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Finger Posts on the Way of Life by T. S. Arthur

Part 4 out of 4

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As Mary Lester said this, her heart made a fluttering bound, and an
emotion, new and strange, but sweet, swelled and trembled in her
bosom.

"But you soon will, Mary, or I'm mistaken."

Mrs. Martindale saw the cheek of the fair girl kindle, and her eye
brighten, and she said to herself, with an inward smile of
satisfaction--

"I'll make a match of it yet--see if I don't! What a beautiful
couple they will be!"

Mrs. Martindale was one of that singular class of elderly ladies
whose chief delight consists in match-making. Many and many a couple
had she brought together in her time, and she lived in the pleasing
hope of seeing many more united. It was a remarkable fact, however,
that in nearly every instance where her kind offices had been
interposed, the result had not been the very happiest in the world.
This fact, however, never seemed to strike her. The one great end of
her life was to get people together--to pair them off. Whether they
jogged on harmoniously together, or pulled separate ways, was no
concern of hers. Her business was to make the matches. As to living
in harmony, or the opposite, that concerned the couples themselves,
and to that they must look themselves. It was enough for her to make
the matches, without being obliged to accord the dispositions.

As in every thing else, practice makes perfect, so in this
occupation, practice gave to Mrs. Martindale great skill in
discerning character--at least, of such character as she could
operate on. And she could, moreover, tell the progressive states of
mind of those upon whom she exercised her kind offices, almost as
truly as if she heard them expressed in words. It was, therefore,
clear to her, after her first essay, that Mary Lester's affections
might very easily be brought out and made to linger about the young
man whom she had, in her wisdom, chosen as her husband. As Mary was
a very sweet girl, and, moreover, had a father well to do in the
world, she had no fears about interesting Mr. Fenwick in her favour.

Only a few days passed before Mrs. Martindale managed to throw
herself into the company of the young man.

"How were you pleased with the party, Mr. Fenwick?" she began.

"At Mrs. Allenson's?"

"Yes."

"Very much."

"So I thought."

"Did I seem, then, particularly pleased?"

"I thought so."

"Indeed! Well, I can't say that I was interested a great deal more
than I usually am on such occasions."

"Not a _great deal_ more?"

"No, I certainly was not."

"But a _little_ more?"

"Perhaps I was; but I cannot be positive."

"Oh yes. I know it. And I'm of the opinion that you were not the
only person there who was interested a _little more_ than usual."

"Ah, indeed! And who was the other, pray?"

"A dear little girl, whom I could mention."

"Who was she?"

"The sweetest young lady in the room."

"Well, what was her name?"

"Can't you guess?"

"I am not good at guessing."

"Try."

"Mary Lester?"

"Of course! Ha! ha! ha! I knew it."

"Knew what?"

"Oh yes, Mr. Innocence! Knew what!"

"You are disposed to be quite merry, Mrs. Martindale."

"I always feel merry when I see a young couple like you and Mary
Lester mutually pleased with each other."

"Mutually pleased?"

"Of course, mutually pleased."

"How do you know that, Mrs. Martindale?"

"Haven't I got a good pair of eyes in my head?"

"Very good, I should certainly think, to make such a wonderful
discovery."

"Seriously, though, Mr. Fenwick, do you not think Mary Lester a very
sweet girl?"

"Certainly I do."

"And just such a one as you could love?"

"Any one, it seems to me, might love Mary Lester; but then, it is
just as apparent that she could not love any one who might chance to
offer."

"Of course not. And I should be very sorry to think that she could.
But of one thing I am certain, she cannot look upon you with
unfavourable eyes."

"Mrs. Martindale!"

"I am in earnest, Mr. Fenwick."

"What reason have you for thinking so?"

"Very good reason. I had my eyes on you both at Mrs. Allenson's
party, and I saw as plain as could be that Mary was deeply
interested. Since then, I have met her, and observed her eye
brighten and her cheek kindle at the mention of your name. Mr.
Fenwick, she is a prize well worth winning, and may be yours."

"Are you, then, really serious?" the young man now said, his tone
and manner changing.

"Assuredly I am, Mr. Fenwick."

"Mary Lester, you know, moves in a circle above my own; that is, her
father is accounted rich, and I am known to have nothing but my own
energies to depend upon."

"All that is nothing. Win her affections, and she must be yours."

"But I am not so certain that I can do that."

"Nonsense! It is half done already."

"You seem very positive about the matter."

"Because I am never mistaken on these subjects. I can tell, the
moment I see a young couple together, whether they will suit each
other or not."

"And you think, then, that we will just suit?"

"Certainly I do."

"I only wish that I could think so."

"Do you, indeed? I am glad to hear you say that. I thought you could
not be insensible to the charms of so sweet a girl."

"Do you, then, really believe that if I offered myself to Mary
Lester, she would accept me?"

"If you went the right way about it, I am sure she would."

"What do you mean by the right way?"

"The right way for you, of course, is to endeavour to win her
affections. She is already, I can see, strongly prepossessed in your
favour, but is not herself aware to what extent her feelings are
interested. Throw yourself into her company as much as you can, and
when in her company pay her the kindest attentions. But do not visit
her at her own house at present, or her father may crush the whole
affair. When I see her again, I will drop a word in your favour."

"I am certainly very much indebted to you, Mrs. Martindale, for your
kind hints and promised interference. I have often felt drawn toward
Mary, but always checked the feeling, because I had no idea that I,
could make an impression on her mind."

"Faint heart never won fair lady," was Mrs. Martindale's encouraging
response.

"Well, Mary," said the lady to Miss Lester, a few days afterward,
"have you seen Mr. Fenwick since?"

"Mr. Fenwick!" said she, in tones of affected surprise.

"Yes, Mr. Fenwick."

"No--of course not. Why do you ask so strange a question? He does
not visit me."

"Don't he? Well, I have seen him."

"Have you? Then I hope you were very much delighted with his
company, for he seems to be a favourite of yours."

"He certainly is a favourite of mine, Mary. I have known him for a
good many years, and have always esteemed him highly. There are few
young men who can claim to be his equal."

"I doubt not but there are hundreds to be met with every day as good
as he."

"Perhaps so, Mary. I have not, however, been so fortunate as to come
across them."

"No doubt he is a paragon!"

"Whether he be one or not, he at least thinks there is no one like
you."

"Like me!" ejaculated Mary, taken thus suddenly by surprise, while
the colour mounted to her face, and deepened about her eyes and
forehead.

"Yes, like you. The fact is, Mary, he thinks and speaks of you in
the kindest terms. You have evidently interested him very much."

"I certainly never intended to do so, Mrs. Martindale."

"Of course not, Mary. I never supposed for a moment that you had.
Still he is interested, and deeply so."

Having ventured thus far, Mrs. Martindale deemed it prudent to say
no more for the present, but to leave her insinuations to work upon
Mary's heart what they were designed to effect. She was satisfied
that all was as she could wish--that both Fenwick and Mary were
interested in each other; and she knew enough of the human heart,
and of her own power over it, when exercised in a certain way, to
know that it would not be long before they were much more deeply
interested.

Like all the rest of Mrs. Martindale's selections of parties for
matrimony, the present was a very injudicious one. Mary was only
seventeen--too young, by three or four years, to be able properly to
judge of character; and Fenwick was by no means a suitable man for
her husband. He was himself only about twenty-one, with a character
not yet fully decided, though the different constituents of his mind
were just ready to take their various positions, and fixed and
distinctive forms. Unfortunately, these mental and moral relations
were not truly balanced; there was an evident bias of selfishness
and evil over generous and true principles. As Mrs. Martindale was
no profound judge of character, she could not, of course, make a
true discrimination of Fenwick's moral fitness for the husband of
Mary Lester. Indeed, she never attempted to analyze character, nor
had she an idea of any thing beneath the surface. Personal
appearance, an affable exterior, and a little flattery of herself,
were the three things which, in her estimation, went to make up a
perfect character--were enough to constitute the beau ideal of a
husband for any one.

Mary's father was a merchant of considerable wealth and standing in
society, and possessing high-toned feelings and principles. Mary was
his oldest child. He loved her tenderly, and, moreover, felt all a
parent's pride in one so young, so lovely, and so innocent.

Fenwick had, until within a few months, been a clerk in a retail
dry-goods store, at a very small salary. A calculating, but not too
honest a wholesale dealer in the same line, desirous of getting rid
of a large stock of unsaleable goods, proposed to the young man to
set him up in business--a proposition which was instantly accepted.
The credit thus furnished to Fenwick was an inducement for others to
sell to him; and so, without a single dollar of capital, he obtained
a store full of goods. The scheme of the individual who had thus
induced him to venture upon a troubled and uncertain sea, was to get
paid fair prices for his own depreciated goods out of Fenwick's
first sales, and then gradually to withdraw his support, compelling
him to buy of other jobbing houses, until his indebtedness to him
would be but nominal. He was very well assured that the young
merchant could not stand it over a year or two, and for that length
of time only by a system of borrowing and accommodations; but as to
the result he cared nothing, so that he effected a good sale of a
bad stock.

Notwithstanding such an unpromising condition of his affairs, even
if fully known to Mr. Lester, that gentleman would not have strongly
opposed a union of his daughter with Mr. Fenwick, had he been a man
of strong mind, intelligence, energy, and high-toned principles--for
he was philosopher enough to know that these will elevate a man
under any circumstances. But Fenwick had no decided points in his
character. He had limited intelligence, and no energy arising from
clear perceptions and strong resolutions. He was a man fit to
captivate a young and innocent girl, but not to hold the affection
of a generous-minded woman.

In the natural order of events, such a circumstance as a marriage
union between the daughter of Mr. Lester, and an individual like
Fenwick, was not at all likely to occur. But a meddlesome woman,
who, by the accident of circumstances, had found free access to the
family of Mr. Lester, set herself seriously at work to interfere
with the orderly course of things, and effect a conjunction between
two in no way fitted for each other, either in external
circumstances or similarity of character. But let us trace the
progress of this artificial passion, fanned into a blaze by the
officious Mrs. Martindale. After having agitated the heart of Mary
with the idea of being beloved, while she coolly calculated its
effects upon her, the match-monger sought an early opportunity for
another interview with Fenwick.

"I have seen Mary since we last met," she said.

"Well, do you think I have any thing to hope?"

"Certainly I do. I mentioned your name to her on purpose, and I
could see that the heart of the dear little thing began to flutter
at the very sound; and when I bantered her, she blushed, and was all
confusion."

"When shall I be able to meet her again?"

"Next week, I think. There is to be a party at Mrs. Cameron's and as
I am a particular friend of the family, I will endeavour to get you
an invitation."

"Mary is to be there, of course?"

"Certainly."

"Are you sure that you can get me invited?"

"Yes, I think so. Mrs. Cameron, it is true, has some exclusive
notions of her own; but I have no doubt of being able to remove
them."

"Try, by all means."

"You may depend on me for that," was Mrs. Martindale's encouraging
reply.

The evening of Mrs. Cameron's party soon came around. Mrs.
Martindale had been as good as her word, and managed to get Fenwick
invited, although he had never in his life met either Mr. or Mrs.
Cameron. But he had no delicate and manly scruples on the subject.
All he desired was to get invited; the way in which it was done was
of no consequence to him.

Mary Lester was seated by the side of her interested friend when the
young man entered. Her heart gave a quick bound as she saw him come
in, while a pleasant thrill pervaded her bosom. He at once advanced
toward them, while Mrs. Martindale rose, and after receiving him
with her blandest manner, presented him to Mary, so as to give him
an opportunity for being in her society at once. Both were, as might
very naturally be supposed, a good deal embarrassed, for each was
conscious that now a new relation existed between them. This their
very kind friend observed, and with much tact introduced subjects of
conversation, until she had paved the way, for a freer intercourse,
and then she left them alone for a brief period, not, however,
without carefully observing them, to see how they "got along
together," as she mentally expressed it.

She had little cause for further concern on this account, for
Fenwick had a smooth and ready tongue in his head, and five years
behind the counter of a retail dealer had taught him how to use it.
Instead of finding it necessary to prompt them, the wily Mrs.
Martindale soon discovered that her kind offices were needed to
restrain them a little, lest the evidence of their being too well
pleased with each other should be discovered by the company.

Two or three interviews more were all that were needed to bring
about a declaration from the young man. Previous to his taking this
step, however, Mrs. Martindale had fully prepared Mary's mind for
it.

"You own to me, Mary," said she, during one of the many
conversations now held with her on the subject of Fenwick's
attentions, "that you love him?"

"I do, Mrs. Martindale," the young lady replied, in a tone half sad,
leaning at the same time upon the shoulder of her friend. "But I am
conscious that I have been wrong in permitting my affections to
become so much interested without having consulted my mother."

"It will never do for you to consult her now, Mary, for she does not
know Mr. Fenwick as you and I know him. She will judge of him, as
will your father, from appearances, and forbid you to keep his
company."

"I am sure that such will be the case, and you cannot tell how it
troubles me. From childhood up I have been taught to confide in
them, and, except in this thing, have never once deceived them. The
idea of doing so now, is one that gives me constant pain. I feel
that I have not acted wisely in this matter."

"Nonsense, Mary! Parents never think with their children in these
matters. It would make no odds whom you happened to love, they would
most certainly oppose you. I never yet knew a young lady whose
parents fully approved her choice of a husband."

"I feel very certain that mine will not approve my choice; and I
cannot bear the idea of their displeasure. Sometimes I feel half
determined to tell them all, let the consequences be what they may."

"Oh no, no, Mary! not for the world. They would no doubt take steps
to prevent your again meeting each other."

"What, then, shall I do, Mrs. Martindale?"

"See Mr. Fenwick whenever an opportunity offers, and leave the rest
to me. I will advise you when and how to act."

The almost involuntary admissions made by Mary in this conversation,
were at once conveyed to the ears of Fenwick, who soon sought an
opportunity openly to declare his love. Of course, his suit was not
rejected. Thus, under the advice and direction of a most injudicious
woman, who had betrayed the confidence placed in her, was a young
girl, unacquainted with life, innocent and unsuspicious, wooed and
won, and her parents wholly ignorant of the circumstance.

Thoughts of marriage follow quickly a declaration of love. Once with
the prize in view, Fenwick was eager to have it wholly in his
possession. Mrs. Martindale was, of course, the mutual friend and
adviser, and she urged an immediate clandestine marriage. For many
weeks Mary resisted the persuasions of both. Fenwick and Mrs.
Martindale; but at last, in a state of half distraction of mind, she
consented to secretly leave her father's house, and throw herself
upon the protection of one she had not known for six months, and of
whose true character she had no certain knowledge.

"Mary is out a great deal of late, it seems to me," Mr. Lester
remarked, as he sat alone with his wife one evening about ten
o'clock.

"So I was just thinking. There is, scarcely an evening now in the
week that she has not an engagement somewhere."

"I cannot say that I much approve of such a course myself. There is
always danger of a girl, just at Mary's age, forming injudicious
preferences for young men, if she be thrown much into their company,
unattended by a proper adviser."

"Mrs. Martindale is very fond of Mary, and I believe is with her a
good deal."

"Mrs. Martindale? Humph! Do you know that I have no great confidence
in that woman?"

"Why?"

"Have you forgotten the hand she had in bringing about that most
unfortunate marriage of Caroline Howell?"

"I had almost forgotten it. Or, rather, I never paid much attention
to the rumour in regard to her interference in the matter; because,
you know, people will talk."

"And to some purpose, often; at least, I am persuaded that there is
truth in all that is alleged in this instance. And now that my
thoughts begin to run in this way, I do really feel concerned lest
the reason of Mary's frequent absence of late, in company with Mrs.
Martindale, has some reference to a matter of this kind. Have you
not observed some change in her of late?"

"She has not been very cheerful for the last two or three months."

"So I have once or twice thought, but supposed it was only my
imagination. If this, then, be true, it is our duty to be on our
guard--to watch over Mary with a careful eye, and to know
particularly into what company she goes."

"I certainly agree with you that we ought to do so. Heaven grant
that our watchfulness do not come too late!" Mrs. Lester said, a
sudden feeling of alarm springing up in her bosom.

"It is a late hour for her to be from home, and we not apprized of
where she is," the father remarked anxiously.

"It is, indeed. She has rarely stayed out later than nine o'clock."

"Who has been in the habit of coming home with her?"

"Usually Mrs. Martindale has accompanied her home, and this fact has
thrown me off my guard."

"It should have put you on your guard; for a woman like Mrs.
Martindale, gossiping about as she does, night after night, with
young folks, cannot, it seems to me, have the best ends in view."

"She seems to be a very well-disposed woman."

"That is true. And yet I have been several times persuaded that she
was one of the detestable tribe of match-makers"

"Surely not."

"I am afraid that it is too true. And if it be so, Mary is in
dangerous company."

"Indeed she is. From this time forth we must guard her more
carefully. Of all things in the world, I dread an improper marriage
for Mary. If she should throw away her affections upon an unworthy
object, how sad would be her condition! Her gentle spirit, wounded
in the tenderest part, would fail, and droop, and pine away in
hopeless sorrow. Some women have a strength of character that
enables them to rise superior, in a degree, to even such an
affliction; but Mary could not bear it."

"I feel deeply the truth of what you say," replied Mr. Lester. "Her
affections are ardent, and easily called out. We have been to blame
in not thinking more seriously of this matter before."

"I wish she would come home! It is growing far too late for her to
be absent," the mother said, in a voice of anxious concern.

Then succeeded a long and troubled silence, which continued until
the clock struck eleven.

"Bless me! where can she be?" ejaculated Mr. Lester, rising and
beginning to pace the floor with hurried steps.

This he continued to do for nearly a quarter of an hour, when he
paused, and said--

"Do you know where Mrs. Martindale lives?"

"At No.--Pearl street."

"No doubt she can tell where Mary is."

"I think it more than probable."

"Then I will see her at once."

"Had you not better wait a little longer? I should be sorry to
attract attention, or cause remark about the matter, which would be
the result, if it got out that you went in search of her after
eleven o'clock at night."

This had the effect to cause Mr. Lester to wait little longer. But
when the clock struck twelve, he could restrain himself no further.
Taking up his hat, he hurried off in the direction of Mrs.
Martindale's.

"Is Mrs. Martindale at home?" he asked of the servant, who, after he
had rung three or four times, found her way to the door.

"No, sir," was the reply.

"Where is she?"

"I do not know, sir."

"Will she be here to-night?"

"No, sir."

"Is she in the habit of staying away at night?"

"No, sir."

"Where did she go early in the evening?"

"I do not know, sir."

Disappointed, and doubly alarmed, Mr. Lester turned away, and
retraced his steps homeward.

"Did you see her?" eagerly inquired his wife, as he entered.

"She is not at home."

"Where is she?"

"The stupid servant could not or would not tell."

"Indeed, indeed, I do not like the appearance of all this," said
Mrs. Lester, with a troubled countenance.

"Nor do I. I am sadly afraid all is not right in regard to Mary."

"But she certainly could not be induced to go away with any one--in
a word, to marry clandestinely."

"I should hope not. But one so innocent and unsuspecting as
Mary--one with so much natural goodness of character--is most easily
led away by the specious and designing, who can easily obscure their
minds, and take from them their own freedom of action. For this
reason, we should have guarded her much more carefully than we have
done."

For two hours longer did the anxious parents wait and watch for
Mary's return, but in vain. They then retired to take a brief but
troubled repose.

Early on the next morning, in going into Mary's room, her mother
found a letter for her, partly concealed among the leaves of a
favourite volume that lay upon her table. It contained the
information that she was about to marry Mr. Fenwick, and gave Mrs.
Martindale as authority for the excellence of his character: The
letter was written on the previous day, and the marriage was to take
place that night.

With a stifled cry of anguish, Mrs. Lester sprang down the stairs,
on comprehending the tenor of the letter, and, placing it in the
hands of her husband, burst into tears. He read it through without
visible emotion; but the intelligence fell like a dead, oppressive
weight upon his heart--almost checking respiration. Slowly he seated
himself upon a chair, while his head sank upon his bosom, and thus
he remained almost motionless for nearly half an hour, while his
wife wept and sobbed by his side.

"Mary," he at last said, in a mournful tone--"she is our child yet."

"Wretched--wretched girl!" responded Mrs. Lester; "how could she so
fatally deceive herself and us?"

"Fatally, indeed, has she done so! But upon her own head will the
deepest sorrow rest. I only wish that we were altogether guiltless
of this sacrifice."

"But may it not turn out that this Mr. Fenwick will not prove so
unworthy of her as we fear?--that he will do all in his power to
make her happy?"

"Altogether a vain hope, Mary. He is evidently not a man of
principle, for no man of principle would have thus clandestinely
stolen away our child--which he could only have done by first
perverting or blinding her natural perceptions of right. Can such an
one make any pure-minded, unselfish woman happy? No!--the hope is
altogether vain. He must have been conscious of his unworthiness, or
he would have come forward like a man and asked for her."

Mr. and Mrs. Lester loved their daughter too well to cast her off.
They at once brought her, with her husband, back to her home again,
and endeavoured to make that home as pleasant to her as ever. But,
alas! few months had passed away, before the scales fell from her
eyes--before she perceived that the man upon whom she had lavished
the wealth of her young heart's affections, could not make her
happy. A weak and vain young man, Fenwick could not stand the honour
of being Mr. Lester's son-in-law, without having his brain turned.
He became at once an individual of great consequence--assumed airs,
and played the fool so thoroughly, as not only to disgust her
friends and family, but even Mary herself. His business was far too
limited for a man of his importance. He desired to relinquish the
retail line, and get into the jobbing trade. He stated his plans to
Mr. Lester, and boldly asked for a capital of twenty thousand
dollars to begin with. This was of course refused. That gentleman
thought it wisdom to support him in idleness, if it came to that,
rather than risk the loss of a single dollar in a business in which
there was a moral certainty of failure.

Disgusted with his father-in-law's narrow-mindedness, as he called
it, Fenwick attempted to make the desired change on the strength of
his own credit. This scheme likewise proved a failure. And that was
not all, as in the course of a twelve-month his creditors wound him
up, and he came out a bankrupt.

Mr. Lester then offered him a situation as clerk in his own store;
but Fenwick was a young man of too much consequence to be clerk to
any man. If he could not be in business himself, he, would do no
business at all, he said. That he was determined on. He could do
business as well as any one, and had as much right to be in business
as any one.

The consequence was, that idle habits took him into idle company,
and idle company led him on to dissipation. Three years after his
marriage with Mary Lester, he was a drunkard and a gambler, and she
a drooping, almost heart-broken young wife and mother.

One night, nearly four years from the date of her unhappy marriage,
Mary sat alone in her chamber, by the side of the bed upon which
slept sweetly and peacefully a little girl nearly three years of
age, the miniature image of herself. Her face was very thin and
pale, and there was a wildness in her restless eyes, that betokened
a troubled spirit. The time had worn on until nearly one o'clock,
and still she made no movement to retire; but seemed waiting for
some one, and yet not in anxious expectation. At last the door below
was opened, and footsteps came shuffling along the hall, and noisily
up the stairs. In a moment or two, her room-door was swung widely
open, and her husband staggered in, so drunk that he could scarcely
keep his feet.

"And pray what are you doing up at this time of night, ha?" said he,
in drunken anger.

"You did not like it, you know, because I was in bed last night, and
so I have sat up for you this time," his wife replied, soothingly.

"Well, you've no business to be up this late, let me tell you,
madam. And I'm not agoing to have it. So bundle off to bed with you,
in less than no time!"

"O Henry! how can you talk so to me?" poor Mary said, bursting into
tears.

"You needn't go to blubbering in that way, I can tell you, madam; so
just shut up! I won't have it! And see here: I must have three
hundred dollars out of that stingy old father of yours to-morrow,
and you must get it for me. If you don't, why, just look out for
squalls."

As he said this, he threw himself heavily upon the bed, and came
with his whole weight upon the body of his child. Mrs. Fenwick
screamed out, sprang to the bedside, and endeavoured to drag him off
the little girl. Not understanding what she meant, he rose up
quickly, and threw her from him with such force, as to dash her
against the wall opposite, when she fell senseless upon the floor.
Just at this moment, her father, who had overheard his first angry
words, burst into the room, and with the energy of suddenly aroused
indignation, seized Fenwick by the collar, dragged him down-stairs,
and thence threw him into the street from his hall-door, which he
closed and locked after him--vowing, as he did so, that the wretch
should never again cross his threshold.

All night long did poor Mrs. Fenwick lie, her senses locked in
insensibility; and all through the next day she remained in the same
state, in spite of every effort to restore her. Her husband several
times attempted to gain admittance, but was resolutely refused.

"He never crosses my door-stone again!" the old man said; and to
that resolution he determined to adhere.

Another night and another day passed, and still another night, and
yet the heart-stricken young wife showed no signs of returning
consciousness. It was toward evening on the fourth day, that the
family, with Mrs. Martindale, who had called in, were gathered round
her bed, in a state of painful and gloomy anxiety, waiting for, yet
almost despairing again to see her restored to consciousness. All at
once she opened her eyes, and looked up calmly into the faces of
those who surrounded her bed.

"Where is little Mary?" she at length asked.

The child was instantly brought to her.

"Does Mary love mother?" she asked of the child, in a tone of
peculiar tenderness.

The child drew its little arms about her neck, and kissed her pale
lips and cheeks fondly.

"Yes, Mary loves mother. But mother is going away to leave Mary.
Will she be a good girl?"

The little thing murmured assent, as it clung closer to its mother's
bosom.

Mrs. Fenwick then looked up into the faces of her father and mother
with a sad but tender smile, and said--

"You will be good to little Mary when I am gone?

"Don't talk so, Mary!--don't, my child! You are not going to leave
us," her mother sobbed, while the tears fell from her eyes like
rain.

"Oh no, dear! you will not leave us," said her father, in a
trembling voice.

"Yes, dear mother! dear father! I must go. But you will not let any
one take little Mary from you?"

"Oh no--ever! She is ours, and no one shall ever take her away."

Mrs. Fenwick then closed her eyes, while a placid expression settled
upon her sweet but careworn face. Again she looked up, but with a
more serious countenance. As she did so, her eyes rested upon Mrs.
Martindale.

"I am about to die, Mrs. Martindale," she said, hit a calm but
feeble voice--"and with my dying breath I charge upon you the ruin
of my hopes and happiness. If my little girl should live to woman's
estate," she added, turning to her parents, "guard her from the
influence of this woman, as you would from the fangs of a serpent."

Then closing her eyes again, she sank away into a sleep that proved
the sleep of death. Alas! how many like her have gone down to an
early grave, or still pine on in hopeless sorrow, the victims of
that miserable interference in society, which is constantly bringing
young people together, and endeavouring to induce them to love and
marry each other, without there being between them any true
congeniality or fitness for such a relation! Of all assumed social
offices, that of the match-maker is one of the most pernicious, and
her character one of the most detestable. She should be shunned with
the same shrinking aversion with which we shun a serpent which
crosses our path.

THE RETURN; OR, WHO IS IT?

"IT'S nearly a year now since I was home," said Lucy Gray to her
husband; "and so you must let me go for a few weeks."

They had been married some four or five years, and never during that
time had been separated for a single night.

"I thought you called this your home," said Gray, looking up with a
mock-serious air.

"I mean my old home," replied Lucy, in a half-affected tone of
anger. "Or, to make it plain, I want to go, and see father and
mother."

"Can't you wait three or four months, until I can go with you?"
asked the young husband.

"I want to go now. You said all along that I should go in May."

"I know I did. But then I supposed that I would be able to go with
you."

"Well, why can't you? I am sure you might, if you would."

"No, Lucy, I cannot possibly leave home now. But if you are very
anxious to see the old folks, I can put you in the stage, and you
will go safely enough. Ellen and I can take care of little Lucy, no
doubt. How long a time do you wish to spend with them?"

"About three weeks or so?"

"Very well, Lucy, if you are not afraid to go lone, I have not a
word to say."

"I'm not afraid, dear," replied the wife in a voice hanged and
softened in its expression. "But are you perfectly willing to let me
go, Henry?"

"Oh, certainly," was answered, although the tone in which the words
were uttered had in it something of reluctance. "It would be selfish
in me to say no. Your father and mother will be delighted receive a
visit just now."

"And you think that you and Ellen can get along with little Lucy?"

"Oh yes, very well."

"I should like to go so much."

"Go, then, by all means."

"But won't you be very lonesome without me?" suggested Lucy, in
whose own bosom a feeling of loneliness was already beginning to be
felt at the bare idea of a separation from her husband.

"I can stand it as long as you," was Gray's laughing reply to this.
"And then I shall have our dear little Lucy."

Mrs. Gray laughed in return, but did not feel as happy at the idea
of "going home" as she thought she would be before her husband's
consent was gained. The desire to go, however, remaining strong, it
was finally settled that the visit should take place. So all the
preparations were made, and in the course of a week Henry Gray saw
his wife take her seat in the stage, with a feeling of regret at
parting which it required all his efforts to conceal. As for Lucy,
when the time came, she regretted ever having thought of going
without her husband and child; but she was ashamed to let her real
feelings be known. So she kept on a show of indifference, all the
while that her heart was fluttering. The "good-bye" finally said,
the driver cracked his whip, and off rolled the stage. Gray turned
homeward with a dull, lonely feeling, and Lucy drew her vail over
her face to conceal the unbidden tears from her fellow-passengers.

That night, poor Mr. Gray slept but little. How could he? His Lucy
was absent, and for the first time, from his side. On the. next
morning, as he could think of nothing but his wife, he sat down and
wrote to her, telling her how lost and lonely he felt, and how much
little Lucy missed her, but still to try and enjoy herself, and by
all means to write him a letter by return mail.

As for Mrs. Gray, during her journey of two whole days, she cried
fully half the time, and when she got "home" at last, that is, at
her father's, she looked the picture of distress, rather than the
daughter full of joy at meeting her parents.

Right glad were the old people to see their dear child, but grieved
at the same time, and a little hurt too, at her weakness and evident
regret at having left her husband, to make them a brief visit. The
real pleasure that Lucy felt at once more seeing the faces of her
parents, whom she tenderly loved, was not strong enough to subdue
and keep in concealment, except for a very short period at a time,
her yearning desire again to be with her husband, for whom she never
before experienced a feeling of such deep and earnest affection.
Several times during the first day of her visit, did her mother
find, her in tears, which she would quickly dash aside, and then
endeavour to smile and seem cheerful.

The day after her arrival brought her a letter--the first she had
ever received from her husband. How precious was every word! How
often and often did she read it over, until every line was engraven
on her memory! Then she sat down, and spent some two or three hours
in replying to it. As she sealed this first epistle to her husband,
full of tender expressions, she sighed as the wish arose in her
mind, involuntarily, to go with it on its journey to the village
of----.

Long were the hours, and wearily passed, to Henry Gray. It was the
sixth day of trial, before Lucy's answer came. How dear to his heart
was every word of her affectionate epistle! Like her, he went over
it so often, that every sentiment was fixed in his mind.

"Two weeks longer! How can I bear it?" said he, rising up, and
pacing the floor backward and forward, after reading her letter for
the tenth time.

On the next day, the seventh of his lonely state, Mr. Gray sat down
to write again to Lucy. Several times he wrote the words, as he
proceeded in the letter--"Come home soon,"--but often obliterated
them. He did not wish to appear over anxious for her return, on her
father and mother's account, who were much attached to her. But
forgetting this reason for not urging her early return, he had
commenced again writing the words, "Come home soon," when a pair of
soft hands were suddenly placed over his eyes, by some one who had
stolen softly up behind him.

"Guess my name," said a voice, in feigned tones.

But he had no need to guess, for a sudden cry of joy from a little
toddling thing, told that "Mamma" had come.

How "Mamma" was hugged and kissed all round, need not here be told.
That scene was well enough in its place, but would lose its interest
in telling. It may be imagined, however, without suffering any
particular detriment, by all who have a fancy for such things.

"And father, too!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Gray, after he had almost
smothered his wife with kisses, looking up with an expression of
pleasure and surprise, at an old man, who stood looking on with his
good-humoured face covered with smiles.

"Yes. I had to bring the good-for-nothing jade home," replied the
old man advancing, and grasping his son-in-law's hand, with a hearty
grip. "She did nothing but mope and cry all the while; and I don't
care if she never comes to see us again, unless she brings you along
to keep her in good humour."

"And I never intend going alone again," said Mrs. Gray, holding a
little chubby girl to her bosom, while she kissed it over and over
again, at the same time that he pressed close up to her husband's
side.

The old man understood it all. He was not jealous of Lucy's
affection, for he knew that she loved him as tenderly as ever. He
was too glad to know that she was happy with a husband to whom she
was as the apple of his eye. In about three months Lucy made another
visit "home." But husband and child were along this time, and the
visit proved a happy one all around. Of course "father and mother"
had their jest, and their laugh, and their affectation of jealousy
and anger at Lucy for her "childishness," as they termed it, when
home in May; but Lucy, though half vexed at herself for what she
called her weakness, nevertheless persevered in saying that she
never meant to go any where again without Henry. "That was settled."

THE END.

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