Part 5 out of 5
were looking picturesquely through the blossoming cherry-trees, and
the smoke was curling up from the chimneys where Grace and her husband
were cosily settled down together, there came to John's house another
The little creature came in terror and trembling. For the mother had
trifled fearfully with the great laws of her being before its birth;
and the very shadow of death hung over her at the time the little new
Lillie's mother, now a widow, was sent for, and by this event
installed as a fixture in her daughter's dwelling; and for weeks
the sympathies of all the neighborhood were concentrated upon the
sufferer. Flowers and fruits were left daily at the door. Every one
was forward in offering those kindly attentions which spring up so
gracefully in rural neighborhoods. Everybody was interested for her.
She was little and pretty and suffering; and people even forgot to
blame her for the levities that had made her present trial more
severe. As to John, he watched over her day and night with anxious
assiduity, forgetting every fault and foible. She was now more than
the wife of his youth; she was the mother of his child, enthroned and
glorified in his eyes by the wonderful and mysterious experiences
which had given this new little treasure to their dwelling.
To say the truth, Lillie was too sick and suffering for sentiment. It
requires a certain amount of bodily strength and soundness to feel
emotions of love; and, for a long time, the little Lillie had to be
banished from the mother's apartment, as she lay weary in her
darkened room, with only a consciousness of a varied succession of
disagreeables and discomforts. Her general impression about herself
was, that she was a much abused and most unfortunate woman; and that
all that could ever be done by the utmost devotion of everybody in the
house was insufficient to make up for such trials as had come upon
A nursing mother was found for the little Lillie in the person of a
goodly Irish woman, fair, fat, and loving; and the real mother had
none of those awakening influences, from the resting of the little
head in her bosom, and the pressure of the little helpless fingers,
which magnetize into existence the blessed power of love.
She had wasted in years of fashionable folly, and in a life led only
for excitement and self-gratification, all the womanly power, all the
capability of motherly giving and motherly loving that are the glory
of womanhood. Kathleen, the white-armed, the gentle-bosomed, had all
the simple pleasures, the tendernesses, the poetry of motherhood;
while poor, faded, fretful Lillie had all the prose--the sad, hard,
weary prose--of sickness and pain, unglorified by love.
John did not well know what to do with himself in Lillie's darkened
room; where it seemed to him he was always in the way, always doing
something wrong; where his feet always seemed too large and heavy, and
his voice too loud; and where he was sure, in his anxious desire to
be still and gentle, to upset something, or bring about some general
catastrophe, and to go out feeling more like a criminal than ever.
The mother and the nurse, stationed there like a pair of chief
mourners, spoke in tones which experienced feminine experts seem to
keep for occasions like these, and which, as Hawthorne has said, give
an effect as if the voice had been dyed black. It was a comfort and
relief to pass from the funeral gloom to the little pink-ruffled
chamber among the cherry-trees, where the birds were singing and the
summer breezes blowing, and the pretty Kathleen was crooning her Irish
songs, and invoking the holy virgin and all the saints to bless the
"An' it's a blessin' they brings wid 'em to a house, sir; the angels
comes down wid 'em. We can't see 'em, sir; but, bless the darlin', she
can. And she smiles in her sleep when she sees 'em."
[Illustration: "An' it's a blessin' they brings wid 'em, sir."]
Rose and Grace came often to this bower with kisses and gifts and
offerings, like a pair of nice fairy godmothers. They hung over the
pretty little waxen miracle as she opened her great blue eyes with a
silent, mysterious wonder; but, alas! all these delicious moments,
this artless love of the new baby life, was not for the mother. She
was not strong enough to enjoy it. Its cries made her nervous; and so
she kept the uncheered solitude of her room without the blessing of
the little angel.
People may mourn in lugubrious phrase about the Irish blood in our
country. For our own part, we think the rich, tender, motherly nature
of the Irish girl an element a thousand times more hopeful in our
population than the faded, washed-out indifferentism of fashionable
women, who have danced and flirted away all their womanly attributes,
till there is neither warmth nor richness nor maternal fulness left
in them,--mere paper-dolls, without milk in their bosoms or blood
in their veins. Give us rich, tender, warm-hearted Bridgets and
Kathleens, whose instincts teach them the real poetry of motherhood;
who can love unto death, and bear trials and pains cheerfully for the
joy that is set before them. We are not afraid for the republican
citizens that such mothers will bear to us. They are the ones that
will come to high places in our land, and that will possess the earth
by right of the strongest.
Motherhood, to the woman who has lived only to be petted, and to be
herself the centre of all things, is a virtual dethronement. Something
weaker, fairer, more delicate than herself comes,--something for her
to serve and to care for more than herself.
It would sometimes seem as if motherhood were a lovely artifice of the
great Father, to wean the heart from selfishness by a peaceful and
gradual process. The babe is self in another form. It is so interwoven
and identified with the mother's life, that she passes by almost
insensible gradations from herself to it; and day by day the
distinctive love of self wanes as the child-love waxes, filling the
heart with a thousand new springs of tenderness.
But that this benignant transformation of nature may be perfected, it
must be wrought out in Nature's own way. Any artificial arrangement
that takes the child away from the mother interrupts that wonderful
system of contrivances whereby the mother's nature and being shade off
into that of the child, and her heart enlarges to a new and heavenly
power of loving.
When Lillie was sufficiently recovered to be fond of any thing, she
found in her lovely baby only a new toy,--a source of pride and
pleasure, and a charming occasion for the display of new devices of
millinery. But she found Newport indispensable that summer to the
re-establishment of her strength. "And really," she said, "the baby
would be so much better off quietly at home with mamma and Kathleen.
The fact is," she said, "she quite disregards me. She cries after
Kathleen if I take her; so that it's quite provoking."
And so Lillie, free and unencumbered, had her gay season at Newport
with the Follingsbees, and the Simpkinses, and the Tompkinses, and
all the rest of the nice people, who have nothing to do but enjoy
themselves; and everybody flattered her by being incredulous that one
so young and charming could possibly be a mother.
If ever our readers have observed two chess-players, both ardent,
skilful, determined, who have been carrying on noiselessly the moves
of a game, they will understand the full significance of this decisive
Up to this point, there is hope, there is energy, there is enthusiasm;
the pieces are marshalled and managed with good courage. At last,
perhaps in an unexpected moment, one, two, three adverse moves follow
each other, and the decisive words, _check-mate_, are uttered.
This is a symbol of what often goes on in the game of life.
Here is a man going on, indefinitely, conscious in his own heart that
he is not happy in his domestic relations. There is a want of union
between him and his wife. She is not the woman that meets his wants or
his desires; and in the intercourse of life they constantly cross and
annoy each other. But still he does not allow himself to look the
matter fully in the face. He goes on and on, hoping that to-morrow
will bring something better than to-day,--hoping that this thing or
that thing or the other thing will bring a change, and that in some
indefinite future all will round and fashion itself to his desires.
It is very slowly that a man awakens from the illusions of his
first love. It is very unwillingly that he ever comes to the final
conclusion that he has made _there_ the mistake of a whole lifetime,
and that the woman to whom he gave his whole heart not only is not the
woman that he supposed her to be, but never in any future time, nor
by any change of circumstances, will become that woman; for then the
difficulty seems radical and final and hopeless.
In "The Pilgrim's Progress," we read that the poor man, Christian,
tried to persuade his wife to go with him on the pilgrimage to the
celestial city; but that finally he had to make up his mind to go
alone without her. Such is the lot of the man who is brought to the
conclusion, positively and definitely, that his wife is always to be
a hinderance, and never a help to him, in any upward aspiration; that
whatever he does that is needful and right and true must be done, not
by her influence, but in spite of it; that, if he has to swim against
the hard, upward current of the river of life, he must do so with her
hanging on his arm, and holding him back, and that he cannot influence
and cannot control her.
Such hours of disclosure to a man are among the terrible hidden
tragedies of life,--tragedies such as are never acted on the stage.
Such a time of disclosure came to John the year after Grace's
marriage; and it came in this way:--
The Spindlewood property had long been critically situated. Sundry
financial changes which were going, on in the country had depreciated
its profits, and affected it unfavorably. All now depended upon the
permanency of one commercial house. John had been passing through an
interval of great anxiety. He could not tell Lillie his trouble. He
had been for months past nervously watching all the in-comings and
outgoings of his family, arranged on a scale of reckless expenditure,
which he felt entirely powerless to control. Lillie's wishes were
importunate. She was nervous and hysterical, wholly incapable of
listening to reason; and the least attempt to bring her to change any
of her arrangements, or to restrict any of her pleasures, brought
tears and faintings and distresses and scenes of domestic confusion
which he shrank from. He often tried to set before her the possibility
that they might be obliged, for a time at least, to live in a
different manner; but she always resisted every such supposition as so
frightful, so dreadful, that he was utterly discouraged, and put off
and off, hoping that the evil day never might arrive.
But it did come at last. One morning, when he received by mail the
tidings of the failure of the great house of Clapham & Co., he knew
that the time had come when the thing could no longer be staved off.
He was an indorser to a large amount on the paper of this house; and
the crisis was inevitable.
It was inevitable also that he must acquaint Lillie with the state of
his circumstances; for she was going on with large arrangements and
calculations for a Newport campaign, and sending the usual orders to
New York, to her milliner and dressmaker, for her summer outfit. It
was a cruel thing for him to be obliged to interrupt all this; for
she seemed perfectly cheerful and happy in it, as she always was when
preparing to go on a pleasure-seeking expedition. But it could not be.
All this luxury and indulgence must be cut off at a stroke. He must
tell her that she could not go to Newport; that there was no money for
new dresses or new finery; that they should probably be obliged to
move out of their elegant house, and take a smaller one, and practise
for some time a rigid economy.
John came into Lillie's elegant apartments, which glittered like a
tulip-bed with many colored sashes and ribbons, with sheeny silks and
misty laces, laid out in order to be surveyed before packing.
"Gracious me, John! what on earth is the matter with you to-day? How
perfectly awful and solemn you do look!"
"I have had bad news, this morning, Lillie, which I must tell you."
"Oh, dear me, John! what is the matter? Nobody is dead, I hope!"
"No, Lillie; but I am afraid you will have to give up your Newport
"Gracious, goodness, John! what for?"
"To say the truth, Lillie, I cannot afford it."
"Can't afford it? Why not? Why, John, what is the matter?"
"Well, Lillie, just read this letter!"
Lillie took it, and read it with her hands trembling.
"Well, dear me, John! I don't see any thing in this letter. If they
have failed, I don't see what that is to you!"
"But, Lillie, I am indorser for them."
"How very silly of you, John! What made you indorse for them? Now that
is too bad; it just makes me perfectly miserable to think of such
things. I know _I_ should not have done so; but I don't see why you
need pay it. It is their business, anyhow."
"But, Lillie, I shall have to pay it. It is a matter of honor and
honesty to do it; because I engaged to do it."
"Well, I don't see why that should be! It isn't your debt; it is their
debt: and why need you do it? I am sure Dick Follingsbee said that
there were ways in which people could put their property out of their
hands when they got caught in such scrapes as this. Dick knows just
how to manage. He told me of plenty of people that had done that, who
were living splendidly, and who were received everywhere; and people
thought just as much of them."
"O Lillie, Lillie! my child," said John; "you don't know any thing of
what you are talking about! That would be dishonorable, and wholly out
of the question. No, Lillie dear, the fact is," he said, with a great
gulp, and a deep sigh,--"the fact is, I have failed; but I am going to
fail honestly. If I have nothing else left, I will have my honor and
my conscience. But we shall have to give up this house, and move into
a smaller one. Every thing will have to be given up to the creditors
to settle the business. And then, when all is arranged, we must try to
live economically some way; and perhaps we can make it up again.
But you see, dear, there can be no more of this kind of expenses at
present," he said, pointing to the dresses and jewelry on the bed.
"Well, John, I am sure I had rather die!" said Lillie, gathering
herself into a little white heap, and tumbling into the middle of the
bed. "I am sure if we have got to rub and scrub and starve so, I had
rather die and done with it; and I hope I shall."
John crossed his arms, and looked gloomily out of the window.
"Perhaps you had better," he said. "I am sure I should be glad to."
"Yes, I dare say!" said Lillie; "that is all you care for me. Now
there is Dick Follingsbee, he would be taking care of his wife. Why,
he has failed three or four times, and always come out richer than he
"He is a swindler and a rascal!" said John; "that is what he is."
"I don't care if he is," said Lillie, sobbing. "His wife has good
times, and goes into the very first society in New York. People don't
care, so long as you are rich, what you do. Well, I am sure I can't do
any thing about it. I don't know how to live without money,--that's a
fact! and I can't learn. I suppose you would be glad to see me rubbing
around in old calico dresses, wouldn't you? and keeping only one girl,
and going into the kitchen, like Miss Dotty Peabody? I think I see
myself! And all just for one of your Quixotic notions, when you might
just as well keep all your money as not. That is what it is to marry
a reformer! I never have had any peace of my life on account of your
conscience, always something or other turning up that you can't act
like anybody else. I should think, at least, you might have contrived
to settle this place on me and poor little Lillie, that we might have
a house to put our heads in."
"Lillie, Lillie," said John, "this is too much! Don't you think that
_I_ suffer at all?"
"I don't see that you do," said Lillie, sobbing. "I dare say you are
glad of it; it is just like you. Oh, dear, I wish I had never been
"I _certainly_ do," said John, fervently.
"I suppose so. You see, it is nothing to you men; you don't care any
thing about these things. If you can get a musty old corner and your
books, you are perfectly satisfied; and you don't know when things are
pretty, and when they are not: and so you can talk grand about your
honor and your conscience and all that. I suppose the carriages and
horses have got to be sold too?"
"Certainly, Lillie," said John, hardening his heart and his tone.
"Well, well," she said, "I wish you would go now and send ma to me.
I don't want to talk about it any more. My head aches as if it would
split. Poor ma! She little thought when I married you that it was
going to come to this."
John walked out of the room gloomily enough. He had received this
morning his _check-mate_. All illusion was at an end. The woman that
he had loved and idolized and caressed and petted and indulged, in
whom he had been daily and hourly disappointed since he was married,
but of whom he still hoped and hoped, he now felt was of a nature not
only unlike, but opposed to his own. He felt that he could neither
love nor respect her further. And yet she was his wife, and the mother
of his daughter, and the only queen of his household; and he had
solemnly promised at God's altar that "forsaking all others, he would
keep only unto her, so long as they both should live, for better, for
worse," John muttered to himself,--"for better, for worse. This is the
worse; and oh, it is dreadful!"
In all John's hours of sorrow and trouble, the instinctive feeling of
his heart was to go back to the memory of his mother; and the nearest
to his mother was his sister Grace. In this hour of his blind sorrow,
he walked directly over to the little cottage on Elm Street, which
Grace and her husband had made a perfectly ideal home.
When he came into the parlor, Grace and Rose were sitting together
with an open letter lying between them. It was evident that some
crisis of tender confidence had passed between them; for the tears
were hardly dry on Rose's cheeks. Yet it was not painful, whatever it
was; for her face was radiant with smiles, and John thought he had
never seen her look so lovely. At this moment the truth of her
beautiful and lovely womanhood, her sweetness and nobleness of nature,
came over him, in bitter contrast with the scene he had just passed
through, and the woman he had left.
"What do you think, John?" said Grace; "we have some congratulations
here to give! Rose is engaged to Harry Endicott."
"Indeed!" said John, "I wish her joy."
"But what is the matter, John?" said both women, looking up, and
seeing something unusual in his face.
"Oh, trouble!" said John,--"trouble upon us all. Gracie and Rose, the
Spindlewood Mills have failed."
"Is it possible?" was the exclamation of both.
"Yes, indeed!" said John; "you see, the thing has been running very
close for the last six months; and the manufacturing business has been
looking darker and darker. But still we could have stood it if the
house of Clapham & Co. had stood; but they have gone to smash, Gracie.
I had a letter this morning, telling me of it."
Both women stood a moment as if aghast; for the Ferguson property was
"Poor papa!" said Rose; "this will come hard on him."
"I know it," said John, bitterly. "It is more for others that I feel
than for myself,--for all that are involved must suffer with me."
"But, after all, John dear," said Rose, "don't feel so about us at any
rate. We shall do very well. People that fail honorably always come
right side up at last; and, John, how good it is to think, whatever
you lose, you cannot lose your best treasure,--your true noble heart,
and your true friends. I feel this minute that we shall all know
each other better, and be more precious to each other for this very
John looked at her through his tears.
"Dear Rose," he said, "you are an angel; and from my soul I
congratulate the man that has got _you_. He that has you would be
rich, if he lost the whole world."
"You are too good to me, all of you," said Rose. "But now, John, about
that bad news--let me break it to papa and mamma; I think I can do it
best. I know when they feel brightest in the day; and I don't want it
to come on them suddenly: but I can put it in the very best way. How
fortunate that I am just engaged to Harry! Harry is a perfect prince
in generosity. You don't know what a good heart he has; and it happens
so fortunately that we have him to lean on just now. Oh, I'm sure we
shall find a way out of these troubles, never fear." And Rose took the
letter, and left John and Grace together.
"O Gracie, Gracie!" said John, throwing himself down on the old chintz
sofa, and burying his face in his hands, "what a woman there is! O
Gracie! I wish I was dead! Life is played out with me. I haven't the
least desire to live. I can't get a step farther."
[Illustration: "O Gracie! I wish I was dead!"]
"O John, John! don't talk so!" said Grace, stooping over him. "Why,
you will recover from this! You are young and strong. It will be
settled; and you can work your way up again."
"It is not the money, Grace; I could let that go. It is that I have
nothing to live for,--nobody and nothing. My wife, Gracie! she is
worse than nothing,--worse, oh! infinitely worse than nothing! She is
a chain and a shackle. She is my obstacle. She tortures me and hinders
me every way and everywhere. There will never be a home for me where
she is; and, because she is there, no other woman can make a home for
me. Oh, I wish she would go away, and stay away! I would not care if I
never saw her face again."
There was something shocking and terrible to Grace about this
outpouring. It was dreadful to her to be the recipient of such a
confidence, to hear these words spoken, and to more than suspect their
truth. She was quite silent for a few moments, as he still lay with
his face down, buried in the sofa-pillow.
Then she went to her writing-desk, took out a little ivory miniature
of their mother, came and sat down by him, and laid her hand on his
"John," she said, "look at this."
He raised his head, took it from her hand, and looked at it. Soon she
saw the tears dropping over it.
"John," she said, "let me say to you now what I think our mother would
have said. The great object of life is not happiness; and, when we
have lost our own personal happiness, we have not lost all that life
is worth living for. No, John, the very best of life often lies beyond
that. When we have learned to let ourselves go, then we may find that
there is a better, a nobler, and a truer life for us."
"I _have_ given up," said John in a husky voice. "I have lost _all_."
"Yes," replied Grace, steadily, "I know perfectly well that there is
very little hope of personal and individual happiness for you in your
marriage for years to come. Instead of a companion, a friend, and a
helper, you have a moral invalid to take care of. But, John, if Lillie
had been stricken with blindness, or insanity, or paralysis, you would
not have shrunk from your duty to her; and, because the blindness
and paralysis are moral, you will not shrink from it, will you? You
sacrifice all your property to pay an indorsement for a debt that is
not yours; and why do you do it? Because society rests on every man's
faithfulness to his engagements. John, if you stand by a business
engagement with this faithfulness, how much more should you stand
by that great engagement which concerns all other families and the
stability of all society. Lillie is your wife. You were free to
choose; and you chose her. She is the mother of your child; and, John,
what that daughter is to be depends very much on the steadiness with
which you fulfil your duties to the mother. I know that Lillie is a
most undeveloped and uncongenial person; I know how little you have in
common: but your duties are the same as if she were the best and the
most congenial of wives. It is every man's duty to make the best of
"But, Gracie," said John, "is there any thing to be made of her?"
"You will never make me believe, John, that there are any human beings
absolutely without the capability of good. They may be very dark, and
very slow to learn, and very far from it; but steady patience and love
and well-doing will at last tell upon any one."
"But, Gracie, if you could have heard how utterly without principle
she is: urging me to put my property out of my hands dishonestly, to
keep her in luxury!"
"Well, John, you must have patience with her. Consider that she has
been unfortunate in her associates. Consider that she has been a
petted child all her life, and that you have helped to pet her.
Consider how much your sex always do to weaken the moral sense of
women, by liking and admiring them for being weak and foolish and
inconsequent, so long as it is pretty and does not come in your way.
I do not mean you in particular, John; but I mean that the general
course of society releases pretty women from any sense of obligation
to be constant in duty, or brave in meeting emergencies. You yourself
have encouraged Lillie to live very much like a little humming-bird."
"Well, I thought," said John, "that she would in time develop into
"Well, there lies your mistake; you expected too much. The work of
years is not to be undone in a moment; and you must take into account
that this is Lillie's first adversity. You may as well make up your
mind not to expect her to be reasonable. It seems to me that we can
make up our minds to bear any thing that we know must come; and you
may as well make up yours, that, for a long time, you will have to
carry Lillie as a burden. But then, you must think that she is your
daughter's mother, and that it is very important for the child that
she should respect and honor her mother. You must treat her with
respect and honor, even in her weaknesses. We all must. We all must
help Lillie as we can to bear this trial, and sympathize with her in
it, unreasonable as she may seem; because, after all, John, it is a
real trial to her."
"I cannot see, for my part," said John, "that she loves any thing."
"The power of loving may be undeveloped in her, John; but it will
come, perhaps, later in life. At all events take this comfort to
yourself,--that, when you are doing your duty by your wife, when you
are holding her in her place in the family, and teaching her child to
respect and honor her, you are putting her in God's school of love. If
we contend with and fly from our duties, simply because they gall
us and burden us, we go against every thing; but if we take them up
bravely, then every thing goes with us. God and good angels and good
men and all good influences are working with us when we are working
for the right. And in this way, John, you may come to happiness; or,
if you do not come to personal happiness, you may come to something
higher and better. You know that you think it nobler to be an honest
man than a rich man; and I am sure that you will think it better to be
a good man than to be a happy one. Now, dear John, it is not I that
say these things, I think; but it seems to me it is what our mother
would say, if she should speak to you from where she is. And then,
dear brother, it will all be over soon, this life-battle; and the only
thing is, to come out victorious."
"Gracie, you are right," said John, rising up: "I see it myself. I
will brace up to my duty. Couldn't you try and pacify Lillie a little,
poor girl? I suppose I have been rough with her."
"Oh, yes, John, I will go up and talk with Lillie, and condole with
her; and perhaps we shall bring her round. And then when my husband
comes home next week, we'll have a family palaver, and he will find
some ways and means of setting this business straight, that it won't
be so bad as it looks now. There may be arrangements made when the
creditors come together. My impression is that, whenever people find a
man really determined to arrange a matter of this kind honorably,
they are all disposed to help him; so don't be cast down about the
business. As for Lillie's discontent, treat it as you would the crying
of your little daughter for its sugar-plums, and do not expect any
thing more of her just now than there is."
* * * * *
We have brought our story up to this point. We informed our readers in
the beginning that it was not a novel, but a story with a moral; and,
as people pick all sorts of strange morals out of stories, we intend
to put conspicuously into our story exactly what the moral of it is.
Well, then, it has been very surprising to us to see in these our
times that some people, who really at heart have the interest of women
upon their minds, have been so short-sighted and reckless as to clamor
for an easy dissolution of the marriage-contract, as a means of
righting their wrongs. Is it possible that they do not see that this
is a liberty which, once granted, would always tell against the weaker
sex? If the woman who finds that she has made a mistake, and married a
man unkind or uncongenial, may, on the discovery of it, leave him and
seek her fortune with another, so also may a man. And what will become
of women like Lillie, when the first gilding begins to wear off, if
the man who has taken one of them shall be at liberty to cast her off
and seek another? Have we not enough now of miserable, broken-winged
butterflies, that sink down, down, down into the mud of the street?
But are women-reformers going to clamor for having every woman turned
out helpless, when the man who has married her, and made her a mother,
discovers that she has not the power to interest him, and to help his
higher spiritual development? It was because woman is helpless and
weak, and because Christ was her great Protector, that he made the law
of marriage irrevocable. "Whosoever putteth away his wife causeth her
to commit adultery." If the sacredness of the marriage-contract did
not hold, if the Church and all good men and all good women did not
uphold it with their might and main, it is easy to see where the
career of many women like Lillie would end. Men have the power to
reflect before the choice is made; and that is the only proper time
for reflection. But, when once marriage is made and consummated, it
should be as fixed a fact as the laws of nature. And they who suffer
under its stringency should suffer as those who endure for the public
good. "He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not, he shall
enter into the tabernacle of the Lord."
_AFTER THE STORM_.
The painful and unfortunate crises of life often arise and darken
like a thunder-storm, and seem for the moment perfectly terrific and
overwhelming; but wait a little, and the cloud sweeps by, and the
earth, which seemed about to be torn to pieces and destroyed, comes
out as good as new. Not a bird is dead; not a flower killed: and the
sun shines just as he did before. So it was with John's financial
trouble. When it came to be investigated and looked into, it proved
much less terrible than had been feared. It was not utter ruin. The
high character which John bore for honor and probity, the general
respect which was felt for him by all to whom he stood indebted, led
to an arrangement by which the whole business was put into his hands,
and time given him to work it through. His brother-in-law came to his
aid, advancing money, and entering into the business with him. Our
friend Harry Endicott was only too happy to prove his devotion to Rose
by offers of financial assistance.
In short, there seemed every reason to hope that, after a period of
somewhat close sailing, the property might be brought into clear water
again, and go on even better than before.
To say the truth, too, John was really relieved by that terrible burst
of confidence in his sister. It is a curious fact, that giving full
expression to bitterness of feeling or indignation against one we
love seems to be such a relief, that it always brings a revulsion of
kindliness. John never loved his sister so much as when he heard her
plead his wife's cause with him; for, though in some bitter, impatient
hour a man may feel, which John did, as if he would be glad to sunder
all ties, and tear himself away from an uncongenial wife, yet a good
man never can forget the woman that once he loved, and who is the
mother of his children. Those sweet, sacred visions and illusions of
first love will return again and again, even after disenchantment; and
the better and the purer the man is, the more sacred is the appeal to
him of woman's weakness. Because he is strong, and she is weak, he
feels that it would be unmanly to desert her; and, if there ever was
any thing for which John thanked his sister, it was when she went
over and spent hours with his wife, patiently listening to her
complainings, and soothing her as if she had been a petted child. All
the circle of friends, in a like manner, bore with her for his sake.
Thanks to the intervention of Grace's husband and of Harry, John was
not put to the trial and humiliation of being obliged to sell the
family place, although constrained to live in it under a system of
more rigid economy. Lillie's mother, although quite a commonplace
woman as a companion, had been an economist in her day; she had known
how to make the most of straitened circumstances, and, being put to
it, could do it again.
To be sure, there was an end of Newport gayeties; for Lillie vowed and
declared that she would not go to Newport and take cheap board, and
live without a carriage. She didn't want the Follingsbees and the
Tompkinses and the Simpkinses talking about her, and saying that they
had failed. Her mother worked like a servant for her in smartening her
up, and tidying her old dresses, of which one would think that she had
a stock to last for many years. And thus, with everybody sympathizing
with her, and everybody helping her, Lillie subsided into enacting the
part of a patient, persecuted saint. She was touchingly resigned, and
wore an air of pleasing melancholy. John had asked her pardon for all
the hasty words he said to her in the terrible interview; and she had
forgiven him with edifying meekness. "Of course," she remarked to her
mother, "she knew he would be sorry for the way he had spoken to her;
and she was very glad that he had the grace to confess it."
So life went on and on with John. He never forgot his sister's words,
but received them into his heart as a message from his mother in
heaven. From that time, no one could have judged by any word, look, or
action of his that his wife was not what she had always been to him.
Meanwhile Rose was happily married, and settled down in the Ferguson
place; where her husband and she formed one family with her parents.
It was a pleasant, cosey, social, friendly neighborhood. After all,
John found that his cross was not so very heavy to carry, when once he
had made up his mind that it must be borne. By never expecting much,
he was never disappointed. Having made up his mind that he was to
serve and to give without receiving, he did it, and began to find
pleasure in it. By and by, the little Lillie, growing up by her
mother's side, began to be a compensation for all he had suffered. The
little creature inherited her mother's beauty, the dazzling delicacy
of her complexion, the abundance of her golden hair; but there had
been given to her also her father's magnanimous and generous nature.
Lillie was a selfish, exacting mother; and such women often succeed in
teaching to their children patience and self-denial. As soon as the
little creature could walk, she was her father's constant play-fellow
and companion. He took her with him everywhere. He was never weary of
talking with her and playing with her; and gradually he relieved the
mother of all care of her early training. When, in time, two others
were added to the nursery troop, Lillie became a perfect model of a
gracious, motherly, little older sister.
Did all this patience and devotion of the husband at last awaken any
thing like love in the wife? Lillie was not naturally rich in emotion.
Under the best education and development, she would have been rather
wanting in the loving power; and the whole course of her education had
been directed to suppress what little she had, and to concentrate all
her feelings upon herself.
The factitious and unnatural life she had lived so many years had
seriously undermined the stamina of her constitution; and, after the
birth of her third child, her health failed altogether. Lillie thus
became in time a chronic invalid, exacting, querulous, full of
troubles and wants which tasked the patience of all around her. During
all these trying years, her husband's faithfulness never faltered.
As he gradually retrieved his circumstances, she was first in every
calculation. Because he knew that here lay his greatest temptation,
here he most rigidly performed his duty. Nothing that money could give
to soften the weariness of sickness was withheld; and John was for
hours and hours, whenever he could spare the time, himself a personal,
assiduous, unwearied attendant in the sick-room.
_THE NEW LILLIE_.
We have but one scene more before our story closes. It is night now in
Lillie's sick-room; and her mother is anxiously arranging the drapery,
to keep the fire-light from her eyes, stepping noiselessly about the
room. She lies there behind the curtains, on her pillow,--the wreck
and remnant only of what was once so beautiful. During all these
years, when the interests and pleasures of life have been slowly
dropping, leaf by leaf, and passing away like fading flowers, Lillie
has learned to do much thinking. It sometimes seems to take a stab, a
thrust, a wound, to open in some hearts the capacity of deep feeling
and deep thought. There are things taught by suffering that can be
taught in no other way. By suffering sometimes is wrought out in a
person the power of loving, and of appreciating love. During the first
year, Lillie had often seemed to herself in a sort of wild, chaotic
state. The coming in of a strange new spiritual life was something
so inexplicable to her that it agitated and distressed her; and
sometimes, when she appeared more petulant and fretful than usual, it
was only the stir and vibration on her weak nerves of new feelings,
which she wanted the power to express. These emotions at first were
painful to her. She felt weak, miserable, and good for nothing. It
seemed to her that her whole life had been a wretched cheat, and
that she had ill repaid the devotion of her husband. At first these
thoughts only made her bitter and angry; and she contended against
them. But, as she sank from day to day, and grew weaker and weaker,
she grew more gentle; and a better spirit seemed to enter into her.
On this evening that we speak of, she had made up her mind that she
would try and tell her husband some of the things that were passing in
"Tell John I want to see him," she said to her mother. "I wish he
would come and sit with me."
This was a summons for which John invariably left every thing. He laid
down his book as the word was brought to him, and soon was treading
noiselessly at her bedside.
"Well, Lillie dear," he said, "how are you?"
She put out her little wasted hand; "John dear," she said, "sit down;
I have something that I want to say to you. I have been thinking,
John, that this can't last much longer."
"What can't last, Lillie?" said John, trying to speak cheerfully.
"I mean, John, that I am going to leave you soon, for good and all;
and I should not think you would be sorry either."
"Oh, come, come, my girl, it won't do to talk so!" said John, patting
her hand. "You must not be blue."
"And so, John," said Lillie, going on without noticing this
interruption, "I wanted just to tell you, before I got any weaker,
that I know and feel just how patient and noble and good you have
always been to me."
"O Lillie darling!" said John, "why shouldn't I be? Poor little girl,
how much you have suffered!"
"Well, now, John, I know perfectly well that I have never been the
wife that I ought to be to you. You know it too; so don't try to say
anything about it. I was never the woman to have made you happy; and
it was not fair in me to marry you. I have lived a dreadfully worldly,
selfish life. And now, John, I am come to the end. You dear good man,
your trials with me are almost over; but I want you to know that you
really have succeeded. John, I do love you now with all my heart,
though I did not love you when I married you. And, John, I do feel
that God will take pity on me, poor and good for nothing as I am, just
because I see how patient and kind you have always been to me when I
have been so very provoking. You see it has made me think how good God
must be,--because, dear, we know that he is better than the best of
"O Lillie, Lillie!" said John, leaning over her, and taking her in his
arms, "do live, I want you to live. Don't leave me now, now that you
really love me!"
"Oh, no, John! it is best as it is,--I think I should not have
strength to be _very_ good, if I were to get well; and you would still
have your little cross to carry. No, dear, it is all right. And, John,
you will have the best of me in our Lillie. She looks like me: but,
John, she has your good heart; and she will be more to you than I
could be. She is just as sweet and unselfish as I _was_ selfish. I
don't think I am quite so bad now; and I think, if I lived, I should
try to be a great deal better."
"O Lillie! I cannot bear to part with you! I never have ceased to love
you; and I never have loved any other woman."
"I know that, John. Oh! how much truer and better you are than I have
been! But I like to think that you love me,--I like to think that you
will be sorry when I am gone, bad as I am, or _was_; for I insist on
it that I am a little better than I was. You remember that story of
Undine you read me one day? It seems as if most of my life I have been
like Undine before her soul came into her. But this last year I have
felt the coming in of a soul. It has troubled me; it has come with a
strange kind of pain. I have never suffered so much. But it has done
me good--it has made me feel that I have an immortal soul, and that
you and I, John, shall meet in some better place hereafter.--And there
you will be rewarded for all your goodness to me."
As John sat there, and held the little frail hand, his thoughts went
back to the time when the wild impulse of his heart had been to break
away from this woman, and never see her face again; and he gave thanks
to God, who had led him in a better way.
* * * * *
And so, at last, passed away the little story of Lillie's life. But
in the home which she has left now grows another Lillie, fairer and
sweeter than she,--the tender confidant, the trusted friend of her
father. And often, when he lays his hand on her golden head, he says,
"Dear child, how like your mother you look!"
Of all that was painful in that experience, nothing now remains. John
thinks of her only as he thought of her in the fair illusion of first
love,--the dearest and most sacred of all illusions.
The Lillie who guides his household, and is so motherly to the younger
children; who shares every thought of his heart; who enters into every
feeling and sympathy,--she is the pure reward of his faithfulness and
constancy. She is a sacred and saintly Lillie, springing out of the
sod where he laid her mother, forgetting all her faults for ever.