Part 4 out of 5
would on no account dispense with that arrangement. And whenever,
you marry as girls do and will, I shall hold myself bound to satisfy
any reasonable wishes on the part of the happy youth that wins you.
Circumstances hastened my marriage somewhat unexpectedly, or I
should certainly have informed you previously, and requested your
presence at the nuptial ceremony. We have secured a beautiful house
in Brooklyn, and shall expect you to join us as soon as your present
year expires, Laura sends her kindest regards, and I remain, as
always, your sincere and affectionate brother,
"Not long after the receipt of this letter, one of the
instructresses, in the institution where I resided requested the
favour of a private interview. She then said she knew something
generally of my position and prospects, and, as she had always felt
an instinctive interest in my fortunes, she could not see me leave
the place without seeking my confidence, and rendering me aid, if
aid was in her power. Though surprised and, to say the truth,
indignant, I simply inquired what views, had occurred to her with
regard to my future life.
"She said, then, very kindly, that although I was not very thorough
in, any branch of study, yet she thought I had a decided taste for
the lighter and more ornamental parts of female education. That a
few months earnest attention to these would fit me for a position
independent of my connexions, and one of which none of my friends
would have cause to be ashamed.
"I am deeply pained to own to you how I answered her. Drawing myself
up, I said, coldly,
"'I am obliged to you, madam, for your quite unsolicited interest in
my affairs. When I leave this place, it will be to join my brother
and sister in Brooklyn, and, as we are all reasonably wealthy, I
must try to make gold varnish over any defects in my neglected
"I looked to see my kind adviser entirely annihilated by these
imposing words, but she answered with perfect calmness,
"'I know Laura Wentworth, now Mrs. Somers. She was educated at the
North, and was a pupil of my own for a year. She is wealthy and
beautiful, and I hope you will never have cause to regret assuming a
position with regard to her that might be mistaken for dependence.'
"With these words, my well-meaning, but perhaps injudicious friend,
took leave, and I burst into a mocking laugh, that I hoped she might
linger long enough to hear. 'This is too good!' I repeated to
myself--but I could not feel perfectly at ease. However, I soon
forgot all thoughts of the future, in the present duties of
scribbling in fifty albums, and exchanging keepsakes, tears, and
kisses, with a like number of _very_ intimate friends.
"It was not until I had finally left school, and was fairly on the
way to the home of my brother, that I found a moment's leisure to
think seriously of the life that was before me. I confess that I
felt some secret misgivings, as I stood at last upon the steps of
the very elegant house that was to be my future home. The servant
who obeyed my summons, inquired if I was Miss Rankin, a name I had
never borne since childhood.
"I was about to reply in the negative, when she added, 'If you are
the young lady that Mr. Somers is expecting from the seminary, I
will show you to your room.'
"I followed mechanically, and was left in a very pretty chamber,
with the information that Mrs. Somers was a little indisposed, but
would meet me at dinner. The maid added that Mr. Somers was out of
town, and would not return till evening. After a very uncomfortable
hour, during which I resolutely suspended my opinion with regard to
my position, the dinner-bell rang, and the domestic again appeared
to show me to the dining-room.
"Mrs. Somers met me with extended hand. 'My dear Miss Rankin!' she
exclaimed, 'I am most happy to see you. I have heard George speak of
you so often and so warmly that I consider you quite as a relative.
Come directly to the table. I am sure you must be famished after
your long ride. I hope you will make yourself one of us, at once,
and let me call you Fanny. May I call you Cousin Fanny?' she
pursued, with an air of sweet condescension that was meant to be
"'As you please,' I replied coldly.
"To which she quickly responded, 'Oh, that will be delightful.'
"She then turned to superintend the carving of a fowl, and I had
time to look at her undisturbed. She was tall and finely formed,
with small delicate features, and an exquisite grace in every
movement; a haughty sweetness that was perfectly indescribable. She
had very beautiful teeth, which she showed liberally when she
smiled, and in her graver moments her slight features wore an
imperturbable serenity, as if the round world contained nothing that
was really worth her attention. An animated statue, cold, polished,
and pitiless! was my inward thought, as I bent over my dinner.
"When the meal was over, Mrs. Somers said to me, in a tone of
"'Now, Cousin Fanny, I want you to go to your room and rest, and not
do an earthly thing until teatime. After that I have a thousand
things to show you.'
"At night I was accordingly shown a great part of the house; a
costly residence, and exquisitely furnished, but, alas! I already
wearied of this icy splendour. Every smile of my beautiful hostess
(I could not now call her sister), every tone of her soft voice,
every movement of her superb form, half queen-like dignity, half
fawn-like grace--seemed to place an insurmountable barrier between
herself and me. It was not that I thought more humbly of myself--not
that I did not even consider myself her equal--but her dainty
blandishments were a delicate frost-work, that almost made me shiver
and when, she touched her cool lips to mine, and said 'Good-night,
dear,' I felt as if even then separated from her real, living self,
by a wall of freezing marble.
"'Poor George!' I said, as I retired to rest--'You have wedded this
soulless woman, and she will wind you round her finger.'
"I did not sit up for him, for he was detained till a late hour, but
I obeyed the breakfast-bell with unfashionable eagerness, as I was
becoming nervous about our meeting, and really anxious to have it
over. After a delay of some minutes, I heard the wedded pair coming
leisurely down the stairs, in, very amicable chatter.
"'I am glad you like her, Laura,' said a voice which I knew in a
moment as that of George. How I shivered as I caught the smooth
reply, 'A nice little thing. I am very glad of the connexion. It
will be such a relief not to rely entirely upon servants. There
should be a middle class in every family.'
"With these words she glided through the door, looked with perfect
calmness in my flashing eyes, and said,
"'Ah, Fanny! I, was just telling George here how much I shall like
"The husband came forward with an embarrassed air; I strove to meet
him with dignity, but my heart failed me, and I burst into tears.
"'Forgive me, madam,' I said, on regaining my composure--'This is
our first meeting since the death of _our father_.'
"'I understand your feelings perfectly,' she quietly replied. 'My
father knew the late Mr. Somers well, and thought very highly of
him, He was charitable to a fault, and yet remarkable for
discernment. His bounty was seldom unworthily bestowed.'
"His bounty! I had never been thought easy to intimidate, but I
quailed before this unapproachable ice-berg. It made no attempt
from that moment to vindicate what I was pleased to call my rights,
but awaited passively the progress of events.
"After breakfast, Mrs. Somers said to the maid in attendance,
"'Dorothy, bring some hot water and towels for Miss Rankin.'
"She then turned to me and continued, 'I shall feel the china
perfectly safe in your hands, cousin. These servants are so very
"And she followed George to the parlour above, where their lively
tones and light laughter made agreeable music.
"In the same easy way, I was invested with a variety of domestic
cares, most of them such as I would willingly have accepted, had she
waited for me to manifest such a willingness. But a few days after
my arrival, we received a visit from little Ella Grey, a cousin of
Laura's, who was taken seriously ill on the first evening of her
stay. A physician was promptly summoned, and, after a conference
with him, Mrs. Somers came to me, inquiring earnestly,
"'Cousin Fanny, have you ever had the measles?'
"I replied in the affirmative.
"'Oh, I am very glad!' was her response; 'for little Ella is
attacked with them, and very severely; but, if you will take charge
of her, I shall feel no anxiety. It is dreadful in sickness to be
obliged to depend upon hirelings.'
"So I was duly installed as little Ella's nurse, and, as she was a
spoiled child, my task was neither easy nor agreeable.
"No sooner was the whining little creature sufficiently improved to
be taken to her own home, than the house was thrown into confusion
by preparations for a brilliant party. Laura took me with her on a
shopping excursion, and bade me select whatever I wished, and send
the bill with hers to Mr. Somers. I purchased a few indispensable
articles, but I felt embarrassed by her calm, scrutinizing gaze, and
by the consciousness that every item of my expenditures would be
scanned by, perhaps, censorious eyes.
"What with my previous fatigue while acting as Ella's nurse, and the
laborious preparations for the approaching festival, I felt, as the
time drew near, completely exhausted. Yet I was determined not to so
far give way to the depressing influences that surrounded me, as to
absent myself from the party. So, after snatching an interval of
rest, to relieve my aching head, I dressed myself with unusual care,
and repaired to the brilliantly lighted rooms. They were already
filled, and murmuring like a swarm of bees, although, as one of the
guests remarked, there were more drones than workers in the hive. I
was now no drone, certainly, and that was some consolation. When I
entered, Laura was conversing with a group of dashing young men, who
were blundering over a book of charades. Seeing me enter, she came
towards me immediately.
"'Cousin Fanny, you who help everybody, I want you to come to the
aid of these stupid young men. Gentlemen, this is our Cousin Fanny,
the very best creature in the world.' And with this introduction she
left me, and turned to greet some new arrivals. After discussing the
charades till my ears were weary of empty and aimless chatter, I was
very glad to find my group of young men gradually dispersing, and
myself at liberty to look about me, undisturbed. George soon came to
me, gave me his arm, and took me to a room where were several
ladies, friends of his father, and who had known me very well as a
"'You remember Fanny,' he said to them; and then left me, and
devoted himself to the courteous duties of the hour. While I was
indulging in a quiet chat with a very kind old friend, she proposed
to go with me to look at the dancers, as the music was remarkably
fine, and it was thought the collected beauty and fashion of the
evening would make a very brilliant show. We left our seats,
accordingly, but were soon engaged in the crowd, and while waiting
for an opportunity to move on, I heard one of my young men ask
"'How do you like _la cousine_?'
"I lost a part of the answer, but heard the closing words
distinctly--'_et un peu passee._' '_Oui, decidement!_' was the
prompt response, and a light laugh followed, while, shrinking close
to my kind friend, I rejoiced that my short stature concealed me
from observation. I was not very well taught, but, like most
school-girls, I had a smattering of French, and I knew the meaning
of the very ordinary phrases that had been used with regard to me.
Before the supper-hour, my headache became so severe that I was glad
to take refuge in my own room. There I consulted my mirror, and felt
disposed to forgive, the young critics for their disparaging
remarks. _Passee!_ I looked twenty-five at least, and yet I was not
eighteen, and six months before I had fancied myself a beauty and an
"But I will not weary you with details. Suffice it to say; that I
spent only three months of this kind of life, and then relinquished
the protection of Mr. and Mrs. Somers, and removed to a second-rate
boarding-house, where I attempted to maintain myself by giving
lessons in music. Every day, however, convinced me of my unfitness
for this task, and, as I soon felt an interest in the sweet little
girls who looked up to me for instruction, my position with regard
to them became truly embarrassing. One day I had been wearying
myself by attempting the impossible task of making clear to another
mind, ideas that lay confusedly in my own, and at last I said to my
"'You may go home now, Clara, dear, and practise the lesson of
yesterday. I am really ill to-day, but to-morrow I shall feel
better, and I hope I shall then be able to make you understand me.'
"The child glided out, but a shadow still fell across the carpet. I
looked up, and saw in the doorway a young man, whose eccentricities
sometimes excited a smile among his fellow-boarders, but who was
much respected for his sense and independence.
"'To make yourself understood by others, you must first learn to
understand yourself,' said he, as he came forward. Then, taking my
hand, he continued,--'What if you should give up all this abortive
labour, take a new pupil, and, instead of imparting to others what
you have not very firmly grasped yourself, try if you can make a
human being of me?'
"I looked into his large gray eyes, and saw the truth and
earnestness shining in their depths, like pebbles at the bottom of a
pellucid spring. I never once thought of giving him a conventional
reply. On the contrary, I stammered out,
"'I am full, of faults and errors; I could never do you any good.'
"'I have studied your character attentively,' returned he, 'and I
know you have faults, but they are unlike mine; and I think that you
might be of great service to me; or, if the expression suits you
better, that we might be of great aid to each other. Become my wife,
and I will promise to improve more rapidly than any pupil in your
"And I did become his wife, but not until a much longer acquaintance
had convinced me, that in so doing, I should not exchange one form
of dependence for another, more galling and more hopeless."
"Then this eccentric young man was Uncle Robert?"
"Precisely. But you see he has made great improvement, since."
"Well, Aunt Frances, I thank you for your story; and now for the
moral. What do you think I had better do?"
"I will tell you what you can do, if you choose. Your uncle has just
returned from a visit to his mother. He finds her a mere child,
gentle and amiable, but wholly unfit to take charge of herself. Her
clothes have taken fire repeatedly, from her want of judgment with
regard to fuel and lights, and she needs a companion for every
moment of the day. This, with their present family, is impossible,
and they are desirous to secure some one who will devote herself to
your grandmother during the hours when your aunt and the domestics
are necessarily engaged. You were always a favourite there, and I
know they would be very much relieved if you would take this office
for a time, but they feel a delicacy in making any such proposal.
You can have all your favourites about you--books, flowers, and
piano; for the dear old lady delights to hear reading or music, and
will sit for hours with a vacant smile upon her pale, faded face.
Then your afternoons will be entirely your own, and Robert is
empowered to pay any reliable person a salary of a fixed and ample
amount, which will make you independent for the time."
"But, aunt, you will laugh at me, I know, yet I do really fear that
Kate will feel this arrangement as a disappointment."
"Suppose I send her a note, stating that you have given me some
encouragement of assuming this important duty, but that you could
not think of deciding without showing a grateful deference to her
"That will be just the thing. We shall get a reply to-morrow." With
to-morrow came the following note:--
"_My Dear Aunt Frances_:--Your favour of yesterday took us a little
by surprise, I must own I had promised myself a great deal of
pleasure in the society of our Mary; but since she is inclined (and
I think it is very noble in her) to foster with the dew of her youth
the graceful but fallen stem that lent beauty to us all, I cannot
say a word to prevent it. Indeed, it has occurred to me, since the
receipt of your note, that we shall need the room we had reserved
for Mary, to accommodate little Willie, Mr. Howard's pet nephew, who
has the misfortune to be lame. His physicians insist upon country
air, and a room upon the first floor. So tell Mary I love her a
thousand times better for her self-sacrifice, and will try to
imitate it by doing all in my power for the poor little invalid that
"With the kindest regards, I remain "Your affectionate niece,
"Are you now decided, Mary?" asked Aunt Frances, after their joint
perusal of the letter.
"Not only decided, but grateful. I have lost my fortune, it is true;
but while youth and health remain, I shall hardly feel tempted to
taste the luxuries of dependence."
TWO RIDES WITH THE DOCTOR.
JUMP in, if you would ride with the doctor. You have no time to
lose, for the patient horse, thankful for the unusual blessing which
he has enjoyed in obtaining a good night's rest, stands early at the
door this rainy morning, and the worthy doctor himself is already in
his seat, and is hastily gathering up the reins, for there have been
no less than six rings at his bell within as many minutes, and
immediate attendance is requested in several different places.
It is not exactly the day one might select for a ride, for the storm
is a regular north-easter, and your hands and feet are benumbed with
the piercing cold wind, while you are drenched with the driving
But the doctor is used to all this, and, unmindful of wind and rain,
he urges his faithful horse to his utmost speed, eager to reach the
spot where the most pressing duty calls. He has at least the
satisfaction of being welcome. Anxious eyes are watching for his
well-known vehicle from the window; the door is opened ere he puts
his hand upon the lock, and the heartfelt exclamation,
"Oh, doctor, I am so thankful you have come!" greets him as he
Hastily the anxious father leads the way to the room where his
half-distracted wife is bending in agony over their first-born, a
lovely infant of some ten months, who is now in strong convulsions.
The mother clasps her hands, and raises her eyes in gratitude to
heaven, as the doctor enters,-he is her only earthly hope. Prompt
and efficient remedies are resorted to, and in an hour the restored
little one is sleeping tranquilly in his mother's arms.
The doctor departs amid a shower of blessings, and again urging his
horse to speed, reaches his second place of destination. It is a
stately mansion. A spruce waiter hastens to answer his ring, but the
lady herself meets him as he enters the hall.
"We have been expecting you anxiously, doctor. Mr. Palmer is quite
ill, this morning. Walk up, if you please."
The doctor obeys, and is eagerly welcomed by his patient.
"Do exert your utmost skill to save me from a fever, doctor. The
symptoms are much the same which I experienced last year, previous
to that long siege with the typhoid. It distracts me to think of it.
At this particular juncture I should lose thousands by absence from
The doctor's feelings are enlisted,--his feelings of humanity and
his feelings of self-interest, for doctors must live as well as
other people; and the thought of the round sum which would find its
way to his own purse, if he could but succeed in preventing the loss
of thousands to his patient, was by no means unpleasing.
The most careful examination of the symptoms is made, and
well-chosen prescriptions given. He is requested to call as often as
possible through the day, which he readily promises to do, although
press of business and a pouring rain render it somewhat difficult.
The result, however, will be favourable to his wishes. His second
and third call give him great encouragement, and on the second day
after the attack, the merchant returns to his counting-room exulting
in the skill of his physician.
But we must resume our ride. On, on goes the doctor; rain pouring,
wind blowing, mud splashing. Ever and anon he checks his horse's
speed, at his various posts of duty. High and low, rich and poor
anxiously await his coming. He may not shrink from the ghastly
spectacle of human suffering and death. Humanity, in its most
loathsome forms, is presented to him.
The nearest and dearest may turn away in grief and horror, but the
doctor blenches not.
Again we are digressing. The doctor's well-known tap is heard at the
door of a sick-room, where for many days he has been in constant
attendance. Noiselessly he is admitted. The young husband kneels at
the side of the bed where lies his dearest earthly treasure. The
calm but deeply-afflicted mother advances to the doctor, and
whispers fearfully low,
"There is a change. She sleeps. Is it--oh! can it be the sleep of
Quickly the physician is at the bedside, and anxiously bending over
Another moment and he grasps the husband's hand, while the glad
words "She will live," burst from his lips.
We may not picture forth their joy. On, on, we are riding with the
doctor. Once more we are at his own door. Hastily he enters, and
takes up the slate containing the list of calls during his absence.
At half a dozen places his presence is requested without delay.
A quick step is heard on the stairs, and his gentle wife hastens to
"I am so glad you have come; how wet you must be!"
The parlour door is thrown open. What a cheerful fire, and how
inviting look the dressing-gown and the nicely warmed slippers!
"Take off your wet clothes, dear; dinner will soon be ready," urges
"It is impossible, Mary. There are several places to visit yet. Nay,
never look so sad. Have not six years taught you what a doctor's
wife must expect?"
"I shall never feel easy when you are working so hard, Henry; but
surely you will take a cup of hot coffee; I have it all ready. It
will delay you but a moment."
The doctor consents; and while the coffee is preparing, childish
voices are heard, and little feet come quickly through the hall.
"Papa has come home!" shouts a manly little fellow of four years, as
he almost drags his younger sister to the spot where he has heard
his father's voice.
The father's heart is gladdened by their innocent joy, as they cling
around him; but there is no time for delay. A kiss to each, one good
jump for the baby, the cup of coffee is hastily swallowed, the wife
receives her embrace with tearful eyes, and as the doctor springs
quickly into his chaise, and wheels around the corner, she sighs
deeply as she looks at the dressing-gown and slippers, and thinks of
the favourite dish which she had prepared for dinner; and now it may
be night before he comes again. But she becomes more cheerful as she
remembers that a less busy season will come, and then they will
enjoy the recompense of this hard labour.
The day wears away, and at length comes the happy hour when gown and
slippers may be brought into requisition. The storm still rages
without, but there is quiet happiness within. The babies are
sleeping, and father and mother are in that snug little parlour,
with its bright light and cheerful fire. The husband is not too
weary to read aloud, and the wife listens, while her hands are
busied with woman's never-ending work.
But their happiness is of short duration. A loud ring at the bell.
"Patient in the office, sir," announces the attendant.
The doctor utters a half-impatient exclamation; but the wife
expresses only thankfulness that it is an office patient.
"Fine night for a sick person to come out!" muttered the doctor, as
he unwillingly lays down his book, and rises from the comfortable
But he is himself again by the time his hand is on the door of the
office, and it is with real interest that he greets his patient.
"Tooth to be extracted? Sit down, sir. Here, Biddy, bring water and
a brighter lamp. Have courage, sir; one moment will end it."
The hall door closes on the relieved sufferer, and the doctor throws
himself again on the lounge, and smilingly puts the bright half
dollar in his pocket.
"That was not so bad, after all, Mary. I like to make fifty cents in
"Cruel creature! Do not mention it."
"Cruel! The poor man blessed me in his heart. Did I not relieve him
from the most intense suffering?"
"Well, never mind. I hope there will be no more calls to-night."
"So do I. Where is the book? I will read again." No more
interruptions. Another hour, and all, are sleeping quietly.
Midnight has passed, when the sound of the bell falls on the
doctor's wakeful ear. As quickly as possible he answers it in
person, but another peal is heard ere he reaches the door.
A gentleman to whose family he has frequently been called, appears.
"Oh! doctor, lose not a moment; my little Willie is dying with the
There is no resisting this appeal. The still wet overcoat and boots
are drawn on; medicine case hastily seized, and the doctor rushes
forth again into the storm.
Pity for his faithful horse induces him to traverse the distance on
foot, and a rapid walk of half a mile brings him to the house.
It was no needless alarm. The attack was a severe one, and all his
skill was required to save the life of the little one. It was
daylight ere he could leave him with safety. Then, as he was about
departing for his own home, an express messenger arrived to entreat
him to go immediately to another place nearly a mile in an opposite
Breakfast was over ere he reached his own house. His thoughtful wife
suggested a nap; but a glance at the already well-filled slate
showed this to be out of the question. A hasty toilet, and still
hastier breakfast, and the doctor is again seated in his chaise,
going on his accustomed rounds; but we will not now accompany him.
Let us pass over two or three months, and invite ourselves to
another ride. One pleasant morning, when less pressed with business,
he walks leisurely from the house to the chaise, and gathering up
the reins with a remarkably thoughtful air, rides slowly down the
But few patients are on his list, and these are first attended to.
The doctor then pauses for consideration. He has set apart this day
for _collecting_. Past experience has taught him that the task is by
no means an agreeable one. It is necessary, however--absolutely
so--for, as we have said before, doctors must live as well as other
people; their house-rent must be paid, food and clothing must be
A moment only pauses the doctor, and then we are again moving
onward. A short ride brings us to the door of a pleasantly-situated
house. We remember it well. It is where the little one lay in fits
when we last rode out with the doctor. We recall the scene: the
convulsed countenance of the child; the despair of the parents, and
the happiness which succeeded when their beloved one was restored to
Surely they will now welcome the doctor. Thankfully will they pay
the paltry sum he claims as a recompense for his services. We are
more confident than the doctor. Experience is a sure teacher. The
door does not now fly open at his approach. He gives his name to the
girl who answers the bell, and in due time the lady of the house
"Ah! doctor, how do you do? You are quite a stranger! Delightful
The doctor replies politely, and inquires if her husband is in.
"Yes, he is in; but I regret to say he is exceedingly engaged this
morning. His business is frequently of a nature which cannot suffer
interruption. He would have been pleased to have seen you."
The doctor's pocket-book is produced, and the neatly drawn bill is
"If convenient to Mr. Lawton, the amount would be acceptable."
"I will hand it to him when he is at leisure. He will attend to it,
The doctor sighs involuntarily as he recalls similar indefinite
promises; but it is impossible to insist upon interrupting important
business. He ventures another remark, implying that prompt payment
would oblige him; bows, and retires.
On, on goes the faithful horse. Where is to be our next
stopping-place? At the wealthy merchant's, who owed so much to the
doctor's skill some two months since. Even the doctor feels
confidence here. Thousands saved by the prevention of that fever.
Thirty dollars is not to be thought of in comparison.
All is favourable. Mr. Palmer is at home, and receives his visiter
in a cordial manner. Compliments are passed. Now for the bill.
"Our little account, Mr. Palmer."
"Ah! I recollect; I am a trifle in your debt. Let us see: thirty
dollars! So much? I had forgotten that we had needed medical advice,
excepting in my slight indisposition a few weeks since."
Slight indisposition! What a memory some people are blessed with!
The doctor smothers his rising indignation.
"Eight visits, Mr. Palmer, and at such a distance. You will find the
charge a moderate one."
"Oh! very well; I dare say it is all right. I am sorry I have not
the money for you to-day, doctor. Very tight just at present; you
know how it is with men of business."
"It would be a great accommodation if I could have it at once."
"Impossible, doctor! I wish I could oblige you. In a week, or
fortnight, at the farthest, I will call at your office."
A week or fortnight! The disappointed doctor once more seats himself
in his chaise, and urges his horse to speed. He is growing desperate
now, and is eager to reach his next place of destination. Suddenly
he checks the horse. A gentleman is passing whom he recognises as
the young husband whose idolized wife has so lately been snatched
from the borders of the grave.
"Glad to see you, Mr. Wilton; I was about calling at your house."
"Pray, do so, doctor; Mrs. Wilton will be pleased to see you."
"Thank you; but my call was on business, to-day. I believe I must
trouble you with my bill for attendance during your wife's illness."
"Ah! yes; I recollect. Have you it with you? Fifty dollars!
Impossible! Why, she was not ill above three weeks."
"Very true; but think of the urgency of the case. Three or four
calls during twenty-four hours were necessary, and two whole nights
I passed at her bedside."
"And yet the charge appears to me enormous. Call it forty, and I
will hand you the amount at once."
The doctor hesitates. "I cannot afford to lose ten dollars, which is
justly my due, Mr. Wilton."
"Suit yourself, doctor. Take forty, and receipt the bill, or stick
to your first charge, and wait till I am ready to pay it. Fifty
dollars is no trifle, I can tell you."
And this is the man whose life might have been a blank but for the
Again we are travelling onward. The unpaid bill is left in Mr.
Wilton's hand, and yet the doctor half regrets that he had not
submitted to the imposition. Money is greatly needed just now, and
there seems little prospect of getting any.
Again and again the horse is stopped at some well-known post. A poor
welcome has the doctor to-day. Some bills are collected, but their
amount is discouragingly small. Everybody appears to feel
astonishingly healthy, and have almost forgotten that they ever had
occasion for a physician. There is one consolation, however:
sickness will come again, and then, perhaps, the unpaid bill may be
recollected. Homeward goes the doctor. He is naturally of a cheerful
disposition; but now he is seriously threatened with a fit of the
blues. A list of calls upon his slate has little effect to raise his
spirits. "All work and no pay," he mutters to himself, as he puts on
his dressing-gown and slippers; and, throwing himself upon the
lounge, turns a deaf ear to the little ones, while he indulges in a
revery as to the best mode of paying the doctor.
KEEP IN STEP.
Those who would walk together must keep in step.
AY, the world keeps moving forward,
Like an army marching by;
Hear you not its heavy footfall,
That resoundeth to the sky?
Some bold spirits bear the banner--
Souls of sweetness chant the song,--
Lips of energy and fervour
Make the timid-hearted strong!
Like brave soldiers we march forward;
If you linger or turn back,
You must look to get a jostling
While you stand upon our track.
Keep in step.
My good neighbour, Master Standstill,
Gazes on it as it goes;
Not quite sure but he is dreaming,
In his afternoon's repose!
"Nothing good," he says, "can issue
From this endless moving on;
Ancient laws and institutions
Are decaying, or are gone.
We are rushing on to ruin,
With our mad, new-fangled ways."
While he speaks a thousand voices,
As the heart of one man, says--
"Keep in step!"
Gentle neighbour, will you join us,
Or return to "_good old ways?_"
Take again the fig-leaf apron
Of Old Adam's ancient days;--
Or become a hardy Briton--
Beard the lion in his lair,
And lie down in dainty slumber
Wrapped in skins of shaggy bear,--
Rear the hut amid the forest,
Skim the wave in light canoe?
Ah, I see! you do not like it.
Then if these "old ways" won't do,
Keep in step.
Be assured, good Master Standstill,
All-wise Providence designed
Aspiration and progression
For the yearning human mind.
Generations left their blessings,
In the relies of their skill,
Generations yet are longing
For a greater glory still;
And the shades of our forefathers
Are not jealous of our deed--
We but follow where they beckon,
We but go where they do lead!
Keep in step.
One detachment of our army
May encamp upon the hill,
While another in the valley
May enjoy its own sweet will;
This, may answer to one watchword,
That, may echo to another;
But in unity and concord,
They discern that each is brother!
Breast to breast they're marching onward,
In a good now peaceful way;
You'll be jostled if you hinder,
So don't offer let or stay--
Keep in step.
"I GUESS we will have to put out our Johnny," said Mrs. Cole, with a
sigh, as she drew closer to the fire, one cold day in autumn. This
remark was addressed to her husband, a sleepy, lazy-looking man, who
was stretched on a bench, with his eyes half closed. The wife, with
two little girls of eight and ten, were knitting as fast as their
fingers could fly; the baby was sound asleep in the cradle; while
Johnny, a boy of thirteen, and a brother of four, were seated on the
wide hearth making a snare for rabbits. The room they occupied was
cold and cheerless; the warmth of the scanty fire being scarcely
felt; yet the floor, and every article of furniture, mean as they
were, were scrupulously neat and clean.
The appearance of this family indicated that they were very poor.
They were all thin and pale, really for want of proper food, and
their clothes had been patched until it was difficult to decide what
the original fabric had been; yet this very circumstance spoke
volume in favour of the mother. She was, a woman of great energy of
character, unfortunately united to a man whose habits were such,
that, for the greater part of the time, he was a dead weight upon
her hands; although not habitually intemperate, he was indolent and
good-for-nothing to a degree, lying in the sun half his time, when
the weather was warm, and never doing a stroke of work until driven
to it by the pangs of hunger.
As for the wife, by taking in sewing, knitting, and spinning for the
farmers' families in the neighbourhood, she managed to pay a rent of
twenty dollars for the cabin in which they lived; while she and
Johnny, with what assistance they could occasionally get from Jerry,
her husband, tilled the half acre of ground attached; and the
vegetables thus obtained, were their main dependance during the long
winter just at hand. Having thus introduced the Coles to our reader,
we will continue the conversation.
"I guess we will have to put out Johnny, and you will try and help
us a little more, Jerry, dear."
"Why, what's got into the woman now?" muttered Jerry, stretching his
arms, and yawning to the utmost capacity of his mouth. The children
laughed at their father's uncouth gestures, and even Mrs. Cole's
serious face relaxed into a smile, as she answered,
"Don't swallow us all, and I will tell you. The winter is beginning
early, and promises to be cold. Our potatoes didn't turn out as well
as I expected, and the truth is, we cannot get along so. We won't
have victuals to last us half the time; and, manage as I will, I
can't much more than pay the rent, I get so little for the kind of
work I do. Now, if Johnny gets a place, it will make one less to
provide for; and he will be learning to do something for himself."
"Yes, but mother," said the boy, moving close to her side, and
laying his head on her knee, "yes, but who'll help you when I am
gone? Who'll dig the lot, and hoe, and cut the wood, and carry the
water? You can't go away down to the spring in the deep snow. And
who'll make the fire in the cold mornings?"
The mother looked sorry enough, as her darling boy--for he was the
object around which the fondest affections of her heart had entwined
themselves--she looked sorry enough, as he enumerated the turns he
was in the habit of doing for her; but, woman-like, she could suffer
and be still; so she answered cheerfully,
"May be father will, dear; and when you grow bigger, and learn how
to do everything, you'll be such a help to us all."
"Don't depend on me," said Jerry, now arousing himself and
sauntering to the fire; "I hardly ever feel well,"--complaining was
Jerry's especial forte, an excuse for all his laziness; yet his
appetite never failed; and when, as was sometimes the case, one of
the neighbours sent a small piece of meat, or any little article of
food to his wife, under the plea of ill health he managed to
appropriate nearly the whole of it. He was selfishness embodied, and
a serious injury to his family, as few cared to keep him up in his
One evening, a few days later, Mrs. Cole, who had been absent
several hours, came in looking very tired, and after laying aside
her old bonnet and shawl, informed them that she had obtained a
place for Johnny. It was four miles distant, and the farmer's man
would stop for him on his way from town, the next afternoon. What a
beautiful object was farmer Watkins's homestead, lying as it did on
the sunny slope of a hill; its gray stone walls, peeping out from
between the giant trees that overshadowed it, while everything
around and about gave evidence of abundance and comfort. The thrifty
orchard; the huge barn with its overflowing granaries; the sleek,
well-fed cattle; even the low-roofed spring-house, with its
superabundance of shining pails and pans, formed an item which could
hardly be dispensed with, in the _tout ensemble_ of this pleasant
Farmer Watkins was an honest, hard-working man, somewhat past middle
age, with a heart not naturally devoid of kindness, but, where his
hirelings were concerned, so strongly encrusted with a layer of
habits, that they acted as an effectual check upon his better
feelings. His family consisted of a wife, said to be a notable
manager, and five or six children, the eldest, a son, at college. In
this household, work, work, was the order of the day; the farmer
himself, with his great brown fists, set the example, and the
others, willing or unwilling, were obliged to follow his lead. He
had agreed to take John Cole, as he said, more to get rid of his
mother's importunities, than for any benefit he expected to derive
from him; and when remonstrated with by his wife for his folly in
giving her the trouble of another brat, he answered shortly: "Never
fear, I'll get the worth of his victuals and clothes out of him."
Johnny was to have his boarding, clothes, and a dollar a month, for
two years. This dollar a month was the great item in Mrs. Cole's
calculations; twelve dollars a year, she argued, would almost pay
her rent, and when the tears stood in Johnny's great brown eyes (for
he was a pretty, gentle-hearted boy), as he was bidding them all
good-bye, and kissing the baby over and over again, she told him
about the money he would earn, and nerved his little heart with her
glowing representations, until he was able to choke back the tears,
and leave home almost cheerfully.
_Home_--yes, it was home; for they had much to redeem the miseries
of want within those bare cabin walls, for gentle hearts and kindly
smiles were there. There
"The mother sang at the twilight fall,
To the babe half slumbering on her knee."
There his brother and sisters played; there his associations, his
hopes, his wishes, were all centered. When he arrived at farmer
Watkins's, and was sent into the large carpeted kitchen, everything
was so unlike this home, that his fortitude almost gave way, and it
was as much as he could do, as he told his mother afterwards, "to
keep from bursting right out." Mrs. Watkins looked very cross, nor
did she notice him, except to order him to stand out of the way of
the red-armed girl who was preparing supper and placing it on a
table in the ample apartment. Johnny looked with amazement at the
great dishes of meat, and plates of hot biscuit, but the odour of
the steaming coffee, and the heat, were almost too much for him, as
he had eaten nothing since morning, for he was too sorry to leave
home to care about dinner. The girl, noticing that his pale face
grew paler, laughingly drew her mistress's attention to "master's
"Go out and bring in some wood for the stove," said Mrs. Watkins,
sharply; "the air will do you good."
Johnny went out, and, in a few minutes, felt revived. Looking about,
he soon found the wood-shed; there was plenty of wood, but none cut
of a suitable length; it was all in cord sticks. Taking an axe, he
chopped an armful, and on taking it into the house, found the
family, had finished their suppers; the biscuits and meat were all
"Come on here to your supper," said the maid-servant, angrily. "What
have you been doing?" and, without waiting for an answer, she filled
a tin basin with mush and skimmed milk, and set it before him. The
little boy did not attempt to speak, but sat down and ate what was
given him. Immediately after, he was sent into a loft to bed, where
he cried himself to sleep. Ah! when we count the thousand pulsations
that yield pain or pleasure to the human mind, what a power to do
good or evil is possessed by every one; and how often would a kind
word, or one sympathizing glance, gladden the hearts of those thus
prematurely forced upon the anxieties of the world! But how few
there are who care to bestow them! The next morning, long before
dawn, the farmer's family, with the exception of the younger
children were astir. The cattle were to be fed and attended to, the
horses harnessed, the oxen yoked, and great was the bustle until all
hands were fairly at work. As for Johnny, he was taken into the
field to assist in husking corn. The wind was keen, and the stalks,
from recent rain, were wet, and filled with ice. His scanty clothing
scarcely afforded any protection from the cold, and his hands soon
became so numb that he could scarcely use them; but, if he stopped
one moment to rap them, or breathe upon them, in the hope of
imparting some warmth, the farmer who was close at hand, in warm
woollen clothes and thick husking gloves, would call out,
"Hurry up, hurry up, my boy! no idle bread must be eaten here!"
And bravely did Johnny struggle not to mind the cold and pain, but
it would not do; he began to cry, when the master, who never thought
of exercising anything but severity towards those who laboured for
him, told him sternly that if he did not stop his bawling in a
moment, he would send him home. This was enough for Johnny; anything
was better than to go back and be a burden on his mother; he worked
to the best of his ability until noon. At noon, he managed to get
thoroughly warm, behind the stove, while eating his dinner. Still,
the sufferings of the child, with his insufficient clothing, were
very great; but nobody seemed to think of the _hired boy_ being an
object of sympathy, and thus it continued. The rule seemed to be to
get all that was possible out of him, and his little frame was so
weary at night, that he had hardly time to feel rested, until called
with the dawn to renew his labour. A monthly Sunday however, was the
golden period looked forward to in his day-dreams, for it had been
stipulated by his parent, that on Saturday evening every four weeks,
he was to come home, and stay all the next day. And when the time
arrived, how nimbly did he get over the ground that stretched
between him and the goal of his wishes! How much he had to tell! But
as soon as he began to complain, his mother would say cheerfully,
although her heart bled for the hardships of her child,
"Never mind, you will get used to work, and after awhile, when you
grow up, you can rent a farm, and take me to keep house for you."
This was the impulse that prompted to action. No one can be utterly
miserable who has a hope, even a remote one, of bettering his
condition; and with a motive such as this to cheer him, Johnny
persevered; young as he was, he understood the necessity. But how
often, during the four weary weeks that succeeded, did the memory of
the Saturday night he had spent at home come up before his mental
vision! The fresh loaf of rye bread, baked in honour of his arrival,
and eaten for supper, with maple molasses--the very molasses he had
helped to boil on shares with Farmer Thrifty's boys in the spring.
What a feast they had! Then the long evening afterwards, when the
blaze of the hickory fires righted up the timbers of the old cabin
with a mellow glow, and mother looked so cheerful and smiled so
kindly as she sat spinning in its warmth and light. And how even
father had helped to pop corn in the iron pot.
Ah! that was a time long to be remembered; and he had ample
opportunity to draw comparisons, for he often thought his master
cared more for his cattle than he did for him, and it is quite
probable he did; for while they were warmly housed he was needlessly
exposed, and his comfort utterly disregarded. If there was brush to
cut, or fence to make, or any out-door labour to perform, a wet,
cold, or windy day was sure to be selected, while in _fine weather_
the wood was required to be chopped, and, generally speaking, all
the work that could be done under shelter. Yet we dare say Farmer
Watkins never thought of the inhumanity of this, or the advantage he
would himself derive by arranging it otherwise.
John Cole had been living out perhaps a year. He had not grown much
in this period; his frame had always been slight, and his sunken
cheeks and wasted limbs spoke of the hard usage and suffering of his
present situation. The family had many delicacies for themselves,
but the _work boy_ they knew never was used to such things, and they
were indifferent, as to what his fare chanced to be. He generally
managed to satisfy the cravings of hunger on the coarse food given
him, but that was all. About this time it happened that the farmer
was digging a ditch, and as he was afraid winter would set in before
it was completed, Johnny and himself were at work upon it early and
late, notwithstanding the wind whistled, and it was so cold they
could hardly handle the tools. While thus employed, it chanced that
they got wet to the skin with a drizzling rain, and on returning to
the house the farmer changed his clothes, drank some hot mulled
cider, and spent the remainder of the evening in his high-backed
chair before a comfortable fire; while the boy was sent to grease a
wagon in an open shed, and at night crept to his straw pallet,
shaking as though in an ague fit. The next morning he was in a high
fever, and with many a "wonder of what had got into him," but
without one word of sympathy, or any other manifestation of
good-will, he was sent home to his mother. Late in the evening of
the same day a compassionate physician was surprised to see a woman
enter his office; her garments wet and travel-stained, and, with
streaming eyes, she besought him to come and see her son.
"My Johnny, my Johnny, sir!" she cried, "he has been raving wild all
day, and we are afraid he will die."
Mistaking the cause of the good man's hesitation, she added, with a
fresh burst of grief, "Oh! I will work my fingers to the bone to pay
you, sir, if you will only come. We live in the Gap."
A few inquiries were all that was necessary to learn the state of
the case. The benevolent doctor took the woman in his vehicle, and
proceeded, over a mountainous road of six miles, to see his patient.
But vain was the help of man! Johnny continued delirious; it was
work, work, always at work; and pitiful was it to hear his
complaints of being cold and tired, while his heart-broken parent
hung over him, and denied herself the necessaries of life to
minister to his wants. After being ill about a fortnight, he awoke
one evening apparently free from fever. His expression was natural,
but he seemed so weak he could not speak. His mother, with a heart
overflowing with joy at the change she imagined favourable, bent
over him. With a great effort he placed his arms about her neck; she
kissed his pale lips; a smile of strange meaning passed over his
face, and ere she could unwind that loving clasp her little Johnny
was no more. He had gone where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest; but her hopes were blasted; her house was
left unto her desolate; and as she watched, through the long hours
of night, beside the dead body, it was to our Father who art in
Heaven her anguished heart poured itself out in prayer. Think of
this, ye rich! who morning and evening breathe the same petition by
your own hearthstones. Think of it, ye who have authority to
oppress! Do not deprive the poor man or woman of the "ewe lamb" that
is their sole possession; and remember that He whose ear is ever
open to the cry of the distressed, has power to avenge their cause.
THE THIEF AND HIS BENEFACTOR.
"CIRCUMSTANCES made me what I am," said a condemned criminal to a
benevolent man who visited him in prison. "I was driven by necessity
"Not so," replied the keeper, who was standing by. "Rather say, that
your own character made the circumstances by which you were
surrounded. God never places upon any creature the necessity of
breaking his commandments. You stole, because, in heart, you were a
The benevolent man reproved the keeper for what he called harsh
words. He believed that, alone, by the force of external
circumstances, men were made criminals. That, if society were
differently arranged, there would be little or no crime in the
world. And so he made interest for the criminal, and, in the end,
secured his release from prison. Nor did his benevolence stop here.
He took the man into his service, and intrusted to him his money and
"I will remove from him all temptation to steal," said he, "by a
liberal supply of his wants."
"Have you a wife?" he asked of the man, when he took him from
"No," was replied.
"Nor any one but yourself to support?"
"I am alone in the world."
"You have received a good education; and can serve me as a clerk. I
therefore take you into my employment, at a fair salary. Will five
hundred dollars be enough?"
"It will be an abundance," said the man, with evident surprise at an
offer so unexpectedly liberal.
"Very well. That will place you above temptation."
"And I will be innocent and happy. You are my benefactor. You have
"I believe it," said the man of benevolence.
And so he intrusted his goods and his money to the man he had
reformed by placing him in different circumstances.
But it is in the heart of man that evil lies; and from the heart's
impulses spring all our actions. That must cease to be a bitter
fountain before it can send forth sweet water. The thief was a thief
still. Not a month elapsed ere he was devising the means to enable
him to get from his kind, but mistaken friend, more than the liberal
sum for which he had agreed to serve him. He coveted his neighbour's
goods whenever his eyes fell upon them; and restlessly sought to
acquire their possession. In order to make more sure the attainment
of his ends, he affected sentiments of morality, and even went so
far as to cover his purposes by a show of religion. And thus he was
able to deceive and rob his kind friend.
Time went on; and the thief, apparently reformed by a change of
relation to society, continued in his post of responsibility. How it
was, the benefactor could not make out; but his affairs gradually
became less prosperous. He made investigations into his business,
but was unable to find anything wrong.
"Are you aware that your clerk is a purchaser of property to a
considerable extent?" said a mercantile friend to him one day.
"My clerk! It cannot be. His income is only five hundred dollars a
"He bought a piece of property for five thousand last week."
"I know it to be true. Are you aware that he was once a convict in
the State's Prison?"
"Oh yes. I took him from prison myself, and gave him a chance for
his life. I do not believe in hunting men down for a single crime,
the result of circumstances rather than a bad heart."
"A truly honest man, let me tell you," replied the merchant, "will
be honest in any and all circumstances. And a rogue will be a rogue,
place him where you will. The evil is radical, and must be cured
radically. Your reformed thief has robbed you, without doubt."
"I have reason to fear that he has been most ungrateful," replied
the kind-hearted man, who, with the harmlessness of the dove, did
not unite the wisdom of the serpent.
And so it proved. His clerk had robbed him of over twenty thousand
dollars in less than five years, and so sapped the foundations of
his prosperity, that he recovered with great difficulty.
"You told me, when in prison," said the wronged merchant to his
clerk, "that circumstances made you what you were. This you cannot
"I can," was the reply. "Circumstances made me poor, and I desired
to be rich. The means of attaining wealth were placed in my hands,
and I used them. Is it strange that I should have done so? It is
this social inequality that makes crime. Your own doctrine, and I
subscribe to it fully."
"Ungrateful wretch!" said the merchant, indignantly, "it is the evil
of your own heart that prompts to crime. You would be a thief and a
robber if you possessed millions."
And he again handed him over to the law, and let the prison walls
protect society from his depredations.
No, it is not true that in external circumstances lie the origins of
evil. God tempts no man by these. In the very extremes of poverty we
see examples of honesty; and among the wealthiest, find those who
covet their neighbour's goods, and gain dishonest possession
thereof. Reformers must seek to elevate the personal character, if
they would regenerate society. To accomplish the desired good by a
different external arrangement, is hopeless; for in the heart of man
lies the evil,--there is the fountain from which flow forth the
bitter and blighting waters of crime.
JOHN AND MARGARET GREYLSTON.
"AND you will really send Reuben to cut down that clump of pines?"
"Yes, Margaret. Well, now, it is necessary, for more reasons
"Don't tell me so, John," impetuously interrupted Margaret
Greylston. "I am sure there is no necessity in the case, and I am
sorry to the very heart that you have no more feeling than to order
_those_ trees to be cut down."
"Feeling! well, maybe I have more than you think; yet I don't choose
to let it make a fool of me, for all that. But I wish you would say
no more about those trees, Margaret; they really must come down; I
have reasoned with you on this matter till I am sick of it."
Miss Greylston got up from her chair, and walked out on the shaded
porch; then she turned and called her brother.
"Will you come here, John?"
"And what have you to say?"
"Nothing, just now; I only want you to stand here and look at the
And so John Greylston did; and he saw the distant woods grave and
fading beneath the autumn wind--while the old pines upreared their
stately heads against the blue sky, unchanged in beauty, fresh and
green as ever.
"You see those trees, John, and so do I; and standing here, with
them full in view, let me plead for them; they are very old, those
pines, older than either of us; we played beneath them when we were
children; but there is still a stronger tie: our mother loved
them--our dear, sainted mother. Thirty years it has been since she
died, but I can never forget or cease to love anything she loved.
Oh! John, you remember just as well as I do, how often she would sit
beneath those trees and read or talk sweetly to us; and of the dear
band who gathered there with her, only we are left, and the old
pines. Let them stand, John; time enough to cut them down when I
have gone to sit with those dear ones beneath the trees of heaven;"
and somewhat breathless from long talking, Miss Margaret paused.
John Greylston was really touched, and he laid his hand kindly on
his sister's shoulder.
"Come, come, Madge, don't talk so sadly. I remember and love those
things as well as you do, but then you see I cannot afford to
neglect my interests for weak sentiment. Now the road must be made,
and that clump of trees stand directly in its course, and they must
come down, or the road will have to take a curve nearly half a mile
round, striking into one of my best meadows, and a good deal more
expense this will be, too. No, no," he continued, eagerly, "I can't
oblige you in this thing. This place is mine, and I will improve it
as I please. I have kept back from making many a change for your
sake, but just here I am determined to go on." And all this was said
with a raised voice and a flushed face.
"You never spoke so harshly to me in your life before, John, and,
after all, what have I done? Call my feelings on this matter weak
sentiment, if you choose, but it is hard to hear such words from
your lips;" and, with a reproachful sigh, Miss Margaret walked into
They had been a large family, those Greylstons, in their day, but
now all were gone; all but John and Margaret, the two eldest--the
twin brother and sister. They lived alone in their beautiful country
home; neither had ever been married. John had once loved a fair
young creature, with eyes like heaven's stars, and rose-tinged
cheeks and lips, but she fell asleep just one month before her
wedding-day, and John Greylston was left to mourn over her early
grave, and his shivered happiness. Dearly Margaret loved her twin
brother, and tenderly she nursed him through the long and fearful
illness which came upon him after Ellen Day's death. Margaret
Greylston was radiant in the bloom of young womanhood when this
great grief first smote her brother, but from that very hour she put
away from her the gayeties of life, and sat down by his side, to be
to him a sweet, unselfish controller for evermore, and no lover
could ever tempt her from her post.
"John Greylston will soon get over his sorrow; in a year or two
Ellen will be forgotten for a new face."
So said the world; Margaret knew better. Her brother's heart lay
before her like an open book, and she saw indelible lines of grief
and anguish there. The old homestead, with its wide lands, belonged
to John Greylston. He had bought it years before from the other
heirs; and Margaret, the only remaining one, possessed neither claim
nor right in it. She had a handsome annuity, however, and nearly all
the rich plate and linen with which the house was stocked, together
with some valuable pieces of furniture, belonged to her. And John
and Margaret Greylston lived on in their quiet and beautiful home,
in peace and happiness; their solitude being but now and then
invaded by a flock of nieces and nephews, from the neighbouring
city--their only and well-beloved relatives.
It was long after sunset. For two full hours the moon and stars had
watched John Greylston, sitting so moodily alone upon the porch. Now
he got up from his chair, and tossing his cigar away in the long
grass, walked slowly into the house. Miss Margaret did not raise her
head; her eyes, as well as her fingers, seemed intent upon the
knitting she held. So her brother, after a hurried "Good-night,"
took a candle and went up to his own room, never speaking one gentle
word; for he said to himself, "I am not going to worry and coax with
Margaret any longer about the old pines. She is really troublesome
with her sentimental notions." Yet, after all, John Greylston's
heart reproached him, and he felt restless and ill at ease.
Miss Margaret sat very quietly by the low table, knitting steadily
on, but she was not thinking of her work, neither did she delight in
the beauty of that still autumn evening; the tears came into her
eyes, but she hastily brushed them away; just as though she feared
John might unawares come back and find her crying.
Ah! these _way-side_ thorns are little, but sometimes they pierce as
sharply as the gleaming sword.
At the sound of that voice, Mr. Greylston turned suddenly from the
book-case, and his sister was standing near him, her face lit up
with a sweet, yet somewhat anxious smile. He threw down in a hurry
the papers he had been tying together, and the bit of red tape, and
holding out his hand, said fervently,
"I was very harsh last night. I am really sorry for it; will you not
forgive me, Margaret?"
"To be sure I will; for indeed, John, I was quite as much to blame
"No, Madge, you were not," he quickly answered; "but let it pass,
now. We will think and say no more about it;" and, as though he were
perfectly satisfied, and really wished the matter dropped, John
Greylston turned to his papers again.
So Miss Margaret was silent. She was delighted to have peace again,
even though she felt anxious about the pines, and when her brother
took his seat at the breakfast table, looking and speaking so
kindly, she felt comforted to think the cloud had passed away; and
John Greylston himself was very glad. So the two went on eating
their breakfast quite happily. But alas! the storm is not always
over when the sky grows light. Reuben crossed the lawn, followed by
the gardener, and Miss Margaret's quick eye caught the gleaming of
the axes swung over their shoulders. She hurriedly set down the
"Where are those men going? Reuben and Tom I mean."
"Only to the woods," was the careless answer.
"But what woods, John? Oh! I can tell by your face; you are
determined to have the pines cut down."
"I am." And John Greylston folded his arms, and looked fixedly at
his sister, but she did not heed him. She talked on eagerly--
"I love the old trees; I will do anything to save them. John, you
spoke last night of additional expense, should the road take that
curve. I will make it up to you; I can afford to do this very well.
Now listen to reason, and let the trees stand."
"Listen to reason, yourself," he answered more gently. "I will not
take a cent from you. Margaret, you are a perfect enthusiast about
some things. Now, I love my parents and old times, I am sure, as
well as you do, and that love is not one bit the colder, because I
do not let it stand in the way of interest. Don't say anything more.
My mind is made up in this matter. The place is mine, and I cannot
see that you have any right to interfere in the improvements I
choose to make on it."
A deep flush stole over Miss Greylston's face.
"I have indeed no legal right to counsel or plead with you about
these things," she answered sadly, "but I have a sister's right,
that of affection--you cannot deny this, John. Once again, I beg of
you to let the old pines alone."
"And once again, I tell you I will do as I please in this matter,"
and this was said sharply and decidedly.
Margaret Greylston said not another word, but pushing back her
chair, she arose from the breakfast-table and went quickly from the
room, even before her brother could call to her. Reuben and his
companion had just got in the last meadow when Miss Greylston
"You, will let the pines alone to-day," she calmly said, "go to any
other work you choose, but remember those trees are not to be
"Very well, Miss Margaret," and Reuben touched his hat respectfully,
"Mr. John is very changeable in his notions," burst in Tom; "not an
hour ago he was in such a hurry to get us at the pine."
"Never mind," authoritatively said Miss Greylston; "do just as you
are bid, without any remarks;" and she turned away, and went down
the meadow path, even as she came, within quick step, without a
bonnet, shading her eyes from the morning sun with her handkerchief.
John Greylston still sat at the breakfast-table, half dreamily
balancing the spoon across the saucer's edge. When his sister came
in again, he raised his head, and mutely-inquiringly looked at her,
and she spoke,--
"I left this room just to go after Reuben and Tom; I overtook them
before they had crossed the last meadow, and I told them not to
touch the pine trees, but to go, instead, to any other work they
choose. I am sure you will be angry with me for all this; but, John,
I cannot help it if you are."
"Don't say so, Margaret," Mr. Greylston sharply answered, getting up
at the same time from his chair, "don't tell me you could not help
it. I have talked and reasoned with you about those trees, until my
patience is completely worn out; there is no necessity for you to be
such an obstinate fool."
"Oh! John, hush, hush!"
"I will not," he thundered. "I am master here, and I will speak and
act in this house as I see fit. Now, who gave you liberty to
countermand my orders; to send my servants back from the Work I had
set for them to do? Margaret, I warn you; for, any more such freaks,
you and I, brother and sister though we be, will live no longer
under the same roof."
"Be still, John Greylston! Remember _her_ patient, self-sacrificing
love. Remember the past--be still."
But he would not; relentlessly, stubbornly, the waves of passion
raged on in his soul.
"Now, you hear all this; do not forget it; and have done with your
silly obstinacy as soon as possible, for I will be worried no longer
with it;" and roughly pushing away the slight hand which was laid
upon his arm, Mr. Greylston stalked out of the house.
For a moment, Margaret stood where her brother had left her, just in
the centre of the floor. Her cheeks were very white, but quickly a
crimson flush came over them, and her eyes filled with tears; then
she sat down upon the white chintz-covered settle, and hiding her
face in the pillows, wept violently for a long time.
"I have consulted Margaret's will always; in many things I have
given up to it, but here, where reason is so fully on my side, I
will go on. I have no patience with her weak stubbornness, no
patience with her presumption in forbidding my servants to do as I
have told them; such measures I will never allow in my house;" and
John Greylston, in his angry musings, struck his cane smartly
against a tall crimson dahlia, which grew in the grass-plat. It fell
quivering across his path, but he walked on, never heeding what he
had done. There was a faint sense of shame rising in his heart, a
feeble conviction of having been himself to blame; but just then
they seemed only to fan and increase his keen indignation. Yet in
the midst of his anger, John Greylston had the delicate
consideration for his sister and himself to repeat to the men the
command she had given them.
"Do as Miss Greylston bade you; let the trees stand until further
orders." But pride prompted this, for he said to himself, "If
Margaret and I keep at this childish work of unsaying each other's
commands, that sharp old fellow, Reuben, will suspect that we have
Mr. Greylston's wrath did not abate; and when he came home at
dinner-time, and found the table so nicely set, and no one but the
little servant to wait upon him, Margaret away, shut up with a bad
headache, in her own room, he somehow felt relieved,--just then he
did not want to see her. But when eventide came, and he sat down to
supper, and missed again his sister's calm and pleasant face, a
half-regretful feeling stole over him, and he grew lonely, for John
Greylston's heart was the home of every kindly affection. He loved
Margaret dearly. Still, pride and anger kept him aloof from her;
still his soul was full of harsh, unforgiving thoughts. And Margaret
Greylston, as she lay with a throbbing head and an aching heart upon
her snowy pillow, thought the hours of that bright afternoon and
evening very long and very weary. And yet those hours were full of
light, and melody, and fragrance, for the sun shone, and the sky was
blue, the birds sang, and the waters rippled; even the autumn
flowers were giving their sweet, last kisses to the air. Earth was
fair,--why, then, should not human hearts rejoice? Ah! _Nature's_
loveliness _alone_ cannot cheer the soul. There was once a day when
the beauty even of _Eden_ ceased to gladden two guilty tremblers who
hid in its bowers.
"A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up
anger." When Margaret Greylston came across that verse, she closed
her Bible, and sat down beside the window to muse. "Ah," she
thought, "how true is that saying of the wise man! If I had only
from the first given John soft answers, instead of grievous words,
we might now have been at peace. I knew his quick temper so well; I
should have been more gentle with him." Then she recalled all John's
constant and tender attention to her wishes; the many instances in
which he had gone back from his own pleasure to gratify her; but
whilst she remembered these things, never once did her noble,
unselfish heart dwell upon the sacrifices, great and numerous, which
she had made for his sake. Miss Margaret began to think she had
indeed acted very weakly and unjustly towards her brother. She had
half a mind just then to go to him, and make this confession. But
she looked out and saw the dear old trees, so stately and beautiful,
and then the memory of all John's harsh and cruel words rushed back
upon her. She struggled vainly to banish them from her mind, she
strove to quell the angry feelings which arose with those memories.
At last she knelt and prayed. When she got up from her knees traces
of tears were on her face, but her heart was calm. Margaret
Greylston had been enabled, in the strength of "that grace which
cometh from above," to forgive her brother freely, yet she scarcely
hoped that he would give her the opportunity to tell him this.
"Good-morning," John Greylston said, curtly and chillingly enough to
his sister. Somehow she was disappointed, even though she knew his
proud temper so well, yet she had prayed that there would have been
some kindly relentings towards her; but there seemed none. So she
answered him sadly, and the two sat down to their gloomy, silent
breakfast. And thus it was all that day. Mr. Greylston still mute
and ungracious; his sister shrank away from him. In that mood she
scarcely knew him; and her face was grave, and her voice so sad,
even the servants wondered what was the matter. Margaret Greylston
had fully overcome all angry, reproachful feelings against her
brother. So far her soul had peace, yet she mourned for his love,
his kind words, and pleasant smiles; and she longed to tell him
this, but his coldness held her back. Mr. Greylston found his
comfort in every way consulted; favourite dishes were silently
placed before him; sweet flowers, as of old, laid upon his table. He
knew the hand which wrought these loving acts. But did this
knowledge melt his heart? In a little while we shall see.
And the third morning dawned. Yet the cloud seemed in no wise
lifted. John Greylston's portrait hung in the parlour; it was
painted in his young days, when he was very handsome. His sister
could not weary of looking at it; to her this picture seemed the
very embodiment of beauty. Dear, unconscious soul, she never thought
how much it was like herself, or even the portrait of her which hung
in the opposite recess--for brother and sister strikingly resembled
each other. Both had the same high brows, the same deep blue eyes
and finely chiselled features, the same sweet and pleasant smiles;
there was but one difference: Miss Margaret's hair was of a pale
golden colour, and yet unchanged; she wore it now put back very
smoothly and plainly from her face. When John was young, his curls
were of so dark a brown as to look almost black in the shade. They
were bleached a good deal by time, but yet they clustered round his
brow in the same careless, boyish fashion as of old.
Just now Miss Margaret could only look at her brother's picture with
tears. On that very morning she stood before it, her spirit so full
of tender memories, so crowded with sad yearnings, she felt as
though they would crush her to the earth. Oh, weary heart! endure
yet "a little while" longer. Even now the angel of reconciliation is
on the wing.
Whilst John Greylston sat alone upon the foot of the porch at the
front of the house, and his sister stood so sadly in the parlour,
the city stage came whirling along the dusty turnpike. It stopped
for a few minutes opposite the lane which led to John Greylston's
place. The door was opened, and a grave-looking young man sprang
out. He was followed by a fairy little creature, who clapped her
hands, and danced for joy when she saw the white chimneys and
vine-covered porches of "Greylston Cottage."
"Annie! Annie!" but she only laughed, and gathering up the folds of
her travelling dress, managed to get so quickly and skilfully over
the fence, that her brother, who was unfastening the gate, looked at
her in perfect amazement.
"What in the world," he asked, with a smile on his grave face,
"possessed you to get over the fence in that monkey fashion? All
those people looking at you, too. For shame, Annie! Will you never
be done with those childish capers?"
"Yes, maybe when I am a gray-haired old woman; not before. Don't
scold now, Richard; you know very well you, and the passengers
beside, would give your ears to climb a fence as gracefully as I did
just now. There, won't you hand me my basket, please?"
He did so, and then, with a gentle smile, took the white, ungloved
fingers in his.
"My darling Annie, remember"--
"Stage waits," cried the driver.
So Richard Bermon's lecture was cut short; he had only time to bid
his merry young sister good-bye. Soon he was lost to sight.
Annie Bermon hurried down the lane, swinging her light willow basket
carelessly on her arm, and humming a joyous air all the way. Just as
she opened the outer lawn gate, the great Newfoundland dog came
towards her with a low growl; it changed directly though into a glad
"I was sure you would know me, you dear old fellow; but I can't stop
to talk to you just now." And Annie patted his silken ears, and then
went on to the house, the dog bounding on before her, as though he
had found an old playmate.
John Greylston rubbed his eyes. No, it was not a dream. His darling
niece was really by his side, her soft curls touching his cheek; he
flung his arms tightly around her.
"Dear child, I was just dreaming about you; how glad I am to see
your sweet face again."
"I was sure you would be, Uncle John," she answered gayly, "and so I
started off from home this morning just, in a hurry. I took a sudden
fancy that I would come, and they could not keep me. But where is
dear Aunt Margaret? Oh, I know what I will do. I'll just run in and
take her by surprise. How well you look, uncle--so noble and grand
too; by the way, I always think King Robert Bruce must just have
been such a man like you."
"No laughing at your old uncle, you little rogue," said John
Greylston pleasantly, "but run and find your aunt. She is somewhere
in the house." And he looked after her with a loving smile as she
flitted by him. Annie Bermon passed quickly through the shaded
sitting-room into the cool and matted hall, catching glimpses as she
went of the pretty parlour and wide library; but her aunt was in
neither of these rooms; so she hurried up stairs, and stealing on
tiptoe, with gentle fingers she pushed open the door. Margaret
Greylston was sitting by the table, sewing; her face was flushed,
and her eyes red and swollen as with weeping. Annie stood still in
wonder. But Miss Margaret suddenly looked up, and her niece sprang,
with a glad cry, into her arms.
"You are not well, Aunt Margaret? Oh! how sorry I am to hear that,
but it seems to me I could never get sick in this sweet place;
everything looks so bright and lovely here. And I _would_ come this
morning, Aunt Margaret, in spite of everything Sophy and all of them
could say. They told me I had been here once before this summer, and
stayed a long time, and if I would, come again, my welcome would be
worn out, just as if I was going to believe _such_ nonsense;" and
Annie tossed her head. "But I persevered, and you see, aunty dear, I
am here, we will trust for some good purpose, as Richard would say."
A silent Amen to this rose up in Miss Margaret's heart, and with it
came a hope dim and shadowy, yet beautiful withal; she hardly dared
to cherish it. Annie went on talking,--
"I can only stay two weeks with you--school commences then, and I
must hurry back to it; but I am always so glad to get here, away
from the noise and dust of the city; this is the best place in the
world. Do you know when we were travelling this summer, I was pining
all the time to get here. I was so tired of Newport and Saratoga,
and all the crowds we met."
"You are singular in your tastes, some would think, Annie," said
Miss Greylston, smiling fondly on her darling.
"So Madge and Sophy were always saying; even Clare laughed at me,
and my brothers, too,--only Richard,--Oh! by the way, I did torment
him this morning, he is so grave and good, and he was just beginning
a nice lecture at the gate, when the driver called, and poor Richard
had only time to send his love to you. Wasn't it droll, though, that
lecture being cut so short?" and Annie threw herself down in the
great cushioned chair, and laughed heartily.
Annie Bermond was the youngest of John and Margaret Greylston's
nieces and nephews. Her beauty, her sweet and sunny temper made her
a favourite at home and abroad. John Greylston loved her dearly; he
always thought she looked like his chosen bride, Ellen Day. Perhaps
there was some likeness, for Annie had the same bright eyes, and the
same pouting, rose-bud lips--but Margaret thought she was more like
their own family. She loved to trace a resemblance in the smiling
face, rich golden curls, and slight figure of Annie to her young
sister Edith, who died when Annie was a little baby. Just sixteen
years old was Annie, and wild and active as any deer, as her
city-bred sisters sometimes declared half mournfully.
Somehow, Annie Bermond thought it uncommonly grave and dull at the
dinner-table, yet why should it be so? Her uncle and aunt, as kind
and dear as ever, were there; she, herself, a blithe fairy, sat in
her accustomed seat; the day was bright, birds were singing, flowers
were gleaming, but there was a change. What could it be? Annie knew
not, yet her quick perception warned her of the presence of some
trouble--some cloud. In her haste to talk and cheer her uncle and
aunt, the poor child said what would have been best left unsaid.
"How beautiful those trees are; I mean those pines on the hill;
don't you admire them very much, Uncle John?"
"Tolerably," was the rather short answer. "I am too well used to
trees to go into the raptures of my little city niece about them;"
and all this time Margaret looked fixedly down upon the floor.
"Don't you frown so, uncle, or I will run right home to-morrow,"
said Annie, with the assurance of a privileged pet; "but I was going
to ask you about the rock just back of those pines. Do you and Aunt
Margaret still go there to see the sunset? I was thinking about you
these two past evenings, when the sunsets were so grand, and wishing
I was with you on the rock; and you were both there, weren't you?"
This time John Greylston gave no answer, but his sister said
"No, Annie, we have not been at the rock for several evenings;" and
then a rather painful silence followed.
Annie at last spoke:
"You both, somehow, seem so changed and dull; I would just like to
know the reason. May be aunty is going to be married. Is that it,
Miss Margaret smiled, but the colour came brightly to her face.
"If this is really so, I don't wonder you are sad and grave; you,
especially, Uncle John; how lonely and wretched you would be! Oh!
would you not be very sorry if Aunt Madge should leave you, never to
come back again? Would not your heart almost break?"
John Greylston threw down his knife and fork violently upon the
table, and pushing back his chair, went from the room.
Annie Bermond looked in perfect bewilderment at her aunt, but Miss
Margaret was silent and tearful.
"Aunt! darling aunt! don't look so distressed;" and Annie put her
arms around her neck; "but tell me what have I done; what is the
Miss Greylston shook her head.
"You will not speak now, Aunt Margaret; you might tell me; I am sure
something has happened to distress you. Just as soon as I came here,
I saw a change, but I could not understand it. I cannot yet. Tell
me, dear aunt!" and she knelt beside her.
So Miss Greylston told her niece the whole story, softening, as far
as truth would permit, many of John's harsh speeches; but she was,
not slow to blame herself. Annie listened attentively. Young as she
was, her heart took in with the deepest sympathy the sorrow which
shaded her beloved friends.
"Oh! I am so very sorry for all this," she said half crying; "but
aunty, dear, I do not think uncle will have those nice old trees cut
down. He loves you too much to do it; I am sure he is sorry now for
all those sharp things he said; but his pride keeps him back from
telling you this, and maybe he thinks you are angry with him still.
Aunt Margaret, let me go and say to him that your love is as warm as
ever, and that you forgive him freely. Oh! it may do so much good.
May I not go?"
But Miss Greylston tightened her grasp on the young girl's hand.
"Annie, you do not know your uncle as well as I do. Such a step can
do no good,--love, you cannot help us."
"Only let me try," she returned, earnestly; "Uncle John loves me so
much, and on the first day of my visit, he will not refuse to hear
me. I will tell him all the sweet things you said about him. I will
tell him there is not one bit of anger in your heart, and that you
forgive and love him dearly. I am sure when he hears this he will be
glad. Any way, it will not make matters worse. Now, do have some
confidence in me. Indeed I am not so childish as I seem. I am turned
of sixteen now, and Richard and Sophy often say I have the heart of
a woman, even if I have the ways of a child. Let me go now, dear
Aunt Margaret; I will soon come back to you with such good news."
Miss Greylston stooped down and kissed Annie's brow solemnly,
tenderly. "Go, my darling, and may God be with you." Then she turned
And with willing feet Annie Bermond went forth upon her blessed
errand. She soon found her uncle. He was sitting beneath the shade
of the old pines, and he seemed to be in very deep thought. Annie
got down on the grass beside him, and laid her soft cheek upon his
sunburnt hand. How gently he spoke--
"What did you come here for, sweet bird?"
"Because I love you so much, Uncle John; that is the reason; but
won't you tell me why you look so very sad and grave? I wish I knew
your thoughts just now."
"And if you did, fairy, they would not make you any prettier or
better than you are."
"I wonder if they do you any good, uncle?" she quickly replied; but
her companion made no answer; he only smiled.
Let me write here what John Greylston's tongue refused to say. Those
thoughts, indeed, had done him good; they were tender,
self-upbraiding, loving thoughts, mingled, all the while, with
touching memories, mournful glimpses of the past--the days of his
sore bereavement, when the coffin-lid was first shut down over Ellen
Day's sweet face, and he was smitten to the earth with anguish. Then
Margaret's sympathy and love, so beautiful in its strength, and
unselfishness, so unwearying and sublime in its sacrifices, became
to him a stay and comfort. And had she not, for his sake,
uncomplainingly given up the best years of her life, as it seemed?
Had her love ever faltered? Had it ever wavered in its sweet
endeavours to make him happy? These memories, these thoughts, closed
round John Greylston like a circle of rebuking angels. Not for the
first time were they with him when Annie found him beneath the old
pines. Ever since that morning of violent and unjust anger they had
been struggling in his heart, growing stronger, it seemed, every
hour in their reproachful tenderness. Those loving, silent
attentions to his wishes John Greylston had noted, and they rankled
like sharp thorns in his soul. He was not worthy of them; this he
knew. How he loathed himself for his sharp and angry words! He had
it in his heart to tell his sister this, but an overpowering shame
held him back.
"If I only knew how Madge felt towards me," he said many times to
himself, "then I could speak; but I have been such a brute. She can
do nothing else but repulse me;" and this threw around him that
chill reserve which kept Margaret's generous and forgiving heart at
Even every-day life has its wonders, and perhaps not one of the
least was that this brother and sister, so long fellow-pilgrims, so
long readers of each other's hearts, should for a little while be
kept asunder by mutual blindness. Yet the hand which is to chase the
mists from their darkened eyes, even now is raised, what though it
be but small? God in his wisdom and mercy will cause its strength to
When John Greylston gave his niece no answer, she looked intently in
his face and said,
"You will not tell me what you have been thinking about; but I can
guess, Uncle John. I know the reason you did not take Aunt Margaret
to the rock to see the sunset."
"Do you?" he asked, startled from his composure, his face flushing
"Yes; for I would not rest until aunty told me the whole story, and
I just came out to talk to you about it. Now, Uncle John, don't
frown, and draw away your hand; just listen to me a little while; I
am sure you will be glad." Then she repeated, in her pretty, girlish
way, touching in its earnestness, all Miss Greylston had told her.
"Oh, if you had only heard her say those sweet things, I know you
would not keep vexed one minute longer! Aunt Margaret told me that
she did not blame you at all, only herself; that she loved you
dearly, and she is so sorry because you seem cold and angry yet, for
she wants so very, very much to beg your forgiveness, and tell you
all this, dear Uncle John, if you would only--"
"Annie," he suddenly interrupted, drawing her closely to his bosom;
"Annie, you precious child, in telling me all this you have taken a
great weight off of my heart. You have done your old uncle a world
of good. God bless you a thousand times! If I had known this at
once; if I had been sure, from the first, of Margaret's forgiveness
for my cruel words, how quickly I would have sought it. My dear,
noble sister!" The tears filled John Greylston's dark blue eyes, but
his smile was so exceedingly tender and beautiful, that Annie drew
closer to his side.
"Oh, that lovely smile!" she cried, "how it lights your face; and
now you look so good and forgiving, dearer and better even than a
king. Uncle John, kiss me again; my heart is so glad! shall I run
now and tell Aunt Margaret all this sweet news?"
"No, no, darling little peace-maker, stay here; I will go to her
myself;" and he hurried away.
Annie Bermond sat alone upon the hill, musingly platting the long
grass together, but she heeded not the work of her fingers. Her face
was bright with joy, her heart full of happiness. Dear child! in one
brief hour she had learned the blessedness of that birthright which
is for all God's sons and daughters, if they will but claim it. I
mean _the privilege of doing good, of being useful_.
Miss Greylston sat by the parlour window, just where she could see
who crossed the lawn. She was waiting with a kind of nervous
impatience for Annie. She heard a footstep, but it was only Liddy
going down to the dairy. Then Reuben went by on his way to the
meadow, and all was silent again. Where was Annie?--but now quick
feet sounded upon the crisp and faded leaves. Miss Margaret looked
out, and saw her brother coming,--then she was sure Annie had in
some way missed him, and she drew back from the window keenly
disappointed, not even a faint suspicion of the blessed truth
crossing her mind. As John Greylston entered the hall, a sudden and
irresistible desire prompted Margaret to go and tell him all the
loving and forgiving thoughts of her heart, no matter what his mood
should be. So she threw down her work, and went quickly towards the
parlour door. And the brother and sister met, just on the threshold.
"John--John," she said, falteringly, "I must speak to you; I cannot
bear this any longer."
"Nor can I, Margaret."
Miss Greylston looked up in her brother's face; it was beaming with
love and tenderness. Then she knew the hour of reconciliation had
come, and with a quick, glad cry, she sprang into his arms and laid
her head down upon his shoulder.
"Can you ever forgive me, Madge?"
She made no reply--words had melted into tears, but they were
eloquent, and for a little while it was quite still in the parlour.
"You shall blame yourself no longer, Margaret. All along you have
behaved like a sweet Christian woman as you are, but I have been an
old fool, unreasonable and cross from the very beginning. Can you
really forgive me all those harsh words, for which I hated myself
not ten hours after they were said? Can you, indeed, forgive and
forget these? Tell me so again."
"John," she said, raising her tearful face from his shoulder, "I do
forgive you most completely, with my whole heart, and, O! I wanted
so to tell you this two days ago, but your coldness kept me back. I
was afraid your anger was not over, and that you would repel me."
"Ah, that coldness was but shame--deep and painful shame. I was
needlessly harsh with you, and moments of reflection only served to
fasten on me the belief that I had lost all claim to your love, that
you could not forgive me. Yes! I did misjudge you, Madge, I know,
but when I looked back upon the past, and all your faithful love for
me, I saw you as I had ever seen you, the best of sisters, and then
my shameful and ungrateful conduct rose up clearly before me. I felt
so utterly unworthy."
Miss Greylston laid her finger upon her brother's lips. "Nor will I
listen to you blaming yourself so heavily any longer. John, you had
cause to be angry with me; I was unreasonably urgent about the
trees," and she sighed; "I forgot to be gentle and patient; so you
see I am to blame as well as yourself."
"But I forgot even common kindness and courtesy;" he said gravely.
"What demon was in my heart, Margaret, I do not know. Avarice, I am
afraid, was at the bottom of all this, for rich as I am, I somehow
felt very obstinate about running into any more expense or trouble
about the road; and then, you remember, I never could love inanimate
things as you do. But from this time forth I will try--and the
"Let the pines go down, my dear brother, I see now how unreasonable
I have been," suddenly interrupted Miss Greylston; "and indeed these
few days past I could not look at them with any pleasure; they only
reminded me of our separation. Cut them down: I will not say one
"Now, what a very woman you are, Madge! Just when you have gained
your will, you want to turn about; but, love, the trees shall not
come down. I will give them to you; and you cannot refuse my
peace-offering; and never, whilst John Greylston lives, shall an axe
touch those pines, unless you say so, Margaret."
He laughed when he said this, but her tears were falling fast.
"Next month will be November; then comes our birth-day; we will be
fifty years old, Margaret. Time is hurrying on with us; he has given
me gray locks, and laid some wrinkles on your dear face; but that is
nothing if our hearts are untouched. O, for so many long years, ever
since my Ellen was snatched from me,"--and here John Greylston
paused a moment--"you have been to me a sweet, faithful comforter.
Madge, dear twin sister, your love has always been a treasure to me;
but you well know for many years past it has been my _only_ earthly
treasure. Henceforth, God helping me, I will seek to restrain my
evil temper. I will be more watchful; if sometimes I fail, Margaret,
will you not love me, and bear with me?"
Was there any need for that question? Miss Margaret only answered by
clasping her brother's hand more closely in her own. As they stood
there in the autumn sunlight, united so lovingly, hand in hand, each
silently prayed that thus it might be with them always; not only
through life's autumn, but in that winter so surely for them
approaching, and which would give place to the fair and beautiful
spring of the better land.
Annie Bermond's bright face looked in timidly at the open door.
"Come here, darling, come and stand right beside your old uncle and
aunt, and let us thank you with all our hearts for the good you have
done us. Don't cry any more, Margaret. Why, fairy, what is the
matter with you?" for Annie's tears were falling fast upon his hand.
"I hardly know, Uncle John; I never felt so glad in my life before,
but I cannot help crying. Oh, it is so sweet to think the cloud has
"And whose dear hand, under God's blessing, drove the cloud away,
but yours, my child?"
Annie was silent; she only clung the tighter to her uncle's arm, and
Miss Greylston said, with a beaming smile,