Part 11 out of 11
"I wonder if she has any property of his in her hands?" queried the
"Why?--Why because I'll have my own out of it if she has. I have his
note, payable in a week, for money lent; and if he has got a dollar
here, I'll have it."
"You'll not turn his wife out of doors, will you?"
"Will I?"--and his face grew dark with evil thoughts.--"Will
I?--yes!--what care I for the whining wench! I'll see her to-morrow,
and know what we have both to expect."
"Coulson!" said the clerk, in an excited but firm voice--"You shall
not trouble that helpless, unfortunate woman!"
"_Shall not?_ ha! Pray, Mr. Sympathy, and how can you hinder me?"
"Look you to that, sir. I _act_, you know, not threaten."
The gambler's face grew darker, but the clerk turned away with a
look of contempt, and resumed his employment.
That night he sought the dwelling of Mrs. Warburton. He found her
boarding at a respectable house on--street. He named his business
at once, and warned her not to allow herself to get in the power of
Coulson, who was a gambler, and an abandoned villain.
When he understood her real situation--that she was in debt for
board, and without a dollar, forsaken of her husband, and among
strangers, his heart ached for her. Himself but on the salary of a
clerk, he could give little or no assistance. But advice and
sympathy he tendered, and requested her to call on him at any time,
if she thought that he could aid her. A kind word, a sympathising
tone, is, to one in such a sad condition, like gentle dews to the
"Above all," was his parting admonition, "beware of Coulson! He will
injure your character if he can. Do not see him. Forbid the servants
to admit him. He will, if he fixes his heart upon seeing you, leave
no stone unturned to accomplish it. But waver not in your
determination. And be sure to let me know if he persecutes you too
closely. Be resolute, and fear not. I know the man, and have crossed
his path ere this. And he knows me."
Early on the next day, Coulson called, and with the most insinuating
address, asked to see Mrs. Warburton.
"Ask him to send up his name," was Mrs. W.'s reply to the
information of the servant, that a gentleman wished to speak to her.
"Coulson," was returned.
"Tell him that I cannot see him."
To this answer he sent back word that his business was important and
"Tell him that I cannot see him," was the firm reply.
Coulson left the house, baffled for once. The next day he called,
and sent up another name.
"He is the same person who called himself 'Coulson' yesterday," said
the servant to Mrs. W.
"Tell him that I cannot be seen."
"I'll match the huzzy yet!" he muttered to himself as he left the
It now became necessary for Mrs. Warburton to rally all the energies
of her nature, feeble though they were, and yet untried. The rate of
boarding which she was required to pay, was much beyond what she
could now afford. At first she nearly gave up to despair. Thus far
in life, she had never earned a single dollar, and, from her
earliest recollection, the thought of working for money seemed to
imply degradation. But necessity soon destroys false pride. Her
greatest concern now was, what she should do for a living. She had
learned to play on the piano, to draw and paint, and had practised
embroidery. But in all these she had sought only amusement. In not a
single one of them was she proficient enough to teach. Fine sewing
she could not do. Her dresses had all been made by the mantua-maker,
and her fine sewing by the family sempstress. She had been raised in
idle pleasure--had spent her time in thrumming on the piano, making
calls, tripping about the streets, and entertaining company.
But wherever there is the will, there is a way. Through the kind
interference of a stranger, she was enabled to act decisively. Two
rooms were procured, and after selling various articles of costly
chamber furniture which still remained, she was enabled to furnish
them plainly and comfortably, and have about fifty dollars left.
Through the kind advice of this same stranger, (where were all her
former friends?) employment was had, by which she was soon able to
earn from four to five dollars a week.
Her employment was making cigars. At first, the tobacco made her so
sick that she was unable to hold her head up, or work more than half
her time. But after awhile she became used to it, and could work
steadily all day; though she often suffered with a distressing
headache. Mrs. Warburton was perhaps the first woman who made cigars
in--. Through the application of a third person, to a
manufacturer, the work was obtained, and given, from motives of
She had been thus employed for about three months, and was beginning
to work skilfully enough to earn four dollars a week, and give all
necessary attention to herself and child, when Mr.--, the
manufacturer, received a note signed by all the journeymen in his
shop, demanding of him the withdrawal of all work from Mrs.
Warburton, on pain of their refusal to work a day longer. It was an
infringement, they said, upon their rights. Women could afford to
work cheaper than men, and would ruin the business.
Mr.--was well off, and, withal, a man who could brook no
dictation, in his business. His journeymen were paid their regular
wages, and had, he knew, no right to say whom he should employ; and
for any such interference he promptly resolved to teach them a
lesson. He was, moreover, indignant that a parcel of men, many of
whom spent more money at the taverns and in foolish expenses, in the
week, than the poor forsaken mother of a young babe could earn in
that time, should heartlessly endeavour to rob the more than widow
of her hard-earned mite.
"I will sacrifice half that I am worth, before I will yield to such
dictation," was his only answer to the demand. The foolish men
"struck," and turned out to lounge idly in taverns and other places,
until their employer should come to terms. They were, however, soon
convinced of their folly; for but a few weeks elapsed before Mr. had
employed females to make his cigars, who could afford to work for
one-third less than the journeymen had been receiving, and make good
wages at that. The consequence was, that the men who had, from
motives of selfishness, endeavoured to deprive Mrs. W. of her only
chance of support, were unable to obtain work at any price. Several
of them fell into idle and dissolute habits, and became vagabonds.
Other manufacturers of cigars followed the example of Mr.--, and
lessened the demand for journeymen; and the result in this instance
was but a similar one to that which always follows combinations
against employers--viz: to injure the interests of journeymen.
It was not long before Coulson found out the retreat of Mrs.
Warburton, and commenced his persecutions. The note of her husband
had fallen due, and his first movement was to demand the payment.
Perceiving, however, at once, that to make the money out of any
property in her possession was impossible, he changed his manner,
and offered to befriend her in any way that lay in his power. For a
moment she was thrown off her guard; but remembering the caution she
had received, she assumed a manner of the most rigid coldness
towards him, and told him that she already had friends who would
care for her. The next day she managed to apprize the clerk in the
Stage Office of the visit of Coulson, who promptly took measures to
alarm his fears, for he was a coward at heart, and effectually
prevent his again troubling her.
Little of an interesting nature occurred for about a year, when she
received a letter from her husband at Cincinnati. He stated that
having despaired of getting along in the business he had entered
into on leaving--which had involved him in debt, he had left with a
company of traders for Mexico, and had just returned with a little
money, with which he wished to go into business. But that if he
returned to--, he would be troubled, and all he had taken from him.
He enclosed her a hundred dollar note, and wished her to come to him
immediately, and to leave--without letting any one know her
destination. He professed much sorrow for having left her in so
destitute a condition, but pleaded stern necessity for the act.
Mrs. W. did not hesitate a moment. In four days from the time she
received the letter, she was on the way to Cincinnati. Arrived
there, she was met by her husband with some show of affection. He
was greatly changed since she had seen him, and showed many
indications of irregular habits. He appeared to have plenty of
money, and took rooms for his wife in a respectable boardinghouse.
The improvement in his child pleased him much. When he went away it
was only about five months old--now it was a bright little boy, and
could run about and chatter like a bird. After some hesitation in
regard to the kind of business he should select, he at last
determined to go into the river-trade. To this Mrs. Warburton gently
objected; because it would keep him away from home for months
together. But his capital was small, and he at length made his first
purchase of produce, and started in a flat-boat for New Orleans.
Poor Mrs. W. felt as if deserted again when he left her. But at the
end of three months he returned, having cleared four hundred dollars
by the trip. He remained at home this time for two months, drinking
and gambling; and at the expiration of that period had barely enough
left to make a small purchase and start again.
Her troubles, she plainly saw, were just beginning again, and Mrs.
Warburton almost wished herself back again in the city, for which,
though there she had no friends, her heart yearned.
Her husband did not return, this time, from his river-voyage, for
three months; nor did he send his wife during that time any money.
The amount left her was entirely exhausted before the end of the
second month, and having heard nothing of him since he went away,
she feared to get in debt, and, therefore, two weeks before her
money was out, applied for work at a cigar-factory. Here she was
fortunate enough to obtain employment, and thus keep herself above
Long before her husband returned, her heart had fearful forebodings
of a second blighting of all its dearest hopes. Not the less
painful, were those anticipations, because she had once suffered.
One evening in June, just three months from the time her husband
left, she had paused from her almost unremitted employment, during
the violence of a tremendous storm, that was raging without. The
thunder rattled around in startling peals, and the lightning blazed
from cloud to cloud, without a moment's intermission. She could not
work while she felt that the bolt of death hung over her. For half
an hour had the storm raged, when in one of the pauses which
indicated its passing away, she started at the sound of a voice that
seemed like that of her husband. In the next moment another voice
mingled with it, and both were loud and angry. Fearfully she flung
open the door, and just on the pavement, drenched with the rain, and
unregardful of the storm, for one more terrible raged within, stood
two men, contending with each other in mortal strife, while horrible
oaths and imprecations rolled from their lips. One of these, from
his distorted face, rendered momently visible in the vivid flashes
of the lightning, and from his voice, though loud and disguised by
passion, she at once knew to be her husband. His antagonist was not
so strong a man, but he was more active, and seemed much cooler.
Each had in his hand an open Spanish knife, and both were striking,
plunging, and parrying thrusts with the most malignant fury. It was
an awful sight to look upon. Two human beings striving for each
other's lives amid the fury of a terrible storm, the lightnings of
which glanced sharply upon their glittering knives, revealing their
fiend-like countenances for an instant, and then leaving them in
For a few moments, Mrs. Warburton stood fixed to the spot, but,
recalling her scattered senses, she rushed towards the combatants,
calling upon them to pause, and repeating the name of her husband in
a voice of agony. The result of the strife was delayed but an
instant longer, for with a loud cry her husband fell bleeding at her
feet. His antagonist passed out of sight in a moment.
Lifting the apparently lifeless form of her husband in her arms,
Mrs. Warburton carried or rather dragged him into the house, and
placed him upon the bed, where lay their sleeping boy. She then
hurried off for the nearest physician, who was soon in attendance.
The first sound that met the ear of Mrs. Warburton, on her return,
was the voice of her dear child, eagerly calling, "Pa! pa! wake up,
pa!"--And there was the little fellow pulling at the insensible body
of his father, in an (sic) extacy of infantile joy at his return.
"Pa come home!--Pa come home, mamma!" And the little fellow clapped
his hands, and shook the body of his father in the effort to wake
The mother gently lifted her child from the bed. His little face
instantly changed its expression into one of fear, when he looked
into his mother's countenance. "Pa's very sick, and little Charles
must keep still," she whispered to the child, and sat him down in
the next room.
When the physician arrived, he found that the knife had entered the
left breast just above the heart, but had not penetrated far enough
to destroy life. There were also several bad cuts, in different
parts of his body, all of which required attention. After dressing
them, he left the still insensible man in the care of his wife and
one of his assistants, with directions to have him called should any
alarming symptom occur. It was not until the next morning that there
was any apparent return of consciousness on the part of the wounded
man. Then he asked in a feeble voice for his wife. She had left the
bed but a moment before, and hearing him speak, was by his side in
"Julia, how came I here? What is the matter?" said he, rousing up,
and looking anxiously around. But overcome with weakness from the
loss of blood, he sank back upon the bed, and remained apparently
insensible for some time. But he soon showed evidence of painful
recollection having returned. For his breathing became more
laboured, under agitated feelings, and he glanced his eyes about the
room with an eager expression. After a few minutes he buried his
face in the bed-clothes and sighed heavily. Distinct, painful
consciousness had returned.
In a few days he began to grow stronger, and was able to sit up; and
with the return of bodily vigour came back the deadly passions that
had agitated him on the night of his return home. The man, he said,
had literally robbed him of his money, (in fact, won it); had
cheated him out of every dollar of his hard-earned gains, and he
would have his life.
When hardly well enough to walk about, Warburton felt the evil
influence of his desire for revenge so strong, as to cause him to
seek out the individual who, he conceived, had wronged him, by
winning from him, or cheating him out of his money. They met in one
of the vile places in Cincinnati, where vice loves to do her dark
work in secret. Truly are they called hells, for there the love of
evil and hatred of the neighbour prompt to action. Every malignant
passion in the heart of Warburton was roused into full vigour, when
his eyes fell upon the face of his former associate. Instantly he
grasped his knife, and with a yell of fiendish exultation sprang
towards him, like some savage beast eager for his prey. The other
gambler was a cool man, and hard to throw off of his guard. His
first movement was to knock Warburton down, then drawing his Spanish
knife, he waited calmly and firmly for his enemy to rise. Blind with
passion, Warburton sprang to his feet and rushed upon the other, who
received him upon the point of his knife, which entered deep into
the abdomen. At the same instant, Warburton's knife was plunged into
the heart of his adversary, who staggered off from its point, reeled
for a few seconds about the room, and then fell heavily upon the
floor. He was dead before the cool spectators of the horrid scene
could raise him up.
From loss of blood Warburton soon fainted, and when he came to
himself, he found that he had been conveyed to his home, and that
his weeping wife stood over him. There were also others in the room,
and he soon learned that he was to be conveyed, even in the
condition he was then in, to prison, to await his trial for murder.
In vain did his poor heart-stricken wife plead that he might be left
there until he recovered, or even until his wound was dressed; but
she pleaded in vain. On a litter, faint from loss of blood, and
groaning with pain, he was carried off to prison. By his side walked
her whom no ill treatment or neglect could estrange.
Three months he was kept in jail, attended daily by his
uncomplaining wife, who supported herself and little boy, with her
own hands, sparing much for her husband's comfort. The wound had not
proved very dangerous, and long before his trial came on, he was as
well as ever.
The day of trial at length came, and Mrs. Warburton found that it
required her strongest efforts to keep sufficiently composed to
comprehend the true nature and bearing of all the legal proceedings.
Never in her life before had she been in a court of justice, and the
bare idea of being in that, to her awful, place, stunned at first
all her perceptions; especially as she was there under circumstances
of such deep and peculiar interest.
Next to her husband, in the bar, did this suffering woman take her
place: and that husband arraigned before. his country's tribunal for
the highest crime--murder! How little did she dream of such an awful
situation, years before, when a gay, thoughtless, innocent girl, she
gave up in maiden confidence, and with deep joy, her affections to
that husband. Passing on step by step, in misery's paths, she had at
last reached a point, the bare idea of which, had it been
entertained as possible for a moment, would have almost extinguished
life. Now, her deep interest in that husband who had abused her
confidence, and almost extinguished hope in her bosom, kept her up,
and enabled her to watch with unwavering attention every minute
After the indictment was read, and the State's Attorney, in a
comprehensive manner, had stated the distinct features of the case,
which he pledged himself to prove by competent witnesses, poor Mrs.
Warburton became sick and faint. A clearer case of deliberate murder
could not, it seemed to her, be made out. Still, she was sure there
must be palliating circumstances, and longed to be permitted to rise
and state her impressions of the case. Once she did start to her
feet, but a right consciousness returned before she had uttered a
word. Shrinking into her seat again, she watched with a pale face
and eager look, the course of the proceedings.
Witness after witness was called on the part of the state, each
testifying distinctly the fact of Warburton's attack upon the
murdered man, and his threat to take his life. Hope seemed utterly
to fail from the heart of the poor wife, when the testimony on the
part of the prosecution closed. But now came the time for the
examination of witnesses in favour of the prisoner. Soon Mrs.
Warburton was seen upon her feet, bending over towards the witness'
stand, and eagerly devouring each word. Rapid changes would pass
over her countenance, as she comprehended, with a woman's quickness
of perception, rendered acute by strong interest, the bearing which
the evidence would have upon the case. Now her eye would flash with
interest and her face become flushed--and now her cheek would pale,
and her form seem to shrink into half its dimensions. Oh! who can
imagine one thousandth part of all her sufferings on that awful
occasion? When, finally, the case was given to the jury, and after
waiting hour after hour at the court-house, to hear the decision,
she had to go home long after dark, in despair of knowing the result
before morning, it seemed hardly possible that she could pass
through that night and retain her senses. She did not sleep through
the night's long watches--how could she sleep? Hours before the
court assembled, she was at the court-house, waiting to know the
fate of one, who now, in his fearful extremity, seemed dearer to her
than ever. Slowly passed the lingering minutes, and at length ten
o'clock came. The court-room was filled to suffocation, but through
the dense crowd she made her way, and took her place beside her
anxious husband. The court opened, and the foreman of the jury came
forward to read the verdict. Many an eye sought with eager
curiosity, or strong interest, the face of the wife. Its calmness
was strange and awful. All anxiety, all deep interest had left it,
and as she turned her eye upon the foreman, none could read the
slightest exhibition of emotion. "GUILTY OF MURDER IN THE SECOND
DEGREE!" Quick as thought a hundred eyes again sought the face of
Mrs. Warburton. It was pale as ashes, and her insensible form was
gently reclining upon the arm of her husband, which had been
extended to save her from falling.
When recollection returned, she was lying upon her own bed, in her
own chamber, with her little boy crying by her side. Those who had,
from humane feelings, conveyed her home, suffered the dictates of
humanity to die in their bosoms ere her consciousness returned; and
thus she was left, insensible, with no companion but her child.
In due course, Warburton was sentenced to eight years imprisonment,
the first three years to be passed in solitary confinement. During
the first term, no person was to be allowed to visit him. The
knowledge of such a sentence was a dreadful blow to Mrs. Warburton.
She parted from him in the court-room, on the day of his sentence,
and for three long, weary years, her eyes saw him not again.
But a short time after the imprisonment of Warburton, another babe
came into the world to share the misery of her whose happiness he
had, in all his actions, so little regarded. When able again to go
about, and count up her store, Mrs. Warburton found that she had
little left her beyond a willing heart to labour for her children.
It would have been some comfort to her if she had been permitted to
visit her husband, but this the law forbade.
"Despair is never quite despair," and once more in her life did Mrs.
Warburton prove this. The certainty that there could be no further
dependence upon her husband, led her to repose more confidently in
her own resources, for a living, and they did not fail her. She had
long since found out that our necessities cost much less than our
superfluities, and therefore she did not sit down in idle
despondency. Early in the morning and late at night was she found
diligently employed, and though her compensation was not great, it
was enough to supply her real wants.
For two years had she supported thus with her own hands herself and
children. The oldest was now a smart little fellow of five years,
and the youngest a fair-haired girl of some two summers. Thus far
had she kept them around her; but sickness at last came. Nature
could not always sustain the heavy demands made upon her, and at
last sunk under them.
There are many more cases of extreme suffering in this country than
persons are generally willing to believe. These extreme cases are
among those whose peculiar feelings will not allow of their making
known their real condition. They are such as were once members of
some social circle, far removed indeed from the apparent chances of
poverty. Their shrinking pride, their yearning desire for
independence clings closer and closer to them, and operates more and
more powerfully, as they sink lower and lower, from uncontrollable
causes, into the vale of want and destitution. Beggars with no
feelings, and no claims beyond those of idleness and intemperance,
thrust themselves forward, and consume the bread of charity, that
should go to nourish the widow and the orphan, who suffer daily and
nightly, rather than ask for aid.
One to whom the idea of eating the bread of charity had ever been a
painful and revolting one, was Mrs. Warburton. So long as she was
able, she had earned with untiring industry, the food that nourished
her children. But close confinement, insufficient nourishment,
labour beyond her strength, and above all, a wounded spirit, at last
completed the undermining work, which threw down the tottering and
feeble health that had long kept her at her duties.
It was mid-winter when she was severely attacked by a
bilious-pleurisy. For some weeks she had drooped about, hardly able
to perform half her wonted labour--most of that time suffering from
a hard cough and distressing pain in the side, which was augmented
almost to agony while bending steadily, and for hours over her work.
Taking, as it did, all that she could earn to keep herself and
children in comfort during the winter, she had nothing laid up for a
time of more pressing need; and, as for the last few weeks, she had
earned so little as to have barely enough for necessaries, when
helplessness came, she was in utter destitution, Her wood was just
out, except a few hard, knotted logs; her flour was out, and her
money gone. When she could no longer sit up, she sent her little boy
for a physician, who bled her, and left her some powerful medicines.
The first gave temporary relief, and the latter reduced her to a
state of great bodily and mental weakness. He did not call in again
until the second day, when he found the children both in bed with
their mother, who was suffering greatly from a return of the pain in
her side. The room was chilly, for there was no fire, and it was
intensely cold without, and the ground covered with a deep snow. He
again bled her, which produced immediate relief, and learning that
she had no wood, called in at the next door, where lived a wealthy
family, and stated the condition of their poor neighbour A child of
six years old stood by his mother while the physician was speaking.
The lady seemed much affected when told of the sufferings of the,
poor woman, politely thanked the physician for making her acquainted
with the fact, and promised immediate attention.
That evening there was to be at this house a large party. Extra
servants had been employed that day, and all was bustle and
"Sarah," called the lady, a few minutes after, to her
housekeeper--"Sarah, Dr. H--was here just now, and said that the
poor woman who lives next door is sick and out of fuel. Tell John to
take her in an armful of wood, and do you just step in and see what
more she is in want of."
"Yes, ma'am," responds Sarah, and muttering to herself some
dissatisfaction at the order, descends to the kitchen, and addresses
a sable man-servant, and kind of doer-of-all-work-in-general, in
doors and out,
"John, Mrs.--says you must take an armful of wood in to Mrs.
Warrington; I believe that is the woman's name who lives next door."
"Who? de woman whose husband in de (sic) Penetentiary?"
"Yes, that's the one, John."
"Don't love to meddle wid dem guess sort of folks, Miss Sarah.
'Druder not be gwine in dere," responds the black, with a broad grin
at his own humour.
"Well, I don't care whether you do or not," responds Sarah, and
glides swiftly away, satisfied to do one part of her order and
forget the other, which related to her going in to see the poor
woman herself. Mrs.--shifted off the duty on her housekeeper, and
she contented herself by forgetting it.
Little William, who was present with his mother when the doctor
called, was, like all children, a true republican, and had often
played with the child of the sick woman. He had seen his little
playmate but a few times since the cold weather set in; but had all
his sympathies aroused, at the doctor's recital. Being rather more
suspicious of the housekeeper than his mother, and no doubt for good
reasons best known to himself, he followed on to the kitchen, and
was an ear-witness to what passed between John and the sub-mistress
of the mansion.
"Come, John, now that's a good fellow," said he to the negro, after
the housekeeper had retired, "take in some wood to poor Mrs.
"'Fraid, Massa Billy, 'deed. 'Fraid of (sic) penetentiary--ha! ha!!
"She can't help that, though, John. So come along, and take the wood
"'Fraid, i'deed, Massa Billy."
"Well, if you don't, I'll take it in myself, and dirty all my
clothes, and then somebody will find it out, without my turning
John grinned a broad smile, and forthwith, finding himself
outwitted, carried in the wood, and left it in the middle of the
floor, without saying a word.
Towards evening, just before the company assembled, little William,
not at all disposed to forget, as every one else had done, the poor
sufferers next door, went to the housekeeper's room, where she was
busy as a bee with preparations for the party, and stationed himself
in the door, accosted her with--
"Miss Sarah, have you been in to see Mrs. Warburton, as ma told you,
"That's no concern of yours, Mr. Inquisitive."
"But I'd just like to know, Miss Sarah; 'cause I'm going in myself,
if you hav'nt been."
"Do you suppose that I have not paid attention to what your ma said?
I know my own business, without instruction from you."
"Well, I don't believe you've been in, so I don't, that's all; and
if you don't say yes or no at once, why, you see, I'll go right in
"Well (coaxingly) never mind, Billy, I haint been in, I've been so
busy; but just wait a little bit, and I'll go There's no use of your
going; you can't do nothing."
"I know that, Miss Sarah, and that's why I want you to go in. But if
you don't go in, I will, so there, now!"
"Well, just wait a little bit, and I'll go."
The child, but half satisfied, slowly went away, but lingered about
the passages to watch the housekeeper. Night, however, came on, and
he had not seen her going. All were now busy lighting up, and making
the more immediate and active preparations for the reception of
company, when he met her in the hall, and to his, "Look here, I say,
Miss Sarah," she hurried past him unheeding.
The company at last assembled, and the hours had passed away until
it was nine o'clock. Without, all was cold, bleak, and cheerless.
Within, there was the perfection of comfort.
Little William had been absent for some time, but no one missed him.
Just as a large company were engaged in the various ways of passing
time, dancing, chatting, and partaking of refreshments, the room
door opened, and in came Master Billy, dragging in by the hand, a
little barefoot fellow about his own age, with nothing on but a
clean, well-patched shirt, and a pair of linen trowsers. Without
heeding the company, he pulled him up to the glowing grate, and in
the fulness of his young benevolent heart, cried out,
"Here's fire, Charley! Warm yourself, old fellow! Hurrah! I guess
I've fixed Miss Sarah now." And the little fellow clapped his hands
as innocently and as gracefully, as if there had been no one in the
room but himself and Charley.
All was agreeable and curious confusion in a few minutes, and scores
crowded around the poor child with a lively interest, who, an hour
before would have passed him in the street unnoticed.
"Why, Willy! what does all this mean?" exclaimed the father, after
something like order had been restored.
"Why, pa, you see, this is Charley Warburton," began the little
fellow, holding the astonished Charley by the hand, and presenting
him quite ceremoniously to his father. "Doctor H--came here
to-day, and told ma that his mother was sick next door, and that
they had no wood. So ma tells Sarah to send John in with some wood,
and to go in herself and see if they wanted anything. So Sarah goes
and tells John to go and take some wood in. But John he wa'nt going
to go, till I told him that if he didn't go I would, and if I went
to carrying in wood, I'd dirty all my clothes, and then somebody
would want to know the reason. So John he carried in some wood. Then
I watched Sarah, but she didn't go in. So I told her about it. And
then she promised, but didn't go. I told her again, and she
promised, but didn't go. I waited and waited until night, and still
Sarah didn't go in. Then you see, awhile ago I slipped out the front
door, and tried to go in to Mrs. Warburton's. But it was all so dark
there, that I couldn't see anybody; and when I called 'Charley,'
here, his mother said, softly, 'who's there,' and I said 'it's only
little Willy. Ma wants to know if you don't want nothing.' 'Oh, it's
little Willy--it's little Willy!' says Charley, and he jumps on the
floor, and then we both came in here. O! it's so dark and cold in
there--do pa go in, and make John build them a fire."
During the child's innocent but feeling recital, more than one eye
filled with tears. Mrs.--hung down her head for a moment, in
silent upbraidings of heart, for having consigned a work of charity
to neglectful and unfeeling servants. Then taking her child in her
arms, she hugged him to her bosom, and said,
"Bless you, bless you, my boy! That innocent heart has taught your
mother a lesson she will not soon forget." The father felt prouder
of his son than he had ever felt, and there were few present who did
not almost wish him their own. Little Charley was asked by Mr.--if
he was hungry, on observing him wistfully eyeing a piece of cake.
"We haint had nothin' to eat all day, sir, none of us."
"And why not, my little man?" asked Mr.--in a voice of assumed
"'Cause, sir, we haint got nothin' to eat in the house. Mother
always had good things for us till she got sick, and now we are all
hungry, and haint got nothin' to eat."
"Here, Sarah, (to the housekeeper, who came in at the moment)--no,
not you, either--do you, Emma, (to his wife,) give this hungry child
some nourishing food with your own hands. He has a claim on you, for
the sake of our little Willy."
Mrs.--was not slow in relieving Charley's wants and then, after
excusing herself to the company, she visited, with John and Sarah,
the humble, uncomplaining child of humanity, who had been suffering,
so painfully, in the next house to her comfortable dwelling.
The light carried by John revealed, in the middle of the floor, the
armful of wood, in large logs, almost impossible to kindle, which
the servant had thrown down there without a word, or an offer to
make a fire. Mrs.--'s heart smote her when she saw this evidence
of her neglect of true charity. Enveloped in the bed-clothes, she
found Mrs. Warburton and her little child, the former suffering from
pain and fever, and the latter asleep, with tears glistening on her
eyelashes. The room was so cold that it sent chills all over her, as
she had come in without throwing a shawl around her shoulders.
"I am sorry to find you so sick, and everything around you so cold
and comfortless," she said, addressing Mrs. Warburton.
"I don't feel so very sick, ma'am, only when I try to sit up, I grow
so faint, and have to lie down again. If my little things had
anything to eat, I wouldn't mind it much."
Just then, aroused by the voice of her mother, the little girl
awoke, and began moaning and crying. She could not speak plain, and
her "bed and mik, mamma"--"O, mamma, bed and mik," thrilled every
heart-string of Mrs.--, who had never before in her life witnessed
the keen distress of a mother while her child asked in vain for
bread. She drew the child out of bed, and kissing it, handed it to
Sarah, whose feelings were also touched, and told her to take the
little thing into her house, and give it to the nurse, with
directions to feed it, and then come back.
By this time, John, rather more active than usual, had kindled a
fire, the genial warmth of which began already to soften the keen
air of the room. Some warm drinks were prepared for Mrs. Warburton;
and Mrs.--had the satisfaction to see her, in the course of half
an hour, sink away into a sweet and refreshing slumber. On glancing
around the room, she was gratified, and somewhat surprised, to see
everything, though plain and scanty, exhibiting the utmost order and
cleanliness. The uncarpeted floor was spotless, and the single pine
table as white as hands could make it. "How much am I to blame," was
her inward thought, "for having so neglected this poor woman in her
distress and in her poverty!"
On returning to her company, and giving a history of the scene she
had just witnessed, the general feeling of sympathy prompted
immediate measures for relief, and a very handsome sum was placed in
the hands of Mrs.--, by the gentlemen and ladies present, for the
use of Mrs. Warburton. Rarely does a social company retire with each
individual of it so satisfied in heart as did the company assembled
at Mrs.--'s, on that evening. Truly could they say, "It is more
blessed to give than to receive."
The incident just related, possessing a kind of romantic interest,
soon became noised about from family to family, and for awhile it
was fashionable to minister to the wants of Mrs. Warburton--whose
health continued very delicate--and to her young family. But a few
months passed away, and then one after another ceased to remember or
care for her. Even Mrs.--, the mother of little Billy, began to
grow weary of charity long continued, and to feel that it was a
burdensome task to be every day or two obliged to call in or inquire
after the poor invalid. Finally, she dismissed the subject from her
mind, and left Mrs. Warburton to the tender mercies of Sarah, the
From a state of deep despondence to one of hope, had Mrs. Warburton
been raised, by the timely aid afforded through the persevering
interference of the little playmate of her son. But she soon began
to perceive, after a time, that the charity was only spasmodic, and
entered into without a real consideration of her peculiar case. The
money given her was the best assistance that could have been
rendered, for with this she obtained a supply of wood, flour, meal,
potatoes, and some warm clothing for her little ones. But this would
not last always, and the multitude of little nice things sent from
this one and that, were of but little service.
The month of March, so trying to a weak and shattered constitution,
found her just well enough to venture out to seek for employment at
her old business of cigar-making. She readily obtained work, and
again sat down to earn for herself and children, the bread that
should nourish them. But she was soon made to feel keenly that her
health was not as it had been. A severe pain in the side was her
daily companion, and she had to toil on, often sick and faint, from
daylight until long after others had sought the grateful repose of
their pillows. Painfully alive to a sense of dependence, she was
ready at any time to work beyond her strength rather than to eat the
bread of charity. This kept her steadily bending over her work until
nature again became exhausted, and she was forced, from direct
debility, to suspend her labours for at least the half of every day.
As April came in, with an occasional warm day, her appetite
gradually left her, and she began to experience a loathing of food.
Weakness, headaches, and other painful warnings of nature, were the
consequences. Her earnings were now so small, that she with
difficulty procured enough of food for her children. She knew that
if she would let Mrs.--know her pressing destitution, food and
other necessaries would be supplied; but she shrank from telling her
wants. Finding, however, that her strength continued to fail, until
she was unable to sit up but for a few hours at a time, and that, in
consequence of her extreme weakness, the nausea produced by the
tobacco was so great, as to render it almost impossible for her to
work in it, she made up her mind to let her boy go in to Mrs.--,
with a request to send her some little thing that she could eat, in
hopes that something from her table might provoke an appetite.
Mrs.--was sitting at her dinner-table, which was covered with the
luxuries of the season, when little Charley came into the room and
handed in his poor mother's request.
"Please, ma'am, mother says will you be so good as to send her some
little thing that she could eat. She has no appetite, and not eatin'
makes her so weak."
"Here's some pie, Charley," struck in little Billy. "It's good, I
tell you! Eat it now; and ma, do send in Charley's mother a piece,
too: I know she'll like it."
But Billy and his mother did not agree in this. The latter thought a
little sago would be much better. So she gave Charley a paper in
which were a few spoonfuls of sago.
"Here is some sago, mother," said Charley, on his return,
"Mrs.--says it will do you good."
Now it so happened that, from a child, she had never liked sago.
There was something in it so insipid to her, that she had never felt
an inclination to more than taste it. Particularly now did her
stomach loathe it. But, even if she had felt an inclination to taste
the sago, she had not, at the time, any way to prepare it so as to
make it palatable. She did not, however, at the time, send for
anything else. She still had some flour and potatoes, and a little
change to buy milk, and on these her children fared very well.
Healthy food does not cost a great deal in this country, and Mrs.
Warburton had long before learned to husband well her resources.
On the next morning she tried to get up, but fainted away on the
floor. Her children were still asleep, and were not even awakened by
her fall. It was some time before she recovered sufficiently to
crawl upon the bed; and there she lay; almost incapable of thought
or motion, for hours. As feeble nature reacted again, and she was
able to think over her situation, she made up her mind to send in
her little boy again to Mrs.--, with an apology for not using the
sago, and request her to give her some little thing from her
table--anything at all that would be likely, as she said, "to put a
taste in her mouth," and induce an appetite for food. The child
delivered the message in the best way he knew how, but some how or
other it offended the ear of Mrs.--, who had begun to be tired of
what she was pleased to call the importunities of Mrs. Warburton;
though, in fact, she had never before even hinted that she was in
want of anything. The truth was, Sarah, the housekeeper, had heard
something from somebody, about Mrs. Warburton, and had been relating
the puerile scandal to Mrs.--, who, instead of opposing the
tattling propensity in her servant, encouraged it, by lending to her
silly stories an attentive ear. But the story was false, from
beginning to end, as are nearly all the idle rumours which are
constantly circulating from one family to another, through the
medium of servants.
"How did she do," she had just been saying to Sarah, "before I
befriended her? It is a downright imposition upon my good-nature,
and I have no notion of encouraging idleness."
"The fact is, ma'am," chimed in the maid, "these here poor people,
when you once help 'em, think you must be a'ways at it; they find it
so much easier to beg than work."
Just at this stage of conversation, the child timidly preferred the
humble and moderate request of his sick mother; a request that
should have thrilled the heart of any one possessing a single human
sympathy. But it came at the wrong moment. The evil of self-love was
active in the heart of Mrs.--, and all love of the neighbour was
for the time extinguished. She cast upon the child a look so
forbidding that the little fellow turned involuntarily to go.
"Here, Sarah," said she, in a half-angry tone, "send Mrs. Warburton
a dried herring. Perhaps that will 'put a taste in her mouth.'"
And a herring was sent!
"It's a pretty pass, indeed," said Miss Sarah, as the child closed
the door, "when beggars become choosers!"
Only half satisfied with herself, Mrs.--turned away and made no
reply. How differently did she feel on the night, when, with her own
hands, she ministered to the wants of this same suffering child of
humanity! Then her heart, though melted even to tears, felt a
bounding gladness, from the consciousness of having relieved the
suffering. Now it was heavy and sad in her bosom, and she could not
hush the whispers of an accusing conscience.
Little Charley carried home the herring, and laid it on the bed
before his sick mother. His own little heart was full, for he could
not mistake the manner of Mrs.--for kindness. Mrs. Warburton
looked at the uninviting food, and turned her head away. After
awhile, it did seem to her as if the fish would taste good to her,
and she raised herself up with an effort, and breaking off a small
piece, put it languidly to her lips. The morsel thrilled upon the
nerve of taste, and she ate the greater part of it with a relish she
had not known for many weeks.
In the mean time the heart of Mrs.--smote her so severely, when
all at once she remembered having lost her appetite after a spell of
sickness, and the difficulty with which she regained it;--how during
the day, nothing could tempt her to eat, while all night long she
would dream of rich banquets, of which she eagerly desired to
partake, but which changed to tasteless morsels, when she lifted the
inviting food to her lips. For a time she strove against her
feelings, but at last gave up, and ringing for the cook, directed
her to broil a couple of thin slices of ham very nicely, make a good
cup of tea, and a slice or two of toast. When this was ready, it was
sent in to Mrs. Warburton. It came just in time, and met the excited
appetite of the faint-hearted invalid. It was like manna in the
wilderness, and revived and refreshed her drooping frame.
From this time she gradually regained her appetite and strength; and
had the gratification of being able to earn with her own hands
enough for the support of her children.
This she continued to do until the expiration of the solitary
confinement term of her husband. How wearily passed the long, long
days and nights, as the time approached for her again to look upon
the face that had been hid from her sight for three sorrowful years!
The long absence had only excited her affection for him. Not as the
dead had she thought of him, but as of the living, and of the
suffering. Her own deep poverty, sickness, and anxious concern for
her children she counted as nothing to his lonely endurance of life.
Some weeks before the expiration of the first term of imprisonment,
she gathered together all her little store, and having sold many
heavy articles, packed the rest, and had them started for Columbus,
the capital of the state. She then took a deck-passage for herself
and children in a steamboat for Portsmouth, from which place she
determined to walk, carrying her youngest child, a little girl of
nearly three years, in her arms. I will not linger with her, nor
trace her toilsome and lonely journey through strange places,
continued without a day's intermission, until she at last came in
sight of the long-looked-for place. After the time-worn state-house,
the next building that met her eye, was the old, dark-looking
prison, in which was confined her husband. How gladly did her eyes
greet its sombre walls! It was the dwelling-place of one, for whom,
in all his wanderings, her heart retained its warm emotions of love.
Suddenly, like a parching wind of the desert, came upon her the
thought that he might be dead. For three long years she had not been
permitted to receive tidings from him, and who could tell, if in
that time, the wing of death had not o'ershadowed him? Trembling,
weary, and sick at heart, she made her way first to the prison-gate,
and there, to her unspeakable joy, she learned that he still lived.
For many nights previous to the day on which permission would be
granted her to see him, sleep had parted from her eyelids; and when
the time did come, she was in a high state of mental excitement.
Morning slowly dawned upon her anxious eyes, but seemed as if it
would never give place to the broad daylight. At last the sun came
slowly up from his bright chambers in the east. It was the day on
which she should again see her husband; the long-looked-for, the
long-hoped-for. Tremblingly she stole out, ere the day was an hour
old, and ran, not walked, to the gloomy dwelling-place of her
For several days previous she had not been able to keep away from
the prison, and the keeper, who knew her errand, had become much
interested in her case. He received her kindly, and made instant
preparation for the desired interview.
For three years Warburton had not heard the music of a human voice.
Far away from the sight or sound of his fellow-prisoners, he had
dwelt alone, visited only by the mute keeper who had brought his
daily food, or otherwise ministered to his wants. To his earnest and
oft-repeated inquiries if nothing was known of his wife and
children, for whose welfare a yearning anxiety had sprung up in his
breast, he was answered only by a gloomy silence. He did not know,
even on the morning of his release from solitary confinement, that
the all-enduring companion of his better days had come to cheer his
anxious eyes with her presence. Soon after daylight of this morning
the door of his cell turned heavily on its hinges, and he was
brought out among his fellows, and heard again the sweetest music
that had ever fallen upon his ear, the music of the human voice. A
stronger thrill of pleasure had never passed through his frame. He
felt as though he could remain thus shut out from the rest of the
world for ever, so that he could see and talk with his fellow-men.
He did not then think of the keen delight that awaited him, for in
the first impulse of selfish gratification he had forgotten the
being who loved him better than life.
An hour had not passed when he was again called for. The door of a
private apartment in the keeper's house was thrown open, and he
entered alone. There was but one being present: a pale, haggard
woman, poorly clad, who tottered towards him with extended arms. At
that moment both hearts were too full, and their lips were sealed in
silence. But oh! how eagerly did each bind the other in a long, long
embrace! It seemed as if their arms would never be unlocked. For one
hour were they left, thus alone. But how were years crowded into
that hour; years of endurance--terrible endurance!
It seemed scarcely one-tenth of that short time, when Mrs. Warburton
was summoned away, but with the kind permission to visit her husband
at the same hour every day. Slowly she passed beneath the ponderous
gate, and still more slowly moved away, thinking how long it would
be before another day had passed, bringing another blessed
The case of Warburton and his faithful wife soon came to the ears of
the governor, and he having expressed considerable sympathy for
them, the fact was soon made known to Mrs. Warburton, who was
recommended to petition him in person for a remission of the
sentence. The hint was no sooner given than acted upon, and after a
delay of several months of hope and fear, to the joy of her heart,
she found her husband at liberty.
In some of his former business or gambling transactions he had
become possessed of a clear title to three hundred acres of land,
upon which was a log-cabin, situated about thirty miles eastward
from the capital of the state, and nearly upon the national road.
Searching among his papers, still preserved by his wife, he found
the deed, and as nothing better offered, he started with his family
and but ten dollars, to begin the world anew as a backwoods farmer.
The few articles of furniture which his wife had preserved, served
to render the dilapidated cabin, in which was not a single pane of
glass, sash, or shutter, barely comfortable. It was early in the
spring when they re-moved, and though the right time for planting
corn and the ordinary table vegetables, yet it would be months
before they would be fit to use. In the mean time, a subsistence
must be had. The quickest way to obtain food Warburton found in the
use of his rifle, for wild turkeys and deer abounded in the forest.
He also managed to take a few dozen turkeys now and then to a
neighbouring town, and dispose of them for corn-meal, flour, and
groceries. In about a month he was enabled to sell one hundred acres
of his land for three hundred dollars, one hundred in money, and the
balance in necessary things for stocking a farm. He was now fairly
started again, with a cow, a horse, and all requisite agricultural
Mrs. Warburton did not feel satisfied in her own mind that this
sudden relief from daily pressing want would be a real benefit to
them. She had learned to suspect the reformation which was effected
by the force of external circumstances, while no salutary change in
the will was going on. For some time, however, she had every reason
to be encouraged. Her husband was industrious, and careful to make
the best he possibly could out of his farm, and was kind and
attentive to her and his children. Their garden, as the summer wore
away, presented a rich supply of vegetables, and their corn and
potatoes in the fall yielded enough for their use during the winter,
besides several bushels for sale.
The winter, however, did not pass away without several indications
on the part of Warburton of a disposition to indulge in the
pleasures of the bottle. There had been, in the course of the
summer, a tavern erected, about a mile from his dwelling, on the
national road; and here, during the dull winter months, he too
frequently resorted, to pass away the hours, with such persons as
are usually to be found at these haunts of idleness.
The income of this house, as a place of accommodation for
travellers, was very small, for within four miles of it stood a
tavern and stage-house, kept in a style that had made it known to
the travelling public. It was simply a receptacle for the odd change
of the neighbours, at times when they had an hour or two to spare
from business. Gradually, its business increased, and as gradually
the farms of one or two individuals in the neighbourhood, who were,
more frequently than others, to be found at the tavern, evinced a
corresponding decrease in their flourishing condition. Fences that
never wanted a panel were now broken in many places; and barns that
never admitted a drop of rain, now leaked at a hundred pores. Once,
there was an air of cheerfulness and plenty around their dwellings;
now, wives and children looked, the former troubled and broken in
spirits, the latter dirty and neglected. Where once reigned peace
and quietness, existed wrangling and strife.
During the succeeding farming season, Warburton gave considerable
attention--cultivating his ground, which in the fall yielded him an
abundant return. Still, during the summer, he visited the "White
Hall Tavern" too frequently, and was too often under the bewildering
and exciting influence of liquor. The next winter tended greatly to
complete the work of dissipation, which had been commenced a year
before. Frequently he would come home so much intoxicated as to be
lost to all reason. At such times he was not the stupid,
good-natured, drunken fool that is often met with; he was then a
cruel, unreasonable and exacting tyrant. His poor wife and children
did not only suffer from his wordy ill temper, but had to endure in
silence his blows, and often tremble even for their lives. When
sober, an indistinct remembrance of his cruelties and other bad
conduct, instead of softening his feelings towards his family, made
him moodily silent, or cross and snappish if a word were said to
The constant and almost daily drain of small change for liquor, had
nearly exhausted all the money in the house long before the winter
was over. The accommodating landlord seemed to discover, as by
instinct, this condition of things, and encouraged Warburton to run
up a score. He well knew that at any time it was easy to get the
payment out of a man who had a good farm, well stocked. Not so much
for the money to be made at the business, as for the purpose of
attracting more persons to his tavern, the landlord of the "White
Hall" kept a small store. At this store, Warburton, long before the
winter was over, had also made a pretty large bill. As if to atone
for his unkindness to, and neglect of his family, he would rarely
return from his voluntary visits at the tavern, without bringing
home something. A few pounds of sugar to-day, some cheese or fish
to-morrow, or some dried fruit on the day after. The excuse, that
such and such a thing was wanted, was often made to get away to the
public house, and thus scarcely a day passed without a dollar or two
being entered against him on the books of the smiling landlord.
When the spring opened, and his bill was made out, much to his
surprise, he found his account to be one hundred and fifty dollars!
After some two or three weeks' pondering on the matter, during which
time he was cross and sulky at home, two fine cows and one of his
best horses were quietly transferred from his pasture to the more
capacious one of the landlord of the "White Hall;" and thus his
account was squared with Boniface.
The discouragement consequent upon such a reduction of his stock,
tended to make him less industrious and less pleasant. He was
constantly grumbling about his expensive family, and could not
afford to send his two oldest children to a school just opened in
the neighbourhood, although the master offered to take them both for
five dollars a quarter. His wife, he said, could teach them at home.
And in this she was not neglectful, as far as her time allowed.
How rarely does the drunkard, when once fairly started, stop in his
downward course! How similar is the history of each one! Neglect of
business--neglect of family--confirmed idleness--abuse of
family--waste of property--and finally, abject poverty.
In less than three years from the day on which he breathed the air
again as a free man--free, through the untiring assiduity of his
neglected but faithful wife, he struck her to the ground, and
unregardful of all the ties of nature, left her alone with her
children, in the wilds of the west, after having made over house and
farm to the land lord of the "White Hall," for fifty dollars and his
bill at the bar.
Day after day did his poor wife wait and look for him to return,
until even hope failed, and she at last, with a heavy heart,
commenced the task of recalling her own energies in aid of the
little ones around her.
But she soon found her condition to be far worse than she had
imagined. But a few days passed after her husband had left her
before the hard-hearted tavern-keeper came, and removed everything
but the house in which she lived from off the place, and then gave
her notice that she must also remove, and in three weeks, as he had
rented the farm to a man who wished to take immediate possession.
Hope, the kind and ever attendant angel of the distressed, for more
than a week seemed ready to depart; but at the end of that time, a
faint desire to return to her native city began to grow into a
resolution, and by the time a second week had passed away, she had
fully resolved to set out upon the journey.
But she had only twenty dollars, after disposing of the few things
their rapacious creditor had left them, and with this she had to go
a journey of nearly five hundred miles, with three children, the
oldest about twelve years of age. But when once her mind is made up,
there are few things a resolute mother will not undertake for her
By persevering in her applications, day after day, to the wagoners
on the national road, she at length so far prevailed on one of them
as to let her and her children ride as far as Zanesville, for the
trifle of a dollar or two, in his wagon.
In the true spirit of success, she looked only at the present
difficulty, reserving thought and attention for all succeeding
difficulties, whenever they might come. In this spirit she cut
herself loose from her place in the west, and started for--utterly
unable to say how she should ever reach the desired spot.
For the first day or two, the wagoner held no conversation with her;
he had been unable to resist the promptings of his kind feelings in
favour of one who had asked him for aid, although he had much rather
not have given her a place in his wagon. By degrees, however, his
temper changed, and he occasionally asked a question, or made a
passing remark; and by the time he had reached Zanesville, he had
become so interested in her case, that he refused to take the
stipulated price, and kindly offered to carry her as far as
Wheeling, and to--, if he found it to his interest to go there.
The way thus providentially opened for her, few obstacles remained,
and in the course of a few weeks she found herself again in the home
of her childhood, the dear spot that had lived in her memory, green
and inviting, for years.
But how changed was the poor sufferer! But a very few dollars of her
money was left. The fatigue of travel. ling so long and in so
uncomfortable a manner, had gradually shaken the props of a feeble
body; and by the time she looked again upon the old, familiar
places, her form was drooping with sickness.
Slowly she descended from the wagon, received her children, one by
one, from the hands of the wagoner, thanked him with a tearful look,
and tottered away. But where could she go? She had neither home, nor
money, nor friends--was sick and faint. Years before, she had
tripped lightly along the very street through which she now dragged
her weary limbs. She even passed by the same house, and heard the
light laughter of thoughtless voices, from the same window from
which she had once looked forth in earlier years, a joyful and
light-hearted creature. How familiar did that dear spot seem! but
how agonizing the contrast that forced itself upon her! Little did
the merry maiden who looked out upon the pale mother, with drooping
form and soiled garments, who gazed up so earnestly towards her,
imagine, that but a few years before, that poor creature looked
forth from that same window, a glad-hearted girl.
Scarcely able to act or decide rationally, for her head ached
intensely, and she was burning with fever, Mrs. Warburton wandered
about the streets with her three children, one a boy about twelve
years old, the other a little girl about nine, and the third, a
little one tottering by her side, scarce two years old. All at once,
as she turned her steps into--street, her eye caught sight of the
tall poplars that indicated the home of the homeless. "I have no
home but this," she murmured to herself, and turned her steps
instinctively towards the dark mass of buildings that stood near the
present intersection of--and--streets.
"Where is your permit?" said the keeper, as she falteringly asked
"I have none," was the faint reply.
"We cannot take you, unless you bring a permit from one of the
"I don't know any commissioner."
"Where are you from?"
"I have just come to town from the west, and am too sick to do
anything. I feel faint, and unable to go farther. Can you not admit
me, and let application be made to the commissioners for me?"
The appearance of Mrs. Warburton too plainly indicated her sick
condition, and the keeper thought it best to admit her for the
present. A meeting of the commissioners was held on the same
afternoon, and a formal admission given.
The first indication that Mrs. W. had, that she was no longer at
liberty to choose or think for herself, was the entire separation of
her children from her. True, she was soon too ill to attend to them,
but that would have made no difference. After a dangerous illness of
many weeks, during most of which time she was insensible to
everything around her, she was again able to droop about a little.
Her first questions, after the healthy reaction of body and mind,
were about her children; her first request, to see them. But this
was denied. "They are doing well enough," was all the answer she
"But cannot I see Emma, my little one? Do let me see her!"
"It is contrary to the rules of the institution. You cannot see her
"When can I see her?"
"I don't know,"--and the nurse of the sick woman left her and went
to attend somewhere else, utterly insensible to the keen agony of
the mother's heart. Was she not a pauper? What right had she to
human feelings? But a mother's love is not to be chained down to
rules, or circumscribed by the narrow policy of chartered
expediency. As Mrs. Warburton slowly gained strength, a quicker
perception of her situation grew upon her, and she soon determined
to know all about her children. In vain had she asked to see them;
but each denial only increased the desire, and confirmed her
resolutions to see them and know all about them.
One day, when she could walk about a little, a day on which she knew
the board of commissioners were in session, she watched her
opportunity, and when the nurse was attending in another part of the
room, stole quietly out, and soon made her way to the commissioners'
"Gentlemen, a mother asks your indulgence," was her appeal, as the
keeper checked her entrance.
"Let her enter, Mr.--," said one of them.
"What is your wish, good woman?" continued the first speaker.
"I want to see my children."
Her voice was so low and mournful, and her pale face, which still
retained many traces of former beauty, expressed so strongly her
maternal anxiety, that the hearts of all were touched.
They looked at each other for a few moments, and after some
whispered words, directed that she should be allowed to see her
children for half an hour each day.
The keeper now called their attention to certain of their
proceedings, some weeks past, and they found that places had been
obtained for two of them, the oldest boy, and the little girl,
scarce ten years old.
"We have obtained good places for two of your children, madam; the
other, aged two years, you can have under your own care, while
"And all without allowing me one word, as to who should take them,
or where they should go! My poor little Mary, what can you do as a
"They are well provided for, madam. You can now retire."
Mrs. Warburton did retire, and with a bleeding heart. Her little
Emma was restored to her, and was constantly by her side. She had
been two months in the alms-house, when she was strong enough to
work, and by a rule of he place, she had to work two months, to pay
for her keeping while sick, before she would be allowed to go out,
and maintain herself.
Slowly and heavily passed the hours for two weary months, when she
presented herself for a release from imprisonment.
"Where can I find my children?" she asked of the keeper, as she was
about to leave.
"It is against the rule to give any such information in regard to
pauper children. And in this particular instance, it was the request
of both persons taking your children, that you should not be told
where they were, as they wished to raise them without being troubled
by foreign influence."
The mother attempted no remonstrance, but turned away, and homeless,
and almost penniless, leading her little one by the hand, again
entered the city where her happiest years had been spent.
As she passed down a street, she saw on the door of an old brick
house, the words "A room to let." She made application, and engaged
it, at two dollars a month. A pine table, and an old chair, she
bought at a second-hand furniture store for a dollar; and with the
other dollar she had left, the pittance saved from the twenty
dollars she had when she left Ohio, she bought some bread, dried
meat, milk, &c. She had no bed, and was for some time compelled to
sleep with her child on the hard floor.
The art of making cigars, which she had learned years before, and
which had more than once stood between her and want, was again
brought into use. She applied at a tobacconist's, and obtained work.
Giving all diligence, day and night, she was able to make five or
six dollars every week, with which, in a short time, she gathered a
few comfortable things about her, among which was a bed.
Two months had passed since she left the alms-house, and still she
could gain no tidings of her children. Daily, for an hour or two,
had she made search for them, but in the only way she could devise,
that of wandering about the streets, in hopes of finding them out on
some errand. As the winter drew on, she became more and more anxious
and concerned. If her little girl, who was always a delicate child,
should be in unkind hands, she sickened at heart to think how much
she would suffer. Night after night would she dream of the dear
child; and always saw her in some condition of extreme hardship.
One night she thought she saw little Mary sitting on the curb-stone.
She went up to her, and dreaming that it was very cold, found her
bare-foot, thinly clad, and almost perishing. The child threw her
little arms, naked and icy cold about her neck, and as her
well-known voice sounded in her ears, she awoke.
She slept no more through that night, and soon after breakfast,
started out, being unable, through the uneasiness of her mind, to
work. Without questioning the reason why, she naturally wandered in
the direction indicated in her dream. When near the place, she was
startled by the piercing screams of a child that seemed in great
agony, and there was entreaty and supplication mingled in the tones.
The voice was like the voice of her own child. She knew it was her
own child; a mother's ear is never deceived. Darting towards the
spot, she found a bucket of hot water spilled upon the pavement,
from which the vapour was rising in a cloud, and glancing her eye
down the alley, she saw her little one half-dragged, half-carried,
by the arm, by a tall, masculine woman, who seemed in a violent
rage. Following like the wind, she reached the dwelling of the
virago as she entered and dashed the child upon the floor. Just as
Mrs. Warburton came up, and was lifting it, the woman had obtained a
stout cow-hide, and was turning to lacerate the back of the little
one, as she had often done before, her face red and expressing the
most wicked passions.
At once Mrs. Warburton felt that only in retreat was their safety,
and catching up the child in her arms, she darted out as quickly as
she had entered. Not more swiftly, however, did she go, than
followed the enraged woman to whom this child of nine years old had
been bound to do the work of a woman. Finding herself gained upon by
the person in pursuit, she looked about for a place of retreat, and
seeing "Magistrate's Office" on a sign, she darted into that lower
court of justice. Here she was safe from molestation, until some
decision was made in the case, by those deputed to act. A crowd soon
gathered about, attracted by the strange sight of a woman flying
with a child in her arms, and another in hot pursuit. The
magistrate, who was a humane man, and held his office in a part of
his dwelling, instinctively perceived that the mother and her child
needed kindness and consideration, and had them, after examination,
removed back into his dwelling, and placed under the care of his
wife, while he entered more fully into the merits of the case.
When Mrs. Warburton was sufficiently at ease to examine her child,
she found her a pitiable object indeed. Her face, neck, and body
were dreadfully scalded, and her back was in scars and welts all
over, and in some places with the skin broken and festering. It
appeared, from the statement of the child, that the woman she lived
with had placed on her head a bucket of scalding water for her to
carry to a store, which she was going to scrub out. The heavy weight
on her head caused her to lose her balance and fall, when the whole
contents of the bucket were spilled over her face and neck, and
penetrated through her clothes to the skin, in all directions.
Of course, she was suffering the most excruciating pain. Medical aid
was called in by the magistrate, and every attention extended to the
little sufferer, who seemed to forget her pain in the consciousness
of her mother's presence. The inhuman wretch who had thus brutally
maltreated a mere child, enraged to a state of insanity in finding
herself thwarted in obtaining the child, made an appeal to the city
court, then in session, and had all the parties present. It needed
but this to give Mrs. W. uncontrolled possession of little Mary. The
condition in which the court found the child, added to the touching
story of her mother, caused an instant cancelling of the indenture
by which the unfeeling woman claimed possession of her.
In a few days after, Mrs. Warburton found her boy, who, much to her
satisfaction, had a good place, with which he was pleased, and was
learning a good trade. She was now fairly started again, and as her
spirits revived, her health became much improved. Month after month
passed away, and brought with it new sources of comfort, new causes
for satisfaction. Of her husband, she now thought with no affection.
It is true, earlier feelings would sometimes return, but with no
force, and after moving the waters of her quiet spirit for a moment,
would tremble into rest.
When a man once extinguishes his own self-respect, he is a burden to
society. But when a husband and father descends so low, he becomes a
curse to his family. After abusing them, and making their condition
so wretched that even he cannot share it, he will forsake the wife
of his bosom and the children of his early love, and leave them to
the tender mercies of strangers. But let the mother gather her
little ones around her, and by toiling early and late, make their
condition comfortable, and the brutalized wretch will return and
consume the food of his children, and abuse them if they complain.
A year had passed away, when early one evening in the fall of the
year, a man pushed open the door of the room she occupied, and with
a "well Julia," took a chair, and made himself at home without
further ceremony. Though dirty and ragged, with a beard of a week's
growth, and half drunk, Mrs. Warburton could not mistake the form of
her wretched husband.
"O, husband! can this be you?"
"Yes, Julia, this is me. I've come back at last. I've tried hard to
make something for you and the children, but it is no use, fate is
against me; so here I am again, poor as ever. But give me something
to eat, for I'm hungry as a badger."
Six years had passed away since Warburton had returned, and the
wretchedness which had been with him in his absence, he brought as
an abiding guest to the dwelling of his wife. During that time, she
had endured sickness, hunger, abuse, and been nigh unto death; but
through it all she had come with a heart still unsubdued, though
almost broken. For her children's sakes, two more of whom had been
added in that time, she had stood up and breasted the storm.
At last, her miserable husband, sunk in the lowest depths of
drunkenness and degradation, died, as he had lived. It was the dawn
of a brighter day for Mrs. Warburton when the spirit of her husband
took its flight to the world of spirits. Her son was nearly free
from his trade, and her oldest girl could assist her greatly in the
house, as well as by earning something for their support.
Content and health having taken up their abode with her, we will
leave her to fill up her allotted space in life unobtrusively and
peacefully. The story of Mrs. Warburton has been introduced as
another illustration of the ill effects which so often arise from
the want of watchfulness on the part of parents, in regard to the
characters of the young men who are allowed to visit and play upon
the affections of their daughters. It also shows how unconquerable
is a mother's love. Here a weak, foolish girl, by strong trial,
becomes a woman with a strength of mind that nothing can subdue,
and, as a mother, overcomes difficulties from which most men would
shrink in despair.