eight, unless a friend steps in, to sleep away the tedious hours. Of the habits of his clerks, when out of his store, he knows as little as the man in the moon.”
“But some one ought to give him a hint.”
“It would be a charity.”
“Why do n’t you do it?”
“Me! Oh, it’s none of my business. Let Millard look after his own affairs. I ‘m not going to get myself into trouble by meddling with things that do n’t concern me. It is his place to see into the habits of his clerks. If he neglects to do so, he deserves to be cheated by them.”
“I do n’t know. It seems to me that it would be no more than right to give him a hint, and put him on his guard.”
“It would be a good turn, no doubt. But I’m not going to do it. It’s no affair of mine.”
“I do n’t think he is fit company for Harriet Meadows,” said Mrs. Larkin, after a pause.
“Nor I,” returned her husband. “I should be very sorry to see our Jane riding with him, or indeed, associating with him in any way. Surely Harriet’s father and mother cannot know that their daughter rides out with him almost every Sunday afternoon.”
“Of course not. They are religious people and would think it a sin for her to do so. I am surprised that Harriet should act in such direct violation of what she knows to be their real sentiments.”
“Some one ought to give them a hint upon the subject.”
“I think so. If it were my child I would take it as a great favor indeed.”
“Yes, so would I. Suppose, Ellen, you drop a word in Mrs. Meadows’ ear.”
“Me!” with a look and tone of surprise. “Oh no, I never interfere in other people’s business. Every one ought to look after his or her own concerns. I hate your meddlesome folks. I ‘ll take good care that my own child do n’t form such associations. Let every body else do the same. The fact is, parents are too careless about where their children go, and what kind of company they keep.”
“That’s very true. Still I think no harm could come of your just giving Mrs. Meadows a hint.”
“Oh, no indeed! It’s none of my business.”
“Well, just as you like,” returned Mr. Larkin, indifferently. “Let every one see that his own stable door is locked before the horse is stolen.”
Mr. Millard, who was in the same line of business with Larkin, was just the plodding, unobserving, unsuspicious person that the latter had described him. Sanford was an intelligent clerk and an active salesman. These were valuable qualities, for which he was appreciated by his employer. As to what he did or where he went after business hours, Millard never thought. He, doubtless, on the supposition of the merchant, went into good company, and acted with the same prudence that had governed himself under similar circumstances. But in this he was mistaken. The young man’s habits were bad, and his associates often of a vicious character. Bad habits and bad associates always involve the spending of money freely. This consequence naturally occurred in the case of Sanford. To supply his wants his salary proved insufficient. These wants were like the horse-leech, and cried continually–” give, give.” They could not be put off. The first recourse was that of borrowing, in anticipation of his quarterly receipt of salary, after his last payment was exhausted. It was not long before, under this system, his entire quarterly receipt had to be paid away to balance his borrowed money account, thus leaving him nothing to meet his increasing wants for the next three months. By borrowing again from some friends immediately, and curtailing his expenses down to the range of his income, he was able to get along for two or three quarters. But, of course, he was always behind hand just the amount of three months’ salary. At length, as new wants pressed upon him, he was tempted to exceed in his borrowed money account the sum received as his quarterly dues. This made it impossible for him to pay off, when he received his instalments of salary, the whole amount of borrowed money, and caused him to cast about for some new resource. In balancing the cash account one day,–he had charge of this,–he found that there was an error of one hundred dollars in favor of cash–that is, there were on hand one hundred dollars more than was called for by the account. He went over the account again and again, but could not discover the error. For more than an hour he examined the various entries and additions, but with no better success. At last, however, a little to his disappointment, for he had already began to think of quietly appropriating the surplus, he found the error to consist in the carriage of tens–four instead of five having been carried to the third or column of hundreds on one of the pages of the cash book, thus making the amount called for in the book one hundred dollars less than the real sum on hand.
For some time after this discovery, Sanford sat at his desk in a state of abstraction and irresolution. He was vexed that the error had been found out, for he had already nearly made up his mind to keep the overplus and say nothing about it. He did not attempt to change the erroneous figure.–Why should it not remain so?–he at length asked himself. If it had cost him so much time and labor to find it out, it was not probable that any one else would detect it. Indeed, no one but himself and Mr. Millard had any thing to do with the general cash account of the establishment, and he knew very well that the latter did not examine it with a very close scrutiny. Finally, pressing demands for money determined him to put the surplus into his pocket, at least for the present. He did so, and in that act let into his mind a flood of evil counsellors, whose arguments, enforced by his own cupidities, could at any time afterwards have sufficient control to guide him almost at will. With this sum of one hundred dollars, he paid off a portion of what he owed, and retained the rest to meet the demands that would be made upon him before the arrival of the next quarter day. It was a rule with Millard to pay off his clerks only in quarterly instalments. No other payments were allowed them.
It was not long before a deliberate false entry was made, by which another hundred dollars passed into Sanford’s pockets. With this increase of income came a freer expenditure. Hitherto he had been in the habit of riding out on Sundays on hired horses; but now he was inspired with a wish to own a horse himself. A beautiful animal just at this time came under his eye. It was offered at one hundred and fifty dollars. The owner, knowing Sanford’s fondness for a gay, fast-going horse, urged him to buy.
The temptation was very strong. He looked at the animal again and again, rode him out, talked about him, until, finally, the desire to own him became almost irresistible. He had not twenty dollars, however, and it would be two months before his salary came due, which at any rate was all wanted for current expenses. The cash book was looked at for a week or ten days before he could make up his mind to pen another false entry. At last, however, he picked up the courage to do so. The horse was purchased, and for a few days the thought of possessing so noble an animal was very pleasant.
On the third day after this act of dishonesty, Mr. Millard, who had been looking over the cash book, discovered the erroneous figures.
“Look here, Sanford,” said he, “you have made a mistake here. This figure should be nine instead of eight, and this five instead of four.”
The young man’s heart gave a quick throb, but he controlled himself by a strong effort.
“Where?” he asked, quickly, coming at once to Mr. Millard, and looking over the cash-book.
“Here–just add up these two columns.”
Sanford added them up, and then said–
“Yes, that’s a fact. I’m glad you have found it out. The cash has been over about two hundred dollars for several days, and I have tried in vain to find where the error lay. Strange, after adding up these columns for some twenty times or more, I should have still been wrong in these figures. Let me strike a balance for you now, so that you can count the cash, and see that there is just this amount over.”
This dispelled all suspicions from the mind of Millard, if any had found a place there.
“No,” he replied, “I hav n’t time now. I have no doubt of it being right. Make the corrections required.”
And as he thus remarked, he turned away from the desk.
Sanford trembled from head to foot the moment his employer left him. He tried to make the corrections, but his hand shook so that he could not hold the pen. In a little while he mastered this agitation so far as to be externally composed. He then changed the erroneous figures. But this did not make the matter straight. The cash account now called for two hundred dollars more than the funds on hand would show. If the money should be counted before he could make other false entries, he would be discovered and disgraced. And now that errors had been discovered, it was but natural to suppose that Mr. Millard would glance less casually at the account than he had been in the habit of doing. At last, he determined to erase a few pages back certain figures, and insert others in their places, and carry down from thence the error by a regular series of erasures and new entries. This he did so skilfully, that none but the eye of suspicion could have detected it. It was some weeks before he again ventured to repeat these acts. When he did so, he permitted the surplus cash to remain in the drawer for eight or ten days, so that if a discovery happened to be made, the balance on hand would show that it was an error. But Mr. Millard thought no more about the matter, and the dishonest clerk was permitted to prosecute his base conduct undetected. In this way month after month passed, until the defalcation rose to over a thousand dollars. Nightly Sanford attended places of public amusement, usually accompanied by a young lady, the daughter of some respectable citizen, who knew as little of the habits and character of the young man as did his employer himself. Among those with whom he had become intimate was Harriet Meadows, the daughter of a merchant possessing a high sense of honor and considerable wealth. Mr. Meadows, so soon as the young man began to visit at his house, gave him to understand by his manner that he was not welcome. This was so plainly done that there was no room for mistake in the matter. Piqued at this, Sanford determined that he would keep the daughter’s company in spite of her crusty old father. Harriet was gay and thoughtless, and had been flattered by the attentions of Sanford. She met him a few times after his repulse, at balls, and hesitated not to dance with him. These meetings afforded full opportunity for the young man to push himself still farther into her good opinion, and to prevail upon her at length to meet him clandestinely, which she frequently did on Sunday afternoons, when, as has already been seen, she would ride out in his company. This kind of intimacy soon led to a declaration of love on the part of Sanford, which was fully responded to by the foolish girl. The former had much, he thought, to hope for in in a union with Miss Meadows. Her father was well off, and in a very excellent business. His fortune would be made if he could rise to the position of his son-in-law. He did not hope to do this by a fair and open offer for Harriet’s hand. The character of Meadows, which was decided, precluded all hope of gaining his consent after he had once frowned upon his approaches. The only road to success was a secret marriage, and to that he was gradually inclining the mind of the daughter at the time our story opened.
It is not always that a villain remains such alone. He generally, by a kind of intuition, perceives who are like him in interiors, and he associates with these on the principle that birds of a feather flock together. He was particularly intimate with one of Larkin’s clerks, a young man named Hatfield, who had no higher views of life than himself, and who was governed by no sounder principles. Hatfield found it necessary to be more guarded than Sanford, from the fact that his employer was gifted with much closer observation than was Millard. He, too, rode a fast trotting horse on Sunday, but he knew pretty well the round taken by Larkin on that day, and the hours when he attended church, and was very careful never to meet him. At some place of public resort, a few miles from the city, he would join Sanford, and together they would spend the afternoon.
On Jane Larkin, his employer’s only daughter, Hatfield had for some time looked with a favourable eye. But he felt very certain that neither her father nor mother would favor his addresses. Occasionally, with her parents’ knowledge, he would attend her to places of public amusement. But both himself and the young lady saw that even this was not a thing that fully met their approbation. Hatfield would, on such occasions, ingeniously allude to this fact, and thus gather from Jane how she regarded their coldness. It was not agreeable to her, he quickly perceived. This encouraged him to push matters further.
Soon the two understood each other fully, and soon after the tacit opposition of the parents to their intimacy was a matter of conversation between them, whenever they could get an opportunity of talking together without awakening suspicion.
Harriet Meadows and Jane Larkin were particular friends, and soon became confidants. They were both quite young, and, we need not say, weak and thoughtless. Sanford and Hatfield, as the reader has seen, were also intimate. In a short time after the latter had made up their minds to secure the hands of these two young ladies, if possible, there was a mutual confession of the fact. This was followed by the putting of their heads together for the contrivance of such plans as would best lead to the effectuation of the end each had proposed to himself. It is a curious fact, that on the very Sunday afternoon on which we have seen Mr. and Mrs. Larkin conversing about the danger and impropriety of Harriet Meadows keeping company with a man like Sanford, their own daughter was actually riding out with Hatfield. In this ride they passed the residence of Mr. Meadows, who, in turn, commented upon the fact with some severity of censure towards Mr. Larkin and his wife for not looking more carefully after their only child.
“They certainly cannot know it,” finally remarked Mr. Meadows.
“No, I should think not. It would be a real charity for some one just to mention it to them.”
“It certainly would.”
“Suppose you speak to Mr. Larkin about it,” said Mrs. Meadows.
“Me? Oh no!” was the reply. “It is none of my business. I never meddle with family affairs. It is their duty to look after their daughter. If they don’t, and she rides about with Tom, Dick and Harry on Sundays, they have no one to blame but themselves for the consequences.”
Thus their responsibility in the affair was dismissed. It was no business of theirs.
In the mean time the two clerks were laying their plans for carrying off the young ladies, and marrying them secretly.
“Have you sounded Jane on this subject?” asked Sanford of his friend one evening, when the matter had come up for serious discussion.
“How does she stand?”
“I think there is no doubt of her. But how is Harriet?”
“All right. That point we settled last night. She is ready to go at any time that Jane is willing to take a similar step. She would rather not go all alone.”
“If she will only second me in urging the absolute necessity of the thing upon Jane, there can be no doubt of the result. And she will do that of course.”
“Oh yes–all her influence can be calculated upon. But how do you think Larkin will stand affected after all is over?”
“It’s hard to tell. At first he will be as mad as a March hare. But Jane is his only child, and he loves her too well to cast her off. All will settle down quietly after a few weeks’ ebullition and I shall be as cosily fixed in the family as I could wish. After that, my fortune is made. Larkin is worth, to my certain knowledge, fifty or sixty thousand dollars, every cent of which will in the end come into my hands. And, besides, Larkin’s son-in-law will have to be set up in business. Give me a fair chance, and I’ll turn a bright penny for myself.”
“How are you off for funds at this present time?”
“Low, very low. The old fellow don’t pay me half a salary. I’m in debt three or four hundred dollars, and dunned almost to death whenever I am in the way of duns. All the people I owe know better than to send their bills to the store, for if they were to do so, and by thus exposing me cause me to lose my situation, they are well aware that they might have to whistle for their money.”
“Can’t you make a raise some how? We must both have money to carry out this matter. In the first place, we must go off a hundred or two miles and spend a week. After we return we may have to board for weeks at pretty high charges before a reconciliation can be brought about. During this time you will be out of a situation, for old Larkin won’t take you back into the store until the matter is made up. You ought at least to have a couple of hundred dollars.”
“And I have n’t twenty.”
“Bad, very bad. But don’t you think you could borrow a couple of hundred from Larkin, and pay him back after you become his son-in-law?”
“Borrow from Larkin! Goodness! He’d clear me out in less than no time, if I were to ask him to loan me even fifty dollars.”
“No, but you don’t understand me,” remarked Sanford after a thoughtful pause. “Can ‘t you borrow it without his knowledge, I mean? No harm meant of course. You intend borrowing his daughter, you know, for a little while, until he consents to give her to you.”
Hatfield looked into the face of his tempter with a bewildered air for some moments. He did not yet fully comprehend his drift.
“How am I to borrow without his knowing it? Figure me that out if you please,” he said.
“Who keeps the cash?”
“Ah! so far so good. You keep the cash. Very well. Now is n’t it within the bounds of possibility for you to possess yourself of a couple of hundred dollars in such a way that the deficit need not appear? If you can, it will be the easiest thing in the world, after you come back, and get the handling of a little more money in your right than has heretofore been the case, to return the little loan.”
“But suppose it possible for me thus to get possession of two hundred dollars, and suppose I do not get back safely after our adventure, and do not have the handling of more money in my own right–what then?”
“You’ll only be supporting his daughter out of his own money–that is all.”
“Humph! Quite a casuist.”
“But is n’t there reason in it?”
“I do n’t know. I am not exactly in a state to see reasons clearly just now.”
“You can see the necessity of having a couple of hundred dollars, I suppose?”
“Oh yes–as clear as mud.”
“You must have that sum at least, or to proceed will be the height of folly.”
“I can see that too.”
“It is owing to Larkin’s mean pride that you are driven to this extremity. He ought to pay for it.”
“But how am I to get hold of two hundred dollars? That’s the question.”
“Is there ordinarily much cash on hand?”
“Yes. We deposit some days as high as ten thousand dollars; particularly at this season, when a good many merchants are in.”
“The chance is fair enough. Two hundred won’t be missed.”
“No, not until the cash is settled, and then it will come to light.”
“That does n’t follow.”
“I think it does.”
“You may prevent it.”
“Miss a couple of tens in your additions on the debit side of the cash book. Do you understand?”
“You are dull. Change a figure in footing up your cash book, so that it will balance, notwithstanding a deficit of two hundred dollars. After you come back, this can be set right again. No one will think of adding up the back columns to see if there is any fraud.”
“After Sanford ceased speaking, his friend cast his eyes to the floor, and reflected for some time. There was in his mind a powerful struggle between right and wrong. When the plan was first presented, he felt an inward shrinking from it. It involved an act of fraud, that, if found out, would blast his character. But the longer he reflected, and the more fully he looked in the face of the fact that without money he could not proceed to the consummation of his wishes, the more favorable the plan seemed.
“But,” he said, lifting his eyes and drawing a long breath, “if it should be found out?”
“Larkin will not expose his son-in-law for his daughter’s sake.”
“True–there is something there to hope for. Well, I will think of it. I must have two hundred dollars from some source.”
And he did think of it to evil purpose. He found no very great difficulty in getting Jane to consent to run away with him, especially as her particular friend, Harriet Meadows, was to accompany her on a like mad-cap expedition with Sanford.
Nothing occurred to prevent the acts proposed. By false entries, Hatfield was enabled to abstract two hundred dollars in a way that promised a perfect concealment of the fraud, although in doing it he felt much reluctance and many compunctions of conscience.
About ten days after the conversation between the young men, just given, Jane Larkin obtained her mother’s consent to spend a few days with a cousin who resided some miles from the city on a road along which one of the omnibus lines passed. Harriet Meadows did not use this precaution to elude suspicion. She left her father’s house at the time agreed upon, and joined young Sanford at an appointed place, where a carriage was waiting, into which Hatfield and Jane had already entered. The two couples then proceeded to the house of an alderman, who united them in marriage bonds. From thence they drove to a railroad depot, took passage for a neighboring city, and were soon gliding away, a suspicion unawakened in the minds of the young ladies’ friends.
The absence of Harriet on the night following alarmed the fears and awakened the suspicions of her father and mother. Early on the next day, Mr. Meadows learned that his daughter had been seen entering the—-cars in company with young Sanford. Calling upon Millard, he ascertained that Sanford had not been to the store on the previous day, and was still absent. To merge suspicion and doubt into certainty, the alderman who had married the couples was met accidentally. He testified to the fact of his having united them. Sick at heart, Mr. Meadows returned home to communicate the sad intelligence to the mother of Harriet. When he again went out, he was met by the startling rumor that a defalcation had been discovered on the part of young Sanford to a large amount. Hurrying to the store of Mr. Millard, he was shocked to find that the rumor was but, alas! too true. Already false entries in the cash book had been discovered to the amount of at least five thousand dollars. An officer, he also learned, had been despatched to—-, for the purpose of arresting the dishonest clerk and bringing him back to justice.
“Quite an affair this,” remarked Larkin to an acquaintance whom he met some time during the day, in a half-serious, half-indifferent tone.
“About Meadows’ daughter and Sanford? Yes, and rather a melancholy affair. The worst part of it is, that the foolish young man has been embezzling the money of his employer.”
“Yes, that is very bad. But Millard might have known that Sanford could not dash about and spend money as he did upon his salary alone.”
“I do n’t suppose he knew any thing about his habits. He is an unsuspicious man, and keeps himself quietly at home when not in his store.”
“Well, I did then. I saw exactly how he was going on, and could have told him; but it wasn’t any of my business.”
“I do n’t care so much for Millard or his clerk as I do for the foolish girl and her parents. Her happiness is gone and theirs with it.”
“Ah, yes–that is the worst part. But they might have known that something of the kind would take place. They were together a good deal, and were frequently to be seen riding out on Sunday afternoons.”
“This was not with the knowledge of her parents, I am sure.”
“I do n’t suppose it was. Still they should have looked more carefully after their child. I knew it and could have told them how things were going–but it was n’t any of my business. I always keep myself clear from these matters.”
Just at this moment a third person came up. He looked serious.
“Mr. Larkin,” he said, “I have just heard that your daughter and Hatfield, your clerk, were married at the same time that Sanford was, and went off with that young man and his bride. Alderman—-, it is said, united them.”
Larkin turned instantly pale. Hatfield had been away since the morning of the day before, and his daughter was not at home, having asked the privilege of going to see a cousin who resided a few miles from the city. A call upon Alderman—-confirmed the afflicting intelligence. The father returned home to communicate the news to his wife, on whom it fell with such a shock that she became quite ill.
“He might have known that something of this kind would have happened,” remarked the person who had communicated the intelligence, as soon as Larkin had left. “No man who does n’t wish his daughters to marry his clerks, ought to let them go to balls and concerts together, and ride out when they please on Sunday afternoons.”
“Did Larkin permit this with Jane and Hatfield?”
“They were often thus together whether he permitted it or not.”
“He could n’t have known it.”
“Perhaps not. I could have given him a hint on the subject, if I had chosen–but it was none of my business.”
On the next day all the parties came home–Sanford compulsorily, in the hands of an officer; Hatfield voluntarily, and in terrible alarm. The two brides were of course included. Sanford soon after left the city, and has not since been heard of. His crime was “breach of trust!” As for Hatfield, he was received on the principle that, in such matters, the least said the soonest mended. In the course of a few months he was able to restore the two hundred dollars he had abstracted. After this was done he felt easier in mind. He did not, however, make the foolish creature he had married happy. Externally, or to the world, they seem united, but internally they are not conjoined. Too plainly is this apparent to the father and mother, who have many a heart-ache for their dearly loved child.
THE MOTHER’S PROMISE.
A LADY, handsomely dressed, was about leaving her house to make a few calls, when a little boy ran out from the nursery, and clasping one of her gloved hands in both of his, looked up into her face with a glance of winning entreaty, saying, as he did so:
“Mamma! dear mamma! Won’t you buy me a picture-book, just like cousin Edie’s?”
“Yes, love,” was the unhesitating reply; and the lady stooped to kiss the sweet lips of her child.
“Eddy must be a good boy, and mind nurse while mamma is away,” she added.
“I’ll be so good,” replied Eddy, with all the earnestness of a childish purpose. “You may ask nurse when you come home, if I have not been the goodest little boy that ever was.”
Mrs. Herbert kissed her darling boy again, and then went forth to make her morning round of calls. Eddy returned to the nursery, strong in his purpose, to be a good boy, as he had promised.
“Such a dear little picture-book as mamma is going to bring me home,” he said to nurse, as he leaned his arms against her, and looked up into her face. “Oh! won’t I be so glad. It’s to be just like cousin Edie’s. Mamma said so; and cousin Edie’s book is so beautiful. I ‘ve wanted one ever since I was there. Is’nt mamma good?”
“Yes, Eddy,” replied the nurse, “your mamma is very good; and you should love her so much, and do everything she tells you to do.”
“I do love her,” said the child. “Oh, I love her more than all the world; and I’m going to mind every thing she says.”
Then the child went to his play, and was happy with his toys. But his thoughts were on the picture-book, and pleasantly his young imagination lingered amid its attractive pages.
“Is’nt it ‘most time for mother to be home?” he asked, at the end of half an hour, coming to the side of his nurse, and gazing up into her face.
“Why no, child,” replied the nurse, “not for a long while yet.”
Eddy looked disappointed. But that instant the door bell rung.
“There’s mamma!” exclaimed the child, clapping his hands; and before nurse could restrain him, he had bounded from the room, and his little feet were heard pattering down the stairs. Slowly he came back, after a little while, and with a look of disappointment on his sweet young face, entered the nursery, saying, as he did so:
“It was only a man with brooms to sell.”
“Your mamma won’t be home for a long time yet, Eddy,” said his nurse, “so it is of no use for you to expect her. Go and build block houses again.”
“I’m tired of block houses,” replied the little boy, “and now that mamma has promised me a picture-book like cousin Edie’s I can’t think of anything else.”
“Oh, well,” said nurse, a little impatiently, “she’ll be home in good time. Try and not think of the book. It won’t do any good–it won’t bring her home a minute sooner.”
“I can’t help thinking of it,” persisted the child, in whom the imaginative faculty was unusually, strong for one of his age.
In a little while, however, something occurred to interest him, and a full hour elapsed before he again recurred to his mother and the expected picture book. As best she could, his nurse diverted his mind, and kept him, in a measure, occupied with what was around him. At length it was full time for Mrs. Herbert to return. Eddy had ceased to find interest in anything appertaining to the nursery. He went down into the parlor, and seating himself at the window, watched, with childish eagerness, for the form of his mother.
Strange as it may seem to the reader, Mrs. Herbert had scarcely passed into the street, ere her promise was forgotten. Not that she was indifferent to the happiness of her child–not that she was a heartless mother. Far very far from this. Purely and truly did she love this sweet boy. But, so much were her thoughts interested in other things, that she did not, at the time, comprehend the earnestness of his childish wishes; nor think of her promise as a sacred thing. The request for a picture book seemed to her but the expression of a sudden thought, that passed from his mind as soon as uttered. And yet, she had not promised without intending to meet the wishes of her child, for she was an indulgent mother, and rarely said “No,” to any request that might reasonably be gratified. She had noticed Cousin Edie’s pretty book, and thought that she would, some time or other, get one like it for Eddy. The child’s request but seconded this thought. There was will, therefore, in her promise. She meant to do as she had said.
But things of more interest to Mrs. Herbert, than the simple wish of a child, so fully occupied her mind from the time she left her own door, that she never again thought of the book, until she saw Eddy’s dear face at the window. It was serious, and slightly impatient, as if he were wearied with watching and waiting; but the moment his eyes rested upon her form, his whole countenance brightened, as though lit up by a sunbeam. Almost as soon as Mrs. Herbert’s hand touched the bell, the street door was thrown open, and the glad child stood, like a rebuking spirit, before her.
“Where’s my book, mamma? Give me my book, mamma! Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come!”
Now, the first conviction of wrong, often has an irritating effect upon the mind, obscuring its perceptions, and leading, sometimes, to the impulsive commission of greater wrongs. It was so in the present case. The happy countenance of her child did not bring joy to the mother’s heart; for she knew that with a word, she must dash to the ground all his buoyant anticipations. And she remembered, too, at the moment, how poorly he could bear disappointment.
“Eddy, dear,” said Mrs. Herbert, taking her little boy by the hand, and advancing toward the parlor door with him, “Eddy, dear, let me tell you something.”
Her grave tone and look caused a shiver to pass inward toward the heart of the child. He understood, but too well, that the mother, whose word he had trusted so implicitly, had been faithless to her promise.
Poor child! even this advancing shadow of a coming disappointment, darkened his young face and filled his eyes with tears.
Mrs. Herbert sat down on the nearest chair, as she entered the parlor, and drew Eddy to her side. She saw, from his sad face, that words were not required to make him aware that the promised book was not in her possession; and she knew, from former experience, that trouble was before her. Unhappily, she did not feel softened, but rather irritated, toward the child.
“Eddy,” she said firmly, yet with as much tenderness as she could assume, “Eddy, you know you promised me to be such a good boy.”
“And I have been good,” eagerly answered the little fellow, lifting his swimming eyes to her face, “you may ask nurse if I havn’t been good all the time.”
“I’m sure you have,” said Mrs. Herbert, touched by the manner of her child; “and yet, Eddy, I have not brought your book.”
The tears, which had been ready to start, now gushed over his face, and a low cry pained the mother’s ears.
“Eddy,” said she, seriously, “let me tell you about it. You must listen to reason.”
Reason! poor, disappointed little one! He had no ear for the comprehension of reasons.
“Now, Eddy! I can’t have this!” Mrs. Herbert spoke firmly, for already the child was weeping bitterly. “Crying will do no good. I promised you the book, and you shall have it. I had no opportunity to get it this morning. Come now! you must stop at once, or I—-“
Mrs. Herbert did not utter the threat which came to her lips; for her mind shrunk from the thought of punishing her child, especially as his fault was a consequence of her own actions. But, as he continued to cry on, and in a louder voice, she not only began to feel excessively annoyed, but deemed it her duty to compel a cessation of what could do no possible good, but rather harm.
“Eddy, you must stop this crying!” Firmness had changed to sternness.
The words might as well not have been spoken.
“Then you are not going to stop!” The tones were angry now; and, as Mrs. Herbert uttered them, she caught the arm of her child with a tight grip.
At this moment, the sound of the latch-key was heard in the street door. It was dinner time, and Mr. Herbert entered.
“Bless us! what’s the trouble here?” the father of Eddy exclaimed, good-naturedly, as he presented himself in the parlor.
“The trouble is,” said Mrs. Herbert, in a fretful voice, “that I promised to buy him a book, and forgot all about it.”
“Oho! Is that all?” Mr. Herbert spoke cheerfully. “This trouble can soon be healed. Come, dear, and let us see what I can do for you.”
And Mr. Herbert drew forth a small, square packet, and began untying the string, with which it was bound. Eddy ceased crying in an instant, while a rainbow light shone through his tears. Soon a book came to view. It was _the_ book. Singularly enough, Mr. Herbert had, that morning, observed it in a store, and thinking it would please his child, had bought it for him.
“Will that do?” he said, handing the book to Eddy.
What a gush of gladness came to the child’s face. A moment or two he stood, like one bewildered, and then throwing his arms around his father’s neck and hugging him tightly, he said, in the fullness of his heart,
“Oh! you are a dear good papa! I do love you so much!”
Ere the arms of Eddy were unclasped from his father’s neck, Mrs. Herbert had left the room. When, on the ringing of the dinner bell, she joined her husband and child at the table, her countenance wore a sober aspect, and there were signs of tears about her eyes. What her thoughts had been, every true mother can better imagine than we describe. That they were salutary, may be inferred from the fact that no promise, not even the lightest, was ever afterwards made to her child, which was not righteously kept to the very letter.
THE TWO HUSBANDS.
“Jane, how _can_ you tolerate that dull, spiritless creature? I never sat by his side for five minutes, without getting sleepy.”
“He does not seem so very dull to me, Cara,” replied her companion.
“It is a true saying, that there never was a Jack without a Jill; but I could not have believed that my friend Jane Emory would have been willing to be the Jill to such a Jack.”
A slight change was perceptible in the countenance of Jane Emory, and for a moment the color deepened on her cheek. But when she spoke in reply to her friend’s remark, no indication that she felt its cutting import, was perceptible.
“I am convinced, from close observation of Walter Gray,” said Jane, “that he has in his character that which should ever protect him from jest or ridicule.”
“And what is that, my lady Jane?”
“Right thoughts and sound principles.”
These should not only be respected, but honored wherever found,” said Jane, gravely.
“In a bear or a boor!” Cara responded, in a tone of irony.
“My friend Cara is ungenerous in her allusions. Surely, she will not assert that Walter Gray is a bear or a boor?”
“He is boorish enough, at any rate.”
“There I differ with you, Cara. His manner is not so showy, nor his attentions to the many little forms and observances of social life, so prompt as to please the fastidious in these matters. These defects, however, are not defects of character, but of education. He has not mingled enough in society to give him confidence.”
“They are defects, and are serious enough to make him quite offensive to me. Last evening, at Mrs. Clinton’s party, I sat beside him for half an hour, and was really disgusted with his marked disregard of the little courtesies of social life.”
“Indeed!” replied Jane, her manner becoming more serious, “and in what did these omissions consist?”
“Why, in the first place, while we were conversing,—-“
“He could converse, then?” said Jane, interrupting her friend.
“O, no, I beg pardon! While we were _trying_ to converse–for among his other defects is an inability to talk to a lady on any subject of interest–I dropped my handkerchief, on purpose, of course, but he never offered to lift it for me; indeed, I doubt whether he saw it at all.”
“Then, Cara, how could you expect him to pick it up for you, if he did not see it?”
“But he ought to have seen it. He should have had his eyes about him; and so should every gentleman who sits by or is near a lady. I know one that never fails.”
“And pray, who is the perfect gentleman?” asked Jane smiling. “Is he one of my acquaintances?”
“Certainly he is. I mean Charles Wilton.”
“He is, I must confess, different from Walter Gray,” Jane remarked, drily.
“I hope he is!” said Cara, tossing her head, for she felt that something by no means complimentary was implied in the equivocal remark of her friend.
“But, seriously, Cara, I must, in turn, express regret that you allow yourself to feel interested in one like Charles Wilton. Trust me, my friend, he is unworthy of your regard.”
“And pray, Miss,” said Cara, warming suddenly, “what do you know of Charles Wilton, that will warrant your throwing out such insinuations against him?”
“Little beyond what I have learned by my own observation.”
“And what has that taught you? I should like very much to know.”
“It has taught me, Cara,” replied Jane, seriously, “to estimate him very lightly indeed. From what I have seen, I am convinced that he possesses neither fixed principles nor any decision of character. In the world, without these a man is like a ship upon the ocean, having neither helm nor compass.”
“You make broad and bold charges, Jane. But I am sure you are mistaken.”
“I may be. But so certain am I that I am right, that I would rather die this hour than be compelled to link my lot in life with his. Certain I am that I should make shipwreck of hope and affection.”
“You deal in riddles, Jane. Speak out more plainly.”
“Surely, Cara, long before this you have or ought to have discovered, that Charles Wilton exhibits far too much love of appearance for a sensible man. He dresses in the very best style and may be able to afford it; but that is not all;–he evidently esteems these external embellishments of superior importance to mental or moral endowments. He rarely fails to remark upon men not so well dressed as himself, and to refer to the defect as one sufficient to make the individual contemptible, no matter what may be the circumstances or merit of the person referred to. I have more than once noticed that Charles Wilton passes over every thing in his disgust for defect in dress.”
“I do not see a matter of serious importance in that,” said Cara. “His love of dress is a mere foible, that may be excused. It certainly has nothing to do with his real character.”
“It is an indication of the man’s true character,” her friend replied. “I am sure that I want no plainer exhibition. If he was simply fond of dress, and indulged in that fondness even to the extent he now does it might indicate a mere weakness of character, in the form of an undue love of admiration. But when, to this, we see a disposition to value others, and to judge of them by their garments, then we may be sure that there is a serious defect of character. The man, Cara, believe me, who has no higher standard of estimation for other men, than the form, manner, and texture of their garments, has not the capacity rightly to value a woman or to know wherein her true merit lies. This is _one_ of the reasons why I said that I would rather die than link my lot in life with that young man.”
“Well, as for me, Jane, I am sure that I would rather have a man with some spirit in him, than to be tied to such a drone as Walter Gray. Why, I should die in a week. I can’t for my life, see how you can enjoy his society for a moment!”
“I should think any woman ought to be able to enjoy the company of a man of sense,” Jane remarked, quietly.
“Surely, Jane, you don’t pretend by that to set up Walter Gray as the superior of Charles Wilton in regard to intelligence?”
“Certainly I do, Cara.”
“Why, Jane! There is no comparison, in this respect, between them. Every one knows that while Walter is dull, even to stupidity, Charles has a brilliant, well-informed mind. It is only necessary to hear each converse for an hour, to decide upon their respective merits.”
“In that last sentence you have uttered the truth, Cara, but the result would depend much upon the character of the listeners. For a time, no doubt, if Charles made an effort to show off, he would eclipse the less brilliant and unobtrusive Walter. But a close and discriminating observer would soon learn to judge between sound and sense, between borrowed thoughts and truthful sentiments originating in a philosophical and ever active mind. The shallow stream runs sparkling and flashing in the sunlight, while the deeper waters lie dark and unattractive.”
Cara shook her head as her friend ceased speaking, and replied, laughingly–
“You can beat me at talking, Jane–but all your philosophy and poetry can’t make me think Charles Wilton less brilliant and sensible, or Walter Gray less dull and spiritless.”
The two young men whose merits Jane Emory and Cara Linton had thus been discussing, had been law students for some years in the same office, and were now just admitted to practice at the bar in one of our Atlantic cities. They were friends, though altogether unlike each other. Walter Gray was modest and retiring, while Charles Wilton was a dashing, off-hand kind of a fellow, with more pretensions than merit. The mind of Walter was rather sluggish, while that of his friend was quick, and what some were disposed to esteem brilliant. The one was fond of dress and show, and effect; while the other paid less regard to these things than was really necessary to make him, with many, an agreeable companion. But the quick perceptions of the one were not equal to the patient, untiring application of the other. When admitted to practice, Wilton could make an effective, brilliant speech, and in ordinary cases, where an appeal to the feelings could influence a jury, was uniformly successful. But, where profound investigation, concise reasoning, and a laborious array of authorities were requisite, he was no competitor for his friend Gray. He was vain of his personal appearance, as has before been indicated, and was also fond of pleasure and company. In short, he was one of those dashing young men to be met with in all professions, who look upon business as an necessary evil, to be escaped whenever a opportunity offers–whose expectations of future prosperity are always large, and who look for success, not in the roads of patient, laborious application, but by a quicker and more brilliant way. They hope to produce a sensation by their tact or talents, and thus take fortune by storm. Few, indeed we might say none, of this class succeed. Those who startle a community by rapid advances, are, in all cases, such as have, to quick perceptions and brilliant powers, added much labor. Talent is nothing without prolonged and patient application; and they who suppose the road to success lies in any other way, may discover their error too late.
The estimation in which the characters of these two young men was held, at least by two individuals, the preceding conversation has apprised the reader. Each made his impression upon a certain order of mind, and each was regarded, or lightly esteemed accordingly. Although in talents and in a right estimation of life and its true ends, the two young men were altogether dissimilar; yet were they friends, and in many respects intimate. Why they were so, we shall not stop to enquire, but proceed to introduce them more particularly to the reader.
“I suppose you are going to Mrs. Melton’s this evening?” said Wilton to his friend, a few weeks after the period indicated in the opening of this story.
“I feel as if I would like to go. A social evening, now and then, I find pleasant, and I have no doubt it is useful to me.”
“That is right, Walter. I am glad to see you coming out of your recluse habits. You want the polish and ease that social life will give you.”
“I feel that, Wilton. But I fear I am too old now to have all the rough corners knocked off, and worn smooth.”
“O, don’t despair. You’ll make a ladies’ man after awhile, if you persevere, and become more particular in your dress. But, to change the subject, a little, tell me what you think of Cara Linton? Her father is worth a plum, and she is just the showy, brilliant woman, of which a man like me ought to be proud of.”
“As you ask me, Charles, I must reply candidly. I would think her a dear bargain with all her father’s money thrown in with her; and as to your other reasons for thinking of her as a wife, I consider them, to speak plainly, as I always do to you, despicable!”
“And why so, Mr. Philosopher?”
“A wife should be chosen from much higher considerations than these. What do you want with a brilliant, showy wife? You marry, or ought to marry, a companion for yourself–not a woman for the world to admire.”
“You are too matter-of-fact, by half, Walter. Your common sense ideas, as you call them, will keep you grubbing in a mole hill all your life.
“I should like to see the woman _you_ would choose for a wife!”
“I wish you had a few of these common sense ideas you despise so much. I am afraid, Charles, that the time is not very distant when you will stand sadly in need of them.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, Walter. I’ll take care of number one. Let me alone for that. But, I should like to know your serious objections to Cara? You sweep her aside with one wave of your hand, as if she were too insignificant to be thought of for a moment.”
“I said that _I_ should consider her a dear bargain, and so I would–for she would not suit me at all.”
“Ah, there I believe you. But come, let me hear why she would not suit you.”
“Because she has no correct and common sense estimation of life and its relations. She is full of poetry and romance, and fashion, and show, and ‘all that kind of thing;’ none of which, without a great deal of the salt of common sense, would suit me.”
“Common sense! Common sense! Common sense! That is your hobby. Verily, Walter, you are a monomaniac on the subject of common sense; but, as for me, I will leave common sense to common people. I go in for uncommon sense.”
“The poorest and most unprofitable sense of all, let me tell you. And one of these days you will discover it to be so.”
“It is no use for us to compare our philosophical notes, I see plainly enough,” Wilton responded. “We shall never view things in the same light. You are not the man of the world you should be, Walter. Men of half your merit will eclipse you, winning opulence and distinction–while you, with your common sense notions, will be plodding on at a snail’s pace. You are behind the age, and a stranger to its powerful, onward impulses.”
“And ever do I desire to remain behind the age, Wilton, if mere pretension and show be its ruling and impulsive spirit.”
“The old fashioned way of attaining eminence,” Charles Wilton replied, assuming an attitude and speaking out truly the thoughts that were in his mind; “by plodding on with the emmet’s patience, and storing up knowledge, grain by grain, brings not the hoped for reward, now. You must startle and surprise. The brilliant meteor attracts a thousand times more attention, than the brightest star that shines in the firmament.”
“You are trifling, Charles.”
“Never was more in earnest in my life. I have made up my mind to succeed; to be known and envied. And to gain the position of eminence I desire, I mean to take the surest way. The world _will_ be deceived, and, therefore, they who would succeed must throw dust in people’s eyes.”
“Or, in other words, deceive them by pretension. Charles, let me warn you against any such unmanly, and, I must say, dishonest course. Be true to yourself and true to principle.”
“I shall certainly be true to myself, Walter. For what pray do we toil over dry and musty law books in a confined office, months and years, if not to gain the power of rising in the world? I have served my dreary apprenticeship–I have learnt the art and mystery, and now for the best and most certain mode of applying it.”
“But, remember your responsibility to society. Your—-“
Nonsense! What do I, or what does any one else care about society? My motto is, Every one for himself, and the deuce take the hindmost. And that’s the motto of the whole world.”
“Not of the whole world, Charles.”
“Yes, of the whole world, with, perhaps, the single, strange exception of Walter Gray. And he will be flung to the wall, and soon forgotten, I fear.”
“You jest on a serious subject, Charles.”
“I tell you, Walter, I am in earnest,” Wilton replied with emphasis. “He that would be ahead, must get ahead in the best way possible. But I cannot linger here. It is now nearly night; and it will take me full two hours to prepare myself to meet Miss Cara Linton. I must make a captive of the dashing maiden this very evening.” And so saying, he turned, and left the office.
That evening, amid a gay and fashionable assemblage at Mrs. Merton’s, was to be seen the showy Charles Wilton, with his easy, and even elegant manners, attracting almost as much attention as his vain heart could desire. And the quiet, sensible Walter Gray was there also, looking upon all things with a calm, philosophic mein.
“Your friend Mr. Wilton is quite the centre of attraction for the young ladies, this evening,” remarked Jane Emory, who was leaning upon the arm of Walter Gray, and listening with an interest she scarcely dared confess to herself, to his occasional remarks, that indicated a mind active with true and healthful thought.
“And he seems to enjoy it,” replied Walter, with a pleasant tone and smile.
“Almost too much so, it seems to me, for a man,” his companion said, though with nothing censorious in her manner. She merely expressed a sentiment without showing that it excited unkind feelings.
“Or for a woman, either,” was the quick response.
“True. But if pleased with attentions, and even admiration may we not be excused?”
“O, certainly. We may all be excused for our weaknesses; still they are weaknesses, after all.”
“And therefore should not be encouraged.”
“Certainly not. We should be governed by some higher end than the mere love of admiration–even admiration for good qualities.”
“I admit the truth of what you say, and yet, the state is one to which I have not yet attained.”
Walter Gray turned a look full of tender interest upon the maiden by his side, as she ceased speaking, and said in a tone that had in it much of tenderness,
“You express, Miss Emory, but the feeling which every one has who truly desires the attainment of true excellence of character. We have not this excellence, naturally, but it is within the compass of effort. Like you, I have had to regret the weaknesses and deficiencies of my own character. But, in self-government, as in everything else, my motto is, Persevere to the end. The same motto, or the same rule of action, clothed in other words, perhaps, I trust–nay, I am sure, rules in your mind.”
For a few moments Jane did not reply. She feared to utter any form of words that would mislead. At length she said, modestly,
“I try to subdue in me what is evil, or that which seems to me to act in opposition to good principles.”
Before Walter Gray, pleased with the answer, could frame in his mind a fitting reply, Charles Wilton, with Cara Linton on his arm, was thrown in front of them.
“Has Walter been edifying you with one of the Psalms of David, Miss Emory?” said Wilton, gaily. “One would think so from his solemn face, and the demure, thoughtful expression of yours.”
Neither Walter nor his fair companion were what is called quick-witted; and both were so checked in their thoughts and feelings that neither could, on the moment, fitly reply.
“O, I see how it is,” the gay young man continued. “He has been reading you some of his moral homilies, and you are tired to death. Well, you must bear with him, Miss Emory, he will learn better after awhile.” And the young man and his thoughtless companion turned laughing away.
For a few moments the disturbed thoughts of Walter and his fair friend, trembled upon the surface of their feelings, and then all was again as tranquil as the bosom of a quiet lake.
Enough has now been said, to give a fair idea of the ends which the two young men, we have introduced, set before them upon entering life. Let us now proceed to trace the effects of these ends; effects, which, as a necessary consequence, involved others as much as themselves.
“Well, Gray, the business is all settled,” said Wilton, one day, coming into the office of the individual he addressed so familiarly.
“What business, Charles?”
“Why, I’ve won the rich and beautiful Miss Linton. Last night I told my story, and was referred to the old man, of course. I have just seen him, and he says I am welcome to the hand of his daughter. Now, is not that a long stride up the ladder! The most beautiful and attractive woman in the city for a wife, and an old daddy in law as rich as Croesus!”
“You are what some would call a lucky dog,” said Wilton, with a smile.
“And yet there is no luck in it. ‘Faint heart, they say, ‘never won fair lady.’ I knew half-a-dozen clever fellows who were looking to Miss Linton’s hand; but while they hesitated, I stepped boldly up and carried off the prize. Let me alone, Walter. I’ll work my way through the world.”
“And I, too, have been doing something in that line.”
“You? Why, Walter, you confound me! I never dreamed that you would have the courage to make love to a woman.”
“Wiser ones than you are mistaken, sometimes.”
“No doubt of it. But who is the fair lady?”
“Can you not guess?”
“Of course. She is the most sensible women it has yet been my fortune to meet.”
“Has the best common sense, I suppose?”
“You are a genius, Walter. When you die, I expect you will leave a clause in your will, to the effect that the undertaker shall be a man of good, plain, common sense. O dear! What a dull life you will lead! Darby and Joan!”
“You are still a trifler with serious matters, Charles. But time will sober you, I trust, and do it before such a change will come too late.”
“How much is old Emory worth, Walter?” Wilton asked, without regarding the last remark of his friend.
“I am sure I do not know. Not a great deal, I suppose.”
“You don’t know?”
“No; how should I?”
“Well, you are a queer one! It is time that you did then, let me tell you.”
“In the name of sense, Walter, what are you going to marry his daughter for.”
“Because I love her.”
“Pah! I know how much of that sort of thing appertains to the business.”
“Don’t look so utterly dumfounded, friend Walter.”
“I am surprised, and I must say pained, to hear you speak thus. Surely you love the young lady you propose to marry?”
“Of course. But then I have a decent regard for her old father’s wealth; and I am by no means insensible to her personal attractions. I group all that is desirable into one grand consideration–beauty, wealth, standing, mental endowments, etc.,–and take her for the whole. But for love–a mere impulse that will die of itself, if left alone,–to marry a young lady! O no,–I am not the simpleton for that!”
Walter Gray looked his friend in the face for a moment or two, but did not reply. He was pained, even shocked at his levity.
“You seem really to doubt my being in earnest?” said Wilton, after a pause.
“I would doubt, if I could, Charles. But I fear you are speaking out too truly, sentiments that I could not have believed you capable of entertaining.”
“You are too simple and unsophisticated to live in this world, my old friend Walter Gray.”
“And long may I remain so,” was the calm response, “if to be honest and sincere is to be simple and unsophisticated.”
“Well, good morning to you, and success to your love marriage.”
And so saying, Charles Wilton left the office of his friend.
A few weeks more passed away, and the two young men had, in the meantime, consummated their matrimonial engagements. The wedding of Charles Wilton and Cara Linton was a splendid affair, succeeded by parties and entertainments for five or six weeks. That of Walter Gray and Jane Emory passed off more quietly and rationally.
Three months after their wedding-day, let us look in upon the two friends and their fair partners; and first, upon Charles Wilton and his bride. The time is evening, and they are sitting alone in one of their richly furnished parlors.
“O dear!” yawned out Wilton, rising and walking backwards and forwards, “this is dull work. Is there no place where we can go and spend a pleasant evening?”
“I don’t know, dear. Suppose we step over and see Pa?”
“O no. We were there two or three evenings ago. And, any how, I am in no humor for playing at draughts.”
“Well, I should like to go there this evening. I want to see Ma about something.”
“You can easily go to-morrow, Cara, and stay as long as you choose.”
“But I should like to go to night, dear.”
“Don’t think of it, Cara.”
“Then suppose we call in and sit an hour with the Melton’s?”
“Not to-night, Cara. The old man is deaf, and talks you out of all patience about sugars and teas cotton and tobacco.”
“But the girls are lively and entertaining.”
“Not for me, Cara. Think again.”
“Why not stay at home?”
“And pray what shall we do here?”
“I’ll sing and play for you.”
“I am in no humor for music to-night.”
His young wife sighed, but Wilton did not notice it.
“Come, let us go over to the Grogans?” he at length said.
“I can’t say that I care much about going there,” his wife replied.
“Of course not. You never seem to care much about going where I wish to,” said Wilton, pettishly.
His wife burst into tears, and sat sobbing for some minutes, during which time Wilton paced the room backwards and forwards, in moody silence. After a while his wife rose up and stole quietly from the room, and in a few minutes returned, dressed, to go out.
“I am ready,” she said.
“Ready to go where?”
“To Mr. Grogan’s, of course. You wish to go.”
“I don’t care about going now, as long as you are unwilling.”
“Yes, but I am willing, Charles, if the visit will be pleasant to you.”
“O, as to that, I don’t wish to compel you to go anywhere.”
“Indeed, Charles, I am willing to go,” said his wife, while her voice trembled and sounded harshly. “Come, now that I am ready. I wish to go.”
For a moment longer Wilton hesitated, and then took up his hat and went with her. Few were the words that passed between them as they walked along the street. Arrived at their friend’s house they both suddenly changed, and were as gay, and seemed as happy, as the gayest and the happiest.
“Shall we call in upon some pleasant friends to-night or spend our evening alone?” asked Walter Gray, taking a seat upon the sofa beside his happy wife, on the same evening that the foregoing conversation and incidents occurred.
“Let it be as you wish, Walter,” was the affectionate, truthful reply.
“As for me, Jane, I am always happy at home–too happy, I sometimes think.”
“How, too happy?”
“Too happy to think of others, Jane. We must be careful not to become isolated and selfish in our pleasures. Our social character must not be sacrificed. If it is in our power to add to the happiness of others, it is right that we should mingle in the social circle.”
“I feel the truth of what you say, Walter, and yet I find it hard to be thus unselfish. I am sure that I would a thousand times rather remain at home and read with you a pleasant book, or sing and play for you, than to spend an evening away from our pleasant home.”
“I feel the same inclinations. But I am unwilling to encourage them. And yet, I am not an advocate for continual visitings. The delights of our own sweet fireside, small though the circle be, I would enjoy often. But these pleasures will be increased tenfold by our willingness to let others share them, and, also, by our joining in their home–delights and social recreations.”
A pause of a few moments ensued, when Mrs. Gray said,
“Suppose, then, Walter, we call over and see how they are getting on at ‘home?’ Pa and Ma are lonesome, now that I am away.”
“Just what I was thinking of, Jane. So get on your things, and we will join them and spend a pleasant evening.”
These brief conversations will indicate to the reader how each of the young men and their wives were thus early beginning to reap the fruits of true and false principles of action. We cannot trace each on his career, step by step, during the passage of many years, though much that would interest and instruct could be gathered from their histories. The limits of a brief story like this will not permit us thus to linger. On, then, to the grand result of their lives we must pass. Let us look at the summing up of the whole matter, and see which of the young men started with the true secret of success in the world, and which of the young ladies evinced most wisdom in her choice of a husband.
“Poor Mrs. Wilton!” remarked Mrs. Gray, now a cheerful, intelligent woman of forty, with half-a-dozen grown and half-grown up daughters, “it makes me sad whenever I see her, or think of her.”
“Her husband was not kind to her, I believe, while she lived with him,” said Mrs. Gray’s visitor, whom she had addressed.
“It is said so. But I am sure I do not know. I never liked him, nor thought him a man of principle. I said as much as I thought prudent to discourage her from receiving his attentions. But she was a gay girl herself, and was attracted by dashing pretension, rather than by unobtrusive merit.”
“It was thought at one time that Mr. Wilton would lead in the profession here. I remember when his name used frequently to get into the newspapers, coupled with high compliments on his brilliant talents.”
“Yes. He flashed before the eyes of the crowd for awhile, but it was soon discovered that he had more brilliancy than substance. The loss of two or three important cases, that required solid argument and a well-digested array of facts and authorities, instead of flights of fancy and appeals to the feelings, ruined his standing at the bar. The death of his father-in-law, with an insolvent estate, immediately after, took wonderfully from the estimation in which he was held. Thrown, thus, suddenly back, and upon his own resources, he sunk at once from the point of observation, and lingered around the court-house, picking up petty cases, as a matter of necessity. Long before this, I had noticed that Mrs. Wilton had greatly changed. But now a sadder change took place–a separation from her husband. The cause of this separation I know not. I never asked her, nor to me has she ever alluded to it. But it is said that his manner towards her became insufferable, and that she sought protection and an asylum among her friends. Be the cause what it may, it is enough to make her a poor, heart-stricken creature.”
“How well I remember, when their parties were the most splendid and best attended of the season.”
“Yes, I well remember it too. Still, even then, gay and brilliant as Mrs. Wilton was, I never thought her happy. Indeed, seeing her often alone as I did, I could not but mark the painful contrast in her spirits. At home, when not entertaining company, she was listless or unhappy. How often have I come in upon her, and noticed her moistened eyes.”
“Ah me! it must be a wrong beginning that makes so sad an ending.”
The truth of the remark, as applicable in this case, struck Mrs. Gray forcibly, and she mused in thoughtful silence for a few moments.
“Have you heard the news, Judge Gray?” said a lawyer, addressing the individual he had named, about the same hour that the conversation, just noted, occurred.
“No. What is it?”
“Why, Wilton has committed a forgery.”
“O no, it cannot be!” said the Judge, in tones of painful surprise.
“It is too true, I fear, Judge.”
“Is the amount considerable?”
“Ten thousand dollars is the sum mentioned.”
“Has he been arrested?”
“No. But the officers are hard after him. The newspapers will announce the fact to-morrow morning.”
Judge Gray leaned his head upon his hand, and, with his eyes cast upon the floor, sat for some moments in painful thought.
“Poor man!” he at length said, looking up. “The end has come at last. I have long feared for him. He started wrong in the beginning.”
“I hope they will catch him,” remarked the individual he was addressing.
Judge Gray did not reply, but cast his eyes again upon the floor.
“He has lived by gambling these six years,” continued the lawyer, “and I suppose he has committed this forgery to pay some ‘debt of honor.’ Well, I can’t say that I am sorry to be rid of him from this bar, for he was not a pleasant man to be forced into contact with.”
“And yet he was a man of some talents,” remarked the Judge, musingly.
“And when that is said all is said. Without industry, legal knowledge, or sound principles of action, what was he good for? He would do for a political stump declaimer–but, as a lawyer, in any case of moment, he was not worth a copper.”
And thus saying, the lawyer turned away, and left Judge Gray to his own thoughts.
“I have unpleasant news to tell you, Jane,” said Judge Gray, coming into the room where sat his wife, an hour afterwards.
“What is that, husband?” asked Mrs. Gray, looking up with a concerned countenance.
“Why, our old friend Charles Wilton has committed a forgery!”
“Poor Cara! It will break her heart,” Mrs. Gray said in a sad tone.
“I do not suppose she has much affection for him, Jane.”
“No, but she has a good deal of pride left–all, in fact, that sustains her. This last blow, I fear, will be too much for one who has no true strength of character.”
“Would it not be well for you to call in and see her to-morrow? The papers will all announce the fact in the morning, and she may need the consolation which a true friend might be able to afford her.”
“I will go, most certainly, much as my natural feelings shrink from the task. Where she is, I am sure she has no one to lean upon: for there is not one of her so-called friends, upon whom she feels herself a burden, that can or will sympathize with her truly.”
“Go, then. And may mercy’s errand find mercy’s reward.”
On the next morning all the city papers teemed with accounts of the late forgery, and blazoned Charles Wilton’s name, with many opprobrious epithets before the public. Some went even so far as to allude to his wife, whom they said he had forsaken years before, and who was now, it was alleged, living in poverty, and, some hinted in disgrace and infamy.
Early in the day, Mrs. Gray repaired to the cheerless home of her early friend. She was shown to her chamber, where she found her lying insensible on the bed, with one of the newspapers in her hand, that alluded to herself in disgraceful terms.
Long and patient efforts to restore her, at length produced the desired result. But it was many days before she seemed distinctly conscious of what was passing or would converse with any degree of coherency.
“Come and spend a few weeks with me, Cara.”
Mrs. Gray said to her, one day, on calling in to see her; “I am sure it will do you good.”
There was a sad, but grateful expression in the pale face of Mrs. Wilton, as she looked into the eye of her old friend, but ventured no reply.
“You will come, will you not, Cara?” urged Mrs. Gray.
“My presence in your happy family would be like the shadow of an evil wing,” said she bitterly.
“Our happy family, say-rather, would chase away the gloomy shadows that darken your heart. Come then, and we will give you a cheerful welcome.”
“I feel much inclined, and yet I hesitate, for I ought not to throw a gloom over your household,” and the tears filled her eyes, and glistened through the lids which were closed suddenly over them.
“Come, and welcome!” Mrs. Gray urged, taking her hand and gently pressing it.
That evening Mrs. Wilton spent in the pleasant family of her old friend.
Three weeks afterwards, Mrs. Gray asked of her husband, if anything had been heard of Mr. Wilton.
“Nothing,” he replied. “He has escaped all pursuit thus far, and the officers, completely at fault, have returned.”
“I cannot say that I am sorry, at least for the sake of his wife. She seems more cheerful since she came here. I feel sometimes as if I should like to offer her a home, for she has none, that might truly be so called.”
“Act up to your kind desire, Jane, if you think it right to do so,” said her husband. “Perhaps in no other home open to her could so much be done for her comfort.”
The home was accordingly offered, and tearfully accepted.
“Jane,” said the sad hearted woman, “I cannot tell you how much I have suffered in the last twenty years. How much from heart-sickening disappointments, and lacerated affections. High hopes and brilliant expectations that made my weak brain giddy to think of, have all ended thus. How weak and foolish–how mad we were! But my husband was not all to blame. I was as insane in my views of life as he. We lived only for ourselves–thought and cared only for ourselves–and here is the result. How wisely and well did you choose, Jane. Where my eye saw nothing to admire, yours more skilled, perceived the virgin ore of truth. I was dazzled by show, while you looked below the surface, and saw true character, and its effect in action. How signally has each of us been rewarded!” and the heart-stricken creature bowed her head and wept.
And now, kind reader, if there be one who has followed us thus far, are you disappointed in not meeting some startling denoument, or some effective point in this narrative. I hope not. Natural results have followed, in just order, the adoption of true and false principles of action–and thus will they ever follow. Learn, then, a lesson from the history of the two young men and the maidens of their choice. Let every young man remember, that all permanent success in life depends upon the adoption of such principles of action as are founded in honesty and truth; and let every young woman take it to heart, that all her married life will be affected by the principles which her husband sets down as rules of action. Let her give no consideration to his brilliant prospect, or his brilliant mind, if sound moral principles do not govern him.
“But what became of Charles Wilton and his wife?” I hear a bright-eyed maiden asking, as she turns half impatient from my homily.
Wilton has escaped justice thus far, and his wife, growing more and more cheerful every day, is still the inmate of Judge Gray’s family, and I trust will remain so until the end of her journeying here. And what is more, she is learning the secret, that there is more happiness in caring for others, than in being all absorbed in selfish consideration. Still, she is a sad wreck upon the stream of life–a warning beacon for your eyes, young lady.
VISITING AS NEIGHBORS.
“I see that the house next door has been taken,” remarked Mr. Leland to his wife, as they sat alone one pleasant summer evening.
“Yes. The family moved in to-day,” returned Mrs. Leland.
“Do you know their name?”
“It is Halloran.”
“Halloran, Halloran,” said Mr. Leland, musingly. “I wonder if it’s the same family that lived in Parker Street.”
“Yes, the same; and I wish they had stayed there.”
“Their moving in next door need not trouble us, Jane. They are not on our list of acquaintances.”
“But I shall have to call upon Mrs. Haloran; and Emma upon her grown-up daughter Mary.”
“I do not see how that is to follow as a consequence of their removal into our neighborhood.”
“Politeness requires us to visit them as neighbors.”
“Are they really our neighbors?” asked Mr. Leland, significantly.
“Certainly they are. How strange that you should ask the question!”
“What constitutes them such? Not mere proximity, certainly. Because a person happens to live in a house near by, can that make him or her really a neighbor, and entitled to the attention and consideration due a neighbor?”
This remark caused Mrs. Leland to look thoughtful. “It ought not,” she said, after sitting silent a little while, “but still, it does.”
“I do not think so. A neighbor–that is, one to whom kind offices is due–ought to come with higher claims than the mere fact of living in a certain house located near by the dwelling in which we reside. If mere location is to make any one a neighbor, we have no protection against the annoyance and intrusions of persons we do not like; nay, against evil-minded persons, who would delight more in doing us injury than good. These Hallorans for instance. They move in good society; but they are not persons to our mind. I should not like to see you on terms of intimacy with Mrs. Halloran, or Jane with her daughter. In fact, the latter I should feel, did it exist, to be a calamity.”
“Still they _are_ our neighbors,” Mrs. Leland said. “I do not see how we can avoid calling upon them.”
“Perhaps,” remarked the husband, “you have not thought seriously enough on the subject.
“Who is my neighbor? is a question of importance, and ought to be answered in every mind. Something more than living in the same street, or block of houses, is evidently implied in the word neighbor. It clearly involves a reciprocity of good feelings. Mere proximity in space cannot effect this. It requires another kind of nearness–the nearness of similar affections; and these must, necessarily, be unselfish; for in selfishness there is no reciprocity. Under this view, could you consider yourself the neighbor of such a person as Mrs. Halloran?”
“No matter what the character, we should be kind to all. Every one should be our neighbor, so far as this is concerned. Do you not think so?”
“I do not, Jane.”
“Should we not be kind to every one?”
“Yes, kind; but not in the acceptation of the word as you have used it. There is a false, as well as a true kindness. And it often happens that true kindness appears to be any thing but what it really is. In order to be kind to another, we are not always required to exhibit flattering attentions. These often injure where distance and reserve would do good. Besides, they too frequently give power to such as are evil-disposed–a power that is exercised injuriously to others.”
“But the simple fact of my calling upon Mrs. Halloran cannot, possibly, give her the power of injuring me or any one else.”
“I think differently. The fact that you have called upon her will be a reason for some others to do the same; for, you know, there are persons who never act from a distinct sense of right, but merely follow in the wake of others. Thus the influence of a selfish, censorious, evil-minded woman will be extended. So far as you are concerned, the danger may be greater than you imagine. Is Mary Halloran, in your estimation, a fit companion for our daughter? Could she become intimate with her, and not suffer a moral deterioration?”
“I think not.”
“Are you sure that a call upon Mrs. Halloran will not lead to this result?”
“No, I am not _sure_. Still, I do not apprehend any danger.”
“I should be very much afraid of the experiment.”
“But, do you not think, husband, that, apart from all these fears, I am bound to extend to Mrs. Halloran the courtesies due a neighbor?”
“I cannot, in the true sense of the word, consider her a neighbor; and, therefore, do not see that you owe her the courtesies to which you allude. It is the good in any one that really makes the neighbor. This good should ever be regarded. But, to show attentions, and give eminence and consideration to an evil-minded person, is to make evil, instead of good, the neighbor.–It is to give that power to evil which is ever exercised in injury to others.”
Mrs. Leland’s mind perceived only in a small degree the force of what her husband said.–She was not a woman who troubled herself about the characters of those who stood upon a certain level in society. Mrs. Halloran claimed her place from wealth and family connexions, and this place was rather above than below that occupied by Mrs. Leland. The temptation to call upon her was, therefore, pretty strong. It was not so much a regard for her new neighbor, as a desire to make her acquaintance, that influenced her.–Acting in opposition to her husband’s judgment, in a few days she called upon Mrs. Halloran.
She found her, to use her own words, a “charming woman.” The next move was for the daughter to call upon Mary Halloran. Before the week passed, these calls had been returned. In a month the two families–that is, the female members of them–had become quite intimate. This intimacy troubled Mr. Leland. He was a man of pure principles, and could tolerate no deviation from them. Deeply did he regret any association that might tend to weaken the respect for such principles with which he had sought to inspire the mind of his daughter. In them he knew lay the power that was to protect her in the world. But he could not interfere, arbitrarily, with his wife; that he would have considered more dangerous than to let her act in freedom. But he felt concerned for the consequence, and frequently urged her not to be too intimate with her new neighbor.
“Some evil, I am sure, will grow out of it,” he would say, whenever allusion was in any way made to the subject of his wife’s intimacy with Mrs. Halloran. “No one can touch pitch and not be defiled.”
“I really must blame you,” Mrs. Leland replied to a remark like this, “for your blind opposition to Mrs. Halloran. The more I see of her, the better I like her. She is a perfect lady. So kind, so affable, so–so”–
Mr. Leland shook his head.
“The mere gloss of polite society,” he returned. “There is no soundness in her heart. We know that, for the tree is judged by its fruit.”
“We have seen no evil fruit,” said the wife.
“Others have, and we _know_ that others have.–Her conduct in the case of the Percys is notorious.”
“Common report is always exaggerated.”
“Though it usually has some foundation in truth. But granting all the exaggeration and false judgment that usually appertain to common report, is it not wiser to act as if common report were true, until we know it to be false?”
But it was useless for Mr. Leland to talk.–His wife was charmed with the fascinating neighbor, and would hear nothing against her. Jane, too, had become intimate with Mary Halloran, a bold-faced girl, who spent half of her time in the street, and talked of little else but beaux and dress. Jane was eighteen, and before her acquaintance with Mary, had been but little into company. Her intimacy with Mary soon put new notions into her head. She began to think more of dress, and scarcely a day passed that she did not go out with her very intimate and pleasant friend. Mrs. Leland did not like this. Much as she was pleased Mrs. Halloran, she never fancied the daughter a great deal, and would have been much better satisfied if the two young ladies had not become quite so intimate.
“Where are you going?” she said to Jane, who came down stairs dressed to go out, one morning.
“Mary and I are going to make some calls,” she replied.
“You were out making calls, yesterday, with Mary, and the day before also. This is too great a waste of time, Jane. I would rather see you at home more.”
“I don’t know why you should wish to confine me down to the house. Mary Halloran goes and comes when she pleases.”
“Mary Halloran is in the street a great deal too much. I am far from wishing to see you imitate her example.”
“But what harm is there in it, mother?”
“A great deal, Jane. It gives idle habits, and makes the mind dissatisfied with the more sober duties of life.”
“I am too young for the sober duties of life,” said Jane, rather pertly.
“That is, doubtless, one of your friend Mary’s sentiments; and it is worthy of her.”
This was true, and Jane did not deny it.
“Go now,” said Mrs. Leland, with much sobriety of manner. “But remember that I disapprove of this gadding about, and object to its continuance. I should be very sorry to have your father know to what extent you are carrying it.”
Jane went out and called for Mary, and the two young ladies made a few calls, and then walked the streets until dinner time; not, however, alone, but accompanied by a dashing young fellow, who had been introduced to Mary a few evenings before, and now made bold to follow up the acquaintance, encouraged by a glance from the young lady’s bright, inviting eyes.
Mrs. Leland, in the mean time, felt unhappy. Her daughter was changing, and the change troubled her. The intimacy formed with Mary Halloran, it was clear, was doing her no good, but harm. By this time, too, she had noticed some things in the mother that were by no means to her taste. There was a coarseness, vulgarity and want of delicacy about her, that showed itself more and more every day, traits of character particularly offensive to Mrs. Leland, who was a woman of refined sentiments. Besides, Mrs. Halloran’s conversation involved topics neither interesting nor instructing to her neighbors; and often of a decidedly objectionable kind. In fact, she liked her less and less every day, and felt her too frequently repeated visits as an annoyance; and though “Why don’t you come in to see me oftener?” was repeated almost daily, she did not return more than one out of every half dozen calls she received.
“I’ve seen Jane in the street with that Mary Halloran no less than three times this week,” said Mr. Leland, one day, “and on two of these occasions there was a beau accompanying each of the young ladies.”
“She goes out too often, I know,” returned Mrs. Leland seriously. “I have objected to it several times, but the girl’s head seems turned with that Mary Halloran. I do wish she had never known her.”
“So do I, from my heart. We knew what she was, and never should have permitted Jane to make her acquaintance, if it had been in our power to prevent it.”
“It is too late now, and can’t be helped.”
“Too late to prevent the acquaintance, but not too late to prevent some of the evil consequences likely to grow out of such an improper intimacy, which must cease from the present time.”
“It will be a difficult matter to break it off now.”
“No matter how difficult it may be, it must be done. The first step toward it you will have to make, in being less intimate with the mother, whom I like less and less the oftener I meet her.”
“That step, so far as I am concerned, has already been taken. I have ceased visiting Mrs. Halloran almost entirely; but she is here just as often, and sadly annoys me. I dislike her more and more every day.”
“If I saw as much in any one to object to as you see in Mrs. Halloran, I would soon make visiting a thing by no means agreeable. You can easily get rid of her intrusive familiarity if you think proper.”
“Yes, by offending her, and getting the ill-will of a low-minded unprincipled woman; a thing that no one wants.”
“Better offend her than suffer, as we are likely to suffer, from a continuance of the acquaintance. Offend the mother, I say, and thus you get rid of the daughter.”
But Mrs. Leland was not prepared for this step, yet. From having been fascinated by Mrs. Halloran, she now began to fear her.