Part 10 out of 11
"'Be kind enough, sir, to let me have one dollar. I want it very
"'You give me more trouble about your money than any other workman I
have,' said the man roughly, as he handed her a dollar.
"She took it, unheeding the cruel remark, and before I could make up
my mind how to act, glided quickly away. I followed as hastily, and
continued to walk after her, until I saw her enter a large,
old-fashioned brick building. About this dwelling, there was no air
of comfort. In the door sat a little girl, and two boys, pale, but
pleasant-looking children. One of them clapped his little hands as
Constance passed them, and then got up and ran after her into the
house. They all had her own bright eyes. I would have known them for
(sic) her's anywhere.
"Does it not seem strange that I hesitated to go in at once to my
child. But I am at a loss what to do. Sometimes I think that I will
wait until you come on, and make her heart glad with the presence of
both at once. To-morrow I will write you again. The mail is just
closing; and I must send this."
After Wilmer had received the kindly proffered relief from his
employers, in an increase of salary, he was less troubled about the
daily wants of his family. But other sources of keen anxiety soon
presented themselves. His own health began to give way so rapidly as
to awaken in his mind, fearful apprehensions of approaching
inability to support his family; and Constance was not strong. Too
often, the pain in his breast and side was so severe as to make his
place at the desk little less than torture. A confirmed, short, dry
cough, not severe, but constant, also awakened his liveliest fears.
At the end of a year from the time when his employers began to feel
a kind interest in him, he was removed from the desk, and given more
active employment as salesman and out-of-door clerk. The benefit of
this change was soon felt. The pain in his breast and side gradually
gave way, his appetite increased, and his cough became less and less
irritating. But this improvement was only temporary. The disease had
become too deeply rooted. True, he suffered much less than while
confined at the desk, but the morbid indications were too constant
to leave him much of the flattery of hope.
Another year gradually rolled away, and with it came more changes,
and causes of concern. A little stranger had come into his family,
making three the number of his babes, and adding to the list of his
cares and his expenses; and it must also be said, to his pleasures.
For what parent, with the heart of a parent, be his condition what
it may, but rejoices in the number of the little ones whose eyes
brighten at his coming? But there was a change of greater importance
in his prospects. The firm in whose service he was, became involved
and had to wind up their business. All the clerks were in a short
time discharged, and Wilmer among the rest. The time was one of
great commercial pressure, and many long-established houses were
forced to yield; others were driven to great curtailment of
expenses. The consequence was that few were employing clerks, and
many dispensing with their services. Under the circumstances, Wilmer
found it impossible to obtain employment. Daily did he call at the
various stores and counting-rooms in the hope of meeting with a
situation, only to return to his dwelling more depressed and
By great economy, in view of approaching ill health, he had managed
to lay up, since the increase in his wages, nearly the amount of
that increase. He had done this, by living upon the same amount that
he before found to be inadequate to the support of his family. How
this was done, they only can know who have resolutely, from
necessity, made the same experiment, and found that the real amount
necessary to live upon is much smaller than is usually supposed.
This sum, about one hundred dollars, he had when he was thrown out
of employment scarcely enough to last for three months, under their
present expenses. It was with painful reluctance that Wilmer
trespassed upon this precious store, but he found necessity a hard
Amid the gloom and darkness of his condition and prospects, there
was one bright star shining upon him with an ever-constant light. No
cloud could dim or obscure it. That light, that cheerful star, was
the wife of his bosom. The tie that bound her to her husband was not
an external one alone; she was wedded to him in spirit. Her
affection for him, as sorrow, and doubt, and fearful foreboding of
coming evils gathered about him, assumed more and more of the
mother's careful and earnest love for the peace of her child. She
met him with an ever-cheerful countenance; gently soothed his fears,
and constantly referred him to the overruling care of Divine
Providence. Affliction had wrought its proper work upon her
affections, and as they became gradually separated from the world,
they found a higher and purer source of attraction. From a
thoughtless girl, she had become a reflecting woman, and with
reflection had come. a right understanding of her duties. An angel
of comfort is such a woman to a man of keen sensibilities, who finds
his struggle in the world a hard and painful one.
Two months passed away in the vain effort to obtain employment.
Every avenue seemed shut against him. The power of endurance was
tried to its utmost strength, when he was offered a situation in an
iron-store, to handle iron, and occasionally perform the duties of a
clerk. Three hundred dollars was the salary. He caught at it, as his
last hope, with eagerness, and at once entered upon his duties. He
found them more toilsome than he had expected. The business was a
heavy one, and kept him at fatiguing labour nearly the whole day.
Never having been used to do hard work, he found on the morning of
the second day, that the muscles of his back, arms, and legs, were
so strained, that he could hardly move himself. He was as sore as if
he had been beaten with a heavy stick. This, however, in a great
measure, wore off, after he began to move about; but he found his
strength giving way much sooner on this day than on the preceding
one. At night, his head ached badly, he had no appetite, and was
feverish. On the next morning, however, he went resolutely to work;
but he felt so unfit for it, that he finally, referring in his own
mind to what he had suffered on a former occasion by not explaining
his true situation, determined to mention to his new employer how he
felt. and ask a little respite for a day or two, until his strength
should return. He, accordingly, left the large pile of iron which he
had commenced assorting, and entered the counting-room. He felt a
great degree of hesitation, but strove to keep it down, while he
summoned up resolution to utter distinctly and mildly his request.
The man of iron was busy over his bill-book when Wilmer sought his
presence, and looked up with a stern aspect.
"I feel quite sick," began Theodore, an older man than his employer,
"from working beyond my strength for the last two days, and should
be very glad if you could employ me at something lighter for as long
a time, until I recover myself, when I will be much stronger than
when I began, and able to keep steadily on. I have never been used
to hard labour, and feel it the more severely now."
Mr.--looked at him with a slight sneer for a moment, and then
"I can't have any playing about me If my work suits you, well; if
not, there are a plenty whom it will suit."
Silently did Wilmer withdraw from the presence of the unfeeling man,
and turned with aching limbs to his toilsome work.
At night he found himself much worse than on the preceding evening;
and on the ensuing morning he was unable to go to the store. It was
nearly a week before he could again find his way out, and then he
was in a sadly debilitated state, from the effects of a fever
brought on by over-exertion. He went to the iron-store, and formally
declined his situation. No offer was made to reengage him, and as he
turned away from the door of the counting-room, he heard the man
remark, in a sneering under-tone to a person present, "a poor
Generally, the unfortunate are stung to the quick by any reflection
upon them by those in a better condition; and few were more alive to
ridicule than Wilmer. Both the condition and the constitutional
infirmity combined, made the remark of Mr.--produce in his bosom a
tempest of agitation; and for a moment he was roused from his usual
calm exterior; but he recovered himself as quick as thought, and
hurried away. He did not go directly home, but wandered listlessly
about for several hours. When he returned at the usual dinner hour,
he found his wife busily engaged in preparing dinner. Her babe was
asleep in the cradle, by which sat the eldest boy, touching it with
his foot, while the other little one, about four years old, was
prattling away to her baby-doll.
"Why Constance, where is Mary?"
"She has gone away," was the smiling reply.
"How comes that? I thought she appeared very well satisfied."
"She was very well pleased with her place, I believe; but as I have
taken it into my head to do without her, and am a very wilful
creature, as you know, why, there was no remedy but to let her get
another place. So I told her as much this morning, and she has
already found a pleasant situation--not so good, however, as this,
she says. Come, don't look so serious about it! Theodore can bring
water for me, and you can cut the wood, and among us we will do very
well. It is a pity if two people can't take care of themselves, and
three other little bodies besides. And just see what we will
save?--Four dollars a month for her wages, and her boarding into the
bargain. And you know, Mary, though a kind, good sort of a body, and
very industrious and obliging, eat almost as much as all the rest of
"Well, Constance, put as good a face upon the matter as you can, but
I feel that stern necessity has brought you to it."
"You must not talk so much about 'stern necessity,' Theodore. It is
surely no great hardship for me to sweep up the house every morning,
and get the little food we eat. I know that our income is cut off,
for I don't suppose you are going back to that iron-store again. But
there will be a way opened, for us. The kind Being who is trying us
for our good will not leave us in our last extremity. It is for us
to do the best we can, with what we can get. Now that our certain
resources are withdrawn, it is for us to limit our expenses to the
smallest possible sum. We have, it is true, lived quite frugally for
the past year. But it is possible for us to live on much less than
the five hundred dollars that it has cost. Our servant's wages and
boarding were at least one hundred dollars; and by the present
retrenchment we save that sum, and shall live just as comfortably,
for now we will all help to take care of each other."
"So far so good, my comforter! But where will the four hundred
dollars come from?"
"Well, let us go on. We pay one hundred and fifty dollars for this
house. By going out upon the suburbs of the town, we can get a
pleasant little house for five dollars a month."
"O, no, Constance, you are too fast."
"Not at all. I have seen just the little place that will suit us.
The house is not old, and everything around is sweet and clean. And
it's plenty big enough for us."
"Well, Constance, suppose by so doing we reduce our expenses to
three hundred and ten dollars. Where is that sum to come from? I
can't get any work."
"Don't despair, Theodore! We shall not be forsaken. But we must do
for ourselves the best we can. I have been turning over a plan in my
head, by which we can live much cheaper and a great deal happier;
for the less it takes us to live, the less care we shall have about
"By moving into a smaller house, we can dispense with a great many
things which will then be of no use to us. These will bring us from
two to three hundred dollars, at public sale. Good furniture, you
know, always brings good prices."
"With this money, we can live in a smaller house, without any
servant, for nearly a year; and surely you will get something to do
by next spring, even if you should be idle all winter."
Wilmer kissed the cheek of his wife, now glowing with the excitement
of cheerful hope, with a fervent and heartfelt affection, and
murmuring in a low voice--"My comforting angel!" turned with a
lighter heart than had beat in his bosom for months, to caress the
little girl, who was clamouring for her usual kiss.
That afternoon was spent in discussing the proposed retrenchment,
and in going to look at the little house which Mrs. Wilmer had
mentioned. It was small, but neat, and had a good yard, with a pump
at the door. They decided at once to take it, and obtained
possession of the key.
No time was lost in offering their superfluous furniture at public
sale; and to the satisfaction of both Wilmer and his wife, the
auctioneer returned them, after deducting his commissions, the net
sum of three hundred dollars.
In one week from the time of Mrs. Wilmer's proposition, they were
snugly packed away in their new residence.
Late in the fall, Wilmer obtained a situation as collector for one
of the newspaper offices, on a salary of four hundred dollars. This,
under the reduced expense system, and with the surplus on hand,
afforded them ample means. The exercise in the open air which it
allowed him, was greatly conducive to his health, and he soon showed
considerable improvement in body and mind. Things went on smoothly
and satisfactorily until about Christmas, when he took a violent
cold, on a wet day, which fell upon his lungs, and soon brought him
to a very weak state. From this, his recovery was so slow, and his
prospect of health so unpromising, that he found it a matter of
necessity to decline his situation, which was retained for him as
long as the office could wait.
During the whole of the remaining inclement weather of the winter
season, he found it necessary to keep within doors, as he invariably
took cold whenever he ventured out.
Perceiving the failure of her husband's health to be certainly and
rapidly progressing, Mrs. Wilmer dwelt in her own mind with painful
solicitude upon the probable means of support for them all, when his
strength should so entirely give way, as to render him altogether
unfitted for business. The only child of over-fond parents, rich in
this world's goods, she had received a thorough, fashionable
education, which fitted her for doing no one thing by which she
could earn any money. Her music had been confined to a few
fashionable waltzes and overtures; her French and Spanish were
nearly forgotten, and her proficiency in drawing and embroidery had
never been very great. In her girlish days she could dance
gracefully, and talk fashionable nonsense with a bewitching air when
it became necessary to amuse some sprig of fashion, or wield good
plain common sense with common sense people, when occasion called
for it. But as to possessing resources in herself for getting a
living in the world, that was another matter altogether. But there
is a creative power in necessity, which acts with wonderful skill
when the hour of trial comes. That hour had come with Constance, and
she steadily cast about her for the means of earning money.
Next door to where she lived was a widow woman with three grown-up
daughters, who were always busy working for the clothing-stores, or
"slop-shops," as they were called. She had made their acquaintance
during the winter, and found them kind and considerate of others,
and ever ready with an encouraging word, or serious advice when
called for. The very small compensation which they received for
their work, encouraged her but little, when she thought of obtaining
something to do in the same way. But the more she thought of other
means, the less she found herself fitted for doing anything else,
and at last determined to learn how to make common pantaloons, that
she might have some resource to fly to, when all others failed. She
found her kind neighbours ready to give her all the instruction she
needed, and they also kindly offered to introduce her to the shops
whenever she should determine to take in work. It did not take her
long to learn, and soon after she had acquired the art, as her
husband's health still continued to decline, she began, in odd
times, to make common pantaloons and vests, for which she received
the meagre compensation of twelve-and-a-half cents each. It took her
about one-half of her time, actively engaged, to attend to her
During the remaining half of each day and evening, she would make a
vest or a pair of pantaloons, which at the end of the week would
bring her in seventy-five cents. When she looked at this small sum,
the aggregate of a week's labour, during leisure from the concerns
of her family, she felt but little encouraged in prospect of having
the whole of her little family dependent upon her; and for some
weeks she entertained, in the silence of her own heart, a sickening
consciousness of coming destitution, which she might in vain
endeavour to prevent. Gradually her mind reacted from this painful
state, and she gave daily diligence to her employments, entertaining
a firm trust in Divine Providence.
As the spring opened, her husband's health revived a little, and he
found employment at a small compensation in a retail dry-goods
store. This just suited his strength and the state of his health,
and he continued at it for something like three years. During this
period nothing of material interest occurred, and we pass it over in
The long-looked-for, long-dreaded time, when Wilmer's health should
entirely give way, at length came; and although through the kindness
of his employers he had been retained in the store long after he was
able to do his full duty, yet at last he had to give up.
It would require a pen more skilled to portray the workings of the
human heart, than mine, to sketch his real feelings, when he
received his last month's wages; the last that he felt he would ever
earn for his family, and turned his steps homeward. He loved the
wife who had forsaken the wealth and comfort of a father's house,
and had been all in all to him through sunshine and storm, with deep
and tearful affection; he would have sacrificed everything for her;
and yet for years had he been compelled to see her toil for a
portion of the bread that nourished her and her children. He loved
his little ones, with a yearning tenderness; the more fervently and
passionately, now that he could no longer minister to their wants.
How could he meet them all on this evening, and see their dear faces
brighten up on his entrance, when he could no longer earn them food,
or provide them with comforts? It was with a strong effort that he
kept down his feelings. as he entered his home, now comprised in two
rooms in the second story of an old house in Commerce street, where
they had removed, to be nearer his place of business, the long walk
having been too fatiguing for him, after standing behind the counter
Mrs. Wilmer's quick eye at once detected a change in the expression
of her husband's countenance, but she said nothing. After tea, the
children were all put to bed in the next room, and they were then
alone. Wilmer sat in deep thought by the table, shading his face
with his sand when his wife came in from the chamber where she had
been with the children. Twining her arm round his neck, she bent
over him, and said, in a tone of tender concern--
"Why so thoughtful, Theodore?"
He did not reply for some moments, nor lift his head, and Constance
was about to repeat her question in a more earnest voice, when a hot
tear fell upon her hand. She had seen him often sorely tried and
painfully exercised, but had never known him to shed a tear. There
had always been a troubled silence in his manner when difficulties
pressed upon him, but tears moistened not his eyes. Well might her
heart sink down in her bosom at that strange token of intense
"Dear Theodore!" she said, in a changed tone, "tell me what it is
that troubles you!"
A shuddering sob was the only reply, as he leaned his head back upon
"Say, dearest, what has happened?"
The tears now fell from his eyes like rain, and sob after sob shook
his frame convulsively.
Constance waited in silence until the agitation subsided, and then
gently urged him to tell her what it was that troubled him so
"I am broken in spirits now, Constance. I am a weak child. I have
received the last blow, and manhood has altogether forsaken me."
"Tell me! oh, tell me! Theodore, all, all! Do not distress me by
further silence, or mystery!"
A pause of some minutes succeeded, during which Wilmer was making
strong efforts to overcome his feelings.
"Constance," he at length said, mournfully, "I have tried long, and
much beyond my strength, to earn the small sum that it took to
support our little ones; but nature has at last given way. Here is
the last dollar I shall probably ever earn, and now I shall be a
burden upon you, eating the bread of my children, while they, poor
things, will hunger for the morsel that nourishes me. I do not
wonder that manly feelings have passed away with my strength.
Constance, what shall we do?"
An angel of comfort is woman to life's last extremity.
Fragile as a reed, that bends to the passing breeze, when the
sunshine of prosperity is bright above and around, she becomes the
tall oak, deep-rooted and strong-branched, when the wintry storms of
adversity sweep over the earth. No trial subdues her, no privation
brings a murmur of discontent. She will hope to the last, and still
have a smile of assurance for those who, in their despondency, have
even cast away hope. Constance Wilmer was a woman, and as a woman,
her worth was felt more and more, as troubles came thicker and
"Dear husband!" she said, in a steady and cheerful voice, "you have
forgotten that line, so true and so comforting--"'Despair is never
"I see no cause for such painful feelings. Pinching want is not upon
us yet, and I am sure the time will never come when our children
shall ask food at our hands in. vain. Trial, which is always for our
good, will never reach beyond the point of endurance."
"The burden is all upon you, Constance. Heaven grant that you may
have strength to bear it!"
"I fear not for the strength. That will come in due time. Now we
have food and raiment, and therewith let us be content. If God so
clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is
cast into the oven, will he not clothe us? He that feedeth the young
ravens when they cry, will not turn away from us. Are we not of more
value than many sparrows?"
"Bless you! bless you! Constance."
"Do not, then, dear husband! cast away your confidence. If the
burden is to be all upon me, it will be lightened by your cheerful
countenance and encouraging words. I shall need them both,
doubtless; then do not withhold them."
Her voice lost its steadiness, trembled a moment, and then she hid
her face, in silence and in tears, upon his bosom.
As Wilmer had foreseen, the strength for further labour was gone for
ever. He lingered about for a few weeks, and then took to his bed.
And now came the time for the full trial of Mrs. Wilmer's mental and
Notwithstanding all her close application at the needle, the small
sum that had been saved from former earnings, slowly, but steadily
diminished. Daily she increased her exertions, and encroached
further upon the hours of rest; but still there was a steady
withdrawal of the hoarded treasure. At first, her confidence in the
Divine Providence was measurably shaken; but soon the wavering
needle of her faith turned steadily to its polar star. Her own
health, never vigorous, began also to give way under the increased
application which became necessary for the support of the beloved
ones, now entirely dependent upon her labour for food and raiment.
Her appetite, never very good, failed considerably, and consequently
there was a withdrawal instead of an increase of strength. But none
knew of her pain or weakness. Her pale face was ever a cheerful one,
and her voice full of tenderness.
When the next spring opened, Wilmer was not only confined to the
house, but unable to sit up, except for a few hours at a time
through the day. His wife's health had suffered much, and all the
hours she sat at her needle, were hours of painful endurance. Spring
passed away, and summer came. But the milder airs had no kind effect
upon the fast sinking frame of her husband. He was rapidly going
down to the grave, his last hours embittered by the sight of his
wife and children suffering before him.
During the month of August, Wilmer declined so fast, and needed such
constant attention, that his wife could find but little time to
devote to her needle. What she thus lost in the day-time, she had to
make up, as far as possible, by encroaching upon the night hours,
and often the lamp by her side would grow dim before the light of
day, while she still bent in weariness and pain, over the work that
was to give bread to her children.
For some months her work had been confined to one shop, the master
of which was not always punctual in paying her the pittance she
earned. Instead of handing her, whenever she called, the trifle due
her, he made her procure a little book in which he would enter the
work, promising to pay when it would amount to a certain sum. In
anxious hope would Mrs. Wilmer wait until her earnings rose to the
required amount; but not always then could she get her due; there
would too frequently be a part payment, or a request to call in a
day or two.
One day towards the first of September, she found that both food and
money were out. She was just finishing a couple of vests for the
clothing-shop, and there were more than three dollars due to her.
While turning over in her own mind the hope that Mr.--would pay
her the small sum due, when she carried in the work, and troubled
the While with fears lest he should deny her, as he had often done
before; her husband, whose bright eye had been upon her for some
time, and whose countenance, unseen by her, had expressed an
earnest, yet hesitating desire to ask for something, said--
"Constance, I don't know whether you are able to get them, but if
you can, I should like, above all things, to have some grapes."
"Then you shall have some," Constance replied, earnestly and
affectionately. "I am sure they will help you. Why did I not think
of this for you long ago?"
Resuming her needle, she plied it with double swiftness, her heart
trembling lest when she asked for her money at the shop, it should
be refused her. At last the work was done and she carried it in. It
was entered, and her book handed back to her. She paused a moment,
then turned to go out, but she could not go home without some money.
Hesitatingly she asked to have her due, but it was refused on some
excuse of having a large payment to make on that very day. Again she
turned to go, but again turned to ask for only a part of what was
her own. One dollar was thrown her with an unkind remark. The first
she seized with avidity, the last passed her ear unheeded.
How swiftly did she hurry home with her little treasure! more
precious than a hundred times the sum had ever been before. It was
to meet the first expressed want of her husband, to gratify which
she would herself have abstained days from food.
The grapes were soon obtained, with some bread, and a small portion
of meat, for the children. They proved very grateful and refreshing
to Wilmer, who, soon after he had eaten a few of them, fell into a
The food which Mrs. Wilmer had bought would last them probably about
two days--not longer. Two months' rent would be due in a week,
amounting to eight dollars. Their landlord had threatened to take
some of their things to satisfy the last months' rent, and she had
little hope of his being put off longer than the expiration of the
two months. There were still two-and-a-half dollars due her by the
keeper of the clothing-store, which she knew it would be almost as
hard to get as to earn.
Not disposed, however, to sit down and brood over her difficulties,
which only made them worse, she went to work in the best spirit
possible to overcome them. She obtained more work, and bent herself
again over her daily employment.
She was sitting with an aching head and troubled heart at her work
on the next morning, having only sought a brief repose through the
night, when a smart tap at the door roused her from her abstraction
"Does Mrs. Wilmer live here, ma'am?" asked a man.
"That is my name."
"Then I am directed to leave this basket,"--and the man deposited
his burden on the floor, and was gone before another word could be
Mrs. Wilmer stood for a moment in mute surprise, and then removed
the covering off the basket. It contained tea, coffee, sugar, rice,
meat, bread, and various other articles of food; and also, a letter
directed to "Constance Wilmer." She broke the seal with an anxious
and trembling heart. It contained a fifty dollar note, and these
"_Put by your work--you are cared for--there is help coming, and now
very nigh--be of good cheer!_"
The coarse garment she still held in her hand, fell to the floor.
Her fingers released themselves from it by an instinctive effort
which she could not control. Her head reeled for a moment, and she
sunk into a chair, overcome by a tumult of contending feelings. From
this, she was aroused by the voice of her husband, who anxiously
inquired the contents of the letter. He read it, and saw the
enclosure, and the supply of food in the basket, and then clasped
his hands and looked up with mute thankfulness to heaven. Mrs.
Wilmer obeyed, with a confidence for which she could not account,
the injunction of her stranger-friend, and almost hourly for the
first day referred to the characters of the letter, which seemed
familiar to her eye. That she had seen the writing before, she was
certain; but where, or when, she could not tell.
Relieved from daily care and toil, she had more time to give to her
sick husband. She found him nearer the grave than she had supposed.
Four days more passed away, and Wilmer had come down to the very
brink of the dark river of death.
It was night. The two younger children were asleep, and the oldest
boy, just in his tenth year, with his mother, stood anxiously over
the low bed, upon which lay, gasping for breath, the dying husband
and father. The widow, who cannot forget the dear image of her
departed one; the orphan, who remembers the dying agony of a fond
father, can realize in a great degree the sorrows which pressed upon
the hearts of these lone watchers by the bed of death.
The last hours of Wilmer's life were hours of distinct
"Constance," he whispered, in a low difficult whisper, while his
bright eyes were fixed upon her face--"Constance, what will you do
when I am gone? I am but a burden on you now; but my presence I feel
His stricken-hearted wife could make no answer; but the tears rolled
over her face in great drops, and fell fast upon the pillow of her
"I cannot say, 'do not weep,'" continued Wilmer. "O that I could
give a word of comfort! but your cup is full, running over, and I
cannot dash it from your lips:--Dear Constance! you have been to me
a wife and a mother. Let me feel your warm cheek once more against
mine, for it is cold, very cold. Hark! did you not hear voices?" And
he strained his eyes towards the door, half-lifting himself up.
For a few moments he looked eagerly for some one to enter, and then
fell back upon the bed with a heavy sigh, murmuring to himself, in a
low disappointed tone--
"I thought they were coming."
"Who, love?" asked Mrs. Wilmer, eagerly. But her husband did not
seem to hear her question; but lay gasping for breath, the muscles
of his neck and face distorted and giving to his countenance the
ghastly expression of death.
"Who, love?--who were coming?" eagerly asked Mrs. Wilmer again, her
own heart trembling with a recurrence of the vague hopes with which
the mysterious letter and timely supply had inspired her,--hopes
that had never been hinted to her husband. But it seemed that he had
given the incident his own interpretation.
But he heeded not her question. For some time mother and son again
stood over him, in troubled silence. Perhaps half an hour had passed
since he had spoken, when a slight bustle was heard, on the steps
below, and then feet were heard quickly ascending, and hastening
along the passage towards their chamber door.
"They come! They come!" half-shrieked the dying man, springing up in
the bed, and bending over towards the door, which was hastily flung
open. His eyes glared upon the two persons, a man and woman, both
well advanced in life, as they entered. That one anxious gaze was
enough. Looking up into the face of Constance, against whose breast
his head had sunk, his countenance changed into an expression of
intense delight, and he whispered--
"They have come, Constance! they have come. Think of me as at rest
and happy. I die in peace!"
His eye-lids closed naturally--there was no longer any convulsive
play of the muscles, and as an infant sinking into slumber, so
quietly did Theodore Wilmer sleep the sleep of death.
One month from that night of sorrow, the darkest one in the many
gloomy seasons of Mrs. Wilmer's life, might have been seen this
child of many afflictions, with her three little ones, at home in
one of the most pleasant houses in the vicinity of New York. There
was something sad and subdued in the expression of her pale face,
but it was from the recollection of the past. Her mother, who ten
years before had cast her off as unworthy, now gazed upon her with a
look of the intensest affection; and the father, who had sworn never
to call her his child, sat holding her thin white hand in his, and
listening to her first recital of all she had passed through since
she left the home of her childhood, while the tears fell from his
eyes in large drops, upon the hand that lay within his own.
[THE following unadorned narrative, the reminiscence of a friend, I
give as if related by him from whom I received it. He was, in early
years, the apprentice of a tradesman, in whose family the principal
incidents occurred. The picture presented is one of every-day life.]
MR. WILLIAMS, to whom, when a boy, I was apprenticed to learn the
art and mystery by which he supported a pretty large family, was not
rich, although, by industry and economy, he had gathered together a
few thousand dollars, and owned, besides, two or three neat little
houses, the aggregate annual rent of which was something like six
hundred dollars. His wife, a weak-minded woman, however, considered
him independent, in regard to wealth, and valued herself
accordingly. Few held their heads higher, or trode the pavement with
a statelier step than Mrs. Williams.
An elder sister, greatly her superior in every quality of mind, had
been far less fortunate in her marriage. She was the wife of a man,
who, instead of increasing his worldly goods, the fruit of some
twenty years' prudence and industry, had become dissipated, and at
the time now referred to, was sinking rapidly, and bearing his
family, of course, down with him. All energy seemed lost, and though
his family was steadily increasing, he grew more and more careless
He spent much time in taverns, and wasted there a good deal of
money, that his family needed. Mrs. Haller, his wife, was, as has
been said, in intelligence and feeling, much the superior of Mrs.
Williams, but appeared to little advantage in her peculiar
situation. She was the elder sister, by four or five years. At the
time of which I am now writing, Mrs. Haller had five children, two
of them grown up, and the rest small. Her husband had become so
indolent and sottish, that all her exertions were needed to keep her
little flock from suffering with cold and hunger. No woman could
have laboured more untiringly than she did, but it was labouring
against a strong current that bore her little bark slowly, but
surely backward. Here, then, are the two sisters; one, the elder,
and superior in all the endowments of head and heart--the other with
few claims to estimation other than those afforded by a competence
of worldly goods. Let us view them a little closer. Perhaps we can
read a lesson in their mutual conduct that will not soon be
In earlier years, I have learned, that they were much attached to
each other. In their father's house, they knew no cares, and when
they married, which was within a few years of each other, their
prospects were equal for future happiness. While this equality
existed, their intercourse was uninterrupted and affectionate. But,
as Mr. Haller began to neglect his family, the cloud that settled
upon the brow of his poor wife was not pleasant for Mrs. Williams to
look upon. Nor were the complaints that a full heart too often
forced to the lips, at all agreeable to her ears. Naturally proud
and selfish, these two feelings had been gaining strength with the
progress of years, and were now so confirmed, that even towards an
only sister in changed circumstances they remained in full activity.
When I first went to live with Mr. Williams, Mrs. Haller resided in
a neatly furnished, small two-story brick house. Her husband had not
then shown his vagabond propensities very distinctly, though he
spent in his family, and otherwise, all that he earned each week,
thus leaving nothing for a rainy day. He was a little in debt, too,
but not so much as to make him feel uneasy. Mrs. Haller was anxious
to lay up something, and to be getting ahead in the world, and was,
consequently, always troubled because things never got any better.
She came to our house every week, and Mr. Williams would visit her
once in a month or two. Mrs. Haller often talked of her troubles to
her sister, who used then to sympathize with her, and make many
suggestions of means to gender things more accordant with her
desires. As matters gradually grew worse in the progress of time,
and Mrs. Haller began to make rather an indifferent appearance, the
manner of her sister became evidently constrained and
unsympathizing. She began to look upon her in the light of a "poor
relation." Her children, cousins of course to Mrs. Williams's, were
not treated encouragingly when they came to our house, and if
company happened to be there, they were kept out of sight, or sent
home. Mrs. Williams rarely visited Mrs. Haller--not so often as once
in six months.
Long before the period of which I am now writing, Haller had become
drunken and very lazy. Their comfortable house and furniture had
been changed for poor rooms, with little in them, except what was
barely necessary. The oldest child, a son, about nineteen years of
age, on to whose maturity the mother had often looked with a lively
hope, following the example of his father, had become idle and
dissipated; spending most of his time in low taverns and
gambling-shops. Here was a keen sorrow which no heart but a mother's
can understand. Oh, what a darkening of all the dreams of early
years! When a warm-hearted girl, looking into the pleasant future
with a tremulous joy, she stood beside her chosen one at the altar,
how little did she dream of the shadows and darkness that were to
fall upon her path! And alas! how little does many a careless girl,
who gives herself away, thoughtlessly, to a young man of unformed
character, dream of the sorrow too deep for tears that awaits her.
Surely this were anguish enough,--and surely it called for the
sustaining sympathy of friends. But the friend of her early years,
the sister in whose arms, in the days of innocent childhood, she had
slept peacefully, now turned from her coldly, and even repulsively.
So unnatural and revolting seems the picture I am drawing, even in
its dim outlines, that I turn from it myself, half-resolved to leave
it unfinished. But many reasons, stronger than feeling, urge me to
complete my task with the imperfect skill I possess, and I take the
pencil which I had laid down in shame and disgust, and proceed to
fill up more distinctly.
I had observed for some time the growing coolness of Mrs. Williams
towards her unfortunate sister, and had noted more than once the
deep dejection of Mrs. Haller's manner, whenever she went away from
our house. She began to come less and less frequently, and her
children at still more remote intervals. Things became desperate
with her at length, and she came, forced by necessity, to seek a
little aid and comfort in her sorrow from her once kind sister, and
with the faint hope that some relief would be offered. I was sitting
in the neatly furnished breakfast-room, one evening, a little after
tea, reading a book, when Mrs Haller came in. She had on a dark
calico dress, faded, but clean, a rusty shawl that had once been
black, and a bonnet that Mrs. Williams's kitchen-servant would not
have worn. My eye instinctively glanced to the face of Mrs. Williams
as she entered; it had at once contracted into a cold and forbidding
expression. She neither rose from her chair, nor asked Mrs. Haller
to take one, greeting her only with a chilling "well, Sally." The
latter naturally sought a chair, and waited silently, and surely
with an aching heart, for a kinder manifestation of sisterly regard.
I immediately left the room; but learned afterwards enough of the
interview to make it distinct to the imagination of the reader.
The sisters sat silent for some moments, the one vainly trying to
keep down the struggling anguish of a stricken heart, and the other,
half-angry at the intrusion, endeavouring to fashion a form of
greeting that should convey her real impressions, without being
verbally committed. At length the latter said, half-kindly,
"Why, Sally, what has brought you so far from home, after dark?"
"Nothing very particular. Only I thought I would like to drop in a
little while and see how you all did. Besides, little Thomas is
sick, and I wanted to get a few herbs from you, as you always keep
"What kind of herbs do you want?"
"Only a few sprigs of balm, and some woodbitney."
"Kitty"--bawled out this unfeeling woman to the servant in the
kitchen--"go up into the garret and bring me a handful of balm and
woodbitney--and don't stay all night!"
"No, ma'am," said Kitty, thinking the last part of the order most
requiring a reply.
A further pause of a few minutes ensued, when Mrs. Haller, after
almost struggling to keep silence, at length ventured to say, sadly,
and despondingly, that she should have to move again.
"And what, in the name of heaven, Sally, are you going to move again
for? You can't be suited much better."
"Nor much worse, either, Mary. But John has paid no rent, and we
can't stay any longer. The landlord has ordered us to leave by next
Wednesday, or he will throw our few things into the street."
"Well, I declare, there is always something occurring with you to
worry my mind. Why do you constantly harass me with your troubles? I
have enough at home in my own family to perplex me, without being
made to bear your burdens. I never trouble you with my grievances,
or anybody else, and do not think it kind in you to make me feel bad
every time you come here. I declare, I grow nervous whenever I see
Poor Mrs. Haller, already bending beneath her burden, found this
adding a weight that made it past calm endurance, and she burst into
tears, and sobbed aloud. But not the slightest impression did this
exhibition of sorrow make upon Mrs. Williams. She even reproached
her with unbecoming weakness.
Although her sister had before shown indifference and great
coolness, yet never had she spoken thus unkindly. In a few moments
Mrs. Haller regained her calmness, and with it came back some of her
former pride of feeling. For a moment she sat with her eyes cast
upon the floor, endeavouring to keep down her struggling emotions;
in the next she rose up, and looking her sister fixedly in the face,
read her this impressive lesson.
"Mary, I could not have dreamed of such harshness from you! I have
thought you cold and indifferent, long; but I tried hard to believe
that you were not unkind. I have never come to see you in the last
three years, that I did not go away sad in spirit. There was
something in your manner that seemed to say that you thought my
presence irksome, and as you were the only friend I had to speak to
about my wearying cares and anxieties, it grieved me more than I can
tell to think that that only friend was growing cold--and that
friend a sister! As things have become worse with me, your manner
has grown colder, and now you have spoken out distinctly, and
destroyed the little resting place I sometimes sought when wearied
to faintness. Mary, may God who has afflicted me, grant you a
happier lot in the future! May you never know the anguish of one who
sees a once idolized husband become a brute--her children growing up
worthless under the dreadful example of their father, and all often
wanting food to sustain nature! You have everything you desire. I
have not the necessaries of life. We were born of the same mother,
and nursed at the same bosom. We played together in childhood,--once
I saved your life. And now, because our ways are different; yours
even and flowery, and mine rough and thorny, you turn from me, as
from an importunate beggar. Mary, we shall meet our father and
mother at the bar of God!"
Thus saying, Mrs. Haller turned slowly away, and left the house
before her sister, who was startled at this unexpected appeal, could
sufficiently collect her senses to reply. Her real errand, or,
rather, her principal errand to the house of Mrs. Williams, had been
to ask for some food for her children. It was many weeks since her
husband had contributed a single dollar towards the daily family
expenses, and all the burden of their support devolved upon the wife
and mother. Night and day, in pain, and exhaustion of body and mind,
had she toiled to get food for those who looked up to her, but all
her efforts were inadequate. Like thousands of others, when a girl,
she had acquired an education that was more ornamental than useful.
The consequence was, that she had no ready means of earning money.
The wants of a family of children, had, it is true, given her some
skill with her needle, but not of a kind that would enable her to
earn much by sewing.
She did, however, at first try what she could do by working for the
cheap clothing-stores. But twelve-and-a-half cents a pair for
pantaloons, ten cents for vests, and eight cents for shirts, yielded
so little, that she was driven to something else. That something
else was the washtub; over which, and the ironing-table, she toiled
early and late, often ready to sink to the floor from exhaustion.
Of this, she said nothing to Mrs. Williams, who would have been
terribly mortified at the idea of her sister, taking in washing for
a support. The labour of one pair of hands in the wash-tub, was,
however, unequal to the task of providing food for seven mouths,
even of a very poor quality. Consequently, Mrs. Haller found the
wants of her family pressing, every day, harder and harder upon the
slender means by which they were supplied. Often, when she carried
home her work, there was no food in the house, and often did she
work half the night, so as to be able to take her clothes home early
on the next day, and get the money she had earned to meet that day's
Among those for whom she washed and ironed, was a woman in good
circumstances, who never paid her anything until she asked for it,
and then the money came with an air of reluctance. Of course, she
applied to her for her hard earnings, only when pressed by
necessity. On the morning before the interview with her sister, just
detailed, Mrs. Haller found herself nearly out of everything, and
with not a cent in the world. The woman just alluded to, owed her
two dollars, and she had nearly completed another week's washing for
her, which would make the amount due her two dollars and a half. At
dinner-time, every mouthful of food, and that a scanty portion, was
consumed, and there would be nothing for supper, or breakfast, on
the next morning, unless Mrs. Hamil should pay her. It was nearly
night when she finished ironing the last piece. Hurriedly putting on
her things, after sending two of her children with the clothes in a
basket, she joined them as they were about entering the dwelling of
Her heart beat, audibly to her own ear, as she went in, and asked to
see the woman for whom she had been labouring. Although, heretofore,
whenever she had asked for her money, she had received it, sometimes
with reluctance, it is true, yet her extremity being now so great,
she trembled lest, from some cause, she should not be able to get
the pittance due her.
For a few moments she sat in the kitchen hesitating to ask for Mrs.
Hamil, after the clothes had been given to the servant. When she did
do so, she was told that she was engaged and could not be seen.
"Ask her, then, for me, if you please," she said, "to send me a
dollar. I want it very much."
The servant went up and delivered her message, and in a few moments
came back with the answer, that Mrs. Hamil was engaged, and could
not attend to such matters;--that she could step in on the next day,
and get her money.
The words fell coldly upon her feelings, and oppressed her with a
faint sickness. Then she got up slowly from her chair, hesitated a
moment, took one or two steps towards the door, and then pausing,
said to the servant,
"Go up and tell Mrs. Hamil, that I am sorry to trouble her, but that
I want the money very much, and that if she will send it down to me,
she will confer a very great favour, indeed."
"I had rather not," the servant replied. "She didn't appear pleased
at my going up the first time. And I am sure she will be less
pleased if I go again."
"But you do not know how much I am in want of this money, Jane--"
and the poor woman's voice quivered.
"Well, Mrs. Haller, I will try again," the kind-hearted girl said,
"but I can't promise to be successful. Mrs. Hamil is very queer
In a few minutes Jane returned with a positive refusal. Mrs. Hamil
couldn't and wouldn't be troubled in that way.
In a state of half-conscious, dreamy wretchedness, did Mrs. Haller
turn her steps slowly homewards. The shadows of evening were falling
thickly around, adding a deeper gloom to her feelings.
"O, mother! I'm glad you've come. I'm so hungry!" cried one of her
little ones, springing to her side as she entered. "Won't we have
supper soon, now?"
This was too much for her, and she sank exhausted and almost
fainting into a chair. Tears soon brought temporary relief to an
overburdened heart. Then she soothed her hungry little ones as well
as she could, promising them a good supper before they went to bed.
"But why can't we have it now?" urged one, more impatient, or more
hungry, than the rest.
"Because mother hasn't got any good bread for little Henry--" she
replied--"But she will have some soon. So all be good children, and
wait until mother goes out and gets some bread and meat, and then we
will all have a nice supper."
After quieting the importunities of her children in this way, and
soothing little Thomas, who was sick and fretful, Mrs. Haller again
left them, and bent her steps, with a reluctant spirit, towards the
comfortable dwelling of her sister, nearly a mile away from where
she lived. The interview with that sister has already been given.
When she turned away, as has been seen, empty-handed, from the door
of that sister, it was with feelings that few can imagine. It seemed
to her as if she were forsaken both of earth and heaven. How she got
home, she hardly knew, but when she entered that cheerless place she
found her poor sick child, for whom she had no money to buy
medicine, burning with fever, and crying bitterly. Her brutal
husband was snoring on the bed the smaller children quarrelling
among themselves, and her oldest boy, half-intoxicated, leaning over
the back of a chair, and swinging his body backward and forward in
the (sic) idiotcy of drunkenness. As she entered, the children
crowded round her, asking fretfully for their suppers; but nothing
had she to give them, for she had come away empty-handed and
repulsed from the door of her affluent sister, to whose dwelling she
had gone solely to ask for some food for her children! In the
momentary energy of despair she roused her husband rudely from the
bed, and bade him, in an excited tone, to go and get some bread for
the children: The brute, angered by her words and manner, struck her
a blow upon the head, which brought her senseless to the floor.
An hour at least passed before she recovered her senses; when she
opened her eyes, she found herself on a bed, her sister sitting by
her side, weeping, and Mr. Williams standing over her. Her husband
was not there, some of the children were crying about the room, and
others had fallen asleep on the floor. The oldest boy was sitting in
the position before-mentioned. Brief explanations were made, and
Mrs. Williams offered a faint apology for her harsh treatment. The
appeal of her sister had touched her feelings, and she had proposed
to Mr. Williams to go over and see her. On entering her dwelling
they found her senseless on the floor, and the children screaming
around her. The husband was not there.
As soon as the mother's voice was heard by the smallest child, a
little girl, she climbed up the side of the bed, and simply, and
earnestly, in lisping tones, asked for a "piece of bread." The poor
woman burst into tears, and turned her head away from her child.
Mrs. Williams went to the closet, saying--"Come, Emma, I will get
you some bread. "The little thing was at her side in a moment. But
the search there was in vain.
"Where is the bread, Sally?" she asked.
"There is none in the house," faintly murmured the almost
"Good heavens!" said Mr. Williams--"you are not without food,
"We have tasted nothing to-day," was the startling reply.
"Where is Mr. Haller?"
"I know not--he left the house a short time ago."
"He ran out when he struck you, mother," spoke up the little child
who had asked for the bread.
Mr. and Mrs. Williams looked at each other for some moments in
"Get a basket and come with me, John," said Mr. Williams, to the
oldest boy, who was gazing on with indifference or stupidity.
Mechanically he took a basket and followed his uncle. They soon
returned with bread, dried meat, ham, &c., and in a brief space, a
comfortable meal was prepared for the starving family.
Conscience felt about the heart of Mrs. Williams that night, with
touches of pain, and she repented of her cruel neglect, and unkind
treatment of her sister. She dreamed not of the extent of her
destitution and misery--simply, because she had refused to make
herself acquainted with her real condition. Now that the sad reality
had been forced upon her almost unwilling eyes, a few returning
impulses of nature demanded relief for her suffering sister.
Mr. Williams, whose benevolent feelings were easily excited, was
shocked at the scene before him, and blamed himself severely for not
having earlier become acquainted with Mrs. Haller's condition. He
immediately set about devising means of relief. Haller had become so
worthless that he despaired of making him do anything for his
family. He therefore invited his sister-in-law to come home to our
house, and bring her two youngest girls with her. The rest were
provided with places. The family had grown pretty large, and she
could assist in sewing, &c., and thus render a service, and live
comfortably. Mrs. Williams seconded the proposition, though not with
much cordiality; she could not, however, make any objections.
We look at the sisters now in a different relation. The superior in
dependence on the inferior. Can any for a moment question the
It was not without a struggle that poor Mrs. Haller consented to
disband her little family--and virtually to divorce herself from her
husband. No matter how cruel the latter had been, nor how deplorable
the condition of the former, her heart still retained its household
affections, and would not consent willingly to have her little flock
scattered-perhaps for ever. But stern necessity knows no law. In due
time, with little Emma, and Emily, Mrs. Haller was assigned a
comfortable room over the kitchen, and became a member of our
family. All of us in the shop felt for her a warm interest, but
hesitated not to express among ourselves a regret that she could do
no better than to trust herself and little ones to the tender
mercies of a sister, whom we knew too well to respect.
At first, Mrs. Haller was employed in needle-work, but as she was
neither a very fast nor neat sewer, her sister soon found it better
policy to let her do the chamber-work, and sometimes assist in
cooking. For about three months, her situation was comfortable,
except that her children were required to act "just so," and were
driven about and scolded if they ventured to amuse themselves in the
yard, or anywhere in the sight or hearing of their aunt. Her own
children were indulged in almost everything, but her little nieces
were required to be as staid and circumspect as grown-up women.
After about six months had elapsed, Mrs. Williams began to find
fault with her sister for various trifles, and to be petulant and
unkind in manner towards her. This thing was not done right, and the
other thing was neglected. If she sat down for half an hour to sew
for herself or children, something would be said or hinted to wound
her, and make her feel that she was viewed by her sister in no other
light than that of a hired servant.
Something occurring to make the kitchen-servant leave her place,
Mrs. Haller cooked and attended in her situation until another could
be obtained. There was, however, no effort made to procure another;
week after week passed away, and still all the menial employments of
the house and the hard duties of the kitchen fell upon Mrs. Haller.
From her place at the first table, where she sat for a short time
after she came into the house, she was assigned one with us. To all
these changes she was not indifferent. She felt them keenly. But
what could she do? Unfortunately for her, she had been so raised (as
too many of our poor, proud, fashionable girls are now raised) as to
be almost helpless when thrown upon her own resources. She was
industrious, and saving; but understood nothing about getting a
living. Therefore, she felt that endurance was her only present
course. It was grievous to the heart to be trampled upon by a sister
whose condition was above her's; but as that sister had offered her
an (sic) assylum, when in the utmost destitution, she resolved to
bear patiently the burden she imposed upon her.
It was now tacitly understood between the sisters that Sally was to
be kitchen-servant to the other. And as a servant she was treated.
When company were at the house, she was not to know them or sit down
in the parlour with them. Her little ones were required to keep
themselves out of the family sitting-room, and Mrs. Williams's
children taught, not by words, but by actions, to look upon them as
inferiors. From confinement, and being constantly checked in the
outburst of their feelings, they soon began to look much worse than
they did when first taken from their comfortless abode. The
youngest, a quiet child, might usually be found sitting on a little
stool by her mother in the kitchen, playing with some trifling toy;
but the other was a wild little witch, who was determined to obey no
arbitrary laws of her aunt's enacting. There was no part of the
house that she did not consider neutral ground. Now she would be
playing with her little cousins in the breakfast-room, or in some of
the chambers, and now clambering over the shop-board among the boys
and journeymen. All liked her but Mrs. Williams, and to her she was
a thorn in the flesh, because she set at defiance all her
restrictions. This was a cause of much trouble to Mrs. Haller, who
saw that the final result would be a separation from one or both of
her children. The only reason that weighed with her and caused her
to remain in her unpleasant and degraded situation, was the ardent
desire she felt to keep her two youngest children with her. She
could not trust them to the tender mercies of strangers. Deep
distress and abject poverty had not blunted a single maternal
feeling, and her heart yearned for her babes with an increased
anxiety and tenderness as the chances every day appeared less in
favour of her retaining them with her. One had nearly grown up, and
was a sorrow and an anguish to her heart. Two others, quite young,
were bound out, and but one of them had found a kind guardian. And
now, one of the two that remained she feared would have to be
removed from her.
One day, her sister called her into the sitting-room, where she
found a lady of no very prepossessing appearance.
"Sally," said she, "this is Mrs. Tompkins. She has seen Emily, and
would like to have her very much. You, of course, have no objections
to getting so good a place for Emily. How soon can you get her ready
to go? Mrs. Tompkins would like to have her by the first of next
Thus, without a moment's warning, the dreaded blow fell upon her.
She murmured a faint assent, named an early day, and retired. She
could not resist the will of her sister, for she was a dependant.
In the disposition of other people's children, we can be governed by
what we call rational considerations; but when called upon to part
with our own helpless offspring, how differently do we estimate
circumstances! Every day we hear some one saying, "Why don't she put
out her children?"--and, "Why don't she put out her children? They
will be much better off." And perhaps these children are but eight,
nine, and ten years old. Mother! father! whoever you may be, imagine
your own children, of that tender age, among strangers as servants
(for that is the capacity of children who are thus put out) required
to be, in all respects, as prudent, as industrious, as renouncing of
little recreations and pleasures as men and women, and subject to
severe punishments for all childish faults and weaknesses, such as
you would have borne with and gently corrected. Don't draw parallels
between your own and poor people's children, as if they were to be
less regarded than yours. Even as your heart yearns over and loves
with unspeakable tenderness your offspring, does the mother, no
matter how poor her condition, yearn over and love her children--and
when they are removed from under her protecting wing, she feels as
keen a sorrow as would rend your heart, were the children of your
tenderest care and fondest love, taken from you and placed among
In due time, Emily was put out to Mrs. Tompkins, a woman who had
wonderful fine notions about rearing up children so as to make men
and women of them, (than her own, there were not a more graceless
set in the whole city.) She had never been able to carry into full
practice her admirable theories in regard to the education of
children among her own hopefuls; because--first: Johnny was a very
delicate boy, and to have governed him by strict rules, would have
been to have ruined his constitution. She had never dared to break
him of screaming by conquering him, in a single instance, because
the rupture of a blood-vessel would doubtless have been the
consequence, or a fit in which he might have died. Once indeed she
did try to force him to give up his will, but he grew black in the
face from passion, and she had hard work to recover him--after this
he was humoured in everything. And Tommy was a high-spirited and
generous fellow, and it would have been a pity to warp his fine
disposition. Years of discretion would make him a splendid specimen
of perfect manhood. Angelina, (a forward, pert little minx,) was,
from her birth, so gentle, so amiable, so affectionate, that no
government was necessary--and Victorine was so naturally
high-tempered, that her mother guarded against the developement of
anger by never allowing her to be crossed in anything.
In Emily, Mrs. Tompkins supposed she had found a fine subject on
which to demonstrate her theories. A wilful, spoiled child, she was,
eleven years of age, and needed curbing, and in a few days Mrs.
Tompkins found it necessary to exercise her prerogative. Emily was,
of course, put right to work, so soon as she came into the house.
Her first employment was to sweep up the breakfast-room, after the
maid had removed the breakfast-things and placed back the table. She
had never handled a broom, and was, of course, very awkward. With
this awkwardness, Mrs. Tompkins had no patience, and once or twice
took the broom from her hand, and directed her how to hold and use
it, in a high tone, and half-angry manner. In due course she got
through this duty; and then was directed to rock the cradle, while
Mrs. Tompkins went through her chamber and made herself look a
little tidy. Sitting still a whole hour was a terrible trial to
Emily's patience, but she made out to stick at her post until Mrs.
Tompkins re-appeared. She was then sent into the cellar to bring up
three or four armfuls of wood, and immediately after to the grocer's
for a pound of soap, then to the milliner's with a band-box. When
she returned, it was about eleven o'clock, and she was set to help
one of the servants wash the windows, which were taken out of the
frames and washed in the yard. This occupied until twelve. Then she
must rock the cradle again, which she did until one o'clock, when it
waked, and she had to sit on a little chair and hold it, while the
family dined. Her own dinner was afterwards put on a plate, and she
made to stand by the kitchen-table and eat it. All the afternoon was
taken up in some employment or other, and as soon as supper was over
(which she eat, as before, standing at the kitchen-table) she was
sent to bed--and glad she was to get there, for she was so tired she
could hardly stand up.
The next day passed in the same unrelaxing round of duties, and the
third commenced in a similar way. The little thing had by this time
become almost sick from such constant confinement and extra labour
for one of her strength. She was set, on this day, to scrub down a
pair of back stairs, a task to which she was unequal. Before she had
got down to the third step, she accidentally upset the basin and
flooded the whole stair-case--dashing the dirty-water in the face of
Mrs. Tompkins who was just coming up. She was a good deal
frightened, for Mrs. Tompkins had shown so much anger towards her on
different occasions in the last three days, and had once threatened
to correct her, that she feared punishment would follow the
accident. A slight box on the ear was indeed administered. Trembling
from head to foot with fear, and weakness, for the child was by no
means well, she brought up another basin of water, and commenced
scouring the steps again. By some strange fatality, the basin was
again upset, and unfortunately fell in the face of Mrs. Tompkins
again. A cruel chastisement followed, with a set of leather thongs,
upon the poor child's bare back and shoulders.
That night the child came home to her mother, and gave a history of
her treatment. Her lacerated back was sufficient evidence how
cruelly she had been punished. The little thing was in a high fever,
and moaned and talked in her sleep all night.
Finding that the child was not sent back in the morning, Mrs.
Williams wished to know the reason, and was told the real condition
"She's a bad child, Sally, and has no doubt deserved a whipping! You
have spoiled your older children by mistaken kindness, and will
spoil the rest. But I can tell you very distinctly that I am not
going to be a party in this matter, and will not consent that Emily
stay here any longer. So, if you don't send her back to Mrs.
Tompkins, you may get her a place somewhere else, for after this
week she shall not stay here. She has almost ruined my Clara, now!"
To this, poor Mrs. Haller made no reply. Her home at our house had
only been endured because there she thought she could keep her babes
with her. She left the presence of her unfeeling sister, and began
to study how she could manage to support herself and two children by
her own unaided exertions. Many plans were suggested to her mind,
but none seemed to promise success. At length she resolved to rent a
small room, and put into it a bed, a table, and a few chairs, with
some other necessary articles which she still had, and then buy some
kind of vegetables with about five dollars that were due her, and go
to market as a huckster! Let not the sentimental and romantic turn
away in disgust. When humanity is reduced to a last resource, be it
what it may, the heart endures pains, and doubts, and fears of a
like character, whether the resource be that offered to a noble
lady, or a lonely widow.
Before Saturday night, Mrs. Haller had found a room near the market
that just suited her, which she rented at two dollars a month with
the use of the cellar. When she made known to Mrs. Williams her
intention of leaving her house, and told her how she intended to
make a living, the latter was almost speechless with surprise.
"Surely, Sally," said she, "you cannot be in earnest?"
"Indeed I am in earnest, though?"
"But consider the disgrace it will be to your family."
"Nothing is disgraceful that is honest."
"I never will consent to your being a huckster:--Sally! if you do so
disgrace yourself as to stand in the market and sell potatoes and
cabbages, I will disown you! You have a comfortable home here, and
where then is the use of your exposing yourself in the
"You will not let Emily stay here with me, and I cannot part with my
poor babes." A flood of tears burst forth, even though she struggled
hard to conceal them.
"You are very weak and foolish, Sally. Emily will be much better
off, away from you. She is growing up a spoiled child, and needs
other care than yours. You are too indulgent."
"In any case, Mary, I am determined to keep these children with me.
I know that it is not pleasant for you to have them here, and I
don't want to have them in your way. The best thing I can do is that
which I have determined on."
"If you will go, why not take in sewing, or washing and ironing?"
"Simply, because I cannot make a living with my needle, and my
health will not permit me to stand over the wash-tub from morning
till night. There is no resource left me but the market-house,
reluctantly as I go there."
"Well, Sally, you can do as you please. But let me tell you, that if
you do turn huckster, I will never own you as my sister again."
"Any such foolish and rash resolution on your part, I should regret
very much; for, unkindly and unfeelingly as you have acted towards
me, I have no wish to dissolve the tie of nature."
"It shall be dissolved, you may rely upon it, if you do so
disgraceful a thing."
On Saturday she got what was due to her, and on Monday removed to
her new abode. Of all this, Mr. Williams had not the slightest
knowledge. After getting her room fixed up, she went down to the
wharf and bought a few bushels of potatoes, and some apples: with
these she went to the market. Her feelings in thus exposing herself,
can only be imagined by such as have had to resort to a similar
method of obtaining a livelihood, when they first appeared in the
market-house. She had not been long at her stand, when Mr. Williams,
who generally went to market, came unexpectedly upon her.
"Why, Sally, what in the world are you doing here?" was his
"Why, didn't you know that I had left your house for the
"No! How should I know You never told me that you were going.
"But surely sister did?"
"Indeed she did not."
"She knew last week that I was going, and that I had determined to
make a living for myself and children in this way."
"I am sorry you left our house, Sally! You should have had a home
there as long as I lived. You must not stay here, anyhow. Something
better can be done for you. Surely you and Mary have not
"She has renounced me for ever!"
Mr. Williams was a good deal shocked by this unexpected interview,
and when he went home inquired into the state of affairs. He
censured his wife severely for her part in the matter, upon her own
statement; and told her plainly that she had not treated Sally as a
sister should have been treated. He went to see Mrs. Haller that
day, and used many arguments to induce her to come back, or at least
to give up her newly-adopted calling.
"Put me in a better and more comfortable way of making a living, Mr.
Williams," was her answer--"and I will most gladly adopt it. I know
of no other that will suit me. I cannot longer remain dependent. In
your house I was dependent, and daily and hourly I was made to feel
that dependence, in the most galling manner."
By her first day's efforts in the market-house, Mrs. Haller earned
three-quarters of a dollar, with which she bought food for herself
and children, and re-invested the original amount. On the next day,
as on the first, she disposed of her whole stock, and was so
fortunate in her sales as to clear one dollar. On the next day she
did not sell more than half of her little stock, and cleared only
thirty-seven-and-a-half cents on that. Greatly discouraged she went
home at twelve o'clock, and was still further cast down at finding
her husband there, come to take up his lodgings, and eat up her
meagre earnings from her children. She remonstrated against his
coming back, but with drunken oath and cruel threats he let her know
that he should stay there in spite of her. Before night, her oldest
son, a worthless vagabond, also made his appearance, and between
them swept off all the food, that she had bought with the profits on
her five dollars, which she had resolved from the first not to
break. On the next morning she cleared a full dollar, and on
Saturday, another. But her increased family prevented her adding a
cent of the profits to her original capital. After the market on
Saturday morning, she went out and bought about three dollars worth
of eggs, at ten cents a dozen, which, before night, she sold at
twelve-and-a-half cents, thus clearing twenty-five cents on the
dollar, or three-quarters of a dollar in all. With a dollar and
three-quarters that she had made that day, she laid in a supply of
common and substantial food.
On Sunday she went, as was her custom, to church, and took her two
little girls with her. Her husband and son remained at home. When
she returned from service they were gone; instinctively turning to
where she had concealed her little treasure, of five dollars, she
found that it had also disappeared! She knew well how to account for
its loss. Her husband and son had robbed her! The little hope that
had animated her breast for the last few days, gave way, and she
sunk down into a condition of mind that was almost despair. Towards
evening, her husband and son came home drunk, and lay all night
stupid. In the morning, they stole off by day-light, and she was
left alone with her little ones, to brood over her melancholy
prospect. She could not, of course, go to market, for she had
nothing to sell, nor anything with which to purchase a little stock.
Mr. Williams, who felt a lively interest in her case, especially on
account of the unkind treatment she had received from his wife, used
to stop and inquire into her prospects whenever he saw her in the
market, and had been looking round for something better for her to
do. Missing her this morning, he went to her house, and there found
her in a state of complete despondency. He encouraged her in the
best way he could, but did not advance her another little capital,
which he would willingly have done under other circumstances, and
then went away, determined to get her some situation which would be
more suitable for one of her habits and feelings.
Not an hour after he learned that a head nurse was much wanted at
the alms-house. He made immediate application for her, and was happy
in securing the place. It was at once offered to her, and she
accepted it with gladness, especially as she would be allowed to
bring her two children with her. In due time, she removed to her new
abode, and soon won the good-will and kind consideration of the
Board of Trustees, and the affectionate regards of those to whose
afflictions she was called to minister. Her two little girls were
educated at the alms-house school, and grew up amiable, intelligent,
and industrious. Of her other children, I never knew much.
Mrs. Williams seemed to think the situation of her sister at the
alms-house, almost as disgraceful as her place in the market. She
never renewed a communication with her. Even up to the hour when
Mrs. Haller was called to her final account, which was many years
after, her sister neither saw nor spoke to her.
THE MAIDEN'S ERROR.
THE story of Julia Forrester is but a revelation of what occurs
every day. I draw aside the veil for a moment, would that some one
might gaze with trembling on the picture, and be saved!
The father of Julia had served an apprenticeship to the tanning and
currying business. He had been taken when an orphan boy of twelve
years old, by a man in this trade, and raised by him, without any of
the benefits of education. At twenty-one he could read and write a
little, but had no taste for improving his mind. His master, being
well pleased with him for his industry and sobriety, offered him a
small interest in his business, shortly after he was free, which
soon enabled him to marry, and settle himself in life.
His new companion was the daughter of a reduced tradesman; she had
high notions of gentility, but possessed more vanity and love of
admiration than good sense. Neither of them could comprehend the
true relation of parents. If they fed their children well, clothed
them well, and sent them to the most reputable schools, they
imagined that they had, in part, discharged their duty; and, wholly,
when they had obtained good-looking and well-dressed husbands for
their daughters. This may be a little exaggerated; but such an
inference might readily have been drawn by one who attentively
considered their actions.
I shall not spend further time in considering their characters.
Their counterpart may be found in every street, and in every
neighbourhood. The curious student of human nature can study them at
will. Julia Forrester was the child of such parents. When she was
fifteen, they were in easy circumstances. But at that critical
period of their daughter's life, they were ignorant of human nature,
and entirely unskilled in the means of detecting false pretension,
or discovering true merit.
Indeed, they were much more ready to consider the former as true,
and the latter as false. The unpretending modesty of real worth they
generally mistook for imbecility, or a consciousness of questionable
points of character; while bold-faced assurance was thought to be an
open exhibition of manliness--the free, undisguised manner of those
who had nothing to conceal.
It is rarely that a girl of Julia's age, but little over fifteen,
possesses much insight into character. It was enough for her that
her parents invited young men to the house, or permitted them to
visit her. Her favour, or dislike, was founded upon mere impulse, or
the caprice of first impressions. Among her earliest visitors, was a
young man of twenty-two, clerk in a dry-goods' store. He had an
open, prepossessing manner, but had indulged in vicious habits for
many years, and was thoroughly unprincipled. His name I will call
Warburton. Another visitor was a modest, sensible young man, also
clerk in another dry-goods' store. He was correct in all his habits,
and inclined to be religious. He had no particular end in view in
visiting at Forrester's, more than to mingle in society. Still, as
he continued his visits, he began to grow fond of Julia,
notwithstanding her extreme youth. The fact was, she had shot up
suddenly into a graceful woman; and her manners were really
attractive. Little could be gleaned, however, in her society, or in
that of but few who visited her, from the current chit-chat. It was
all chaffy stuff,--mere small-talk. Let me introduce the reader to
their more particular acquaintance. There is assembled at Mr.
Forrester's a gay social party, such as met there almost every week.
It is in the summer time. The windows are thrown open, and the
passers-by can look in upon the light-hearted group, at will.
Warburton and Julia are trifling in conversation, and the others are
wasting. the moments as frivolously as possible. We will join them
"A more beautiful ring than this on your finger, I have never seen.
Do you know why a ring is used in marriage?"
"La! no, Mr. Warburton. Do tell me."
"Why, because it is an emblem of love, which has neither beginning
"And how will you make that out, Sir Oracle? ha! ha!"
"Why as plain as a pike-staff. True love has no beginning; for those
who are to be married love each other before they meet. And it
cannot have an end. So you see that a ring is the emblem of love."
"That's an odd notion; where did you pick it up?"
"I picked it up nowhere. It is a cherished opinion of my own, and I
believe in it as firmly as some of the Jews of old did in the
transmigration of souls."
"You are a queer body."
"Yes, I _have_ got some queer notions; so people say: but I think I
am right, and those who don't agree with me, wrong. A mere
difference of opinion, however. All things are matters of opinion.
Aint it so, Perkins?" addressing the young man before alluded to.
"What were you talking about?"
"Why, I was just saying to Julia that all different ideas
entertained by different persons, were differences of opinion
"Do you mean to say, that there is no such thing as truth, or
"I do--in the abstract."
"Then we differ, of course--and as it would be, according to your
estimation, a mere difference of opinion, no argument on the subject
would be in place here."
"Of course not," replied Warburton, rather coolly, and dropped the
subject. Julia _almost_ saw that Warburton had made himself appear
foolish in the eyes of the dull, insipid Perkins--but her mental
vision was closed up as firmly as ever, in a moment.
A loud burst of laughter from a group at the other end of the room,
drew the attention of the company, who flocked to the scene of
mirth, and soon all were chattering and laughing in a wild and
incoherent manner, so loud as to attract the notice of persons in
"Ha! he! he!" laughed a young lady, hysterically, sinking into a
chair, with her handkerchief to her mouth--"what a droll body!"
"He-a, he-a, he-o-o-o," more boisterously roared out a fun-loving
chap, who knew more about good living than good manners. And so the
laugh passed round. The cause of all this uproar, was a merry
fellow, who had made a rabbit out of one of the girl's
handkerchiefs, and was springing it from his hand against the wall.
He seemed to have a fair appreciation of the character of his
associates for the evening; and though himself perfectly competent
to behave well in the best society, chose to act the clown in this.
In due course, order was restored, more from the appearance of a
waiter with nuts and raisins, than from an natural reaction.
"Name my apple, Mr. Perkins,"--(don't smile, reader--it's a true
picture)--whispered a young lady to the young man sitting next her.
"It is named."
"Name my apple, Mr. Collins," said Julia, with a nod and a smile.
"It is named."
"And mine, Mr. Collins"--"And mine, Mr. Warburton"--"And mine, Mr.
The apples being eaten, the important business of counting seed came
next in order.
"How many have you got, Julia?"
"Who is it, Mr. Collins?" asked two or three voices.
"Mr. Warburton," was the reply.
"I thought so, I thought so,--see how she blushes."
And in fact the red blood was mounting fast to Julia's face.
The incident escaped neither the eye of Warburton nor of Perkins. To
go through the whole insipid scene would not interest any reader,
and so we will omit it.
After the apples were eaten, "hull-gull,"--"nuts in my hand," &c.,
were played, and then music was called for
"Miss Simmons, give us an air, if you please."
"Indeed you must excuse me, I am out of practice."
"No excuse can be taken. We all know that you can play, and we must
hear you this evening."
"I would willingly oblige the company, but I have not touched the
piano for two months, and cannot play fit to be heard."
"O, never mind, we'll be the judges of that."
"Come, Miss Simmons, do play for us now, that's a good soul!"
"Indeed you must excuse me!"
But no excuse would be taken. And in spite of protestations, she was
forced to take a seat at the piano.
"Well, since I must, I suppose I must. What will you have."
"Give us 'Bonny Doon'--it is so sweet and melancholy," said an
interesting-looking young man.
"'Charlie over the Water,' is beautiful--I dote on that pong; do
sing it, Miss Simmons!"
"Give us Auld Lang Syne.'"
"Yes, or Burns's Farewell.'"
"'Oft in the Stilly Night,' Miss Simmons--you can sing that."
"Yes, 'Oft in the Stilly Night,'--Miss Simmons," said half-a-dozen
voices, and so that was finally chosen. After running her fingers
over the keys for a few moments, Miss Simmons started off.
Before she had half finished the first verse, the hum of voices,
which had commenced as soon as she began to sing, rose to such a
pitch as almost to drown the sound of the instrument. She laboured
on through about a verse and a half of the song, when she rose from
the piano, and was proceeding to her vacant seat.
"O no!--no!--no!" said half-a-dozen voices at once.
"That will never do-we must have another song."
"Indeed I can't sing to-night, and _must_ be excused," said the lady
warmly, and so she _was_ excused. But soon another was chosen to be
victimized at the piano, and "will-ye-nill-ye," sing she must.
Simultaneous with the sound of the instrument rose the hum of
voices, which grew louder and louder, until the performer stopped,
discouraged and chagrined.
"That's beautiful! How well you play, Miss Emma!" and Miss Emma was
forced to resume the seat she had left half in mortification. All
was again still for a moment.
"Can you play the 'Harp and Lute,' Miss Emma?"
"Yes you can, though, for I've heard you many a time," said a smart
young lady sitting on the opposite side of the room.
The blood mounted to the performer's cheeks. "Indeed you're mistaken
though," half pettishly replied Miss Emma.
"But you _can_ play 'Yankee Doodle,'" retorted the first speaker.
Miss Emma left the instrument in anger.
"I'll never speak to the pert minx again as long as I live,"
whispered Miss Emma in the ear of a friend.
Thus ended the musical exhibition for that evening. As the spirit of
wine grew more active, the men became less formal in their
attentions, and the young ladies less reserved. Before the company
broke up, I almost blush to say, that there was scarcely a lady
present who had not suffered her red-ripe lips to be touched by
those of every young man in the room. And on all these proceedings,
the parents of Julia looked on with keen satisfaction! They liked to
see the young people enjoying themselves!
Then there were rambles by moonlight, during which soft things were
whispered in the ears of the young ladies. These were the occasions
on which Warburton loved most to steal away the fond confidence of
Julia; and, by degrees, he succeeded in fixing her regard upon
himself. Consent was asked of the parents, and given; and soon Julia
Forrester was Mrs. Warburton. It was only six months after the
marriage that a commercial crisis arrived; one of those reactions
from prosperity which occur in this country with singular
regularity, every ten or fifteen years, and swept from Julia's
father the whole of his property. This sudden revulsion so preyed
upon his mind, that a serious illness came on, which hurried him in
a brief period to the grave. The mother of Julia soon followed him.
Warburton, ere this, had neglected his wife, and wrung from her many
a secret tear. He had married her for the prospect of worldly gain
which the connection held out, and not from any genuine regard. And
when all hope of a fortune was suddenly cut off, he as suddenly
appeared in his real character of a heartless and unprincipled man.
He held the situation of clerk, at the time, in the same store where
he had been for years. But immediately upon the death of his
father-in-law, a flood of demands for debts due here and there came
in upon him, and not having where with to meet them, he was thrown
into jail, and obtained his freedom only by availing himself of the
law made and provided for the benefit of Insolvent Debtors.
His poor wife knew nothing of the proceedings against him, until he
was lodged in the jail. Hour after hour had passed since the time
for his return to dinner, and yet she listened in vain for his
well-known footsteps. She felt strangely oppressed in feeling when
the dim twilight came stealing sadly on, and still he came not home.
But when the clock struck nine, ten, eleven,--her distress of mind
became heightened to agony. The question, so often asked of herself,
"Where _can_ he be?" could find no answer. All night long she sat
listening at the window, and sunk into a heavy slumber, just as the
grey light of morning stole into the window and paled the expiring
lamp. From this slumber, which had continued for nearly two hours,
she was aroused by the entrance of a servant, who handed her a note,
addressed in the well-known hand of her husband. Tremblingly she
tore open the seal; at the first words:
the note fell from her hand, and she pressed her aching head for a
moment, as if she feared that her senses would leave her. Then
snatching up the paper, she read:--
"Yesterday I was sent here for debt. I owe more than I can possibly
pay, and I see no chance of getting out but by availing myself of
the Insolvent Law, which I am determined to do. Don't let it trouble
you, Julia; I shall not be here long. To-morrow I shall probably be
at liberty. Good-bye, and keep a brave heart,
For some time after reading this letter, a stupor came over her
senses. Utterly unprepared for such a distressing event, she knew
not how to act. The idea of a jail had ever been associated in her
mind with disgrace and crime, and to think that her own husband was
in jail almost bereft her of rational thought. Slowly, however, she
at length rallied, and found herself able to appreciate her
situation, and to think more clearly on her course of action.
Her first determination was to go to her husband. This she
immediately did. When admitted, she fell senseless in his arms, and
it was a long time before she recovered her consciousness. Her
presence seemed to move his feelings less than it annoyed him. There
was nothing about his manner that sought affectionately her sympathy
and confidence--that which gives woman, in situations no matter how
distressing, something so much like happiness to bestow. He gave her
but little satisfaction as to the manner in which he became
involved, and when, after several hours, she prepared to go home, at
his suggestion, he told her that she must not come there again, as
it was not a fit place for her.
"If you are here, Henry," was her reply, the tears starting freshly
to her eyes--"it is a fit place for me."
"That's all nonsense and sentiment, Julia! This is no place for you,
and you must not come again. I shall be out in a day or two."
"A day or two is a long--long time,"--and the poor wife's voice
trembled as she spoke.
"It will soon pass away."
"It will seem ages to me, and you in this dreadful place. I must
come tomorrow, Henry. Tell me who has imprisoned you, and I will go
to him, and come to-morrow with his answer. He cannot stand the
pleadings of a wife for her husband."
"It's no use, at all, Julia. He is a hard-faced villain, and will
insult you if you see him."
"He cannot--he dare not!"
"He dare do anything."
"Dear Henry, tell me his name."
"No!--no!--no!--It's no use to ask me."
She had many times before suffered from his petulance and coldness;
but under present circumstances, when she sought to bring him
sympathy and relief, to be repulsed, seemed as though it would break
her heart. Slowly and in tears did she leave the dreadful place that
confined her husband, and sought her home. There she endeavoured to
rally her scattered thoughts, and devise some means of relief. Her
first movement was to go to the employers of her husband. They
received her coldly, and after she had stated the condition of her
husband, told her that they could offer no relief, and hinted that
his conduct had been such as to forfeit their confidence. This was a
double blow; and she returned home with but strength enough to seek
her chamber and throw herself, almost fainting, upon her bed.
For hours she lay in a kind of nervous stupor, the most fantastic
and troubled images floating through her brain. Sometimes she would
start up, at the imagined sound of her husband's voice, and spring
to the chamber-door to meet him. But the chilling reality would
drive her back in tears. Where now were the crowds of friends that
but a short time since had hovered round her? They were but
fashionable, soulless insects--the cold winds of adversity had swept
them away. Since the failure and death of her father, not one of the
many who had called her friend had come near her lonely dwelling.
But she could not complain. More than one friend had she deserted,
when misfortune came suddenly upon them.
She took no food through the whole of that dreadful day, and could
find no oblivious sleep during the night of agony that followed. On
the next day, just as she had determined to go again to the prison,
her quick ear recognised the foot-fall of her husband. She sprang to
meet him, with a gladder heart than she had known for many
weeks--but his cold manner and brief words threw back upon her
feelings a sickening chill.
"We must move from here, Julia," said he, after a few silent
moments, and looked at her as though he expected objection as a
matter of course.
"I am willing, if it is necessary, Henry. I will go anywhere with
Her manner softened his feelings, and he said more tenderly,
"Things are changed with me, Julia. In expectation of something
handsome from your father, I have been imprudent, and am now largely
in debt. The Messrs. R. & L. will not, I am sure, take me back into
their store, and it will be hard, I am afraid, for me to get a
situation in town. Our furniture, which I have secured to you, is
all we have, except about money enough to pay our quarter's rent now
due. I see no wiser plan for us than to sell this furniture, except
enough for one chamber, and then go to boarding. It will bring a sum
sufficient to pay our board and other expenses for at least one
year, if we manage prudently; and, surely, I can get something to do
in the mean time."
"I am willing for anything, dear Henry!" said his wife, twining her
arms about his neck, and laying her pale cheek to his. The furniture
was accordingly sold, and the reduced and humbled couple removed to
As he had expected, Warburton found it hard to get employment.
Finally, after doing nothing for two months, he accepted the
situation of bar-keeper at one of the city hotels. Julia pleaded
hard with him not to go there, for she feared the influence of such
a place upon him, but he would listen to no argument.
His wife soon began to observe indications of a change for the worse
in his character. He grew more pettish and dissatisfied, and
frequently acted towards her with great unkindness. He was rarely,
if ever, at home before midnight, and then repulsed every
affectionate act or word. Several times he came in intoxicated, and
once, while in that state, he struck her a severe blow on the head,
which caused an illness of several weeks.
At the end of a year, Warburton had not only become dissipated in
his habits, but had connected himself with a set of gamblers, who,
as he proved to be a skilful hand, and not at all squeamish,
resolved to send him on a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi, to New
Orleans, for mutual benefit. To this he had not the slightest
objection. He told his wife that he was going to New Orleans on
business for the Stage Office, and would probably be gone all
winter. Unkind as he had grown, it was hard parting. Gladly would
she have taken all the risk of fatigue, to have accompanied him with
her babe but four months old, but he would listen to no such
proposal. When he did go, she felt sick at heart, and, as the
thought flashed across her mind that he might probably desert her,
helpless and friendless as she was, it seemed as if the fever of her
mind would end in madness.
Regularly, however, for several months, she heard from him, and each
time he enclosed her money; but little more than was sufficient to
meet expenses. In the last letter she received, he hinted that he
might return home in a few weeks. At the usual time of receiving a
letter, she waited day after day, hoping and almost fearing to
receive one--anxious to hear from him, and yet fearing that he might
have changed his mind as to his contemplated return.
Week after week passed, and there were no tidings. Day after day she
went to the post-office with an anxious heart, which throbbed
quicker and quicker as the clerk mechanically and carelessly turned
over letter after letter, and at last pronounced the word "none,"
with professional indifference. Then it would seem to stop, and lie
like a motionless weight in her bosom, and she would steal away
paler and sicker than when she came. At last, her distress of mind
became so great, that she went, reluctantly, to the stage-office, to
inquire if they had heard from him recently. To her hesitating,
anxious inquiry, she received the brief reply that they knew nothing
"But is he not in the employment of this office?"
"I hope not," was the short, sneering reply of one of the clerks.
"What do you mean, sir?" she asked, in an excited tone--"he is my
The manner of the man instantly changed. "Nothing, ma'am.--It was
only a thoughtless reply. He is not, however, in our employment, and
never has been."
Mrs. Warburton turned pale as ashes. A chair was instantly handed to
her, and a glass of water, and every kind attention offered.
At this moment a man entered, who eyed Mrs. W. with a vulgar stare.
The person who had first spoken to Mrs. W. took him aside, and after
conversing in whispers for a few moments, turned to her and said
that he had just learned that her husband had joined a band of
traders, and was now on his way to Mexico.
"How do you know?" was the quick reply.
"This gentleman has just told me."
"And how do you know, sir?"
"I received a letter from him three weeks ago, in which he stated
the fact to me. He has been in my employment ever since he has been
away, but has left it and gone to Mexico."
"When did he say he would return?" she asked, in a calm voice.
"That is uncertain, madam."
She tottered out of the office, and stole home with an enfeebled
step. "Forsaken!--forsaken!"--was all the form her thoughts would
take, until she met the sweet face of her babe, and then her heart
felt warmer, and not all forsaken.
"Poor thing! how I pity her," said the clerk in the stage-office,
when Mrs. W. had retired. "Her husband is a scoundrel, that's all I
know about it," responded the gentleman-gambler, who had sent
Warburton out on a swindling expedition.
"The more the pity for his poor wife."