Mr. Belknap did not make any response for some time, but sat, with his eyes upon the floor, in hurried self-examination.
“No, Aunt Mary, not too plainly,” said he, as he looked at her with a sobered face. “I needed that suggestion, and thank you for having made it.”
“Mrs. Howitt has a line which beautifully expresses what I mean,” said Aunt Mary, in her gentle, earnest way. “It is
‘For love hath readier will than fear.’
Ah, if we could all comprehend the wonderful power of love! It is the fire that melts; while fear only smites, the strokes hardening, or breaking its unsightly fragments. John Thomas has many good qualities, that ought to be made as active as possible. These, like goodly flowers growing in a carefully tilled garden, will absorb the latent vitality in his mind, and thus leave nothing from which inherent evil tendencies can draw nutrition.”
Aunt Mary said no more, and Mr. Belknap’s thoughts were soon too busy with a new train of ideas, to leave him in any mood for conversation.
Time moved steadily on. Nearly half an hour had elapsed, in which period John Thomas might have gone twice to Leslie’s store, and returned; yet he was still absent. Mr. Belknap was particularly in want of the hammer and nails, and the delay chafed him very considerably; the more particularly, as it evidenced the indifference of his son in respect to his wishes and commands. Sometimes he would yield to a momentary blinding flush of anger, and resolve to punish the boy severely the moment he could get his hands on him. But quickly would come in Aunt Mary’s suggestion, and he would again resolve to try the power of kind words. He was also a good deal strengthened in his purposes, by the fact that Aunt Mary’s eyes would be upon him at the return of John Thomas. After her suggestion, and his acknowledgment of its value, it would hardly do for him to let passion so rule him as to act in open violation of what was right. To wrong his son by unwise treatment, when he professed to desire only his good.
The fact is, Mr. Belknap had already made the discovery, that if he would govern his boy, he must first govern himself. This was not an easy task. Yet he felt that it must be done.
“There comes that boy now,” said he, as he glanced forth, and saw John Thomas coming homeward at a very deliberate pace. There was more of impatience in his tone of voice than he wished to betray to Aunt Mary, who let her beautiful, angel-like eyes rest for a moment or two, penetratingly, upon him. The balancing power of that look was needed; and it performed its work.
Soon after, the loitering boy came in. He had a package of nails in his hand, which he reached, half indifferently, to his father.
“The hammer!” John started with a half frightened air.
“Indeed, father, I forgot all about it!” said he, looking up with a flushed countenance, in which genuine regret was plainly visible.
“I’m sorry,” said Mr. Belknap, in a disappointed, but not angry or rebuking voice. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you to come back, and now I must go to the store without nailing up that trellice for your mother’s honeysuckle and wisteria, as I promised.”
The boy looked at his father a moment or two with an air of bewilderment and surprise; then he said, earnestly:
“Just wait a little longer. I’ll run down to the store and get it for you in a minute. I’m very sorry that I forgot it.”
“Run along, then,” said Mr. Belknap, kindly.
How fleetly the lad bounded away! His father gazed after him with an emotion of surprise, not unmixed with pleasure.
“Yes–yes,” he murmured, half aloud, “Mrs. Howitt never uttered a wiser saying. ‘For love hath readier will than fear.'”
Quicker than even Aunt Mary, whose faith in kind words was very strong, had expected, John came in with the hammer, a bright glow on his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes that strongly contrasted with the utter want of interest displayed in his manner a little while before.
“Thank you, my son,” said Mr. Belknap, as he took the hammer; “I could not have asked a prompter service.”
He spoke very kindly, and in a voice of approval. “And now, John,” he added, with the manner of one who requests, rather than commands, “if you will go over to Frank Wilson’s, and tell him to come over and work for two or three days in our garden, you will oblige me very much. I was going to call there as I went to the store this morning; but it is too late now.”
“O, I’ll go, father–I’ll go,” replied the boy, quickly and cheerfully. “I’ll run right over at once.”
“Do, if you please,” said Mr. Belknap, now speaking from an impulse of real kindness, for a thorough change had come over his feelings. A grateful look was cast, by John Thomas, into his father’s face, and then he was off to do his errand. Mr. Belknap saw, and understood the meaning of that look.
“Yes–yes–yes,–” thus he talked with himself as he took his way to the store,–“Aunt Mary and Mrs. Howitt are right. Love hath a readier will. I ought to have learned this lesson earlier. Ah! how much that is deformed in this self-willed boy, might now be growing in beauty.”
HELPING THE POOR.
“I’M on a begging expedition,” said Mr. Jonas, as he came bustling into the counting-room of a fellow merchant named Prescott. “And, as you are a benevolent man, I hope to get at least five dollars here in aid of a family in extremely indigent circumstances. My wife heard of them yesterday; and the little that was learned, has strongly excited our sympathies. So I am out on a mission for supplies. I want to raise enough to buy them a ton of coal, a barrel of flour, a bag of potatoes, and a small lot of groceries.”
“Do you know anything of the family for which you propose this charity?” inquired Mr. Prescott, with a slight coldness of manner.
“I only know that they are in want and that it is the first duty of humanity to relieve them,” said Mr. Jonas, quite warmly.
“I will not question your inference,” said Mr. Prescott. “To relieve the wants of our suffering fellow creatures is an unquestionable duty. But there is another important consideration connected with poverty and its demands upon us.”
“What is that pray?” inquired Mr. Jonas, who felt considerably fretted by so unexpected a damper to his benevolent enthusiasm.
“How it shall be done,” answered Mr. Prescott, calmly.
“If a man is hungry, give him bread; if he is naked, clothe him,” said Mr. Jonas. “There is no room for doubt or question here. This family I learn, are suffering for all the necessaries of life, and I can clearly see the duty to supply their wants.”
“Of how many does the family consist?” asked Mr. Prescott.
“There is a man and his wife and three or four children.”
“Is the man sober and industrious?”
“I don’t know anything about him. I’ve had no time to make inquiries. I only know that hunger and cold are in his dwelling, or, at least were in his dwelling yesterday.”
“Then you have already furnished relief?”
“Temporary relief. I shouldn’t have slept last night, after what I heard, without just sending them a bushel of coal, and a basket of provisions.”
“For which I honor your kindness of heart, Mr. Jonas. So far you acted right. But, I am by no means so well assured of the wisdom and humanity of your present action in the case. The true way to help the poor, is to put it into their power to help themselves. The mere bestowal of alms is, in most cases an injury; either encouraging idleness and vice, or weakening self-respect and virtuous self-dependence. There is innate strength in every one; let us seek to develop this strength in the prostrate, rather than hold them up by a temporary application of our own powers, to fall again, inevitably, when the sustaining hand is removed. This, depend upon it, is not true benevolence. Every one has ability to serve the common good, and society renders back sustenance for bodily life as the reward of this service.”
“But, suppose a man cannot get work,” said Mr. Jonas. “How is he to serve society, for the sake of a reward?”
“True charity will provide employment for him rather than bestow alms.”
“But, if there is no employment to be had Mr. Prescott?”
“You make a very extreme case. For all who are willing to work, in this country, there is employment.”
“I’m by no means ready to admit this assertion.”
“Well, we’ll not deal in general propositions; because anything can be assumed or denied. Let us come direct to the case in point, and thus determine our duty towards the family whose needs we are considering. Which will be best for them? To help them in the way you propose, or to encourage them to help themselves?”
“All I know about them at present,” replied Mr. Jonas, who was beginning to feel considerably worried, “is, that they are suffering for the common necessaries of life. It is all very well to tell a man to help himself, but, if his arm be paralyzed, or he have no key to open the provision shop, he will soon starve under that system of benevolence. Feed and clothe a man first, and then set him to work to help himself. He will have life in his heart and strength in his hands.”
“This sounds all very fair, Mr. Jonas; and yet, there is not so much true charity involved there as appears on the surface. It will avail little, however, for us to debate the matter now. Your time and mine are both of too much value during business hours for useless discussion. I cannot give, understandingly, in the present case, and so must disappoint your expectations in this quarter.”
“Good morning, then,” said Mr. Jonas, bowing rather coldly.
“Good morning,” pleasantly responded Mr. Prescott, as his visitor turned and left his store.
“All a mean excuse for not giving,” said Mr. Jonas, to himself, as he walked rather hurriedly away. “I don’t believe much in the benevolence of your men who are so particular about the whys and wherefores–so afraid to give a dollar to a poor, starving fellow creature, lest the act encourage vice or idleness.”
The next person upon whom Mr. Jonas called, happened to be very much of Mr. Prescott’s way of thinking; and the next chanced to know something about the family for whom he was soliciting aid. “A lazy, vagabond set!” exclaimed the individual, when Mr. Jonas mentioned his errand, “who would rather want than work. They may starve before I give them a shilling.”
“Is this true?” asked Mr. Jonas, in surprise.
“Certainly it is. I’ve had their case stated before. In fact, I went through the sleet and rain one bitter cold night to take them provisions, so strongly had my sympathies in regard to them been excited. Let them go to work.”
“But can the man get work?” inquired Mr. Jonas.
“Other poor men, who have families dependent on them, can get work. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Downright laziness is the disease in this case, and the best cure for which is a little wholesome starvation. So, take my advice, and leave this excellent remedy to work out a cure.”
Mr. Jonas went back to his store in rather a vexed state of mind. All his fine feelings of benevolence were stifled. He was angry with the indigent family, and angry with himself for being “the fool to meddle with any business but his own.”
“Catch me on such an errand again,” said he, indignantly. “I’ll never seek to do a good turn again as long as I live.”
Just as he was saying this, his neighbor Prescott came into his store.
“Where does the poor family live, of whom you were speaking to me?” he inquired.
“O, don’t ask me about them!” exclaimed Mr. Jonas. “I’ve just found them out. They’re a lazy, vagabond set.”
“You are certain of that?”
“Morally certain. Mr. Caddy says he knows them like a book, and they’d rather want than work. With him, I think a little wholesome starvation will do them good.”
Notwithstanding this rather discouraging testimony, Mr. Prescott made a memorandum of the street and number of the house in which the family lived, remarking as he did so:
“I have just heard where the services of an able-bodied man are wanted. Perhaps Gardiner, as you call him, may be glad to obtain the situation.”
“He won’t work; that’s the character I have received of him,” replied Mr. Jonas, whose mind was very much roused against the man. The pendulum of his impulses had swung, from a light touch, to the other extreme.
“A dollar earned, is worth two received in charity,” said Mr. Prescott; “because the dollar earned corresponds to service rendered, and the man feels that it is his own–that he has an undoubted right to its possession. It elevates his moral character, inspires self-respect, and prompts to new efforts. Mere alms-giving is demoralizing for the opposite reason. It blunts the moral feelings, lowers the self-respect, and fosters inactivity and idleness, opening the way for vice to come in and sweep away all the foundations of integrity. Now, true charity to the poor is for us to help them to help themselves. Since you left me a short time ago, I have been thinking, rather hastily, over the matter; and the fact of hearing about the place for an able-bodied man, as I just mentioned, has led me to call around and suggest your making interest therefor in behalf of Gardiner. Helping him in this way will be true benevolence.”
“It’s no use,” replied Mr. Jonas, in a positive tone of voice. “He’s an idle good-for-nothing fellow, and I’ll have nothing to do with him.”
Mr. Prescott urged the matter no farther, for he saw that to do so would be useless. On his way home, on leaving his store, he called to see Gardiner. He found, in two small, meagerly furnished rooms, a man, his wife, and three children. Everything about them indicated extreme poverty; and, worse than this, lack of cleanliness and industry. The woman and children had a look of health, but the man was evidently the subject of some wasting disease. His form was light, his face thin and rather pale, and his languid eyes deeply sunken. He was very far from being the able-bodied man Mr. Prescott had expected to find. As the latter stepped into the miserable room where they were gathered, the light of expectation, mingled with the shadows of mute suffering, came into their countenances. Mr. Prescott was a close observer, and saw, at a glance, the assumed sympathy-exciting face of the mendicant in each.
“You look rather poor here,” said he, as he took a chair, which the woman dusted with her dirty apron before handing it to him.
“Indeed, sir, and we are miserably off,” replied the woman, in a half whining tone. “John, there, hasn’t done a stroke of work now for three months; and–“
“Why not!” interrupted Mr. Prescott.
“My health is very poor,” said the man. “I suffer much from pain in my side and back, and am so weak most of the time, that I can hardly creep about.”
“That is bad, certainly,” replied Mr. Prescott, “very bad.” And as he spoke, he turned his eyes to the woman’s face, and then scanned the children very closely.
“Is that boy of yours doing anything?” he inquired.
“No, sir,” replied the mother. “He’s too young to be of any account.”
“He’s thirteen, if my eyes do not deceive me.”
“Just a little over thirteen.”
“Does he go to school?”
“No sir. He has no clothes fit to be seen in at school.”
“Bad–bad,” said Mr. Prescott, “very bad. The boy might be earning two dollars a week; instead of which he is growing up in idleness, which surely leads to vice.”
Gardiner looked slightly confused at this remark, and his wife, evidently, did not feel very comfortable under the steady, observant eyes that were on her.
“You seem to be in good health,” said Mr. Prescott, looking at the woman.
“Yes sir, thank God! And if it wasn’t for that, I don’t know what we should all have done. Everything has fallen upon me since John, there, has been ailing.”
Mr. Prescott glanced around the room, and then remarked, a little pleasantly:
“I don’t see that you make the best use of your health and strength.”
The woman understood him, for the color came instantly to her face.
“There is no excuse for dirt and disorder,” said the visitor, more seriously. “I once called to see a poor widow, in such a state of low health that she had to lie in bed nearly half of every day. She had two small children, and supported herself and them by fine embroidery, at which she worked nearly all the time. I never saw a neater room in my life than hers, and her children, though in very plain and patched clothing, were perfectly clean. How different is all here; and yet, when I entered, you all sat idly amid this disorder, and–shall I speak plainly–filth.”
The woman, on whose face the color had deepened while Mr. Prescott spoke, now rose up quickly, and commenced bustling about the room, which, in a few moments, looked far less in disorder. That she felt his rebuke, the visiter regarded as a good sign.
“Now,” said he, as the woman resumed her seat, “let me give you the best maxim for the poor in the English language; one that, if lived by, will soon extinguish poverty, or make it a very light thing,–‘God helps those who help themselves.’ To be very plain with you, it is clear to my eyes, that you do not try to help yourselves; such being the case, you need not expect gratuitous help from God. Last evening you received some coal and a basket of provisions from a kind-hearted man, who promised more efficient aid to-day. You have not yet heard from him, and what is more, will not hear from him. Some one, to whom he applied for a contribution happened to know more about you than he did, and broadly pronounced you a set of idle vagabonds. Just think of bearing such a character! He dropped the matter at once, and you will get nothing from him. I am one of those upon whom he called. Now, if you are all disposed to help yourselves, I will try to stand your friend. If not, I shall have nothing to do with you. I speak plainly; it is better; there will be less danger of apprehension. That oldest boy of yours must go to work and earn something. And your daughter can work about the house for you very well, while you go out to wash, or scrub, and thus earn a dollar or two, or three, every week. There will be no danger of starvation on this income, and you will then eat your bread in independence. Mr. Gardiner can help some, I do not in the least doubt.”
And Mr. Prescott looked inquiringly at the man.
“If I was only able-bodied,” said Gardiner, in a half reluctant tone and manner.
“But you are not. Still, there are many things you may do. If by a little exertion you can earn the small sum of two or three dollars a week, it will be far better–even for your health–than idleness. Two dollars earned every week by your wife, two by your boy, and three by yourself, would make seven dollars a week; and if I am not very much mistaken, you don’t see half that sum in a week now.”
“Indeed, sir, and you speak the truth there,” said the woman.
“Very well. It’s plain, then, that work is better than idleness.”
“But we can’t get work.” The woman fell back upon this strong assertion.
“Don’t believe a word of it. I can tell you how to earn half a dollar a day for the next four or five days at least. So there’s a beginning for you. Put yourself in the way of useful employment, and you will have no difficulty beyond.”
“What kind of work, sir?” inquired the woman.
“We are about moving into a new house, and my wife commences the work of having it cleaned to-morrow morning. She wants another assistant. Will you come?”
The woman asked the number of his residence, and promised to accept the offer of work.
“Very well. So far so good,” said Mr. Prescott, cheerfully, as he arose. “You shall be paid at the close of each day’s work; and that will give you the pleasure of eating your own bread–a real pleasure, you may depend upon it; for a loaf of bread earned is sweeter than the richest food bestowed by charity, and far better for the health.”
“But about the boy, sir?” said Gardiner, whose mind was becoming active with more independent thoughts.
“All in good time,” said Mr. Prescott smiling. “Rome was not built in a day, you know. First let us secure a beginning. If your wife goes to-morrow, I shall think her in earnest; as willing to help herself, and, therefore, worthy to be helped. All the rest will come in due order. But you may rest assured, that, if she does not come to work, it is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned. So good evening to you.”
Bright and early came Mrs. Gardiner on the next morning, far tidier in appearance than when Mr. Prescott saw her before. She was a stout, strong woman, and knew how to scrub and clean paint as well as the best. When fairly in the spirit of work, she worked on with a sense of pleasure. Mrs. Prescott was well satisfied with her performance, and paid her the half dollar earned when her day’s toil was done. On the next day, and the next, she came, doing her work and receiving her wages.
On the evening of the third day, Mr. Prescott thought it time to call upon the Gardiners.
“Well this is encouraging!” said he, with an expression of real pleasure, as he gazed around the room, which scarcely seemed like the one he had visited before. All was clean, and everything in order; and, what was better still, the persons of all, though poorly clad, were clean and tidy. Mrs. Gardiner sat by the table mending a garment; her daughter was putting away the supper dishes; while the man sat teaching a lesson in spelling to their youngest child.
The glow of satisfaction that pervaded the bosom of each member of the family, as Mr. Prescott uttered these approving words, was a new and higher pleasure than had for a long time been experienced, and caused the flame of self-respect and self-dependence, rekindled once more, to rise upwards in a steady flame.
“I like to see this,” continued Mr. Prescott. “It does me good. You have fairly entered the right road. Walk on steadily, courageously, unweariedly. There is worldly comfort and happiness for you at the end. I think I have found a very good place for your son, where he will receive a dollar and a half a week to begin with. In a few months, if all things suit, he will get two dollars. The work is easy, and the opportunities for improvement good. I think there is a chance for you, also, Mr. Gardiner. I have something in my mind that will just meet your case. Light work, and not over five or six hours application each day–the wages four dollars a week to begin with, and a prospect of soon having them raised to six or seven dollars. What do you think of that?”
“Sir!” exclaimed the poor man, in whom personal pride and a native love of independence were again awakening, “if you can do this for me, you will be indeed a benefactor.”
“It shall be done,” said Mr. Prescott, positively. “Did I not say to you, that God helps those who help themselves? It is even thus. No one, in our happy country who is willing to work, need be in want; and money earned by honest industry buys the sweetest bread.”
It required a little watching, and urging, and admonition, on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Prescott, to keep the Gardiners moving on steadily, in the right way. Old habits and inclinations had gained too much power easily to be broken; and but for this watchfulness on their part, idleness and want would again have entered the poor man’s dwelling.
The reader will hardly feel surprise, when told, that in three or four years from the time Mr. Prescott so wisely met the case of the indigent Gardiners, they were living in a snug little house of their own, nearly paid for out of the united industry of the family, every one of which was now well clad, cheerful, and in active employment. As for Mr. Gardiner, his health has improved, instead of being injured by light employment. Cheerful, self-approving thoughts, and useful labor, have temporarily renovated a fast sinking constitution.
Mr. Prescott’s way of helping the poor is the right way. They must be taught to help themselves. Mere alms-giving is but a temporary aid, and takes away, instead of giving, that basis of self-dependence, on which all should rest. Help a man up, and teach him to use his feet, so that he can walk alone. This is true benevolence.
“ARE you going to call upon Mrs. Clayton and her daughters, Mrs. Marygold?” asked a neighbor, alluding to a family that had just moved into Sycamore Row.
“No, indeed, Mrs. Lemmington, that I am not. I don’t visit everybody.”
“I thought the Claytons were a very respectable family,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington.
“Respectable! Everybody is getting respectable now-a-days. If they are respectable, it is very lately that they have become so. What is Mr. Clayton, I wonder, but a school-master! It’s too bad that such people will come crowding themselves into genteel neighborhoods. The time was when to live in Sycamore Row was guarantee enough for any one–but, now, all kinds of people have come into it.”
“I have never met Mrs. Clayton,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington, “but I have been told that she is a most estimable woman, and that her daughters have been educated with great care. Indeed, they are represented as being highly accomplished girls.”
“Well, I don’t care what they are represented to be. I’m not going to keep company with a schoolmaster’s wife and daughters, that’s certain.”
“Is there anything disgraceful in keeping a school?”
“No, nor in making shoes, either. But, then, that’s no reason why I should keep company with my shoemaker’s wife, is it? Let common people associate together–that’s my doctrine.”
“But what do you mean by common people, Mrs. Marygold?”
“Why, I mean common people. Poor people. People who have not come of a respectable family. That’s what I mean.”
“I am not sure that I comprehend your explanation much better than I do your classification. If you mean, as you say, poor people, your objection will not apply with full force to the Claytons, for they are now in tolerably easy circumstances. As to the family of Mr. Clayton, I believe his father was a man of integrity, though not rich. And Mrs. Clayton’s family I know to be without reproach of any kind.”
“And yet they are common people for all that,” persevered Mrs. Marygold. “Wasn’t old Clayton a mere petty dealer in small wares. And wasn’t Mrs. Clayton’s father a mechanic?”
“Perhaps, if some of us were to go back for a generation or two, we might trace out an ancestor who held no higher place in society,” Mrs. Lemmington remarked, quietly. “I have no doubt but that I should.”
“I have no fears of that kind,” replied Mrs. Marygold, in an exulting tone. “I shall never blush when my pedigree is traced.”
“Nor I neither, I hope. Still, I should not wonder if some one of my ancestors had disgraced himself, for there are but few families that are not cursed with a spotted sheep. But I have nothing to do with that, and ask only to be judged by what I am–not by what my progenitors have been.”
“A standard that few will respect, let me tell you.”
“A standard that far the largest portion of society will regard as the true one, I hope,” replied Mrs. Lemmington. “But, surely, you do not intend refusing to call upon the Claytons for the reason you have assigned, Mrs. Marygold.”
“Certainly I do. They are nothing but common people, and therefore beneath me. I shall not stoop to associate with them.”
“I think that I will call upon them. In fact, my object in dropping in this morning was to see if you would not accompany me,” said Mrs. Lemmington.
“Indeed, I will not, and for the reasons I have given. They are only common people. You will be stooping.”
“No one stoops in doing a kind act. Mrs. Clayton is a stranger in the neighborhood, and is entitled to the courtesy of a call, if no more; and that I shall extend to her. If I find her to be uncongenial in her tastes, no intimate acquaintanceship need be formed. If she is congenial, I will add another to my list of valued friends. You and I, I find, estimate differently. I judge every individual by merit, you by family, or descent.”
“You can do as you please,” rejoined Mrs. Marygold, somewhat coldly. “For my part, I am particular about my associates. I will visit Mrs. Florence, and Mrs. Harwood, and such an move in good society, but as to your schoolteachers’ wives and daughters, I must beg to be excused.”
“Every one to her taste,” rejoined Mrs. Lemmington, with a smile, as she moved towards the door, where she stood for a few moments to utter some parting compliments, and then withdrew.
Five minutes afterwards she was shown into Mrs. Clayton’s parlors, where, in a moment or two, she was met by the lady upon whom she had called, and received with an air of easy gracefulness, that at once charmed her. A brief conversation convinced her that Mrs. Clayton was, in intelligence and moral worth, as far above Mrs. Marygold, as that personage imagined herself to be above her. Her daughters, who came in while she sat conversing with their mother, showed themselves to possess all those graces of mind and manner that win upon our admiration so irresistably. An hour passed quickly and pleasantly, and then Mrs. Lemmington withdrew.
The difference between Mrs. Lemmington and Mrs. Marygold was simply this. The former had been familiar with what is called the best society from her earliest recollection, and being therefore, constantly in association with those looked upon as the upper class, knew nothing of the upstart self-estimation which is felt by certain weak ignorant persons, who by some accidental circumstance are elevated far above the condition into which they moved originally. She could estimate true worth in humble garb as well as in velvet and rich satins. She was one of those individuals who never pass an old and worthy domestic in the street without recognition, or stopping to make some kind inquiry–one who never forgot a familiar face, or neglected to pass a kind word to even the humblest who possessed the merit of good principles. As to Mrs. Marygold, notwithstanding her boast in regard to pedigree, there were not a few who could remember when her grandfather carried a pedlar’s pack on his back–and an honest and worthy pedlar he was, saving his pence until they became pounds, and then relinquishing his peregrinating propensities, for the quieter life of a small shop-keeper. His son, the father of Mrs. Marygold, while a boy had a pretty familiar acquaintance with low life. But, as soon as his father gained the means to do so, he was put to school and furnished with a good education. Long before he was of age, the old man had become a pretty large shipper; and when his son arrived at mature years, he took him into business as a partner. In marrying, Mrs. Marygold’s father chose a young lady whose father, like his own, had grown rich by individual exertions. This young lady had not a few false notions in regard to the true genteel, and these fell legitimately to the share of her eldest daughter, who, when she in turn came upon the stage of action, married into an old and what was called a highly respectable family, a circumstance that puffed her up to the full extent of her capacity to bear inflation. There were few in the circle of her acquaintances who did not fully appreciate her, and smile at her weakness and false pride. Mrs. Florence, to whom she had alluded in her conversation with Mrs. Lemmington, and who lived in Sycamore Row, was not only faultless in regard to family connections, but was esteemed in the most intelligent circles for her rich mental endowments and high moral principles. Mrs. Harwood, also alluded to, was the daughter of an English barrister and wife of a highly distinguished professional man, and was besides richly endowed herself, morally and intellectually. Although Mrs. Marygold was very fond of visiting them for the mere _eclat_ of the thing, yet their company was scarcely more agreeable to her, than hers was to them, for there was little in common between them. Still, they had to tolerate her, and did so with a good grace.
It was, perhaps, three months after Mrs. Clayton moved into the neighborhood, that cards of invitation were sent to Mr. and Mrs. Marygold and daughter to pass a social evening at Mrs. Harwood’s. Mrs. M. was of course delighted and felt doubly proud of her own importance. Her daughter Melinda, of whom she was excessively vain, was an indolent, uninteresting girl, too dull to imbibe even a small portion of her mother’s self-estimation. In company, she attracted but little attention, except what her father’s money and standing in society claimed for her.
On the evening appointed, the Marygolds repaired to the elegant residence of Mrs. Harwood and were ushered into a large and brilliant company, more than half of whom were strangers even to them. Mrs. Lemmington was there, and Mrs. Florence, and many others with whom Mrs. Marygold was on terms of intimacy, besides several “distinguished strangers.” Among those with whom Mrs. Marygold was unacquainted, were two young ladies who seemed to attract general attention. They were not showy, chattering girls, such as in all companies attract a swarm of shallow-minded youug fellows about them. On the contrary, there was something retiring, almost shrinking in their manner, that shunned rather than courted observation. And yet, no one, who, attracted by their sweet, modest faces, found himself by their side that did not feel inclined to linger there.
“Who are those girls, Mrs. Lemmington?” asked Mrs. Marygold, meeting the lady she addressed in crossing the room.
“The two girls in the corner who are attracting so much attention?”
“Don’t you know them?”
“I certainly do not.”
“They are no common persons, I can assure you, Mrs. Marygold.”
“Of course, or they would not be found here. But who are they?”
“Ah, Mrs. Lemmington! how are you?” said a lady, coming up at this moment, and interrupting the conversation. “I have been looking for you this half hour.” Then, passing her arm within that of the individual she had addressed, she drew her aside before she had a chance to answer Mrs. Marygold’s question.
In a few minutes after, a gentleman handed Melinda to the piano, and there was a brief pause as she struck the instrument, and commenced going through the unintelligible intricacies of a fashionable piece of music. She could strike all the notes with scientific correctness and mechanical precision. But there was no more expression in her performance than there is in that of a musical box. After she had finished her task, she left the instrument with a few words of commendation extorted by a feeling of politeness.
“Will you not favor us with a song?” asked Mr. Harwood, going up to one of the young ladies to whom allusion has just been made.
“My sister sings, I do not,” was the modest reply, “but I will take pleasure in accompanying her.”
All eyes were fixed upon them as they moved towards the piano, accompanied by Mr. Harwood, for something about their manners, appearance and conversation, had interested nearly all in the room who had been led to notice them particularly. The sister who could not sing, seated herself with an air of easy confidence at the instrument, while the other stood near her. The first few touches that passed over the keys showed that the performer knew well how to give to music a soul. The tones that came forth were not the simple vibrations of a musical chord, but expressions of affection given by her whose fingers woke the strings into harmony. But if the preluding touches fell witchingly upon every ear, how exquisitely sweet and thrilling was the voice that stole out low and tremulous at first, and deepened in volume and expression every moment, until the whole room seemed filled with melody! Every whisper was hushed, and every one bent forward almost breathlessly to listen. And when, at length, both voice and instrument were hushed into silence, no enthusiastic expressions of admiration were heard, but only half- whispered ejaculations of “exquisite!” “sweet!” “beautiful!” Then came earnestly expressed wishes for another and another song, until the sisters, feeling at length that many must be wearied with their long continued occupation of the piano, felt themselves compelled to decline further invitations to sing. No one else ventured to touch a key of the instrument during the evening.
“Do pray, Mrs. Lemmington, tell me who those girls are–I am dying to know,” said Mrs. Marygold, crossing the room to where the person she addressed was seated with Mrs. Florence and several other ladies of “distinction,” and taking a chair by her side.
“They are only common people,” replied Mrs. Lemmington, with affected indifference.
“Common people, my dear madam! What do you mean by such an expression?” said Mrs. Florence in surprise, and with something of indignation latent in her tone.
“I’m sure their father, Mr. Clayton, is nothing but a teacher.”
“Mr. Clayton! Surely those are not Clayton’s daughters!” ejaculated Mrs. Marygold, in surprise.
“They certainly are ma’am,” replied Mrs. Florence in a quiet but firm voice, for she instantly perceived, from something in Mrs. Marygold’s voice and manner, the reason why her friend had alluded to them as common people.
“Well, really, I am surprised that Mrs. Harwood should have invited them to her house, and introduced them into genteel company.”
“Why so, Mrs. Marygold?”
“Because, as Mrs. Lemmington has just said, they are common people. Their father is nothing but a schoolmaster.”
“If I have observed them rightly,” Mrs. Florence said to this, “I have discovered them to be a rather uncommon kind of people. Almost any one can thrum on the piano; but you will not find one in a hundred who can perform with such exquisite grace and feeling as they can. For half an hour this evening I sat charmed with their conversation, and really instructed and elevated by the sentiments they uttered. I cannot say as much for any other young ladies in the room, for there are none others here above the common run of ordinarily intelligent girls–none who may not really be classed with common people in the true acceptation of the term.”
“And take them all in all,” added Mrs. Lemmington with warmth, “you will find nothing common about them. Look at their dress; see how perfect in neatness, in adaptation of colors and arrangement to complexion and shape, is every thing about them. Perhaps there will not be found a single young lady in the room, besides them, whose dress does not show something not in keeping with good taste. Take their manners. Are they not graceful, gentle, and yet full of nature’s own expression. In a word, is there any thing about them that is ‘common?'”
“Nothing that my eye has detected,” replied Mrs. Florence.
“Except their origin,” half-sneeringly rejoined Mrs. Marygold.
“They were born of woman,” was the grave remark. “Can any of us boast a higher origin?”
“There are various ranks among women,” Mrs. Marygold said, firmly.
“True. But, ‘The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, The man’s the gold for a’ that.’
“Mere position in society does not make any of us more or less a true woman. I could name you over a dozen or more in my circle of acquaintance, who move in what is called the highest rank; who, in all that truly constitutes a woman, are incomparably below Mrs. Clayton; who, if thrown with her among perfect strangers, would be instantly eclipsed. Come then, Mrs. Marygold, lay aside all these false standards, and estimate woman more justly. Let me, to begin, introduce both yourself and Melinda to the young ladies this evening. You will be charmed with them, I know, and equally charmed with their mother when you know her.”
“No, ma’am,” replied Mrs. Marygold, drawing herself up with a dignified air. “I have no wish to cultivate their acquaintance, or the acquaintance of any persons in their station. I am surprised that Mrs. Harwood has not had more consideration for her friends than to compel them to come in contact with such people.”
No reply was made to this; and the next remark of Mrs. Florence was about some matter of general interest.
“Henry Florence has not been here for a week,” said Mrs. Marygold to her daughter Melinda, some two months after the period at which the conversation just noted occurred.
“No; and he used to come almost every evening,” was Melinda’s reply, made in a tone that expressed disappointment.
“I wonder what can be the reason?” Mrs. Marygold said, half aloud, half to herself, but with evident feelings of concern. The reason of her concern and Melinda’s disappointment arose from the fact that both had felt pretty sure of securing Henry Florence as a member of the Marygold family–such connection, from his standing in society, being especially desirable.
At the very time the young man was thus alluded to by Mrs. Marygold and her daughter, he sat conversing with his mother upon a subject that seemed, from the expression of his countenance, to be of much interest to him.
“So you do not feel inclined to favor any preference on my part towards Miss Marygold?” he said, looking steadily into his mother’s face.
“I do not, Henry,” was the frank reply.
“There is something too common about her, if I may so express myself.”
“Too common! What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that there is no distinctive character about her. She is, like the large mass around us, a mere made-up girl.”
“Speaking in riddles.”
“I mean then, Henry, that her character has been formed, or made up, by mere external accretions from the common-place, vague, and often too false notions of things that prevail in society, instead of by the force of sound internal principles, seen to be true from a rational intuition, and acted upon because they are true. Cannot you perceive the difference?”
“O yes, plainly. And this is why you use the word ‘common,’ in speaking of her?”
“The reason. And now my son, can you not see that there is force in my objection to her–that she really possess any character distinctively her own, that is founded upon a clear and rational appreciation of abstractly correct principles of action?”
“I cannot say that I differ from you very widely,” the young man said, thoughtfully. “But, if you call Melinda ‘common,’ where shall I go to find one who may be called ‘uncommon?'”
“I can point you to one.”
“You have met Fanny Clayton?”
“Fanny Clayton!” ejaculated the young man, taken by surprise, the blood rising to his face. “O yes, I have met her.”
“She is no common girl, Henry,” Mrs. Florence said, in a serious voice. “She has not her equal in my circle of acquaintances.”
“Nor in mine either,” replied the young man, recovering himself. “But you would not feel satisfied to have your son address Miss Clayton?”
“And why not, pray? Henry, I have never met with a young lady whom I would rather see your wife than Fanny Clayton.”
“And I,” rejoined the young man with equal warmth, “never met with any one whom I could truly love until I saw her sweet young face.”
“Then never think again of one like Melinda Marygold. You could not be rationally happy with her.”
Five or six months rolled away, during a large portion of which time the fact that Henry Florence was addressing Fanny Clayton formed a theme for pretty free comment in various quarters. Most of Henry’s acquaintance heartily approved his choice; but Mrs. Marygold, and a few like her, all with daughters of the “common” class, were deeply incensed at the idea of a “common kind of a girl” like Miss Clayton being forced into genteel society, a consequence that would of course follow her marriage. Mrs. Marygold hesitated not to declare that for her part, let others do as they liked, she was not going to associate with her–that was settled. She had too much regard to what was due to her station in life. As for Melinda, she had no very kind feelings for her successful rival–and such a rival too! A mere schoolmaster’s daughter! And she hesitated not to speak of her often and in no very courteous terms.
When the notes of invitation to the wedding at length came, which ceremony was to be performed in the house of Mr. Clayton, in Sycamore Row, Mrs. Marygold declared that to send her an invitation to go to such a place was a downright insult. As the time, however, drew near, and she found that Mrs. Harwood and a dozen others equally respectable in her eyes were going to the wedding, she managed to smother her indignation so far as, at length, to make up her mind to be present at the nuptial ceremonies. But it was not until her ears were almost stunned by the repeated and earnestly expressed congratulations to Mrs. Florence at the admirable choice made by her son, and that too by those whose tastes and opinions she dared not dispute, that she could perceive any thing even passable in the beautiful young bride.
Gradually, however, as the younger Mrs. Florence, in the process of time, took her true position in the social circle, even Mrs. Marygold could begin to perceive the intrinsic excellence of her character, although even this was more a tacit assent to a universal opinion than a discovery of her own.
As for Melinda, she was married about a year after Fanny Clayton’s wedding, to a sprig of gentility with about as much force of character as herself. This took place on the same night that Lieut. Harwood, son of Mrs. Harwood before alluded to, led to the altar Mary Clayton, the sister of Fanny, who was conceded by all, to be the loveliest girl they had ever seen–lovely, not only in face and form, but loveliness itself in the sweet perfections of moral beauty. As for Lieut. Harwood, he was worthy of the heart he had won.
MAKING A SENSATION.
“Do you intend going to Mrs. Walshingham’s party, next week, Caroline?” asked Miss Melvina Fenton of her friend Caroline Gay. “It is said that it will be a splendid affair.”
“I have not made up my mind, Melvina.”
“O you’ll go of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“I am much inclined to think that I will stay at home or spend my evening in some less brilliant assemblage,” Caroline Gay replied in a quiet tone.
“Nonsense, Caroline! There hasn’t been such a chance to make a sensation this season.”
“And why should I wish to make a sensation, Melvina?”
“Because it’s the only way to attract attention. Now-a-days, the person who creates a sensation, secures the prize that a dozen quiet, retiring individuals are looking and longing after, in vain. We must dazzle if we would win.”
“That is, we must put on false colors, and deceive not only ourselves, but others.”
“How strangely you talk, Caroline! Every one now is attracted by show and _eclat_.”
“Not every one, I hope, Melvina.”
“Show me an exception.”
Caroline smiled as she answered,
“Your friend Caroline, as you call her, I hope is one.”
“Indeed! And I suppose I must believe you. But come, don’t turn Puritan. You are almost behind the age, as it is, and if you don’t take care, you will get clear out of date, and either live and die an old maid, or have to put up with one of your quiet inoffensive gentlemen who hardly dare look a real briliant belle in the face.”
Caroline Gay could not help smiling at her friend’s light bantering, even while she felt inclined to be serious in consideration of the false views of life that were influencing the conduct and affecting the future prospects of one, whose many good qualities of heart, won her love.
“And if I should get off,” she said, “with one of those quiet gentlemen you allude to, it will be about the height of my expectation.”
“Well, you are a queer kind of a girl, any how! But, do you know why I want to make a sensation at Mrs. Walshingham’s?”
“No. I would be pleased to hear.”
“Then I will just let you into a bit of a secret. I’ve set my heart on making a conquest of Henry Clarence.”
“Indeed!” ejaculated Caroline, with an emphasis that would have attracted Melvina’s attention, had her thoughts and feelings not been at the moment too much engaged.
“Yes, I have. He’s so calm and cold, and rigidly polite to me whenever we meet, that I am chilled with the frigid temperature of the atmosphere that surrounds him. But as he is a prize worth the trouble of winning, I have set my heart on melting him down, and bringing him to my feet.”
Caroline smiled as her friend paused, but did not reply.
“I know half a dozen girls now, who are breaking their hearts after him,” continued the maiden. “But I’ll disappoint them all, if there is power in a woman’s winning ways to conquer. So you see, my lady Gay–Grave it should be–that I have some of the strongest reasons in the world, for wishing to be present at the ‘come off’ next week. Now you’ll go, won’t you?”
“Perhaps I will, if it’s only to see the effect of your demonstrations on the heart of Henry Clarence. But he is one of your quiet, inoffensive gentlemen, Melvina. How comes it that you set him as a prize?”
“If he is quiet, there is fire in him. I’ve seen his eye flash, and his countenance brighten with thought too often, not to know of what kind of stuff he is made.”
“And if I were to judge of his character, he is not one to be caugnt by effect,” Caroline remarked.
“O, as to that, all men have their weak side. There isn’t one, trust me, who can withstand the brilliant attractions of the belle of the ball room, such as, pardon my vanity, I hope to be on next Tuesday evening. I have seen a little of the world in my time, and have always observed, that whoever can eclipse all her fair compeers at one of these brilliant assemblages, possesses, for the time, a power that may be used to advantage. All the beaux flock around her, and vie with each other in kind attentions. If, then, she distinguish some individual of them above the rest, by her marked reciprocation of his attentions, he is won. The grateful fellow will never forsake her.”
“Quite a reasoner, upon my word! And so in this way you intend winning Henry Clarence?”
“Of course I do. At least, I shall try hard.”
“And you will fail, I am much disposed to think.”
“I’m not sure of that. Henry Clarence is but a man.”
“Yet he is too close an observer to be deceived into any strong admiration of a ball-room belle.”
“You are behind the age, Caroline. Your quiet unobtrusiveness will I fear cause you to be passed by, while some one not half so worthy, will take the place which you should have held in the affections of a good husband.”
“Perhaps so. But, I wish to be taken for what I am. I want no man, who has not the good sense and discrimination to judge of my real character.”
“You will die an old maid, Caroline.”
“That may be. But, in all sincerity, I must say that I hope not.”
“You will go to the ball, of course?”
“I think I will, Melvina.”
“Well, that settled, what are you going to wear?”
“Something plain and simple, of course. But I have not thought of that.”
“O don’t Caroline. You will make yourself singular.”
“I hope not, for I dislike singularity. But how are you going to dress? Splendid, of course, as you expect to make a sensation.”
“I’ll try my best, I can assure you?”
“Well, what kind of a dress are you going to appear in?”
“I have ordered a robe of blue tulle, to be worn over blue silk. The robe to be open in front, of course, and confined to the silk-skirt with variegated roses.”
“And your head-dress?”
“I shall have my hair ornamented with variegated roses, arranged over the brow like a coronet. Now, how do you like that?”
“Not at all.”
“O, of course not. I might have known that your taste was too uneducated for that.”
“And I hope it will ever remain so, Melvina.”
“But how will _you_ dress, Caroline. Do let me hear, that I may put you right if you fix on any thing _outre_.”
“Well, really, Melvina, I have not given the subject a thought. But it never takes me long to choose. Let me see. A plain–“
“Not plain, Caroline, for mercy sake!”
“Yes. A plain white dress, of India muslin.”
“Plain white! O, don’t Caroline–let me beg of you.”
“Yes, white it shall be.”
“Plain white! Why nobody will see you!”
“O, yes. Among all you gay butterflies, I will become the observed of all observers,” said Caroline, laughing.
“Don’t flatter yourself. But you will have some pink trimming, will you not?”
“No, not a flower, nor ribbon, nor cord, nor tassel.”
“You will be an object of ridicule.”
“Not in a polite company of gentlemen and ladies, I hope!”
“No; but–. And your head-dress, Caroline. That I hope will atone for the rest.”
“No, my own dark hair, plain–“
“For mercy sake, Caroline! Not plain.”
“Yes, my hair plain.”
“And no ornament!”
“O, yes–a very beautiful one.”
“Ah, that may help a little. A ray of sunshine on a barren waste.”
“A simple sprig of buds and half blown flowers.”
“White, of course.”
“You are an original, Caroline. But I suppose I can’t make you change your taste?”
I hope not, Melvina.”
“I am sorry that I shall be compelled to throw you so far in the shade, my little Quakeress friend. The world will never know half your real worth, Caroline. You are hiding your light.
“Many a gem of purest ray serene,
The deep unfathomed caves of ocean bear– Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
And as she repeated these lines, applying them to her friend, Melvina rose to depart.
“You are resolved on trying to make a sensation, then?” said Caroline.
“Of course, and what is more, I will succeed.”
“And win Henry Clarence?”
“I hope so. He must be made of sterner stuff than I think him, if I do not.”
“Well, we shall see.”
“Yes, we will. But good-bye; I must go to the mantua-maker’s this morning, to complete my orders.”
After Melvina Felton had gone, Caroline Gay’s manner changed a good deal. Her cheek, the color of which had heightened during her conversation with her friend, still retained its beautiful glow, but the expression of her usually calm face was changed, and slightly marked by what seemed troubled thoughts. She sat almost motionless for nearly two minutes, and then rose up slowly with a slight sigh, and went to her chamber.
It was early on the same evening that Henry Clarence, the subject of her conversation with Melvina, called in, as he not unfrequently did, to spend an hour in pleasant conversation with Caroline Gay. He found her in the parlor reading.
“At your books, I see,” he remarked, in a pleasant tone, as he entered.
“Yes; I find my thoughts need exciting by contact with the thoughts of others. A good book helps us much sometimes.”
“You were reading a book then. May I ask its author?”
“You are right in calling this a good book, Caroline,” he said, glancing at the title page, to which she had opened, as she handed him the volume. “Self-education is a most important matter, and with such a guide as Degerando, few can go wrong.”
“So I think. He is not so abstract, nor does he border on transcendentalism, like Coleridge, who notwithstanding these peculiarities I am yet fond of reading. Degerando opens for you your own heart, and not only opens it, but gives you the means of self-control at every point of your exploration.”
The beautiful countenance of Caroline was lit up by pure thoughts, and Henry Clarence could not help gazing upon her with a lively feeling of admiration.
“I cannot but approve your taste,” he said.–“But do you not also read the lighter works of the day?”
“I do not certainly pass all these by. I would lose much were I to do so. But I read only a few, and those emanating from such minds as James, Scott, and especially our own Miss Sedgwick. The latter is particularly my favorite. Her pictures, besides being true to nature, are pictures of home. The life she sketches, is the life that is passing all around us–perhaps in the family, unknown to us, who hold the relation of next door neighbors.”
“Your discrimination is just. After reading Miss Sedgwick, our sympathies for our fellow creatures take a more humane range. We are moved by an impulse to do good–to relieve the suffering–to regulate our own action in regard to others by a higher and better rule. You are a reader of the poets, too–and like myself, I believe, are an admirer of Wordsworth’s calm and deep sympathy with the better and nobler principles of our nature.”
“The simple beauty of Wordsworth has ever charmed me. How much of the good and true, like precious jewels set in gold, are scattered thickly over his pages!”
“And Byron and Shelly–can you not enjoy them?” Clarence asked, with something of lively interest in her reply, expressed in his countenance.
“It were but an affectation to say that I can find nothing in them that is beautiful, nothing to please, nothing to admire. I have read many things in the writings of these men that were exquisitely beautiful. Many portions of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage are not surpassed for grandeur, beauty, and force, in the English language: and the Alastor of Shelly, is full of passages of exquisite tenderness and almost unequalled finish of versification. But I have never laid either of them down with feelings that I wished might remain. They excite the mind to a feverish and unhealthy action. We find little in them to deepen our sympathies with our fellows–little to make better the heart, or wiser the head.”
“You discriminate with clearness, Caroline,” he said; “I did not know that you looked so narrowly into the merits of the world’s favorites. But to change the subject; do you intend going to Mrs. Walsingham’s next week?”
“Yes, I think I will be there.”
“Are you fond of such assemblages?” the young man asked.
“Not particularly so,” Caroline replied. “But I think it right to mingle in society, although all of its forms are not pleasant to me.”
“And why do you mingle in it then, if its sphere is uncongenial?”
“I cannot say, Mr. Clarence, that it is altogether uncongenial. Wherever we go, into society, we come in contact with much that is good. Beneath the false glitter, often assumed and worn without the heart’s being in it, but from a weak spirit of conformity, lies much that is sound in principle, and healthy in moral life. In mingling, then, in society, we aid to develope and strengthen these good principles in others. We encourage, often, the weak and wavering, and bring back such as are beginning to wander from the simple dignity and truth of nature.”
“But is there not danger of our becoming dazzled by the false glitter?”
“There may be. But we need not fear this, if we settle in our minds a right principle of action, and bind ourselves firmly to that principle.”
A pause followed this last remark, and then the subject of conversation was again changed to one of a more general nature.
An evening or two after, Henry Clarence called in to see Melvina Fenton. Melvina was what may be called a showy girl. Her countenance, which was really beautiful, when animated, attracted every eye. She had a constant flow of spirits, had dipped into many books, and could make a little knowledge in these matters go a great way. Clarence could not conceal from himself that he admired Melvina, and, although his good sense and discrimination opposed this admiration, he could rarely spend an evening with Miss Fenton, without a strong prepossession in her favor. Still, with her, as with every one, he maintained a consistency of character that annoyed her. He could not be brought to flatter her in any way; and for this she thought him cold, and often felt under restraint in his society. One thing in her which he condemned, was her love of dress. Often he would express a wonder to himself, how a young woman of her good sense and information could be guilty of such a glaring departure from true taste.
On this evening she received him in her very best manner. And she was skilful at acting; so skilful, as even to deceive the keen eye of Henry Clarence. Fully resolved on making a conquest, she studied his character, and tried to adapt herself to it.
“I have your favorite here,” she remarked, during the evening, lifting a copy of Wordsworth from the centre table.
“Ah, indeed! so you have. Do you ever look into him, Miss Fenton?”
“O yes. I did not know what a treasure was hid in this volume, until, from hearing your admiration of Wordsworth, I procured and read it with delighted interest.”
“I am glad that you are not disappointed. If you have a taste for his peculiar style of thinking and writing, you have in that volume an inexhaustible source of pleasure.”
“I have discovered that, Mr. Clarence, and must thank you for the delight I have received, and I hope I shall continue to receive.”
Nearly two hours were spent by the young man in the company of Miss Fenton, when he went away, more prepossessed in her favor than he had yet been. She had played her part to admiration. The truth was, Wordsworth, except in a few pieces, she had voted a dull book. By tasking herself, she had mastered some passages, to which she referred during the evening, and thus obtained credit for being far more familiar with the poet of nature than she ever was or ever would be. She went upon the principle of making a sensation, and thus carrying hearts, or the heart she wished to assault, by storm.
“I believe that I really love that girl,” Henry Clarence said, on the evening before the party at Mrs. Walsingham’s to a young friend.
“Who, Melvina Fenton?”
“She is certainly a beautiful girl.”
“And interesting and intelligent.”
“Yes–I know of no one who, in comparison with her, bears off the palm.”
“And still, there is one thing about her that I do not like. She is too fond of dress and display.”
“O, that is only a little foible. No one is altogether perfect.”
“True–and the fault with me is, in looking after perfection.”
“Yes, I think you expect too much.”
“She is affectionate, and that will make up for many deficiencies. And what is more, I can see plainly enough that her heart is interested. The brightening of her cheek, the peculiar expression of her eye, not to be mistaken, when certain subjects are glanced at, convince me that I have only to woo to win her.”
“What do you think of Caroline Gay?” asked his friend.
“Well, really, I can hardly tell what to think of her. She has intelligence, good sense, and correct views on almost every subject. But she is the antipodes of Melvina in feeling. If she were not so calm and cold, I could love her; but I do not want a stoic for a wife. I want a heart that will leap to my own, and send its emotion to the cheek and eye.”
“I am afraid you will not find an angel in this world,” his friend said, smiling.
“No, nor do I want an angel. But I want as perfect a woman as I can get.”
“You will have to take Melvina, then, for she has three exceeding good qualities, at least, overshadowing all others.”
“And what are they?”
“An affectionate heart.”
“Something to be desired above every thing else. And her next good quality?”
“Her father is worth a ‘plum.'”
“I would dispense with that, were she less fond of show, and effect, and gay company.”
“O, they are only the accompaniments of girlhood. As a woman and a wife, she will lay them all aside.”
“I should certainly hope so, were I going to link my lot with hers.”
“Why, I thought your mind was made up.”
“Not positively. I must look on a little longer, and scan a little closer before I commit myself.”
“Well, success to your marrying expedition. I belong yet to the free list.”
In due time Mrs. Walshingham’s splendid affair came off.
“Isn’t she an elegant woman!” exclaimed a young man in an under tone, to a friend, who stood near Henry Clarence, as Melvina swept into the room dressed in a style of elegance and effect that attracted every eye.
“Beautiful!” responded his companion. “I must dance with her to-night. I always make a point to have one round at least with the belle of the ball-room.”
The individual who last spoke, was well known to all in that room as the betrayer of innocence. And Henry Clarence felt his cheek burn and his heart bound with an indignant throb as he heard this remark.
“He will be disappointed, or I am mistaken,” he said to himself as the two, who had been conversing near him, moved to another part of the room. “But if Melvina Fenton has so little of that sensitive innocence, that shrinks from the presence of guilt as to dance with him, and suffer her hand to be touched by his, my mind is made up. I will never marry her.”
“She is the queen of beauty to-night, Clarence,” said a friend coming to Henry’s side, and speaking in an under tone.
“She is, indeed, very beautiful; but I cannot help thinking a little too showy. Her dress would be very good for the occasion were those variegated roses taken from their blue ground. Flowers never grow on such a soil; and her head dress is by far too conspicuous, and by no means in good taste.”
“Why you are critical to-night, Clarence. I thought Melvina one of your favorites?”
“I must confess a little good will towards her, and perhaps that is the reason of my being somewhat particular in my observation of her style of dress. Certainly, she makes a most decided sensation here to-night; for every eye is upon her, and every tongue, that I have yet heard speak is teeming with words of admiration.”
“That she does,” responded the friend. “Every other girl in the room will be dying of envy or neglect before the evening is over.”
“That would speak little for the gallantry of the men or the good sense of the young ladies,” was the quiet reply.
Several times the eye of Henry Clarence wandered around the room in search of Caroline–but he did not see her in the gay assemblage.
“She told me she would be here,” he mentally said, “and I should really like to mark the contrast between her and the brilliant Miss Fenton. Oh! there she is, as I live, leaning on the arm of her father, the very personification of innocence and beauty. But her face is too calm by half. I fear she is cold.”
Truly was she as Henry Clarence had said, the personification of innocence and beauty. Her dress of snowy whiteness, made perfectly plain, and fitting well a figure that was rather delicate, but of exquisite symmetry, contrasted beautifully with the gay and flaunting attire of those around her. Her head could boast but a single ornament, besides her own tastefully arranged hair, and that was a sprig of buds and half-blown flowers as white as the dress she had chosen for the evening. Her calm sweet face looked sweeter and more innocent than ever, for the contrast of the whole scene relieved her peculiar beauty admirably.
“An angel?” ejaculated a young man by the side of Clarence, moving over towards the part of the room where Caroline stood, still leaning on the arm of her father.
“We wanted but you to make our tableau complete,” he said, with a graceful bow. “Let me relieve you, Mr. Gay, of the care of this young lady,” he added offering his arm to Caroline–and in the next minute he had joined the promenade with the sweetest creature in the room by his side.
The beautiful contrast that was evident to all, between Caroline, the plainest-dressed maiden in the room, and Melvina the gayest and most imposing, soon drew all eyes upon the former, and Melvina had the discrimination to perceive that she had a rival near the throne, in one whom she little dreamed of fearing; and whose innocent heart she knew too well to accuse of design.
Soon cotillion parties were formed, and among the first to offer his hand to Melvina, was a young man named Sheldon, the same alluded to as declaring that he would dance with her, as he always did with the belle of the ball room. Melvina knew his character well, and Henry Clarence was aware that she possessed this knowledge. His eye was upon her, and she knew it. But she did not know of the determination that he formed or else she would have hesitated.
“The most splendid man in the room, and the most graceful dancer,” were the thoughts that glanced through her mind, as she smiled an assent to his invitation to become his partner. “I shall not yet lose my power.”
And now all eyes were again upon the brilliant beauty threading the mazy circles, with glowing cheek and sparkling eye. And few thought of blaming her for dancing with Sheldon, whose character ought to have banished him from virtuous society. But there was one whose heart sickened as he looked on, and that one was Henry Clarence. He lingered near the group of dancers but a few minutes, and then wandered away to another room.
“Permit me to transfer my company, Mr. Clarence,” said the young man who had thus far monopolized the society of Caroline Gay. “I will not be selfish; and besides, I fear I am becoming too dull for my fair friend here.”
With a bow and a smile, Clarence received on his arm the fair girl. He felt for her a tenderer regard than had heretofore warmed his heart, as he strolled through the rooms and listened to her sweet, penetrating voice. And whenever he turned and looked her in the face, he saw that in the expression of her eyes which he had never marked before–something of tenderness that made his own heart beat with a quicker motion. As they drew near the dancers, they observed Sheldon with Melvina leaning on his arm, and two or three others, engaged in maikng up another cotillion.
“We want but one more couple, and here they are,” said Sheldon, as Clarence and Caroline came up.
“Will you join this set?” asked Clarence, in a low tone.
“Not _this_ one,” she replied.
“Miss Gay does not wish to dance now,” her companion said, and they moved away.
But the cotillion was speedily formed without them, and the dance proceeded.
Half an hour after, while Henry Clarence and Caroline were sitting on a lounge, engaged in close conversation, Sheldon came up, and bowing in his most graceful manner, and, with his blandest smile, said,
“Can I have the pleasure of dancing with Miss Gay, this evening?”
“No, sir,” was the quiet, firm reply of the maiden, while she looked him steadily in the face.
Sheldon turned hurriedly away, for he understood the rebuke, the first he had yet met with in the refined, fashionable, virtuous society of one of the largest of the Atlantic cities.
The heart of Henry Clarence blessed the maiden by his side.
“You are not averse to dancing, Caroline?” he said.
“O no. But I do not dance with _every_ one.”
“In that you are right, and I honor your decision and independence of character.”
During the remainder of the evening, she danced several times, more frequently with Henry than with any other, but never in a cotillion of which Sheldon was one of the partners. Much to the pain and alarm of Melvina, Clarence did not offer to dance with her once; and long before the gay assemblage broke up, her appearance had failed to produce any sensation. The eye tired of viewing her gaudy trapping, and turned away unsatisfied. But let Caroline go where she would, she was admired by all. None wearied of her chaste, simple and beautiful attire; none looked upon her mild, innocent face, without an expression, tacit or aloud, of admiration. Even the rebuked, and for a time angered, Sheldon, could not help ever and anon seeking her out amid the crowd, and gazing upon her with a feeling of respect that he tried in vain to subdue.
Melvina had sought to produce a “sensation” by gay and imposing attire, and after a brief and partial success, lost her power. But Caroline, with no wish to be noticed, much less to be the reigning belle of the evening, consulting her own pure taste, went in simple garments, and won the spontaneous admiration of all, and, what was more, the heart of Henry Clarence. He never, after that evening, could feel any thing of his former tenderness towards Melvina Felton. The veil had fallen from his eyes. He saw the difference between the desire of admiration, and a simple love of truth and honor, too plainly, to cause him to hesitate a moment longer in his choice between two so opposite in their characters. And yet, to the eye of an inattentive observer nothing occurred during the progress of Mrs. Walshingham’s party more than ordinarily takes place on such occasions. All seemed pleased and happy, and Melvina the happiest of the whole. And yet she had signally failed in her well-laid scheme to take the heart of Henry Clarence–while Caroline, with no such design, and in simply following the promptings of a pure heart and a right taste, had won his affectionate regard.
It was some three or four months after the party at Mrs. Walshingham’s, that Melvina Fenton and Caroline Gay were alone in the chamber of the latter, in close and interested conversation.
“I have expected as much,” the former said, in answer to some communication made to her by the latter.
“Then you are not surprised?”
“Not at all.”
“And I hope not pained by the intelligence?”
“No, Caroline, not now,” her friend said, smiling; “though two or three months ago it would have almost killed me. I, too, have been wooed and won.”
“Indeed! That is news. And who is it, Melvina? I am eager to know.”
“A gentleman, and every way worthy of your hand. But how in the world comes it that so quiet and modest a young man as Martin has now the dashing belle?”
“It has occurred quite naturally, Caroline. The dashing belle has gained a little more good sense than she had a few months ago. She has not forgotten the party at Mrs. Walsaingham’s. And by the bye, Caroline, how completely you out-generalled me on that occasion. I had a great mind for a while never to forgive you.”
“You are altogether mistaken, Melvina,” Caroline said, with a serious air. “I did not act a part on that occasion. I went but in my true character, and exhibited no other.”
“It was nature, then, eclipsing art; truth of character outshining the glitter of false assumption. But all that is past, and I am wiser and better for it, I hope. You will be happy, I know, with Henry Clarence, for he is worthy of you, and can appreciate your real excellence; and I shall be happy, I trust, with the man of my choice.”
“No doubt of it, Melvina. And by the way,” Caroline said, laughing, “we shall make another ‘sensation,’ and then we must be content to retire into peaceful domestic obscurity. You will have a brilliant time, I suppose?”
“O yes. I must try my hand at creating one more sensation, the last and most imposing; and, as my wedding comes the first, you must be my bridesmaid. You will not refuse?”
“Not if we can agree as to how we are to dress. We ought to be alike in this, and yet I can never consent to appear in any thing but what is plain, and beautiful for its simplicity.”
“You shall arrange all these. You beat me the last time in creating a sensation, and now I will give up to your better taste.”
And rarely has a bride looked sweeter than did Melvina Fenton on her wedding-day. Still, she was eclipsed by Caroline, whose native grace accorded so well with her simple attire, that whoever looked upon her, looked again, and to admire. The “sensation” they created was not soon forgotten.
Caroline was married in a week after, and then the fair heroines of our story passed from the notice of the fashionable world, and were lost with the thousands who thus yearly desert the gay circles, and enter the quiet sphere and sweet obscurity of domestic life.
SOMETHING FOR A COLD.
“Henry,” said Mr. Green to his little son Henry, a lad in his eighth year, “I want you to go to the store for me.”
Mr. Green was a working-man, who lived in a comfortable cottage, which he had built from money earned from honest industry. He was, moreover, a sober, kind-hearted man, well liked by all his neighbors, and beloved by his own family.
“I’m ready, father,” said Henry, who left his play, and went to look for his cap, the moment he was asked to go on an errand.
“Look in the cupboard, and get the pint flask. It’s on the lower shelf.”
Henry did as desired, and then asked–“What shall I get, father?”
“Tell Mr. Brady to send me a pint of good Irish whiskey.”
The boy tripped lightly away, singing as he went. He was always pleased to do an errand for his father.
“This cold of mine gets worse,” remarked Mr. Green to his wife, as Henry left the house. “I believe I’ll try old Mr. Vandeusen’s remedy–a bowl of hot whiskey-punch. He says it always cures him; it throws him into a free perspiration, and the next morning he feels as clear as a bell.”
“It is not always good,” remarked Mrs. Green, “to have the pores open. We are more liable to take cold.”
“Very true. It is necessary to be careful how we expose ourselves afterwards.”
“I think I can make you some herb-tea, that would do you as much good as the whiskey punch,” said Mrs. Green.
“Perhaps you could,” returned her husband, “but I don’t like your bitter stuff. It never was to my fancy.”
Mrs. Green smiled, and said no more.
“A few moments afterwards, the door opened, and Henry came in, looking pale and frightened.
“Oh, father!” he cried, panting, “Mr. Brooks is killing Margaret!”
“What!” Mr. Green started to his feet.
“Oh!” exclaimed the child, “he’s killing her! he’s killing her! I saw him strike her on the head with his fist.” And tears rolled over the boy’s cheeks.
Knowing Brooks to be a violent man when intoxicated, Mr. Green lost not a moment in hesitation or reflection, but left his house hurriedly, and ran to the dwelling of his neighbor, which was near at hand. On entering the house, a sad scene presented itself. The oldest daughter of Brooks, a girl in her seventeenth year, was lying upon a bed, insensible, while a large bruised and bloody spot on the side of her face showed where the iron fist of her brutal father had done its fearful if not fatal work. Her mother bent over her, weeping; while two little girls were shrinking with frightened looks into a corner of the room.
Mr. Green looked around for the wretched man, who, in the insanity of drunkenness, had done this dreadful deed; but he was not to be seen.
“Where is Mr. Brooks?” he asked.
“He has gone for the doctor,” was replied.
And in a few minutes he came in with a physician. He was partially sobered, and his countenance had a troubled expression. His eyes shrunk beneath the steady, rebuking gaze of his neighbors.
“Did you say your daughter had fallen down stairs?” said the doctor, as he leaned over Margaret, and examined the dreadful bruise on her cheek.
“Yes–yes,” stammered the guilty father, adding this falsehood to the evil act.
“Had the injury been a few inches farther up, she would ere this have breathed her last,” said the doctor–looking steadily at Brooks, until the eyes of the latter sunk to the floor.
Just then there were signs of returning life in the poor girl, and the doctor turned towards her all his attention. In a little while, she began to moan, and moved her arms about, and soon opened her eyes.
After she was fully restored again to conscious life, Mr. Green returned to his home, where he was met with eager questions from his wife.–After describing all he had seen, he made this remark–
“There are few better men than Thomas Brooks when he it sober; but when he is drunk he acts like a demon.”
“He must be a demon to strike with his hard fist, a delicate creature like his daughter Margaret. And she is so good a girl. Ah, me! to what dreadful consequences does this drinking lead!”
“It takes away a man’s reason,” said Mr. Green, “and when this is gone, he becomes the passive subject of evil influences. He is, in fact, no longer a man.”
Mrs. Green sighed deeply.
“His poor wife!” she murmured; “how my heart aches for her, and his poor children! If the husband and father changes, from a guardian and provider for his family, into their brutal assailant, to whom can they look for protection? Oh, it is sad! sad!”
“It is dreadful! dreadful!” said Mr. Green.–
“It is only a few years ago,” he added, “since Brooks began to show that he was drinking too freely. He always liked his glass, but he knew how to control himself, and never drowned his reason in his cups. Of late, however, he seems to have lost all control over himself. I never saw a man abandon himself so suddenly.”
“All effects of this kind can be traced back to very small beginnings,” remarked Mrs. Green.
“Yes. A man does not become a drunkard in a day. The habit is one of very gradual formation.”
“But when once formed,” said Mrs. Green, “hardly any power seems strong enough to break it. It clings to a man as if it were a part of himself.”
“And we might almost say that it was a part of himself,” replied Mr. Green: “for whatever we do from a confirmed habit, fixes in the mind an inclination thereto, that carries us away as a vessel is borne upon the current of a river.”
“How careful, then, should every one be, not to put himself in the way of forming so dangerous a habit. Well do I remember when Mr. Brooks was married. A more promising young man could not be found–nor one with a kinder heart. The last evil I feared for him and his gentle wife was that of drunkenness. Alas! that this calamity should have fallen upon their household.–What evil, short of crime, is greater than this?”
“It is so hopeless,” remarked Mr. Green. “I have talked with Brooks a good many times, but it has done no good. He promises amendment, but does not keep his promise a day.”
“Touch not, taste not, handle not. This is the only safe rule,” said Mrs. Green.
“Yes, I believe it,” returned her husband.–“The man who never drinks is in no danger of becoming a drunkard.”
For some time, Mr. and Mrs. Green continued to converse about the sad incident which had just transpired in the family of their neighbor, while their little son, upon whose mind the fearful sight he had witnessed was still painfully vivid, sat and listened to all they were saying, with a clear comprehension of the meaning of the whole.
After awhile the subject was dropped. There had been a silence of some minutes, when the attention of Mr. Green was again called to certain unpleasant bodily sensations, and he said–
“I declare! this cold of mine is very bad. I must do something to break it before it gets worse. Henry, did you get that Irish whiskey I sent for?”
“No, sir,” replied the child, “I was so frightened when I saw Mr. Brooks strike Margaret, that I ran back.”
“Oh, well, I don’t wonder! It was dreadful. Mr. Brooks was very wicked to do so. But take the flask and run over to the store. Tell Brady that I want a pint of good Irish whiskey.”
Henry turned from his father, and went to the table on which he had placed the flask. He did not move with his usual alacrity.
“It was whiskey, wasn’t it,” said the child, as he took the bottle in his hand, “that made Mr. Brooks strike Margaret?” And he looked so earnestly into his father’s face, and with so strange an expression, that the man felt disturbed, while he yet wondered at the manner of the lad.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Green, “it was the whiskey. Mr. Brooks, if he had been sober, would not have hurt a hair of her head.”
Henry looked at the bottle, then at his father, in so strange a way, that Mr. Green, who did not at first comprehend what was in the child’s thoughts wondered still more. All was soon understood, for Harry, bursting into tears, laid down the flask, and, throwing his arms around his father’s neck, said–
“Oh, father! don’t get any whiskey!”
Mr. Green deeply touched by the incident, hugged his boy tightly to his bosom. He said–
“I only wanted it for medicine, dear. But, never mind. I won’t let such dangerous stuff come into my house. Mother shall make me some of her herb-tea, and that will do as well.”
Henry looked up, after a while, timidly.–“You’re not angry with me, father?” came from his innocent lips.
“Oh, no, my child! Why should I be angry?” replied Mr. Green, kissing the cheek of his boy. Then the sunshine came back again to Henry’s heart, and he was happy as before.
Mrs. Green made the herb-tea for her husband, and it proved quite as good for him as the whiskey-punch. A glass or two of cold water, on going to bed, would probably have been of more real advantage in the case, than either of these doubtful remedies.
“BLESS the happy art!” ejaculated Mrs. Morton, wiping the moisture from her eyes. “Could anything be more perfect than that likeness of his sweet, innocent face? Dear little Willie! I fear I love him too much.”
“It is indeed perfect,” said Mr. Morton, after viewing the picture in many lights. “My favourite painter has surpassed himself. What could be more like life, than that gentle, half-pensive face looking so quiet and thoughtful, and yet so full of childhood’s most innocent, happy expression?”
Mr. Morton, here introduced to the reader, was a wealthy merchant of Philadelphia, and a liberal patron of the arts. He had, already, obtained several pictures from Sully, who was, with him, as an artist, a great favourite. The last order had just been sent home. It was a portrait of his youngest, and favourite child–a sweet little boy, upon whose head three summers had not yet smiled.
“I would not take the world for it!” said Mrs. Morton after looking at it long and steadily for the hundredth time. “Dear little fellow! A year from now, and how changed he will be. And every year he will be changing and changing; but this cannot alter, and even from the