was, and do it myself — then I might have prevented this unhappy outbreak of my boy's unruly temper, that has made not only my head ache ten times as badly as it did, but my heart ache also."
Clarence burst into tears, and throwing his arms around his mother's neck, wept bitterly.
"I will try and be good, dear mother!" he said. "I do try sometimes, but it seems that I can't."
"You must always try, my dear son. Now dry up your tears, and go out and get your dinner. Or, if you would rather I would go with you, I will do so."
"No, dear mother!" replied the boy, affectionately, "You are sick. You must not go. I will be good."
Clarence kissed his mother again, and then returned quietly to the dining room.
"Naughty boy!" said Aunt Mary, as he entered, looking sternly at him.
A bitter retort came instantly to the tongue of Clarence, but he checked himself with a strong effort, and took his place at the table. Instead of soothing the quick tempered boy, Aunt Mary chafed him by her words and manner during the whole meal, and it was only the image of his mother's tearful face, and the remembrance that she was sick, that restrained an outbreak of his passionate temper.
When Clarence left the table, he returned to his mother's room, and laid his head upon the pillow where her's was resting.
"I love you, mother," he said, affectionately. "You are good. But I hate Aunt Mary."
"O no, Clarence. You must not say that you hate Aunt Mary, for Aunt Mary is very kind to you. You must not hate anybody."
"She isn't kind to me, mother. She calls me a bad boy, and says everything to make me angry when I want to be good."
"Think, my son, if there is not some reason for Aunt Mary calling you a bad boy. You know, yourself, that you act very naughtily sometimes, and provoke Aunt Mary a great deal."
"But she said I was a naughty boy, when I went out just now; and I was sorry for what I had done, and wanted to be good."
"Aunt Mary didn't know that you were sorry, I am sure. When she called you 'naughty boy,' what did you say?"
"I was going to say, 'you're a fool!' but I didn't. I tried hard not to let my tongue say the bad words, though it wanted to."
"Why did you try not to say them?"
"Because it would have been wrong, and would have made you feel sorry. And I love you." Again the repentant boy kissed her. His eyes were full of tears, and so were the eyes of his mother.
While talking over this incident with her husband, Mrs. Hartley said,
"Were not all these impressions so light, I would feel encouraged. The boy has warm and tender feelings, but I fear that his passionate temper and selfishness will, like evil weeds, completely check their growth."
"The case is bad enough, Anna, but not so bad, I hope, as you fear. These good affections are never active in vain. They impress the mind with an indelible impression. In after years, the remembrance of them will revive the states they produced, and give strength to good desires and intentions. Amid all his irregularities, and wanderings from good, in after life — the thoughts of his mother will restore the feelings he had today, and draw him back from evil with chords of love which cannot be broken. The good now implanted will remain, and, like ten just men, save the city. In most instances where men abandon themselves finally to evil courses, it will be found that the impressions made in childhood were not of the right kind. That the mother's influence was not what it should have been. For myself, I am sure that a different mother would have made me a different man. When a boy, I was too much like Clarence; but the tenderness with which my mother always treated me, and the calm but earnest manner in which she reproved and corrected my faults, subdued my unruly temper. When I became restless or impatient, she always had a book to read to me, or a story to tell, or had some device to save me from myself. My father was neither harsh nor indulgent towards me; I cherish his memory with respect and love. But I have different feelings when I think of my mother. My father would place his hand upon my head, caressingly, but my mother would lay her cheek against mine. I did not expect my father to do more — I do not know that I would have loved him had he done more; for him it was a natural expression of affection. But no act is too tender for a mother. Her kiss upon my cheek, her warm embrace, are all felt now; and the older I grow the more holy seem the influences which surrounded me in childhood."
Today I cut from a newspaper some verses that pleased and affected me. I have brought them home. Let me read them to you.
"I Dreamed of My Mother." By Thomas Spear.
"I dreamed of my mother, and sweet to my soul,
Was the brief-given spell of that vision's control,
I thought she stood by me, all cheerful and mild,
As when to her bosom I clung as a child.
Her features were bright with the smiles that she wore.
When heeding my idle-tongued prattle of yore;
And her voice had that kindly and silvery strain,
That from childhood had dwelt in the depths of my brain.
She spoke of the days of her girlhood and youth —
Of life and its cares, and of hope and its truth;
And she seemed as an angel winged from above,
To bring me a message of duty and love.
She told of her thoughts at the old village school —
Of her walks with her playmates when loosed from its rule,
Of her rambles for berries; and when they were o'er,
Of the mirth-making groups at the white cottage door.
She painted the garden, so sweet to the view,
Where the wren made its nest, and the nice flowers grew —
Of the trees that she loved for their scent and their shade,
Where the robin, and wild-bee, and humming-bird played.
And she spoke of the greenwood which bordered the farm,
Where her glad moments glided unmixed with alarm;
Of the well by the wicket whose waters were free,
And the lake with its white margin traversed in glee.
And she pondered, delighted, the joys to retrace,
Of the family scenes of that ruralized place —
Of its parties and bridals, its loves and its spells,
Its heart-clinging ties, and its saddened farewells.
She pictured the meeting-house, where, with the throng.
She heard the good pastor and sang the sweet song —
Of the call from the pulpit — the feast at the shrine,
And the hallowed communings with feelings divine.
'And listen, my son,' she did smilingly say,
'If 'tis pleasant to sing, it is sweeter to pray —
If the future is bright in the day of your prime,
That brightness may grow with the fading of time.'
'Look up to your Maker, my son, and rejoice!'
Was the last gentle whisper that came from her voice.
While its soft, soothing tones on my dreaming ear fell,
As she glided away with a smiling farewell.
I awoke from the spell of that vision of night,
And heartily communed with a quiet delight.
And the past, and the present, and future surveyed,
In the darkness presented by fancy, arrayed.
I thought of the scenes when that mother was nigh,
In a soft sunny land, and beneath a mild sky,
When in bowers we walked to the health-giving spring.
With the dew on the grass and the birds on the wing —
Of the draughts at the fount as the bright sun arose,
And the views from the bluffs where the broad river flows,
Of the sound from the shore of the fisherman's train,
And the sight of the ship as it sailed to the main —
Of the wild flowers plucked from the glen and the field,
And the beauties the meadows and gardens revealed —
Of all that she paused to explain or explore,
Till I learned, in my wonder, to think and adore.
And of joys that attended the fireside scene,
When woodlands and meadows no longer were green —
Of the sports and the tales and the holiday glee,
That ever were rife at the fond mother's knee —
Of the duties of home, and the studies of school,
With the many delights that divided their rule,
Till the sunshine of boyhood had ended, and brought,
The cares and the shadows of manhood and thought.
And I sighed for the scenes that had faded away —
For the forms that had fallen from age to decay —
For the friends who had vanished, while looking before,
To paths that their feet were forbid to explore.
And glancing beyond, through the vista of time,
With a soul full of hope, and with life in its prime.
Though flowers by memory cherished had died,
Life's garden was still with some blossoms supplied.
And oft as that dream to my spirit comes back.
A newness of thought re-illumines my track."
"Pure and tender! The mother who called forth that heart-warm tribute was, doubtless, a good mother," said Anna.
"You remember Cowper's lines, written on receiving his mother's picture?" remarked her husband, after musing for a short time.
"O, yes. Very well. They have often affected me to tears!"
O that those lips had language! Life has passed,
But roughly with me, since I heard you last.
Those lips are your — your own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
'Grieve not, my child, chase all your fears away.'
"To him, how great was the loss he sustained in the death of his mother. Had she lived, the deep melancholy which seized him in after life, might never have occurred. With what simple eloquence he describes his loss." And Mr. Hartley repeated a passage of the poem.
My mother, when I learned that you were dead,
Say, were you conscious of the tears that I shed?
Hovered your spirit o'er your sorrowing son,
Wretched, e'en then, life's journey just begun?
Perhaps you gave me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss.
Ah, that maternal smile I it answers — Yes.
I heard the bell toll on your burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore you slow away,
And turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
But was it such? — It was. — Where you are gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet you on that peaceful shore,
Your parting word shall pass my lips no more!
Your maidens grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of your quick return.
What ardently I wished, I long believed,
And disappointed still, was still deceived.
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of tomorrow, even from a child.
Thus many a sad tomorrow came and went,
'Till all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learned at last submission to my lot,
And though I always love you, I'll ne'er forget.
Mrs. Hartley leaned her head upon her husband's shoulder, unable to restrain the tears that were springing to her eye.
"If God only spares me to my children — it is all I ask," she murmured. "I will be patient with and forbearing towards them. I will discharge my duties with unwearied diligence. Who can fill a mother's place? Alas! no one. If any voice had been as full of love for him when a child, if any hand had ministered to him as tenderly — this touching remembrance of his mother would never have been recorded by Cowper. Ah, who could be unkind to a motherless one?"
"The lot of an orphan child is not always as sad a one as must have been that of young Cowper," said Mr. Hartley, "for it is but rarely that a child possesses the delicate or rather morbid sensibility which characterized him."
"I could not bear to think that any child of mine would remember me with less tenderness," replied Mrs. Hartley.
"To recur to what we were first talking about," said Mr. Hartley, after a pause. "There cannot be a doubt, that the whole life of the child is affected by the mother's character, and the influences which she has brought to bear upon him. I could point to many instances that have come under my own observation that illustrate this. The father of one of my schoolmates was a man of a highly cultivated mind, and polished manners; his mother was the reverse. The son is like the mother. As a man, he did not rise in society at all, and is now the keeper of a billiard saloon. In another instance, the father was a low minded man, and inclined to dissipation. Nearly the whole burden of the support of the family fell upon the mother; but her children always came to school neat and clean. Their behavior was good, and they studied with diligence. Only one of four sons turned out badly. Three of them are now merchants in good business, and the mother's declining years are blessed by their kindest attentions. You see, then, Anna, how much you have to encourage you."
"If there was nothing to encourage me — love and duty would make me persevere."
"But there is much. Cast your bread upon the waters, and it shall be found after many days."
Chapter 6. The Birthday Party.
"Next Saturday is Marien's birthday, Aunt Mary," said Mrs. Hartley. "She will be just eleven years old, and she must have a party."
"She mustn't have any such thing, Anna. What nonsense!"
"Why do yon call it nonsense?"
"It will only be putting silly notions into her head. You would do a great deal better take the money it would cost, and give it for some charitable purpose."
"Take care, Aunt Mary, or I shall retort upon you," said Mrs. Hartley, smiling.
"You can retort as much as you please. I'll warrant you can find no fooleries like giving parties to little misses, when they had better be in their beds — to charge upon me."
"Perhaps not. But that giving of the money for charitable purposes, is what I would like to say a word about. Last week you bought a new satin coat, and gave three dollars a yard for the satin. Why didn't you buy one of good warm cotton, and give the balance to some charity? Answer me that, Aunt Mary!"
"I am not going to be catechized by you, Miss Pert — so just hold your tongue," was Aunt Mary's reply, made half in anger and half in playfulness.
"Very well. So the matter of the charity is all settled — and now what have you to say against the party to Marien, considered upon its abstract merits?"
"A great deal. It will be filling the child's head with vain and wicked thoughts — thoughts of mere worldly show and pleasure. No doubt you will dress her and the rest of them up like puppets to make them as proud and vain as Lucifer himself! Other people will send their children here dressed out and costumed just like them. And then, what a nice little Vanity Fair you will have. It is a downright sin and shame, Anna, for you to think of such a thing! It isn't only your children that are injured, but you tempt other people to injure theirs also!"
"God grant that neither my children nor the children of my friends may ever be subjected to worse influences than they will be under at Marien's party," said Mrs. Hartley, with some warmth.
Just then, Clarence came bounding into the room, singing so loud as to drown the voice of Aunt Mary, who had commenced a reply.
"Do hush, you noisy fellow!" she said, fretfully, "You are enough to make anyone crazy!"
The boy did not seem to regard the words of his aunt any more than he would the passing wind. But when his mother said, softly, "Clarence." and looking him in the face, he was instantly quiet.
Aunt Mary noticed the effect of the mother's low-voiced word in contrast with her own peevish complaint, and it annoyed her so much that she would not trust herself to utter what she was about saying.
"Next Saturday is Marien's birthday," said the mother, as Clarence came up to her side and leaned against her.
"Is it?" and the boy looked intently in his mother's face.
"Yes. She will be just eleven years old. And she must have a party."
"O, yes!" said Clarence in a quick, animated voice, clapping his hands together. "Marien is a good girl, and she shall have a party."
"You love Marien, don't you, Clarence?"
"Why do you love her?"
"Because she is so good. Everybody lores her."
"Because she is good?"
"Wouldn't you like everybody to love you?"
"Yes, mother. But I can't be good like Marien."
"I don't know — but I can't."
"What will you do at Marien's party?"
"I will dance with all the little girls, and be as kind and good to them as I can."
"Who shall be invited?"
"All the children we know, except Tom Peters and Sarah Jones."
A frown gathered upon the boy's face as he uttered these names.
"Why not invite them, Clarence?"
"Because I don't like them."
"Why don't you like them?"
"Tom threw stones at me the other day, and Sarah called me a rude ugly boy."
"Why did Tom throw stones at you?"
Clarence was silent.
"Perhaps you did something to him."
"I only laughed at him because he fell down."
"Did he ever throw stones at you before?"
"You were always good friends."
"Then you were first in the wrong. You provoked him to throw stones at you."
"I only laughed at him, and I couldn't help it. He fell in the mud, and soiled his clothes all over."
"I don't think that was anything to laugh at. Suppose Marien had been in your place? What do you think she would have done? Would she have laughed at him?"
"No, I am sure she wouldn't."
"What would she have done?"
"I suppose she would have gone to him, and brushed all the dirt from his clothes, and told him that she was very sorry he had fallen down."
"You said just now that Marien was a good girl."
"And so she is."
"And that you loved her because she was good."
"So I do."
"Were you good when you laughed at Thomas Peters?"
"I don't think I was."
"Would he throw stones at Marien?"
"No, indeed. Nobody would throw stones at her. Everybody loves her."
"It is plain then, that it was because you were not good, that Thomas Peters threw stones at you. He did not throw stones at good Clarence, but at bad Clarence. Is it not so? Now don't you think you can forgive him, when you remember how you provoked him. Suppose you had fallen in the mud, and he had laughed at you — would not you have been just as likely to have thrown stones at him?"
"Maybe I would."
"Suppose the good Lord would not forgive us for all the evil we do — what do you think would become of us? And he will not forgive us, unless we forgive others their trespasses against us. Remember that, my dear boy. You will have Thomas invited, I am sure."
"Yes, mother; for I believe I was wrong," the boy replied in a softened tone. "And we will invite Sarah Jones too. I don't believe she would have called me what she did, if I had not run against her little brother and pushed him down. She loves Marien, and I know would be very sorry if she couldn't come to her party."
"That is right, my boy. To forgive is sweet. You feel happier now, don't you?"
"I don't hate Tom Peters like I did."
"You didn't hate him of yourself, my son. But you allowed wicked thoughts to come into your heart, and you felt the hatred they bear towards everyone. I am glad that they are cast out. Whenever we permit them to come into our hearts, they make us very unhappy. If we suffer not the evil thoughts to come into us, good thoughts will be our companions, and they will make us love everyone."
"They must always be with sister Marien then; for she loves everybody."
"They will always be with you, if you will let them, my son. Will you not try?"
"I do try, mother. But I am so bad, that the thoughts won't stay with me."
"What nonsense to talk in that way to children!" said Aunt Mary, as Clarence, hearing the voice of his sister, glided away to talk to her about her party.
"I believe that all I have said to be true," Mrs. Hartley returned.
"True! They are a mere fiction!"
"Not quite so much of a fiction as you may think. But we will not hold an argument on that subject, for it would be of no use. I think, however, that you will admit that, if Marien's party effects no more good than you have just seen done, it will be well worth giving."
"We are not to do evil — that good may come." And Aunt Mary pursed up her lips, and looked as grave as a deacon.
Mrs. Hartley smiled, but made no further observation.
All was merriment and glad anticipation, when it became known among the children that Marien was to have a birthday party. Preparations for it were set on foot immediately, and invitations in due form made out, and sent around to all of her little friends. When the evening came, some twenty or thirty bright young faces were seen in the parlors of Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. Among the number were Thomas Peters and Sarah Jones, and it was a pure gratification to Mrs. Hartley to see Clarence take the former by the hand with manly frankness, and speak kindly to the latter, when they came in. His eye caught the expression of her face at the time. It warmed his heart — nay, impressed it ineffaceably. He remembered it even in manhood, with pleasure.
The evening was a merry one for all. Even Aunt Mary forgot, more than half of her time, the little objection she had to "profane music," and dancing. Such romping and wild, happy merriment as was there, is not often seen. Mrs. Hartley was among them as if but a child herself, and seemed to enjoy it as much as the gayest little urchin of the whole company. But, while she appeared to enter into the sports of the children as if one of them, she guided all their movements, and maintained a beautiful order throughout all. The ardent temperaments of the older children were restrained by modes not seen nor felt by them, while the younger ones she interested in various ways, which kept them together, and protected from the thoughtless rudeness of their elders. Not a string jarred in harsh discord during the whole evening. When the hour came for separation, a hundred kind wishes were uttered for Marien, and they all parted happier and better than when they came.
"I don't know how they can be better," said Aunt Mary, to whom Mrs. Hartley made a remark on the next day, similar to what we have just uttered.
"It is because they love one another more," Mrs. Hartley replied, in her usual quiet way.
It is good thus to bring children together often. It creates and cherishes social feelings, and causes them to regard one another less selfishly than all are inclined to do. The spirits of children are active, and will flow out in spite of all that may unwisely be done to restrain them. It is the duty of parents to provide good forms into which these can flow, and find their delight. Can anything be more suitable than social recreations, in which many can join together in innocent mirth? We think not. And so thought Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. It was for this reason that the birthday of every child was celebrated by some kind of festivities.
Chapter 7. Correcting a Fault.
Mrs. Hartley noticed with pleasure, that for days after the party, the children were happier, and more easily interested than before. This she had always observed on similar occasions. In a little while, however, things were going on pretty much in their usual course, and she was called upon to exercise all her tact and judgment in drawing the lines between them — so as to protect each one in his or her rights and privileges. All difficulties were submitted to her husband, and the best means to overcome them discussed between them.
"There are two faults in Clarence and Henry," she said to Mr. Hartley about this period, "that I am at a loss how to correct. They are bad faults, and will affect their characters through life — if not judiciously corrected now. Clarence looks with an envious eye upon everything that Henry has, and shrewdly manages, sooner or later, to get possession of it by his brother's consent. Henry soon tires of what he has, and is easily induced to part with it to Clarence for some trifling consideration. It is not long, however, before he wants it back again — and then trouble ensues. Sometimes I think I will make a law that neither Clarence nor his brother shall part with anything that has been given to him. But I am afraid of the effect of this. It will foster a selfish spirit. It will allow of no generous self-sacrifice for the good of others."
"I think with you, that the effect would not be good. Still, it is very important that a certain feeling of property in what each one has, should be preserved. As far as this can be accomplished, without strengthening the selfish tendency of our nature, it should be done. It causes each one not only to protect his own rights — but to regard the rights of others."
"I see all that very clearly. The happy medium is what I desire to attain. As things are now, the disposition which Clarence has to appropriate everything to himself is fostered — and Henry is losing that just regard to his own rights that he ought to have. Now, what ought I to do? Can you devise a plan?"
"Not so well as you can. But let me see. Suppose you try this mode for a while. Make a law, that if Henry give Clarence any of his playthings, the right to possess them shall be as perfect as if you or I had presented them to Clarence as his own. The practical working of this will, in a short time, make Henry reflect a little before he relinquishes his property to his brother."
"That will do, I think," said Mrs. Hartley. There will be no harm in trying it, at any rate."
On the next day she gave Clarence a new book, and Henry a spinning-top.
"Now let me tell you something," she said. "This book belongs to you, Clarence, and this top to you, Henry. I hope they will please you very much, and that you will take good care of them. You can lend them to each other, if you choose; but I would rather you would not give them to each other. Should either of you do so, the one who gives his book or his top away, cannot reclaim it again. Do you understand, Henry?"
"O yes, ma'am, I understand. I'm not going to give anybody my top, I know."
"Very well, my son. You can do so if you wish. But remember, after you have once given it away, you cannot get it back again."
"Why can't I, mother?" asked the little boy.
"Because, after you have given anything away, it is no longer yours."
"I'm not going to give it away," he said, in a positive voice, as he ran off to spin his top in the play room.
For about an hour Clarence was very much interested in his book — while Henry continued to spin his top with undiminished pleasure. After this time the interest of Clarence began to flag, and the sound of Henry's humming top came more and more distinctly to his ears from the adjoining room. At last he closed the book and sought his brother.
"Let me spin it once, won't you, Henry?" he said.
"Yes, I will," returned the generous-minded boy, and instantly handed the top and cord to Clarence, who wound it up, and sent it humming and skipping about the floor at a grand rate.
Henry reached out his hand for the cord, but his brother held it back, saying,
"Just let me spin it once more."
"Well, you may once more," was replied.
But it was "once more," and "once more" — until Henry's tears restored to him his toy.
"You are a selfish fellow!" said Clarence, as he flung the top and cord at his brother's feet.
Clarence did not resume his book, but stood looking at Henry's top, as he spun it, with a covetous expression on his face.
"If you'll let me spin your top — then you may read my book," he at length said.
"I will," quickly returned Henry.
The top and book were exchanged, and, for a time, both were well pleased. But the book was rather beyond the grasp of Henry's mind. He tired of it soon.
"You may have your book now, Clarence. I'm done reading it. Give me my top, won't you?"
"I'm not done with it yet. I let you read my book until you were tired, and now you must let me spin your top until I am tired."
Henry rarely contended with his brother. He did not like contention. Knowing how resolute Clarence was in doing anything that suited his humor, he said no more, but went and sat down quietly upon a little chair, and looked on wishfully while Clarence spun his top.
It was half an hour before Henry again got possession of his top; but the zest with which he had at first played with it was gone. After throwing it for a few times he said —
"Here, Clarence, you may have it. I don't want it."
"May I have it for good?" eagerly asked Clarence.
"Yes, for good."
"You'll want it back."
"No, I won't. You may keep it forever."
Clarence took possession of the top with right good will, and went on spinning it to his heart's content.
After dinner Henry wanted it back again, and when his brother refused to give it up, went crying to his mother. Mrs. Hartley called up Clarence, and asked him why he did not give Henry his top.
"It isn't his top, mother; it is mine," said Clarence.
"Yours! How did it come to be yours?"
"Henry gave it to me."
"Did you give it to him, Henry?"
"Yes, ma'am, this morning. But it's my top, and I want it."
"No, it is not your top any longer, if you have given it to Clarence. It is his, and he must keep it. Have you forgotten what I told you when I gave it to you. If you give away your things — then they are no longer yours, and you cannot expect to get them back again. I hope, my son, that, hereafter, you will be more careful what you do."
Henry cried bitterly, but his mother would not compel Clarence, upon whom Henry's tears had no effect, to restore the toy. The poor little fellow's heart was almost broken at this hard lesson in the school of human life.
In about a week, Mrs. Hartley tried it over again. Gifts were made to the children, and soon Clarence went to work to get possession of what his brother had. But Henry had not forgotten the top, and was, therefore, not quite so generous as before. He withstood every effort for the first day. On the second, however, he yielded. On the following day he reclaimed his toys; but his mother interposed again, and maintained Clarence's right to what Henry had given him.
The poor child seemed unable to comprehend the justice of this decision, and grieved so much about it, that Mrs. Hartley felt unhappy. But ultimate good, she was sure, would be the result — as painful as it might be to correct her child's fault.
On the next occasion, Clarence found it much harder to prevail upon Henry to give him his playthings than before. The same result following, and the little fellow's eyes began to be opened. He would look ahead and think when Clarence wanted him to give him anything, and the recollection of the permanent losses he had already sustained, at length gave him the resolution to persevere in refusing to yield up his right to anything that had been given to him. He would lend whatever he had, cheerfully. But when asked to give, he generally said —
"No. If I give it to you — then I can't get it back again."
The parents did not like to check the generous spirit of their child, but they felt that it was necessary both for his good and the good of his brother, that he should be taught to set a higher value upon what was his own. If he were not led to do this while young, it might prevent his usefulness when a man, by leaving him the prey of everyone. Besides, the lack of a due regard to his own property in anything, was not right.
Another fault in Henry, they felt bound to visit with a rigid system of correction. He was naturally an obedient child, while his brother was the reverse. He was also very yielding, and could easily be persuaded by Clarence to join in acts which were forbidden by their parents. When called to account, his usual excuse was, that he had been asked by Clarence, or had gone with him. He did not appear to think that he was to blame for anything, if he acted upon his older brother's suggestions. The only way to correct this, was to let each be punished for offences mutually committed, even though Henry was far less to blame than Clarence. It was only by doing so, the parents felt, that Henry could be made to see that he must be held responsible for his own acts. This course soon effected all they desired. Clarence was then usually alone in all flagrant violations of parental authority.
Chapter 8. A Strong Contrast.
Nearer than Mrs. Hartley had supposed, lived for many years an old but now almost forgotten friend — Florence Armitage; or rather, Mrs. Archer.
We will introduce her on the very night that Marien's birthday party took place, by way of contrast. The house in which she lives is a small, comfortless one, in an obscure street not far from the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. Her father has become poor, and her husband, whose habits are more irregular than when a single man, receives a small salary as clerk, more than half of which he spends in self-indulgence; the other half is eked out to his wife, who, on this pittance, is compelled to provide for five children. She has had six, but one is dead.
It was a clear bright evening outside, but there was nothing cheerful in the dwelling of William Archer. The supper table was in the floor, and on it burned a poor light. The mother sat near the table, with an infant on her lap, mending a pair of dark stockings with coarse yarn of a lighter color. A little girl, three years of age, was swinging on her chair, and a boy two years older was drumming on the floor with two large sticks, making a deafening noise. This noise Mrs. Archer bore as long as she could, when her patience becoming exhausted, she cried out in a loud, fretful voice —
"Bill! Stop that noise!"
The boy paused for a single moment, and then resumed his amusement.
"Did you hear me, Bill? you heedless wretch!" exclaimed the mother, after she had borne the sound for some time longer.
There was silence for about a minute — and the noise began again.
"If you don't stop that, Bill, I'll box your ears soundly," screamed the impatient mother.
The boy stopped for the space of nearly two minutes this time; then he went on again with his drumming.
"Do you want me to send you to bed without your supper?"
"No, I don't," replied the child.
"Then hush that noise, or I shall certainly send you to bed. You set me almost crazy!"
Bill, as his mother called him, laid himself back upon the floor, and commenced kicking up his heels. After having amused himself in this way for some time, his drum-sticks were again resorted to, and the room was once more filled with the distracting din he made. Mrs. Archer bore it as long as she could, and then she boxed the child's ears soundly.
After the cries this correction had died away, all was quiet enough for a quarter of an hour, when Mr. Archer came in to tea.
Twelve years had changed him sadly. His brow was gloomy, his eyes sunken, and his lips closely drawn together, giving his countenance an expression of sternness. He looked at least twenty years older. He did not even cast his eyes upon his wife as he entered, but drew a chair to the table, and taking a newspaper from his pocket, began reading it.
"Bill, go and tell Jane to bring up tea," said Mrs. Archer.
The child went out into the passage, and cried down to the cook, in a tone of authority —
"Bring up tea!"
No notice was taken of this by the parents. Jane came up with the tea, looking as sulky as possible.
"Here, take the baby," said Mrs. Archer, handing Jane the child in a most ungracious manner. Jane took the child quite as ungraciously as it was offered, and managed to keep it crying most of the time they were at supper.
"Where is John?" asked Mr. Archer, looking up at his wife when about half through with his silent meal.
"Who knows, for I don't! He came in from school, but was off at once as usual. He is going to ruin as fast as ever a boy was."
"Why do you let him run the streets in this way?"
"He's got beyond me. I don't pretend to try to manage him. I might just as well tell him to go, as to stay. It would be all the same to him. It's high time that you had taken him in hand. Florence is at her grandmother's, and I intended sending John after her an hour ago. But he hasn't shown himself."
Mr. Archer did not reply; he felt worried and angry. While they were yet at the table, John, a lad of some eleven years old, came in, and threw his hat down in the corner.
"Go and hang your hat up, sir," said his father. "Is that the place for it?"
John did as he was ordered.
"Now, where have you been, sir?" was the father's angry interrogation.
"I've been playing."
"What business have you to go off without asking your mother? If ever I hear of this again, I'll give you such a beating as you've never had in your life. Don't sit down to the table! Go, put on your hat again, and be off to get your sister Florence."
"Where is she?"
"Where is she?" mimicking the tones and manner of the boy. "At your grandmother's," said Mr. Archer. "Go along after her, and be quick. She ought to have been home more than an hour ago."
John went out slowly and sulkily.
"If that boy goes to ruin, you will have no one to blame but yourself," said Mr. Archer, ill-naturedly.
"I don't know how you are going to make that out," returned his wife in a voice quite as unamiable as that in which he had spoken.
"You have no government over him."
"I have quite as much as yourself," retorted Mrs. Archer.
"Humph! You think so, do you?" — he spoke in a sneering tone.
"I think just what I say. If you paid the least attention to your children, they would grow up very differently. As it is, I have no comfort with them, and never hope to have any. I expect to see them go to ruin."
"So I would think, by the way you let them run wild. You talk about my government over them, but I would like to know what I can do, when I am not with them for an hour each day. Whatever is the result, you will have only yourself to blame."
"That's just it. Instead of staying at home with your children, and trying to make something out of them — you are off every night, who knows where — but after no good, of course."
"Hold your tongue, madam!" Mr. Archer gave his wife an angry scowl as he said this.
The wife felt little inclination to contend further. There was a brutality in her husband's tone and manner that stunned her. She said nothing more.
While the father and mother were engaged in a war of words, the little boy, before mentioned, was amusing himself by spinning his spoon around in his plate, which made a most annoying clatter, and served to add to the irritation felt by both Mr. and Mrs. Archer, although the cause was not noticed until their contention was over.
"Be quiet, child!" said the mother, as the noise of the rattling spoon continued to fall upon her ear.
She might as well not have spoken. If any change was produced by her words, it was an increased vigor in the movement of the spoon.
She laid her hand upon the boy's head and said — "Don't make that noise, Bill — you irritate me."
The moment the pressure of the hand was removed, like a reacting spring, the movement went on again; the noise, if anything, louder than ever. A vigorous slap on the ear signified that poor Mrs. Archer's patience was exhausted. Almost simultaneous with the loud scream of the child, came the loud bang of the door. Her husband had precipitately left the house. A state of sad, dreamy abstraction settled upon the mind of Mrs. Archer. Although Bill, as the little fellow was called, fairly yelled out from passion and pain, she did not hear him.
Jane, the cook, who was nursing the babe, waited patiently for some time after Archer had left, to be called up from the kitchen. But minute after minute passed, and no summons came. It was nearly a quarter of an hour before she ascended to the dining-room. She found Mrs. Archer in a state of entire absent-mindedness, with her head resting on her hand — the little boy was fast asleep in his chair.
The mother roused up on the entrance of the cook, and said —
"Here, Jane, give me the baby, and take this child up and put him to bed before you clear off the table." The fair young face and glowing cheeks of the little boy, as Jane lifted him up, met the mother's eye. She sighed deeply, and again fell into her former dreamy state.
In a little while John and Florence came in. Florence was a sweet-faced child, just nine years old. Her disposition was mild, and she was very thoughtful — rendering her mother much service in her attentions to the younger children. Her first act was to go up to her mother and kiss her, and then kiss the babe that lay upon her lap.
"Have you had a pleasant time, dear?" asked Mrs. Archer.
"O, yes, mother. I have had a nice time. Grandma baked us a whole basket full of cakes, which I have brought home; and she let me help her. I cut them all out. Where is Willy and Mary?" she added, looking around. "They must have some cakes. Oh, dear! Here's sis' fast asleep on the floor. Shall I wake her up, mother, and give her a cake?"
"No, dear, I wouldn't wake her now. The cakes will taste just as good to her in the morning."
"Where is Willy?"
"He's in bed. Jane took him up stairs."
"Shall I hold the baby, while you undress Mary?" asked Florence, as she took off her bonnet and shawl.
"Yes, you may."
"Dear little boy!" murmured Florence, as she took the child from her mother's arms, and sat down with it upon a low stool.
"I want some supper," said John, pouting out his lips, and looking as ugly and ill-natured as possible.
"There's some bread and butter for you. Sit down and eat that, and then take yourself off to bed," replied his mother.
"I want some tea."
"You'll not get any."
"I'll go and ask Jane to give me some."
"Take care, sir; or you'll be sent off without mouthful!"
As rudely as possible, John sat down upon the corner of a chair, and commenced eating. The moment his mother left the room with Mary in her arms, his hand was in the sugar-bowl; a portion of the contents of which were freely laid upon his bread and butter.
"If I don't get tea — I'll have sugar!" he said.
He was in the act of helping himself from the sugar-bowl for the third time, when his mother came in. The consequence was that he got his ears soundly boxed, and was sent off to bed.
Florence continued to nurse the babe, or rock it in the cradle, for an hour, when she became too sleepy to hold up her head. Kissing her mother affectionately, the child said good night, and went off, alone, to her room, where she undressed herself and retired for the night. But no prayer was said — her mother had never taught her this best of infantile lessons.
Mrs. Archer sat up sewing until nearly eleven o'clock, and then sought her pillow. As usual, her husband had not yet returned. It was past midnight when he came home.
Too many of the evenings that were passed in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Archer, were similar to the one we have described. The influence upon the children was, of course, only bad. The evil qualities of mind they inherited, instead of being weakened and subdued — were quickened into a premature activity. There was no strength of principle, and no regular system in the mother's mind to counterbalance the indifference of the father. Had she been fitted for the high and holy duties of a mother, she would have left a far different impression upon her children's minds than she had made. The good would have been developed — and the evil held in a state of quiescence. She would have stored up in the minds of her children, good and true principles which would remain there, and save them in the day when the trials of mature life came.
Chapter 9. More Contrasts.
Five more years of patience, forbearance, and solicitude passed, and Mrs. Hartley began to see many good results of her labor; especially when she contrasted the habits and manners of her own children, with the habits and manners of the children of some of her friends.
One of these friends, a Mrs. Fielding, had four children of naturally very good dispositions. They were affectionate to one another, and seemed to have more than usual of a home feeling about them. The mother's fireside circle might have been an earthly paradise, if she had been at all disposed to consult her children's good, instead of her own pleasure. But this she was not disposed to do. She was vain, and fond of company. When she had provided a good nurse for her children — she thought that her duty was done. It never occurred to her that her children needed a mother, such as only she could be to them — as much as they needed a nurse to provide for their bodily comfort.
This woman came in to see Mrs. Hartley one day, and found her sitting at the piano.
"What does all this mean?" asked Mrs. Fielding, in a mirthful tone. "You playing the piano! I thought you had enough else to do."
"I'm only practicing some new cotillions for the children."
"What good will your practicing them do the children, I wonder?"
"A good deal, I hope. We have a little family party among ourselves every Wednesday evening, when the children dance, and I play for them."
"And you practice for this purpose during the day."
"I practice just one hour every Wednesday for this very purpose, and no other."
"You are a strange woman. Why don't you let Marien play while the other children dance?"
"Because Marien likes to dance as well as the rest of them. And, more than that, she is the most graceful in her movements, and the most perfect in her steps, and I want the others to benefit by her superior accomplishments."
"Let their dancing-master take care of their steps. It is his business, and he will do it much better."
"The school will do little good, Mrs. Fielding, if it be not seconded by a well ordered home education. Of this I am well satisfied."
"But it is no light task to make home another school-house."
"Home need not, and should not be such a place. It should leave its younger members in more freedom than school affords. But, what is learned at school from duty — should be practiced at home from affection. Children ought to be led into the delightful exercise of the knowledge they attain, simultaneously, if possible, with its attainments. This should be their reward. As soon as they have mastered the rudiments of language, and can read — entertaining and instructive books should be provided for them; and, at every step in their progress, the means of bringing down into activity all they learn, should be supplied to the utmost extent. It is for this reason that we have musical and dancing parties among ourselves every week. I find it no task, but a real pleasure, to play for them, and, in order to keep up with the new music — to practice a few hours every week."
"But how do you find time? You, who are such a slave to your family!"
"If everything is done according to a regular system — we can easily find time for almost anything."
"I don't know. You beat me out. I do scarcely anything in my family, it seems — and yet I am always hurried to death when I do that little, so that it isn't more than half done. As to practicing on the piano, that is out of the question."
Mrs. Hartley faintly sighed. "You have four sweet children," she said, after a pause;" I never saw better dispositions, naturally, in my life. You could you pleased do anything with them."
"What you say, a mother's partiality aside, is true," replied Mrs. Fielding, with a brightening face. "They are all good children. I only wish I was a better mother — that I was like you, Mrs. Hartley. I fear I am too fond of society; but I can't help it."
"Oh, don't say that, Mrs. Fielding. Love for our children should be strong enough to make us correct anything in ourselves that stands in the way of their good. A mother's duties ought to take precedence over everything else."
"I don't think a mother ought to be a slave to her children."
"Willing servitude is not slavery. How can you use such a word in connection with a mother? Her devotion should be from a love that never wearies — never grows cold."
"I don't know how that may be; mine wearies often enough."
"I feel discouraged sometimes," replied Mrs. Hartley. "But my love never abates. It grows stronger with every new difficulty that is presented."
"You are one in a thousand, then; that is all I can say. I know a good many mothers, and I know that they all complain bitterly about the trouble they have with their children."
"They would have less trouble — if they loved them more."
"How can you make that appear?"
"Love ever strives to benefit its object. A true love for children prompts the mother to seek with the most self-sacrificing assiduity — for the means of doing her offspring good."
"Oh dear! I'm sadly afraid that I am not a true mother then. It's no use to disguise it — I cannot give up every comfort for my children; and I don't think we are required to do it."
"True love, Mrs. Fielding, sacrifices nothing, when it is in pursuit of its objects, for it desires nothing so ardently as the attainment of that object. I am not aware that I give up every comfort; I sometimes, it is true, deny myself a gratification, because, in seeking it, I must neglect my children, or interfere with their pleasures; but I have never done this — that I have not been more than repaid for all I thought I had lost."
"Well, that is a comfort. I only wish I could say as much."
"You would soon be able to say so, if you were to make sacrifices for your children from love to them."
"I think I do love them."
"I am sure of that, Mrs. Fielding. But, to speak plainly as one friend may venture to speak to another — perhaps you love yourself more."
"Perhaps I do. But how is that to be determined?"
"Very easily. We love those most, who occupy most of our thoughts, and for whose comfort and happiness we are most careful — whether it be ourselves or our children."
Mrs. Fielding did not reply. Mentally she applied the rule, and was forced to acknowledge that she loved herself, more than she did her children.
The oldest boy of Mrs. Fielding was about the same age of Clarence. Having completed all their preparatory studies, the two boys were sent the same year to college. At the age of sixteen, they left their homes for the first time, to be absent, except at short intervals, for three years. James Fielding left home with reluctance.
"I don't want to go, mother," he said the day before he was to start.
"Why not, James?" she asked.
"I would rather go to school here. I can learn just as much."
"Yes, but think of the honor, my son, of passing through college. It isn't every boy who has this privilege. It will make a man out of you. I hope you will do credit to yourself and your parents. You must strive for the first honors. Your father achieved them before you."
Very different was the parting counsel of Mrs. Hartley to her son. The question whether it would be best in the end to send their son to college, was long and anxiously discussed between the father and mother. Many reasons, for and against, were presented, and these were examined minutely. The strongest objection felt by them was the fact that, from the congregating together of a large number of young men at college, among whom would be many with loose principles and bad habits — there would be danger of moral contamination. For a time they inclined to the belief that it would be better not to send their son away from home; but their concern to secure for him the very best education the country afforded, at last determined their course.
Long and earnestly did Mrs. Hartley commune with her boy, on the evening before his departure.
"Never forget, my son," she said, "the end for which you should strive after knowledge. It is, that you may be better able, by your efforts as a man, to benefit society. A learned man, can always perform higher uses than an ignorant man. And remember, that one so young and so little acquainted with the world as yourself, will be subjected to many severe temptations. But resist evil with a determined spirit. Beware of the first deviation from right. Do not allow the smallest stain to come upon your garments. Let your mother receive you back as pure as when you went forth, my son.
"You will discover, soon after you enter college, a spirit of insubordination — a disposition in many of the students to violate the laws of the institution; but do not join in with them. It is just as wrong for a student to violate the laws of college, as it is for a citizen to violate the laws of his country. They are wholesome regulations, made for the good of the whole; and he who weakens their force — does a wrong to the whole. Guard yourself here, my son, for here you will be greatly tempted. But stand firm. If you break, willfully, a college law, your honor is stained, and no subsequent obedience can efface the wrong. Guard your honor my dear boy! It is a precious and holy thing.
"I will write to you often — and you must write often to me. Talk to me, in your letters, as freely as you would talk if we were face to face. Consider me your best friend — and he who would weaken my influence over you, as your worst enemy. You cannot tell, my son, how concerned I feel about you. I know, far better than you can know, how intimately danger will surround you. But, if you will make God's holy law, as written in his Ten Commandments, the guide of your life — you will be safe. John Bunyan's Christian, in his journey to the land of Canaan, had not a path to travel in, which is more beset with evil and danger, than will be yours — but you will be safe from all harm, if, like him, you steadily resist and fight against everything that would turn you from the straight and narrow way of truth and integrity. You go with your mother's blessing upon your head, and your mother's prayers following you."
The earnestness with which his mother spoke, affected the heart of Clarence. He did not reply, but he made a firm resolution to do nothing that would give her a moment's pain. He loved her tenderly; for she had ever been to him the best of mothers, and this love was his prompter.
"I will never pain the heart of so good a mother," he said, as he laid his head upon his pillow that night. How different might have been his feelings, if he had been raised under different maternal influences.
Chapter 10. Fruit.
About the same time that Clarence Hartley was sent to college — the oldest son of Mr. Archer was sent to sea as the last hope of reclaiming him. He had been allowed to run into all kinds of bad company until he was so degraded, that his mother lost all control over him. And yet, this boy had naturally a more obedient temper than Clarence, and could have been managed far more easily. It is true that the two mothers were placed under different circumstances — nevertheless, even the unhappy external condition of Florence Archer was no excuse. If she had truly loved her child — she could have brought an influence to bear upon him that would have saved him.
At college, Clarence Hartley found himself in a new world. At first, the reckless behavior and bad lives of some of the students, surprised and shocked him. Soon, familiarity with such things made them seem less reprehensible. He could not only listen to them, but often join heartily in the laugh awakened by some sally of ribald wit. When alone, however, and the remembrance of home arose in his mind, he felt grieved to think that he could have taken pleasure in anything that would so have shocked his mother's ears.
He wrote home every week, and wrote with all the frankness of a mind which had nothing to conceal. Every letter was promptly answered by his mother; and, in every letter from her were some tenderly urged precepts which always came with a timely force. These were not hackneyed repetitions of the same forms that had been enunciated time and again, until all their force was gone; nor did they come to her son in the shape of mere didactics. They had an appropriateness, a beauty, and a force about them, which ever inspired Clarence with a new love of what was morally excellent. If, at any time, he felt inclined to enter the forbidden grounds of pleasure, where too many of the students roved, the very next letter from home would win him back. The love of his mother was about him, like a protecting sphere.
Very different was the case with James Fielding. It was not long before his natural love of companionship caused him to form intimate associations with several of the students whose principles and habits were not good. With these, he spent hours every night in amusements and conversations by no means calculated to elevate the tone of his feelings. He made frequent efforts to induce Clarence to join them, who did so for a few times — but for a few times only. After having spent an evening in drinking, smoking and card-playing, interspersed with songs and conversation such as his ears had never before heard — he found, on retiring to his room, a letter upon his table from his mother. The sight of this letter caused an instant revulsion in his feelings. He did not open it for some time. The very superscription, in the well-known handwriting of his mother, seemed to rebuke him for having felt pleasure in what would have pained her pure mind deeply. When, at length, he opened and read the letter, it affected him to tears.
"My Dear Clarence" — it said, "How much we missed you last night at our family party. There were Marien, Henry, Fanny, and Lillian — but Clarence was away. I believe I thought much oftener of my absent one, than I did of those who were present. Henry accompanied Marien at the piano, on the flute — but not so perfectly as you used to do; and yet he plays very well for one so young. Fanny is improving rapidly in her music; she performed for us a very difficult overture, and did it exceedingly well. She dances, too, with admirable grace. How I wanted you to see her last evening. Dear little Lillian is always talking about you, and asking when you will come home. She grows sweeter and dearer every day. We had a very happy time, indeed, as we always have; but it would have been much happier, had not one been missing.
"I had a visit from Mrs. Fielding yesterday. She says that James has only written to her twice since he has been away. She asked me how often I heard from you; when I told her, every few days, she said that if she could hear from her boy every few weeks — she would be very glad. Your mother thanks you, Clarence, for your promptness in writing. It is a great pleasure for me to hear from you often. How is Thomas Fielding? Is he doing well? I wish he would write home more frequently. I thought his mother looked troubled when she spoke of him."
Clarence sighed and lifted his eyes from the letter on reading this passage. He thought of James Fielding, and the dangerous ground upon which he was standing, and sighed again as he resumed the perusal of his letter. The whole letter came pure and true from a mother's heart, and it so filled the mind of Clarence with images of home, and made that home appear so like a little Heaven, that he experienced a shuddering sensation when he compared it with the scene in which he had so lately been a participant.
"Thank God for such a mother!" he could not help ejaculating, as he read the last line of her letter. "Shall I ever cause her to shed a tear? No — never!"
"You went away too soon last night," said James Fielding to him the next morning. "We had some rare sport after you left, with one of the professors. He guessed that all was not right, and came tapping at the door about eleven o'clock. We let him in, and then mystified him until he was glad to sneak off, half begging our pardons for having suspected us of anything wrong. Ha! ha! It was great fun."
"I think I stayed quite long enough," Clarence replied, gravely.
"I don't believe any of us were doing right."
"Indeed! Why not?"
"We were doing what we knew would not be sanctioned by the Faculty."
"I suppose we were. But what of that?"
"A good deal, I would think. It is wrong to violate any of the rules and regulations of the institution."
"Humph! If that is wrong, a good many sins are committed with the passage of every twenty-four hours. You are more particular than wise, Clarence. A little fun is pleasant at all times. I go in for it myself."
"Innocent fun is well enough. But where it is sought in wicked courses — it is imminently dangerous. At the last, it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder! When did you hear from home, James?"
"From home? Oh, I'm sure I don't remember. I was going to say I don't hear from there at all; but I have had two letters from mother, filling half a page each."
"When did you write?"
"About a month ago, to say I needed some pocket money."
"I heard from home last night."
"Ah! Got some money, I suppose."
"Of love from my mother, more precious than gold or silver," replied Clarence with some feeling. "She says that your mother complains that you do not write to her."
"Say to your mother, if you please, that I complain that my mother doesn't write to me. So the account will stand balanced. I never could write a letter, except to say I wanted something. And I suppose mother is like me. We will excuse one another."
James spoke with a levity that pained Clarence. He wanted to admonish him, but felt that, in his present mood, it would be useless.
During the first year that Clarence was at college, the principles he had been taught by his mother became rules of action with him. He set his face resolutely against everything that he considered wrong. James Fielding, on the contrary, was among the most thoughtless young men in the institution. His desires and passions were his rulers.
One day he came to Clarence and said —
"There is to be some sport in about a week."
"Is there? What will it be like?"
"We don't intend going to morning prayers until seven o'clock."
"But the regulations say six."
"I know. Six is too early, and we are going to have it at seven."
"You did not come here to make laws — but to observe them," gravely replied Clarence.
"We came here to be instructed, not to be dragged out of bed to morning prayers before day — not to be bamboozled about by arbitrary Professors. It is a public institution, and the Faculty have no right to make oppressive laws."
"If anyone dislikes these laws — let him go home. It is the only honest course. But what else is intended?"
"We intend — "
"We? Have you really joined in this conspiracy against law and order?"
"Certainly I have. With the exception of about twenty, every student is pledged to go through with the matter when it is once started. My duty is to bring you over to our side. We wish to act as one man."
"After you have refused to attend morning prayers — what do you then propose doing?"
"If the hour is changed to seven, all well and good. Nothing more will be done. But if not, our next course will be to attend regularly at six for a week, and scrape the chaplain down."
"Completely drown his voice by scraping our feet."
"You certainly are beside yourself, James. I cannot believe that you would join in doing so wrong a deed. In this you would not only insult the institution, but God Himself."
"Oh no. God doesn't have much to do with the six o'clock prayers of college students."
"You speak with an unbecoming levity, James."
"Do I indeed?" The lip of the boy slightly curled.
"What else is to be done?" asked Clarence, not noticing the manner of his companion.
"All sorts of things. Every regulation of the college is to be broken — unless our wishes are complied with. Wait a little, and you will see fun. But let me tell you — it is determined that every student who does not join us, shall be thrown into the horse-pond. You had better consent. I would hate to see anything done to you."
The eyes of Clarence instantly flashed, and his cheeks grew red as crimson.
"I would not consent — if my life were taken," said the high-spirited boy. "But never fear. There is no one here that dare lay his hands upon me."
"Don't trust to that. There are those here who dare lay their hands upon anybody, and who will do it too. Come, then, say you will join us."
"No — never!"
"You will be sorry when it is too late."
"I have no fears."
On the next day, the matter was publicly broached during the college recess, when the students were alone.
"I move," said one, "that we begin on the morning after tomorrow."
"Second the motion," came from three or four voices.
"All who are in favor, hold up your hands."
More than a hundred hands, were thrown into the air.
"All who are opposed will now hold up their hands."
A deep silence followed. Then a single hand was raised — then another, and another, until ten hands were seen above the heads of the crowd. It was the hand of Clarence, which first went up.
A murmur of discontent ran through the body of students, which deepened into execrations and threats. Half a dozen who were nearest Clarence gathered round him, with earnest and half angry remonstrances. His only reply was —
"It is wrong — and I cannot join you."
"The regulation is oppressive," it was argued.
"Then leave the institution — but do not violate its laws."
"That is easily said. But others have a word in that, as well as ourselves. All here are not exactly free to do as they please."
"It is better to endure what seems oppressive, than to do wrong."
"We don't mean to do wrong!" said several voices.
You threaten to throw anyone in the horse-pond who does not join you."
Several of the students looked confused, but one or two cried out — "Certainly we do! And what is more, our threats shall be executed!"
"Right, or wrong?" retorted Clarence, with a meaning look and voice, and turning on his heel, walked away with a firm step.
His manner and words had their effect. He had said but little, but that little caused several who heard him to think more soberly. In nearly every little knot of students that was drawn together in the various rooms that night, was one or more who had become lukewarm. A re-consideration of the matter was moved on the next day, and the question again taken. Instead of a dozen hands raised in the negative, as on the day before — there were now over fifty. From that time, little more was heard upon the subject. The revolt never took place.
So much for the influence of a single well-ordered, honest mind. Had the natural disposition of Clarence been unchecked, and had no counter-balancing principles been stored up in his mind — he would have been as eager for the proposed rebellion as the most thoughtless students. What evil results might have followed, cannot he told. There were those in the institution who did not like him much after this; but none who did not feel for him an involuntary respect.
Chapter 11. An Agreeable Surprise.
The incident just related occurred about a year and a half after Clarence entered college. He had, then, nearly completed his sixteenth year.
About a week afterwards, and before they had received any communication from their son, mentioning the circumstance, Mr. Hartley handed his wife a letter. Its contents were as follows:
"Mr. James Hartley — Dear Sir — As the President of University, permit me to express to you my own and the thanks of the whole Faculty. The good and true principles which you have stored up in the mind of your son, have saved us from the evils of a well-planned resistance of authority by the students. No persuasions, we are told, could induce him to join with the rest. Personal violence was threatened, but this only made him adhere more firmly to his good resolution. The consequence was, that his conduct opened the eyes of one and another to see the folly of what they were about to do. Two parties were formed, and, before any overt act of rebellion, the peace party prevailed. We shall ever remember your son with admiration and gratitude. From his first entrance into our institution, he has been known as the strict observer of all its rules, and a diligent student. It is but just that his parents should know all this from us. With sentiments of the highest respect and regard, Dr. John Miller, President of University."
Tears of joy gushed to the eyes of Mrs. Hartley, as she finished the last line of this letter.
"Noble boy!" she said with enthusiasm.
"You are pleased with the letter, then," said her husband, with assumed gravity.
"O yes! Are you not?" and she looked aim in the face with surprise.
"It would have all been well enough, if the direction had not been wrong."
"What do you mean? Was it not our son that acted so nobly?"
"O yes. But the letter should have been addressed to you."
Mrs. Hartley smiled through her tears, and said —
"It is all right. Are we not one? But what would my efforts have been without your wise counsel to second them. I will never care for the praise, so long my boy does right. That is my sweetest reward. This is indeed a happy day. You know how much anxiety I have felt for Clarence. His peculiar temperament is, perhaps, the hardest there is to manage."
"And had you not been the most assiduous and wisest of mothers — you never could have molded it into any form of beauty."
"Many an anxious day and sleepless night has it cost me. I sowed the seed in tears; but the dews of Heaven watered the earth, and when the tender blade shot forth, the Sun of Righteousness warmed and strengthened it. Oh, how often have I felt discouraged! The selfishness of the boy was so strong, and he had so little regard for order. To counteract these, I labored daily, and almost hourly. But I seemed to make little progress — sometimes all my efforts appeared fruitless. Still, I persevered, and it has not been in vain."
"O no. You have saved him from his worst enemy — himself."
"Henry is now old enough for college. What shall we do with him?" the mother said.
"Send him to University with his brother, I suppose. There is not a better institution in the country."
"Do you think it will be safe to send him from home?" asked Mrs. Hartley.
"His disposition has changed little since he was a child. He is still confiding, and easily led away by others. Clarence had a strong will and prominent faults, which could be attacked vigorously; but the defects of Henry's character were hard to reach. I have thought much on the subject of sending him to college, but feel more and more reluctant to do so, the nearer the time comes for making a decision on the subject."
"We ought not to deprive him of the advantages of a good education. He would stand side by side with his brother in this respect."
"True. But cannot we give him all these advantages at a less risk."
"I know of no institution in this city where the same advantages may be secured."
"I believe there is none. But, should we look alone at this? Will our child be safe there? Is his character yet decided enough for us to trust him from our side? I think not. The frankness with which Clarence has written to us of the various temptations that have assailed him from time to time, has opened my eyes to the dangers which must encompass a boy like Henry in such a place, and I would not feel happy a moment were he to go there."
"Then he must not go," said Mr. Hartley, firmly. "You have ever been a true mother to our children, and your love has thus far led you to determine wisely in regard to them. Though I must own that I feel very reluctant to deprive the boy of the advantages of a thorough college course of instruction."
"Have not my reasons force in your mind?" asked Mrs. Hartley. "Do you not believe that it would be wrong for us to jeopardize the spiritual interests of our child, in the eager pursuit of intellectual advantages."
"I certainly do. The latter should only be for the sake of the former. The intellect should be cultivated as the means of developing the moral powers, that both in union may act in life with true efficiency. If all the higher objects of education can be secured by keeping our child at home, we ought not, under any circumstances, to send him away."
"They may often be better secured away from home, if the boy has firmness enough to resist the temptations that will assail him. But the question whether the boy can so resist, must be decided by the parents before he is sent out to make his first trial on the world-arena."
"My own feeling is, that we had better keep Henry under our guidance as long as it can be done. He is not a boy with the quick intellect of Clarence, and will, probably, never be ambitious to move in a sphere where the highest attainments are required. It would be much more agreeable to him now to go to work in your store, than to go to school."
"And I shall not grieve over his choice of a pursuit in life, if he should prefer the calling of a merchant."
"Nor I. Active employment is the best for all, and in choosing a profession in life, that should always be chosen which will give the mind great activity, while, at the same time, it brings in the affections also. The pursuit of any calling which a man does not like, can never result to his own and the public advantage in so high a degree as it would were his heart in what he was doing. For this reason, we ought to be governed very much, in deciding for our children, by their fitness for and preference for a pursuit in business."
"Children's preferences, however, do not always arise from any peculiar fitness in themselves — but often from caprice."
"It is the business of a wise parent to discriminate between a natural fitness for a thing — and a fleeting preference for it. The imagination of young people is very active, and apt to throw a false light around that upon which it dwells."
Many conversations of a like nature were held by Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, who finally came to the determination to keep Henry at home. The boy was disappointed at this. He wanted to go to college; not for the sake of the superior advantages there to be obtained, but because his imagination had thrown a peculiar charm about a college life."
Before making a final decision on the subject, Mrs. Hartley thought it right to bring Clarence into their confidence. She wrote him a long letter on the subject, and asked him to give his opinion of the effect that would be produced upon a boy like Henry, if introduced among the students. "You know his disposition," she said, "and how he would be affected by the kind of associations into which he would be thrown."
Clarence wrote back immediately, that he did not believe it would be good for Henry to be exposed to the temptations of a college life. "He is too easily led away by others," he remarked. "I have noticed more than a dozen instances, since I have been here, of boys just like Henry, who were innocent and confiding in their dispositions when they came — who soon became so changed that it made me sad to think about it. There was one boy in particular. His mother came with him when he first entered college. She appeared to be deeply attached to him, and he to her — they both wept bitterly at parting. She was a widow, and he her only remaining child, upon whom all her care, affection and assets were lavished. He soon made friends, for all seemed drawn towards him. Singular as it may seem, the boy, between whom and himself the warmest attachment arose, was as unlike him as it is possible to imagine. He was a bold, bad boy — full of life, and ready to do almost anything that his reckless spirit prompted. In a little while, they were inseparable companions. At the end of six months, the spirit of the one seemed to have been transfused into that of the other. I almost wonder, sometimes, if the mother would know her son, were they to meet unexpectedly. I hope you will not send Henry here. He might pass through his course uncontaminated, but I think it would be dangerous to expose one like him to so many temptations."
This letter fully decided Mr. and Mrs. Hartley.
Chapter 12. Going into Company.
Marien was in her eighteenth year, and yet she had been taken into mixed company by her parents but very little. Her virtues were all of a domestic character, and graced the home circle. She knew of little beyond its pleasant precincts. Few who saw her, supposed that she was over fifteen years of age. Not that her mind was unmatured, but because her appearance was girlish, and her manners simple and unaffected — yet retiring when strangers were present.
"How old is Marien?" asked Mrs. Fielding, who had called in one morning to chat away half an hour with Mrs. Hartley. Marien had just left the room.
"In her eighteenth year," was replied.
"Nearly eighteen! Dear me! — it cannot be."
"Yes. That is her age."
"I never would have believed it. Why, she looks more like a girl of thirteen or fourteen."
"I don't know. She doesn't seem so very young to me."
"But why in the world do you keep the poor thing back so? She should have been introduced into company two years ago. I had no idea that she was so old."
Mrs. Fielding had a daughter only in her seventeenth year, who had been flourishing about at all the balls and parties for the past two seasons, and had now all the silly airs and affectations which a young miss, under such circumstances, might be expected to acquire. Jane Fielding had met Marien several times, on calling at Mrs. Hartley's with her mother, but, imagining her to be a mere child, in comparison with herself — she had treated her as such. Marien was never pushed forward by her mother, and, therefore, the mistake of Mrs. Fielding and her daughter was not corrected, by their own observation.
"There is plenty of time yet," said Mrs. Hartley, in reply to the remark of her visitor. "Ten young ladies go into company too early — where one goes in too late."
"I doubt that. If you don't take your daughter into polished society early, she will never acquire that grace and ease of manner so beautiful and so essential."
Involuntarily did Mrs. Hartley compare, in her own mind, the forward, chattering, flirting Jane Fielding with her own modest child, in whom all the graces of a sweet spirit shone with a tempered, yet beautiful luster.
"I am more anxious that my daughter shall be a true woman, when she arrives at woman's age — than an artificial woman, while a mere child," she could not help replying.
"A very strange remark," said Mrs. Fielding.
"And yet it expresses my views on the subject."
"I would hardly think you had reflected much about it, and was merely acting from some antiquated notion put into your head by Aunt Mary."
"You err there very much, Mrs. Fielding. Since the birth of my daughter, the attainment of the best means for securing her happiness has been with me a source of deep reflection. I have brought to my aid the observations of my youth and mature years. What I have seen in real life confirms my rational deductions. I am well satisfied that it injures a young girl, to throw her into company early. It is from this conviction that I act."
"How can it injure her? I am at a loss to know."
"It injures her in everything, I was going to say."
"Name a single particular."
"It puts a woman's head upon a girl's shoulders, to use a common saying — while she lacks the strength to carry it steadily."
"O dear! What a strange idea!"
"And not only that, Mrs. Fielding; it exposes her, before she has the intelligence to discriminate accurately between the true and the false, to the danger of forming a wrong estimate of life and its duties — of being carried away by a love of dress and show and mere pleasure — while things of infinitely more importance are seen in an obscure light, and viewed as of little consequence. The manners of a girl who has gone into company too early are always offensive to me. There is a pertness about her that I cannot bear — a toss of the head, a motion of the body, an affected distortion of the countenance, (I can call it nothing else,) that is peculiarly disagreeable."
"You see a great deal more than I do, that is all I can say, Mrs. Hartley," replied Mrs. Fielding, a little gravely. She had, that very morning, felt called upon to rebuke Jane for the rude forwardness of her manners in company the previous evening!
"Perhaps I have thought more on the subject and, in consequence, observed more closely."
"I don't know how that is — perhaps so" — was the visitor's rather cold reply.
A new subject of conversation was then started. While they still sat conversing, Marien, who had gone out to attend to something, came in with little Lillian by the hand, now just five years old. Mrs. Fielding looked into her face with a new interest, observed her words closely, and watched every motion. Involuntary respect, and even admiration, were elicited. There was something innocent and like a child about her, and yet this was so blended with a womanly grace when she conversed, that, in spite of herself, she could not help contrasting her manner with the forward, overly-familiar airs of her own daughter.
As Lillian did not seem very well, and was disposed to be fretful, Marien soon took her out of the room, and Mrs. Hartley and Mrs. Fielding were again left alone.
"I declare, Mrs. Hartley," said the latter, "it is a shame to keep that girl back as you do. "It is unjust to her. She would shine in company."
"I have no wish to see her shine. To attract much attention is always to be in a dangerous position for one so young and inexperienced. Besides, when she does shine, as you say, I wish it to be with a steady and enduring light — not with flickering glare, dazzling but evanescent. Next winter we intend taking her into company for a few times, and, after that, introducing her to a more extended but select circle of acquaintances. What we wish most to guard against, is the danger of her forming a romantic attachment too early. We wish her heart to be free — until her reason is matured, and her judgment formed upon a basis of true principles. If you expose a young girl in fashionable society to the love-gossip so prevalent there among certain portions of it, you injure her almost inevitably. If she even makes a good marriage afterwards, it will be little more than a fortunate accident."
"I cannot understand why."
"The fact is notorious. A good husband is one who marries from correct views of marriage; and he will take good care that his wife is not one of the puppet-women with whom he has chattered and gossiped in the fashionable drawing-room. O no! He must have more sober and enduring qualities. The wife and mother, the nurse in sickness, the companion of a whole life — will never be chosen by a sensible man from one of these silly girls. He will see in the quiet, thoughtful maiden, charms more potent, and at her shrine will he offer up the pure devotion of an honest heart."
Mrs. Hartley's visitor did not feel very well pleased with herself or her daughter for some days after this conversation. There was so much of truth about what had been said, and truth bearing upon her own conduct as a mother — that it made her uncomfortable. But it was too late for her to mend — the evil was already done. The more she thought about the picture Mrs. Hartley had drawn of a puppet-woman, as she had chosen to call her — the more closely did she perceive that her own daughter resembled the sketch, until she felt half angry at what appeared almost too pointed an allusion.
The next time that Mrs. Fielding and her daughter called upon Mrs. Hartley, the latter paid a much more respectful attention to Marien than she had ever before done. She was surprised to find, in one she had looked upon as a girl too young for her to associate with — a quiet dignity of manner and womanly tone of character beyond what she had dreamed existed. At first she rattled on with her in quite a patronizing way — but before she left, she was rather inclined to listen, than to talk.
"While our mothers are talking, let us have some music," Jane said, during a pause in the conversation. "Are you fond of playing?"
"I am fond of music, and always like good playing. Come to the piano — you play well, I understand. I shall enjoy your performance very much."
Jane sat down to the piano, and rattled off several fashionable frivolities, in a kind of hap-hazard style. Marien was disappointed, and did not, for she could not, praise the young lady's playing. She had learned only to speak what she thought, and when she could not praise, and utter the truth — she said nothing.
"Play something else," she said.
Jane turned over the music books and selected an overture which required a brilliant performer to execute it with anything like its true effect. On this she went to work, with might and main, and got through in about ten minutes, much to the relief of Marien, whose fine perception of musical harmonies was terribly outraged.
"Now you must play," said Jane, as she struck the last note, rising from the instrument.
Marien sat down and let her fingers fall upon the keys, that answered to their touch as if half conscious.
"You play divinely!" exclaimed Jane, after Marien had played a short piece of music with fine taste. "Do you sing?"
"Can you sing, The Banks of the Blue Moselle?"
"I believe so." Marien ran her fingers over the keys, and then warbled that sprightly song in a low, sweet voice, that really charmed her companion. The ease with which this was done surprised Jane. It seemed to cost Marien scarce an effort. Half a dozen other songs were named, and sung by Marien, who then asked Jane if she would not sing.
"Not after you," replied the young lady, taking a step back from the piano.
Marien did not know how to reply to such a remark, and so she said nothing. She could not lavish false compliments, nor did she wish to make any allusion to her own performance. She had sung to please her visitor, and had not a thought beyond that.
Mrs. Fielding was less self-satisfied than ever after this visit. She could not but acknowledge to herself, that she would much rather her daughter were more like Marien.
Chapter 13. A Painful Bereavement.
Thus far in her maternal life, Mrs. Hartley had endured all the pains, cares, anxieties, hopes and fears of a mother — but neither sorrow nor bereavement. Her assiduous care had, thus far, been rewarded by the very best results. But now there came a heart-searching trial, which no act of hers could possibly prevent.
On the day that Mrs. Fielding and her daughter called upon Mrs. Hartley, Lillian did not seem very well. She drooped about, and was quite fretful, a thing very unusual with her. At night she fell off to sleep an hour earlier than usual. When Mr. Hartley came home, and inquired for his little pet, he was told that she was in bed. He loved the child with great tenderness, and missed her bright face and merry voice. Taking up a light, he went over to the chamber where she slept, and stood over her little bed for some time, looking down upon her sweet face. While doing so, Mrs. Hartley joined him.
"Dear little thing," she said, "she has not appeared well all day."
The father placed his hand upon her forehead.
"Why, Anna," he said, "she has a high fever! And listen! how hard she breathes."
Mrs. Hartley laid her hand against the child's cheek, with a feeling of uneasiness. Her children had often been sick with fevers; but never, in the incipient stage of the disease, had she felt the peculiar sensation of uneasiness and oppression that followed the discovery that Lillian was really sick.
In a little while the tea bell rung, and the family gathered around the table to partake of their evening meal. The father and mother felt no appetite, and merely sipped their tea. Marien was silent from some cause. Henry and Fanny were the only ones who had anything to say. On rising from the table, Mr. and Mrs. Hartley repaired to the chamber to look at Lillian again. The child's fever seemed higher, and she had become restless. She coughed occasionally, and there was much oppression on her chest.
"I think we had better call in the Doctor," said Mr. Hartley.
"It may only be a temporary illness, which will subside before morning," remarked the mother.
"Still, it is better to be safe than sorry," returned Mr. Hartley.
"True. But suppose we wait for an hour."
At the expiration of an hour, the child was no better. A physician was called in, who gave some simple medicine, and said he would call in the morning. The morning found the child very ill. What form the disease would ultimately assume, the doctor could not tell — it might be only a violent illness — or it might be some more harmful disease. A sudden gloom fell over the whole household, such as had never been felt before. The mother could not compose herself to do anything — Marien sat by the child's bedside nearly all the time, and Mr. Hartley came home two or three times during the day. What alarmed them most of all, was the constant complaints of Lillian that her throat pained her, and the admission of the doctor that it was highly inflamed. Even hours before the physician declared the disease to be scarlet fever — they were more than half assured that it was nothing else.
On the third day, all their fears were confirmed. The disease began to assume its worst type. The skin was red and blotchy, the throat badly ulcerated, and the face much swollen. Breathing was exceedingly difficult, and there was an eruption of dark scarlet spots on the face, neck and chest. On the fifth day, the little sufferer became delirious — and on the seventh day, she was freed from her pain.
As suddenly as this terrible affliction had fallen upon them, in the brief space that ensued between the illness of the child and her death — the minds of the parents had become, in some degree, prepared for the result that followed. Still the blow stunned them, and it was not until called upon to take the last look at their little one, and to touch her snowy forehead with their lips for the last time, that they realized the full consciousness of what they had lost. Ah! who but those who love tenderly a sweet, pure, and affectionate child, can understand how deep was the anguish of their hearts at the moment when they turned away after taking their last, lingering look at the marble features of their departed Lillian.
How desolate seemed every part of the house for days afterwards. As hard as the mother tried to bear up and to look up in this affliction, she had not the power to dry her tears. For hours, sometimes, she would sit in dreamy absent-mindedness — all interest in things surrounding her having totally subsided.
"Dear Anna," her husband ventured to say to her one day, when he came home and found her in this state, "Time, the Restorer, cannot do his work for us, unless we do our part. You remember Doctor Thompson, in whose family we spent two pleasant weeks last summer. He had a son, just about the age of Clarence — perhaps two years older — who had just passed through his collegiate course with distinguished honors. The Doctor loved that boy with more than ordinary tenderness. 'He was always a good boy,' he said to me, in alluding to his son. 'His love of truth was strong, and his sense of honor most acute. I not only loved him, but I was proud of him.' This son had not been home long, when he became ill, and died. 'I never had anything in my whole life that gave me such anguish of spirit, as the death of that boy,' he said, and his voice even then trembled. 'But, through the whole painful scene of sickness, death and burial — I never missed a patient. I knew that there was only one thing that would sustain me in my affliction; and that was, the steady and faithful performance of my regular duties in life. But for this, I sometimes think I could not have borne the weight that was then laid upon me.'
Dear Anna! Doctor Thompson was a true philosopher, for his was a high Christian philosophy, which sought relief from affliction, in the performance of duty to others."
Poor Mrs. Hartley wept bitterly while her husband was speaking. But his words sunk into her heart, and she felt that she was suffering severer pain than would have been her portion if she had acted like Doctor Thompson. From that time she strove, with a great effort, to arouse herself from the dreamy state into which she had fallen. It was difficult to perform all the duties — nay, she could not perform them all — that heretofore claimed her attention. For five years her daily thought and care had been for her youngest born, the nursling of the flock; and now she was taken away. For a time she struggled to act upon her husband's suggestion, but again sunk down; and efforts to elevate her from this state of gloomy depression were again made. She lay weeping, with her head upon her husband's bosom, one night, when he said —
"Anna, dear, would you like to have Lillian back again?"
She did not reply, but sobbed more violently for nearly a minute, and then grew calm. Her husband repeated his inquiry.
"I have never asked myself that question," she answered.
"Think now, and determine in your own mind, whether, if you had the power to recall her — you would do so."
"I do not think I would," was murmured half reluctantly.
"It is better for her to remain where she is."
"Do you really think so?"
"How can you ask such a question? Is she not now safe in her heavenly home? Is she not loved and cared for by God? She can have no pain, nor grief, where she is gone. She has escaped a life of trial and sorrow. Ah, my dear husband, even in my affliction I can say, that I am thankful that, with her, life's toilsome journey is over — that her probation has been short."
"Spoken like my own dear wife," Mr. Hartley said with emotion; "I, too, grieve over the loss, with a grief that words cannot express, but would not take back the treasure, now safely laid up in Heaven. She cannot return to us — but we will go to her. Our real home is not here on earth. A short time before us has our child gone; we will soon follow after, but not until all the duties we owe to others are paid. We have still four left, and, do our best, we cannot do too much for them."
"Too much! Oh, no; my constant regret is that I do too little. And now that Lillian has been taken away, I seem to have lost the power to do even that little."
"Strive to think more of those who are left — than of the one that is gone. No effort of yours can do her any good, but every effort you make for those who still remain, will add to their happiness. Yesterday, when I came home, I found Fanny sitting alone in the parlor. She looked very sad. 'What is the matter, dear?' I asked. 'Mother cries so, and doesn't talk to me like she did,' she said, the tears coming into her dear little eyes."
"Oh, James, did she say that?"
"Yes, dear. And if you could have seen her face, and heard the tone of her voice — you would have grieved to think how sad the child's heart must be. She, as well as the rest of us, have lost much in the death of Lillian. You know how much she loved the child."
"And I," sobbed the mother, "have left her to bear her grief alone. Alas! How selfish I have been in my sorrow. But it shall no longer be. I will meet my children as a mother should meet them. I will help them to bear their loss."
Mrs. Hartley met her family on the next morning with a calmer brow. She had a word for each; and that word was spoken with an unusual tenderness of expression. Fanny looked earnestly into her mother's face, when she observed the change, and drew close up to her side.
"You love me, dear mother, don't you?" whispered the child, close to her ear.
"Love you, my child! O, yes! A thousand times more than I can tell." And she kissed her fervently.
"And the angels in Heaven love Lillian, don't they?"
"Yes, my love," Mrs. Hartley replied in a husky whisper, struggling to keep the tears from gushing from her eyes.
"I know the good angels will love her, and take care of her just as well as you did, mother."
"O yes; and a great deal better."
"Then we won't cry any more because she is gone."
"Not if we can help it, my love. But we miss her very much."
"Yes. I want to see her all the time. But I know she is in Heaven, and I won't cry for her to come back."
The words of Fanny came near effecting the entire overthrow of Mrs. Hartley's feelings; but by a vigorous struggle with herself, she remained calm, and continued for some time to talk with the child about Lillian in Heaven.
From this period, the mother's love for her children flowed on again in its usual channels, and her care for them was as assiduous as ever. In fact, the loss of one caused her to draw her arms more closely about the rest. But she was changed; and no one who looked upon her could help noting the change. The quiet thoughtfulness of her countenance had given place to a musing expression, as if she were, in spirit, far away with some dearly loved object. Although her love for her children, and her anxiety for their welfare, was increased, if there was any change, yet that love was more brooding than active in its nature. The creative energy of her mind appeared to have suffered a slight paralysis. The bow was unbent.
Marien was quick to perceive this, and by the intuition of love, to glide almost insensibly into her mother's place so far as Henry and Fanny were concerned. The groundwork of home-education had been so well laid by the mother, that the sister's task was not a difficult one. She became Henry's confidante and counselor, and led Fanny gently on in the acquirement of good habits and good principles.
If to no one else, this change was good for Marien. It gave her objects to love intensely, because their well-being depended on her conduct towards them, at an age when the heart needs something upon which to lavish the pure waters of affection which begin to flow forth in gushing profusion.
Another effect was, to make more distant the period when Marien would appear upon the stage of life as a woman; and this was no wrong to the sweet maiden. When she did enter society as a woman, she was a woman fully qualified to act her part with wisdom and prudence.
Chapter 14. An Important Era in Life.
When Clarence returned from college, unscathed in the ordeal through which he had passed, he entered upon a course of legal studies. Law was the profession he chose. It most frequently happens that brothers, as they approach manhood, do not become intimate as companions. But it was not so in the case of Clarence and Henry. They were drawn together as soon as the former returned home. This again tended to lessen the care of Mrs. Hartley, for Clarence had become, in one sense, his brother's guardian. Instead, now, of the constant and often intense exercise of mind to which she had been subjected for years in the determination of what course was best to take with her children, in order to secure their greatest good, she was more their pleasant companion than their mentor. Her aim now was to secure their unlimited confidence, and this she was able to do. Their mistakes were never treated with even playful ridicule; but she sympathized earnestly with them in everything that interested their minds. This led them to talk to her with the utmost freedom, and gave her a knowledge of the exact state of their feelings in regard to all the circumstances which transpired around them.
The completion of Clarence's twenty-first year was a period to which both the son and mother had looked with no ordinary interest — but with very different feelings. So important an era, Mrs. Hartley could not let pass without a long and serious conversation with her son, or rather repeated conversations with him.
"From this time, my son," she said to him, "you are no longer bound to your parents by the law of obedience. You are a man, and must act in freedom, according to reason. Our precepts are not to be observed because we give them — but are to be observed because you see them to be true. Heretofore, your parents have been responsible for your conduct to society, our country, and the Lord. But now, you alone are responsible. Upon the way in which you exercise the freedom you now enjoy, will depend your usefulness as a man, and your eternal state hereafter. You stand, in perfect freedom, between the powers of good and evil — Heaven and Hell — with the ability to turn yourself to either. You are free to choose, this day, whom you will serve. Choose, my son, with wisdom — let your paths be those of peace and pleasantness. I have never fully explained to you what I am now anxious for you to comprehend. It is this:
"Up to this time, a wise provision was made for you in the love, guidance and protection of parents, whose duty it was to restrain all your hereditary evil tendencies, and to store your mind with good principles, to serve you when the time of your pupilage is ended, and you come to act for yourself.
"Heretofore I have fully explained to you man's present sinful state and condition. He is not in the same order in which he was created. His will and his understanding are not, as they were at first, in unison. His will is thoroughly corrupted, but his understanding is yet capable of seeing the truth — of rising even into the light of Heaven. If we were to follow the promptings of our will, or natural affections — we would inevitably sink into the indulgence of all evil passions; but we are not only gifted with the power of seeing what is fair and true, and we can compel ourselves to act according to the dictates of truth. As soon as we begin to do this, we begin to gain a real power over our hereditary evil tendencies. No obedience to parents can possibly remove from our minds a naturally corrupt principle; it will only keep it in quiescence until we come to years of freedom and rationality; after that it must be removed by our shunning its indulgence in act or intention, as a sin against God. You see, then, that now your parents' work has ended — and yours has begun."
"Don't say your work is ended, my mother," Clarence said with much feeling, and an expression of deep concern upon his face. "It cannot be. As before, your advice and counsel must be good. I will not believe that I am no longer to obey you — O no! no!"
"In a supreme sense, Clarence, the Lord is your father, and to Him alone are you now required to give supreme obedience, and to love with your highest, purest, and best affections. But that need not cause you to love your natural father and mother the less. You say truly, that our work is not yet done. Our counsel will still be given, but you must not follow it because we have given it — but because, in the light of your own mind, you perceive that it accords with the truth; for you must never forget, that according to your own deeds, will you be justified or condemned. We will not love you less, nor be less concerned for your welfare; but, being a man, you must act as a man, in freedom according to reason."
The recollection of this conversation often made Clarence sigh.
"Ah!" he would sometimes say to himself, "Man's estate is not after all, so desirable a thing to attain. It was much easier to lie upon my parent's guidance, than it is to fight my way through life, amid its thousand temptations."
The formal and serious manner in which Mrs. Hartley had conversed with Clarence, caused all that she said to be deeply impressed upon his mind. He pondered it for weeks. The effect was good, for it saved him from the thoughtless tendency to mere pleasure-seeking into which young men are too apt to fall, on finding themselves entirely free from the shackles of minority. He saw clearly and felt strongly, the responsibility of his position. But, accompanying this perception, was an earnestly formed resolution to overcome in every temptation which might assail him.
"I can conquer, and I will," he said, in the confidence that he felt in the more than human strength that those receive, who fight against evil.
It was not long before life's conflicts began in earnest with him; but it is not our business to speak of them, further than to say, that he was subjected to strong trials, to severe temptations, to cares and anxieties of no ordinary kind — and that the remains of good and truth stored up in his mind by his mother, saved him. As a child, his predominant evil qualities were a strong self-will, and extreme selfishness. These had been reduced by the mother's care and watchfulness, into a state of quiescence. In manhood, they re-appeared, and long and intense was the struggle against them, before they yielded themselves subject to more heavenly principles.
Chapter 15. Happy Consummations.
Marien Hartley was twenty-two years of age when she first began to attract attention in society. The impression she made was a decided one. People talked about her for a time as a new wonder. Her grace, her intelligence, her accomplishments, and, not least, her beauty — won the universal admiration. She was quickly surrounded by the butterflies of fashion, but they found themselves at a loss how to be truly agreeable. If they flattered her, she did not seem to understand them; if they complimented her upon her singing, or dancing — she only smiled quietly. In fact, all their usual arts failed. Some called her cold — others said she was as proud as a duchess; while others reported that her heart was engaged to an absent lover.
Unconscious of all this agitation created by her appearance, Marien continued in the affectionate performance of her home duties, occasionally mingling in society, less from feeling drawn there, than because she believed that she owed something to the social as well as to the family circle.
Once more was the liveliest maternal interest awakened in the bosom of Mrs. Hartley. Now was the most critical period in her daughter's life. Her heart could not long remain uninterested; but whose hand should touch the precious fountain, and unseal its pure waters? That was the anxious question.
Evening visitors were becoming more and more frequent. On every new appearance of Marien in company — would some new acquaintance call. Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, unlike most parents, who, very considerately remembering how it was with themselves — always made it a point to be present, with other members of the family, when any visitor called to spend an evening. Clarence, who was fully in his mother's confidence, remained at home a great deal during these occasions, in order to swell the parlor circle, and to add to the pleasures of conversation, music, or other modes that might be resorted to for passing an hour.
This way of doing things was not at all relished by some who were all eagerness to secure the favor of Marien. Among those who occasionally dropped in, was a young man who generally spent more time in conversing with the mother, than with the daughter. If his design had been first to conciliate Mrs. Hartley, his plan was certainly a good one. But he was innocent of any design, further than to gain opportunities for observing closely the character and disposition of Marien. He had ample means for supporting a wife, and had been looking about him for one at least a year. The first impression made upon him by Marien was favorable. He was not struck by her beauty and accomplishments half so much, as by the sentiments which he occasionally heard fall from her lips. The way in which her parents guarded her, he saw and understood at once, and this strengthened his belief that she was a precious treasure for him who could win her heart.
While he observed her at a distance, as it were, others were clustering around her, and using every art to gain her favor. But, even while they were pressing for attention, her eye was wandering away to him; and often the words which they uttered were unheard, in her recollection of sentiments which he had spoken. Why this was so, Marien did not ask herself. She did not even notice the fact. When the young man, at last, began to make advances, she received them with an inward pleasure unfelt before. This did not escape the mother's watchful eye. But she had no word to say in objection. Long before any serious inroad upon Marien's affections had been made, father, mother, and brother were thoroughly acquainted with the young man's family, standing and character. They were unimpeachable.
When he, finally, made application for her hand, he received, promptly, this answer:
"Take her, and may she be to you as good a wife — as she has been to us a child."
Marien was twenty-three years of age, when she became a wedded wife. Many wed younger — but few as wisely.
The next event of interest in the life of Mrs. Hartley, was the marriage of Clarence. In this matter, she was careful to leave her son in the most perfect freedom. Although from principle she did this, she was not without great concern on the subject, for she well knew that his whole character would be modified for good or evil, by his wife. It is enough to say, that Clarence chose wisely.
Chapter 16. Conclusion.
Having brought our readers to this point, not, we hope, without profit to themselves, we find that we have little more to add. The mother's untiring devotion to her children has not been in vain. The good seed sown in their minds, has produced a pleasant harvest.
We could present a strong and painful contrast in the results attendant upon the course pursued by Mrs. Fielding; but we will not do so. It would be of little use to throw dark shadows upon the picture we have drawn. There are few who read this, who cannot look around and see the baleful consequences which have followed neglect and indifference such as were manifested by Mrs. Fielding towards her children. The instances are, alas, too numerous.
In closing this volume, the author would remark to those who may feel disappointed in not finding it so full of incident and description as they had expected, that to have given it a lighter character would have required the sacrifice of much that he wished to say. The subject is one so full of interest to a certain class, that no charms of fiction were required to hold their attention. To have extended our book further, or to have introduced a greater variety of scenes, would have occupied the time and attention of the reader to very little purpose. To those who have read aright, enough has been said — volumes would do no good to those who have not.