The Shoemaker's Daughters
by Timothy Shay Arthur, 1857
[Editor's note: This story starts rather slowly, but soon gets very interesting. The later parts are filled with character-building lessons.]
"Sweet are the uses of adversity!"
"I'll not stand this any longer!" said Bill Grimes.
"Neither will I!" said Ike Wilson.
"I wonder how you'll help it?" responded Tom Peters, hammering a piece of leather to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and filling the shop with a din that drowned all voices for the space of the next five minutes.
"There are many ways to kill a dog, besides choking him," broke in Ike, as the noise of Tom's hammer and ringing lapstone subsided.
"That may be, but you'll find old Hardamer hard to kill, or I'm mistaken in him. He's a screamer when once raised; and I, for one, had as gladly meet a bear, as to cross his path when angry."
"A hard bit and a steady hand, have cooled many a wild colt," said Bill, "and I'll do it to the end of the world."
"There's no use in your talking, Tom," said Ike, a little tartly, "You always were a chicken-hearted sort of a fellow, afraid of your own shadow on a moonlight night. Nobody asked for your advice, nor your help. Hardamer's an old tyrant, and his wife is a she-devil. We've stood their kicking and cuffing long enough, and will be fools to stand it any longer. But you can go on your hands and knees if you choose, and thank them for beating you; but for one, I set my foot down that old Hardamer shall not lay a feather on me, from this day, henceforth and forever."
"Here's my hand to that!" said Bill Grimes, dashing his hard fist into the open palm of his worthy associate.
"I don't like the present state of things any better than you do," remarked Tom, who began to feel himself in the minority — "but I can't see the use of a fellow's putting his head into the lion's mouth. We can't hold our own against old Hardamer, and it would be fool-hardiness to try."
"There were many just such as you, Tom, in the glorious days of the Revolution; but all the prophesying of faint-hearted croakers, was nothing. The Yankee boys had right on their side."
"But, right doesn't always make might."
"Poo! — Aren't here three of us, and any one, a match for old Hardamer? Don't talk of might against right, if you please. But you needn't fatigue yourself, Tom, about the matter — if you are afraid, Ike and I can do the thing to a charm. We're not afraid of the devil, tail and all."
"I reckon you'd find the old boy a strange customer to deal with. But we'll let his majesty rest, if you please," responded Tom. "I, for one, have no particular friendship for him; nor any desire to provoke his ill-will, by too much familiarity. Let's hear how you're going to manage affairs, and then I'll tell you whether I'm with you or not."
"Comparisons are odious; but they are useful sometimes, you know, Tom, and, much as it may offend your ears, I must drag in your friend, his Satanic majesty, by way of illustration. It's an easy matter to raise the devil, you know; but as there's no telling how he'll behave himself, there's no telling how he will act in the case. Now, we have determined to raise the devil in old Hardamer — how we shall manage him afterwards, is yet to be told. No sailor knows exactly how he will act in a storm; but he would be a clod indeed, if he stayed on shore until he settled the matter to his satisfaction."
"That may be all very true, Bill; but a good sailor will be very sure, before putting to sea, that all is right and tight below and aloft; and that there is ballast enough to keep all erect in the worst storm. You know that Hardamer has the law on his side, and that if he can't manage us himself, he can turn us over to a constable. I've no wish to have a taste of the whipping-post."
"This is a free country, Tom; and a pretty big one too. I'd find my way to the Rocky Mountains, before I'd wax another cord for the old rascal, if he attempted to play a game of that kind; and I'd tell him so, too. The fact is, the law wouldn't justify him in the way he bullies and beats us all the while. There are two sides to a question, always — and, of course, there are two sides to this. If he'll treat us well — we'll treat him well. But 'tit-for-tat' if he doesn't."
"Well, I don't care if I join you," said Tom, who was not quite so head-strong as his fellow-apprentices, but who, when he once determined upon doing a thing, would show no hanging back.
"I thought there was something of the man in you, Tom," said Ike, seizing his hand and shaking it violently, "If we don't have a tea-party, now, with old Hardamer, I'm a fool."
"Don't let's be in too much of a hurry about it, Ike," suggested Tom, who liked to do things slow but sure.
"Strike when the iron's hot, is my motto," said Ike.
"You're both right, and mean the same thing," said Bill. "Let's lie low until old Hardamer gets into one of his high tantrums, and then walk into him like a wall of bricks."
"Suppose we make this rule," proposed Tom, "that he shall not flog us, and that we will rough him up the first time he tries that trick."
"Agreed," returned Bill.
"Agreed," said Ike.
And the three worthies shook hands in confirmation of the contract.
This little scene of incipient insubordination occurred some twenty years ago in Baltimore, in the back shop of a neat boot-making establishment, in Market Street, the owner of which carried one face, all smiles and welcome, to his customers — and another, all frowns and harshness, to his boys. His name, we will call Hardamer. As an apprentice, he had been hardly used; and having been taken while a very little boy from the workhouse, he had received no schooling previous to the time of his apprenticeship to the rope-making business. By virtue of his indentures, he was to have been sent to school a certain number of months during his minority. But, in his case, the indenture was nearly a dead letter, for all the schooling he obtained was at night, during the last year of his service. In this time, he learned to read a little, and to write a cramped, almost unintelligible hand. Soon after he became free, having the love of money pretty deeply implanted in his mind, he opened a small shop, in a poor part of the town, and took one boy. By dint of hard work, and close economy, he was enabled to live upon one-half of his earnings, and thus gradually to accumulate a small capital.
His progress, however, was very slow, and it was fully twenty years before he was able to open in Market Street. In the meantime, he had married a girl about as ignorant as himself, who felt her own importance growing as gradually as did her husband's property. They had been ten years in Market Street at the time of the opening of our story, and were blessed with a brood of six daughters, aged from seven to twenty years. These daughters, as they grew up, had been accomplished in the arts of dancing, playing on the piano, doing nothing, etc. etc., and in consequence of these superior attainments, had a commendable degree of contempt for all young mechanics, and an exalted idea of anyone who could write "merchant," after his name.
The three eldest, Genevieve, Genevra, and Gertrude, were of the respective ages of sixteen, eighteen, and twenty; and were looked upon by their mother as perfectly accomplished, and ready to make charming wives for doctors, lawyers, or merchants, which ever might come forward and claim their willing hands.
We cannot say whether the reader will find them very interesting girls, but it is necessary that he should be introduced, and he must be as patient and polite as possible.
"I wonder, Ma," says Genevieve, the eldest, one day after dinner, while lounging at the piano, "why Pa don't quit business? It's so vulgar! I don't believe we'll ever get married, while our parlor is within hearing of the shop, and the ears of our company stunned with the constant sound of the lapstone. How can Pa be so inconsiderate!"
"That's a fact," said Miss Gertrude, just turning the corner of sixteen. "Doctor Watson has never been to see me since that night when it was hammer, hammer, hammer, in the back shop all the while. I tried to apologize to him on account of it, and said it was so disagreeable; and that I should persuade Pa to move away or quit business; that he was rich enough to do without work. I wish, Ma, you would move up into Charles Street, so that we could live like other people. I'm mortified every day of my life, at the poverty-struck way in which we live."
Mrs. Hardamer was silent, for she did not know exactly what to say. She thought pretty much as her daughters did about matters and things, but she did not exactly like to bring her thoughts out into words before them.
"The fact is," again spoke up Genevieve, "I'm almost discouraged. I'm twenty, and have not had a single direct offer yet. And I never expect to have one, while things remain as they are. Pa don't appear to have a bit of consideration! If he'd only move into a bigger house, away from this dirty shop, or quit business, as he ought to do, and then give large parties — we might get our pick. But we'll get nobody that is anybody at this rate," and Genevieve heaved a long melancholy sigh, as she laid her head down upon the piano, at which she was sitting, in abandonment of feeling.
"Never mind, girls," said Mrs. Hardamer, soothingly. "It will come right. We can't always have things our own way."
"It's a shame, Ma! it is so!" broke is Genevieve, lifting up her head, and exhibiting a face now covered with tears, "and I don't care what becomes of me, so I don't! It can't be expected that I should do well without any chance, and I don't care who I marry, there! Just listen now! — Rap, rap, rap! — bang, bang, bang! — hammer, hammer, hammer! Oh! it makes me sick! this eternal ringing of lapstone and hammer. I sometimes wish that the shop would burn down, so I do!"
"Indeed, and I'm in earnest, Ma! If you will drive your children to desperation, you'll have nobody to blame but yourselves. I'm determined that if Mr. Dimety don't offer himself before two weeks, I'll accept the first tailor or shoemaker that comes along. I'll marry, if I have to marry a coachman, so there now!"
"You mustn't give way so, Genevieve, my dear. Marrying comes natural enough; and when it's the right time, things will go off as easy as can be. Have patience, my dear!"
"Patience!" responded the interesting Genevieve, jumping up from the music stool and stamping with one foot upon the floor, while her face glowed like a coal of fire. "Haven't I had patience, I wonder? It's all well enough to talk of patience — but it's another kind of a thing, I reckon, to see the commonest drabs of girls making the best matches — and we sitting at home with hardly a decent beau, and all because we live in such a way. I'll leave home, I will, if there isn't some change. I'm not going to be sacrificed in this way."
"And so will I!" chimed in Gertrude.
"And I will too!" responded Genevra.
"I wonder where my young ladies will go?" said the mother, in a quiet sneering tone; for she was used to such exhibitions, and understood precisely how much they were worth.
"Go?" asked Miss Gertrude, with emphasis, "Go? why, go any where!"
"Well, suppose you go now," continued Mrs. Hardamer, who had grown a little irritated, "I don't see as you'll find things very different if you stay here."
"I will go, so I will!" said Genevieve, passionately, sweeping off to her chamber.
"Suppose you pack off with her," continued the mother, to the other two paragons, and they likewise swept off in high displeasure.
At tea time, the three young rebels were sent for, and found asleep in their chamber. On putting their heads together, they concluded that an elopement, where there were no nice young man in question, would be rather a poor business, and fell to crying, and finally slept the matter pretty well off, in the usual afternoon nap, which was prolonged an hour or two beyond the ordinary period.
When the young ladies appeared at the tea-table, their eyes, from which a long sleep had not stolen the redness, attracted their father's attention.
"Why, what's the matter with you; you've not all been crying I hope?" he said, looking from one to the other of the three demure faces.
But none of them felt disposed to reply to their father's question.
"What's the trouble, Genevieve?" he continued, addressing the elder of the three.
"Nothing," she replied in a low moody voice.
"Nothing? Then I would think it was a poor business to cry for nothing. Come, speak up, and let me hear what's the matter. Can't you find your tongue, Genevieve?"
But Genevieve's tongue had not the slightest inclination to fill its usual office.
"I don't understand this," said Hardamer, warming a little, and looking from face to face of the three girls, "Can you explain, mother?"
"O, there's nothing particular the matter," said Mrs. Hardamer, "only these young ladies are getting discouraged about their beaux. They think the sound of the lapstone has frightened them all off."
"The devil they do!" said Hardamer, a good deal excited on the instant. "That is, they are ashamed of their father's business, and of course of their father. I wish in my heart, that they were all married to good, honest, industrious shoemakers."
"I'd die first!" broke in Genevieve, passionately.
"Then you'll not be likely to starve afterwards, as you will if you marry one of these milk-faced, counter-jumping dandies, about whom your foolish heads have all been turned. Please remember, my ladies, that you are shoemaker's daughters — and that's the most you can make of yourselves. If your mother had put you into the kitchen, as I wanted her to do, instead of sticking you up in the parlor, you'd have been more credit to us and to yourselves, than you now are. Remember! I'll have no more of this kind of complaining stuff."
There was a sternness about the father's manner, which showed him to be in earnest; but his daughters had been taught manners in a higher school than that in which he had been educated; and they not only felt equal to their parents, but superior to them.
"I wouldn't be seen in the street with a shoemaker!" responded Genevieve, pertly, to her father's positive expression of disapproval.
"Do you know to whom you are talking?" said Hardamer in a loud, stem voice.
"Yes, sir." replied Genevieve, in a quiet steady tone, looking her father in the face, and drawing in her lips with an air of self-possession and defiance.
"Leave the table this instant!" he said, rising and motioning her away.
"No! no! no! father!" said Mrs. Hardamer, also springing to her feet, and putting her hand upon her husband's arm — "don't do that! don't! don't!"
"Why, do you suppose, madam, that I'm going to let a child of mine talk to me in that way!"
"Sit down, sit down! She won't say so again. Aren't you ashamed of yourself, to speak so to your father!" she continued, addressing Genevieve, who still sat in her chair, apparently unmoved by the storm she had raised.
Hardamer resumed his seat, checked by his wife's interference, but by no means soothed in his feelings.
"It's a pretty pass indeed," he went on — "when a child becomes ashamed of her father. Here I've been toiling these thirty years at an honest trade — and now my children must be ashamed of the very means by which they were raised to a comfortable condition in life. I wish I'd had my way with them — there would have been other kinds of notions in their heads."
"Well its no use for you to talk, pa. Your business isn't very reputable, and you know it!" said Gertrude, unmoved by the excited state in which she saw her father.
"Aren't reputable, you little hussey! what do mean, ha?"
"Why don't you sell out, pa, and quit business; or open some kind of a store?" said Genevra, following up her sister's bold attack pretty closely.
The father was for a moment utterly confounded. His business had always been his pleasure, and it was yielding him a good income. He had never much liked the accomplishments displayed by his daughters, nor been especially pleased with the foppish, frivolous young fellows who dangled around them. Now they had left their own domain — and had invaded his; and he was chafed to a degree that made it impossible for him to command himself. Springing from the table, he resisted all attempts made by his wife to check him, and, in a loud, angry voice, ordered the three girls to leave the room instantly. For a moment, they looked him in the face hesitatingly, but they saw something there that they did not wish to trifle with, and slowly obeyed the order.
"Not reputable! — quit business! — ha! — indeed! — not reputable!" ejaculated Hardamer, pacing the room rapidly backwards and forwards. "This comes of making ladies out of shoemaker's daughters. Not reputable! — I'll have them all binding shoes before a week! I'll show them what's reputable!"
"H-u-s-h, husband, hush!" said Mrs. Hardamer, in a soothing voice.
"Indeed, I'll not hush! And it's all your fault, I can tell you, my lady! You would make fools of them — and now they're ashamed of us. Quit business! Keep a store! Not reputable! Indeed! Quite a new discovery!" and old Hardamer hurried off into his shop, in a state of disturbance such as he had not experienced for years.
"How could you talk so to your father?" said Mrs. Hardamer, joining the three eldest girls in the parlor, and leaving the younger misses to take care of themselves.
"How could he talk to us about marrying shoemakers?" replied Genevieve, tartly, giving to her face at the same time, an expression of strong disgust.
"If he's got no higher ideas, I can assure him his daughters have!" said Gertrude. "Marry a shoemaker, indeed!"
Now this was almost too much for Mrs. Hardamer herself, for hadn't she married a shoemaker? And wasn't the father of these high-minded damsels a shoemaker? Still, she cared as little to have shoemakers for sons-in-law, as did her daughters to have them for husbands. This latter consideration modified her feelings, and she replied,
"Nonsense, girls! your father was only jesting. But you should remember, that in speaking as you do, you reflect badly upon him!"
"That's not our fault, you know, ma," said the incorrigible Genevieve. "If he will continue to follow a business that necessity compelled him to adopt many years ago; now that there is no occasion for it — he must not wonder if his children are mortified. And then to talk of putting us back to the point where you and he started from, was too much for human nature to bear!"
"Genevieve, you mustn't talk so!"
"It's the truth, ma! and I must speak it out!"
"It is not always necessary to speak even the truth."
"In this case it is. To talk of marrying me to a shoemaker! Give me patience to bear the thought!"
"I won't put up with this any longer. So just let me hear no more of it."
"I tell you to hush!"
"Don't you hear me?"
"Ma, is this the way to — "
"Genevieve, I command you to be silent!"
"I can't be silent, ma — and I won't be silent!" now screamed Genevieve, in the hysterical feminine octave. "Talk of marrying me to a shoemaker! Oh, I shall go crazy!"
"A good, honest, industrious shoemaker, would be a fool to have you, let me tell you — you proud, lazy, good for nothing hussey," exclaimed Mrs. Hardamer, in a voice pitched to the same key with her daughter's. "Your father is right! I've made fools of you all. But I'll bring you down, see if I don't!"
"It would be hard to get any lower, I'm thinking," remarked Genevra, with provoking calmness, "I feel disgraced all the while, for isn't the hammer ringing in my ears eternally?"
"Yes, and the whole house is scented with leather and varnish," said Gertrude. "Who wonders that young gentlemen soon run off.
What's the use of attracting attention abroad — if receiving company at home, spoils it all?"
"Hush, I say!"
"No, ma, I can't hush! Haven't we borne this, and met with disappointment after disappointment, until we are driven to desperation. There's that elegant young Williams, who was just on the point of declaring himself, when, as luck would have it, he must call upon me here — and then the cake was all dough, for he never came again. And last week I saw him at Mr. Lawton's party, all attention to Grace Jameson, a pert minx; and he only gave me a cold nod. Don't I know the reason of all this? Give me patience!" — and the disappointed lady of sixteen stamped upon the floor with her little foot, in a towering passion.
"I can't stand this," said Mrs. Hardamer, completely subdued by the tempest she had gathered about her ears; and beat a hasty retreat, leaving the wounded dignity of the young ladies to heal as it best might.
Upon returning to the breakfast-room, she found that the young children had finished their meal, and she set about preparing supper for the apprentices. Upon the table were two plates, each containing what had been once the half pound of butter, but now somewhat diminished in size. One of these plates she took off; and cut the butter in the other plate into two pieces, and removed one of them. A plate of chipped beef was also taken off, and a bread basket containing a few slices of wheat bread. Nothing except the plates and the tea things were left. From the closet, she now brought out the half of a large loaf of cold Indian bread, and placed it on the table.
"Call the boys!" she said, in a sharp, quick voice, to a black girl, who soon passed the word into the back shop, and four boys, with three of whom the reader is already acquainted, made their appearance. The other was a small lad, not over eleven years of age; a puny child with fair complexion, and large bright blue eyes. He was an orphan boy, and the drudge of the whole house and shop — one whose young heart had known enough of affectionate regard, to create in it a yearning desire for kind looks and kind words — but few of these warmed it.
Placing herself at the head of the table, Mrs. Hardamer poured out the lukewarm, wishy-washy stuff, she called tea, and then sat in moody silence, while the boys stowed away, with a kind of nervous rapidity, the cold heavy slices of corn bread, just touched with the butter, which they had to use sparingly to make it last; and washed the mouthfuls down, with the not very palatable fluid.
It so happened that the warm weather had awakened into remarkable activity, certain troublesome little insects in the boys' beds; and Ike had been deputed by the others to inform Mrs. Hardamer of the fact, in the hope that some speedy remedy, made and provided for the like necessities, would relieve them from their annoying visitors. This information, Ike had determined to convey at supper time, but the lowering aspect of Mrs. Hardamer's countenance, for a time made him feel disinclined to perform his allotted duty. Gradually, however, he brought his resolution up to the right point, and Mrs. Hardamer was startled from her unpleasant reverie, with the announcement, "The bedbugs are as thick as grass in our beds, ma'am!"
"Catch them and kill them, then," was the brief and crabbed answer.
Ike was silent, but his blood rose to fever-heat.
"Short and sweet, wasn't it, Ike?" said Tom, as the boys met in the shop after supper.
"Catch them and kill them, ha! I'll catch them, but somebody else may kill them if they choose," said Ike, giving his head a knowing toss.
That night at bed-time, Ike appeared with a little paper box, in the top of which was cut a small hole.
"What are you going to do with that, Ike?" said Bill.
"Going to catch bedbugs. Didn't the old woman say we must catch them?"
"Quite obedient, Ike. You're improving!"
"People ought to grow better as they grow older," responded Ike, turning up the hard straw bed with one hand, and routing the young colonies that had settled around the pegs of the bedstead. With a very small pair of pincers, he caught the nimble insects, and thrust them into his box. For nearly an hour, he worked away with all diligence, assisted by the rest, until he had caught and caged some two hundred!
"What are you going to do with these, Ike?"
"No telling just now. Let me alone for a day or two, and then I'll show you a neat trick."
"But, what is it, Ike?" urged Bill.
"Never mind, now, Bill. You shall know soon enough."
Sealing up the small aperture in the top with a piece of shoemaker's wax, softened in the candle, Ike deposited the box in his trunk for safe keeping.
Three days after, he came into the shop with his prisoners.
"There'll be some fun tonight, boys, or I'm mistaken," he said. "Let's examine our captives."
Slowly removing the lid, the little animals were found lying upon the bottom of the box, to all appearance dead. Their deep red color had changed to a light brown shade, and they looked more like thin, dry flakes of bran, than anything else.
"They're all dead, Ike."
"Don't believe the half of it. Just look here, and I'll show you if they're dead.
Picking up one of the seemingly inanimate, thin flakes, he placed it on the back of his hand, where it could hardly be distinguished, by its color, from the skin. For a moment it lay there motionless, and then its fine legs began to quiver, and its head to move and bend down upon the skin of the hand. In a little while its head was perfectly distinguished by a small brown spot, and from this spot, a thin dark line began to run down its back. Gradually this line widened, and the whole back assumed a darker hue.
"Does he bite, Ike?"
"Don't he! See how he is sucking up the blood. He's about the keenest chap to bite which I ever felt."
Ike still allowed the little animal to draw away, until he was swelled up with the dark fluid, and almost ready to burst; then brushing him off, he remarked in a low, chuckling voice,
"Somebody will know more about bedbugs tonight, than they've ever known before."
"But what are you going to do with them, Ike? You haven't told us yet."
"Oh, haven't I? Well, I'm going to let them have a taste of the old woman after their long fast."
"Humph! The old lady won't think so tonight."
"But the old man will come in for a share."
"Who cares? If he will go into bad company, he must take the consequences. But he's as bad as she is, any day."
After dinner, Ike watched his opportunity, and slipped into the royal bed-chamber, while all were downstairs. Carefully turning up the bed-clothes from the foot, he scattered the two hundred half-starved animals between the sheets, so low down, that in turning the clothes over from the top to get into the bed, they would not be perceived.
"Did you do it, Ike?" said Bill and Tom eagerly.
"Of course I did."
"They'll never find out who did it."
"No. They'll not even suspect anybody."
The garret in which the boys slept was directly over the chamber of Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer, and when they went to bed they left their door open, to hear as much as possible of what would happen below.
About ten o'clock, the old folks retired, and were just about losing themselves in sleep, when they were each awakened by a burning sensation about their feet and ankles. They bore it for a while in silence, and tried to go to sleep again; neither being aware that the other felt the same annoyance. But the burning increased to a smarting and stinging, and soon covered nearly their whole bodies.
"I feel just like I was in the fire!" said Mrs. Hardamer, who was first to complain.
"So do I," said her husband. "There must be bugs in the bed!"
"Indeed there can't be, for I looked the bed all over today."
"There must be, by jingo!" exclaimed Hardamer, in reply, reaching suddenly down and scratching his leg with all his might.
"Something's the matter!" said the old lady, rubbing with a like earnestness, and then creeping out of bed.
A light revealed about twenty lively fellows, which had, in the short time allowed them, filled themselves pretty well, and now stood out in full relief from the snow-white sheets. These were caught and dealt with according to law. The bed was examined, and in the belief that there was not another live bedbug on the premises, the worthy couple again betook themselves to rest.
But they were soon forced to turn out again, smarting, burning, and itching all over. Thirty or forty more of the ravenous little creatures were discovered and killed, and the bed and bedstead again thoroughly hunted over.
Again did they seek to find rest; and again were they forced to leave their snug retreat. This time they abdicated their chamber and sought for repose in another room and in another bed. Here they were more fortunate, and after a few efforts to drive from their imagination the idea that the little creatures were all the while creeping over them, finally succeeded in falling into a sound slumber, from which they did not awake until day-light.
At breakfast time, while the boys were disposing of their cold corn bread, and weak, warm, rye coffee, Mrs. Hardamer asked if they were troubled much with bugs during the night.
"Not at all, ma'am," said Ike, with a grave countenance.
"I never was so troubled with them in my life," said Mrs. Hardamer.
"I didn't feel any, did you, Bill?" said Ike.
"I wasn't at all troubled," responded Bill, in a voice that trembled with suppressed mirth.
"Well, I had to go into another room. I never saw so many in a bed in all my life! They must have all come down in an army from the garret."
"There's a pretty large army of them up in the garret, that I know," said Ike; "but they kept pretty quiet last night."
"Well, I'd thank them to keep on their own side of the house," responded Mrs. Hardamer, with an expression of disgust; for the idea of having bedbugs from the boys' dirty beds creeping over her, was by no means a very pleasant one.
That day the garret had a thorough overhauling. The bedsteads were taken down and scalded, and some thousands of the creatures were slain. Upon a close inspection of the sheets of her bed, the old lady discovered a number of what she thought the skins of bugs. These she gathered up carefully and, threw them into boiling water. She was a little surprised to see many of them stir, which created some vague suspicions in her mind; but there the matter ended. After this, the beds in the garret were regularly examined every week during warm weather.
"Did you ever see such a proud, lazy, stuck up somebody as Genevieve is?" remarked Ike, one day, to the boys in the shop.
"I do believe she's ashamed of her own father, because he's a shoemaker!" responded Tom.
"Humph! I know she is!" said Bill.
"And there's Gertrude, too. She never greets me in the street on Sundays. But I always speak to her as polite as a dancing master," said Ike. "I like to cut the comb of such people."
"Aren't you afraid to do so?" asked Tom.
"Afraid, indeed! and what should I be afraid of? She can't help herself. Suppose she tells the old man? She'll only get a flea in her ear for her pains. He's not going to do anything."
"Jim said he heard Millie say, that all three of the fine young ladies had a tip-top tea-party with the old man and woman about the noise of the lapstone when they had company. Old Hardamer was as stiff as you please, and said he'd set them all to binding shoes before a week, if they didn't shape up."
"I wonder if that's a fact! Are you sure Millie told you so, Jim?"
"All I know about it, Ike, is, that Millie said so, and I suppose she knows," said the little fellow, in half apparent reluctance to make any communication on the subject.
"Ah, very well!" responded Ike. "They shall have lapstone enough after this. Won't I lay it on with a vengeance, when the young doctors, and lawyers, and counter-hoppers are about!"
"They're what they call accomplished, aren't they?" said Bill Grimes. "What do they mean by that, I wonder?"
"You're green, Bill, if you don't know what accomplished means."
"I reckon I do know, Ike, what it means. But I can't for my life understand what it means when applied to old Hardamer's three eldest daughters! If it means to play on the piano, why the wife of black Jake, the barber, is accomplished, for Jake says she can play the piano to kill. And she can beat either of our young ladies, if I'm any judge of music, for I heard her once, and you know we hear them until we are sick and tired. If it means to dress up in all kinds of flim-flammeries, Jake's wife is just as accomplished, for she sports as much finery as they do. Or, may be it is to sit all day in the parlor, and do nothing; if so, Mrs. Morton's Spanish poodle is just as much entitled to be called accomplished as they are. I must find some new meaning to the word, before I can understand its application."
"Nonsense, Bill! you're soft in the upper story. To be accomplished, means to dance, and talk poetry, and all that sort of thing. A perfectly accomplished lady can talk nonsense, and to save your life, you can't tell it from good sense; it will come out so gracefully. She will tell you that you are a fool or a puppy, in terms that leave you at a loss to know whether she intends to compliment or insult you. A strange animal, I can tell you, is an accomplished lady."
"Of course, then," said Bill, "our upstairs misses are not accomplished ladies."
"No, nor never will be in full. They can ape a few of the graces, but can never be accomplished inside and out. A shoemaker's daughter, Bill, always seems to hear the sound of the lapstone, and it makes her both look and feel awkward. She will do well enough if she is content to be herself; but the moment she tries to step above the path in which she walks easily and naturally, she will get on uneven ground, and wobble from side to side like a duck — everybody will laugh at her."
"That's a law of nature, Ike."
"Of course it is, Bill. Shoemakers' daughters are as good as anybody else's daughters, until they grow ashamed of being shoemakers' daughters — and then they ought to be despised, and are despised."
On that same night it so happened that the girls had company, and as it was in the summer time, all the doors in the house were left open for the free circulation of air. The boys, of course, did not work at night, and the girls fondly imagined themselves freed from the dreadful annoyance of the hammer and lapstone. But they were not to be so highly favored.
"Where are you going tonight, Ike?" said one of the boys to this young ringleader of mischief.
"I'm going to stay at home, I believe."
"Stay at home! Why what's in the wind, Ike? It's a new kick for you to stay home at night."
"Why, didn't you see that the girls were all furbelowed up at supper time. They're going to set up for company — doctors, lawyers, merchants, etc."
"Well, what of that?"
"Nothing, only I need a pair of shoes, and must beat up the soles tonight."
"You're not in earnest, Ike?"
"Indeed and I am though, I want these young gentlemen to hear the sound of the lapstone."
"The old man will walk into you, if you try that trick."
"The Iron Chest Society meets tonight, you know, and he never stays away."
"True enough, but the old woman will get after you."
"Well, suppose she does; the mischief will all be done before she can waddle into the back shop."
"But I wouldn't if I was you, Ike."
"Wouldn't you, indeed! But I would though."
"As long as the girls hate the sound of the hammer so badly, I'd let them alone."
"Why, what's come over you, Tom? You're grown mighty feeling all at once! But you needn't preach to me! I know what I'm about. Won't I make the old stone ring a merry tune though!"
As Ike had supposed, about eight o'clock, a young Mr. Willis who had just opened a dry-goods store, came in to see Miss Genevra; and shortly after a student of medicine, a wild disorderly fellow, who had an idea that old Hardamer had a few of the "gooseberries," as he called them, dropped in to renew an acquaintance recently made at a party with Miss Genevieve. His name was Anderson. A Mr. Wilkins also called, but as he was a young shoemaker, just in business, who did not think himself above shoemakers' daughters, he met with a very cold reception.
"It's quite a pleasant evening Miss Gertrude," remarked Mr. Wilkins, the last comer, as he seated himself beside that young lady.
"Yes, sir," she replied, in a chilling tone, and with a face as free from smiles as a wintry sky.
"Not much danger of a gust, I reckon," he continued, glancing out of the window.
"It's been rather an oppressive day."
"Have you been to the museum, lately?" continued Wilkins, varying his attack. "They have an Egyptian mummy there, the first ever exhibited in this city."
"No, sir," replied the monosyllabic lady, as coldly and indifferently as possible.
Still Wilkins was not to be driven off into silence, although he felt awkward and embarrassed.
"That's a beautiful painting there of Virginia."
"Were you ever electrified?"
"You've no idea what a strange feeling it produces. You feel just as if your shoulders were jerked apart. How singular it is, that in a circle of even twenty, every one feels the shock at the same instant. They electrified a big negro there the other night. It was fun, I assure you! Mr. Peale charged the machine pretty strongly, and asked the fellow to put his hand on the knob. He, of course, did as requested, in all obedience. 'Now take hold of that chain a minute,' said Mr. Peale, and the negro obeyed. I thought the whole company would have died laughing to see the fellow jump and roll up his eyes. He couldn't understand it no how at all."
Even this failed to interest the young lady; and she did not accord a single word in response.
During this vain effort on the part of Mr. Wilkins to get up a conversation, the tongues of the other girls were running at a rapid rate; and as they grew more and more animated, their voices were raised to a higher pitch.
"He's a splendid writer, though, isn't he, Mr. Anderson, that Mr. Byron?" said Genevieve. "O I've a passion for him!"
"Lord Byron is certainly a poet of splendid powers," responded the young student.
"He's a lord, then, is he?"
"O yes, Miss."
"Well, I declare! I didn't know it before. I shall admire him more than ever."
"You've read his Bride of Abydos, I suppose," said Anderson.
"I haven't got that far yet," replied Genevieve, blushing a little.
"Then there's a treat yet in store for you. His Bride of Abydos is one of his most beautiful productions."
"I'll read it tomorrow, then; I won't wait till I get to it. He's the author of Grey's Elegy in a Country ChurchYard, isn't he?"
"Yes," said the polite student, "and it is one of his finest pieces."
"I've always admired that. Isn't it elegant where he says, 'Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air!'"
"Indeed it is," responded Anderson, a little cooled off. "You're fond of poetry, Miss Genevieve?"
"O I doat on it! It's a passion with me! I could read poetry from morning till night."
Rap, rap, rap — bang, bang, bang, suddenly came ringing up from the back shop with startling distinctness!
"Goody gracious me!" exclaimed Genevieve, suddenly thrown off her guard, and rising to her feet.
Anderson, with easy politeness, endeavored to carry on the conversation, as freely as if there was no deafening sound of lapstone and hammer ringing through the room. Not only Genevieve, but all the girls were terribly annoyed.
"That's quite a familiar sound," remarked Wilkins, in a quiet tone.
Gertrude looked at him as if she could have annihilated him.
"Your father is pretty busy now, I believe?"
"Sir?" said the young lady, with an offended air.
"Can't you give us something on the piano, Miss Genevra?" said Mr. Willis, who felt for the girls, and suggested the idea of music, as an antidote to the annoying sound below.
"Yes, I will play, if you wish me," responded Genevra, moving quickly towards the instrument. "What will you have?"
"Washington's March," said Willis.
Instantly Genevra struck the keys with full force, introducing the drum whenever she could manage to give it a deafening bang, and thus succeeded in drowning the noise of Ike's hammer. But marches, like everything else, must have an end; and, in the pause that followed, the ears of the poor girls were agonized by the terrible sound below.
Another tune was quickly called for, and during its performance, Genevieve left the room, and descended with rapid steps to the back shop.
"What do you mean, sir? you insolent wretch, you!" she half screamed to Ike, who, seated on his bench, with a shade over his eyes, was still hammering with all his might.
Ike looked up with a simple, bewildered air, but made no answer.
"What are you filling the house with this eternal din for, I want to know?"
"Nothing, Miss Genevieve, only I'm making myself a pair of shoes. You see I've got none fit to wear," poking up at the same time his foot, covered with an old shoe, the toe of which gaped like the mouth of a catfish.
"Why don't you make your shoes in the day-time, and not disturb everybody in the house at night?"
"Because I haven't got no time in the day."
"I'll tell Pa on you, so I will!" said the incensed young lady.
"Why, I'm not doing anything, Miss Genevieve," replied Ike, as demurely as possible. "But if it disturbs you, I'll do it in the morning." And so saying, he replaced his hammer upon his bench, pushed the stone under it, and threw off his pasteboard shade.
"Don't let me hear any more of this, remember that, sir!" and the offended beauty swept off so quickly as to lose the sound of Ike's humble, "No, Miss."
"It worked to a charm!" he exclaimed, as soon as Genevieve had retired; and hurrying on his jacket, he blew out the candle, and in a moment or two was in the street.
On the next morning, after breakfast, old Hardamer went into the back shop, and, standing before Ike, addressed him in a loud, angry tone with —
"What were you doing here last night, I want to know?"
"Only hammering out a shoe sole."
"Well, what business had you hammering out a shoe sole at night, this time of year?"
"I wanted a pair of shoes, sir!"
"That's a lie, sir! for it's not two weeks since you made yourself a pair."
This was a fact.
"You only did it to disturb the family, you imp of Satan! But I'll learn you a trick worth two of that! I'll let you see that you can't play off your pranks on everybody!"
And before Ike had time to do anything, Hardamer was laying it over his back and shoulders with a heavy stirrup. The old fellow was a cruel hand to flog when once excited, as the scarred and seamed backs of the boys bore ample testimony; and he was terribly passionate whenever he met with opposition.
Recovering himself from the surprise and confusion of so sudden an attack, and recalling his resolution to resist, Ike suddenly sprung from his bench, and driving his head full into the rotund abdomen of his master, sent him tumbling over backwards into the corner, among the rolls of leather.
Uttering a fierce oath, Hardamer sprang quickly to his feet, and made towards Ike. Blind and mad with passion the short thick, old fellow plunged like an enraged bull towards Ike, who coolly stepped aside, and by just advancing his foot a little, allowed him to tumble heels-over-head into the other corner of the shop. There he lay for some moments, so bewildered as to scarcely know whether he was on his head or his feet. But he soon began to understand the position of matters a little more clearly; and seeing Ike still standing boldly up in front of him, be arose, with a block of wood in each hand, and in the twinkling of an eye, launched them, one after the other, at Ike's head. But that chap had as quick an eye as his master, and readily dodged them.
"Two can play at that game, remember!" said Ike, picking up a shoe, and brandishing it in his hand.
For a moment Hardamer was utterly confounded. Implicit submission to his will, and the privilege of thrashing any of the boys whenever he pleased, had been prerogatives which no one had questioned for twenty or thirty years.
"Do you dare to threaten me? you scoundrel!" he at length said, moving towards Ike, his face dark with anger.
"Stand off, sir!" said Ike, retreating.
But Hardamer pressed forward. Finding that warning would not keep off his master, Ike let fly a piece of wood at his head, which just grazed his ear. In an instant the old fellow grappled with him, and they rolled over together on the floor. Bill and Tom looked on with anxious interest, both resolved to aid Ike, according to the compact, if there was any chance of his master's getting the best of the battle. All at once they saw Ike grow black in the face, and were shocked to perceive that both of Hardamer's hands were tightly clasped around his throat.
"The old scamp will kill him!" exclaimed Bill, springing forward, and throwing himself upon his master.
"Choke him off, Bill!" cried Tom, joining him on the instant.
Not taking the hint as quickly as Tom thought the nature of the case required, he clasped his own hands with a vigorous grip around Hardamer's throat, and held on until the master's hold relaxed from the neck of the now almost insensible boy.
Ike quickly revived, and the three boys retired from their not very pleasant proximity to the body of their master, and ranged themselves side by side, in an attitude of defiance.
"I'll murder the whole of you!" shouted Hardamer, rising to his feet, mad with passion. "What do you mean, you infernal scoundrels! Go to your work this instant! And you, Ike, walk off upstairs. I'm not done with you yet!"
"There's no particular use in my going upstairs," said Ike. "Because, you see, I'm not going to allow you to touch me again."
"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel!"
"Well, I was only saying that — "
"Hold your tongue, I say! Off, upstairs with you!"
"Can't go, sir," said Ike.
"We might as well all understand each other at once," now broke in Tom. "We've all resolved that we won't stand your miserable beatings any longer. We've had enough; and, as Ike says, are too old for that kind of fun now. If you'll treat us well, we'll work; but if you don't, we'll raise the very devil; so there now!"
Here was a state of things, the possibility of the existence of which had never entered the mind of Hardamer; and he felt utterly at a loss how to act. If he had followed the impulse by which he was prompted, he would have dashed in among them, and knocked right and left with blind fury; but he could not forget that these three nimble chaps before him, in whose determined faces there was no evidence of fear, had but a moment before proved too much for him.
"I can have you all cowhided by a constable!" he said, in a calmer voice.
"We have calculated all that," replied Tom, more respectfully, "and are prepared to act in that case too."
"I would like to know how you'd act in the officer's clutches. I guess you'd not like his cowhide much."
"I can tell you how we'll act," said Tom, in a determined voice. "We'll never wax another cord for you as long as we live. Mind, sir, we're not to be played with!" he continued, anxious to impress his master with a sense of their indomitable resolution, and thus avoid future contentions, which none of the boys had any desire to enter into.
Hardamer turned upon his heel, and went into the front shop, while the three rebels retired, each to his respective seat, and resumed their work. He was as much at a loss to know how to act, as they were to know how he would act. At one moment, he resolved to avail himself of the law, which provides for the punishment of refractory apprentices; but the determined manner of the boys caused him to hesitate. Although he was in pretty easy circumstances, he by no means considered himself rich, and had no idea of dispensing with the services of three well-grown, industrious boys. This turmoil in his mind, accompanied with its troublesome indecision, continued for many days, during which time the boys worked steadily and quietly. Gradually, the keen mortification, and chafed feelings of Hardamer wore away, and the boys began to feel safe.
"The storm's pretty well over," said Ike, about a week afterwards. "Who would of thought that the passionate old rascal would have been tamed so easily."
"Tyrants are always cowards,"' said Tom. "Just make them lay aside their bluster, and all's safe."
"It's jubilee, now, I suppose," added Bill. "No more of his confounded beatings. Hurrah! — hurrah! — hurrah!" he continued, in an animated voice, swinging a boot-leg about his head.
"Hush, Bill! the old fellow will hear you, and it's no use to provoke him without a cause. We are not altogether on dry ground yet. A little false play may do the business for us."
"I'll fight till I die, before I'll give in now," said Ike. "Still he's a fool who fights, when he can have peace by being a little quiet, and lose nothing, neither."
"It's my opinion," said Tom, "that the old man wasn't so much to blame in calling you to account the other morning. But then, we'd resolved to snub him the first time he went to cutting up any tantrums, and so it came all in good timing."
"I've got it so often, when I didn't deserve it, though," responded Ike, "that it's put the old devil into me. If our boss had treated us right all along, he'd had none of this work on his hands."
"That's true enough. He has no one to blame but himself. Tyrants make rebels. Boys know what's what, as well as anybody."
"Humph! I reckon they do," added Bill. "Do you think Thompson's boys would ever rise on him? No, indeed; he's a reasonable man, and treats them well."
"But he has one boy, though, you know," said Tom, "who hates him as he does a snake; and says he's a canting old hypocrite."
"Who's that? Abe Shriver?"
"We all know what he is. Didn't Mr. Thompson pick him out of the gutter, and make him all that he is? I hate an ungrateful fellow, and I hate Abe Shriver!"
"But he says Thompson is a hypocrite, Bill," continued Tom, "and that he cheats his customers every day — even if he does have prayers night and morning."
"You don't believe him, though, do you?"
"Why shouldn't I believe him, Bill?"
"Why, just because Abe is a mean, base fellow, and had as soon tell a lie as the truth."
"How would you like to live with Parker, down on South Street, Bill?" said Tom, jumping to another subject.
"I wouldn't live with him; that's all."
"They say his boys have a pretty tough time of it."
"Yes. Harry Sands, who lives there, says, that they're worked almost to death and half starved into the bargain. And I should think so, for they all look as yellow and lantern-jawed as bull-frogs. They are never allowed a bit of butter, and have no bread for dinner. Mrs. Parker cuts off for each boy one slice of meat at dinner time and then takes the dish off. Potatoes make up the bulk of the meal. They did get a pudding once, but Harry said their stomachs wasn't used to it and it made them all sick."
"I wonder they'll stand it."
"Boys will stand a good deal sometimes, to get their trades."
"But what I wonder at, is," said Tom, "that boys, after they know their trades, will continue to submit to such treatment. I'd leave in less than no time."
"Several have run away. But runaway apprentices rarely do well, and this fact is pretty generally known, and talked about in shops."
"There's Wells, the tailor; a clever fellow to his boys, they say. If all I hear is true, I'd like to live with him," said Bill. "It does one good to look at his good-humored face."
"Wells is a prime chap, there's no doubt of that," said Ike. "I'd almost consent to be a tailor to live with him, much as I despise the pale-faced craft. No man with perfectly formed limbs ever ought to be a tailor; that is my doctrine. It will do well enough for cripples and women."
"But they look upon us with contempt, and call us snobs," said Tom.
"Yes, and the chimney sweep despises the miller; but the world can see where the honor lies."
"There is something manly in our trade, any how," responded Tom, hammering his favorite tune of Yankee Doodle on the lapstone, and silencing all conversation for the next minute or two.
"You're right there, Tom," said Ike, as the noise subsided. "A boot-maker is as much above a stitcher, as a merchant is above a cheesemonger."
"What do you think of Genevieve?" said Willis to Anderson, drawing his arm within that of the latter, as they left the residence of Mr. Hardamer, after spending from two to three hours there on the night the girls had been so distressingly annoyed by Ike's hammer and lapstone.
"She's rather tough to swallow, Willis; but then the old man's got the 'gooseberries,' and I'm devilishly in need of money."
"Well, if you want her, stand up like a man, and she's yours."
"But how's the old chap? Is he at all come-at-able? Because, you see, Genevieve with the rhino and Genevieve without the rhino, are not in my eyes one and the same person."
"I understand. But I don't know exactly about that matter. He's an industrious, hard-working old fellow, and I would judge that he would not look with very favorable eyes, upon a young student of medicine, who may or may not graduate in the next twelve months; and even if he should, has no practice on which to support a wife."
"That does look a little blue; but then he needn't know all that. Its easy enough to talk of my father's splendid farm in Virginia, stocked with five hundred black workers; where we will go and live like a lord and lady."
"I suspect he's too old a head to be caught with that chaff; still, the game's worth shooting at."
"I can bring down the game easy enough. But then I don't want an empty craw, you see; that's the chief business."
"You'll have to feed Genevieve up, and trust to her stuffing the old man. She'll believe any story you may tell her."
"Yes, I see that. She almost coaxes me to deceive her. But, tell me, have you any notion of Genevra?"
"What takes you there, then!"
"To pass the time away, of course. I have twenty young ladies that I call on every month. I would be sorry if I was suspected of having a notion to all of them."
"What do you think the old fellow is worth, Willis?"
"That's more than I can tell."
"But, what do you think? I've heard his property estimated at a hundred thousand dollars. Do you think he is worth that much?"
"Hardly. And even if he was, it wouldn't go far among six daughters."
"He hasn't that many, has he? I thought there were only three."
"Yes, he has, though. There are three younger ones."
"Wow! That alters the case. I've been calculating on a neat little plum valued at something like thirty thousand dollars. With that much I could afford to have the poetical Miss Genevieve quartered off upon me. But half that sum is too little."
"I've no idea that he's worth a hundred thousand dollars, myself," said Willis. "He may be, but I doubt it."
"What reason have you for doubting it?"
"No particular reason — It's only a notion of my own."
Anderson went home to his room that night, and found upon his table three letters, each containing an earnest demand for money. His pockets were empty; the small sum allowed him by his father for his incidental expenses having been all squandered weeks before, nothing more he knew could be expected in that quarter before the usual period, for his father was a poor farmer in Virginia, who found it as much as he could do to meet the expenses of a large family at home, and spare from his slender income, the sum of five hundred dollars a year, to carry his son through a course of medical studies in Baltimore.
That son, as may be supposed, but poorly appreciated the sacrifice which his father made to give him an honorable start in the world. Already he had spent two years and a half in Baltimore, and in the ensuing winter, he must offer for graduation. How little he had improved his time, may be known from the fact, that his preceptor had but a few weeks previous to his introduction to the reader, felt it his duty to admonish him in strong terms, and to represent it as being very doubtful whether he could get a diploma, unless he applied himself with vigorous attention for the next few months.
His own case seemed to himself to be rather a hopeless one, in view of accumulated debts and accumulated desires. And the only remedy he could hit upon, was to marry a rich wife. He had tried for some time to get introductions to rich girls, but the few he had met seemed to take but little fancy to him, until accident threw him in the way of Miss Genevieve Hardamer. The usual question, "Is she rich?" always asked by him, on being introduced to a new face, having been answered by the pleasing information that her father was worth at least a hundred thousand dollars, he determined to follow up the pursuit without delay. He was somewhat disappointed in the lady, and a little dampened in his ardor by the information that the interesting sisters were six in number. But after reading over his demands for payment, and reflecting seriously upon the prospect before him, he came to the conclusion that, as it was the first fair chance for a rich wife he had met with, he had better not let it slip.
On the third evening after his visit, he called, a second time, on Miss Genevieve, and, on leaving at eleven o'clock, proposed a walk with her on the next evening.
"I shall be most happy to walk out," she said, hardly able to keep down her exuberant feelings at the idea of having, at last, got a nice young fellow snared.
Punctual to his engagement, Anderson called, and in a few minutes, Genevieve's arm was trembling in his. They extended their walk, as it was a bright moonlight night, out Calvert Street to the Waterloo Row, and then crossed over into Belvidere Street, and out to the bridge. This was, at that time, a very fashionable evening walk, and hundreds strolled out every moonlight night.
Anderson modified his voice to the gentlest and softest tones, and talked of brooks, fountains, and green meadows, until Genevieve's poor head was almost turned. He frequently alluded to his father's beautiful place in Virginia, and spoke of it as a little paradise. His sisters, he said, were dear good girls, and were all impatient for him to return home.
"How I should like to live in Virginia," said Genevieve, as Anderson dwelt upon the lovely spot he called his home. "I have always admired the Virginian character."
"They are a fine, frank, hospitable people. Somewhat proud, it is true. But then, we have something to be proud of," said Anderson, elevating his bead, and stepping forward with a bearing as dignified as he could assume.
"Virginia's a great ways off; more than a thousand miles, isn't it?" asked Genevieve.
"Oh, no. It's not a hundred miles to some parts of it. Our place is about two hundred miles from here."
"Is that all? I always thought it was such a distance! How long does it take to go there?"
"I can easily go home in a couple of days. You go down the Potomac River in the steamboat."
"Ah, indeed! Is the Potomac a river? Why I always thought the Potomac was a tavern. I heard father say, once, when he went to Washington, that he stayed at the Potomac House."
"That tavern was called after the river. The Potomac is a splendid stream running into the Chesapeake Bay."
"I've often heard of this Chesapeake Bay; where is it, Mr. Anderson? But, perhaps I'm too inquisitive."
"Don't you really know where the Chesapeake Bay is, Miss Genevieve?" asked Anderson in astonishment.
"Indeed, I do not, sir. I never was very proficient in geography. It was such a dry study. I remember a little about the maps; and before I left school, could easily find places, when our mistress would point out on the edges of them the latitude and longitude. But I never could recollect much about it, except, that Greenland and Lapland were in the North pole; and that the Torrid Zone was situated in the Autumnal Equinox."
Anderson felt too solemn to laugh; for it was no pleasant discovery for him, that the only being who was likely to make him a rich wife, was, as near as could be — a fool.
He did not make any answer, and she ran on: "Our teacher used to tell us that Italy was shaped like a boot, and I remember tracing the red and blue lines all around with a pin one day; but I never could find it again, though I have often looked all over my old school atlas for it. Byron used to live in Italy. When I found that out, I was anxious to see it on the map. We were talking about Byron the other night. I've read the Bride of Abydos since I saw you. It is a glorious thing."
"There is no doubt of that," said Anderson, pleased that Genevieve had so promptly read the poem after his recommendation.
"You said just now that you would like to live in Virginia," continued Anderson. "Were you really in earnest?"
"Indeed I was," she replied trembling all over, and pressing closer to his side. "I've always had an idea that it was a delightful place. Pocahontas, the Indian Queen, lived there once."
"How would you like to go there?" he said, acting upon a desperate resolution to bring matters to a speedy close.
"I would like it of all things in the world," replied Genevieve, fully understanding her part.
"If I were to ask you to go there with me, what would you say?" he continued, advancing a little nearer to the point.
"How would I go with you, Mr. Anderson? I don't understand you?" she said in feigned surprise.
"Go as my wife, of course! You don't know how dear you are to me, Genevieve. I couldn't live without you. Since I first saw you, I haven't slept an hour at a time, and tonight I am determined to know my fate. Don't say no to my suit, or I shall die, dear Genevieve!" he continued, taking her hand. "Have I anything to hope?"
"Oh, sir! Oh, sir! I shall faint! Who would have thought it? Don't let me fall!" ejaculated the astonished maiden, leaning her full weight against her enamored swain. "There! Let me sit down!" she continued in a faint voice.
It so happened that they were at the bridge when this scene occurred, and Anderson gently eased her down upon one of the stone elevations that rise at each end.
"Oh, dear! — Oh, dear!" she continued to ejaculate, in an agitated manner. "It took me so suddenly!"
Gradually she recovered herself, and soon cast upon Anderson, the most loving glances.
"I have won the prize!" he said, pressing her hand to his heart, as his eyes caught her meaningful looks.
"I loved you from the moment I first saw you," she said, more calmly; "but dared not hope it was returned."
"You are as dear to me as the apple of my eye, and have been from the first," replied Anderson, in passionate tones.
But enough of this. That night, neither Genevieve nor her lover, as he had declared himself, slept much. She, from excess of delight, had no inclination to sleep, and he, from very different emotions, lay awake hour after hour. At times he repented of the rash step he had taken; but his embarrassed financial condition would then stare him in the face, and reconcile him to the revolting necessity. He could not conceal from himself, that he had the most unconquerable aversion for Genevieve, but it was quite as apparent, that he had a tender regard for her father's money. But the old man could not like him, and when he asked for his daughter, gave him a peremptory denial. He had his own reasons for this. It was useless to talk of his rich father in Virginia. He knew too much about his unpaid tailor's and bootmaker's bills.
Presuming upon the forgiving disposition of all fathers, Anderson proposed an elopement, and in two or three weeks from the time old Hardamer had refused to give the hand of his daughter to a young, idle spendthrift — that daughter, who thought herself a little wiser than her father, took the responsibility of giving herself away.
Since her father's refusal to countenance the visits of Anderson, he had ceased coming to the house. But Genevieve had contrived to meet him at a friend's, and one night, at eleven o'clock, she failed to return home as usual. Her absence, up to that hour, was thought to be nothing remarkable, for all the girls were in the habit of running about with beaux, or visiting at the houses of acquaintances, until ten or eleven o'clock, almost every night.
After sitting up until one o'clock for their sister, Gertrude and Genevra became alarmed on account of her absence, and awakened the old folks.
"Where can she be, Gertrude?" asked the mother with a strong expression of anxiety.
"Indeed, ma, I can't tell. She never stayed out so late before."
"Has she ever seen that worthless chap, Anderson, since I forbid him the house?" asked her father abruptly.
"Yes sir, I believe she has seen him pretty often since," said Genevra.
"Then the matter's explained!"
"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Hardamer, in alarm.
"Why, it's as likely as not, she's run off with that idle student; she's fool enough!" replied Hardamer, angrily.
"It's impossible!" said the mother, bursting into tears.
"Don't believe the half of it! She's been crazy for a husband for five years, and has been ready, for some time, to take the first offer," responded Hardamer, bitterly. "If she really has married that fellow though, she must not expect anything from me, for I will have nothing to do with him, or her either." And so saying, the incensed father retired to his room.
For an hour longer did the mother and the two daughters sit up, in the vain hope that Genevieve would return. As the clock struck two, they all retired with heavy hearts.
About ten o'clock on the next morning, a letter was brought to Hardamer, which, upon breaking open, he found to run thus:
"Dear father and mother: Will you forgive your child for her first act of disobedience? Contrary to your wishes and commands, I have married Mr. Anderson. He is all you could desire in the husband of your daughter. Only consent to cheer us with your smiles and approval, and we shall be too happy. But if you will not forgive your child, she will never more know peace or contentment. I am at Mrs. Dudley's, and am trembling with anxiety to hear from you. Your affectionate child, Genevieve."
"It's just as I suspected!" said Hardamer, entering the room in which his wife sat sewing. "The hussy has married Anderson in spite of us!"
"You cannot be in earnest!" exclaimed the mother, dropping the work from her hands.
"Yes I am. Just listen to this!" and he read her the letter he had received from Genevieve.
"She's made her own bed — and she can lie in it!" said her mother, resuming the work that had fallen upon the floor.
"So I say! Let her eat the bread of her own baking!" and Hardamer turned away abruptly, and entered the shop.
"Have you sent the letter yet?" said Anderson to his young wife, on the morning after the marriage.
"Yes, my love, an hour ago."
"Isn't it strange that none of your family has come yet?"
"It takes the girls a good while to dress, and I suppose they're all coming along. They'll be here pretty soon, now."
"Do you think there's any danger of your father's being stiff about the matter?" he asked, in a tone indicating some concern.
"O no, my love, none in the least. He'll be quiet enough, now that it's all over."
"I hope so."
"Never fear, I know him," said Genevieve.
Another hour passed, and yet there had been neither visit nor message.
"What can it mean, Genevieve?"
"I can't exactly understand it, my love," she answered, her face indicating considerable anxiety.
"Perhaps your messenger did not deliver your letter to the right person. Suppose I call him up and question him."
The boy who was sent with the letter was now called and interrogated. He testified, that he knew Mr. Hardamer very well by sight, and that he had placed the letter in his own hands.
"Surely they will not cast you off!" said Anderson, after the boy had retired.
"Impossible!" responded Genevieve, emphatically.
"What can it mean, then?"
"Indeed I don't know," said Genevieve, bursting into tears.
Anderson shook his head, and the young couple sat for ten minutes in silence.
"We've got each other, my love," at length said the bride, looking up into the face of her husband, and entwining an arm around his neck, "They can't rob us of each other, and we will be happy in spite of their cruel neglect."
This was a view of the case that was not at all flattering to the mind of Anderson. The more intimate became his acquaintance with Genevieve, the more detestable did she appear, viewed apart from the "gooseberries." He did not, for he could not, return her fond caresses, or respond to her affectionate expressions. This coldness, so unexpected, completely turned the current of the young bride's feelings, and she burst into tears.
"You don't love me, I'm sure you don't!" she said, laying her head upon his shoulder.
"You are as dear to me as life!" he instantly replied, drawing his arm tightly around her, for he could not so suddenly give up the cherished idea of sharing with her a few of her father's hard-earned dollars.
"Then I am so happy!" she said, smiling through her tears.
The announcement in the newspapers, of his having married old Hardamer's daughter, brought down upon him all of his creditors, who, from long fasting, had become as hungry and as importunate as wolves! This state of uncertainty, therefore, could not long be endured; more particularly, as his landlady had become a little pressing about her rent.
A whole week passed, and not even an inquiry had been made after them, by any of Genevieve's family. Urged on by Anderson, she had written three letters in the interval, but they all remained unanswered. At the end of that time, Genevieve, at the suggestion of her husband, determined to go home, and try to reconcile matters. Much against her will, for Genevieve was more incensed than troubled about the neglect of her parents and sisters, did she proceed, a week after her marriage, to her father's house. Her two grown up sisters were, as usual, in the parlor, one reading a novel, and the other thrumming the piano.
"Well, Genevieve!" drawled out Gertrude, not even rising. Genevra did manage to come forward, and offer her hand.
"Where's Ma?" Genevieve asked, in considerable agitation.
"Gone to market," again drawled out Gertrude, turning over a music book and resuming her practice.
"Will she be home soon, Genevra?" Genevieve ventured to ask, her eyes filling with tears.
"I expect she will, she's been gone a good while. Won't you take off your bonnet?"
"No, I believe not. I can't stay long."
But few more words passed between the sisters for the next half hour, at the end of which time, Mrs. Hardamer returned.
"Who sent for you, my lady?" was the salutation with which she met her daughter.
Genevieve looked at her for a moment, and bursting into tears, arose and left the house, without the least effort being made to detain her.
"If ever I go back there, I wish I may die!" she exclaimed, passionately, on entering the chamber, where sat, in all impatience, her expectant husband.
"What do you mean?" he asked in alarm, rising to his feet.
"I mean what I say! They didn't treat me like a human being, and I'll never go near them again!"
"Did you see the old man?"
"No, I did not!"
"But, why didn't you see him?"
"Because, there had been no use in it!"
"But you don't know that. No man can be hard-hearted enough to turn away from his daughter, when she asks for his forgiveness."
"I've nothing to ask his forgiveness for. Besides, you don't know him as I do. He's as stubborn as a mule when he once sets his head."
"But you never said this before! You always held out the idea, that he'd be easily enough managed, after it was all over."
"Well, suppose that I did. It was only to ease your mind on the score of the great sacrifice I was making."
"The devil it was!" ejaculated Anderson, in undisguised astonishment.
Now, this was too much for any young bride to bear, before the honeymoon was over, and she very naturally gave way to a flood of tears.
A weeping wife is never a very interesting sight to a husband; more especially, if there is but a trifle of real love in the case; and this effusion of tears had but little effect upon the heart of Anderson, except to harden it towards her.
Rap, rap, rap, sounded on the door, and Anderson opened it with some misgivings.
"Mr. Wilson says that he needs that money that you owe him, today!" said a dirty little urchin, in a loud voice, pushing a bill at him.
"Tell Mr. Wilson to go to H___!" replied Anderson, slamming the door in the boy's face, and retreating to a chair, at the opposite side of the room from where his wife was sitting.
His words fell like ice upon the heart of Genevieve. A suspicion of the real truth flashed across her mind. Could it be possible that she had been deceived? But she dashed the dreadful thought from her mind.
After sitting for half an hour in silence, Anderson took his hat, and left the house without saying a word. He felt completely caught in his own trap. If she brought nothing with her, what was he to do with a disagreeable wife, especially as he had not a single dollar in the world, and was over head and ears, as the saying is, in debt?
"A fine piece of work this!" he muttered to himself, as he hurried along the street. "If that old rascal isn't brought to reason, I shall have to run away — or hang myself!"
"Good morning, Mr. Anderson! You are the very man I am looking for," said a well-known officer, smiling blandly as he addressed the young student.
"I can't say that I am much delighted at seeing you, then."
"That's hardly fair, Mr. Anderson. But, jesting aside. There's a little affair of yours down at squire Miltenberger's that I wish you'd arrange some time for today."
"Whose is it?"
"Old Lawson's, the bootmaker. He's a little impatient to share in your good fortune," replied the officer, smiling at his own humor.
"It's the last time I'll patronize the old scoundrel!" said Anderson, in an offended tone. "But never mind; I'll arrange it before night."
"Do, if you please," said the officer, bowing, and again Anderson was moving along with no companion but his own thoughts.
"A cursed fix I'm now in, aren't I!" he said, half aloud. "A rich wife, and not a penny with her. But it's folly to despair yet. The old snob will come to, by and by; he's only acting a little stiff, to show off. He ought to be proud of the connection!" And the young man walked along with a dignified pace, for the next half square, in the pride of self-importance.
But, Anderson was mistaken. Hardamer was so incensed at his daughter, and so displeased with all he could learn of Anderson, that he would take no notice of them. After two months, during which time the young couple lived in open rupture, Anderson found it impossible longer to keep free from jail. Waiting just long enough to get his quarterly remittance of one hundred and twenty-five dollars from his father, who had been kept in ignorance of his marriage — he pocketed the money, and left the city. He did not even leave a note behind for his wife.
A sad time, the poor girl had she of it afterwards. On the third day after Anderson had failed to make his appearance, his wife received notice from her landlady to leave the home, as she could not afford to keep her any longer for nothing. This communication was made in no very choice terms, and wound up as follows:
"And, if you'll take my advice, you'll go home to your father, for not much good will ever come to you of living with Mr. Anderson, let me tell you that, even if he should show himself again; though I've no notion that ever he will."
Genevieve burst into tears, and cried and sobbed as if her heart would break. This exhibition of distress touched, in some degree, the feelings of the landlady, and she said, with more kindness of manner —
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Mrs. Anderson — I wouldn't do that for the world. But, I'm serious, when I tell you as a friend, that you would build on a vain hope, if you calculated much upon a return of your husband. He's over head and ears in debt to everyone, and has gone off, I have little doubt, to get clear of it."
"Don't talk to me in that way, madam! You cannot, surely, be in earnest? But even if he is gone home to Virginia, he will send for me directly."
"His father, if I am rightly informed," replied the landlady, "is a poor farmer, with a large family, who has stinted all the rest, to make a doctor of this one. Having trifled with his father's kindness, and abused his confidence, he will hardly go back to him."
"O madam! what you say cannot be true!" exclaimed Genevieve, the tears flowing afresh from her eyes.
"It is all too true, Mrs. Anderson, and sorry am I to have to tell you so. Anderson expected to get a fortune with you, but having been disappointed in this expectation, and being overwhelmed with debt — he has left you."
There was too much evidence in Genevieve's mind to enable her to reject, fully, her plainspoken landlady's statement, and, overwhelmed at the idea of her situation, she covered her face with her hands, and rocking her body backwards and forwards, murmured —
"What shall I do? What shall I do?"
"Go home at once to your father, Mrs. Anderson," said her landlady.
"But father won't see me, nor allow me to come to the house."
"Then you are in a bad way, poor thing!"
"May not I stay here a little while, ma'am," she said, meekly, looking through her tears, imploringly, into the landlady's face.
The feelings of the latter, not usually very sensitive, were touched, and wiping the moisture from her eyes, she said —
"Certainly, Mrs. Anderson, for a little while. But, you know, I can't afford to keep you long; and so you'd better make fair weather with your folks as quick as possible."
If there is anything of good remaining in the heart — circumstances of trial and affliction will develop it. It may lie hidden for years, like fire in the steel, but rough collision will reveal the spark. This is one of the principal uses of adversity.
"I have done wrong," said Mrs. Anderson, mentally, after an hour's afflicting communion with her own thoughts. Now, this simple conclusion and acknowledgment, indicated that beneath all the false pride and vain desires of Genevieve, there lay concealed, some good principles, by which she might be elevated from an evil and a false — into a good and a true character. Had these shown themselves under different circumstances, they might have been trampled upon and extinguished. But they were kept concealed and protected, until the right moment.
"Here, Jim, run to Mrs. Webster's with these 'uppers,' and tell her I want them closed and bound as quickly as possible," said Mr. Hardamer, handing a bundle to his smallest work-boy, who took it, and ran off at full speed.
"Mr. Hardamer wants these" — began little Jim, as he was always called in the shop, on entering Mrs. Webster's room; but he stopped short on perceiving her daughter, Anne, seated in a chair weeping violently.
"What's the matter, Miss Anne?" he asked, after a moment's pause, going up to her side. Anne had always been kind to him, and he liked her very much. For a few moments, the weeping girl made no answer to the inquiry of her little friend.
"O, Miss Anne, what is the matter?" again asked the boy, his own eyes filling with tears. "Where is your mother?"
"She is dead!" murmured the girl, sobbing more violently.
"O no, Miss Anne!" — But his eye turned involuntarily towards the bed, and perceived the pale, death-stricken face of Mrs. Webster. Bursting into tears, he leaned his head against the chair, on which Anne was sitting, and wept with her. He, too, had lost a friend in Mrs. Webster. For, since the death of his mother, she was the only one he had met, who seemed to care for him with something like a maternal regard.
Mrs. Webster had long been in feeble health, and had been wasting away for years in a slow decline. But death came more suddenly than had been expected. Her husband, a physician, who had not succeeded in obtaining a very large practice, had been dead for many years. In dying, he had left his intelligent and interesting wife, with one daughter, about six years old. The little that he had been able to accumulate, did not last the widow long, and Mrs. Webster was soon thrown upon her own resources, for support for herself and child. By careful economy, and constant industry, she had contrived to keep her head above water, and, at the same time, to send her child to school until she was eleven or twelve years of age. About this time, she began to feel seriously, the inroads of a concealed but fatal disease, and it became necessary to tax Anne's young strength and patience in daily toil with her needle.
The little girl, who had a deep affection for her mother, and had often been led to notice the weariness and evident pain with which she toiled on from day to day, gladly entered upon the task allotted her, and, though often fatigued and restless from long application, she never complained.
Year after year passed away, and, from one kind of work to another, they had changed, until, at last, they confined themselves to closing and binding shoes, as requiring less of wearisome application than ordinary sewing. At this they managed to support themselves comfortably, for their needs were few.
"I must go, Miss Anne," said the little boy, lifting his head from the chair against which he had leaned it. "Mr. Hardamer will beat me if I stay long."
"Poor child!" ejaculated Anne, forgetting, for the moment, her own sad condition. "I'm afraid you have a hard time of it, Jimmy."
"O no, Miss Anne, not very. Only, I'm beat so, sometimes. But I must run back. I'll come again tonight."
"Do come, I shall want to see you" — and as the pale, sorrow-stricken face of the child disappeared, her own thoughts went back again to the keen affliction she had been called to endure. But a few minutes before the little boy came in, her mother had heaved her last sigh, and she was, now, friendless, and alone with the dead. For nearly an hour she sat in almost perfect abandonment of feeling, but a sense of the duty yet left to her to perform towards all that remained of her mother, roused her from her stupor, and she called in a kind neighbor, who, with others, assisted in the last sad offices of preparing the dead for burial.
On the evening after the funeral, Anne found herself all alone, in the room where for years she had been used to see the dear face, and hear the kind words of her mother. And she was not only alone, but friendless. There were none to whom she could look for protection, and no place to which she could go, and call it her home. While busy with sad thoughts, and painful forebodings, the boy who had brought the work the day before, came in. He was but a little boy, and she was in the early bloom of womanhood, but his face was, to her, a welcome one.
"Good evening, Miss Anne," he said, entering without ceremony.
"How do you do, Jimmy? I'm glad to see you, for I feel very lonesome."
"I thought you would be lonesome, and so I came," replied the little fellow, in simplicity of heart.
"You're a very good boy, Jimmy, to remember me, now that I'm in trouble."
"I can never forget you, Miss Anne, for when everybody beat me, or made fun of me — you were always good to me, and just like my sister, who's been dead, O, so long." And the boy stood before her, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, as he thought of those who, while living, loved him and cared for him.
"You had a sister, then, Jimmy," said Anne, forgetful of her own affliction, in sympathy for the sorrow of the child.
"O, yes. And she was so good to me! But she was sick a long time, and when mother died, there was no one to take care of her. I was a little, little boy, and couldn't do nothing. And so the people put us into a cart, and sent us out to the poor-house. There they took sister, and put her in a room full of sick people, and wouldn't let me stay with her. I cried and cried to stay with her, and then they beat me so hard with a stick; and the man said he'd kill me, if I didn't hush. I was afraid to cry loud after that, but I used to lay awake most all night long, sometimes, thinking of sister, and crying all to myself. 'May I see sister? O, please let me see sister!' I said to the man, after I'd been there eight or nine days. He looked at me cross for a while, and then he said, a little easy, and didn't look so cross, that if I'd be a good boy, and not cry anymore, for the tears were running down my cheeks, that I could see her the next day. All that night I slept but little, thinking about seeing sister; and I tried not to cry, but I cried all the while.
"Next morning I was up so early — it was hardly daylight, and I waited and waited for the man to come and take me to see sister. But hour after hour passed away, after breakfast, until dinner time came; and I hadn't seen her yet. Two or three times the man came into the room, but I was afraid to say anything to him, for fear he'd be angry. But I looked him in the face as wishfully as I could, though he didn't take any notice of me. It was almost night when he came in again, and he walked about the room as unconcerned as if nobody's heart was almost breaking, like mine was. Every minute I expected him to call me to go and see sister; but he didn't seem to remember his promise. When he turned to go out, I thought I couldn't stand it any longer, and so I went right up to him, and putting up my hands, as if I was going to say my prayers, said — 'O sir, do let me see my sister!' He turned around so cross on me for a moment, and then looking towards the woman who took care of our room, said, 'Here, take this brat in to see his sister,' and whirled around quick, and went out of the room.
"The woman looked at me as if she didn't care whether she did or not — then she caught hold of my arm and said — 'Come along, and be quick too!' She almost dragged me along the passages, and upstairs to the sick room where sister was. But I didn't mind that. All I cared about was seeing sister; and in a moment or two, I was by her side. O how much paler and thinner she was! And her big bright eyes looked into my face strangely. But she was so glad to see me; and took me in her arms and held me tight to her bosom, and kissed my face all over. And then the tears rolled down her cheeks, and she shut her eyes, and was still for a good many minutes, but her lips moved all the while. 'Come, that'll do!' said the woman, 'I've no time to be fooling here,' and she took hold of me to pull me away. Sister, she looked so anxiously into the woman's face, but it didn't do no good, for her heart was cold and hard. 'Let him come again, won't you?' said sister, in a low voice. 'I don't know that I will, you make such a fuss over him,' said the woman, and lifting me down from the bed, she dragged me away.
"I didn't do nothing but cry all that night, and all the next day, too, and the man said, if I didn't hush, he'd half kill me, and said I wouldn't see my sister any more, if that was the way I acted. I stopped crying all at once; that is, outside, but I seemed to be crying inside all the while. In about two weeks more, I got so impatient to see sister, that I made bold to ask the man again. 'What's that?' said the woman, who heard me. 'Jim wants to see his sister again' said the man. 'He's a fool' said the woman, 'his sister's been dead for ten days!'
"I didn't cry nor say nothing, Miss Anne; but I can't tell you how I felt. I wanted to die too. O, it would have seemed so good, if I could have died. I stayed there a good while, when Mr. Hardamer came one day, and said he wanted a boy; and then they bound me to him. He and Mrs. Hardamer scolded me, and beat me so much, that I sometimes wish I was dead, and then I would be with mother and sister."
The poor little fellow now covered his face with his hands, and sobbed violently, while the tears trickled fast through his fingers. For some time, Anne's affliction was all absorbed in her sympathy for her little friend; but this gradually subsided, and she felt keenly her desolate condition.
"What are you going to do, Miss Anne?" said the boy to her, after his own feelings had revived a little from their great depression.
"Indeed, Jimmy, I don't know what I shall do."
"I heard Gertrude say this morning, that they wanted somebody to come there and sew; I wish you'd come; I know they'd like you."
"I will think about it, Jimmy;" she replied.
"But, maybe, Miss Anne, they'll get somebody else if you don't speak quick. Won't you come tomorrow, and see about it."
"I don't know, indeed, Jimmy; I can tell best after I have thought about it."
"O, I wish you would come!" said the little boy, as he thought more seriously of the matter. "I would be so happy."
The earnest desire expressed by her humble friend, and the sympathy she felt for him, influenced the decision of Anne in a good degree. On the next day, she called on Mrs. Hardamer, and an arrangement was soon entered into for her to come and sew for a dollar and a half a week.
This happened about the time of Genevieve's abandonment by her husband. The circumstances of her marriage and desertion were noised about among that particular class of individuals who are interested in such matters; and, as it was very well known that the girls held their heads a little too high, it afforded a subject for no little ill-natured gossip. Some few pitied, while others secretly rejoiced at the bad fortune of Genevieve. As soon as her parents ascertained that Anderson had fairly gone off, they took her home, but evinced little sympathy for her condition. Mrs. Hardamer, Genevra, and Gertrude, were too deeply mortified to regard her feelings. All hope of an elevation of the family by her marriage, was cut off. She was irrevocably tied to a worthless fellow, from whom they had only to expect disgrace and annoyance. Any scarcity of young gallants, was sure to be charged, by the girls, upon Genevieve.
"It's all owing to your miserable connection with that fellow!" said Genevra to her, one evening, after having sat up for company, all furbelowed off, in vain. "No man that thinks anything of himself, is going to marry either Gertrude or me — now that you've brought such disgrace upon the family."
"I wish that scoundrel had been at the North Pole, before he came about here," added Gertrude. "I always knew he was an impostor."
"Yes, and Genevieve might have known it too," resumed Genevra, "if she hadn't been so eager for a husband. But I reckon she's got enough of it; and I can't say that I'm much sorry, either, if it wasn't for the disgrace to the family."
Genevieve made no reply to these cruel remarks; but they entered her heart. She was too deeply afflicted to feel resentment, and she knew it would be of no use to complain. Anne was present when the remarks were made, and she at once retired to her chamber. There she was soon followed by Genevieve, who had been assigned a portion of Anne's room. She was not considered worthy to occupy the same room with her two grown-up sisters; and she, by no means, regretted the banishment.
Anne was seated at a small table, reading, when Genevieve came in; and, as the latter at once sat down by the window, and leaned her head upon her arms, she read on. In a few minutes, she was conscious that Genevieve was weeping bitterly. Closing the volume, which was none other than the Holy Word, she drew near to Genevieve, and, with a tender concern, which could not be misunderstood, took her hand, and said —
"When all our friends forsake us — there is One who still looks kindly upon us, and loves us."
Genevieve made no answer; but the tears fell faster, and she sobbed more convulsively.
"It is only through affliction, Mrs. Anderson," continued Anne, "that we can know ourselves. And this knowledge, if we make the right use of it, is worth all that we suffer. In all our sorrows, there is One who stands very near, and permits the sorrow to come upon us. But, although the floods prevail, He will not let them overwhelm us. Our Heavenly Father loves us with a deeper and a wiser love, than our earthly parents possibly can love us; and, surely, He will let nothing harm us, if we will look up to Him in child-like confidence and submission."
Genevieve grew calmer, and seemed to listen with deep attention. Anne continued:
"All affliction is for good. When we fall into these deep waters, we should not despair, but look into our own hearts, and see if we cannot find some evils there, which we could not have perceived without the affliction. And, most certainly, my dear madam, we shall not look in vain. When we see that there is an evil there, which has ruled too slavishly our former life, and been, perhaps, the real cause of our present sorrow — it is for us to try and withdraw our love from that evil, and to endeavor to put it away. If we do this with a sincere effort, and at the same time ask our Heavenly Father to take it away, because it is offensive to him, it will be removed entirely, or, in a degree corresponding with the sincerity of our desire to have it removed. Do you understand me, Mrs. Anderson?"
By this time, Genevieve had ceased to weep, and was listening with earnest attention. She replied, in a low tone:
"Not altogether, Anne; but what you say sounds as if it might be true. I have never heard anybody talk so, before. But, I am very miserable — Oh, I am very miserable!" and she clasped her hands together, and again burst into tears. This time, she laid her head upon Anne's shoulder. For a few minutes, the latter made no attempt to check the current of her feelings; but, as Genevieve grew more composed, she said —
"There can no more be pain of mind — without mental disease; than there can be pain of body — without bodily disease. The pain is simply, a call for some remedy. If there were no pain, externally or internally, in either case, the individual might die suddenly, naturally, or spiritually, without having been conscious of the existence of any disease. This pain that we feel is, then, a merciful provision; and we ought always to consider, seriously, what it means, and profit by the lessons. You say you feel miserable; if all were right within, you could not feel miserable."
"But who could feel happy, Anne, under all the circumstances which surround me. Forsaken by my husband, and treated most unkindly in my father's house!" And again she gave way to a flood of tears.
"That is to be expected! Mrs. Anderson," said Anne, after a pause of some moments, in which Genevieve grew calmer. "The man who suffers with a violent pain, cannot be indifferent to it, simply because it makes him conscious that he has a disease, brought on by some particular act of indiscretion; but, then, it may reveal to him, in its true light — the folly which brought on the disease, and cause him to avoid it in future. Just so, in the case of great mental agony, arising from circumstances of affliction. By it, we are enabled to see that we have acted from wrong motives — and thus blindly run into trouble; or, we have cherished in our hearts a false estimate of things, and loved them with a selfish love; and, when they have been removed, there has been nothing upon which we could lean for comfort. Such discoveries, followed by a correction of long-formed evil habits of the mind, secure for the future, a measure of true happiness."
"Anne," said Genevieve, raising her head, and looking her young adviser in the face, with something of surprise and admiration, "you are a strange girl, different from any that I have ever met. Where did you learn these things, which sound so much like truth — and yet, are to me, new, and almost incomprehensible?"
"I had a good mother," replied Anne, her voice, trembling as she named the dear maternal name, "and she had known much sorrow. In the school of affliction, she learned wisdom. I loved that mother," again her voice trembled, "and knew that whatever she told me was truth. The nature and cause of affliction — she taught me; and, since she has been removed from me — I have found them blessed lessons.
"But, it must never be forgotten, Mrs. Anderson, while thinking of these things, that, apart from a Christian principle of obedience to the Lord — we never can be happy. The Lord is our creator and our father; and, as our father — loves us with an unspeakable love. In His Word, He has told us in what way we should act to be happy. These laws are not merely arbitrary laws, but are grounded in love and wisdom; and any departure from them, as a natural consequence, brings misery. This misery is not a punishment directly from our heavenly Father, sent in anger for our disobedience; but is, as I have said, the natural consequence of a departure from the laws of right action, founded in infinite love and wisdom."
"But what are these laws, Anne? I have never heard of any, and I have read the Bible. I am sure I would be glad to know them."
"Have you never read the Ten Commandments?"
"Certainly, I have. But I have never, habitually, broken them."
"Perhaps you have never thought much about them."
"No, I cannot say that I have."
"Do you remember what the Lord says, in the Word, about the Commandments?"
"No, I do not, at this moment."
"Don't you recollect where he says, that, upon the commandment to love the Lord with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves, hangs all the law and the prophets?"
"O, yes; I remember that."
"But I expect you have never thought much about it."
"No, I cannot say that I have."
"Well, then, Mrs. Anderson, here is the law — any departure from which will make us unhappy."
"But no one, Anne, lives up to this law."
"It is a broad saying, Mrs. Anderson, but a true one, that no one in this world is perfectly happy. And here is the secret of unhappiness."
Genevieve was silent, and Anne proceeded:
"In just the degree that we love ourselves more than we love the Lord, and that we love the world more than we love our neighbor — shall we depart from the true law of love, and find misery instead of pleasantness. That we all do depart, in a greater or less degree, from this law of love, is evidenced in the unhappiness which we all feel. In some, the departure is very great, and the consequences are deeper and more painful. In others, there is a process of approximation going on, and a desire existing to conform to this law in all things; these have a more even mind, and a more contented disposition. It is true, they have their seasons of pain; but they understand its nature, and profit by their knowledge."
"I cannot say, Anne," replied Mrs. Anderson, "that I can understand all that you have spoken. It seems as if it might all be true. But I never could believe it possible to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not natural."
"We must, in the first place," said Anne, "be willing to believe that our heavenly Father knows better than we do, as to what is right. When we establish this belief in our minds, then we shall have some degree of willingness to obey, even though we cannot understand. So soon as we, from a right principle of obedience, attempt to shun what we are told is wrong — we shall soon begin to perceive why it is wrong. In this way, we shall gradually be brought to know how it is possible to love the Lord and our neighbor, better than ourselves or the world; and, from knowing, desire to have that pure love formed within us."
"But what has this to do, Anne, with my present affliction — and how can it remedy it?"
"As a general principle, Mrs. Anderson, it has much to do with it. But you cannot, in all probability, see it in your present state of mind. Still, if you have any desire to do what is pleasing to our heavenly Father, and will begin, by doing; or trying to do, what you see to be right — then you will soon perceive how much interest you will really have in the subject."
"But how shall I begin, Anne?"
"Are you ever conscious of acting or thinking wrong?"
"Yes, almost every day!"
"And this doing or thinking wrong, always makes you feel more unhappy?"
"Then the way is plain before you. As soon as you are conscious of wishing to do wrong, or of indulging in wrong desires and affections — then shun such thoughts and desires as evil, and, therefore, sins against the Lord; and particularly refrain, upon the same principle, from bringing into action, and thereby confirming, these evil thoughts or affections — and you will then be doing all that is required of you. Tranquility of mind, such as you have never known, will follow these efforts, if you persevere in them, looking all the while to the Lord for aid. Don't look at anything, but your present duty. Let everything else take care of itself. In so doing, you will find that every day will bring its peculiar duties; and in their performance, you will find an internal satisfaction, of which no outward circumstances can rob you."
"I will try to do right, Anne; will you help me?"
"Even as I would help my own sister."
"You are kinder to me than my own sisters!" said Genevieve, feelingly, looking with tearful eyes into the face of Anne. "And now I can perceive, in some degree, what is meant by loving our neighbor — and how much happiness must flow from it. I am nothing to you, Anne, and yet you seem to love me, and care for me more than those who are of my own blood. This cannot be a selfish love. It must be a love for my good."
And, as the true idea dawned dimly upon her, and touched her heart, by its application to herself, as an object of that love, her feelings again gave way, and she laid her head upon the bosom of her new found friend, and wept aloud.
Under the kind and constant direction and admonition of Anne Webster — Genevieve was enabled to bear, with a degree of meekness and forbearance, the neglect of her parents, and the open unkindness of her sisters. And this change in her disposition, was not long in being observed by her parents, and softened their hearts towards her. Month after month passed away, but she had no news of her husband. As the period of their separation became more and more extended, obliterating the remembrance of unkindness, and warming up the love that had been felt for him, Genevieve became more and more desirous to hear from him, and once more to be with him. But, in this, it seemed as if she were not to be gratified, for there came no glad tidings for her anxious heart.
* * * * *
Gertrude and Genevra, in the pride of conscious superiority, looked upon Anne as far beneath them. Though she was tall and beautifully formed, with a face expressive of great loveliness of character — they could see nothing in her which was not vulgar. She was not allowed to sit at the table with the family, but was assigned the charge of the table at which the hired boys ate. To this, she had no particular objection, as she soon perceived that her presence had a very great effect upon the apprentices, and that, after the first few days, their rudeness at the table gradually subsided. They soon showed a disposition to talk to her in a respectful manner, and, frequently referred to her, the decision of little matters upon which they had disputed. It was a glad day for little Jimmy, when he saw her take her place at the table.
Although she could not change the quality of their food, materially — yet she could, in a great measure, see that it came upon the table in proper order. She saw that the cook did not allow their coffee or tea to get cold; and, by rising very early in the morning, and seeing how things went on in the kitchen, and looking in there, too, at night, she managed to have a good many things, in the preparation of their food, attended to, that added to their comfort. Particularly in the prevention of large quantities of corn bread from being baked up by the lazy cook, which they would be forced to eat cold, day after day — she made their fare much pleasanter. The necessity of living upon the same coarse food that they did, was not one that rendered her at all unhappy, as she could, in submitting to this privation, make it more agreeable for them.
Among the many young men who visited, occasionally, at the house of Mr. Hardamer, was the only son of a rich farmer, who had recently come to the city and commenced business in Market Street. His name was Marshall. He had made but few acquaintances since coming to the city, and, among these, happened to be Genevra and Gertrude. Usually about once every week, he dropped in and spent an evening with them; but, as he was a young man of good education and superior principles, he did not become much interested in either of the young ladies. Still, as time frequently hung heavy on his hands, and he was fond of cultivating the social feelings, he continued to drop in pretty regularly.
It so happened that he called in one evening, when both of the girls were out. He was shown upstairs into the parlor by the black servant, who either did not know or care anything about the girls not being in, and who went back direct to the kitchen, without taking the trouble to make any inquiries. Anne, who of course never went into the parlor when there was company there, and rarely at other times — was, on this evening, sitting there alone, at the center-table, reading. She rose at the entrance of Marshall, who, surprised and delighted at seeing so sweet a face, though that of a stranger, begged her to be seated. With easy politeness she resumed her chair, remarking, at the same time, that she was sorry to tell him that the young ladies had gone out for the evening.
There was something in the face of Anne which charmed Marshall the moment he saw her, and her low voice, that trembled slightly, sounded to him more musical than any voice he had ever heard. For some time, he endeavored to draw her into conversation, but, although every reply she made charmed him more and more, he could not succeed in getting her to converse freely. Her reserve, he easily understood to be the naturally maiden reserve of a pure-minded woman towards a perfect stranger. Marshall was a man who readily understood character, and rarely came to false conclusions in reference to anyone. After sitting for nearly half an hour, much longer than his own sense of propriety told him he ought to have lingered in her company, under the circumstances — he rose to depart.
"You must pardon me," he said, "for having, so long, being altogether a stranger — intruded upon your company. My only excuse is, that I have been interested."
"It is no intrusion upon me, sir," replied Anne, "and if, in the absence of the young ladies, I have succeeded in making your call a pleasant one, I can only be gratified."
"You must pardon me another act of presumption," said Mr. Marshall, smiling; "I did not know that you resided, as you have intimated, in this family. May I beg to know your name?"
"My name is Anne Webster," she replied, modestly, while a slight blush deepened the color on her cheek.
"I must again beg pardon for this seeming rudeness," he said, and bowing low, he bade her a good evening, and withdrew.
Marshall could only allow a single evening to pass, before again calling. On entering the parlor, this time, his eye glanced rapidly around, but none were present, except Gertrude and Genevra, who received him with all the interesting airs and graces they could put on. But in vain did they talk, and sing, and thrum the piano for his especial edification. He could not feel the slightest interest in them.
"How sorry I was that we were not at home when you called last," said Genevra, during a flagging pause in the conversation. "We were so disappointed when we learned that you had been here."
"But you left me an agreeable companion to compensate for your absence," he replied in a livelier tone. "Why, you never told me that a Miss Webster was staying with you. Where does she keep herself? I would really like to see her, and apologize for my rudeness in spending half an hour with her, although a perfect stranger."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed out Genevra — "that's a good one! Why she's only a servant that Ma hires to sew. How could you have been so deceived? I shall have to tell Ma to keep her out of the parlor, the forward flirt! I am mortified, though, indeed, Mr. Marshall, that one of our servants should have pushed herself into your company. But it shall never happen again!"
To this speech, Marshall was at a perfect loss for a reply. He had often heard of accomplished virtue in obscurity. Here was an instance, he could not doubt, for he could not believe himself mistaken in his impressions. Every movement, every word, every varying expression of Anne's countenance, he remembered, as distinctly as if she were still sitting before him; and the remembrance only added to his admiration. He felt indignant at hearing her designated, sneeringly, as the servant of girls who were her inferiors in everything. But he did not, of course, give form to his thoughts; he merely said —
"Don't check her or speak unkindly to her on my account, for, I assure you, she acted with modesty and propriety. She was reading in the parlor when I entered, and rose, to go out, I suppose, when I insisted upon her being seated. It was my fault, not hers."
"But, it's annoying to have sewing girls pushing themselves in the way of gentlemen who visit here. We must hereafter, insist upon her keeping in her own room!" said Gertrude, rather irritated.
Marshall was constrained to oppose this unfeeling resolution, but he forced himself to be silent, and, soon after, took his leave.
"Did you ever hear of such a thing!" exclaimed Genevra, as the front door closed after him.
"I'm mortified to death!" responded Gertrude.
"The pert, forward hussey!" ejaculated Genevra.
"If ever she tries such a trick as that again, she walks out of this house in a jiffy!" added Gertrude.
"What a preposterous idea! An agreeable half hour, spent with our hired girl!" broke in Genevra.
"I expect he's mortified to death, and I'm afraid he'll not come any more. How could you laugh right out so, when he mentioned Anne?" said Gertrude.
"Because I couldn't help it; it was such a strange joke."
"Well, I can tell you, it was very rude," replied Gertrude, warmly, whose fears were a good deal excited at the bare idea of losing Marshall, as a beau, through the indiscretion of her sister in laughing at him.
"Fiddlestick! Your ideas of propriety have grown very strict, all at once!" responded Genevra.
"I wish yours were a little nicer, that's all I've got to say," rejoined Gertrude.
"Well, I can tell you, Miss Propriety, that I know what is right and proper as well as you do," replied Genevra, tartly, "and have no notion of being called to account by you. So you may just shut up!"
"I'll call you to an account whenever I please, Miss Touchy!" said Gertrude, growing more excited. "You are a rude forward girl, let me tell you! — and have driven more company from the house, than your neck's worth, so you have! I'll complain to Ma, so I will!" she continued, more passionately.
"Will you, indeed? ah — that will be interesting," said Genevra, with a sneering laugh.
"Come! come! What's the matter here, now?" broke in Mrs. Hardamer, who had been attracted from the next room, by the loud voices of her daughters.
"Why, you see," began Gertrude; but she was interrupted by Genevra, before she could utter another syllable, with —
"It's no such thing, Ma; it was — "
"It was — !"broke in Gertrude.
"It wasn't no such thing, now," said Genevra.
"Both of you hush up at once!" said the mother.
"But, Ma — "
"Listen to me, Ma!"
"I tell you both to hush!"
"It was all Anne's fault, Ma," said Genevra, not at all inclined to obey the maternal injunction of silence.
"What about Anne?" asked Mrs. Hardamer.
"Why, you wouldn't have ever thought it, Ma," continued Genevra, "but it's as true as death! Night before last, when Mr. Marshall called here, Anne was stuck up in the parlor, and the forward pert thing, had the boldness to keep him there for half an hour or so, talking to her, just as if she was somebody. And here, this evening, he must ask for Miss Webster! I was so much amused that I laughed right out, and told him that she was only our hired sewing girl. And Gertrude is mad because I laughed."
"Is it possible that Anne was guilty of such unpardonable presumption?"
"Yes, it is so! Because Genevieve chooses to make a companion of her, she thinks she is as good as we are. But I can tell her, that she's mightily mistaken!"
"The pert, forward hussy!" ejaculated Mrs. Hardamer, with a strong expression of disgust at the idea of one of her servants sitting up to entertain her daughter's company.
"Ring the bell for Millie!" she added, and Genevra rang the parlor bell.
"Tell Anne to come here," she said, on the appearance of the black girl.
In a few minutes, Anne attended the summons.
"You are a pert young lady, now, aren't you?" said Mrs. Hardamer, as she entered, the face of the latter red with anger.
Anne looked at her with an expression of surprise, and Mrs. Hardamer continued:
"A pert young lady, truly!"
"I do not understand you, madam," said Anne, in painful surprise. "Be kind enough to say what I have offended you in."
"Pretty bold, too! — upon my word! Do you know who you are talking to, Miss?"
"I am not conscious of having done anything wrong, Mrs. Hardamer, and only asked you to tell me in what I had offended you," said Anne in a respectful voice, though her lips quivered, and her face had grown exceedingly pale.
"Did anyone ever see such pertness?" exclaimed Genevra.
"What can this mean?" said Anne, the tears starting to her eyes.
"Mighty ignorant," said Gertrude.
"I must insist on an explanation," said Anne, more firmly, brushing away two drops that had stolen over their boundaries, and were gently gliding down her pale cheeks.
"Insist on an explanation!" exclaimed Mrs. Hardamer, in supreme astonishment at Anne's insolence. "Insist on an explanation from me! Do you know who you are talking to, Miss?"
"I'd turn her out of the house, bag and baggage, so I would," said Gertrude.
"Indeed, madam, I cannot allow myself to be talked to in this way," said Anne, calmly, "at the same time that I am innocent of having done anything wrong," and she turned to leave the room.
"How dare you!" exclaimed Mrs. Hardamer, in a loud voice, stamping on the floor with her foot. "Come back here this minute!"
Anne paused, and half turned herself towards her censors, when Gertrude said, in a sneering tone —
"She's got quite above herself, since Mr. Marshall spoke to her."
Anne turned, and advanced a few steps towards them, her face suffused with a deep crimson.
"You understand now, I suppose, Miss Impertinence!" said Mrs. Hardamer. "How dare you stick yourself up in the parlor to talk to young men that come here? What good do you suppose they want with you?"
"Is that all I have done to offend you, Mrs. Hardamer?" said Anne, breathing more freely.
"And I would think that was quite enough!"
"But, Mrs. Hardamer, I didn't throw myself into his company. He came into the parlor where I was reading, and I at once told him the young ladies were out. If he would sit down and talk to me, how could I help it? I could not have acted so rudely, as to have left him alone."
"Now, that is too much," broke in Gertrude. "And so you equaled yourself with us, and set yourself up to entertain our company! Give me patience! I wouldn't allow her to stay in the house another day, if I was you, Ma! Who is ever going to come here, if our hired girls stick themselves up to keep them company. Mr. Marshall was mortified to death when he discovered his mistake, and I wouldn't blame him if he never came to this house again."
"If ever you dare to play off such another trick, my young lady, it will be your last day here, remember that now!" said Mrs. Hardamer.
Anne made no answer, but turned and left the room.
"What fireworks!" ejaculated Millie to herself, as she retreated, silently, from the outside of the door in the passage, where she had stood, listening to the whole conversation.
"Things have come to an ugly scene, truly!" said Genevra, when Anne had left the room, "that every hired girl must set herself up for somebody. There will be no living here after a while. I wish we were in England, where servants know their places."
"The fact is, Ma," said Gertrude, who felt strongly incensed at Anne, for having passed an evening with Marshall, on whom she had designs best known to herself, "if I were you, I wouldn't keep her in the house. She'll bring discredit upon us. I believe that her conduct in this thing is abhorrent. I'd pack her off tomorrow, so I would!"
"The devil!" ejaculated Ike Wilson, with an indignant expression, as he sat rubbing the sole of a boot, one morning before breakfast.
"What's the matter, Ike?" asked Tom.
"Why, I'm mad, and can't get over it."
"What are you mad about?"
"Something that Millie told me this morning."
"And what was that, Ike?" asked both the boys at once, pausing in their work.
"Why, I've found out the reason, the best friend we ever had in this house, has left it."
"Indeed! Who? Anne?"
"What was it, Ike?" was asked by both Tom and Bill, with an earnestness that indicated the strong interest they had in the matter.
"You wouldn't guess in a month of Sundays. But I'll tell you. Millie says, a young gentleman, Mr. Marshall, who keeps the dry goods warehouse up street, came in one night, when Gertrude and Genevra were out, and found Anne in the parlor. He was so pleased with her, that he sat and talked for half an hour. Somehow or other, they found it out, and kicked up an argument about it. They called her, to her face, a base, low, hired girl, and wanted to know how she dared to stick herself up for a lady, and entertain their company."
"The devil!" ejaculated the two eager listeners at the same moment.
"It's true as preaching! Millie says she listened at the parlor door, and heard it all."
"Well, if that doesn't beat all," said Bill. "Now, just look at it. Here's Anne Webster, who's got as much beauty in her little finger, and as much sense in her toe-nail, as Gertrude and Genevra have in their whole bodies — insulted and forced out of the house, because she happened to talk for half an hour with a man who had sense enough to be pleased with her."
"They're proud, stuck up fools! that's what they are!" said Tom, with indignant warmth. "I'll never forget them for this; now see if I do! While Anne was here, we did live a little comfortable — and that's what we never did before. It makes my blood boil all through me!"
"I don't care so much for myself," broke in Ike; "but to have such a sweet, good girl abused and insulted in that kind of a style, is too much for me to bear. Here's my hand to yours, Tom — never to forgive them for it."
"And here's mine, too," said Bill, joining his hand to those of the two worthies, in solemn compact. "I've got the devil in me, I believe, and I don't care if I have. I could bite a tenpenny nail in two!" And he ground his teeth in impotent rage.
"I relished the corn-bread and herrings — the salt beef and potatoes, well enough, after I saw her eat them so cheerfully," continued Ike, "but it made me mad to see her, the only lady in the house, forced to live on that kind of stuff, while them painted powder-monkeys upstairs, could hardly get things delicate enough for their delicate stomachs. How I wanted to give them a piece of my mind! But, then, every time I'd say anything about it, or sneer at them, before Anne, she would smile so sweetly while she checked me, that it made me love her. It was only for her sake, that I kept it in, for I wouldn't have done anything that she didn't want me to do, for the world. But she's gone now, and it will be strange if the devil isn't raised in this house before long."
"Yes, and she's gone to a better place, that's one consolation," added Tom.
"That's true, Tom," said Ike, "and I'm glad in my heart that she's better off. But that don't make the old Queen of Sheba, upstairs, any better, confound her!"
"I've got an old grudge against her, and all the rest," said Bill, "and I'll have it out with them, if I die for it. I'm for striking while the iron's hot. A good deed is always done quickly."
"That's a fact," responded Ike, warmly.
"How shall we begin?" asked Tom.
"There'll be ways enough, and we'll not have to look long to find them," said Ike.
"Them herrings beginning to smell rather bad, I'm thinking," said Bill, turning up his nose with an expression of disgust.
"Yes; and if that butter we've had for the last week wasn't made before Noah's flood, my nose is no judge," added Tom.
"Come to breakfast," said Millie, poking her black face in at the shop door, and showing a couple of rows of snow-white teeth, grinning from ear to ear.
Dropping a kit of tools on benches and floor in admirable disorder, our three worthies were drawing their chairs up to the kitchen table in one minute from the time Millie gave them notice that all was ready. Mrs. Hardamer was at the head of the table, a place she had occupied for the last two days, Anne having been gone for that time. Three herrings, a small piece of butter, and a plate of corn-bread, made up the stereotyped meal. Ike passed the plate of bread around with an air that did not escape the ever-active eyes of Mrs. Hardamer, and which put her more on her guard in observing what was to follow.
"Have some turkey?" he said, cutting a herring in two, and offering a part to Bill.
"I'll take the tail, if you please," said Bill; and Ike shoveled the tail-end off upon his plate.
"Heads or tails, Tom?" continued Ike, cutting another herring in two.
"Tails," responded Tom.
"Tails it is," said Ike, scraping another half off of the dish.
Mrs. Hardamer's blood went up to fever heat at this piece of bold disregard of her presence.
"Come, mind what you are about, my young gentlemen!" she said tartly, her face assuming the color of scarlet.
Ike poured out his cup of pale, lukewarm, rye-coffee, and lifting his saucer daintily to his lips, sipped a little, and then leisurely poured the fluid back into his cup, and replaced it in the saucer.
"What's the matter with your coffee, Ike?" said Mrs. Hardamer, unable to contain herself.
"I didn't say anything was the matter with it, ma'am," replied Ike, with a respectful air.
"Why don't you drink it, then?" she asked, in a loud, angry voice.
"Because it's so cold, it turns my stomach!" said Ike, decidedly.
Just as Ike made this answer, Bill leisurely replaced his tail-end of the herring upon the plate from which he had received it, at the same time giving his nose a very perceptible curl upwards.
"And what's the matter with your herring, Bill?" said the old lady, turning towards that worthy, with a fiery countenance.
"It isn't good, ma'am," said Bill.
"Isn't good, ha! What's wrong with it!"
"I think it had hung in the yard rather long, ma'am."
"Do you know who you are talking to, sir? What do you mean?"
Just at this moment, her eye detected a movement of Tom's, not to be mistaken. That gentleman was coolly and leisurely scraping off from the smooth surface of his corn-bread the thin stratum of rancid, oleaginous matter, which had been dignified by the name of butter, and depositing it on the edge of his plate, while an expression of ill-concealed disgust sat upon his countenance. This was like fire to gunpowder, and Mrs. Hardamer exploded with a loud noise. Having no desire to bandy words with their mistress, as that was by no means their game, the three chaps beat a quick retreat. But they were not to escape her so easily, for, following them into the shop, she poured upon them a volley of abuse, which quickly attracted the attention of Mr. Hardamer, and brought him at once to the spot.
"What's the matter here, ha?" he exclaimed, with an expression of both anger and alarm upon his countenance.
"Why, they've insulted me at the table," began Mrs. Hardamer, in a loud, shrieking voice, "and I won't bear it, the low-life, dirty vagabonds! Talk to me of spoiled herring, ha! Mighty dainty your stomachs have become all at once!"
"What does all this mean, I'd like to know?" broke in Hardamer, looking fiercely towards the boys, who had hastily seated themselves, and were in the posture of bending over their work.
"Why, you see, Ike there, the impertinent scoundrel! undertook to play off his pranks at the table, and Bill and Tom must both join him in it. One couldn't drink the coffee, another said the herring was spoiled, and Tom, there, turned up his nose at the butter."
"You villains! what do you mean?" said Hardamer, losing all command of his feelings.
"We didn't mean to insult Mrs. Hardamer," replied Ike, in a respectful tone.
"You did! — you did! — you lying vagabond!" said Mrs. Hardamer, breaking in upon him. "How dare you put on that sanctified look about it!"
"Indeed, then, ma'am, we did not."
"Hush up your tongue, you impertinent fool, you!" responded the old lady, wrought up to a high pitch of indignation.
"Come, come! — enough of this!" said Hardamer, impatiently, "I want to know the truth of this matter."
"The truth of the matter, indeed! The truth of the matter! What do you mean by the truth of the matter, sir? I want to know if I haven't told you the truth of the matter? A pretty thing, indeed, when you talk to me about the truth of the matter!"
"If you want me to settle this affair, madam," said Hardamer to his wife, in a low tone, not so low, however, but that the boys heard it distinctly, "you must go into the house, and let me alone. I've heard your story, and now I'll hear their's."
Mrs. Hardamer turned upon him with increased fury — and then he left her in full possession of the field. After berating the boys for five minutes longer, all of which they stood with silent heroism — she retired, still full of wrath, to her own part of the house.
"She's sharp, now, isn't she?" said Bill, as soon as she was fairly beyond ear shot.
"As sharp as a razor!" responded Ike.
"A whole team!" added Tom.
"I wonder what old Hardamer will do, and how?" he continued. "The queen has got her back up as round as a cat's, and, I'm thinking, we can easily creep under it, and escape with whole skins."
"Never fear; the old chap's had a taste of our quality, and its my opinion that he doesn't care to have another," said Ike.
"He will have another taste, though; and not only a taste, but a good bottleful; and if he don't get drunk on it, it will not be our fault, I'm thinking," said Bill.
"What's all this fuss about, ha?" said the individual just alluded to, in an angry voice, suddenly breaking in upon the young plotters of insubordination.
"Do you hear, you young scoundrels?" he continued, after a moment's pause, seeing that none showed a disposition to respond to his interrogation.
"Ike, what's been the matter?" he now said, addressing the ringleader of the mischief.
"I didn't do anything, sir, but turn my coffee back into my cup, and refuse to drink it. Millie always sends on the table such lukewarm, watery stuff, that I can't get it down any longer; I tried this morning, but, indeed, sir, I couldn't drink it," said Ike, in a respectful manner.
"And what caper is this you've been cutting up, ha?" he said, turning angrily towards Bill.
"I didn't do nothing; only I couldn't eat the herrings, for they were spoiled. Millie lets them hang up in the sun until they're spoiled, sometimes. She doesn't care how we get our food."
Even to this, Hardamer felt no disposition to reply, and he addressed Tom.
"You turned up your nose at the butter, did you? I know that to have been downright impudence, for I always buy the best of fresh butter in the market twice a week."
"We don't get that butter, though," said Ike, speaking up, "Millie always takes ours out of the keg of cooking lard — and, you know, that is strong enough to knock down an ox."
"Confound that girl!" said Hardamer, at once retiring, and making his way to the kitchen.
"Didn't we put it off on poor Millie, though!" said Ike, exultingly. "That was done to a charm! It's a good rule, and we ought to adopt it, never to throw blame on a man's wife."
"It'll be better times now, I'm thinking," said Tom. "Old Hardamer's a little mad with the queen, and he'll reform matters, if it's only in spite. After a while, we'll give a little more to do. It will never do to eat corn-bread and drink rye-coffee much longer. We're just as good as they are, and work to support them, and it's not fair to put us off with slop."
"We'll reform that matter when we once begin. Slow and sure must be our motto," said Tom.
Upon investigation, Hardamer found that there was real cause of complaint, and, this being the case, he thought it best to pass over the rude conduct of his boys towards Mrs. Hardamer. She was indignant at the censure which she received, and declared that it was "good enough for them, and as good as they'd get."
"It's no use for you to talk, Sally," responded Hardamer, to her indignant threat of keeping them on the old fare. "The boys work hard, and must be attended to. Besides, they're beginning to feel their age, and if things shouldn't go on pretty smoothly, they'd surely leave; and their loss, let me tell you, would be no light matter."
"Put a beggar on horseback, and he'll ride to — you know where," said Mrs. Hardamer. "If you go to giving in to their insolent demands, the house will soon be too small to hold us all. Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile. You must make them toe the mark all the while, or they'll go zigzag, like a worm-fence. I'm astonished at you, Mr. Hardamer!"
Hardamer felt, in some degree, the force of what she said. But he stood in this unpleasant predicament. He had treated his boys like slaves while they were small, and now, from having no respect for him — they had ceased to fear him. In their first act of insubordination, they had conquered him, and he felt that his power over them was at an end. From the very necessity of his position, he was compelled to regard their comfort. Yet, at the same time, he felt that the young rebels would not be contented with the power they had already gained. Not disposed, however, to take much share of the blame to himself, he replied to his wife's last remark:
"It's just as bad to hold the rein too tight as to let it go loose. While I have been trying to keep things in a right trim, you have been galling the boys in the tenderest places, by not giving them palatable food. I don't blame them for not eating those herrings, and I wouldn't have given that butter to a dog!"
"It was all good enough for the discontented vagabonds! Do they think we can afford to feed them on fancy cake!" said Mrs. Hardamer, warmly.
"I tell you it was not good enough, madam!" replied the husband, much excited.
"Well, I tell you that it was, sir!" responded his high-tempered wife.
"Go to — !" But he kept in the angry word, and retreated in disorder to the front shop, where he resumed his work at the boot he had been dressing up, and choked in his indignation as best he could. Mrs. Hardamer, it will be perceived, had as much need as the boys, to understand rightly the meaning of the word subordination.
In a few evenings, Mr. Marshall again called upon the Misses Hardamer, as they liked to be called, in hopes of again catching a sight of Anne, in whom his interest began steadily to increase. On that day which she had left her uncomfortable retreat for something like a home, with a lady, in the true sense of the word — a Mrs. Flathers. No allusion could, of course, be made to her by Mr. Marshall; and, after sitting an hour, he retired, without, of course, catching a glance of the one he so much desired to see.
"Do you see that, now!" said Gertrude, after he had gone, "that forward hussy has ruined us with Mr. Marshall. All I could do — and I couldn't interest him, so he has gone off in a little or no time."
"I wish I could see her gibbeted!" exclaimed Genevra, in return, who had also begun to look with favorable eyes upon the young merchant, whose real wealth, rumor was beginning to exaggerate. "But she'll come to no good — that's one consolation."
"I do assure you, you wrong Anne, as I have said before," remarked Genevieve, earnestly.
"No one asked for your opinion!" responded Genevra, snappishly.
"It is not kind in you to talk so to me, Genevra," said Genevieve, mildly. "I only speak of Anne as I believe, and I have had some opportunity to know her."
"And I suppose you'd justify her insolence in sticking herself up to entertain our company," said Gertrude, sneeringly.
"I must confess, Gertrude, that I do not, and cannot view her conduct in the light that you do, and therefore must say so," replied Genevieve.
"Now, isn't that too bad!"
"But, in sober reason, Gertrude, I cannot understand in what Anne was to blame — or in what consists her great inferiority."
"I've no patience to talk to you!" said Gertrude, passionately. "If you choose to put yourself on a level with such as her — you can do it; but you can depend upon it, I am not going to keep company with any such characters."
"There is no use, Gertrude, in getting excited about this," said Genevieve, mildly. "Certainly, as sisters, we ought to talk upon any subject without growing angry, or calling hard names. I, for one, have no wish to do so, and will not do so, no matter what you may say to me."
"That's all very well," remarked Gertrude, in a less excited tone, "but it requires patience to hear you take the part of that dirty trollop."
"Indeed, indeed, Gertrude, you are wrong in using such language about a girl who has not been guilty of any impropriety of which she is sensible," said Genevieve.
"Don't talk to her, Gertrude," said Genevra, indignantly. "She's no better, in my opinion, than Anne!"
"I would be glad, Genevra, if I were half as good as Anne," remarked Genevieve, in a calm voice. "In sober earnestness, I would like to know in what you consider Anne so far beneath respect," said Genevieve. "I am afraid you have, what I had once — too many false notions of true elevation of character. It is not in the external circumstances which surround us — as there can be nothing truly honorable, apart from internal excellence. If, within, there is not purity of affection and uprightness of thought, there can be no real superiority. Elevation in society is, in most cases, the accident of birth. If our father had been very poor, could we have helped it? His being better off than others, can, therefore, impart no merit to us."
"You're a fool!" said Gertrude.
"Aren't you ashamed, Gertrude?" said Genevra.
"No, I am not ashamed! Genevieve talks like a fool, and always was one. Would anyone but a fool have married that worthless vagabond, Anderson, and thus brought disgrace upon the family? It's all very pretty for her to talk about her change of views; but I'm not to be taken in by such foolish nets. She's like the fox that lost his tail, very anxious to bring us down to her level. But she's mistaken if she expects to fool me."
A tear stole out, and rolled over the cheek of Genevieve. The cruel remark of her sister, in reference to her husband — she felt keenly and deeply. Something of returning tenderness, more genuine than anything she had yet felt, had warmed up her heart, since better thoughts and better feelings had found a place in her mind — and she had begun to entertain the hope of one day seeing him a changed man, and of being to him a true wife, and finding him a true husband. She did not again attempt to allude to the subject which had induced the unkind remark, for she felt that it would be useless to do so. In a few minutes she left the parlor, and retired to her own room. "I'm ashamed of you, Gertrude! How could you talk so?" said Genevra, as soon as her sister had withdrawn.
"Let her mind her own business, then!" replied Gertrude. "She's disgraced herself, and now wants to bring us all down to her level. I've no patience with her."
"It somewhat strikes me, that we may not find Genevieve so wrong in the end, in what she says. Though I cannot approve of her taking sides with that intrusive minx, there is no doubt but that she is greatly changed, and is not half so irritable as she used to be. In this, we might take from her a useful lesson. The time was, Gertrude, when she would not have taken from you so calmly, what she did tonight."
"She's only mortified at the figure she cuts as an abandoned wife; that's all the change I see about her. And I'm mortified to death about it, too."
"Well, if you are, Gertrude, I don't see that it has as good an effect upon you, as it has upon her."
"I don't want any of your preaching, Miss Pert — so just shut your fly-trap!" And, with this lady-like speech, the elegant and accomplished Miss Gertrude Hardamer, swept out of the room in proud disdain.
"And can it be possible, Anne, that you were treated so unkindly?" said Mrs. Flathers, while she sat sewing with Anne Webster, about a week after she had taken her into her family as seamstress.
This remark was occasioned by a short sketch of the scene which occurred in Mrs. Hardamer's parlor, on the night that Anne was taken so seriously to task, by the mother and daughters; a sketch, given at the request of Mrs. Flathers, who had, from a word inadvertently dropped by Anne, suspected that she had not been rightly treated.
"It happened just as I have stated it, madam," said Anne.
"I have no doubt of it," replied Mrs. Flathers. "My question was only indicative of surprise. But who was the young man, Anne?"
"His name, I believe, was Marshall."
"Marshall!" said Mrs. Flathers, in a tone of surprise. "Does he keep a dry goods warehouse in Market Street?"
"Indeed, ma'am, I do not know anything about him. He seemed like a gentleman; and my impression of him, derived from hearing him converse for half an hour, has made me wonder, more than once, how he could be interested in either Gertrude or Genevra."
Mrs. Flathers was silent for some minutes, and then changed the subject. She was the widow of a rich merchant, who, in dying, had left a very large property entirely under her control. She had three children, all boys, the oldest only about twelve years of age. She was, in every respect, a lady — well educated, and extremely accomplished. But her external accomplishments were not the mere holiday garments of "made ladies" — they were the true expression of internal graces. In Anne, she soon perceived the excellencies of a true and tried spirit; and her heart moved towards her with a pure, maternal tenderness. The more she saw of her — the more she found to admire and to love.
One evening, about a week after this conversation, while Anne was engaged in reading to Mrs. Flathers and the children, a gentleman was announced by the servant as being in the parlor; and Mrs. Flathers withdrew, leaving Anne with the children.
"Why, how do you do, Ralph? I'm glad to see you," said Mrs. Flathers, extending her hand to a fine looking young man, who met her in the parlor. "You're really a stranger; I have not seen you for a month. You must not neglect your mother's old friend, Ralph, or she will get jealous."
"Indeed, Mrs. Flathers, I do owe an apology for my neglect. But I've been a little preoccupied of late, and, you know, when a young man is preoccupied in a certain way — he is apt to neglect his old friends."
"You're quite ready with a confession, Ralph, but I think I'm a little beforehand with you. You think Miss Hardamer quite an interesting young lady. Am I not right?"
"Not exactly," replied the young man, somewhat confused. "But how in the world did you know that I went there?"
"You see that I know it, Ralph, and you will have to be content with that, at present. But, seriously, Ralph, if all I hear about the daughters of Mr. Hardamer are true — I cannot greatly admire your taste."
"Seriously, then, Mrs. Flathers, I neither admire nor respect them."
"Then why do you go there?"
"I've got a little secret to tell you, and when you hear about it, you will understand why I have continued to go there. As far as the young Hardamer ladies are concerned, I have not the least inclination to visit the house. But I called there one evening, shortly after I had been introduced to the Hardamer girls, and they happened to be out. In their place, I found one of the sweetest young creatures I have ever met — so beautiful, so graceful, so modest! I was so charmed with her, that, notwithstanding her evident uneasiness at being compelled to entertain a perfect stranger, I sat for half an hour in her company. On retiring, I was bold enough to ask her name, which she gave without hesitation."
"And what was it?" asked Mrs. Flathers.
"Anne Webster," replied the young man. "On the next evening I called again, in hopes of learning more about the interesting stranger. On asking for her, I was told, with a sneer, that she was only their hired sewing-girl; and they were in high disdain at the idea of her presuming to entertain their company. I have called several times since, in hopes of getting another glimpse of her, but in vain. Last night I ventured to mention her name, and to ask for her. 'We've turned her out of the house, the presuming hussy!' said one of the young ladies, with indignant wrath; 'for we had reason to suspect her of too much intimacy with our guests.'"
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mrs. Flathers, in sincere astonishment, completely thrown off her guard.
"It is true," responded the young man, looking a little surprised at the feeling exhibited by Mrs. Flathers. "And I am sure that she has been thus treated on my account, and it distresses me exceedingly. How gladly would I search her out, if I could only get the clue. What would you advise me to do, Mrs. Flathers — for, really, I am not able to decide myself?"
"Why, my advice would be, Ralph, for you to act with your usual caution and prudence in this matter. You don't know anything about this Miss Webster, and might involve yourself in an improper acquaintance."
"But I could swear to her innocence, Mrs. Flathers."
"You are really more romantic than I had thought you, Ralph. Having withstood so many assaults, it is rather amusing to find you taken, at last, in the meshes of an obscure and unknown sewing girl!"
"You may laugh, if you choose, Mrs. Flathers, but I know your impressions would have been as favorable as mine, if you had seen her. I wonder who she can be, and where she has found an asylum?"
"But, seriously, Ralph, don't you see that you are running off a little wildly. What would your mother and sisters say to your bringing home a mere sewing girl of unknown or of obscure family, and presenting her as your wife?"
"My mother and sisters are sensible women, and know how to appreciate virtue — be it found in the palace — or cottage, among high-born ladies — or humble maidens."
"Then you are really serious, Ralph."
"Of course I am."
"Thinking about marrying a girl you know nothing about, and have never seen but once?"
"As strange as it may seem, Mrs. Flathers, that is the very direction my thoughts are taking. But I am as sure that she is pure and good, as I am that she is prudent and intelligent. I cannot be deceived. I have seen too many young women in my time, and have known too many, not to be able to judge of anyone after half an hour's acquaintance."
"Why, Ralph?" said Mrs. Flathers, "I never knew, before, that you were so vain of your discriminating powers. Most men are satisfied if they can find out a woman's real character, after having lived with her some twenty years, or more! But you can see quite through them in half an hour! You are, really, more of a novice in these affairs, than I had thought you."
"No doubt I seem to you a little demented; but, indeed, I wish you could see this Miss Webster. I'd be willing to leave the matter to your judgment, binding myself to abide the decision."
"Under these circumstances, I might be willing to countenance your romantic love affair."
"But I cannot find out where she is. At Hardamer's I can, of course, learn nothing more about her," said the young man.
"Would you know her, if you were to meet her anywhere?" said Mrs. Flathers.
"Of course I would. Her sweet face is always before me, and her voice has been like music in my ears ever since."
"Really, Ralph! I am concerned for you. I'm afraid Cupid has struck you in the eye, and partially blinded you!"
"Perhaps he has, Mrs. Flathers; but, if that is the case, it is not my fault, if I see with a perverted vision."
"Well, Ralph, I do not know how to advise you at present. But something may strike me, after I think about it; so I shall expect you to come and see me pretty often."
"I shall surely do that, Mrs. Flathers; for there is no one else that I can talk to on the subject so near my heart."
"I was going to say, that I was sorry you had become so infatuated with this mysterious stranger; but in this, perhaps, I would be wrong. I have, however, a young lady here, who is going to reside with me, I expect, for some time, and I flattered myself that you would find her particularly interesting."
"Who is she, Mrs. Flathers?" he asked, with an apparent interest.
"It's of no particular consequence; anything about another than your interesting stranger, would have no particular interest for you," replied Mrs. Flathers.
"Well, I can't say that it would," he said, indifferently.
"That is too bad, Ralph. But I'll punish you for it, see if I don't."
"I'll trust to your tender mercies, madam," said the young man, smiling.
After her visitor had retired, Mrs. Flathers returned to the sitting-room, and joined her family. The reader has, of course, recognized in this visitor as Mr. Marshall. Mrs. Flathers now found herself placed in a new and responsible position. Although her impressions in reference to Anne, were of the most favorable character possible — yet she was too prudent a woman to be governed altogether by first impressions. Anne's statement of her interview with Marshall had not caused her a serious thought, but her conversation with the latter had awakened up in her mind, a lively concern; more especially, as the fact of Anne's being in her family rendered her responsibility very great. For the present, she resolved to do nothing, but to keep Marshall, if possible, ignorant of the fact, that Anne was in the house, and trust to the developments of time.
Every day Anne became more and more endeared to her, until she had begun to look upon her with the fond and partial eyes of a mother. Above all, did she love her for the deep and confiding principle of religion by which her whole life was governed. It was not a religion of obtrusiveness, nor of imposing forms of external sanctity. But it was a calm, peaceful, unvarying confidence in the wisdom and goodness of Divine Providence — and a constant obedience to all the commandments, internally, as well as externally.
"Do you never doubt the providence of the Lord, Anne — when passing through the clouds and the shadows?" she said to her, during one of the interesting conversations she was in the habit of holding with her.
"I have rarely doubted of late, Mrs. Flathers," she replied, "though weak human nature has often shrunk and trembled, even as the patient will shrink and tremble when the physician probes a dangerous wound."
"I cannot say, with you, that I do not sometimes doubt," said Mrs. Flathers.
"When we remember," resumed Anne, "that the Lord has taught us, in addressing him, to say, 'Our Father' — we shall perceive that there is really no cause for despondency, be the circumstances ever so much shadowed by uncertainty. In many places in the Bible, we are alluded to under the tender name of God's children. 'Even as a father pities his children' — is the Lord represented as regarding us."
"It is a little strange, Anne, that while conscious of the truth given to us that the Lord is our Father — we cannot feel the childlike confidence that we ought to feel," said Mrs. Flathers.
"This arises, altogether, Mrs. Flathers, from our unwillingness to sacrifice everything for spiritual good. Until this is the case — we cannot feel confidence under what are called adverse Providences. We will not let a consciousness that Infinite Goodness and Wisdom will do all things for the best — come down into the will, and thus enter fully into the affections of the mind. Until we so fully approve of all that our Heavenly Father does, as to love it — we cannot but suffer painful doubts when the day of trial arrives."
"I readily perceive that it is much easier to understand a truth than to be willing to do it," said Mrs. Flathers.
"And just so far," replied Anne, "as there is a harmony between the will and the understanding — are we in right states of obedience. To do the truth, willingly — is to love it; and when we love to do anything — its performance is delightful to us."
"But it is very hard, Anne, to do what is opposed to our selfish feelings."
"No one knows that better than I do, madam. But, without effort — we can gain no victories. The evil of self-love is too deeply implanted in our minds, to be easily removed. It requires a whole lifetime of temptations and combats — entered into with unflinching resolutions."
"A view of the case that might well discourage a stout heart," said Mrs. Flathers.
"Yes — if there were no delights to cheer and invigorate at every step. But no one is given to see any more of the evils that are in the mind — than just enough to encourage to activity against them. The worst evils of the heart, are mercifully hidden from us, until, from victory to victory — strength and confidence are gained, to enter into the combat with everything that opposes the divine love from the Lord from entering into the heart. And, after every victory, comes a season of delights and repose; when we can lie down, as it were, by cool fountains, amid shady retreats, with birds and flowers filling the air with music and fragrance. There is no delight, Mrs. Flathers, that can equal the delight arising from a willing performance of duty."
"That is true, Anne, and if all of us went simply about discharging every present duty, leaving the past and the future alone — how much happier would we be."
"In that simple act of performing our present duties," replied Anne, "must come all of our real happiness. It is the great secret of happiness. But the prevailing misery in the world, shows how far the true principle of living for happiness is departed from."
* * * * *
"There is a little boy in the passage, who wants to see Miss Webster," said a servant, entering the room, and interrupting the conversation.
"Bring him in here, then, Nancy," said Anne, who conjectured that it was her little friend from Mrs. Hardamer's.
"Why, Jimmy! — I'm so glad to see you!" she said, in the next minute, as a pale, meager looking boy, poorly clad, came forward with a timid and hesitating step, looking earnestly, at the same time, into the face of Mrs. Flathers, with an expression that asked, as plain as words, "Am I wrong in coming here?"
"This is the little boy, Mrs. Flathers, of whom I have told you," said Anne.
"Why haven't you been to see Anne before, my little fellow?" said Mrs. Flathers, kindly. "She told me that you liked her very much; or, at least, that you were in the habit of saying so."
"And, indeed, I do," said the child, his eyes filling with tears, "but I was afraid to come."
"You found courage at last, it seems," she replied with an encouraging smile.
"Yes, ma'am. I wanted to see her so badly, that I at last ventured to come here."
"Anne must have been good to you — as you seem to like her so well."
"Indeed, indeed she is so good to me! And, now, she's the only friend I've got," the tears again starting to his eyes.
"Well, it would be a pity to intrude upon two such firm friends; and so I will retire," said Mrs. Flathers, smiling.
"And how have things gone on since I left you, Jimmy?" asked Anne, after Mrs. Flathers had left the room.
"Not as good as when you were there Miss Anne. Nobody cares for us, as you did. But then, we are all so glad you've got a better place, and wouldn't have you back again, to be abused and insulted as you were, for the world. But Genevra and Gertrude have gained nothing by it, for Mr. Marshall doesn't come there at all anymore, and we know it's because he didn't find you there."
"Why, Jimmy! What are you talking about?" exclaimed Anne, taken by surprise, for she had never mentioned to anyone in the house, the unpleasant interview between her and Mrs. Hardamer.
"But who told you that I was abused and insulted?" she added.
"Why, Millie heard it all, and told us about it. It would have done your heart good to have heard how the boys went on. Ike, and the rest of them, say they'll make the house too hot to hold them all, now that you, the only friend they ever had there — have been forced to go away."
"Indeed, Jimmy, I hope the boys won't do anything wrong on my account," she said, with much concern.
"They've got a decided grudge against the whole family, and are going to have it out with them — now that you aren't there to hold them back, as you used to do," replied the little boy.
"But you are not going to have anything to do with it, are you Jimmy?"
"O, no, indeed, Miss Anne! I'm too little. And, any how, I wouldn't think it right to do it myself, though I'm glad when they cool them off a little, as they have, since you've been away."
"Did you say that Mr. Marshall had stopped going to see the young ladies?" asked Anne.
"Yes, indeed, he has. He asked for you one night, so Millie says, and they were quite angry about it; and so he just up and told them, that you were worth a dozen such as them."
"That cannot be, I am sure. Mr. Marshall, certainly, did not talk in so ungentlemanly a manner."
"I don't think it was any more than the truth, and I'm sure I hope he did say it," replied Jimmy, warmly.
"You are wrong," said Anne to her little friend. "You must not desire to have any injured, or wounded in their feelings — because they do not treat you well. You know that such desires spring from revenge — and revenge is murder in disguise."
"So you used to tell me; but I didn't think about that," said the boy.
"I hope things go on pretty smoothly with you now, Jimmy?"
"I can't say that they do, Miss Anne," replied the child in a desponding tone. "Yesterday Mr. Hardamer beat me, until I am sore all over. I'd been to market with him, and had the great big market basket, which he piled up almost full. There was half a peck of potatoes, a quarter of veal, and half a peck of apples; besides a good many other things. On top were put a dozen eggs, and then the butter kettle, full of butter, was fitted in one end among the apples. I could hardly get around the market, it was so heavy, and when Mr. Hardamer put it on my head and told me to go home, I thought I would have sunk right down. I'd have said something, but I was afraid. I started up Market Street, and went on as fast as I could. When I got to the first water plug, I felt just as if I was going to fall, and I could hardly see. I asked two or three men to help me down with the basket, but they looked at me and passed on. Just as I thought I would have to give up, a black man lifted the basket off my head, and set it on the grass for me. I stood there for about five minutes, and then got a boy to help me up with it again. It seemed heavier than ever, but I started off with it and kept right up the street. While trying to step down from the curb-stone at Walnut Street, I lost my balance, and fell, in spite of all I could do. Everything in the basket rolled out — butter, eggs and all. The eggs were all broken, and the butter tumbled into the dirt. I put them all back into the basket, except the eggs, and asked a boy, who was the only one that seemed to pity me — every body else laughed — to help me along with the basket. He took hold of one side, and helped me all the way home. We set the basket down in the shop, and Mr. Hardamer saw, at once, that something was wrong.
"'What's the matter, there?' he said in an angry voice, coming from behind the counter.
"'I fell down — it was too heavy for me to carry,' I said, trembling all over.
"'Where's the eggs?' he said more angrily.
"'They're broken, sir,' said I.
"'And here's the butter all covered with dirt!' he said, pulling off the lid of the butter kettle. "'You did it on purpose, you little scoundrel you!'
"And then he dragged me into the back shop, and made me pull off my jacket. O, how he cut me with the stirrup! — cursing me all the while, and saying he'd kill me before he was done with me. It seemed as if he never would quit; and every stroke smarted and ached so, that I thought I couldn't stand it a minute longer. After a while he threw the stirrup down, and drove me off into the cellar, and told me to saw wood there until he sent for me, and said if he heard the saw stop a minute at a time, he'd come down and give me ten times as much of a beating. I went down and sawed wood, until I ached so much, that I thought I would have fallen over, but I was afraid to stop; and so I kept on, wishing I could drop down dead! After a long, long time, Millie came down to call me to dinner. I couldn't hardly eat anything, I felt so sick. But he didn't tell me to go into the cellar again, and I began to feel a little better by night. O, how I wanted to see you! And that night, as I lay in bed, I determined that I would come and see you today."
The tears started from Anne's eyes, and her heart ached for the poor, abused child. And ached the more, because she had no means of softening his hard lot. She did not reply to his painful story, but his eyes read her sympathizing countenance, and he understood how much she felt pity for him.
"But I'll try and bear it, Anne, it won't last forever," said the little fellow, endeavoring to rally. "I'll be a man one of these days — and then no one will beat or abuse me."
"That is right, Jimmy. When we can't help ourselves, it is always best to put a good face upon matters. A change for the better will come sooner or later."
"And right soon will it come for you, Miss Anne, I hope," he said with animation.
"I could not ask for anything better than I now have," she replied.
"But, better will come, I am sure. Ike says he means to go this very night to see Mr. Marshall, and tell him where you are — and then he'll come and marry you; and he's so rich!"
This announcement brought Anne to her feet at once, utterly confounded.
"Run home, quickly!" she said, "and tell Ike, that, if he has the least regard for my feelings, he could not injure them more, than by doing what you say."
"It's no use to go, Anne," said the little boy, "because Ike's gone long ago."
"Maybe not, Jimmy, so run home as fast as you can, and come again tomorrow night."
When Anne retired to her bed that night, it was with a new feeling about her heart. The information which her little friend had conveyed to her respecting Mr. Marshall, was unexpected — and yet pleasant in a degree that she could not account for. She had passed but half an hour with him, and had only been led to think of him, since that time, it seemed to her, in consequence of her interview resulting in a serious rupture with Mrs. Hardamer and two of her daughters. But, now, to hear that he had expressed an interest in her, was strangely pleasing. The more she thought about the matter, the more confused became her perceptions, and the more excited her feelings.
"This is not right," she at length murmured to herself, and, with an effort, endeavored to throw her thoughts off from the too absorbing subject. But, like the needle to the pole — they would return, and continued to return, in spite of every effort, as often as she attempted to force them away. Sleep finally stole over her senses; but, in slumber, she thought of him still, and awoke more than once during the night, from pleasant dreams, in which his presence had made the chief delight.
On the next evening Marshall again called. He had dropped in regularly almost every evening for about a week. Through a little management, Mrs. Flathers had thus far succeeded in preventing him from meeting with Anne, though she felt her desire to see them together, daily increasing. She was fully satisfied of Anne's pure and noble character, and esteemed Marshall as one of the few in society who are above reproach.
"You said you had a very nice young lady here, I believe; did you not, Mrs. Flathers?" he asked soon after he came in.
"Indeed, Ralph! Have you just remembered it?"
"I must confess a great lack of gallantry on my part, but, I suppose, extra attentions to her will atone for past neglect," he replied, smiling.
"You've grown tired then, in your chase after an unknown charmer? Well, that is encouraging. I shall soon expect to see you as rational as ever."
"No more tired — and twice as ardent as I was a week ago," he said with animation. "But tell me of this young lady, with a sight of whom, I have not yet been favored."
"You must promise, first, not to fall in love with her."
"Quite willing to commit yourself, I declare!"
"Now tell me her name, Mrs. Flathers."
"Don't be so impatient, Ralph. Why, what's the matter with you? You have grown very suddenly and very strangely interested in this unknown lady. You don't think, surely, that she is your pretty sewing girl?"
"Well, I do think so — and I know so!" said Marshall in a positive tone.
This was more than Mrs. Flathers had expected, and she looked surprised and confused. Marshall continued —
"How could you hold me in suspense so long, Mrs. Flathers, when you knew that I was half crazy to find her! But is she not all I have described her?"
"Yes, Ralph — and more too. You know not half her worth." Mrs. Flathers spoke with feeling.
"Heaven bless you for saying so!" exclaimed the young man, seizing the hand of his maternal friend. "But I am impatient to see her. In mercy, relieve my suspense."
"Be calm, Ralph," returned Mrs. Flathers, seriously. "Remember that all this enthusiasm is on one side. She is not as much interested in you — as you are in her; and, if I have read her aright, thinks rarely of you, and with no feeling. You were to her an intruding stranger, and caused her much pain of mind. Except for this pain, I am inclined to think that she would hardly have thought of you again. You have got to win her, if you would have her."
"And win her I will!" said the young man with enthusiasm.
"Do not be so sure, Ralph. Unless she can see in you, the beauty of moral excellence — she will never yield you her hand."
"Do you think I have anything to hope, then, Mrs. Flathers?" he said in a more serious and concerned tone of voice.
"There is no one I would rather see the husband of Miss Webster, than yourself, Ralph; and no one whom I think so worthy of her. Even, already, I love her as a daughter — and if you win her, and your mother approves the choice, I shall have a double claim on your regard."
"You make me too happy, Mrs. Flathers. But does she know of my visit here? Is she aware that I am now in the house?"
"She has not the least suspicion of it, Ralph. I have carefully concealed from her, for good reasons, the fact that I knew you."
"Well, this need no longer be," he said. "I am impatient to see her face again, and once more to hear the music of her sweet voice."
Mrs. Flathers rang the bell, and, to the servant who entered, said —
"Tell Anne that I would be glad to see her in the parlor."
In a brief time, Anne entered.
"Let me introduce you to Mr. Marshall, Anne, the son of one of my best and oldest friends," said Mrs. Flathers, taking her hand and advancing with her.
Anne startled a little when she heard the name, and there was a slight exhibition of internal agitation; but in a moment she was calm, and received him with the easy politeness which was so natural to her.
It is needless to detail the particulars of this interview. Marshall, of course, continued to be a constant visitor, and soon awoke a deep and trembling interest in the heart of Anne Webster. She no longer held towards Mrs. Flathers the relation of one whose services were given for hire. That lady had dissolved this connection, and had elevated her to the position of a daughter and a companion. Anne accompanied her when she went into company, and was introduced into a select and valued circle of friends, whose rank in society was fixed upon the basis of real worth. And she soon became known as the choice of Marshall, a young man universally esteemed for his high moral principles. He was the only son of an old and wealthy Virginia family.
"Whom do you think I met in Market Street, today?" said Genevra Hardamer to her sister, coming in from an idle stroll, with an expression of astonishment upon her countenance.
"How would I know, I wonder?" said Gertrude, moodily; for, as usual, she was in no very amiable humor.
"Well, you'd like to know, I'm sure."
"Who was it, then," asked Gertrude, brightening up a little. "Was it Mr. Marshall?"
"Yes. But there was somebody else with him."
"And who was it?" asked Gertrude, with an expression of lively interest.
"You wouldn't guess in a dog's age, and so I'll tell you. It was Anne Webster."
"Who?" exclaimed Gertrude, jumping up from her chair.
"That trollop we sent off for not knowing how to keep her place!" said Genevra, indignantly.
"You must be mistaken, surely."
"Indeed, I am not, Gertrude. The insolent hussy looked at me with an impertinent grin, and made a motion as if she were going to speak, but I turned up my nose at her, and could have spit in her face, the bold minx!"
"But what in the world is the meaning of her being in the street with Mr. Marshall?" asked Gertrude, greatly disconcerted.
"I've got my own thoughts about that," said Genevra. "I never had much opinion of him — and as for her, I don't believe she's good for anything."
But this insinuation by no means quieted the feelings of Gertrude. A cloud settled upon her brow, and she sat, for some time, in gloomy silence.
"He needn't think to come here again, after having been seen in Market Street with a hired girl! I'll insult him if ever he sets his foot in this house, or speaks to me! I swear I will!" This last elegant expression for a lady's tongue, was enunciated by Genevra with peculiar energy, while her face warmed with accumulating anger.
"Don't make yourself a fool about it, Genevra," responded Gertrude, testily, for she could not make up her mind to relinquish all hope of Marshall.
This direct thrust called into active play, the unruly member of each of the young ladies, which continued for half an hour or more, until one of them was driven from the field.
There happened to be some unusual attraction at Peale's Museum, in Holiday Street, on that same evening, and Gertrude and Genevra attended, accompanied by a couple of young shopkeepers. The museum was well filled, and the company made up, principally, of those who moved in good society. Among these, Gertrude and Genevra were quite conspicuous by their loud laughing and talking, and their excessive show of finery. Excepting themselves, there were few who were not plainly attired; and few whose manners and bearing did not stamp them as superior.
"I declare, I never saw such a company of vulgar people together in my life," remarked Genevra to her spruce attendant. "I would really think there were none here but journeymen mechanic's wives — if some of the men did not look so elegant. Now, isn't that too vulgar a looking person to be allowed admission here?" she continued, half aloud, directing, with a toss of her ridicule, to a very plain, but neatly dressed lady, who was gracefully leaning upon the arm of a gentleman, and examining with him some beautiful entomological specimens.
"That lady!" replied her attendant, in a tone of surprise. "Why, that is the elegant and accomplished Mrs. Ashton!"
"It can't be possible!" responded Genevra, incredulously.
"It is certainly none other, Miss Hardamer, for she is frequently in our warehouse, and is every inch a lady. If pleasant manners, a perfect freedom from all affected airs of superiority, and a gentle and amiable disposition, are any indications of a lady — then is she one. I never see her in the place that I do not find my admiration of her character increasing."
The young man spoke with warmth, and Genevra was silent for a short time, and seemed offended.
"If there isn't Mr. Marshall, with that sweet girl on his arm again!" exclaimed Gertrude's young companion, thrown off his guard in his admiration of the face and form of Anne Webster. "I wonder who she can be? As I live, the other lady on his arm is the rich and highly accomplished widow of the late Mr. Webster!"
While yet addressing his companion, Marshall, with the two ladies, advanced towards the lady and gentleman — Mr. and Mrs. Ashton, just mentioned, as they were examining a case of entomological preparations, and, after a friendly greeting between them, Anne was introduced, and received with a cordial smile from Mr. Ashton, and a warm pressure of the hand, and a welcome word from his lady.
Upon all this, both Gertrude and Genevra looked with the liveliest astonishment and chagrin. The former was, however, speedily aroused from her state of surprise by her companion, who again said —
"I wonder who she can be?"
"I can tell you," said Gertrude, with a sneer upon her lip.
"Who is she, then? — for I would like of all things, to know."
"Why, she is no other than our cast-off servant girl," replied Gertrude, maliciously.
"Impossible!" said the young man.
"I tell you it is possible, though," said Gertrude, in a low, but excited tone, "and her name is Anne Webster. We turned her out of the house for improper conduct. She's a deceitful, insinuating piece of goods, and has, no doubt, imposed upon Mrs. Flathers, who will get herself into trouble with her." All this was uttered in a tone expressive of the strongest dislike and enmity towards Anne.
Just at this moment, Anne turned her face towards them, and the young man read its pure and lovely expression.
"You must be in error, surely," he said, earnestly. "An evil mind, could never fill so innocent an expression as that now beaming upon her face!"
"Let me show you some of these beautiful specimens, Miss Webster," said Mrs. Ashton, at this moment, in a voice distinctly heard by both Gertrude and her companion; and, placing the arm she had disengaged from that of her husband, at the moment of introduction, within that of Anne, she drew her towards the case of insects, and was soon busy in pointing out to her the rarest and most beautiful.
"So you see that I know her!" said Gertrude, with an expression of contempt.
The young man was silent, for he could not understand it. From that moment, it so happened, that neither Gertrude nor Genevra could go in any direction, without being thrown near Marshall and Anne, and finding the latter in familiar association with those in the highest station in society. Mortified and irritated, they left the museum at an early hour, and returned home.
* * * * *
"I shall go crazy!" exclaimed Ike, bounding into the garret, on the same night, and turning three or four somersaults on and off his bed. "I've seen enough to last me for a year! ha! ha! ha! whoop! Hold me, Tom, or I shall die!"
"You're crazy, already, I believe! But what is the matter, Ike? Come, out with it!" said Tom.
"Give me half an hour to breathe in, Tom."
"Nonsense! What is in the wind?"
"I'm afraid it will kill me!" exclaimed Ike, again giving way to a new explosion of laughter, and rolling from side to side of the bed upon which he had thrown himself.
"Don't be a fool, Ike!" broke in Bill, impatiently. "Let us hear what all this is about."
"Well, I'll try and tell you," said Ike, rising up, and endeavoring to command himself; "but you must let me laugh every now and then, or I shall burst. I went to the museum tonight, and lo! and behold! our beauties downstairs were there, all dressed up to kill, with a couple of counter-jumpers dangling at their elbows. Didn't they cut a swathe, though! They couldn't see me, no how. But there was somebody else there, too; and who do you think it was? Why, Anne Webster, with her sweet face, looking more beautiful than ever; and she was hanging on the arm of Mr. Marshall, who was all attention to her."
"You must be joking, Ike," said Tom, incredulously.
"No, I'm not, though. I'm in dead earnest!"
"And did our beauties see them?"
"See them? Of course they did!"
"And how did they take it? Do say, Ike?"
"Just wait a bit, till I get that far, will you? And there was somebody else along with them, too — Mrs. Flathers, the rich lady that she lives with; and she would lean forward towards Anne, every now and then, so kind, and look her in the face when she was speaking, with an expression that said, as plain as words — 'But you are a dear good girl, Anne, and I love you!'"
"The devil!" ejaculated Bill.
"It's all as true as death, boys! And that isn't all! Mrs. Flathers, you know, is tip-top here; and she would every now and then introduce Anne to some lady or gentleman, as much above our girls as the sun is above the moon; and they would treat her so polite, and seem so glad to make her acquaintance."
"O, but that is good!" exclaimed Tom.
"If you'd only seen the accomplished Mrs. Ashton," continued Ike, "draw her arm through Anne's, and walk about the museum with her, showing her all the pretty things, and then have seen how struck down in the mouth Gertrude was, and how mad Genevra looked — it would have been something to remember as long as you lived. I wouldn't have begrudged five dollars to have seen the show."
"I never saw any body so bewildered," continued Ike. "They were all down in the mouth. And wasn't I glad to see it!"
"Did Anne see you?" asked Tom.
"Once, but I kept out of her way."
"Did she speak to you?" said Bill.
"I wasn't very near; but when she saw me, she nodded her head, and smiled so sweetly. It wasn't a sneaking nod and a stolen smile. All was earnest, and above board."
"It's the best thing that has ever happened!" said Tom. "Anne's found her level at last, and I would like to know how many miles it is above the platform upon which our young beauties here stand."
"It's so high that they'll never reach it; that's certain," said Bill.
So excited were the boys, that they sat up after one o'clock, talking over the matter. About this time, they were attracted by a sudden burst of music in the street.
"Somebody's serenading our girls, as sure as I'm alive," said Ike, jumping up, and going to the window.
"It seems that all the fools aren't dead yet," quietly remarked Tom, rising more slowly, and taking his station alongside of Ike.
"It's as free for us as anybody, that's one consolation," added Bill, crowding in between his two worthy associates.
"That's too good music for them," said Ike, after they had all listened, in silence, to a well played tune on three or four instruments, "too good by half! I could do the business in the right style for them."
"You? Why, you can't play!" said Bill. "Can't I?" responded Ike. You've forgotten the sweet music I played for them one night on the lap-stone."
"True! true! I had forgotten that," said Bill. "Suppose, Ike, we give them a sample one of these dark nights. We could do it, couldn't we?"
"To a charm!" replied Ike, slapping the last speaker upon the shoulder. "That's a grand idea, Bill! Why didn't we think of it before?"
"What instrument can you play on, Ike?" asked Bill.
"Me? Why, I'm hard to beat with the brush and scraper. I used to practice with the chimney-sweeps when I was only knee-high to a duck. I got so I could play almost any tune. Dick, up the alley, will lend me his instruments; and then I'll do my part in all sorts of style. But what can you play on, Bill?"
"I've no particular skill in this way; but I think I could manage to do a little on the old saw with a good new file."
"Capital! But what are you worth, Tom? — are you at all musical?"
In answer to this, the garret was filled with the gruntings of a hog, and the squeaking of pigs in swinish accompaniment.
"You see I can do a little in the performance," remarked Tom, quietly, as the discordant, ear-piercing noise subsided.
"So I would think. You shall lead the orchestra, Tom. But three of us won't make a full band. How shall we fill the vacancies? We want at least double our number."
"Leave that to me," said Bill. I am acquainted with several amateurs, who will cheerfully lend us their valuable aid. For instance: there is Tom Dunn, who is quite categorical, as they say; and, Sandy Patterson, who, as a living trombone, is superior to anything I ever heard. John Neal is a dabster on the conch; and, if others are wanted, I can count three or four more."
"The fuller the band, the better," responded Ike.
"If a good large bull-dog would add anything to the harmony of the music, Sam Miller can bark to any tune."
"Prime! now, isn't it?" said Ike, warmly. "When shall we do the thing?"
"The sooner the better," replied Tom.
"Let it be some dark night, about one o'clock, then," said Ike.
"Agreed!" responded the two associates. The serenade being arranged, the boys retired to bed; but it was a long time before their senses were locked in sleep, for their minds were too actively occupied with their intended exhibition of musical skill.
In about a week, they had everything ready to begin. The night was dark and cloudy, and in every way favorable for the new serenade. They had found four boys, besides themselves, as ripe for fun and frolic as they were. To avoid suspicion, our three chaps went upstairs, talking loud enough to be heard, at ten o'clock, the usual hour of retiring. In the garret they made a clatter of shoes, etc., and then threw themselves upon the beds, and rolled about there, that the noise of the rickety bedsteads might be distinctly heard below. It was twelve before they thought it safe to descend from their attic, which was accomplished in a way peculiar to themselves. A long back building was connected with the main building, and from this they could descend to a lower range, connecting with the house below; and from this, again, to a high wall, shutting in the yard of that house from an alley that ran immediately in the rear. In this way they could readily get out and in, without any suspicion being excited in the family, and in this way the three companions in mischief escaped from the house on the evening in question.
Joining their four associates, all armed with their several instruments of music, they held a consultation, and after arranging all preliminaries, and being certain, from his warning cry to all rogues and mischief-plotters, that the watchman was making the best of his way to the other end of his ward, and would not pass there again for the next hour, they stole quietly around in front, and arranged themselves before the house. It was by this time nearly one o'clock, and as it was a very dark and cloudy night, there were no people in the street.
"One at a time, to prepare for the full chorus of instruments," said Ike. "Strike up, Tom!"
Instantly the air was filled with a combination of grunting and squeaking, that seemed to come from half a dozen alarmed swinish mothers, and their hungry offspring. Then came half a dozen musical sounds from Ike's brush and scraper, clear and distinct.
"Now, Bill," said the leader.
And Bill's saw and file set every dog's teeth in the whole neighborhood on edge, and woke them up just enough to answer promptly Sam Miller's real bull-dog bark, that was responded to by Tom Dunn in a caterwaul, that seemed like the dying confession of some old roof-scrambler.
This was followed by three or four blasts from John Neal's conch shell. Bill's new-fangled violin, as he called it, startled every sleeper in the house, and before the final blast on the conch, preparatory to the full chorus, several windows were thrown open, and half a dozen old and young Hardamers were straining their eyes into the darkness.
"Now give it to them, free and easy, boys!" said Ike; and away they went, making a most diabolical combination of sounds. Clear and distinct above the whole, and at regular intervals, would come in the trombone, always accompanied with the deep-toned bull-dog bark, and winding off with a most ear-piercing feline scream. Steadily, and with a most unmusical, nerve-chilling screech, did Bill work away upon his old saw, but by all his efforts he could not drown the ringing noise of Ike's brush and scraper. For fully ten minutes, they continued their serenade, without a moment's cessation. At the end of that time, Hardamer sallied out of his front door, armed with an old musket. This apparition brought on the finale, and then there was a separation, in different ways, of the whole band of serenaders, who scampered off in double quick time.
Hurrying around the square, and up the alley, as fast as they could, our three young rebels scrambled up the roofs of the different houses, in their way to their garret, and made an entrance there in three minutes from the time Hardamer had dispersed the band. Rapidly disrobing themselves, they beat a quick retreat to bed, and were, to all appearances, sound asleep, when their master, whose suspicions had been aroused, came up into the garret. His finding them all stowed snugly away, puzzled him a good deal, but their presence there was conclusive of their innocence, and so he withdrew without a word.
"Old Hardamer was just too late," whispered Ike.
"We've made a narrow escape, I'm thinking," said Tom.
"Shouldn't we have had a broil, though, if old Hardamer had gotten here before us!" added Bill. "He'd never forgiven that. But I wonder how the Misses Hardamer were pleased. I hope they didn't faint under the operation."
We change the scene, now, to a farmhouse in Virginia. It is small and neat, and stands on a slight eminence, overlooking, on either side, a well cultivated farm of some three hundred acres. An elderly man is walking backwards and forwards before the door of the dwelling, in the cool of the evening, and by his side is a young man in earnest conversation with him. Sometimes the elder of the two walks forward rapidly, and sometimes pauses and looks into the face of his companion with an expression of painful surprise. Let us approach them. The old man is speaking.
"How could you keep this so long from me, William?"
"I have not had the heart to mention it, father. My wrongdoings so distressed you, that I dared not mention this, until an oppressing sense of duty has forced from me the unwilling confession."
"And you have not heard from her during all the past year?"
"Never once. I left her without even an intimation of my intention to go away. She knows not whether I am dead or alive. And I am ignorant of her condition."
"O, my son! How could you find it in your heart to act thus?"
"No one knows, father, how far from right principles he may be led, until he begins to allow his feet to diverge from the ways of rectitude. I wasted the money your labor procured for me, became involved in debt, and married to obtain money to extricate myself from my difficulties. The father of my wife, displeased with our marriage, which was a secret one, would have nothing to do with us; and, heartily disliking the woman I had married — I left her to her fate. No doubt her father received her as soon as he was sure I had left the city."
"Merciful Heaven!" ejaculated the old man, clasping his hands, and lifting his eyes upwards.
"It was a wicked thing, father," responded the young man in a subdued tone, "but, if not too late, I would gladly retrace some of my steps."
"It is never too late, my son, to make an effort to repair our wrong doings. You must go to Baltimore, and bring home your wife."
"That is just what I wish to do. I cannot say that I ever had any affection for her, but duty, now, must take the place of love."
"Under any circumstances, we must do our duty," said the father. "I'm afraid this will almost break your mother's heart. In all your wandering from right, she never thought you capable of such an act. But I must break it to her this evening, for tomorrow you must leave for Baltimore. Not a day should be lost, for no one can tell what a day may bring forth."
Both now entered the house, and the mother met them at the door. Her eyes had often turned towards them, from the window, with an expression of concern, while they walked before the house, for she saw that they were conversing on some subject of painful interest; and now she looked into each face, with a glance of earnest inquiry. The young man could not withstand that look, for the tears filled his eyes, and he passed her hurriedly.
"Let me know all, John," said the mother, looking into her husband's face with an appealing expression. "It is better that I should know all."
"Perhaps it is," said the old man. "Our William married more than a year ago, and deserted his young wife in a few weeks."
"Father of mercies!" ejaculated the mother in a low, subdued tone of voice, lifting upwards her aged eyes, and clasping her hands together. The young man saw the movement from the adjoining room, and understood its meaning too well. Covering his face with his hands, he leaned against the wall, and groaned aloud. That groan of deep and heart-aching distress reached the mother's ears, and turned the tide of her feelings. Instantly she went into him, and, taking his hand, said, in a broken voice, while the tears rained down her cheeks —
"My son, the past cannot be recalled; but the present must do all that can be done to atone for the past. Who, or what, is the woman you have married."
"Not such a woman as I ought to have made the daughter of so good a mother. But she is respectable, moves in good society, and her father is rich."
"Then, William, how could you desert her?"
"Because I married her, like a villain, only for her money. Failing to get that from her prudent old father, who was displeased at the marriage, I left her."
"O, my son!" replied his mother, greatly moved, "what a world of trouble have you brought upon yourself. But, I trust it is not yet too late to repair, in some degree, the injury you have done. You must go for her, and bring her home, if she will return with you."
"That is just what I wish to do. But you will not find her, I fear, all that you could wish. She is the eldest of three grown up sisters, who have been brought up in idleness, are poorly educated in anything substantial, and full of false notions. They are proud and envious, and, of course, weak-minded."
"Let us hope that a year of painful disappointment may have greatly changed her. Affliction and trouble do wonders for us, sometimes."
"True, mother, for I am a living witness of their transforming ability."
"I think your father should go with you. You have deceived the family once, and her father would act wisely to put no further confidence in you," said the mother.
"She is right," responded the father. "But I cannot be ready for several days."
"Then I had better wait, father, for I fear to go alone, lest she refuse to return with me."
The reader, of course, recognizes, in this family, that of Anderson, who married Genevieve Hardamer. He had gone off to the South, and his money very soon becoming exhausted, he joined a club of gamblers, and lived upon the dishonest gains of his craft for six or seven months, when he was taken ill with a southern fever. From this he recovered, after great and protracted suffering — a changed man, at least so far as intention was concerned. He immediately returned home, and joined his father in the honest toil of a farmer. Gradually his better feelings gained strength, and he continued to bring out into action what he saw to be right, at the same time steadily resisting his wrong desires. Finally, he perceived it to be his duty to return to his wife, and, acting out the principle of obedience — he made known to his father the painful secret that was weighing upon his mind.
A single year will often work wonderful changes.
We have advanced the reader a full twelve months in the history of Anderson; let us go back and bring up the rest of our characters.
The novel serenade which had been given for the benefit of Misses Gertrude and Genevra, did not fall upon their ears alone. The air is an unselfish element, and never can be bought over to subserve purely selfish feelings; and so, on the occasion alluded to, it diffused the harsh din around, as liberally as if it had been the sweetest melody. A knowledge of the circumstance spread, and soon became known far and near, as an excellent piece of fun. Nor did the Misses Hardamer escape the annoyance of its being known, for there are always in society, those who delight in telling unpleasant news, and several of these individuals were among the young ladies' acquaintances, and took especial pains to let them know all that was said about it in connection with their names. The mortification was, to them, a terrible one.
Gertrude insisted upon it that Tom was one of the company, for it was a well-known fact, she urged, that he could imitate the squeaking of pigs to perfection.
"That may all be true enough," her father would reply, who had his own suspicions, and his own reasons for not wishing them confirmed, "But I found Tom in bed when I went up into the garret directly after. How could he have been there — and in the street at the same time?"
"But Millie says," she replied, one day, after this oft-repeated answer, "that Tom and the other boys are out until twelve o'clock almost every night, and that they climb up on the roof of the back building, and get in at the garret window when they come home. I have no doubt but that he came in that way after his outrageous conduct, and got into bed before you thought of going into the garret."
"Does Millie say that?" asked her father quickly.
"Yes, indeed, she does."
"Call her up!" he said.
Millie soon made her appearance.
"Did you say that the boys were out almost every night until twelve and one o'clock, and that they get in by climbing up over the back building?" said Hardamer, sternly.
Millie looked at Gertrude and hesitated.
"Do you hear? you black wench!" he said angrily.
"I believe I did say so," replied Millie.
"You believe you did? Don't you know that you did? ha!"
"Perhaps I did. But I only thought so," said Millie, who had no wish to become an informer against the boys.
"What right had you to think so, ha?" said her master.
"I don't, sir," responded Millie, with a most silly expression and tone.
"Clear out into the kitchen you stupid hussy, you!" said Hardamer, in a loud angry voice, assuming, at the same time, a threatening attitude.
Millie retreated in confusion to her own part of the house.
"I don't make anything out of this," resumed Hardamer; "but I'll catch them at their capers if they cut any." And so saying, he went downstairs into the shop. It was just about half-past three o'clock, and, as he entered the back door, a notary entered the front door of his shop, and presented him with a protest. It was a note of five thousand dollars, which he had endorsed for a large shoe-dealer up town, and was the first of five, all of which would become due in the course of the next sixty days.
"Have you heard the news?" asked a neighbor, stepping in at the moment; "Mr. Sutemeyer, the large shoe-dealer, has failed; and it is said to be a desperate bad affair. He won't be able to pay more than fifty cents in the dollar."
"Then I'm a ruined man!" exclaimed Hardamer, sinking back upon a chair.
The rumor was too true. Within the next two months, Hardamer's property was thrown into the market, and forced sales effected at ruinous prices. His credit was saved, but it was at the expense of nearly all he was worth. Common estimation had named his property far above its real value. His daughters had looked upon it as almost inexhaustible. But a loss of twenty-five thousand dollars, or, rather, a sacrifice of property, valued at forty thousand dollars, took nearly everything he was worth.
To be thrown back, thus, at his age, with a large family, tended in no degree to soothe a temper, naturally overbearing and irritable. All he now had left, was the house, in which was his shop and dwelling, his stock of boots, shoes, leather, etc., and about one thousand dollars in turnpike road stock, twenty percent below par. To this scrip, he had been holding on for the last three years, in hopes that it would rise to par, but, now, a pressing demand for money in his business, required him to sell, just as there was some indication of an improvement; and eight hundred dollars were received for what originally cost him one thousand.
Before selling, however, he made an effort to raise a few hundred dollars, in hopes that the stock would go up speedily. Waiting upon an old friend, between whom and himself had passed numerous business favors during the ten years previous, he asked him for the loan of a note of five hundred dollars.
"H-h-hem! Mr. Hardamer. What secu — " and the old friend paused as if unwilling to utter the word.
"Security did you mean to say, sir?" asked Hardamer, his face flushed.
"Ye-ye-yes, Mr. Hardamer, that is what I meant to say. Things have changed a little of late. We have to be cautious you know."
"I want to know sir, if you mean to say, that because I am unfortunate, I am no longer honest!" said Hardamer, placing himself before his old friend, and looking him fiercely in the face.
"No, I did not mean to say any such thing," he replied, much embarrassed. "But you are too sensitive; you cannot, reasonably, expect to get favors, now that you are reduced, such as were readily extended to you before the failure that stripped you of nearly everything."
Hardamer looked him a moment in the face with a strong expression of contempt, and turning upon his heel, left without uttering a word in reply.
Returning to his shop, he resolved to sell his scrip at once. But the necessity of losing two hundred dollars on it, was by no means a pleasant idea, and he finally concluded to call upon a certain individual who could always procure a loan, on good security, for a consideration.
"I need five hundred dollars," said Hardamer, entering the office of this certain individual, in the neighborhood of the Exchange.
"I don't know what to say, Mr. Hardamer; money's dreadful tight just now," replied the broker, who knew the real status of every business man in town.
"Well, what if it is tight?" said the applicant, pettishly, "I've good security to offer."
"Whose note is it?" asked the broker in an indifferent tone.
"It's to be my own note, with collateral in the shape of ten shares of Turnpike Road Stock."
"That stock's poor stuff!" remarked the broker, in a calm, deliberate tone.
"It is worth eighty dollars now, and is rising," said Hardamer.
"You couldn't force a sale at seventy," replied the broker.
"Why, it's quoted at eighty-one, this morning."
The broker compressed his lips, turned up his nasal protuberance a little, and gave his head a knowing toss.
"What do you mean by that," asked Hardamer, a little irritated.
"There isn't a particle of rise — in fact, the market has a downward tendency."
"Well, up or down, Mr. Centum, will you lend me five hundred dollars for sixty days on this security?" said Hardamer, decidedly.
"I'm afraid not," replied Mr. Centum.
"Then I must bid you good day," said Hardamer, rising.
As he was about leaving the door, the broker remarked, in a quiet, careless tone, that he knew a man who might probably lend on it; and that if he was particularly in need of the money, he would try and make the negotiation for him, as a personal favor.
The bait took. Hardamer expressed his gratitude for the kind offer, and promised to call in an hour. In an hour, he was again at the office of Mr. Centum.
"Well, what was the result of your application?" he asked, with evident anxiety.
"He didn't seem much inclined," replied the broker, coldly. "Has no confidence in the security."
"Why, I am sure the security is safe and ample."
"You may think so, but he don't," replied Mr. Centum. "However, I saw an old chap who does things in this line whenever he can make a good job. He's willing to make the loan, but I'm afraid the terms are too hard. The old fellow hasn't much conscience left."
"Well, what does he ask?" inquired Hardamer, with nervous impatience.
"I almost hate to name it," said the broker. "He offers to let you have four hundred and fifty dollars for sixty days, for your note of five hundred dollars, secured by a provisional transfer of the stock."
"That's five percent a month! You are not in earnest, certainly!" exclaimed Hardamer, in indignant astonishment.
"Yes, I am, I do assure you. That is the best I can do for you; but it is a ruinous discount," said Mr. Centum, sympathizingly.
"I'll sell my stock first!" responded Hardamer, warmly, "I am not going to be swindled in that way."
"Perhaps, in the course of tomorrow, I might be able to do something better for you," said the broker, who found that he had attempted to go rather too deep into his customer's pocket.
On the next day Hardamer called on him again. "Do things look any brighter today?" he said, putting on as cheerful a countenance as possible.
"I've seen several people since yesterday," replied Mr. Centum, "and the best I can do for you is four percent a month, besides my commission.
Hardamer turned upon his heel and left the office. That day he sold his stock for eight hundred dollars. The money realized on this sale was soon exhausted in the payment of sundry regular business notes. Others were still out. To meet these, now became a serious matter, for, although his business continued good, his expenses were very heavy, causing a constant and large drain of money. His ledger showed a fair balance of "good accounts," but every tradesman knows how much to calculate upon "good accounts" in a time of need.
It was about two months from the time of his first interview with the broker, that Hardamer found the day on which a note drawn for three hundred dollars was approaching with unwelcome rapidity. All that he could do in the way of pushing collections among his numerous "good" customers, availed but little in making up the desired amount. His attempt to borrow a note from an old business friend, had convinced him that his fair reputation had departed with his money, and his proud spirit turned from the idea of again asking a favor of anyone, and running the risk of refusal and insult. But time rolled on, even until the day of payment, and he was still short about one hundred and fifty dollars. All attempts to force collections farther for that day, were abandoned about twelve o'clock, and still the amount needed was no less. Having always managed his business with great prudence, he had rarely been required to raise funds when a note fell due, and in the few cases that it had occurred, he was at no loss to find plenty of people to accommodate him. Of course, he was now in a state of great uneasiness. Restless and excited, he paced the narrow avenue behind his counter, backwards and forwards, laboring in thought for some expedient by which he could rescue his note from its threatened danger. Suddenly pausing, he leaned upon the counter, with his head between his hands, and remained in that position for nearly ten minutes.
"It must be done!" he said, in a low, sad voice; and turning to his desk, he drew a check for one hundred and seventy dollars, dated fifteen days ahead, and, putting it into his pocket-book, went out, and proceeded to the office of Mr. Centum.
That individual, he found sitting in his office, with his legs upon the table, and a newspaper held before his face, as if reading; but his eyes were with his thoughts, and they had more to do with the omnipotent dollar — than with the news of the day.
"How are you today, Hardamer?" he said, with an air of importance, not even rising from his chair, or changing his position.
"Pretty well, I thank you," replied Hardamer, somewhat meekly. "Can you do anything with this for me?" presenting his check.
The broker looked at it a moment, and shook his head.
"I'm afraid not," he said, indifferently. "If it was a good business note, I could get it done for you easily, at the rate of two percent a month. But people are afraid of checks. Besides, you know your credit is not what it used to be. There was a time when anything with your name on it was as good as gold; but now it is very different. Do you need the money badly?"
"Indeed I do!" replied Hardamer, earnestly. "If I don't get it before three, it will be all over with me."
This communication was particularly gratifying to the broker.
"Don't you think you can get it for me?" asked Hardamer, appealingly. "You don't know how much you will oblige me."
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," replied Mr. Centum. "But I am somewhat doubtful. I am willing to try, however, and will do my best. Leave me the check, and call at half-past one."
"I will be here to the minute," said Hardamer, handing over the check. "Do your very best to get it for me, Mr. Centum."
"I will, most certainly. Good morning, Mr. Hardamer."
As soon as his intended victim had departed, the broker took from the drawer a long narrow piece of paper, dated upon that day, upon which were two columns of figures and a column of names. The names indicated the drawers or endorsers of notes; the first column the "face" of the notes, and the last column the amount of "shave," or exorbitant interest, obtained upon them. Without hesitation he added the name of Hardamer, entered the check, one hundred and eighty dollars, fifteen days, and in the last column extended ten dollars. Then running up this last column rapidly, he ascertained its amount to be fifty dollars.
"Pretty fair, that, by twelve o'clock!" he soliloquized, "forty of it in hand, and old Hardamer's as sure as if I had it in my fingers. Let me see how my bank account holds out."
Turning to his check book, he entered the last check on the margin, and subtracting it from the preceding amount, closed the book with a smile of satisfaction.
"Twenty thousand all safe," he said musingly, "and five thousand sure to be paid in before three o'clock. I shall be flush tomorrow. Old Hardamer's getting into trouble; but he's honest to the back-bone, and owns the property he occupies. He'd sell his coat before he'd wrong anyone out of a dollar. I must keep my eye on him. If I manage him rightly, he'll be worth to me a cool thousand, before he's all done for. I must turn him round gently, until I get him completely into my power, and then go it on him strong!" — and he laughed to himself with a low, peculiar, chuckling laugh.
At half-past one, precisely, Hardamer entered the broker's office. Just five minutes before that time, Mr. Centum stepped out, and circling the square at a quick pace, returned as Hardamer entered.
"Well, what's the word?" asked Hardamer, affecting an air of indifference, while his heart beat violently, and he felt a slight tremor all over.
"I've been running about for you," said the broker, panting as naturally, and wiping off the perspiration as earnestly, as if he were in a great heat from over-exertion and fatigue, "and found a man at last who has a little money by him. He says he will do it for you. He was somewhat fearful at first, but I told him you were as good as gold, and honest to the backbone."
"Thank you! thank you!" responded Hardamer, warmly. "How much did he charge?"
"Ten dollars. It's a good deal, I know; but the man who took it, never will do anything for less than ten dollars. I can't charge my commission on this; it would be too hard upon you."
"I can do no better now, of course," said Hardamer, who gladly accepted of one hundred and sixty dollars for his check, although the rate of discount was over one hundred percent, per annum. Still, it was only a single transaction; and the loss was but ten dollars. "And who wouldn't sacrifice ten dollars," he said to himself, as he walked towards the bank, "to have his note safely out, and his mind at ease?"
"Old Hardamer's getting as cross as a bear, lately," said Bill, on the afternoon of the day on which Hardamer had passed through his first shaving operation. "We'll have to check him again. It won't answer to let him have the upper hand of us; if we do, there'll be no living in the house with him."
"He mustn't talk to me again like he did a little while ago, I can tell him; or he'll get his own, pretty quick! I've no notion of it," responded Ike.
"He talked about giving me the stirrup yesterday," said Tom. "I would just like to see him try that game once; I'd show him how much more interesting it was when played by two, instead of one. Since he's started to going down hill, there's no living with him. It's snarl and grumble all the while."
"He's done one good thing, though," said Ike.
"What is that?"
"Why, he's set our beauties upstairs to work. If I didn't see Gertrude trying to make a shirt yesterday, I wish I may be shot! Millie says all three are at it, but none of them, except Genevieve, who is now the best of the bunch, knows much about it. Whenever anybody calls in, Gertrude and Genevra hide their work away, and then sit with their hands in their laps until the visitor has departed."
"It isn't possible, Ike, that they are such fools?"'
"How can you ask such a question, Tom? But Millie says, and I say so too, that they'll not hold out long. They are both too proud and too lazy to work."
"That's a fact!" said Bill, energetically.
"It's almost time we gave them another serenade. Suppose we amuse them a little tonight?" said Ike.
"Agreed!" responded his two companions, heartily; and that night, about twelve o'clock, the whole family were awakened by another full chorus of diabolical sounds. Instantly Hardamer seized his old musket, which had been loaded some time before pretty plentifully with small shot, and throwing open the window, blazed away right in the midst of them. All the young serenaders had a taste of the shot, but it happened, fortunately, that none received any wound of consequence, the little messengers of punishment only penetrating the flesh in unimportant parts of the body. It is needless to say that there was a sudden cessation of the music, and a silent scampering of the young rascals. Putting down his gun, Hardamer proceeded at once to the garret, and lo, there was no one there but little Jimmy.
"Where are the boys?" he asked, in a loud, quick voice.
"They're gone out, sir," replied the frightened boy.
"Gone out, where?"
"They went out of the window, sir."
"About half an hour ago, sir." said Jimmy, trembling from head to foot, he scarcely knew why.
Hardamer turned on his heel, and went downstairs quickly, but returned in a minute with a cowhide in his hand. He did not wait long before the three boys came scrambling up the roof, smarting from the few small shot that had penetrated beneath the skin; and frightened, dreadfully, at the idea of being wounded. Ike jumped from the window sill to the floor first, and upon him was made the opening demonstration of his master's skill in using the cowhide. Heavily, and with rapidity, did the blows descend for the space of nearly a minute, by which time Bill and Tom were fairly at the scene of action. Ike had begun to recover a little from the surprise and confusion of the sudden attack, and, watching his opportunity, caught at the cowhide, and jerked it from his master's hand.
"Come on, boys!" he called out, "let's give the devil a taste of his own porridge." And flourishing the cowhide about his head, he brought it across the face of his master with tremendous force.
Quick as thought, Bill and Tom responded to the summons, and before Hardamer had recovered from the sudden attack, Bill struck him a heavy blow under the ear, with his fist, which brought him at full length upon the floor.
"Now slash it into him, Ike!" cried Bill, "and if he attempts to rise, I'll beat his brains out with this boot-jack!" picking up the article named, and brandishing it over the head of his master in a threatening manner.
Ike did not wait for a second invitation, but poured in the blows with the cowhide thick and fast.
But Hardamer was too much excited by this unexpected scene, to lay quietly upon the floor. Disregarding Bill's boot-jack, and not seeming to feel its force, as it descended upon his head, Hardamer sprang to his feet, and catching Ike by the collar, dealt him two or three tremendous blows with his fist, which, in turn, brought that individual to the floor.
A new thought now struck him, and retreating at once from the battle ground, he called in the aid of three watchmen, who proceeded, heavy staffs in hand, to the garret. Suspecting the design of Hardamer, the boys barricaded the door, after driving a nail over the latch, by bringing their bedsteads against it. But this only served to embarrass the watchmen a little, not to keep them out. They quickly forced the door.
"Touch me at your peril!" said Ike, as the three rebels crowded together at the one end of the room, armed in no very offensive manner; their several weapons consisting of a boot-jack, a broom handle, and a heavy, knotted cane.
"You'd better give in at once, my lads," said one of the watchmen, brandishing his heavy staff. "We're used to handling men." And so saying, he advanced upon them with his two associates. Each watchman singled out his prize, and made his capture with an ease and quickness, that showed him to be a perfect master of his trade.
That night our serenaders were quartered in the watch-house. On the next day, they were committed by a magistrate, and on the third day were tried before the City Court for an assault upon their master. Being indentured apprentices, and the assault proved, they were ordered ten lashes each by the court. Previous to this, however, a surgeon had examined their wounds, and removed about twenty small shot.
On the night after this flogging, the three boys bundled up their clothes, and leaving the house by the garret window, took a final leave of their master. In this act was consummated the evils of improper discipline.
Had Hardamer treated them, from the first, as he would have had his own children treated, and carefully watched over them with other than exclusively selfish feelings — he would never have found them opposing and insulting his authority, nor have been deserted by them at a time when he more than ever stood in need of their services; nor would he have been the cause of three stout lads, utterly unfit to govern themselves, breaking loose upon the world, to add, in all probability, to its annals of misery and crime.
Had he governed his own household aright, children and apprentices, the former would have been respected by the latter, and the latter kindly treated by the former. No such act as the mock serenade could, possibly, have occurred. But Hardamer started wrong from the beginning, and the evils inherent in his family government increased, until they were consummated in open insubordination.
The loss of his three boys, just at this time, was, to Hardamer, a serious matter. It required him to employ three more journeymen, at ten dollars a week each; thus, in his financially embarrassed condition, increasing his cash expenses about twenty dollars a week; for, taking the year round, it had not cost him, in the way he fed and clothed the three boys, over ten dollars weekly.
This additional cause of embarrassment, and consequent anxiety, tended to increase his despondency, and to irritate his feelings in a very great degree. Burdened with a large and helpless family, from whom he received no sympathy, he felt himself unequal to the task imposed upon him. All he could do to press sales and force collections, was of no avail in keeping him even, when the days on which his notes were due rolled around. Doing only a retail business, he rarely had a note of any consequence to offer for discount; and, therefore, whenever short of money, he had but one resource, and that was his friend Mr. Centum, who never failed him at the hour of extremity.
Six months rolled away, and during that time he had become more and more inextricably involved with his money-lending friend. Hardly a day passed that something was not required, either in taking up notes, renewing checks, or extending loans, and, in every case where either of the latter were effected, it was at a ruinous sacrifice; for the broker, in extending a previous loan for a new term of twenty or thirty days, beyond which he rarely went, always made it the excuse for taking an exorbitant interest, screening himself, too, behind some pretended, invisible, wealthy individual, who would receive nothing less.
During the first six months that Hardamer remained in the web of difficulties which the broker was weaving around him, and by which he was hindering his movements more and more every day, that individual succeeded in getting from, in unreasonable discounts, about five hundred dollars, and was, at the end of that time, bleeding him at the rate of from thirty to forty dollars weekly; and yet, at the same time, did not risk, in all, above fifteen hundred dollars, to secure which he had obtained a mortgage on Hardamer's house, worth, at least, with the ground, five or six thousand dollars.
Amid all these increasing difficulties, Hardamer found no sympathy in his family, except from Genevieve, who saw from his manner, that he had sore trials to contend with. What these really were, neither she nor the rest knew; but as her own heart had been deeply tried, she had learned to feel for others. Her father failed not to perceive the difference in her manner towards him, and her willingness to make herself useful; and gradually his feelings warmed towards her. As for Genevra and Gertrude, the more difficult it became to get money out of their father, to spend in all kinds of fashionable extravagances — the more importunate did they become, and the more insulting in their manner towards him.
Time had rolled on to past mid-winter, and during this mirthful season, these two young ladies had dashed away with as much show and extravagance as if their father had been made of money. Indeed, from the time it became known that he had met with a heavy loss, they had considered it as their true policy to dress more extravagantly than ever, in order to force people into the belief that they were still rich, and that their riches were inexhaustible. Hardamer, whose mind was greatly confused in relation to the true state of his business, imagining that it would yield him at least the usual income he had derived from it — felt in no degree inclined to deny his family any indulgence they had been used to. But the loss of a thousand dollars a year, from the desertion of his boys, and the abstracting of more than that sum to pay usurious interest — made a very material difference in the state of matters and things. And, by the end of the first six months of his downward career, he began to think seriously of retrenchment and reform.
For reasons, other than economical ones, he had insisted on his three oldest daughters doing all the sewing of the family; but Gertrude and Genevra had receded from that state of compulsory industry, and upon Genevieve had fallen the entire burden of the ordinary sewing. Of course, the young ladies' dresses were still made by the most fashionable and expensive dress-maker in the city.
In looking over his expense account one day, he was by no means satisfied with the large sums that were posted under the titles of "Dry Goods," "Millinery" and "Dress Making."
"This will never do!" he said to himself, closing the book with emphatic force. It so happened that there was to be a fashionable gathering at the Assembly Rooms during the next week, and Gertrude and Genevra had received invitations. It was to be a splendid affair, the last and most imposing of the winter series. Each of the girls had one or two danglers in tow, and as this was to be the last grand ball of the season, they were nervously anxious to accomplish something. Fully determined to eclipse even themselves, they made application, on the evening following the day on which their father had determined to reform them a little, for fifty dollars a-piece.
"I haven't got it to spare, just now," he replied, rather gruffly.
"But we must have it!" said Genevra.
"And please, why must you have it, Miss?" responded the father, sensibly irritated.
"Because there's to be a splendid ball next week, and neither of us has got anything fit to wear."
"Then you'll both have to stay at home."
"But, Pa," urged Gertrude, "we must go; I wouldn't stay away for the world."
"Well, go! Nobody wants to prevent you."
"Yes, but we must have something to go in!" responded Gertrude. "Neither of us has a ball dress fit to be seen in at such a place. All the dresses are to be new and splendid — and I, for one, have no notion of being thrown into the shadows."
"Then you'll both have to stay at home, let me inform you," said the father in a quick excited voice, "for not one dollar shall you have to waste on such tom-fooleries! I'm going to put a stop to these things! No later than yesterday, I had your extravagance thrown into my teeth, when I asked for a little time on one of your outrageous bills!"
Gertrude and Genevra raised their hands and eyes in astonishment; and in a few minutes pumped up a plentiful effusion of tears.
But Hardamer was triple armored against all such assaults.
"You needn't start any blubbering and crying here, my young ladies!" he said in a firmer and more determined voice. "Hereafter, and you may as well know it at once — you must not consider yourselves as a rich man's daughters, with money to waste. I've got my hands full and my heart full too, to get you something to eat and decent clothes to wear; and, with these, you will have to be content. So, you may just as well come down from your high notions. You have no business at this ball! It is no place for a poor man's daughters." So saying, the father abruptly left the room.
"Humph!" said Gertrude, drying her tears in a moment — "A poor man's daughters! Isn't that too bad? That's the first time I ever heard myself called a poor man's daughter, and I'd just like to hear anybody else say so to me! A poor man's daughter, indeed!"
"But what shall we do, Gertrude? Pa won't give us the money."
"We must have the ball dresses, that's certain," said Gertrude emphatically. "Why, I wouldn't miss going for the world, especially since Miss Stubbins was so cut up at the last ball, because my dress was more elegant than hers and said she'd eclipse me next time, if it cost her her life. Who's she but a tavern keeper's daughter? And to talk of eclipsing me!" And the accomplished Miss Gertrude Hardamer curled her lip disdainfully.
"But if Pa won't let us have the money, how are we to get the dresses?" asked Genevra.
"Why go and buy them at Martin & Morrison's and not say anything about it. The bill won't be sent in for three or four months."
"I wouldn't, exactly, like to do that," said Genevra.
"Nonsense! Haven't we been in the habit of having bills there? But what will you do?"
"That's what I can't say," replied Genevra, "I must go to this ball, and I haven't anything fit to be seen in. I want to make a dash at Mr. Appleton, the merchant, and if I don't get a new ball dress, I shall stand no chance."
"A new and splendid dress, something a little ahead of anything there," urged Gertrude, "will attract a host of admirers, and he will come in at once, in fear of a rival. You will then be off of Pa's hands, and can pay the bill yourself, before he comes to know anything about it. And even if that should not be convenient after you are married, he won't, of course, care anything about it, especially as the new dress will have secured so fine a fellow as Mr. Appleton for a husband."
"That's a new view of the case altogether," said Genevra, brightening up. "And I don't see how we can get on any other way. Pa's determined, that's certain."
Evil counsel prevailed, and Genevra joined her sister in the proposed plan of operations. On the next day they called at Martin & Morrison's, and there discovered a piece of rich, figured, blossom-colored satin, and some beautiful figured blonde veils.
"These will be grand!" whispered Gertrude to her sister. "This blonde over the blossom-colored satin, will make the most splendid dresses that can be imagined."
"Shall we get them both alike?" said Genevra.
"Of course; we'll attract the more attention," responded Gertrude.
"Shall I cut this piece of satin for you, ladies?" said the polite salesman. "It's the most beautiful thing in town. No other establishment in the city has the same pattern. Mr. Martin could only get one piece in New York; all the rest of the case having been sold to the retail trade of that city." — At the same time holding the piece of satin so as to let the light fall upon it to bring out clearly the rich figure.
"It is beautiful!" exclaimed Gertrude, lost in admiration.
"Beautiful!" responded Genevra.
"How much will you have, ladies?" urged the salesman.
"Shall we take it, Genevra?" whispered Gertrude.
"Of course," replied the sister. "Then we'll take thirty yards, sir," replied Gertrude, not once thinking, or indeed, caring for the price, which was five dollars a yard.
"Will you take some of this blonde?" continued the salesman, after he had measured off the thirty yards of satin.
"How much do you think it will take?" said Gertrude, turning to her sister.
"One for the body — two for the sleeves, and four for the skirt — seven for each. How many of this pattern have you?" she said, addressing the clerk.
"About fourteen," replied that accommodating gentleman, who had overheard her enumeration.
"Then we'll take them," said Gertrude.
"Anything else this morning, ladies?"
"Nothing more today. We shall need something else, and will call in during the week. Please send the satin and blonde veils to Mrs. Sartain's, in Liberty Street, and charge the bill to Mr. Hardamer."
"Certainly, Miss," responded the polite salesman, bowing low, and the young ladies departed.
"How much did you sell them, John?" asked Mr. Morrison, coming forward.
"Let me see," said the clerk, "Thirty yards of blossom-colored embroidered satin, at five dollars, is one hundred and fifty; and fourteen figured blonde veils at four dollars a-piece, is fifty-six dollars. Two hundred and six dollars, sir. That's a pretty good sale!" added the clerk, smiling with an air of self-satisfaction at having done so good a half hour's work.
"Yes, I suppose it is, John. But I'm afraid those extravagant daughters of old Hardamer will ruin as honest a man as ever lived. I wonder how he can be so weak, as to allow them, now that he is in trouble, to add so much to it. I shall dislike to send in the bill."
"That's his problem, not ours, you know," replied the clerk, laughing. "Its our business to sell goods."
"That's very true," responded Mr. Morrison; and he turned to his desk to make the charge.
Neither of the young ladies felt perfectly satisfied with what they were doing; but they had bought the satin and blonde, and it had passed into the dress-maker's hands. There was now no retreating, even if they had wished to do so. But of retreating, they had no idea, uncomfortable as they felt about it. They had never before so willfully and directly contravened a positive command of their father's, and they could not, of course, feel very easy in mind. But none of this uneasiness arose from a sorrow for disobedience — it had reference only to the consequences of disobedience, when it became known.
On the night of the assembly, they dressed themselves in ball dresses used on a former occasion, and then rode off with the young men who had called for them, to Mrs. Sartain's, and there had themselves arrayed by that skillful lady's own hands in their splendid dresses.
"The most beautiful thing I ever saw!" said Mrs. Sartain, glancing with a skillful and practiced eye at Gertrude's dress, which she had just finished arranging on that young lady's person. "I have made several for the ball; but they won't bear a comparison with this."
"I am sure of that," responded Gertrude, with a lively emotion of pleasure.
And certainly they were splendid dresses; and if the figures they had been made to fit, had only been graceful and well proportioned, Gertrude and Genevra would have looked like queens.
Proudly did they glide, on that evening, through the dance, their beautiful dresses the admiration of some — the envy of many. Numerous were the beaux who crowded around them, and the hours flew by with almost the velocity of minutes.
Among the company were two young men, Mr. Appleton, who had recently opened a dry goods warehouse, and Mr. Carson, his friend, in the same business. These young men, who had been for some time endeavoring to make up their minds to offer themselves to the two girls, accompanied them to the ball this evening, and at its termination, attended them home.
"Well, how were you pleased, Carson?" said his friend, as they left the door of Mr. Hardamer, on bidding the girls good night.
"Humph!" responded that individual. "I think there was more froth than substance, there."
"So do I. These gatherings were never much to my taste."
"I've made up my mind," said Carson, "to back out."
"Ay, indeed! Why, what's the matter? I thought you were particularly pleased with Gertrude."
"Well, I must confess that I did feel a little inclined, as you know," replied Carson, "but the fact is, Appleton, I've seen a little too strong an exhibition of extravagance tonight. Gertrude was dressed splendidly, but rather too much so for a shoemaker's daughter, especially now that her father's affairs are in so poor a condition. I tried to think that she looked elegant, but every time she came near Miss Webster, with her neat, plain white dress, innocent face, and graceful elastic form, I could not but feel that her only merit, like birds in mirthful plumage, lay in gaudy externals. I feel sick and disappointed."
"Pretty much the same kind of thoughts passed through my mind," said Appleton, "in reference to Genevra. Why, she'd ruin any man with her extravagant ideas! I must take counsel of prudence, and relinquish my visits. I would be a fool to put my neck into a halter with my eyes wide open!"
This conference confirmed in each, a half formed resolution to look somewhere else for a wife.
The heads of our young ladies were too nearly turned, to be able to think rationally about anything except the ball for a week after. Their splendid dresses were, of course, seen by their mother, who passed a slight censure upon them, and concealed the matter. As day after day, and week after week passed away, the wonder of the girls increased more and more, at the prolonged absence of their two particular beaux; and at the few and far between visits which they received from other young gentlemen. The truth was, the real condition of their father's affairs was better known to everybody, than to themselves; and there were few at the ball who did not feel something like contempt towards young ladies, who could be guilty of making so unnecessary a show, when prudence, and every other consideration, should have prompted them to have made an appearance better suited to their real condition and standing. They were, now, farther from making the desired matrimonial haven than ever.
Having once passed the point of no return, in consenting to run up a large bill in opposition to their father's implied commands, they were tempted to increase that bill from time to time, in the purchase of costly shawls, fine dresses, and the various extras of a woman's wardrobe, until the gentlemanly owners of the warehouse felt it necessary to hint to them, that their bill had already reached the round sum of five hundred dollars. Surprised and alarmed at this, they stopped short, and now had added to their other causes of trouble, the dread of the day when their father should receive this bill, the result of only three months' extravagance in dress.
In the mean time, Genevieve found the good seeds implanted in her mind through the agency of Anne Webster, gradually striking their roots deeper, and shooting up into tender and green leaves. Her character was undergoing a thorough change — silent, gradual, and sure. Acting constantly from a sense of duty, she always found enough in her father's house to give diligent activity to both mind and body, and thus was she kept in a state far above the distressing despondency which would otherwise have robbed her of all internal peace.
Her father perceived, and her mother and sisters felt the change, without acknowledging it. The former began to have different and kinder feelings towards her; but the latter felt that she had disgraced them by her imprudent marriage; and all desertion of beaux, or failure of false calculations on different young men, Gertrude and Genevra charged upon her as the cause.
So far as her husband was concerned, Genevieve grew more and more desirous every day to hear from him and to see him. Her own views and feelings being now thoroughly changed, she cherished in her mind the hope of winning him to regard her from other motives than the mere hope of riches. His desertion of her was a cruel one; and his continued silence, she felt to be still more cruel; but, being bound to him as his wife, she felt it to be her duty, as a wife, to do all in her power to interest his affections, if he should ever return to her — an event for which she ceased not to hope.
Under all the circumstances, her condition was one of painful trial; but, where there is the effort to do right and to feel right — the mind will never sink into distressing despondency. Strange as some may think it, hers was the most peaceful mind in her father's house.
"Indeed, Mr. Centum, you must renew this note for me. When I merged all my notes into one, and increased the amount to twenty-five hundred dollars, you gave your positive promise that you would continue or renew it, so long as the discount was regularly paid. You know that you have ample security."
"Did you think I could go on in that way forever? You have a strange idea of business;" said Mr. Centum, in an irritated manner.
"But, Mr. Centum," urged Mr. Hardamer, "it is only three months since I gave the note, and I have paid you your own price upon every renewal. I've never complained of the discount, though it has been large."
"Well, I can't help that, Mr. Hardamer. I've other use for my money, just now, and this must be paid today."
"It is impossible!"
"It must be done," said the broker, angrily.
"But you know it is perfectly safe; and what is the use of your driving me to ruin. I cannot possibly pay the money today — it is as much as I can do to raise the interest."
"I don't know that it is so safe," replied Mr. Centum, doubtingly. "Property is beginning to fall. Besides, you are too extravagant in your family. Morrison told me yesterday, that your daughters' dry goods bill for the last three months, was over five hundred dollars!"
"He didn't tell the truth!" said Hardamer, quickly, and with a good deal of irritation in his manner.
"Well, I never caught him in a falsehood," replied the broker, calmly. "But that is neither here nor there. I cannot renew this note any longer. It must be paid today!"
"It cannot!" said Hardamer, despondingly.
"So much for befriending you!" replied the broker. "I never yet accommodated a man in trouble, that he didn't disappoint me. Do you suppose, when I lend you my money for a certain time, that I do not expect to get it when that time expires? If I find it convenient to renew, why, it's well enough. But if I don't, nobody has a right to complain. Whenever I need my money, it is my rule to get it. It's only my own that I ask for."
"But, surely, Mr. Centum, humanity would prompt you to make a small sacrifice in a case like mine. You know my situation as well as I do, and know that it is impossible for me to take up this note. I will pay almost any price for the money."
"It's no use for you to talk, Mr. Hardamer. You will be no more able to pay me six months from now, than you are today," said the broker.
"But I am not able to pay you today, as far as ready money is concerned."
"That's your problem," replied Mr. Centum, showing his teeth. "You are aware that I have my remedy."
"But you cannot, certainly, find it in your heart to break me up, with a large family upon my hands."
"Pooh! That's no concern of mine! I've got my own affairs to attend to, not yours. When a man borrows money, he ought to pay it, and make no fuss about it."
"You won't have the note protested, Mr. Centum, will you?" urged Hardamer, in a supplicating tone.
"Won't I?" replied Centum, with an angry grin, "just wait till three o'clock and see! I don't do my business by halves, and never did."
"In pity, spare me!" said Hardamer, in a voice of agony, driven almost to desperation at the thought of a failure in business.
"I've got no time to fool with you, Mr. Hardamer! Pay the note — or it will be protested, and the mortgage foreclosed tomorrow!" replied the broker, in a loud, angry voice, and abruptly left his office.
The evil day had at last fallen upon him, and there was no hope for poor Hardamer. In the last three months he had paid more than seven hundred dollars in exorbitant interest to Centum; and that individual, having played with him as long as he thought it prudent, now determined to bring matters to a crisis. His security, it is true, was ample, but there had been a slight decline in the value of property, and he had no idea of running the slightest risk. More than half of the twenty-five hundred dollars due to him, he had received in interest, during nine months, from Hardamer, who, in his eagerness to get money, had not hesitated to comply with the money lender's most unrighteous demands.
In a state of mind not easily imagined, did Hardamer wait until the town clock rang out, loud and clear, the hour of three. Every stroke of the bell fell upon his ear with a solemn, funeral sound. But after the last ringing reverberation had died on the air, he breathed more freely, and sat himself down to wait, in a state of forced calmness, the arrival of the notary. In the course of half an hour, that individual came tripping in, and, with a most unconcerned and unsympathizing face, asked for payment of the note.
"I have no money," said Hardamer, mechanically.
The notary threw down a protest upon the counter, and hurried away, while Hardamer took up the fearful document, and read it over, with strange composure.
It takes but a short time to wind up an honest debtor. Everything was given up by Hardamer, into the hands of a trustee, and the business brought to a settlement, as speedily as possible. His house was sold, and brought but three thousand five hundred dollars, which, with his good book accounts, paid off the whole of his indebtedness to everybody. Among the bills brought in, was that of Martin & Morrison, for dry goods, amounting to five hundred dollars. It was paid of course.
The business had proceeded as usual, for the two months during which it was in the course of settlement, under the superintendence of Hardamer. All his stock of leather, and some of the manufactured work was left in his possession, with about five hundred dollars. This constituted his whole capital, at the age of fifty-five, with which again to start in the world. His dwelling and shop, no longer his own, could not now be occupied, unless at a rent of six hundred dollars a year. This he was not able to pay, and he, therefore, looked out for a small dwelling, and for a shop separated from it, in some neighborhood where rents were lower.
A small dwelling-house in Vulcan Alley was advertised, and, upon ascertaining the rent to be one hundred and twenty dollars a year, he engaged it, without consulting anyone of his family.
"What do you think," said Genevra, coming up from the breakfast room, where she had learned from her mother, that her father had engaged a new house. "Pa's gone and rented a little pigeon-box up in Vulcan Alley, and is going to move away from here."
"It isn't possible!" exclaimed Gertrude, jumping up from the piano, at which she still continued to spend hours every day.
"It is possible, though!" said Genevra, bursting into tears.
"Well, I'll not go there! I'll die first!" said Gertrude, stamping upon the floor. "Pa's got no kind of spirit or consideration! Does he think we're going to be cramped down in that narrow hole, among servants and niggers?"
"You are wrong, Gertrude," said Genevieve, mildly. "Pa's in great trouble. He is now old, with a large family upon his hands, and all his property is gone!"
"He was a fool for giving it up; that's all I've got to say;" responded Gertrude, passionately. "No man is justified in robbing his family in that way!"
"Gertrude," said Genevieve, firmly, "you must not talk in that way about Pa. He has always been too indulgent to us, and now that he is old and in trouble, we ought to feel for him, and try to help him all we can."
"Nobody asked for your advice, Miss, so just shut up, will you!" replied Gertrude in a loud and angry voice.
"I spoke in vindication of father," Genevieve answered, mildly, but still firmly. "Say what you please to me, about myself, and I will be silent; but I cannot hear him spoken of unkindly, and remain silent."
"I wonder how long it is since you became so dutiful," said Genevra, with a sneer. "You've forgotten the hopeful young gentleman you ran off with last summer, haven't you?"
"Silence!" said Hardamer, in a loud angry voice, coming suddenly into the room from the passage, where he had heard the rebuke of Genevieve, and the cutting remark of Genevra.
"Do you know, hussy! who you are talking to, or what you are talking about?" he continued, much excited. "What is the meaning of this? How dare you talk to your sister thus. Your sister, who is better, in every sense of the word, than a dozen such proud, lazy, extravagant trollops as you are. Has she ever run me in debt like this, eh?" — exhibiting Martin & Morrison's bill of five hundred dollars. "I'll turn you out of the house in a minute, if I hear another unkind word from you to your sister. Why don't you go to work as she does, instead of abusing her, and try to help me a little in supporting you. I'll sell that piano, my lady!" he continued, turning to Gertrude, who still remained on the piano stool, and notwithstanding her father's anger, kept running her fingers over the keys in a careless, indifferent manner. "You'd better be mending stockings, a great sight!"
"Not exactly!" responded the young lady, drawing her lips together, and tossing her head quite significantly, at the same time continuing to let finger after finger fall upon the keys, in slow succession.
For a moment the father's feelings were roused to a degree that scarcely left him any control of himself; but, by a strong effort, he restrained the inclination he felt to box the young lady's ears, and turning upon his heel, went downstairs.
"Humph! sell the piano, indeed!" said Gertrude, as soon as her father was out of hearing. "I would like to see him try that trick! I reckon he'd find the house too hot to hold us all!"
"Indeed, indeed, Gertrude!" said Genevieve, "it is very wrong for you to speak in that way. I cannot bear it!"
"None of your gabble, Miss self-righteous!" responded Gertrude, turning up her nose with a sneer.
"She's got Pa on her side, now, and she thinks she is somebody," said Genevra. "But she needn't put her two-cents in where I'm concerned, I can tell her! She only sews here from morning till night, to curry favor with him."
"But how do you know, Genevra, that he's taken a house in Vulcan Alley?" said Gertrude, interrupting her.
"Why, I heard him tell Ma so, just now."
"And what did she say to it?"
"Why, she said it wouldn't do at all."
"Well, and what reply did he make to that?"
"He said it would do, and it should do. That he was going to take matters and things into his own hands now, and have them his own way."
"Hasn't he said that a hundred times," said Gertrude, with an incredulous toss of the head. "It's no use for him to talk; we're not going to live in that dirty hole, no matter what. Why, I'll die before I'll go there!"
In about fifteen minutes after the father turned abruptly from the room, and while Gertrude and Genevra were still in a state of great excitement, he re-entered, accompanied by a well-known piano maker.
"This is the instrument, Mr. Hamilton. But you know all about it. What do you think you can give me in cash for it?"
The girls startled, in utter astonishment; but a dark and threatening look from their father kept them silent; for there were times when they saw, in his countenance, that which they dared not oppose.
Mr. Hamilton examined the piano all around, struck the keys, and, after having satisfied himself, said —
"I can allow you something in the neighborhood of two hundred dollars."
"Very well. You can take it at that. I must teach my girls to play on some other instrument now. Every dog must have his day, and we have had ours."
"It's a pity to rob the young ladies of this sweet-toned instrument," said Mr. Hamilton, glancing at Gertrude and Genevra, whose countenances exhibited dismay and consternation. To counteract this, Hardamer cast on them a menacing look, and they were silent.
"A dutiful and affectionate daughter," he replied, "could take no pleasure in idling her time at the piano, while her old father was toiling from morning until night to support her; particularly, if, by her industry, she could lighten his burdens."
"True, sir, true," responded Mr. Hamilton. "Duty first, pleasure afterwards. But when do you wish me to take the instrument away?"
"At once, sir. Please send your men here immediately, and remove it. I wish to have the money as soon as I can lay my hands upon it."
"It shall be done," said Mr. Hamilton, bowing — and in half an hour the piano was gone.
The determined air with which all this was done, utterly bewildered the young ladies. They could not understand it at all. And they were not only astonished, but in a great degree dispirited. They could not but feel how vain would have been opposition to the case of the piano; and a painful sense of weakness and inability to oppose their father, came over them, and humbled their determined spirits.
"We're not going to live in Vulcan Alley, Ma, are we?" asked Gertrude, anxiously, that evening, after the father had retired to the shop.
"Yes, we are. Your father has taken a house, and will not be persuaded to give it up. I don't know what to do, he's in such a strange humor."
"It was cruel to take our piano," said Genevra, bursting into tears for the twentieth time since the instrument was taken away. "What shall I do with myself? I feel disgraced, too, for everybody of any standing has a piano."
"You'll find enough to do, I expect, without playing on the piano," replied her mother.
"What do you mean, Ma?" asked Gertrude, quickly.
"I mean, that you've all got to go to work and help to support the family," said Mrs. Hardamer. "Your father says so, and he is in no humor to be crossed."
"Never! I'll die first!" responded that young lady, indignantly.
"We'll see about that," said her mother, calmly. "There's always a way to do a thing. I don't, myself, see that there is any great harm in a young lady's employing her time usefully. I had to work when I was a girl, and I don't see that you are any better than I am. Your father has to work hard, and will have to work harder still to get bread for us all, and you are no better than he is."
"I'll die first!" broke in the pertinacious Gertrude, sobbing.
"I'm sure I cannot see that it is such a disgrace to work," said Genevieve, looking up from the garment upon which she was sewing. "Anne Webster does not think it a disgrace to work, and she — "
"Do you dare to even compare me with Anne Webster?" exclaimed Gertrude, her eyes flashing fire as she spoke.
"I have no wish to do so, Gertrude, if it is offensive to you," replied her sister. "I was only going to say, that Mrs. Flathers esteems her as her own daughter — and yet Anne sews for her all the while; and more, Mr. Marshall is going to marry her next week."
"How do you know that?" asked Gertrude, in astonishment, springing to her feet.
"Why, I had it from her own lips, yesterday, in Mrs. Flathers' presence. And more than that, Mrs. Flathers says that all Mr. Marshall's friends in Virginia approve the match, and that his father, mother, and sisters are to be here at the wedding."
"I don't believe a word of it!" said Genevra. "Mr. Marshall is not going to marry a poor servant girl, whom nobody knows. And I'd like to know, anyhow, where you saw Mrs. Flathers when she told you all this?"
"I heard it at Mrs. Flathers' own house," replied Genevieve, mildly.
"And what were you doing there?" asked Gertrude, in surprise.
"I go there every week to see Anne," said Genevieve. "And Mrs. Flathers is very kind and lady-like in her manner towards me. She has often told me how much she loves Anne, and says that she feels as near to her as if she were her own child. I never saw a girl of such pure principles, and such an innocent heart. 'Mr. Marshall, who is a son of my old and dearest friend, has indeed found a real treasure' — were the very words she used to me one day last week, when we were alone.
"And yet, Anne is busy all the while; and, what is more, Mrs. Flathers sits and sews with her by the hour; and we all know that she moves in the very first circle in the city. So you see, Gertrude, that it is not thought disgraceful to work, by the first ladies in town."
This was too much for the girls, and they hung their heads in silence. Two days after, this interesting family underwent the process of removing into a small two-story house in Vulcan Alley. It had a large back building, which afforded, with the front chambers and garret, room for the whole family.
Notwithstanding her determination to die first, Gertrude removed with the rest; and, in a sad state of mind, in which Genevra fully sympathized with her — settled herself down, hopeless of ever receiving a beau again, that was anybody.
In all the care, bustle, and confusion of removing, Genevieve was prompt, active, and thoughtful — while Gertrude and Genevra were, to the family, as the fifth wheel to a carriage, an incumbrance. The eyes of the father and mother, now fairly opened to the true character of their three oldest children, saw all this and their affectionate consideration for Genevieve greatly increased. Especially did her father feel his heart warming towards her; for, in the change of circumstances that had passed upon them, while the other two, and even his wife and younger children, were disheartened, which robbed him of all quiet of mind — Genevieve was ever active and cheerful. Particularly was she careful for his comfort. Every little attention that could in any way add to it, was promptly given, and with an evidence of affectionate regard, that softened the stern and harsh features of his character, and made him often feel towards her a degree of tenderness that his heart had but rarely known.
"You are a good girl, Genevieve," he said to her, a few days after they had moved, with a heartiness of tone, and a smile that warmed the heart of his child. He had just discovered some little attention, which her thoughtful regard had been prompt in executing, and its character had affected him. He had never before expressed to her, his consciousness of her dutiful regard, and these few words, which seemed to gush forth spontaneously, were a rich reward to her heart.
Ever since her unfortunate marriage, she had felt alone, forsaken and despised, even in her father's house, and only in the steady performance of duty had she found peace for her troubled spirit. True, he had, the week before, spoken well of her, in rebuking her sisters — but that was done in a moment of angry excitement. Now there was no mistaking the warmth of his feelings. She looked into his face with eyes instantly suffused, and with an expression of subdued, but heartfelt delight upon her countenance. She could not utter a word in reply, but he understood and felt the language of her face. Touching his lips to her forehead, an act of affection she had not received for years, he hastened away, his own heart overcome with rising emotions.
The gush of tears which relieved the oppressed feelings of Genevieve, were the most joyful tears which had ever fallen from her eyes.
"Is there anyone whom you would like to invite, Anne?" said Mrs. Flathers.
"You know, madam," said Anne Webster, in reply, "that I have few or no friends beyond this house; and yet there is one whom I would like to see here, if her presence would be agreeable to you?"
"And who is that, Anne?"
"It is Mrs. Genevieve Anderson. You have seen her here frequently, and I have often heard you speak kindly of her."
"I will invite her; and she shall be truly welcome," said Mrs. Flathers. "The more I see of her — the more she pleases me. She seems changing fast; and changing by the constant activity of good principles. Afflicting circumstances have done much for her. Would you like to have her sisters invited?"
"No, madam. Such a distinction would only inflame their false pride. Mrs. Anderson will only find encouragement from it, and it will strengthen her in the performance of her duties. I feel much interested in her, for she is struggling alone, with many oppositions, without and within. Her sisters despise her, and treat her with all manner of unkindness. An invitation from you may alter their estimation of her real character, and change their conduct towards her."
"I like your suggestion very much, Anne," replied Mrs. Flathers. "There are few precepts more binding upon us, than that which teaches us to help those who are struggling against their evils. Her father has become much reduced of late, I understand?"
"He is now," said Anne, "reduced so low as to leave his family entirely dependent upon his daily efforts for a subsistence. All his property is gone. But this, in my view, is not his only misfortune. Except in Mrs. Anderson, I doubt if he has an individual in his family who feels for him any true sympathy."
"Anne, I would think there could be few greater misfortunes than that."
"And yet, Mrs. Flathers, it is one, consequent upon his own neglect of the true interests of his family. Like too many others, he allowed his daughters to grow up in idleness, and in the vain pursuit of pleasure in dress and dissipation. Instead of teaching them, that only while in the performance of useful services to others, are we in the right sphere of action — they were left to draw the too prevailing conclusion, that others were to minister to their pleasures. Indulged in everything, is it any wonder that, in the end, an inordinate selfish desire should be formed, which could not in any degree sympathize with another, especially when their own sources of false pleasure were suddenly cut off? At present, owing to the darkness of their internal perceptions, through selfishness — they are unable to look upon their father's misfortunes in any other light than as affecting themselves; and can even censure him for mismanagement in his business, and consequent injustice to them."
"Surely," said Mrs. Flathers, in surprise, "you must be mistaken in supposing them so utterly lost to every genuine impulse of true feeling."
"I wish, for their own and for their father's sake, it were only an imaginary conclusion," replied Anne. "I have too often heard them express themselves, in reference to their father, in a way that justifies my remark."
"How true is it," remarked Mrs. Flathers, "that a wrong beginning, if not corrected — makes an evil ending. But, Anne, to change the subject; I hope you and Mr. Marshall have arranged to remain here after your marriage. I cannot part with you, at least for a time."
"I don't know what his intentions are, Mrs. Flathers," replied Anne, "for we have not conversed upon the subject. But, as far as I am concerned, nothing would gratify me more than to remain with you. We shall spend a few weeks, you know, in Virginia, with Mr. Marshall's family, and when we return, we shall, of course, be glad to find our home here, until other arrangements can be made."
"Look upon my home, my dear child, as your own home, as much as if it were your mother's house," said Mrs. Flathers, in a voice that slightly trembled. "And, after your husband, let me claim the next place in your affections."
"Never, while I live, my dear madam," replied Anne, with emotion, "can I forget your kindness and your love. In my heart, your place is next to that of my own dear mother."
"No higher place can I desire to hold, Anne. The mother, who so steadily, under privations and toil, continued to sow the seeds, and water the tender plants of good principles in your mind — should ever be first in your affections."
"O, Mrs. Flathers, she was a woman pure in heart and upright in intention! I wish you had known her." Anne's voice was broken with emotion.
"We would have been friends, Anne, had we known each other truly. But it was divine Providence that this should not occur."
"It was, Mrs. Flathers, and that Providence is wise and good."
"I need hardly tell you, my dear child, that only in such an acknowledgment, is there true happiness to be found. This lesson you have long since learned."
"I have not learned it so perfectly," replied Anne, "but that it will bear a frequent repetition. We are too much inclined to expect things to occur in a certain way, pleasing to our selfish desires; and when, in the wisdom of Providence, they take a contrary direction, for a time, our disappointed feelings obscure our affection for real good, and bring inward distrust and dissatisfaction. At such times, how merciful is the Lord to us, in not allowing this excitement of evil, to destroy the good that has been formed within us; but, in providing in the interiors of the mind, a place for it to retire and rest in safety, until the evil brought out into activity is subdued, when it again appears and rules in our affections. How profoundly do I feel, at times, Mrs. Flathers, that without Him, who is the Alpha and Omega, I am nothing!"
"And we are nothing," said Mrs. Flathers, "apart from Him. All the good that is in us — is from the Lord. Every good affection, and every good thought that we have, are from Him. And we should never forget, that to give to ourselves praise for a good act, is to take away from Him what is justly His due, and therefore indulging in spiritual robbery. It is well to fix in our minds a true understanding of things, and to call them by their right names. By so doing, we shall be less likely to run into error, through ignorance, and thus be made to feel painfully an evil, before perceiving it."
A servant coming in at the moment, interrupted the conversation; and when Mrs. Flathers left the room in a few minutes — Anne was left alone with her own pleasant thoughts. Marshall had not been long in making an impression upon her heart, and when he asked for her hand, she yielded it without hesitation, for Mrs. Flathers had borne testimony, from long acquaintance, to his pure principles.
On the day following that on which the conversation just alluded to occurred, between Mrs. Flathers and Anne — a servant knocked at the door of Mr. Hardamer's dwelling, in Vulcan Alley. He handed in a note directed to Mrs. Anderson. Gertrude and Genevra were alone in the parlor, and one of them received it.
"What is that?" asked Gertrude of her sister.
"It's a note for Genevieve, on gilt-edged note paper."
"Who's it from? Open it, and let us see what is in it," said Gertrude promptly.
Without hesitation, the note was opened, and Genevra read, "Mrs. Flathers' compliments to Mrs. Anderson; she will be pleased to have Mrs. Anderson's company on Thursday evening, at seven o'clock."
"Are you sure it's for her?" asked Gertrude, incredulously.
"Certainly! It's for Mrs. Anderson," replied Genevra.
"Maybe it's for some other Mrs. Anderson," said Gertrude. "I think we'd better not show it to her, for if we do, she'll be sure to go, and make a fool of herself. I am certain it can't mean her."
"I don't know that we should do this," responded Genevra. "I wonder what's to be done there?"
"Anne is to be married, I suppose, sure enough. Well, there's no accounting for tastes. Who could have dreamed that a man like Marshall would marry such a low-bred creature as Anne Webster! A pretty figure she'll cut! I'd like to be at the wedding, just to see how she acts. I reckon she'll hardly know whether she's on her head — or on her heels. Humph! Isn't it too bad!" and Gertrude tossed her head disdainfully.
"If this is the way the thing works," remarked Genevra, "I see no use in trying to be something. A person might just as well take things fair and easy, and trust to its coming out right. If men will prefer such base creatures as Anne — what's the use of trying to be genteel? It makes me mad, so it does!"
"I don't reckon he's much, anyhow," said Gertrude," I always thought there was something low-lived about him. He wants to make a slave of his wife, I suppose — and has been attracted to Anne because she can work. If he had married me — I would have told him another story, the base fellow!"
"But what shall we do with this invitation?" asked Genevra, interrupting Gertrude.
"Why, burn it up! I'd never let her see it," replied Gertrude, a good deal excited.
"But maybe she'll find it out."
"Well, suppose she does? Who cares? I am sure that I don't. She's not going to crow over me in this way, I know!"
Acting out their evil intention, the sisters concealed the note in one of their drawers, intending to burn it on the first opportunity. It so happened that Genevieve had occasion to go to this very drawer about an hour after, when her eye fell upon the crumpled note, bearing her own address. She took it up and read it, and understood too well why it had not reached her. Replacing it, she determined in her own mind not to let them know that she had seen it, but to go to the wedding in accordance with the invitation. On Thursday she told her mother that she had been invited to see Anne married, and in the afternoon prepared to go. Gertrude and Genevra could not, of course, forget that this was the evening named in the invitation, and they were not a little surprised to perceive that their sister was making unusual preparations to go out.
"Where are you going, Genevieve?" asked Genevra, whose curiosity exceeded her indisposition to question her sister.
"I am going to Anne Webster's wedding," she replied, quietly.
"Not without an invitation, certainly," said Genevra, thrown off her guard.
"Of course not, Genevra," replied her sister.
"But I never saw an invitation for you! When did you receive it?" said Genevra, with unguarded warmth.
This declaration pained Genevieve exceedingly; and, after a few moment's reflection, she replied, in a serious tone:
"I am grieved, exceedingly, Genevra, that you are so unjust to yourself, as to have tried to do me a wrong — and then to say what is untrue about it, without having been asked a question. Surely, you ought to have been content with concealing my note of invitation, and not have added to your wrong action, by a voluntary denial of what you had done. No one but yourself can suffer by this. You see, it has done me no harm. I cannot understand, Genevra, why you should so perseveringly try to wound my feelings, and not even content with that, to endeavor to do me a greater wrong. Surely, your own heart must tell you that I have enough of suffering, without your adding a single pang. I have not mentioned what you have done to anyone, and do not intend mentioning it. But let me entreat of you, as you value your peace of mind — to give way no longer to the unkind feelings you entertain towards me. I have given you no cause for them, and you can only entertain them to your own injury."
Genevra, thus suddenly and unexpectedly convicted of a wrong action, was so confounded as to be unable to utter a word. She hung her head in silence. For the first time in her life, she stood consciously rebuked before her sister, and so humbled that she knew not what to say. Perceiving, instinctively, her true state of mind, Genevieve took her hand, and continued, in a low, tremulous tone:
"My dear sister, you are not happy; nor can you remember when you were last happy. In vain will you look abroad for the dear desire of your heart. It cannot thus be found, though you search for a whole lifetime. Your happiness must come from within. Your own heart, Genevra, must be rightly tuned — or it will never give forth a pleasant sound. For a long, long time, you have indulged in selfish desires. Your world has been a little circle — and yourself the center. But have you found contentment? Your trembling hand — that tear on your cheek, tell me, no!"
"O, sister, I am so unhappy," sobbed out the poor girl, leaning her head upon the shoulder of Genevieve, in sudden abandonment of feeling.
"And yet you need not be so, my dear sister," said Genevieve, in a voice of tender concern, drawing, at the same time, an arm around the waist of Genevra. "If your search after happiness has not been successful — it is because you have not discovered its true source. But there is happiness, and it is for you, if you will only accept of it. Allow me to direct your mind aright in this matter. Hitherto, you have cared only to gratify yourself. You have not thought of others as having claims upon you. But the attainment of every selfish desire — has only created new desires — too many of which you have found it impossible to realize. And thus, every time your wishes have been gratified — you have had new causes of discontent. If you would be happy, these exclusively selfish desires must be laid aside, and you must begin to consider others with feelings of kindness. You must begin to think that, as a member of society, there are duties which you are required to perform; and that if you neglect these duties, someone, or many, must suffer. The word duty may seem to you harsh and repulsive. But the more you find, by practice, its true meaning — the more pleasant will be its sound to your ear.
"And, first of all, your duties should commence at home. Consider, for a moment, our father — declining in years, ruined in business, and burdened with a large family. Can you do nothing, as his daughter, to lighten his toil? Are there no little attentions which you can render, which will make him feel his home to be a pleasant place, and cause him to think of his Genevra with a glow of heart-felt satisfaction? If nothing more, you can, at least, in his presence, seem to be cheerful, and not, by a distressed countenance — make him ever feel that his children are discontented with the best he can do for them. Forget yourself in this matter — and consider him. He has need, as your father, of all your affectionate consideration. And think, if there is anything that you can do, to make your mother's daily labors less fatiguing. Here are three of us — surely, Ma need not be the servant of us all! Rather, let us lighten her burdens, by taking them upon ourselves, and making her feel that we have for her a tender, filial regard. If each of us were to try her best to make the others happy — what a pleasant family we would make! Can you not see, my dear sister, that in so doing, you would be far happier than you have ever been?"
"I do! I do," responded Genevra, sobbing.
"Then resolve, my sister, that you will try to be more considerate of others; and that, instead of caring only for yourself — you will endeavor to add to the happiness of those around you. Your reward will be a peace far deeper and purer, than any that has ever yet filled your heart."
"O, Genevieve, how much I have wronged you!" said Genevra, lifting her head, and looking into her sister's face with an expression of deep penitence. "And yet, you have been so patient! — so kind!"
"Be not pained, Genevra, on this account. Let us be hereafter as sisters," responded Genevieve, pressing her lips to the burning cheek of the weeping girl.
"I shall never be able to lift my head, again. O, I have been so thoughtless! so wicked!" continued Genevra. "How could I have been so selfish! I never once thought that others required a performance of my duties. How shall I ever atone for my past wrongs?"
"Let good resolutions, deeply grounded, take the place of afflicting thoughts — and all will be well," said Genevieve, encouragingly.
"O, I shall never be as I have been, again," she said.
"I trust not, Genevra," replied her sister. "But you will have a hard battle to fight. Your evils are not subdued — they have only retired — and will again show themselves, and enter into combat with the good resolutions formed in your mind. Then will come the time when it will require all your strength and courage, to fight against the active evils of your heart, which have grown powerful by long indulgence. But if you look up to God for aid, whose ear is ever open — He will surely help you. In your own strength, remember, my dear sister, that you can do nothing — but trusting in the Lord, no evil can subdue you."
"I will make the effort," replied Genevra, with a serious, but calm countenance.
"In the strength of our Heavenly Father, you will come off more than conqueror," said Genevieve, tenderly.
That evening, after Genevieve had gone to the wedding, her father needed a clean shirt, as he had a society-meeting to attend.
"Where is Genevieve?" he asked, in a tone that indicated the need of something.
"She has gone out, Pa," said Genevra, rising from her chair, and advancing towards him. "Do you want anything?"
"Only a shirt," he replied. "But never mind, I can get it."
"Let me get it for you, Pa," she said, going into his chamber, and quickly returning with a white shirt, which she had neatly folded for him.
The father said nothing. But the look which he cast upon his child, was to her a sweet reward.
After he had gone out, instead of folding her hands, as usual, in gloomy idleness — Genevra sat down by her mother, and offered to assist her in sewing.
Gertrude looked up with surprise, on hearing Genevra's remark; but when she saw her actually begin to sew on one of her younger sister's frocks — her astonishment broke out into words, and she said, sneeringly —
"What's in the wind, now?"
"Nothing!" replied Genevra. "Only I begin to think it hardly right to sit in idleness — while Ma is hard at work."
"If she chooses to work her eyes out, that's no reason that I should," said Gertrude, in an irritated tone. "You've grown mighty considerate, all at once, upon my word! I thought something was wrong with you, when you pattered off so fussily after Pa's shirt. But you got no thanks for your trouble."
Now this was a pretty severe trial for Genevra, and she found her resentful feelings a good deal excited. But she only replied —
"It was not because I wanted thanks, Gertrude. But Pa wished for a shirt, and Genevieve was away."
"Fiddle-stick on Genevieve! I wish she would stay away!"
"I don't think we ought to feel so unkindly towards her," said Genevra, in an earnest tone. "She never interferes with us. We have been very much to blame for our actions towards her, Gertrude."
"You don't say so!" responded Gertrude, with a sneer. "But, in the name of wonder, what has broken loose in your mind? You were very fierce the other day, to hide her invitation, and then to burn it!"
"What invitation?" asked Mrs. Hardamer, with a look of surprise.
"Her invitation to Anne Webster's wedding, Ma," replied Genevra. "It fell into our hands, and we were so ill-natured as to conceal it from her, and then to destroy it. But, before we had burned it, she saw it by accident; and, saying nothing about it, prepared herself for the wedding-party, and went, as you know, this evening. Surprised at her knowledge of the invitation, I could not help saying something to her, when she convicted me in such mild, but strong terms, of my evil intentions towards her, that I felt rebuked and humbled. She did not get angry, and chide me with any warmth of feeling — but pictured to me, so clearly, the wrong I did to myself, as well as to her, that I could not utter a word in reply. I feel sensible that I have acted from very bad motives and feelings. And I have resolved to do better, if I can."
"Well, you are a fool!" exclaimed Gertrude, rising to her feet in utter astonishment. "I believe the whole family is going crazy!"
Genevra made no reply; for something seemed to whisper to her, that it could do no good. And, although she desired, very greatly, to make the effort to correct her sister's wrong ideas, yet she contended with this desire, and remained silent.
The great change which had become apparent in Genevieve, could not be without its effect upon her mother. For some time, it is true, Mrs. Hardamer entertained feelings of unkindness towards her, for the disgrace she had brought upon the family by her unhappy marriage; but her uniform mildness of temper, and constant efforts to lighten her mother's burdens, gradually changed her feelings; and she had now begun to feel a degree of affection for her, which she could not entertain towards Gertrude and Genevra. The unhappy temper displayed by the two latter, had, for a long time past, almost discouraged her; and, as any opposition to them, as far as she was concerned, only brought about discord, and violent exhibitions of anger and disobedience — she had been driven for quietude, if not peace, to an apparent indifference to their actions. This position of things was bringing about for her, by slow, but sure changes, a new state of mind. And this state consisted in a better perception of what should really be desired as the proper end of life.
So sudden and unlooked for a change in Genevra, struck her with surprise. But it was a surprise that sent a thrill of delight to her bosom. Up to the angry exclamation of Gertrude, she had remained silent. That Genevra did not respond to it, pleased her greatly, although she could hardly tell why, for she was no close observer of mental operations. Feeling now called upon to say something, she replied to Gertrude:
"If not disposed to do right yourself, Gertrude — at least allow others to act in a better way. Genevra is right, and, in continuing as she has begun, she will find her reward in a quiet mind. Let me beg of you, Gertrude," and the tears came into the mother's eyes, "to imitate so good an example."
"Don't preach to me, Ma!" responded Gertrude, angrily, hastily leaving the room, and slamming the door after her.
Mrs. Hardamer took off her spectacles, wiped her eyes, replaced them, and attempted to continue her sewing. But the moisture again accumulated, and threw a mist over everything. Again she removed her glasses, dried her eyes, and again replaced them. But it was no use, the tears stole out and again blinded her. Placing her arm upon the worktable, and leaning her head upon her hand, she allowed her feelings to take their course. Still plying her needle and seeming not to observe her, Genevra, ever turned an earnest look towards her mother, and not without emotion did she perceive tear after tear stealing over her hand and dropping to the floor. Were they tears of joy — or tears of sorrow?
It was after ten o'clock that night when Mr. Hardamer came home from the meeting he had attended. His wife was sitting up for him, alone — and as he entered, he could not but observe that her face wore an expression which was new, and somewhat strange, yet by no means painful. She looked him in the eyes so steadily, as he sat down beside the table at which she was still sewing, and seemed about to speak, yet unable, from some cause, to bring her thoughts out into words, that he said, to break the silence:
"Has anything happened?"
There was something in the tone of her husband's voice which was more tender and subdued than usual, and, it had the effect still more to soften her feelings. The tears sprang into her eyes, and he perceived that, from emotion, she could not trust herself to speak. A new and sudden interest in the happiness of his wife, arose in his bosom, and turning to her a look of affectionate concern, he said —
"Something weighs upon your mind more than usual. Let me share it with you, whether it is pleasant or painful."
"It is both pleasant and painful, my husband," she replied, while the tears that had been ready to gush forth, rolled over her cheeks, in which both years and care had made many deep lines. She bent her face down upon the table, and sobbed aloud, unable longer to restrain her feelings.
Hardamer did not interrupt her, and in a short time her emotion subsided. Raising her head, she looked him again in the face and said,
"Something has happened tonight that has given me great pleasure. Genevra has changed, suddenly, for the better; and, like her sister Genevieve, seems anxious to do all she can to make things more pleasant and comfortable."
"Indeed!" responded Hardamer, his face brightening up. "Well, I thought it a little strange of her tonight, when she volunteered to get my shirt, and seemed so pleased in handing it to me. But what can be the cause of it?"
"Why, so far as I can understand it," replied Mrs. Hardamer, "both Genevra and Gertrude were so ill-natured as to hide away, and then to destroy — a note of invitation for Genevieve to attend the wedding party at Mrs. Flathers'. But, it so happened, that Genevieve accidentally saw it before it was destroyed, and without saying a word about it, prepared herself to go, this afternoon. Genevra said something to her, when Genevieve convicted her so unexpectedly of the wrong action, and then, I suppose, talked so kindly to her, that Genevra softened down, and then resolved to do better. I would think it an excellent sign, to see her so soon trying to act upon her good resolutions."
"Indeed it is," replied her husband, his mind in a state of pleasing wonder. "Well, after all, I shall begin to think that some good can even come out of trouble. There is no denying that Genevieve has very much changed for the better, since her unhappy marriage — and changed, too, in spite of all the neglect and unkindness she has experienced in her own house. And now, to find Genevra imitating her good example, is wonderful indeed!" Mr. Hardamer's voice slightly trembled.
"There came suddenly into my memory tonight," said Mrs. Hardamer, in reply, "while I sat here, these words, 'Sweet are the uses of adversity.' I never seemed to understand them before. But now I begin to see what they mean. I am sure I feel happier tonight, notwithstanding all our outward reverses — than I ever felt while we were prosperous. I think we have looked too much to the outward things of the world, as desirable — and too little to that state of mind, which, after all, is to constitute our happiness or misery. I mean, to that condition of mind, which makes us contented with the present — and desirous that all around us should feel a like degree of contentment.
Mr. Hardamer listened with pleasure and surprise to the words of his wife. She had never been disposed, through her whole life, to give much attention to other than mere external things, and his surprise was excited at hearing her make a remark that seemed to him so sound, and which involved an idea above what he had thought her capable of conceiving. He knew not, that, so soon as the mind begins to have an affection for goodness — its condition is at once made more healthy, and that it acts with new vigor.
"Your thoughts have been running in the same channel with mine," replied her husband. "I think with you, that there is great room for improvement, and I feel a strong disposition to enter upon a change of desires and aims, at once. Even for the few minutes that we have been talking, I can perceive a new light breaking in upon my mind, and it reveals many things that I was not conscious existed there, and which I at once acknowledge to be wrong."
At that moment, a carriage was heard to drive up to the door, and, in a minute after, Genevieve entered. It was about eleven o'clock when she came in, and she was surprised at finding her father and mother, who usually retired early, up at so late an hour.
"Did you come home in that carriage?" said her father with an encouraging smile.
"Yes, sir. Mrs. Flathers insisted upon sending me home."
"That was very kind in her," remarked Mrs. Hardamer. "And so I suppose Anne is married?" she added, without the tone of her voice indicating the dislike she had so long entertained.
"Yes, mother, she is married," replied Genevieve, pleased at finding her friend alluded to, without the usual sneer.
"I always thought Anne a good girl," said Mr. Hardamer.
"Indeed, father, she is. I cannot tell you how many good lessons and principles she has taught me. Had it not been for her, I know not how I should have borne up under the trials and troubles of the past year!" Genevieve's voice trembled, and she regained the command of her feelings, only by a strong effort.
Mrs. Hardamer, self-convicted of having wronged the friendless girl, and of having, ever since, entertained towards her feelings of unkindness — was a good deal moved by Genevieve's words and manner. After a few moments of silence, she said —
"There is always danger of our passing a wrong judgment upon others; and I have, I believe, been guilty of misjudging Anne Webster. You can say so to her, Genevieve, when you again see her; and if ever I meet her, I will acknowledge it to her myself."
Genevieve looked surprised and delighted at this confession.
"Anne has always spoken kindly of you, mother," she said. "Whenever I see her, she asks about you; and she expresses for you a degree of interest that I could hardly have expected her to entertain."
"She is a good girl, I doubt not," said Mr. Hardamer, "and I know she has obtained a good husband. May God bless them!" he added, with feeling, taking up a light, and retiring to his chamber.
On the next morning, while the family were at the breakfast table, Gertrude said, with a sneer, at the same time glancing at Genevieve —
"I suppose Anne Webster didn't know whether she was on her head or her heels, last night!"
"She was as collected, and as easy in her manners as ever," replied Genevieve, with a smile.
"No doubt!" responded Gertrude, with another sneer, and a toss of the head. "She is just base-minded enough to be free and easy anywhere."
"Gertrude!" said Mr. Hardamer, looking her steadily, and somewhat sternly in the face. "I cannot permit such remarks in my presence. Anne Webster, or rather Mrs. Marshall, is every inch a lady, and has found her true level in society. She was not well-treated here, because there was no one in this house who could appreciate her real worth and character, but Genevieve. Hereafter I shall expect no more such allusions to her, intended only to wound the feelings of your sister."
Surprised at this rebuke, Gertrude glanced at her mother, who, she well knew, had entertained like feelings with herself in regard to Anne. Mrs. Hardamer understood the meaning of this mute appeal, and said —
"Your father is right, Gertrude, and we have all been wrong! Hereafter, let us endeavor to judge more righteous judgment of others."
"You're a — !" but the evil-minded girl checked the word as it was forming on her tongue, and, instantly self-convicted of wrong, she arose hastily from the table and retired to her chamber.
Hardamer and his wife understood too well the thought that was in the mind of their child, and they finished their meal in silence, deeply pained at heart.
About ten o'clock on the same morning, as Mr. Hardamer was busily engaged behind his counter in cutting out work, an elderly man entered, and with an expression of countenance, which he could not but observe to be peculiar — and asked if his name was Hardamer.
"That is my name," he replied, looking into the stranger's face inquiringly.
"And my name is Anderson," said the stranger.
"Anderson!" ejaculated Hardamer, with a sudden startle, while a shade of painful feeling settled upon his countenance.
"You have true cause, sir, to be pained at the mention of that name; for, if I am rightly informed, one who bore it, has trifled with the hopes and happiness of your child, and through her, deeply wounded you," said the stranger, in a voice evidently agitated by emotions, against the influence of which, he was vainly struggling.
"And why do you thus open wounds but half-healed over?" asked Hardamer, with a voice and expression of sternness.
"I would only open — but to heal more surely," said the stranger, affecting to smile, but it was a feeble smile. "I am the father of the unhappy young man who married your daughter!"
"His father!" exclaimed Hardamer, in surprise. "Then, my dear sir, what news do you bring from one, towards whom I cannot be expected to entertain very kind feelings?"
"Good news, I hope, sir," replied old Mr. Anderson. "He is a changed man, and I have good reasons for believing the change to be radical. This change has been in progress for many months, and, from observing it closely, and with all a parent's scrutinizing and doubting anxiety, I feel sure that it is genuine."
The events of a year had broken down the feelings of Hardamer, and robbed him of much of the control over himself that he had once possessed. The suddenness of this news, as well as its character, and the manner, appearance, and evident emotion of the stranger who stood before him in a new and unexpected relation — all combined to affect him powerfully. He covered his face with his hands, and leaned down upon the counter, evidently struggling to keep fast hold of his self-possession. In a few moments he lifted his head, and exhibited a countenance paler than before, and touched with a tenderer expression. He passed round the counter, and coming in front of Mr. Anderson, took his hands in both of his, and while his lip quivered slightly, and his voice trembled, said —
"We are, it seems, companions in a single sorrow — and it has been deep and painful to both of our hearts. Let us be friends."
This was answered by a hard pressure of the hand from Mr. Anderson, for he could not reply.
"And now, sir, be seated, and tell me of your son," continued Hardamer.
After they had retired into a small room at the back of the shop, Mr. Anderson said:
"My boy, after he had so cruelly, and unrighteously deserted your daughter — of whose marriage with him I knew nothing — went to the south, where a dangerous illness put a sudden check upon his career of folly. Recovering, partially, from this, he returned home, broken in spirits, and well near broken in constitution. For years previous to this, I had been grieved at witnessing his entire devotion to self. Gradually, and from the effect of the operation of right thoughts — he began to show a concern for those around him. This, I at once perceived to be the beginning of a new life, if the feeble spark could be made to spread and at last kindle into a flame. And it did spread — slowly, very slowly, but steadily. He spoke not of this change himself — and seemed by no means encouraged by it; indeed, it had the effect to render him very unhappy at times — though, in general, he was cheerful in the presence of everyone.
"Sometimes, I could see that he was weighed down with a more than ordinary concern; and I at last began to fear, that he had, in his days of folly, committed some crime that now caused him to tremble. This concern seemed to increase, as he grew more and more thoughtful about the happiness of all around him. At length, it reached a point in his mind which rendered it impossible to conceal it longer, and he related to me the fact of his marriage with your daughter, and his intention to return to Baltimore for her, and do all in his power to make her future days happier, than he had rendered some of those which are past. He is here with me for that purpose."
For some time Mr. Hardamer was silent. There was a powerful struggle within, of the selfish principle. He was not glad, at this unexpected news; for, at once, the idea of losing the child who, of all his children, evinced a degree of concern and tenderness for him that had become, in his present condition, necessary to his happiness, presented itself, and he could not endure it. But he saw this to be wrong, and struggling against it for a few moments, said —
"What you tell me, ought to fill me with peculiar pleasure. I wish I could say that it did. Misfortunes have narrowed down my sources of happiness, and almost the only one I now have, is this same child, whom you have come to take away from me." The old man's voice again trembled. "She is greatly changed, sir, since her marriage. Affliction of mind has purified, as well as chastened her; and she is now everything a father's heart could desire. God bless her, and your son too — if he is changed as much as she is!"
And old Mr. Hardamer could restrain his feelings no longer, but bent down his head, and sobbed like a child. Mr. Anderson, too, was moved, and after the pause of a few moments, said —
"Sweet are the uses of adversity."
"Just the words my wife spoke last night," ejaculated Hardamer, raising his head suddenly, his countenance instantly undergoing a change. "Her very words! And now I remember that I have hope still. Another one of my proud, foolish girls is beginning to feel her sister's example. Thank Heaven, I have hope that I shall see my Genevieve happy — and not be robbed of all comfort myself. It is true, but I never could have believed it — 'Sweet are the uses of adversity!'"
Genevieve sat sewing at the window on the same morning on which the interview between her father and Mr. Anderson occurred. Her mother and Genevra were near her, also busy with the needle, and Gertrude sat apart from them all, reading a novel — her mind being in a moody and gloomy condition. It was probably about eleven o'clock when the door opened and the father entered with a stranger. Genevieve arose to her feet and looked them both in the face inquiringly. All the morning she had been thinking, with more than her usual anxious tenderness of feeling, about her absent husband, and the instant her father entered in company with an elderly man, a stranger — her heart intimated, that the visit had some connection or other with the one who occupied her thoughts more and more every day. She was not long kept in suspense.
"This is my Genevieve," said Mr. Hardamer, advancing towards his daughter, and taking hold of her hand. "And a dear, good girl she is! If your son has changed as much as she has changed in a few months — then will they be very happy together. And may Heaven bless them!" he added, fervently, his voice trembling down into an inaudible tone.
Old Mr. Anderson came forward quickly, and grasped the hand of Genevieve.
"God bless you, my child!" he said, kissing her pale cheek. "I have come to restore to you your husband. And, I would gladly hope, that he is worthy to claim your hand." Mr. Anderson could utter no more. The tender emotions awakened by the interview, unmanned him.
The feelings of the aged, are less subject to their control, than the feelings of those in the vigor of middle life. He leaned his head upon the shoulder of his new found child, and wept.
The whole scene, so sudden and so unexpected, startled Mrs. Hardamer, and the two sisters. Gertrude was confounded — Genevra surprised and delighted. Mr. Anderson's appearance at once commanded respect, and his mild, benevolent countenance gave a favorable impression of his character. In a few minutes, a more orderly introduction took place, and such explanations were given, as enabled each one to perceive the new position which affairs had assumed. There was but one heart present which did not warm with a pure delight — and that was the heart of Gertrude. Instead of rejoicing at the happy change about to take place in the truly hard lot of her sister — a feeling of envy and hatred was aroused. She felt rebuked by the whole scene — and that annoyed and irritated her.
About one week after old Mr. Anderson had left home, a neighbor stopped at the door and left a letter for his wife. He had been to the post-office, and seeing a letter there, directed to her — had brought it along with him. Retiring at once to her own room, Mrs. Anderson broke the seal, and read:
"My Dear Jane: You are painfully anxious, I know, to hear from me; and I now write to relieve your suspense, and, at the earliest moment that I can do so. I have seen the wife of our dear, erring, but repentant boy; and they have met, and been reconciled. But who is she? — and what is she? These are the first questions, to which your heart yearns for an answer. In a word, then, she seems to be all that we could desire. A few months of painful disappointments and trials, have done much for her, or her character. Her father, during the last year, has failed in business, and been much reduced in circumstances. This reverse, from all that I can see, has wrought upon him a beneficial change, and other members of his family seem also to feel a like happy influence.
"When I called upon him, alone, and announced my name, he did not, at first receive me kindly; but, in a few moments he softened down, and I saw that the man was sound at heart. His affections are warmly centered upon the child our boy has married; and this deep affection has been called out during the past year. After her desertion, as far as I can learn, she was treated with great unkindness by all of the family — and by her father, with coldness and indifference. Cut off from all hope of future distinction in society, which had been her ruling passion, and having added to this, the sorrows of a disappointed affection, and the pains of cruel persecution and neglect — she was driven into the right way.
"It seems, that, as a measure of relief from the distracting thoughts that passed through her mind, and the gloomy feelings that oppressed her — she resorted to the various domestic employments incident to a family, that had before seemed degrading in her eyes. Her father's reverses, no doubt, awakened a lively sympathy in her mind, and she, therefore, sought to alleviate his trouble in every possible way. And you know how much it is in the power of a child, by little attentions and affectionate care — to soothe the heart of a parent whose mind is not at ease.
"Once in the right way, under circumstances, too, where the only relief the mind can obtain from sad thoughts, is while walking in that way, and there is everything to hope. It seems that she never thought of looking back. The beautiful flowers that she found, ever and always, springing on her new pathway — wooed her onward. And, as she continued to move forward, the flowers became more frequent, and their perfume sweeter. The change in her, if what she once was, be truly told me — is far greater than that in our dear boy. I already love her; and I know you will take her at once to your bosom.
"I saw her before William did. Poor boy! As the moment approached for him to meet face to face the woman with whose affections he had so cruelly trifled — his heart seemed to fail him. But I took words to him from his wife, and when they met, there was an instant oblivion of the past and a world of new affection created in their hearts. They were allowed to meet alone. No eye but that of the Invisible, should look upon such an interview.
"The day after tomorrow we shall start for home; and, of course, our new found daughter-in-law will return with us. She seems overjoyed at what has happened; and I can perceive that there exists between her and our William, just such an affection, notwithstanding the past, as my heart delights to see. I trust that I am not allowing my gratified feelings to create false hopes; but it seems to me that our last days are going to be our happiest. How wonderfully is evil overruled for good! How often does true delight spring from the operations of deep afflictions! But I shall soon be with you, and then I can say to you a thousand things now crowding upon my thought. Your affectionate husband."
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Anderson? What in the world has brought you this far from home?" said an elderly man, advancing with a quick step across the deck of a steamboat, which was gliding swiftly down the Potomac, two days after the preceding letter was written.
"And how do you do, Mr. Marshall," responded the individual addressed, grasping the hand that was extended towards him.
"But what are you doing way over here? You haven't answered me that yet?" said the first speaker.
"Why, I suppose I am on some such business as you are, friend Marshall," he replied smiling.
"Oh! Yes! William has been taking a wife, then, has he? Well, that's clever. Who did he marry?"
"You jump to conclusions as rapidly as ever, I see," replied Mr. Anderson. "But I suppose you are half right, at least. The name of my new daughter was Hardamer."
At the mention of that name, a well grown boy, rather poorly dressed, who had been standing against the railing, startled and turned upon the two individuals a look of inquiring interest.
"Hardamer," repeated Mr. Marshall, musingly. "Well, I believe I never heard of that name before. I hope she's as good a girl as my boy's got, for I think your William will make a very fine man. He sowed some wild oats, it is true. But he has gathered in the troublesome harvest, and, I suppose, is tired of that kind of farming. I wish you joy, my old friend!" he added, again shaking the hand of Mr. Anderson. "The young folk are all snug in the cabin, I suppose, and have discovered each other before this," he continued. "Well, we'll let them enjoy themselves by themselves, for a while. Young blood doesn't always mix well with old blood."
"Who has Ralph married?" asked Mr. Anderson, as his old friend and neighbor paused,
"Well, I can't say that I know much about her, except that her name was Anne Webster, and that she seems to have the disposition of an angel," replied Mr. Marshall.
"And an angel she is!" murmured the boy just mentioned, whose ears were taking in every word that passed between the individuals who were talking. But they heard him not; nor, indeed, did they notice his presence.
Just at that moment, the whole party from below emerged upon deck — consisting of the wife of old Mr. Marshall, her son and his young bride, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, and Marshall's two sisters.
The two young men were old acquaintances. They had been brought up together. And the reader understands perfectly the relation which Anne and Genevieve bore to each other. A few brief, but somewhat embarrassing explanations took place, when the parties all so unexpectedly met in the cabin, upon the starting of the steamboat; and then mutual and sincere congratulations ensued.
The boy moved away as he saw them approaching, and retired to another part of the boat. A close observer could readily have perceived, that, from some cause, his mind was ill at ease. His face was pale and thin, and he seemed by no means possessed of the healthful vigor usual to boys of his age. He went far forward, upon the bow of the boat, and resting his arms upon the railing, stood looking with a vacant gaze upon the surface of the water. A heavy sigh soon told that his thoughts were busy with no pleasing subjects; and, as if to get rid of them, he got up from his half recumbent position, and commenced walking backwards and forwards. After the passage of half an hour, he moved towards the back part of the boat. His eyes rested upon Anne and Genevieve, seated alone, in earnest conversation, and he paused hesitatingly. Then, as if from a sudden resolution, he walked forward to where they were sitting, and stood before them.
"Ike, is it possible!" exclaimed at once, both Genevieve and Anne, looking with surprise and concern into the face of the pale and agitated boy.
"Yes, it is me; or at least all that is left of me," replied Ike Wilson — for it was none other than he — endeavoring to put on an unconcerned expression of countenance, as a means of controlling his feelings.
"Well, Ike, what are you doing now?" asked Genevieve, or Mrs. Anderson, in a voice of kind concern.
"I'm not doing anything just now, Miss Genevieve," he replied, and his voice trembled in spite of his efforts to seem composed, while his tone was sad and even desponding. "I've been ill for two months, and, of course, could not work much all that time. If it hadn't been that I was living with a kind-hearted, though very poor old woman, who, I believe, was good to me because she had a wild son who had gone away — I must have been sent to the poorhouse. After I got well enough to work, I could get nothing to do in Georgetown. I heard of work to be had in Fredericksburg; and the tender-hearted old woman stinted herself to lend me money enough to carry me there. But I'm afraid when I get there, that the place will be taken, and even if it is not, I may find it hard work to get in, for nobody likes to take a boy like me. I have been questioned so often and so closely, and have to tell so many downright lies about who I was and where I came from, that it makes me sick to think about it."
"Then, Ike, why don't you go home again?" said Anne, or Mrs. Marshall, as she was now to be called.
"Indeed, indeed, Miss Anne, I have wished a thousand times that I was back again into the old shop. But I'm afraid to go back. Mr. Hardamer, you know — asking your pardon, Miss Genevieve — is so cruel when he gets angry. And, if I were to go home alone, he could do anything he pleased with me."
"You needn't fear that, father will receive you back kindly," said Mrs. Anderson.
"I wish I could think so, Miss Genevieve," said the boy earnestly.
"I am sure he will," replied Mrs. Anderson. "Father, as well as some of the rest of us, you among the number, I perceive, has changed greatly in the last few months. He is besides, much reduced in circumstances, and your assistance would be a good deal to him."
The countenance of Ike brightened, and he replied —
"You almost make me feel desirous of going home. I call it home, for I have not felt as if I had any place to go to that I could really call home, since I went away."
"Be advised by us, Ike," said Mrs. Marshall, with kind concern. "Go directly back to Baltimore. Mrs. Anderson, here, will give you a letter to her father. I know, that will be all the introduction you need to give you a welcome back; for, her word, now, goes a good deal farther than it did when you were there. You will give him a letter, will you not, Genevieve?"
"That I will, right gladly — if he will go back," replied Mrs. Anderson.
"Then I'll go home," said Ike, emphatically. "That is, if I can get home."
"We'll arrange all that for you," said Mrs. Marshall.
"I shall never forget your goodness to me, Miss Anne! From the day you came into our house — I have had better desires than ever I had before. And many a time since I went away, has the good advice you gave us all, come back into my mind, and kept me from doing many things to which I was tempted. I don't know how it is; but I never resolved to do what was wrong — but I thought of you; and many a time, that thought has saved me from actions that would have brought me more troubles than any I have ever had."
Mr. Marshall, who was standing at a short distance when Ike came up, observed that he had entered into conversation with his young wife and her friend. Curiosity impelled him to draw near, and he heard, without being observed by him, the entire compliment paid by the boy to Anne. At the moment he ceased speaking, he recognized him, and extending his hand, he said —
"Why, how do you do, my young friend? This is the first time that I've seen you since the day you called to let me know where I should find this young lady," glancing at Anne, "I owe you a thousand thanks!"
"It was all for her sake," replied Ike, looking toward the person indicated. "And it was one, if the only, good action of my life."
"That's true, every word of it!" said Marshall. "Well, I like a whole-hearted friend, and Anne seemed to have no other."
"I think it almost time to dispense with compliments," remarked Anne, smiling, "and so I will give your thoughts a different direction. It is an old saying that one good turn deserves another; and as you seem to think Ike has rendered you a service, I propose, as he now stands in needs of a friend — that you hold yourself in that relation to him."
"That I will most cheerfully," replied Mr. Marshall. "And now tell me in what I can serve you?"
Ike hesitated to reply, and Anne said,
"He left Mr. Hardamer some months ago, and we have been persuading him to go back. From what he has said, I have concluded that he parted with nearly the last of his money when he paid his passage, and cannot, of course, return without aid."
"We'll soon arrange all that for him," replied Mr. Marshall, kindly. "And so you have made up your mind to go back?"
"Yes, sir. I haven't seen much peace since I went way. Somehow, or other, everything has gone wrong with me. I used to think, that if I was only my own master, and free to spend all the money I could earn — that I would be happy. But, after I went off, I was afraid to look for work in town, and had no money with which to pay for a passage to any other place. There were three of us, and we set off to walk all the way to Washington, the nearest point at which we could hope to get work. Altogether we had not above a dollar. At the end of the first day, we stopped at a house near the road, and asked for something to eat. We had been afraid to stop at the taverns for fear of being taken up for runaways; and were now very hungry and tired. At this house they gave us some bread and milk, but did not ask us to stay. We set out, after finishing our meal, with hearts something heavier than they were in the morning, for it was growing dark very fast. We had no prospect before us but that of keeping on all night, or laying down in some fence-corner to sleep. We were too much fatigued to do the former, so, after holding a consultation, we concluded to cross over an adjoining field to a haystack that was in sight, and try to rest as comfortable as possible.
"Here we made ourselves beds, and lay down, and so tired were we, that we soon fell asleep. It was broad daylight the next morning when I awoke, wet and cold. It had rained during the night, and my clothes were, in places, literally soaked with water. I was so hoarse that I could hardly speak, and so stiff that I moved myself with difficulty. Gradually, I recovered the use of my limbs, and we started on again. Not, however, until we had discussed to determine whether we should keep on — or go back and behave ourselves better, for we were already sick of our adventure. That night, at about nine o'clock, we arrived in Washington, even more tired than we were on the night previous. The whole of our dollar was gone, and we did not know a single individual in the city. For some time we wandered about the streets, hungry and fatigued, and were finally obliged to lie outside all night. We were really in a sad condition on the next morning; and so hungry that we were compelled to beg some bread. For my part, I do not ever recollect to have ever felt as wretched. My joints were so stiff that I could hardly walk. My skin was dry and hot, and a constant tickling in my throat kept me coughing all the while.
"For the greater part of that day, we strolled about the city and through the public buildings. As the day began again to decline, we agreed that it was best to separate, and each endeavor to provide some place of refuge for himself. I went over to Georgetown, and made application at a shop there for work.
"'What do you want with work, ha?' said the man I addressed, looking up at me from the bench on which he was seated, with a forbidding, half angry countenance.
"'I must have work, or I can't live!' said I, confounded and distressed at the rude reception I had received.
"'You'd better go back to your master,' he replied, looking down at his work, 'I don't harbor runaway apprentices.'
"I was confounded, and retreated hastily from the shop. 'How would he know that I had run away,' I said to myself, in alarm, as I walked on.
"I soon saw another shop, and into this I ventured. To my application for work, I was asked by a keen-looking man, where I had served my apprentice time.
"'In Washington,' I answered promptly.
"'Who with?' said the man.
"To this question, of course, I could not reply, for I did not know a single shoemaker in Washington. My hesitation and confusion betrayed the falsehood, and, suddenly turning from the man, I hurried again into the street.
"As I passed along, I observed a kind-hearted looking old woman standing in the door of a small house. 'Here is my last hope,' I thought to myself, and so, going up to her, I asked her if she could not give me something to eat, for I was very hungry. How my heart warmed under her pleasant smile and motherly voice! She at once told me to come in. It was nearly night, and her table was set, with a clean white cloth against one side of the room, ready for her supper. It contained a single plate, a knife and fork, and a cup and saucer, showing that the meal was preparing for herself alone. To her kind invitation, I seated myself, and tried to rest my wearied limbs. But I ached so all over, that freedom from motion was not rest. Very soon she brought in a large plate of toast, some cold meat, and the tea things. But when I attempted to eat, I found that my appetite craved but little food.
"'You are not well,' she said, looking me in the face with concern.
"'Indeed, ma'am, I do not feel very well,' I replied.
"She observed that I was troubled, and seemed much concerned.
"'Where are you going? Do you belong to Georgetown or the city?' she asked.
"I hesitated a moment, for my first lies had brought me off so badly; and I did not like deceiving one who was kind to me, and seemed so good.
"'I — I — am from Baltimore,' I replied.
"'Ah! indeed!' she said, brightening up. 'My boy went there a good many years ago, when he ran away from his master here,' she added, her voice sinking into a sad tone. 'Runaway apprentices never come to any good.'
"Her words smote upon my heart; and I turned my head away, so that she should not see the expression of my face. She observed the sudden movement, and, I suppose, the thought occurred to her that I might be a runaway apprentice.
"'I hope you haven't left your master?' she said, with evident concern.
"'Yes, ma'am, it is true,' I replied, my face reddening. 'But I was not well treated. If my master had been kind to me, nothing on earth could have induced me to have left him.'
"The old woman shook her head and seemed grieved.
"'You boys,' she said, 'are not good judges in these matters. And, even if you were not well treated, your condition was, I doubt not, better than it is now.'
"I could but acknowledge the truth of what she said; and she went on:
"'I have known a good many runaway apprentices in my time, and I never yet knew one that did not repent of what he had done, and wished himself back in his master's house a thousand times. It is always difficult for such a boy to get work, for he will be suspected, and few masters have any disposition to encourage runaways.'
"I did not reply to this, although I felt its truth; but rising from the table, I took off my coat, and rolled up my sleeve to exhibit to her two or three deep cuts which the cowhide of the constable had left upon my arm.
"'My back has nearly a dozen worse than those,' I said, 'and some of them clear through the skin; and, besides, I have twenty seams and scars there from previous floggings!'
"This touched the old woman's heart, and she said with much feeling —
"'Indeed, indeed, some boys have a hard time of it! But we won't talk any more about that. You want a good bed tonight; and cannot get one unless I provide it for you.'
"She then took me up into a little room, in which was a soft bed with snow white sheets. In ten minutes I was fast asleep, and did not awake until it was broad daylight. But I forget that you may not be as much interested as I am, in all this," he said, suddenly recollecting, that he was telling his story without being asked for it.
"Go on, by all means!" replied his listeners, each one of whom felt a warm interest in Ike.
"Well, on the next morning," he continued, "when I awoke long after sunrise, I found my joints so stiff that when I put my feet to the floor, I nearly fell over. My head reeled, and I ached with a sudden and dreadful pain. I was forced to get into the bed again. I cannot tell you how bad I felt. Sick and penniless, and in a strange place. After a while, the old woman came up, and as soon as she saw me, she said,
"'I am afraid you are not well!'
"'Indeed, ma'am,' I replied 'I feel very ill, and my limbs are so stiff that I cannot stand on my feet.'
"'Then you had better lie quiet for today!' she said, kindly, 'I will bring you up a cup of tea, and something to eat!' and so saying, she went downstairs.
"'I never felt so strange as I did when she left the room. Never, since my own mother died, had anyone who seemed so much like her, been kind to me. It choked me right up, and made a baby of me. In about half an hour, she came up, bringing a tub of water. She then bathed my feet with her own hands; and, after she had dried and rubbed them with a towel, she went down again and brought me a large bowl of tea. After I drank this off, she sat by me for some time, looking me all the while in the face, and seeming pleased at the kind service she was rendering me. In a little while, the perspiration broke out all over me, and I gradually sank again into sleep. When I awoke, I felt much better, and wanted to get up, but the kind old woman would not let me. On the next morning I was much better, and after I had dressed myself and eaten my breakfast, I prepared to go out again in search of work.
"The repulses I had already met, and the close questionings which I expected to meet, made me dread the task. But it had to be done, and so I went out.
"'Come back at dinner time,' said Mrs. Armor — for that was her name — as I left the door.
"After I was in the street, my heart failed me. I so dreaded to go into a boot-maker's shop, that I finally determined to walk over to Washington, and see if I could meet with Tom or Bill. I thought that, perhaps, they had been more successful than I had in looking for work. As I came along the street which runs from the bridge to the public offices, I looked through a window and saw three or four boys at work upon their benches. How I did envy them! And how I blamed myself for having so foolishly left my master. I thought, at first, that I would go into this shop and ask for work. But as I turned to enter the door, the thought of a rebuff discouraged me, and I kept on towards the city. Here I wandered about from street to street, and at last found myself at the capitol. On entering, the first people I saw were Bill and Tom.
"'Any luck, Ike?' was the first salutation I met from my two fellow-runaways.
"'None at all,' I replied, despondingly.
"'This is rather a poor kind of business, I'm thinking,' said Bill, with an effort to seem indifferent. But I could see that he was far from being easy in mind.
"'Poor enough,' I said, 'as far as I have had anything to do with it. I wish I was safely back in Baltimore again.'
"'Well, I can't just say that I do,' replied Tom. 'I'm a free man, now, and free I'm determined to remain. I'm going to quit the trade, what do you think of that?'
"'Going to quit the trade!' I said, in surprise. 'Well, and what then?'
"'Why, I mean to go to sea; for there is no chance of getting work here. Every shoemaker in the place suspects me of being a runaway apprentice, and won't have anything to do with me.'
"'But how are you going to get on board of a vessel?' I asked.
"'That's easy enough. A schooner sails from here tomorrow for Norfolk; and the captain says he will give me a passage down; and when once there, he says, there will be chances enough to get to sea, either in the United States or merchant service. I want Bill to go, but he's afraid of salt water. Won't you go? I think I can get you a passage down.'
"To this I shook my head. I never liked the idea of going to sea. 'And what are you going to do, Bill?' I asked.
"'Me?' he said, with a slight uneasy emotion. 'Why — why — seeing no chance of getting any work here, for everyone that I've been to see, will have nothing to do with me; I have agreed to keep bar in a tavern.'
"'Keep bar?' I said, in surprise; for as bad as I was, I had always thought it degrading to mix liquor for every drunken fellow and worthless negro.
"'It's a fact,' said Bill, rather sadly. 'I never thought I would come to this, but I must do it — or starve.'
"'When do you begin?' I asked.
"'The present bar-keeper has become so worthless, that he is to be sent away this afternoon, and then I shall commence.'
"'You'd better go to sea with me,' said Tom.
"Bill shook his head.
"'Suppose we all go back,' said I.
"'Never!' replied Tom, emphatically, and, "'Never,' added Bill, with less heartiness.
"After wandering about for a while, we went down to the wharf on the Potomac, where lay the vessel in which Tom was to sail for Norfolk. The captain, who seemed to have taken a liking to him, wanted us all to stay to dinner. After this was over, we shook hands with Tom, who was to leave in the morning, and Bill and I went back to the city, a little melancholy at parting with an old companion, and at the doubtful prospect before us.
"As we entered the city, near the market-house, Bill pointed to a sign before a low, dirty-looking saloon, on which were the words — 'Lafayette Hotel and Traveler's Retreat.'
"'That's the place,' he said.
"'What place?' I asked, for I did not understand him.
"'Why the tavern where I am going.'
"'Don't call that a tavern, Bill,' said I.
'It's nothing but a base, mean, dirty saloon.'
"'Well, that's the place,' he said, 'any how. You know the old copy the master set us at night school: Necessity knows no law.'
"I did not reply, for I felt too bad. In a few moments we were at the door, and I went in with him. The appearance inside was even worse than it was outside. The room was small, with a counter and lattice work on one side. A row of decanters occupied one shelf, and below this were three barrels, marked 'Whiskey,' 'brandy,' and 'rum.' The upper shelves behind the counter were filled with a medley that it would be hard to describe. There were apples, cakes, herrings, onions, and tumblers containing marbles, slate pencils, etc. In the window were several decanters of liquor, with lemons between them; some cakes and some herrings. At the end of the row of shelves, hung several strings of onions. This was the tavern!
"The inhabitants consisted of a red-faced man behind the counter, who greeted Bill as we entered with a kind word and a smile — two men playing dominoes at a table — a negro drinking at the counter, and a man half drunk, lounging upon a bench. The fumes of the place, at first, made me feel sick; but in a little while I could breathe the air more freely. The keeper of the shop drew us some liquor, and after I had taken a glass, I began to feel much happier than I had been for several days. Bill took his place as bar-keeper, and drew liquor and mixed drinks with a dexterity which seemed to gratify the owner of the place very much; for he looked upon every movement with a peculiar smile. I stayed until nearly night, and then went over again to Georgetown. The old lady seemed glad to see me, and asked why I had not been to dinner. I made some excuse, but did not give the true reason.
"'I think I have got you some work,' she said. 'I went to see an old friend of mine, in the trade, and he said he thought he could engage you.'
"I was, of course, very much pleased at this news, and, in the morning, Mrs. Armor went with me to the shop where work had been promised. I was surprised and confused on entering, to find myself in the same shop, where, but two or three days before, I had falsely stated that I had served my time in Washington.
"'This is the young man I was speaking to you about,' said my kind old friend, advancing to the counter, behind which stood the master, busy at the cutting-board.
"'I am sorry to tell you, Mrs. Armor,' said the man, gravely, 'that I can't engage him in my shop;' eyeing me at the same time with a forbidding aspect.
"'And why not?' she asked.
"'Because he is a runaway apprentice, and a liar to boot!' replied the man, in a half angry tone.
"Mrs. Armor turned upon me a look of doubt and inquiry, and thus appealed to, I said —
"'I am sorry to say, Mrs. Armor, that, when questioned here a few days ago, I said that I had served my time in Washington. But, what could I say? If I had confessed that I had left my master — what chance would there have been for work?'
"'You understand now, sir, how he is situated, and why he tried to mislead you,' said the old woman, turning to the owner of the shop. 'He has been very badly treated, and almost forced to leave his master. He must have work — or he can't live. Won't you give him just a little? Without money or friends in a strange place, his situation is necessarily a distressing one.'
"'No, I will not give him a bit of work!' he replied. 'Let him go home to his master and behave himself. A boy that will lie about one thing — will lie about another. And, if you'll take my advice, Mrs. Armor, you'll turn him out of doors, and tell him to go about his business!'
"'Never!' said the old woman, as she turned away, and we left the shop together.
"We walked along in silence until we came to her house, which we entered, and then she said kindly —
"'Ike, you must not be discouraged. All the people in Georgetown aren't like that man, even if he is an old friend of mine. You must stay here until something turns up in your favor; and that will be right soon, I feel certain.'
"'I hope so,' I said, gloomily. But I felt too bad to say much. After supper that night, I went over to the city to see Bill. I found him busy behind the counter, mixing liquor for several people who stood around the bar. He seemed cheerful, and even pleased with his new employment; for he chatted away as lively as any of the noisy inhabitants of the tavern. He did not see me when I entered, for the room was pretty full, and, as I retired to the back part, near a table where some men were playing cards, and others throwing dice, I had a chance to look on without being observed. I soon saw him pour out some brandy in a glass, and after adding some sugar and water — drank it off himself. I now perceived that his face was flushed, and that, about his manner, there was an unusual degree of excitement. 'Getting tipsy, as I live!' I said, laughing to myself. At that moment, his eye rested upon me, and I advanced to the bar.
"'What'll you drink, Ike?' was his first salutation.
"'Give me some brandy toddy,' I said.
"'That's the stuff for you. It will do your heart good, Ike,' he said, as he pushed my glass across the counter.
"I drank it off at a single draught, and soon began to feel my spirits rising. Bill was kept busy for the next hour by the constant calls of customers, and I had but little chance to talk with him. I sat near the table most of this time, looking at the tavern-keeper of the place and another man, who were playing cards. They had a good deal of money staked, and the tavern-keeper won at almost every game. The man with whom he was playing, was a stout countryman, who grew more and more restless and excited every moment. Suddenly he sprang from the table —
"'You have cheated me!' he said, with a bitter curse, clenching his fist, and looking the tavern-keeper fiercely in the face.
"'You are a liar!' said the tavern-keeper, also springing up and seizing the countryman by the throat. In the next moment, a powerful blow from the latter knocked him at full length upon the floor.
"He was soon upon his feet again, his face inflamed, and his eyes flashed fire. With a dreadful curse, he hurled a chair, which he had seized, in rising, at the head of his antagonist, who, in turn, fell to the floor. Without giving him an opportunity to rise, the tavern-keeper kicked him in the face and stomach three or four times, causing the blood to gush from his mouth and nose. Then dragging him to the door, be dashed him into the street, swearing, that if he came in again — he would murder him. The man did not attempt to re-enter, and I felt greatly relieved. While the scuffle was going on, I had retreated inside of the bar. Already, Bill seemed to have a degree of relish for such scenes.
"'He's a whole team, isn't he?' he said, alluding to the keeper of the tavern. I felt no inclination to reply, and so remained silent. In a few minutes I went away, half resolving never again to enter the place. Still more troubled in mind, I hastened along the lonesome way back to Georgetown. But I will not trouble you with these minute details. In the course of the next few weeks, I was enabled to get some work; and nearly all the money I earned, I gave to my kind old friend. Every now and then my desire to see Bill would return, and then I would go over to the city, and spend an evening at the 'Lafayette Hotel.' Bill had learned to play cards, and dominoes, and to handle the dice-box. He would always insist upon my playing, and I soon grew fond of the pastime. Some little stake was always necessary to keep up the interest of the game, and this created a desire to be winner — and at last, for the profits of successful playing. But I could rarely get ahead of Bill, who would win and pocket my money with as much pleasure as if I had been a stranger or his enemy.
"This continued, until one night, in returning from the city, I was caught in a heavy thunder-shower, and wetted to the skin. From that night, for two or three months, I was unable to do anything at all. I had a long spell of sickness, and suffered much. But never once, during that time, did old Mrs. Armor treat me with coldness. She continued like a mother, in all her actions towards me. When I got able to go about, I could get no work. My clothes were nearly all worn out, and I did not want to be a burden any longer, upon my old friend. As I said before, she gave me money enough to pay my passage as far as Fredericksburg. I did not see Bill before I left. To tell the truth, I was afraid that he would persuade me to play a game, and win my passage money."
When Ike had finished his narration, which was listened to with much interest, Mr. Marshall remarked, that runaway apprentices generally had a pretty hard time of it.
"Indeed, they have, sir," said Ike. "I was happy at home, in comparison with what I have been since I went away."
"And I hope you will be happier still when you go back," said Anne.
"I hope I shall, Miss Anne," replied the boy. "If I am not, I suppose it will be all my own fault."
"I think you will be happy, Ike," she said. "For I am sure, that Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer will be very kind to you, if you will only try to please them."
"Yes, they will, Ike, I can assure you," added Mrs. Anderson.
"How glad I shall be to get home once more!" said the boy, warming with the idea.
When the steamboat drew up at Potomac Creek, Mr. Marshall handed Ike a ticket for his passage back to Washington, and also slipped a bank note into his hand, with an injunction not to forget his old friend in Georgetown. The tears stood in the eyes of the boy, as he shook hands with Anne and Genevieve. But the parting was hurried and brief, and he was soon left alone, to linger for hours in the cabin of the steamboat, before he was again on his way back. On his arrival in Washington, he went over to Georgetown to see Mrs. Armor.
"Why, bless my heart, Ike! What has brought you back so soon?" exclaimed the old woman in surprise, as he entered her humble abode.
"I am going home," was Ike's brief answer.
"Perhaps it's the best thing you can do," said Mrs. Armor, her face brightening up. "I have often thought so; but I couldn't find the heart to urge it upon you. But what has made you change your mind?"
Ike related the interview which had taken place on board of the steamboat, and ended by saying —
"Here is the note which Mr. Marshall gave me. You see it is for fifty dollars. Get it changed, and let me have as much as will carry me to Baltimore. The rest, you will keep as part pay for what you have done for me."
The old woman was poor, and the expense Ike had been to her — she had felt a good deal; still she did not want to take the boy's money, much as she stood in need of it.
"I don't think I can take it, Ike," she said. "You need clothes very badly, and had better get yourself some."
"I won't have a dollar more than will carry me to Baltimore!" replied Ike, emphatically. "So you will have to keep it."
The old woman did not reply. "A good deed is never lost," were the words which came into her thoughts; and she looked upon Ike with a new feeling of regard, and with something of regret at the separation soon to take place.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Wilkins?" said Mr. Hardamer, who had opened his front door in answer to a rap, a few evenings after Genevieve had left with her husband for a new home in Virginia. "Come, walk in. It's a long time since I've seen you in my house. It does one good to meet his old friend, now and then, when he has time for a social chat. But my old friends have grown pretty scarce of late." The closing sentence was uttered in a lower, and somewhat desponding tone.
"But adversity tries the stuff our friends are made of," replied the individual addressed; "and, it is almost worth the pain, to have all false ones driven from around us."
"True, sir, true!" said Mr. Hardamer. "But, come, walk into the back room."
The appearance of Mr. Wilkins, after a suspension of his visits for a whole year, surprised both Genevra and Gertrude. The former received him with an easy, cheerful, unembarrassed manner, which made him feel at once at home with her — the latter, suddenly conceiving the idea that her old beau was on a wife-hunting expedition, and feeling a willingness to accept him in despair of making a better match — affected numerous smiling airs, and attractive graces, and accorded to him a wordy welcome.
The conversation during the evening was, of course, general; and, after spending an agreeable hour or two, Mr. Wilkins went away, singularly pleased with his visit, and very much inclined to call again in a very short space of time. He had dropped in, half out of curiosity to see what kind of a figure the high-minded young ladies cut under the new order of things, and, partly, for the lack of some definite way of passing the evening.
"Mr. Wilkins has improved very much, since he was here before, don't you think he has?" said Gertrude to her sister, after they had retired to their chamber.
"I think he has improved some," replied Genevra. "But, it is some time since he was here; and, perhaps, we see a little differently."
"He's as different as can be!" said Gertrude, in a positive tone; "and I give you fair notice, that I'm going to set my cap for him. He's my old beau, anyhow! And so I shall expect that you'll not go to pushing yourself in between us."
"You needn't be afraid of that," replied Genevra, in a quiet tone. "But, really, Gertrude, I would wait a little, if I were you, to see whether he had any serious intentions. If he should have none, and you should allow your feelings to become too much interested — it will only cause you trouble."
"O, fiddle-stick! What do you suppose he came here for?" said Gertrude in a tone slightly irritated. "He's my old beau, and has come, of course, to renew the acquaintance. Didn't you see how peculiarly he smiled whenever he spoke to me. I believe he always did love me; and if it hadn't been that I had chances above him, in view — we would have been married and settled long ago. Heigh ho! Well," ran on the matrimony-struck young lady, "I never thought it would have come to this; but the crooked stick has to be taken sometimes. Anyhow, I expect he is beginning to do pretty well in business; and I'll make a bargain with him, beforehand, that as soon as he is well enough off — he is to quit the business and go to store-keeping. And then I can hold my head up with any of them. But I'll never keep company with Anne Webster, or rather, Marshall's wife! I despise her — and her husband too!"
Genevra did not reply, and her sister went on.
"He's an elegant looking man, that's certain. Marshall looks like a fool along side of him; and I don't believe, anyhow, that Marshall's half as rich as he's made out to be. I wonder if Mr. Wilkins will come again tomorrow night," she continued, glancing at herself in the mirror. "I hope he won't be ashamed to be seen coming into this screwed up kind of a place. I am mad at Pa every time I think about this dirty alley!"
"But Pa can't help it, you know, Gertrude," interposed her sister.
"What's the reason he can't, I'd like to know?" replied Gertrude, warming at this implied rebuke. "Couldn't he get as good a house and at as cheap a rent in an open street, a little way up town? Sure he could! And he crept in this hole, on purpose to mortify us! I know him."
"Well, anyhow, I wouldn't talk so," said Genevra, soothingly.
"What's the reason you wouldn't, ha?" replied Gertrude, evidently getting angry. "O, I forgot! you've begun to play pious. I'd go and join the church, if I was you. You'd make an acceptable member, no doubt!"
To this sneer, Genevra, though strongly tempted, made no reply. She felt a good deal irritated, as well as pained — but, happily, she controlled herself, and remained silent.
On the second evening after his visit, Mr. Wilkins called in again. From assiduous attention to business, he had obtained a good run of custom. And this was rapidly increasing. His stand was among the best in the city, and his customers were men who paid promptly, and were willing to give a good price for a good article. Since his first visit, Mr. Hardamer had mentioned these things in his family, and Gertrude was more inflamed than ever with a desire to secure so valuable a prize, notwithstanding he was a shoemaker.
On this evening, in anticipation of a visit, she had dressed herself with extra care, and arrayed her face with extra smiles. But it so happened, that Mr. Wilkins's eye would wander naturally from the silk dress of Gertrude — to the plain calico one of Genevra; from Gertrude's head, dressed off with a wreath of flowers — to that of Genevra, upon which the dark hair was plainly parted; from the face set off with artificial smiles — to the one where an expression of meek thought appeared ever to rest. Genevra's countenance was to him much changed from what it had formerly been. Its aspect, though calm, indicated the existence of some painful thoughts, and interested his feelings exceedingly. He felt different when looking upon, or conversing with Gertrude — and was a little annoyed by her manner towards him.
"It's a delightful evening, Mr. Wilkins," said the latter, during a slight pause, allowing her face to expand into what she conceived to be a most fascinating smile.
"Yes, it is very pleasant," he replied, deliberately, the recollection forcing itself upon him, more strongly, at every word, that, outside, it was foggy, and the air filled with a depressing humidity. "It is a little foggy, but still it is mild and pleasant."
Gertrude saw at once, that she had made a blunder, but still, she had gained what she wanted, the particular attention of the young man, and therefore cared but little.
"Have you been to any parties, lately?" she said, now that she had his ear,
"Not very lately," he replied. "Let me see? Yes, I was at one the week before last."
"Ah, indeed! Where was it?" she asked with animation.
"At Mr. Berlin's," replied Wilkins.
"Indeed! Have they begun to give parties? Why the girls are mere children yet," said Gertrude, affecting surprise.
"Caroline is quite a womanly sort of a person, and entertained the company with ease. She is getting to be quite a favorite with the young men," remarked Mr. Wilkins.
This did not exactly please Gertrude, and she replied —
"I never saw much in her that was interesting. Indeed, I have always looked upon her as forward beyond her years."
Mr. Wilkins was less pleased with this remark, than any he had heard, either on the present or preceding evening, and he turned with a feeling of relief towards Genevra, who made some observation intended to divert the conversation from the censorious turn it had taken. Directing his remarks towards her, he elicited replies and observations that caused her to rise more every moment in his estimation. This, of course, did not escape the lynx-eyed observation of Gertrude, and her jealous and indignant feelings were kindled into an active flame. After he had gone, Gertrude went up to her chamber, for she could not feel at ease in the company of her father and mother, or Genevra, since the latter had so suddenly changed; and Gertrude sat with them usually, during the evenings, but little.
It was near ten o'clock, and while Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer, with their daughter, were engaged in some pleasing conversation, that a low and hesitating knock was heard at the front door. On opening it, Mr. Hardamer perceived a pale-looking, and poorly dressed lad, who seemed evidently disposed to shrink out of the circle of light made by the candle he held in his hand.
"Well, sir, what do you want?" said Mr. Hardamer, not recognizing his old apprentice at the moment.
"Don't you know me?" said Ike, in a hesitating voice, for it was he.
"Ike? Is it possible!" exclaimed Mr. Hardamer, holding the light close to the face of the boy. "Well, what do you want?" he added, in a sterner tone.
"I have a letter for you from Genevieve," said Ike.
"From Genevieve! Then come in, and let me have it," replied the old man in a kinder tone.
Ike entered, and was ushered, in a moment, into the room where Mrs. Hardamer and Genevra sat.
"Bless me, Ike! Is that you?" said Mrs. Hardamer.
"Yes, ma'am, it's me, I believe," said the boy, sadly.
"Come, take a seat," said Mr. Hardamer, "and let us have the letter you say you've got."
Ike drew a letter from his pocket, the seal of which Mr. Hardamer broke, and then read aloud. It runs thus —
"My Dear Father: I have met with Ike, and have persuaded him to go home. He will hand you this. From what he has told me, he has suffered a good deal since he went away, and is anxious to get back again. Speak kindly to him. I have pledged myself for his reception — and for the sake of your absent child — do not let him be punished in any way. I am sure he will be both industrious and obedient, and try all he can to please you. Thomas, he tells me, has gone to sea, and William is keeping bar in a saloon in Washington, and is turning out badly. Give my affectionate regards to mother and sisters. Your obedient child, Genevieve."
After finishing the letter, old Mr. Hardamer went up to Ike, and extending his hand, said,
"Welcome home again, my boy! You have brought a good recommendation."
The unexpected manner of his old master, broke down the feelings of the boy still more, and in spite of all his efforts to restrain himself, he burst into tears.
"I will try and please you," he said with an effort, as he regained some command over himself. "I confess that I acted wrong, when I went away. But I have suffered enough in mind and body for it. I am willing to make up to you, all the time I have lost."
"If you come back in that spirit, Ike," replied Mr. Hardamer, a good deal moved, "we shall, I am sure, get on well enough. We have both, no doubt, been a little to blame for the past. But," he said in a more lively tone, "Let has beens be has beens; and for the future, let us all try to do better, and to be better."
After Ike had related, at the request of his master and mistress, where he had been, and what he had done while away, Mrs. Hardamer handed him a light and directed him in his way to the garret, where Jimmy slept, and whose bed he was now to share. It was after eleven o'clock, when Ike entered the garret. The noise of opening the door awoke the little boy, who, rising up, looked with surprise upon the apparition of his old fellow-apprentice.
"Well, Jimmy, you see I'm back again!" said Ike, setting down the candle with an air of confidence and satisfaction, for he began already to feel about one hundred percent better than he had felt for some months.
"I'm glad of it," replied Jimmy, as soon as his eyes were fairly open and his mind comprehended the meaning of Ike's unexpected presence; "for you'll like things now a good deal better than you used to."
"Well, I'm glad, too, Jimmy. And so things are different to what they used to be?"
"O yes, indeed are they!" said the little boy, earnestly. "Why, I haven't been scolded nor beat for a long time. When Mr. Hardamer tells me to do anything, he doesn't speak as loud and cross as he used to, nor threaten to give me the stirrup. And Mrs. Hardamer is different, too. I get a great many more good things to eat, than we used to; and she takes care of my clothes, and gets me new ones, too. I'm glad you've come back, for I know you'll be satisfied. But, I hope you won't plague any of them, like you used to."
"No, indeed, Jimmy — that I will not!" replied Ike, warmly. "But hasn't the old man got no other boy but you?"
"No, I'm the only one yet," said Jimmy.
"The shop's been moved since I went away. Where is it now?" asked Ike.
"We're down in South Street. Mr. Hardamer got a cheap little shop down there, and so he moved away from Market Street."
"Have you got much work, now?" said Ike, continuing his interrogations.
"Yes, we've got as much as we can do."
"How many journeymen have you?"
"We've got six," replied Jimmy, "and Mr. Hardamer was just saying yesterday, that he would have to get another."
"Well, I'll save him that trouble," said Ike, with an air and tone of satisfaction. "But how are the girls, Jimmy? The old man and woman are certainly very much changed, and I would think, from what I saw of Genevra this evening, that she is a little altered."
"She has been different for a week or so," replied Jimmy. "And I hope it will last. But Gertrude is pretty ugly yet. The others are about the same. But, you known, they never used to trouble us much. Genevieve's husband has come and taken her away. And she seemed so glad to go; and all the family, except Gertrude, seemed so pleased with him, that I am sure he must have changed too. I was very sorry when she went away, for she has been very good to me. And Anne, she has married Mr. Marshall!" continued the boy, his whole manner changing to a lively exhibition of delight. "Everybody loves her. And she didn't forget me, either. I went to see her after she was married; and she told me that she was going away for a little while, but would come back to live, and, that, if I would be a good boy, she would always be glad to see me. And I know she will. If it was for nothing else — I would behave myself just to please her."
"And so would I, Jimmy," replied Ike, with warmth. "It was she who persuaded me to come home, or else I wouldn't have been here now."
"She persuaded you! Why where did you see her?" asked the little boy in surprise.
Ike referred to the meeting on board of the steamboat; and the two boys continued to talk over the past for an hour before they fell off to sleep.
When Genevra went to her room on the night of Mr. Wilkins' second visit, she was surprised to find Gertrude still sitting up, with a countenance indicating great perturbation of mind.
"I thought you were in bed, and asleep long ago," she said.
"Did you, indeed!" responded Gertrude, with a sneer.
To this, Genevra did not reply; and her sister broke out, passionately:
"You're a base, sneaking snake in the grass, so you are!"
"Really, I don't know what you mean, Gertrude!" she replied, pained exceedingly at this unexpected outbreak, and no little irritated in her feelings at the sudden and unaccountable charge.
"O no, of course not!" responded Gertrude. "Hypocrites are always very innocent! But I can see through all your tricks, as clear as daylight. Didn't I tell you, the night before last, that Mr. Wilkins came here to see me; and yet you tried to draw him off all you could. Do you suppose I couldn't see through you, ha?" and Gertrude walked about the small bed-chamber, enveloped in a perfect atmosphere of angry excitement.
Here was a new difficulty for Genevra, whose good resolutions were of a very recent date, and who trembled every day, under temptation from the evil within her, excited by some outward circumstance, on the brink of a departure from them. She was conscious of feeling gratified with the attentions paid her by Mr. Wilkins, and of being pleased with his conversation; and this rendered her present position still more embarrassing. For some moments, owing to a powerful struggle of evil against the good principles of her mind — she remained silent. At length, she said, slowly, while a slight shade of sadness was in the tone of her voice:
"Indeed, Gertrude, you bring a false charge against me. I made not the slightest effort to divert Mr. Wilkins' attention from you."
"That's a lie!" responded Gertrude, in a positive, angry tone; while her face burned, and her eyes flashed with the evil affections that were ruling her.
Genevra felt, for a moment, the wild activities of evil principles all aroused upon the instant; but, almost involuntarily, she turned her thoughts upwards, and, in the silence of a troubled heart, uttered this prayer, "Lord, deliver me from evil."
Instantly she felt a consciousness, that in silence lay her only hope for self-control; and, sealing the words within her lips, that were fast rising upon her tongue, she quickly disrobed herself, got into bed, and turned her face to the wall.
Gertrude's anger had reached its culminating point, up to which it had suddenly ascended, and now it began slowly to decline. She, too, prepared for rest; and in a few minutes, put out the light, and got into the same bed with her sister. Still, she was so much excited, and kept indulging her angry feelings against her sister so constantly, that she felt no inclination to sleep. Nor could Genevra, although she lay perfectly quiet — find oblivion for her troubled thoughts and wounded affections in refreshing slumber.
It was probably an hour after Gertrude had lain down, and while she was still kept awake by the agitation of her feelings, that her sister, whom she had supposed was fast asleep, suddenly sobbed out, though vainly endeavoring to control herself. Genevra's thoughts had been busy with many painful reminiscences; and these, with the disturbance of mind produced by her sister's unkind remarks, had kept her awake. Gradually, she fell into a state of nervous, half dreamy wretchedness. In vain did she try to force from her thoughts, the ideas and images which distressed her. They constantly recurred, upon every effort to banish them, in new forms, and with added pain. In the end, she lost the control of her feelings and sobbed aloud. For more than a minute this continued, before she could restrain the passionate outbreak.
Gertrude was startled, for a moment, and something like a shade of regret for what she had said, passed through her mind. But evil thoughts quickly displaced the momentary good impression, and she hardened her heart against her sister, and experienced an emotion of pleasure, at having given her pain.
But Genevra soon regained her self-control. The sudden ebullition subsided, and a peaceful calm fell upon her spirit. In a few minutes more, her senses were locked in quiet and refreshing sleep.
The same sweet slumber did not visit the eyelids of Gertrude. Many frightful dreams startled her from her pillow; and more than once, when thus suddenly awakened, did she shrink, trembling with a strange supernatural fear, close to the side of her sister. When the morning dawned, she blessed the light that relieved her from the terrors of an imagination that gave form to the evil thoughts and feelings which she delighted to cherish.
A few days afterwards, Gertrude was invited to spend the evening out, and it so happened that Mr. Wilkins dropped in that night, and found Genevra alone. He was more pleased at this, than he was even willing to acknowledge to himself. And, notwithstanding the sad berating which Gertrude had given her, Genevra felt a secret delight, which she in vain endeavored to banish.
The conversation that passed between them during the evening, was mainly of a general character; but almost involuntarily did each examine the words and tone of the other, as if in search of some meaning concealed beneath the uttered sentiments. The visit closed by an invitation from Mr. Wilkins, to attend with him a concert to be given on the following evening. Genevra of course accepted the invitation. But now a new source of trouble and difficulty presented itself. Such a marked preference for her company would, doubtless, so exasperate Gertrude, as to cause most unpleasant consequences. While still seated, after Mr. Wilkins had gone away, turning and turning the difficulty over in her mind, without perceiving any way of escape, her sister came home.
"Has any body been here?" she asked, fixing her eyes scrutinizingly upon Genevra.
For a moment the perplexed girl hesitated, and then replied,
"Yes, Mr. Wilkins has been here."
"He has?" said Gertrude, in a tone indicating surprise, disappointment, and rising anger against her sister.
"Yes," was the brief and simple reply of Genevra, who felt a little irritated at the manner and assumption of her sister, as well as troubled at the aspect of things.
"You sent him word, I suppose, that I was out," said Gertrude, making the charge with a manner that indicated her belief in the truth of what she alleged.
"Why, Gertrude!" responded Genevra, suddenly rising to her feet.
"You needn't put on that hypocritical face, young lady. I know you," said Gertrude, with a sneer. "You're just the one for such a base, low-lived trick. But never mind, I'll be even with you!"
And so saying, Gertrude took up a light, and hurried off to her chamber. Mrs. Hardamer's attention had been attracted by the loud and angry tone of Gertrude's voice, and she was just on the eve of coming down to see what was the matter, when that young lady hurried past her chamber door. A feeling of uneasiness still prompted her to descend. She found Genevra with her head buried in her arms, which were resting on the table before her.
"Genevra, what is the matter child!" she asked in a tone of concern.
Genevra lifted her head, and her mother perceived that the tears were fast flowing from her eyes.
"Tell me, my child, what is the matter?" she repeated, more anxiously.
As soon as Genevra could so far control her feelings as to speak, she said —
"Gertrude has been talking very unkindly to me; and I feel as if I could not bear it."
"What was it about?" asked Mrs. Hardamer.
Genevra hesitated a moment or two, and then said —
"I would rather not say what it was about, mother, just now; but, indeed, I am not to blame, for I have not done what she charges against me."
"Then, Genevra," replied her mother, "if you have done nothing, it will all come right at last. But do not, let me beg of you, engage in any quarrel or dispute with Gertrude. No good, but much harm can come from it. I would rather see you suffer wrong in silence, than have any jarring with your sister. I cannot tell you, my child, how greatly your recent effort to do right has affected your father and myself. Do not disappoint us in the hope we daily cherish, that you will never again give way to wrong desires and passions."
"I will try and not disappoint you," replied Genevra, the tears starting afresh from her eyes. "But I find it so hard to keep down my feelings, when anything happens to irritate me. I am sometimes afraid that all my efforts will be of no use. And to think of being as I have been — Oh, mother! I wouldn't for all the world act, and think, and feel, as I once did!" — and the afflicted girl looked eagerly into her mother's eyes with an expression that asked, as plain as words, for some direction, or some power of self-control.
Mrs. Hardamer, in her efforts to act from higher motives than such as had governed her for so many years, encountered as painful difficulties, as those against which Genevra had to struggle. And she, too, had felt the insufficiency of human effort. But, in the sincere desire for a change of character, a desire created out of the very painfulness of her former state, a new light had dawned upon her. From an almost paralyzing sense of human weakness, had sprung up a confiding trust in that Being who is Goodness itself, and Wisdom itself. And she had, already, many times, when sorely tempted, lifted almost involuntarily her heart, and breathed an inward prayer for help. Nor had she failed to notice, that always, after this silent invocation for aid — the evil that was struggling within her had less power, and soon retired, leaving her mind in a state of tranquility. Her first thought, when Genevra ceased speaking, was to direct her to the same source for that power over evil, and she said —
"I have already learned, my dear child, that our own efforts to shun evil will soon prove insufficient to protect us in temptation. We must look to Him who is the source of all good; and, if we do so, then we shall be enabled to conquer even our own bad passions and desires. In no other way, I am sure, can we successfully fight against our constant propensity to give way to angry feelings or selfish thoughts." And, as Mrs. Hardamer endeavored to point out the right way to her child, her own mind was enlightened, and she saw more clearly the truth she was endeavoring to impart. In this, she realized what thousands have experienced, but few observed, namely, that as soon as we make the effort, from pure motives of regard to others, to impart to them right and timely instruction — our own minds become enlightened, and we are constituted guides to them, whereby they receive and appropriate what is good and true.
When Genevra went up to her chamber, her sister had already retired. No word was uttered by either, and in a short time, she sank away into a peaceful slumber.
On the next day, her greatest trouble was the anticipated effect the knowledge of her invitation to attend the concert with Mr. Wilkins that evening, would have upon Gertrude. One thing she resolved, and that was, to seal her lips in silence, no matter what her sister might say to her. After turning over the matter in her mind, she determined to ask her mother's advice, and, accordingly, stated her difficulty. Mrs. Hardamer thought a few moments, and then said —
"I will try and manage this for you, Genevra. Let me inform Gertrude first of your invitation, and perhaps I can prevent her ill-temper from breaking forth."
Genevra was, of course, very glad of this kind of intervention, and felt a good deal relieved in mind. Gertrude was bitter in her language against her, when Mrs. Hardamer told her that she was going to a concert that night with Mr. Wilkins. But there was something in her mother's tone and manner, which soon checked a further expression of angry feelings.
"And remember," said Mrs. Hardamer, in closing, "that you must not use any improper language to Genevra. You have accused her falsely, and there you must rest. Neither your father nor myself can any longer allow you to jar and quarrel as you have done. We are both positive in this, and will be obeyed."
The way in which this was uttered, carried with it to the mind of Gertrude, a conviction that she must yield at least a degree of external obedience; but it in no way modified the inward feelings of resentment which she bore towards her sister. These, she still cherished with added bitterness.
Happily relieved from an unpleasant collision with her sister, Genevra dressed herself, and, when Mr. Wilkins came for her, was ready to go with him. Gertrude did not show herself when he called. She was in her chamber, chewing the cud of bitter and evil imaginations.
It was probably a month from the time in which the incidents of the last chapter occurred, that Mr. Wilkins dropped into the shop of old Mr. Hardamer. After a conversation of some ten or fifteen minutes on the ordinary topics of the day, the former said:
"I've been thinking for the last week, or so, of making a proposition to you."
"Well, what is it?" said Mr. Hardamer.
"I don't know what you will think of it," replied the other, "but it strikes me, that if we were to unite our shops, it would be better for both of us."
"Why as to that," said Mr. Hardamer, "I don't know what to say. I have never thought of anything of the kind, but as you have — suppose you state some of the advantages."
"Well, they are just these, as I think," replied Mr. Wilkins. "My shop is larger and in a better situation than yours. Your custom is not half what it would be, and mine is hardly enough to justify my expenses. If we join, your custom will, I am sure, double, and mine cannot fall off; so that it must be advantageous to both of us. I could then do all the out-door work, which would be a relief to you of course. And the business would not then suffer while I was away from the shop."
"That all seems to look very well," said Mr. Hardamer, "and, at first sight, it seems to me that such an arrangement would be advantageous to both of us. Still, I would like to turn it over in my mind for a few days."
"That, of course, you ought to do," said Mr. Wilkins.
"By Saturday, I will give you an answer, one way or the other," said Mr. Hardamer, "and, in the meantime, do look at the subject in every possible light."
On Saturday, Mr. Wilkins called in again, when Mr. Hardamer said —
"Well, I have thought a good deal of your proposition, since you were here, and the more I think about it, the better I like it. My own affairs are assuming a brighter aspect, and I know your business to be good. And let me say to you, Mr. Wilkins, that there is no man in the business with whom I would have any connection, except yourself."
"I thank you, warmly, for your good opinion," replied Mr. Wilkins. "I, too, have thought much of the subject since I mentioned it to you, and see no reason for not entering, as soon as each one of us can suitably arrange his own business, into the co-partnership. And this matter in a fair way of settlement, I might as well say to you, that, if you have no objection, I should be pleased to form with you a closer alliance. I like your daughter Genevra."
"And if she likes you, why there's the end of the matter," said Hardamer, with a broad smile of satisfaction, which he could not conceal.
"That evening, Mr. Wilkins called in to see Genevra, as he was now in the habit of doing almost every day, and Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer left them, as usual, alone. Gertrude was ensconced in her chamber, in no very amiable mood, a place of refuge from the presence of Mr. Wilkins, which she did not fail to seek, whenever that gentleman was announced.
"I've got a letter here, from Genevieve," said Mr. Hardamer to his wife, after they were alone, drawing the welcome epistle from his pocket.
"Indeed!" ejaculated Mrs. Hardamer, with pleased surprise — "then read it, for I am very anxious to hear from her."
Mr. Hardamer put on his spectacles, and after unfolding the letter, read:
"My Dear Father and Mother — Four pleasant weeks have hurried by like so many days; and now I must lay aside everything and write to you, for I know that you are very anxious to hear from your child. Four weeks! It does not seem possible that it is so long since I left you. But happy days pass swiftly. I have found Mr. Anderson's mother everything that my heart could desire. She loves him with a yearning tenderness, and has received me as if I were her own child. Mr. Anderson has two sisters, one of them married, and away from home; the other, single, and with us. She is a good girl, and seems to delight in anything that pleases either her brother or myself. I never saw a family where there was such harmony and good feeling existing between all the members. My husband, who, although he has no diploma, has a license from some medical college, intends practicing medicine in this county, and has given notice to that effect. He seems to be very much liked here; although he was formerly, as you know too well, very wild and inconsiderate. Already he has had several calls, and the neighbors say that he will do well.
"Mr. Marshall's father lives close by us, and Anne spent a whole month with them. She has just gone home. They were all delighted with her. She promised me that she would call and see you — I hope she will frequently, for I know you would like her very much; and she will be of so much use to Genevra, who, I sincerely hope, is still trying to do right. Speak to her affectionately from me, and tell her, that, only by perseverance in the good way she has entered, can she possibly find happiness."
"Heaven bless her!" said the old man, wiping his eyes, as he finished reading the letter from which the above is an extract — "She's no happier than she deserves to be!"
After a brief pause, to collect her thoughts and feelings, Mrs. Hardamer said —
"I have, too, a little pleasant news. Mr. Wilkins has offered himself to Genevra."
"I'm a little ahead of you there," replied Mr. Hardamer, smiling, "He has made proposals to me for her hand; and, besides that, we have agreed to go into business together."
"Why, when did all that happen?" exclaimed Mrs. Hardamer, in surprise and pleasure.
"It all happened today. And a good day's business, I would call it," said Mr. Hardamer, a little proudly.
Sometime within a month from that evening, a small wedding party assembled at Mr. Hardamer's. Among those present, and as pleased as any, were Ike Wilson and little Jimmy. Both were neatly dressed, and both wore cheerful countenances. From the quiet, happy face of his newly-wedded child, the old man's eyes often turned to those of his only two apprentices, and an occasional sad thought would cross his mind, as memory called up the forms of two others, who might have been there, and as cheerful, too, if he had extended to them that care and watchful regard which a master should always have over his apprentices. But he banished such thoughts as quickly as possible.
Gertrude forced herself, from pride and maidenly shame, to appear pleased. She kissed the cheek of her sister, after the ceremony was performed; but the act was not from love. It was only for the eyes of others. In her heart, she cherished feelings towards Genevra so nearly allied to hate, that, if they could have been separated from all associated affections, and presented to her in their true character — she would have been startled at their hideous deformity. Ever and always, as her eye would rest upon the happy face of her sister, and then glance from it to the manly countenance of her husband — would she feel fresh pangs of jealous indignation. But Genevra was too much absorbed in her own delight, to perceive that anyone present was disturbed. She was even deceived by her sister's manner towards her, and fondly thought that she, too, had seen her error, and had resolved to cultivate kinder and gentler sympathies.
But we turn away from the pleasant scene, in which was but one troubled heart — and that one troubled, because evil thoughts and desires were nourished.
The new and brighter aspect which affairs had now assumed, had the effect to encourage the heart of Mrs. Hardamer. She, too, like her husband, could not help glancing back, and, in noting the changes of a year, she found the words again recurring to her thoughts: "Sweet are the uses of adversity." The troubles and disappointments which she had experienced, had been wonderfully effective in tearing the scales from her eyes. And, now that there seemed to have come the dawn of a better day, her resolutions to perform all known duties were strengthened, because, in the new light which had broken upon her mind — she saw, clearly, that only in the way of duty, could there be true happiness. Never, until recently, since her children were babes, had she found as much pleasure in their company. Her own, as well as their unhappy tempers, had always created a condition of things the very opposite of domestic tranquility. But the example of Genevieve had done a great deal towards correcting much that was wrong in the disposition of her younger sisters.
The gradual process of change which had been going on in Mrs. Hardamer's own mind, also had its good effect. And, since Genevra had tried to put away some of her evils, there had been a different sphere, pervading her whole family — a sphere which none but Gertrude could resist — and her resistance was becoming every day more feeble, because she found it a vain resistance. And, with this wonderful change, both Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer saw that a condition of worldly prosperity was also opening before them. But, affliction had done its legitimate office. They no longer looked to riches and to the privileges of wealth — as the true sources of happiness. A state of freedom from evil affections, bringing internal peace — they perceived to be the only state truly desirable. With this, riches would prove a blessing; without it, a curse!
The double co-partnership formed by Mr. Wilkins — none of the parties had cause to regret. His wife still persevered in her efforts to act from higher principles than the mere selfish ones that had ruled her so long, and which she was pained to perceive, continued to rule her sister Gertrude. The business had increased, since he and Mr. Hardamer joined their shops, even more than either of them had anticipated. Work came in upon them with a rapidity and steadiness which made it necessary, in a few months, to nearly double their force. In the present — was cheerfulness and contentment; and in prospect — was a high degree of prosperity.
Leaving, now, the different members of this family to act out in their legitimate spheres, their several duties — we will briefly sketch an incident or two in the lives of some other characters introduced in the course of our story, and then assign the whole to the reader.
It was, probably, about twelve months from the time of Genevra's marriage, that a man of dissipated appearance, though perfectly sober, applied at the shop of Hardamer and Wilkins for work. The trade was brisk, and hands in demand, and so the journeyman was promptly seated. He gave his name as Fisher. There was little in his appearance that was good, for he was miserably clad, and his countenance indicated the free indulgence of sensual passions. Still, he did not seem to be a bold transgressor, for he rarely joined in the conversation of the shop; and he certainly showed a disposition to reform, at least, one bad habit, for he resolutely refused to touch any kind of intoxicating drink. Gradually his looks improved, and after he had obtained new clothes, he presented quite the appearance of a respectable man. Still he went out but little, and always seemed to be thinking about something that troubled him.
"Come, Fisher, let's have a plate of oysters and some brandy," said one of the journeymen to him, on a Saturday evening. "It does one good, now and then, to indulge a little."
"No, I would rather not," said Fisher.
"O nonsense, come along! I believe you're actually afraid to drink," urged the other, with a slight expression of ridicule. "If the truth were known, it would be found, I expect, that you are an old bruiser at the bottle, and are afraid to touch it for fear of getting drunk."
"I expect it would," replied Fisher, gravely, while a shadow of sadness flitted over his countenance.
"Then you won't go with me?" said his fellow journeyman.
"No, indeed, that I will not!" responded Fisher, positively. "A burnt child, they say, dreads the fire."
"Well, you can do as you like," said the other — "but thank fortune! I am man enough to drink when I please, and leave off when I please."
Fisher did not reply, and the other went out, leaving him alone with Ike Wilson.
"Well, I'm glad you didn't go," said Ike, warmly, after the tempting and ridiculing journeymen had gone out. "I never have felt disposed to touch any kind of liquor since I saw my old fellow-apprentice, Bill Grimes, turn to mixing it for negroes and dirty blackguards, in Washington."
"Were you ever at Washington, Ike," asked Fisher, with evident interest.
"Yes, I was there once, and I don't care if I never see the place again."
"Why so, Ike?"
"Because, if I must tell you, I was once fool enough to run away from my master, and foot it all the way to Washington. And a sorry time enough I had of it. Nobody would give me any work, and I believe I would have died, if it hadn't been for one of the best old women in the world, over in Georgetown, who took me in and acted towards me just like a mother."
"You were fortunate in that part of your adventure, certainly," remarked Fisher, shading his eyes with his hand and looking Ike intently in the face. "What was the kind old woman's name?"
"Her name was Mrs. Armor," replied Ike.
"Mrs. Armor," repeated the journeyman, in an abstract tone. Then seeming to rouse himself he said —
"And so she was kind to you?"
"Indeed she was. She took me into her house, and kept me while I was ill and had nothing to do, and though she was very poor herself, never seemed to begrudge me anything. And when I couldn't get work in Georgetown, she gave me money enough to take me to Fredericksburg, where there was a place of work vacant."
The journeyman still sat shading his eyes with his hand, but did not reply, and Ike continued —
"One reason why she was so good to me, I believe, was, because she had a son who had left his master and gone off, she didn't know where, for she said she hadn't heard from him for a good many years. How she seemed to love that son! Not a day passed, that she didn't speak of him, and wonder where he was, and what he was doing. She said she never would die in peace, until she had seen him; but sometimes she would talk about his being dead, and then the tears used to roll down her cheeks in great drops."
A sound of a sob, checked Ike in his narration, and he looked up inquiringly into the journeyman's face; but the shadow from his hand concealed its expression, and defied the keen glance of the boy. But, somehow or other, he did not feel inclined to say more, and no further questions being asked him, he remained silent.
On the next morning, Fisher applied to Mr. Hardamer to be paid off, and left the shop with about thirty dollars in his possession, a new suit of clothes on his back, and making in all respects, a very decent appearance — compared to what he did when he applied three months before for work.
Late in the afternoon of the same day, he descended from a stage that drove up to Gadsby's Hotel, in Washington, and, stepping off at a quick pace up the avenue, was soon passing over towards Georgetown. The sun was just setting as he reached the elevated ground by the President's house, which gave him a full view of the heights of Georgetown, and heaving a sigh, he hurried on with a quickened pace.
In fifteen minutes he stood before a small and poor looking dwelling, at the upper end of the town, and with a flushed face, and agitated frame, knocked at the door. It was opened by an old woman, who looked him inquiringly in the face.
"Does Mrs. Armor live here?" he said.
"Yes, sir, that is my name," she replied. "Will you come in?"
He entered at once, and Mrs. Armor closed the door.
"And so you don't know me, mother?" he said, while his voice trembled and his whole frame shook with emotion.
"John! — my son! O is it you?" exclaimed Mrs. Armor, suddenly lifting her eyes and hands, and then throwing her arms around his neck.
"Yes, mother, it is your erring son at last returned," he said, giving way to tears.
"Heaven be praised!" ejaculated the mother, looking upwards, as she withdrew her arms from the neck of her son, and clasped her hands together.
* * * * *
It was a little over ten years from the time the incidents mentioned in the last chapter occurred, that four men were seated at a table, in a saloon in the vilest part of New Orleans, playing cards. They appeared to be strangers. One of them was a sailor, and almost every word be uttered, was coupled with some disgusting expletive, or shocking curse. The other three seemed to be boatmen, and it was evident that they were men of wicked principles and bad hearts. All four were more than half drunk; and yet each exhibited a keen desire to win from each other. The sailor lost frequently, and at every failure of his luck, he swore more and more bitterly. At last he threw down a five dollar bill, his last money. In a few minutes it passed over to the pile of cash along side of the man who sat next to him.
"If you can beat me, or cheat me — I can whip you!" cried the sailor, as his last dollar vanished, springing from the table, and thrusting his clenched fist into the face of the man who had won from him.
Quick as thought, a knife glanced in the dim light of the saloon, and in the next moment the blood gushed from the side of the sailor. He fell with a groan to the floor. The individual who had stabbed him, coolly replaced his knife, and looked on with a drunken and indifferent stare, while others attempted to stop the flow of blood.
"Who is he? Does anyone know?" was asked by many voices.
"Ask him his name!" cried another, "while he is able to speak."
"Who are you? What is your name?" was shouted in the ear of the wounded man.
"Thomas Peters," he replied, in a feeble tone.
"Tom Peters!" ejaculated the individual who had committed the rash and murderous deed, pressing forward, and bending over to catch a glimpse of the face of the man. A single glance sufficed him. In the next moment he glided from the house, and hurried to the residence of a physician.
On the arrival of that individual at the scene of blood, he proceeded to examine into the condition of the wounded man, and soon ascertained that the stab he had received was not mortal. No effort was made to arrest the individual who had committed the act, for none in that den of devils would report him to the law. The physician, after dressing the wound, and giving the necessary directions, hurried away; for he hardly felt that his life was safe a moment, among the wretches that crowded the room.
After he was gone, the individual who stabbed Tom Peters — the reader's old acquaintance — gave directions to have him removed to a chamber, and provided for at his expense. During the whole night, he sat by the bedside of the man whose life he had attempted, sometimes listening to his feeble breathing, sometimes fixing his eyes long and sadly upon the pale face of the insensible sleeper, and sometimes resting his head upon his hand, for an hour at a time, in sad and painful thought.
Towards daylight, Tom became sensible, for the first time since the affray, and looked about him wildly.
"What's the matter? Where am I?" he said, with a curse, attempting to rise. But he sank back upon his pillow, at once, exhausted.
"You have had a narrow escape, Tom Peters! — But you are safe, now," said the individual who had been watching beside him through the night.
"Who are you, ha! that calls me Tom Peters?" replied the wounded man, turning a quick and searching glance upon his companion.
"Don't you know me, Tom?" said that individual, rising to his feet, and placing himself so that the light of the dim lamp would fall upon his face.
"I think I know your voice. But that is not the face, surely, of Bill Grimes," responded Peters, in surprise.
"It may be very much changed from what it was, Tom, but still it is the face of Bill Grimes, your old fellow-apprentice, and none other."
"Then we are both a little the worse for wear, I'm thinking. But who was it that stabbed me, ha?" — and Peters launched a volley of curses at the head of the murdering villain, as he called him, who had attempted his life.
"I stabbed you, Tom," said the other. "But you roused the devil in me by insinuating that I cheated you, and then rubbed your fist in my face. I didn't know it was you — or I'd cut my hand off before I would have harmed a hair of your head. But the doctor says you are not dangerous, and I hope you'll soon be well."
"Well, here's my hand, Bill," said Tom, stretching out his arm with a feeble effort. "A sailor never bears malice, and is always true to an old friend."
The other took the offered hand, and grasped it with a feeling of warm friendship.
After Thomas Peters' recovery, neither he nor Grimes exhibited any disposition to recede from their advanced position of wickedness. They attached themselves to each other, in a kind of evil fraternity, and followed after the evil delights of their hearts with a zest that gave little room to hope for any future beneficial change. And, it is much to be doubted, if any such change ever took place. It is possible, by a long course of wickedness, to extinguish the remains of good in the mind, whereby we are elevated out of a love of evil — into a desire for good. And it is to be feared that Thomas Peters and William Grimes thus extinguished their remains of good, and were brought entirely under the control and guidance of evil tendencies.
It is needless for the writer of this story to point out its moral. He deems it so plain, that those who run may read.
And here the curtain drops.